As the UK prepares for Brexit, scheduled for 11pm UK time on 29 March, 2019, striking trade deals to take effect after the transition period ends on 21 January, 2021, is of great importance. Japan sees the UK as potentially part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, also known as the TPP11. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that the UK would be welcome to join the trade pact, which, The Nikkei Asian Review reported on 30 October, will go into effect on 30 December after Australia became the sixth country to ratify it. The UK would be the only member without a Pacific border.
Libera, an all-boy vocal group comprising some 40 singers aged 7–16, reached the top spot on Japan’s SoundScan classical weekly chart for the week of 4 November with their album Beyond. Charles Kennedy, founder of the band’s UK label Invisible Hands Music, told a Press Association correspondent: “After all their hard work, seeing Libera plant a Union Jack at the top of the charts in Japan, the world’s second-biggest music market, is immensely gratifying. This sales triumph, following their Top 20 chart performance in the United States, is a win for British exports”.
According to the 2018 Henley Passport Index, a ranking based on the number of countries to which a passport holder can travel without a visa, Japan has leapfrogged the UK to become the issuer of the world’s most powerful passport. Japan moved into the top spot with visa-free access to 190 nations while the UK fell to fifth with 186. In 2017, the UK ranked fourth with visa-free entry to 173 countries and Japan was one spot behind with 172. Although the UK now trails Japan, the results reflect improvements for both nations and their global relationships.
The Government of Japan announced on 4 November that it would bestow honours on 135 non-Japanese in a ceremony at the Imperial Palace on 6 November. Three UK citizens were recognised for their accomplishments.
Sir David Warren KCMG, Ambassador to Japan between 2008 and 2012, received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun for his work to strengthen bilateral relations and promote friendship between Japan and the UK. Professor Baron Peter Piot KCMG, a microbiologist known for his research into Ebola and AIDS, also received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun. He has been acknowledged for promoting Japan’s global health efforts. And the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star was conferred on geneticist Sir Paul Nurse for promoting research exchange as well as science and technology cooperation between the two countries.
Pepper, the sleek white robot produced by SoftBank Robotics, has become a common sight in Japan, working in restaurants, shops, airports and stations. Now, the last of those roles will be going to St Pancras International station in London, as high-speed rail operator Eurostar International Ltd. is set to deploy the droids on platforms to help travellers learn about departures and destinations, according to a 24 October press release. The announcement comes three years after Pepper joined the staff of Haneda International Airport, where the artificial concierge began introducing travellers to the Keikyu Line on 28 November, 2015.
Global sales of UK gin doubled from 2013 to 2018, to reach £2bn annually. Some see £3bn as a possible figure by the end of 2020. The surge is driving the creation of modern local takes on the traditional spirit. British Business Awards headline sponsor Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin earned the gold medal in the 2018 World Gin Masters competition for its uniquely Japanese combination of yellow yuzu, hinoki wood chips, bamboo, gyokuro green tea and green sansho peppercorns. In a 6 November story recapping the results in trade publication The Drink Business, Judge Kit Chiu, a wine educator at Shanghai-based ASC Fine Wines Co., Ltd. said, “Competition is certainly ramping up [as] different styles of gin from other countries such as Australia and Japan are booming in the global market and keep exceeding expectations in terms of consumption”.
The revelation on 4 April that information from 87 million Facebook accounts was compromised by data firm Cambridge Analytica created a firestorm in security and privacy circles, and has led to scrutiny of the social media platform in the United States. Now Japanese and UK authorities have jointly launched an investigation according to The Nikkei Asian Review, which was told by Facebook’s Japanese unit on 12 October that they are cooperating with Japan’s Personal Information Protection Commission and that company officials are being called in to provide the commission with answers. The UK’s collaboration with Japan comes after the Information Commissioner’s Office said it would be making enquiries into the scandal together with its overseas counterparts.
London’s Butterz, an independent music label specialising in grime, a musical style with hints of hip-hop, reggae and Jamaican dance hall that took form in London in the early 2000s, celebrated its eighth birthday on 10 November at the nightclub Unit in Daikanyama. Japan is one of the places grime first took hold, which is the reason Butterz founders Elijah Thomas and William Eugene chose to mark the occasion in Tokyo, according to a 7 November Japan Times story. The show was also an opportunity for Thomas and Eugene to recognise local promoter DBS-TOKYO, with whom Butterz enjoys close ties to promote UK music in Japan.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s visit to Japan was covered by many media, with particular focus on a speech he delivered entirely in Japanese, making him the first UK minister to do so, Sky News reported on 18 September.
Mr Hunt met with a number of figures, including Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono. This led to the two reconfirming their countries’ strategic partnership, The Japan Times reported.
The two also agreed to work towards a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, the report said, referring to an initiative aimed at promoting free trade and navigation in the region, leading to economic prosperity for the countries involved.
Mr Hunt also met with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, when he donated an old mobile phone to the “phones for Tokyo 2020” recycling initiative.
Japan’s universities have made progress during the year, after a long period of decline, according to a UK-based ranking of the world’s higher education institutions, Japan Today reported on 27 September.
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings lists 1,250 institutions around the world, with Japan having 103 of those, up from last year’s 89. The University of Tokyo was ranked 42nd, up four places, and Kyoto University rose nine places to 65th.
However, despite some improvements, Phil Baty, editorial director of the global rankings, was quoted as saying that, “the majority of Japan’s institutions still decline or remain static amid intensifying regional competition”.
Oxford University retained first place, with Cambridge second.
The British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ), along with four other foreign chambers of commerce, called on the Japanese government to legalise same-sex marriage, The Mainichi reported on 20 September.
The BCCJ, along with the American, Canadian, Irish as well as the Australian and New Zealand chambers of commerce in Japan, said that marriage equality would “strengthen the international competitiveness of business in Japan” by boosting recruitment from LGBT communities, the report said.
The statement from the chambers said allowing same-sex marriage would also create more diversity, and allow LGBT workers to feel comfortable in their workplaces.
The British Army and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces conducted their first joint exercise in Japan between the end of September and mid-October, The Japan Times reported on 15 September.
The Defense Ministry’s Ground Staff Office was quoted as saying 50 British Army personnel and 60 members of the SDF, mostly from the Ground Self-Defense Force, would take part in drills in Shizuoka, Yamanashi and Miyagi Prefectures.
The move follows drills involving the Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Air Force in 2016, and the Marine Self-Defense Force and the Royal Navy in April last year, the report said.
Meanwhile, preparations are under way for close cooperation between the UK and Japan on surveillance to monitor North Korean activities at sea.
British author Sir Kazuo Ishiguro OBE was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star by Japanese Ambassador to the UK Koji Tsuruoka at a ceremony at the Embassy of Japan in the UK, The Japan News reported on 13 September.
Ishiguro, who was born in Japan but moved to the UK aged 5, was awarded the Japanese citation earlier this year, after winning the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. The ceremony, at the embassy in London, took place on 12 September, the report said.
Speaking at the event, the author said he was satisfied that progress had been made in the diminishing and disappearance of the shadow of World War II and its impact on the friendship between Japan and the UK.
The Duke of Cambridge offered condolences to Japan following the recent earthquake in Hokkaido and typhoons in Western Japan, as he opened a new Japanese culture centre in London, The Japan News reported on 14 September.
Prince William led a toast to mark the grand opening of Japan House at the event, before offering his thoughts and prayers to those affected by the disasters, the report said.
At the opening, also attended by Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, the prince said he was pleased to see relations between Japan and the UK flourishing.
British Airways will begin operating a direct route between London’s Heathrow Airport and Kansai International Airport in Osaka in the spring of 2019, The Mirror reported on 25 September.
The report said four flights a week would by plying the route, which begins operations on 31 March and will use Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft.
It added that British Airways had previously offered flights to Osaka, but the service was suspended in October 1998.
The new service is part of an agreement between British Airways and Japan Airlines, which will also see code sharing flights from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Miyazaki, Kumamoto, Komatsu and Matsuyama.
British chocolatier Hotel Chocolat announced it would pursue global expansion with a focus on three international markets, including Japan, The Telegraph reported on 25 September.
The brand, which already has outlets in Denmark and Hong Kong, and a cocoa plantation and hotel in St Lucia, will open its first American outlet in New York and see franchises open in Japan and Scandinavia, the report said.
Angus Thirlwell, the firm’s chief executive, was quoted as saying that he wanted Hotel Chocolat to become the “global leader in premium chocolate”.
The first sake brewery in the UK has opened its doors, after an official ceremony for VIP guests including the Japanese Ambassador to the UK Koji Tsuruoka, it was reported by Cambridgeshire Live on 23 September.
Dojima Sake Brewery at Fordham Abbey in Ely, Cambridgeshire, opened on 1 October, International Sake Day, with tours and samples for visitors.
Fordham Abbey also has a Japanese tearoom, restaurant and pottery workshop for visitors to enjoy, the report added.
The new brewery uses traditional methods from the Dojima family, which has been brewing sake since 1828, the report said, adding that three types of sake will be on offer, one of which is only available on tours of the facility.
The surveillance will be carried out in November and December, following the arrival in Japan of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll, the third UK Navy vessel to visit Japan this year following HMS Sutherland and HMS Albion, the report says.
It adds that the ship will use US military bases in Japan, and will also be involved in joint exercises with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.
North Korea has been accused of violating international sanctions by carrying out illegal ship-to-ship goods transfers on the high seas.
The UK and Japan cancelled a joint beach landing naval drill near Mt Fuji due to a typhoon which was approaching the Japanese mainland, Japan Today reported on 22 August.
The drill, involving a detachment of Royal Marines and Japanese amphibious troops, was set to see soldiers land on the beach from boats launched by HMS Albion, a Royal Navy amphibious assault carrier that visited Japan, according to the report.
A Japanese destroyer and helicopters had also been scheduled to take part in the exercise.
Typhoon Cimaron brought strong winds and rain to the Japanese archipelago, after arriving from the western Pacific.
The UK government is looking at the relationship between Japanese banks and the European Union as an example for British banks to follow after leaving the EU, The Japan Times reported on 21 August.
A government paper states that the UK wanted equivalence, where the EU recognises rules as strict as its own, but a more generous version than that which other non-EU countries have, the report says.
It also says that the pact between the EU and Japan had been cited as an example for the rules the UK wanted, as this allows for taking into account the impact of each other’s decisions and regulatory dialogue between the two.
The Electric Power Development Co., Ltd., better known as J-Power, and Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. have bought a combined 41% stake—25% and 16%, respectively—in the Triton Knoll project from German renewables firm Innogy SE.
The investment in the plant, off the coast of Lincolnshire, marks the first time Japanese energy firms have made a major move to enter the UK’s wind power market, according to the report.
Hyslop, who was on a three-day visit to Japan, also took part in a sell-out seminar on diversity and inclusion organised by the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan.
The agreement between Scotland and Yokohama includes close cooperation in sport, education, culture and marine industries, according to the report.
Hyslop’s trip to Japan ended with a tourism networking lunch at the British Embassy Tokyo.
Kaiyo whisky was blended and aged in Japan, before being loaded in mizunara oak casks bound for the UK. The firm behind the drink says the casks were subject to changes in temperature and air pressure, and the whisky inside would also have been impacted.
The whisky was bottled on arrival in the UK, and is being sold in regular, cask strength and peated expressions.
A Scottish firm hoping to sell its wares to whisky lovers in Japan has been awarded a grant from the Department for International Trade and London Heathrow Airport, Passenger Terminal Today reported on 22 August.
Reza Wood Designs, which recycles whisky barrels from Scottish distilleries and turns them into handcrafted items for whisky fans, said it plans to use its £2,000 grant from the World of Opportunity 2018 campaign to help it enter the Japanese market.
The scheme saw grants awarded to 20 small and medium-sized enterprises, including a tea firm, a family-run bicycle business, and a gourmet crisp maker.
England lost to Japan in the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, the BBC reported on 20 August.
Despite Mo Marley’s side putting in a good performance during the tournament, they were defeated 2-0 in the game in Vannes, France, the report states.
The goals came from Japan’s Riko Ueki and Jun Endo, leading England to face France in the third-place play-off, and Japan to face Spain in the final.
Japan beat Spain 3-1 in the final, while England finished third after beating France 4-2.
More than a year ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, the Welsh team has begun staging an outreach programme in Kitakyushu, on Japan’s southernmost main island of Kyushu, Channel NewsAsia reported on 14 August.
With the Welsh team being based in the city for the competition, captain Ryan Jones was quoted as saying, “We wanted to be a little bit different, so our legacy is starting now”.
On a recent visit, Jones and the Wales Rugby Union ran coaching sessions for 600 children, and a coaching course for 50 coaches, the report says.
The UK unveiled a new fighter jet at the Farnborough International Airshow, and sources said it would look to Japan as a partner for the new project, Japan Today reported on 17 July.
The Tempest fighter has raised questions about European defence cooperation, the report said, adding that Germany and France got their joint fighter jet programme under way in 2017.
Trains on the UK’s High Speed 2 railway, which is currently under construction, will operate to an average delay target of 30 seconds, North Wales Pioneer said in a report on 19 July.
HS2 Ltd., the line’s builder, said trains that operate on the line will rival Japan’s shinkansen trains, famed for their dependability and punctuality.
The HS2 line initially will run from London’s Euston Station to Birmingham Interchange, with future extensions to Leeds and Manchester already having been proposed.
Hitachi Ltd. has launched a legal challenge against Transport for London, after a contract to build new Tube trains was awarded to German rival Siemens AG, Rail Technology Magazine reported on 23 July.
Hitachi, which joined Canada’s Bombardier Inc. to bid for the contract to build 94 new trains for the Piccadilly Line, said TfL did not follow the proper procurement process, the report said.
The contract, part of the wider Deep Tube Upgrade Programme, was worth £1.5bn.
A delegation from the Japanese city of Toyota in Aichi Prefecture visited the town of Cowbridge in South Wales, to help shore up ties between Wales and Toyota, The Glamorgan GEM reported on 18 July.
The Mayor of Toyota, Toshihiko Ota, met with directors and managers from Strachan Sports Travel, which is based in Cowbridge and will be helping Welsh rugby with their travel arrangements for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Wales’s first game will be against Georgia in Toyota, and the city’s officials were hoping to encourage dialogue with Wales and strengthen ties in commerce, culture, tourism and sport, the report said.