The Watanabes remix folk song

UK-Japan News February 2021

Now available on all music platforms is the festive remix of the folk-inspired song “Hummingbird” by British band The Watanabes. Radio broadcaster and frequent ACUMEN contributor Guy Perryman MBE has noted the song’s Christmas feel since its release and approached The Watanabes in early 2020 with the idea of remixing it. 

As well as recruiting the help of their regular studio collaborator and producer, David Naughton, Perryman also brought in composer Nicholas Buc to write the string arrangement. With Naughton’s three young children featuring as the choir, the arrangement is by Matt Hogan and the final mix was mastered at Abbey Road Studios.

Dry Stone dreams

UK-Japan News February 2021

Teruki Kamiya, founder of the Dry Stone Walling Association of Japan, dreams of returning to England and Wales to maintain their drystone walls. Just 13% of the 193,000km of such walls in the UK are reported to be in good condition. 

In a 28 November story in The Japan Times, it was shared that the Aichi-based artisan learned under masters in the UK more than 10 years ago, making him the first person to travel from Asia specifically to learn this skill. Kamiya is dedicated to teaching what he learned from the Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain to Japanese people—in Japanese—to ensure there is no language barrier when it comes to learning.

Nissan trades north for Tochigi

UK-Japan News February 2021

Nissan has chosen to produce its newest electric car, the Ariya, in Japan rather than the UK. According to a 17 December Nikkei Asia report, the Ariya will be made at Nissan’s Tochigi Prefecture plant. Due to post-Brexit trade deal concerns over higher tariffs, Nissan will ship the vehicle from Japan to the European Union when it becomes available for purchase next year.

Nadeshiko star joins Aston Villa

UK-Japan News February 2021

Aston Villa has signed Nadeshiko captain Mana Iwabuchi, BBC Sport reported on 21 December. The 27-year-old has 72 international caps and was part of the Japan team that took home the World Cup in 2011. Villa boss Gemma Davies said, “Not only will she bring a wealth of expe­rience, but she will also add a different dimension to our attacking play”.

 

News Briefs

UK-Japan News February 2021

Envoy visits Wales

Japanese Ambassador to the UK Yasumasa Nagamine visited Wales on 3 December after his first attempt in March was postponed due to the coronavirus. One thousand cherry trees were planted at schools in Wales to mark the Japan–UK Season of Culture and to exhibit economic, cultural, artistic and technological successes. (Business News Wales, 6 January)

AbbVie drops Sosei

Sosei Group Corp is the latest to be dumped following AbbVie Inc.’s post-Allergan-merger clear-out. The biopharmaceutical firm will now seek a new partner amid a full internal review following the split from the original deal, which goes back five years. (Fierce Biotech, 5 January)

England star in Sapporo credits adopted culture

Jay Bothroyd, a forward with the Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, of the J1 football league,  has noted how Japanese culture has impacted his personal and professional growth. “Coming here has taught me to bite my tongue and accept people have different opinions … things are not always going to go my way. It’s been a fantastic experience”. (The Japan Times, 9 January)

CEPA boost for key sectors

UK-Japan News November 2020

The UK–Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was signed on 23 October in Tokyo, media reported, ensuring smooth bilateral trade beyond 1 January, 2021, when the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) means Britain will no longer be covered by Japan’s trade deal with the EU.

Media said that CEPA is very similar to the EU–Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, but is more finely tuned to the concerns and collaboration potential of Japan and the UK. It also includes a chapter on digital trade.

The signing was the culmination of a major negotiation effort—and an efficient one, considering the challenges of the pandemic—by both sides.  Emblematic of the obstacles overcome was the gift that Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, presented to Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi at the signing: a jar of Stilton cheese.

With much to gain on both sides, ACUMEN rounded up some key benefits of CEPA across a range of industries.

5G boost

Building out the UK’s next-generation communications network will get a boost from Japan’s NEC Corporation, according to Capacity magazine. The Department for International Trade tweeted on 23 October that Truss and NEC Chairman Nobuhiro Endo “talked about NEC’s 5G deployment and collaboration in the UK, including the establishment of the 5G Open RAN Centre of Excellence. The UK–Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement is expected to further develop digital partnerships with Japanese firms”.

Better fit for rag trade

Rules of origin outlined in CEPA should be a better fit for British clothiers, the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) said on 9 November.

“A clothing producer could sew together imported fabrics into a coat, and then export the final product to Japan under tariff preference, as long as 50% of the inputs are sourced domestically,” UKFT explained. “This change may allow high-value producers of goods including knitwear, suits, gloves and coats to increase their exports to Japan”.

To make trade easier, the UK and Japan have agreed to allow self-certification of origin, so that importers from either country do not need a certificate from their customs authority. This will give firms more options.

Bring on the digestives

The trade deal is also being well received in the East Midlands where Ashbourne, Derbyshire’s Artisan Biscuits sees easier exports and higher sales in the announcement. Last year the firm signed a £57,000 agreement with a Japanese importer.

“Japan is a sophisticated market that values quintessential British products such as our biscuits, which Japanese consumers like to have with certain types of teas,” Director John Siddall told the newspaper Derbyshire Live on 1 November. “A free trade agreement could make it easier to export our biscuits as we continue to grow in the country over the coming years”.

Two-way trade

Snacks benefit the other way as well, with the import tax on Japan’s popular chocolate-covered biscuit sticks being cut by 31% once CEPA comes into force, according to The Japan Times. That’s a sweet deal for Osaka-based Ezaki Glico Co., Ltd., which produces the snack.

Pocky is not alone. British import tariffs are also set to drop on bluefin tuna (22%), Kobe beef (60%), soy sauce (6%) and udon noodles (13%).

Selling sand to Arabs

Tuna isn’t the only fish that can benefit from CEPA. Japan is already one of the UK’s key destinations for seafood, with 2,006t—worth £16.6mn—exported to the country in 2019. Among the most popular species are mackerel, herring, sardines, crabs, lobsters and, of course, Scottish salmon (page 39), according to Fish Farmer. With tariffs on seafood being liberalised over a 15-year period and becoming duty free in 2036, a stream of opportunities should lie ahead for the industry.

Bilateral benefits

Over the next 15 years, as a result of CEPA, British exports to Japan are expected to rise by 17.2% (£2.6bn or ¥356bn) while Japanese exports to the UK should get a 79.9% (£13bn or ¥1.8tn) boost.

Media noted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson set the future in motion on Twitter, saying it was “a historic moment as we formally sign the UK–Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, marking a new era of friendship between our nations”.

Welsh help for flood-hit Kumamoto

UK-Japan News November 2020

The relationship between Wales and Kumamoto Prefecture has remained strong following last year’s Rugby World Cup. NHK reported that, on 10 November, Ursula Bartlett-Imadegawa (second left), president of the St David’s Society Japan, and Yoko Kobori (left) from the Welsh Government, visited the prefectural office to present Vice Governor Takeshi Kimura with a donation of ¥200,000. The money—collected with help from Gareth Lewis of the Welsh social media platform St David’s World—is meant to assist with recovery efforts following this year’s heavy rainfall, which killed at least 77 people and destroyed more than 15,000 buildings.

Bartlett-Imadegawa thanked the many people and groups who donated, including Brits at Lunch and the St David’s Society committee and members. Messages of support for Kumamoto also came from former Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language Eluned Morgan, members of the Welsh Parliament, rugby players, three former presi­dents of the St David’s Society and the Friends of Wales congressional caucus in the United States.

TV: The Great British Baking Show burned

UK-Japan News November 2020

The Great British Bake Show, a competition programme that challenges home bakers to create dishes according to themes, has been burned by its Japanese Week episode, which aired on Netflix on 30 October. The Independent reported on 28 October that the contestants’ creations were criticised for having little or no connection to Japan, instead making use of ingredients and flavours from Chinese and Indian cuisine. Many viewers voiced their feelings that the show was supporting the tendency to dump all Asia cultures into one pot. Japanese pastry chef Tomoko Kato, however, told Insider that she believes “there is room for both traditional and non-traditional in baking”.

UK to resume shipping nuclear waste to Aomori

UK-Japan News November 2020

As part of measures introduced following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 11 March, 2011—and the subsequent disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant—Japan asked Britain to reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

According to a 9 November NHK World report, plans are for utility firms to begin accepting in April the reprocessed waste stored in Aomori Prefecture. Plutonium extracted from this material will be turned into special fuel to be used in Japan’s nuclear power plants. Shipments from the UK have stopped since 2016 while the Aomori facility undergoes screening and preparations.

News Briefs

UK-Japan News November 2020

From Soho to Toranomon

Ian Schrager, the mind behind The London Edition hotel in Soho, has brought his vision to the newly opened Tokyo Edition, Toranomon, saying: “I just had to do a hotel in Tokyo. I’ve been very influenced by Japan from the start. Their aesthetic, their spirituality, their cleanliness, their refinement”. (The Telegraph, 31 October)

Bilateral Ties blossom on South-East coast

A great white cherry tree, donated by Japanese businesses, was planted in Eastbourne’s Hampden Park on 4 November. The addition is part of the Sakura Cherry Tree Planting project, which aims to place more than 1,000 cherry blossom trees across the UK as a symbol of friendships between the nations. (Eastbourne Herald, 9 November)

Regent street store to sell premium tent

Japanese outdoor gear producer Snow Peak has launched a new premium tent in the UK. The firm’s central London store on Regent Street is offering the Minute Dome Pro.Air 1 solo camping tent that weighs less than 4kg—ideal for carrying on a bike and perfect for a socially distanced getaway to nature. (Out & About Live, 7 November)

London and Tokyo agree trade deal for 99% of exports

UK-Japan News September 2020

Photo: Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs

UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss and Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu (pictured above) announced during a video call on 11 September that the UK–Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was agreed in principle and that businesses will benefit from tariff-free trade on 99% of exports between the countries.

In its press announcement, the Department for International Trade (DIT) said, “The deal is tailored to the UK economy and secures additional benefits beyond the EU–Japan trade deal, giving UK companies exporting to Japan a competitive advantage in a number of areas”. DIT estimates that the deal will boost UK trade with Japan by £15.2bn and noted that this is an important step towards the UK becoming part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Nikkei reported that the agreement provides for a staged lifting of UK tariffs on Japanese autos starting in 2021 to zero in 2026—progress on a sticking point that has long concerned the Japanese side. Some Japanese railcar exports to the UK will also be tariff-free shortly after the agreement goes into effect.

On another highly publicised matter, Japan agreed to a staged reduction of the hard-cheese tariff, down to zero by 2035.

Truss said: “This is a historic moment for the UK and Japan as our first major post-Brexit trade deal. The agreement we have negotiated—in record time and in challenging circumstances—goes far beyond the existing EU deal, as it secures new wins for British businesses in our great manufacturing, food and drink, and tech industries”.

UK in Japan campaign resumes with tech

September 2020

The UK in JAPAN campaign, which launched last September, was paused while delivery partners focused on the coronavirus pandemic. The British Embassy Tokyo announced on 25 August that the campaign would be restarted. CreativeTech GREAT Season—beginning with the first ever, all-virtual London Tech Week from 1 to 11 September—kicked off the campaign which will continue into 2021. Much of the activity will focus on a green and resilient recovery from Covid-19—a particular priority as the UK prepares to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland on 1–12 November, 2021.

Boris hails Abe

UK-Japan News September 2020

During his two stints as Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe worked with four British counterparts—three during his second, record-setting term of almost eight years. After his announcement on 28 August that he would step down due to health reasons, Abe’s service was praised by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said on his Twitter account the same day that Abe “has achieved great things as PM of Japan—for his country and the world. Under his stewardship the UK–Japan relationship has gone from strength to strength in trade, defence and our cultural links. Thank you for all your years of service and I wish you good health”.

English wine sales grow fast in Japan

UK-Japan News September 2020

Norway, the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan topped the list of countries with a growing appetite for English wine according to data shared by the Department for International Trade and WineGB­—the national association for the English and Welsh wine industry—on 8 September. Wine exports from the UK totalled 550,000 bottles in 2019—double that of 2018—and accounted for 10% of the 5.5mn bottles sold for the year at home and abroad. Japan stood out as one of the fastest-growing markets for UK wine, with 6% of 2019 exports going to the country that is already the third-largest market for Champagne.

£4.7mn boost for British beef

UK-Japan News September 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed growth in many markets, but export of British red meat is not one of them, according to a 25 August story by FarmingUK. Overall numbers are down year on year, but ship­ments of beef bound for countries outside the European Union are up 21%. Japan accounts for much of the demand. Ranking third among destina­tions, the country has received 1,369t of beef from the UK so far this year, resulting in a £4.7mn boost for the industry. The 23-year ban on UK beef was lifted in January 2019.

UK, Japan, others aim to create vaccine alliance

UK-Japan News September 2020

Already working with AstraZeneca on domestic development and delivery of a Covid-19 vaccine (page 24), Japan is teaming up with the UK, as well as Germany, France and the European Union, to create an alliance aimed at securing vaccine supplies. The Nikkei Asian Review reported on 11 August that the £15.5bn pool, called Covax, is meant to assist nations that cannot nego­tiate the same kinds of one-on-one deals with drugmakers as the United States and China. About 75 countries have expressed interest in joining. The alliance aims to procure 2bn doses of corona­virus vaccine by 2021.

News Briefs

UK-Japan News September 2020

NEC, Fujitsu eyed for 5G

Having banned Chinese tech firm Huawei, Britain is looking to Japan for help in building its next-generation 5G wireless network. The Japanese firms will be asked to bid against others such as Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia Corporation. (Economic Times, 21 July)

SoftBank may lose jobs at Glasgow office

With the SoftBank Group selling its British chip­maker ARM Limited to US-based Nvidia Corporation for $40bn, 21 positions in the firm’s Glasgow, Scotland office may be eliminated. SoftBank acquired ARM in 2016 for $32bn. At the time it was the largest foreign takeover by a Japanese firm. (The Herald, 5 September)

Land Rover Defender SUV on local market

British Chamber of Commerce in Japan Platinum member Jaguar Land Rover Limited announced on 28 August that its iconic Defender SUV will now be available in Japan. (BCCJ, 28 August)

Civic move to Saitama

With Honda closing its Swindon plant in 2021, the carmaker is preparing to move portions of its Civic production to its Yorii plant in Saitama Prefecture. (Just Auto, 27 August)

Trade pact target: 31 July

UK-Japan News July 2020

Talks between the British and Japanese governments for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) have continued despite the coronavirus pandemic, and the two sides are aiming for a deal by the end of July, according to The Mainichi on 12 July.

Negotiations began on 9 June and are moving at a rapid pace, using the existing Japan–EU FTA as the basis. Changes being sought include removal of UK tariffs on Japanese autos as well as added benefits for UK financial and textile industries. UK–Japan trade totaled about £24 billion in 2019, making Japan the 11th largest export market for the UK, which is the 12th biggest for Japan.

UK to join CPTPP

UK-Japan News July 2020

Secretary of State for International Trade Elizabeth Truss described Britain’s relationship with Japan as “absolutely critical” and the UK announced on 17 June plans to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), The Diplomat reported on 24 June. Although London and Tokyo continue to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement, the UK’s interest in being part of the CPTPP is seen as a path to strengthening relations with Japan, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been a proponent of their joining.

Drug firms talk with Tokyo about vaccine

UK-Japan News July 2020

British drugmaker AstraZeneca PLC, whose AZD1222 candidate vaccine for Covid-19 is supported by the US Government’s Operation Warp Speed, is in talks with Japanese pharmaceutical firm Daiichi Sankyo Company Limited, as well as the Japanese government, to supply the vaccine—if proved effective—for use in Japan, according to a 27 June story in The Japan Times. AstraZeneca aims to produce 2bn doses and already has deals in place to supply the European Union and the United States, which has targeted January 2021 for delivery.

Paypay, Boku team up

UK-Japan News July 2020

Japanese e-money firm PayPay Corporation has entered into a collaboration with Boku, a world-leading payment service provider with headquarters in London, according to a 16 June story on the website Electronic Payments International. The deal will allow PayPay, which uses QR codes, to provide a card-like experience to its 28mn users in Japan.

New Harry Potter theme park in 2023

UK-Japan News July 2020

Following the successful wizardry of Universal Studios in Osaka, Seibu Railway Company, Ltd. is planning to replace its 93-year-old Toshimaen amusement park in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward with a new park dedicated to Harry Potter. Time Out reported on 12 June that construction will begin when Toshimaen closes on 31 August and the new attraction will open in the first half of 2023. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., which owns the film rights to the franchise and operates an attraction entitled The Making of Harry Potter in Leavesden, will rent part of the property from Seibu while the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will purchase the rest.

Dogs to be let out at Japan House London

UK-Japan News July 2020

Japanese architects Ban Shigeru, Kuma Kengo, Sou Fujimoto and Ito Toyo are among those whose designs will be part of the exhibition Architecture for Dogs, Japan House London announced on 14 July. Each exhibit captures the quality of the relationship between dogs and their people. The collection of 16 architectural designs for different dog breeds first launched at Design Miami in 2012 and has since received global acclaim. Japan House London will be the first destination in Europe to exhibit Architecture for Dogs with a physical and virtual experience for guests, which will run for 18 weeks starting 19 September.

News Briefs

UK-Japan News July 2020

Osaka hotel picks top London talent

Palace Hotel Co. Ltd., which plans to open Zentis Osaka—the first property of its new hospitality brand—in the third quarter of this year, has turned to UK designer Tara Bernerd of Tara Bernerd & Partners to create modern interiors. (Hospitality Net, 16 June)

Aeon plans new eco drive

British firm Loop, which delivers products from popular food brands in reusable packages, is collabo­rating with retail giant Aeon Co., Ltd. to bring the service to Japan. The campaign will start in Tokyo before being rolled out to about 400 Aeon stores on Honshu and Shikoku in 2021. (The Guardian, 15 July)

Scots star signs with NTT rugby team

The Japanese Top League’s NTT Shining Arcs will be the new home of former Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw when rugby play resumes in January 2021. The current season has been cancelled due to Covid-19. (The Guardian, 6 July)

FTA: Limit damage or design bold future?

UK-Japan News June 2020

Michito Tsuruoka, an associate professor at Keio University, argued in The Diplomat on 2 April that, while Japan and the UK are well placed to pursue a bilateral deal that is more ambitious than the Japan–EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the direction and para­meters of the bilateral negotiations will be affected by the state of the EU–UK free trade agreement (FTA) delibera­tions, including the length of the transition period. Here are some highlights:

Tokyo has two goals: to protect the interests of Japanese firms operating in the UK, and to avoid a no-FTA end of the transition period.

Until then, the Japan–EU EPA remains applicable to the UK, but it will end with the termination of the transition period. Unless there is a bilateral Japan–UK deal in place, trade between the two countries will be on the World Trade Organization’s terms, causing trade disruptions.

As for the Japan–UK FTA, there is a trade-off between:

  • The need to ensure damage limitation and to replace the Japan–EU EPA on time
  • The desire to be more ambitious, aiming to conclude the most advanced FTA in the world—something which could set a new standard for other developed economies.

Tokyo and London might need to lower their sights and focus on settling immediate problems, an idea supported by many in the business communities of both countries.

They are also perfectly placed to envision a new model of economic partner­ship between mature and advanced economies, covering not just trade in goods, but also invest­ment, services, e-commerce and new technologies such as artificial intelligence, Big Data and biotechnology.

FTA poll: Put Japan first

UK-Japan News June 2020

The vast majority of readers who took part in a Daily Express survey on 14 May backed International Trade Secretary Liz Truss’ bid to strike a free trade deal with Japan which goes further than the existing EU agreement.

In the poll, 1,130 people (87%) said Britain should prioritise a trade deal with Tokyo, 133 (10%) disagreed and 44 (3%) said they didn’t know.

One reader said, “Japan will be a good market for our fish, if we are wise enough not to give it away to the pilfering EU”. Another said, “The more trade deals that the UK signs, the more pressure is placed on those negotiators who try to play hard ball with the UK over any trade deal”.

Digital body hails FTA aims to create jobs, trade, value

UK-Japan News June 2020

The Software Alliance, a leading industry advocate, welcomed on 13 May the release of negotiating objectives for FTA negotiations between the UK and Japan. London says a UK–Japan FTA could increase bilateral trade by £15.2bn.

“The UK–Japan FTA creates an opportunity for both countries to create jobs and value by growing digital trade,” said Joseph Whitlock, director of policy at The Software Alliance, also known as BSA. “BSA urges both countries to adopt provisions that build on prior agreements, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and the US–Japan Digital Trade Agreement”.

Nature lover CW Nicol MBE dies at age 79

UK-Japan News June 2020

The award-winning Welsh-born conservationist CW Nicol, who played such an important role in UK–Japan relations through his love of nature, sadly passed away on 3 April at age 79 following a long battle with cancer. Since 1980, he had called Nagano Prefecture home and established the C.W. Nicol Afan Woodland Trust there in 2002 to help support the revitalisation of forests. He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2005. ACUMEN had the pleasure of speaking to him about his devotion to nature in a past issue: bccjacumen.com/wood’n-you-believe-it

Shiseido and XPO tie-up in Derby

UK-Japan News June 2020

Global logistics provider XPO Logistics, Inc. has reached an agreement with Japanese personal care giant Shiseido Company, Limited to provide omnichannel logistics services throughout the UK, the firm revealed in a 13 May press release. XPO will manage Shiseido’s logistics at a 7,500m2 distribution centre in Derby with plans to expand to 9,300m2 over the course of the partnership. Shiseido will benefit from XPO’s digital warehouse management capabilities, including rapid start-up, accelerated throughput of e-commerce orders and data-based quality control.

An XPO Logistics warehouse

News Briefs

UK-Japan News June 2020

Tokyo gongs experts on culture and health

Japan will confer The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette on Timothy Clark and with Neck Ribbon on Sir Jeremy Farrar (right), the Embassy of Japan in the UK said on 21 May. Clark was conferred for promoting the understanding and culture of Japan, and Sir Jeremy for his role in Japan’s Global Health Innovative Technology Fund and at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Japan House London debuts digital stories

Virtual exhibitions are becoming more popular as Covid-19 has forced museums around the world to close. Japan House London announced on 13 May the launch of an audiovisual, 3D experience that takes online visitors into the world of award-winning Japanese storyteller and illustrator Anno Mitsumasa. Take the tour.

Central banks “near Forex deal”

Turkey is very close to securing a total of $20bn in foreign currency swaps from central banks in the UK and Japan, Habertürk news website said on 19 May. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was set to confirm the deal soon, it said.