The British Darts Organisation (BDO) held the 2020 World Darts Championship on 11 January at the O2 Arena in London and Mikuru Suzuki captured the title for Japan, The Telegraph reported. With her 3–0 win over top-seed Lisa Ashton of England, a four-time BDO world champion, Suzuki secured back-to-back titles. Ashton won consecutive titles in 2017–18.
Shoryu Ramen is expanding its UK operations beyond the current 12 locations in London, Oxford and Manchester. Matteo Frigeri, director of franchising firm Seeds Consulting, with which Shoryu is partnering, said he believes the chain “can quickly become the number one ramen concept in Europe”.
(Big Hospitality, 29 November)
Greater Manchester candy maker Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls is expanding overseas, having closed its first major order in Japan. Confectionery Production reported on 20 November that the Tokyo-based importer and distributor Beau & Bon Ltd. purchased 6,000 tins and bags of Uncle Joe’s signature sweets. The deal was reached after managing director Mitsuhiro Maeda visited the Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls factory in Wigan. “We are hoping to develop a long-term relationship,” Maeda said. Uncle Joe’s Joint Managing Director John Winnard said that British brands with history are in demand in Japan. “[Uncle Joe’s] fits that demand perfectly and we are looking forward to a long and successful partnership with Beau & Bon”.
At the behest of the British Government, and on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, Prince Charles attended the enthronement ceremony of Naruhito, Japan’s 126th monarch. As reported by the website Royal.uk, the Prince of Wales spent 22–23 October touring the Nezu Museum, the training grounds for the Wales national rugby team at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, the HMS Enterprise docked at Harumi Wharf in Tokyo Bay, Zojoji Temple and the Mitsukoshi Department Store for the Britain is GREAT campaign. He also visited the Ambassador’s Residence at the British Embassy Tokyo for a UK in JAPAN 2019–20 reception, and later joined Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s banquet at the Hotel New Otani.
The Japanese founder of #kutoo, a hashtag movement supporting women forced to wear heels at work, is among the BBC’s list of the 100 most influential women of 2019. Yumi Ishikawa started the movement after complaining about her firm’s dress code on Twitter. Her story resonated with women throughout Japan and was shared more than 30,000 times.
The name is a reference to the #metoo movement and is a play on the Japanese words kutsu (shoes) and kutsuu (pain). In June, she submitted a petition with more than 20,000 signatures to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
Also on the list is Hiyori Kon, a 21-year-old sumo wrestler who was the subject of the 2018 award-winning documentary Little Miss Sumo. Japan still bars women from competing professionally in this national sport, and the BBC is honouring Kon for her efforts to change the rules and give women a voice in sumo.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (TMSO) is set to perform at the 2020 Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland, according to an 8 October article on the festival’s website. The announcement was made in Tokyo during the visit of Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.
Running 7–31 August, the festival is was established in 1947 as a world class cultural event to bring together audiences and artists from around the world. It is also an international showcase for Scottish culture.
The appearance is motivated in part by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and the UK in JAPAN 2019–20 campaign. TMSO Music Director Kazushi Ono will conduct the programme, which will include Cello Concerto No.1 by Saint-Saëns and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. The occasion will coincide with the festival’s 55th anniversary.
Tan France, the English fashion designer and star of the Netflix series Queer Eye, went to Japan for the show’s latest season. According to a 22 October story by the UK newspaper and website Metro, France and co-stars Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown and Antoni Porowski thought the season to be a success, but admitted there were initial concerns about cultural differences. Berk said he feared their affectionate personalities wouldn’t connect well with a typically conservative society such as Japan, since “there’s a huge language barrier, also a huge cultural barrier”. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. “Very quickly, we realised that teaching people self-love, self-care and acceptance is universal”.
British tourists are flocking to Japan despite the weakened sterling. According to a 24 October article on financial website This is Money, factors include the Rugby World Cup 2019 and recommendations in the Long Haul Holiday Report 2019, from the UK-based retail mail firm Post Office Ltd.
The report cited Japan as the cheapest long-haul destination of the year. In September, there was a 233% rise in yen sales attributed to tourists visiting to watch the matches. The lead-up to England’s 26 October game with New Zealand at Yokohama Stadium also triggered a 492% increase in ticket sales from the UK to Tokyo, according to flight-booking website Skyscanner.
Hyslop pitches glasgow
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, met with executives from the Tokyo-based refrigeration firm Mayekawa Mfg. Co., Ltd. during her October visit to Japan to discuss the firm’s first office in Glasgow, Scotland. She said that Glasgow would be the “perfect environment for continuous research and ground-breaking technology”. Mayekawa expects the location to create 20 jobs over five years. (Cooling Post, 8 October)
Green is the new black
Transport for London will add the new electric taxi from Dynamo Motor Company to its fleet as part of its efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The fully electric taxi is based on the Nissan e-NV200. The Japanese automaker has been nudging businesses to adopt the e-NV200 as a commercial vehicle and taxi alternative globally. (The Daily Mail, 23 October)
Rugby School to expand
Japan’s first independent school from the UK will open in 2022. Peter Green, the current headmaster of the Rugby School, founded in its namesake town in Warwickshire, has announced a new sister location in Tokyo. Green said that, although the new school would adhere to the principles of Rugby School England, it would also be mindful of Japanese culture. (Tes, 24 October)
The UK’s House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee has published a report calling on the government to begin promoting automation in British industries—and used Japan as an example.
According to a 20 September article published by The Japan Times, the committee was motivated by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for the “continued growth and development of automation to enable the country to drastically improve productivity”.
The report ranks the UK 22nd globally in terms of the number of industrial robots per 10,000 workers. Shown below is the assembly line for the Land Rover Discovery Sport in Halewood, England.
Plans to produce the next line of the Qashqai compact crossover SUV in Sunderland will be reassessed by Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. if Britain goes through with a no-deal Brexit, according to a 1 October story on UK-based financial website This Is Money.
The plan to use the Sunderland factory was a joint effort by former Nissan Chairman and Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn and former UK Prime Minister Theresa May to generate about 7,000 new jobs—all of which are now at risk.
This comes after Nissan’s decision to cancel production of the X-Trail SUV in Sunderland, which will be produced in Japan instead. Nissan is expected to cut 12,500 jobs worldwide by 2020.
However, Nissan confirmed it would not change its plans to manufacture the next-generation Juke vehicle at the Sunderland factory.
As reported by Japan Today on 14 October, Nissan has invested £100mn in the Juke with 70% of production in European Union markets.
The firm’s Europe Chairman Gianluca de Ficchy said the Sunderland factory was built to serve European markets and that the Juke is designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK for European customers.
Nissan will discontinue the night shift at the plant, lowering total staff to fewer than 6,000, and is expected to cut 12,500 jobs worldwide by 2020.
The founder and chief executive of Fast Retailing, owner of brands Uniqlo and GU, has said that Brexit would turn the UK into the “sick man of Europe”. In an article published by CNN on 19 September, Tadashi Yanai (left), the richest man in Japan, voiced concerns that Brexit is practically impossible even if the UK wants to do it. “If Brexit does happen, the UK could revert to the former situation before the Margaret Thatcher era, when the UK was referred to as the sick man of Europe,” he said. However, Yanai said that Uniqlo would remain in the UK regardless of possible forthcoming economic and political challenges.
The celebrated journalism and literature of London-born writer Alan Booth compiled for a book edited by Timothy Harris, was reviewed by the Literary Review in its October issue.
Booth, who died in 1993, moved to Japan to study and become a writer. There, he came to be known for his sarcastic wit and dark humour. Entitled This Great Stage of Fools: An Anthology of Uncollected Writings, the book features a selection that covers Japanese film, festivals and folk songs.
Forestry England is taking Japanese maple trees to the UK to save them from extinction. As reported by The Telegraph on 2 October, in a joint effort between the University of Oxford and various government departments related to botanic gardens and forestry, researchers have travelled to Japan to acquire the maple tree’s seeds, as well as those of other species. They will then plant these in the forests of the UK. Experts hope that this will not only save many species but that the trees will also become resilient to climate change. The maples will be planted at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire and Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest in Kent.
Britain’s first Kit Kat shop
Nestlé is opening Japan-originated Kit Kat chocolate shops in Britain for a limited time. Although Kit Kat was created in England in 1935, the chocolate-coated wafers have become somewhat of a cultural icon in Japan with their many region-specific flavours. The stores will pop up at some 30 department stores until 24 December.
(The Jiji Press, 1 Oct)
Olympians get £50mn
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has approved £50mn for British athletes going to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The funding is intended to support Team GB in their final year of preparation. Johnson said the funding shows that the country is backing its athletes “every step of the way”. (Gov.UK, 26 Sept)
Yokohama Claims rugby first
Historian and Briton Mike Galbraith has received recognition in Japan for discovering that rugby was introduced to the country much earlier than is generally accepted. After 10 years of research, a plaque acknowledging Galbraith’s findings was unveiled by the Japan Rugby Football Union in Yokohama in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup 2019. The plaque reads: “The Birthplace of Football (Rugby) in Japan. The Yokohama Football Club was founded close to this spot on 26 January, 1866”.
Gen Z Loves UK Capital
A September 2019 study by international online property platform Nestpick ranks London the best out of 110 cities for Generation Z (those born between the mid-1990s and the early-2000s). Tokyo is 48th. London’s compatibility with Gen Z principles, ability to meet educational needs and strong business opportunities were key. The study was conducted to determine which cities best meet the needs of Gen Z, “the creators, advocates and pioneers of tomorrow”.
World’s safest cities
The Safe Cities Index 2019, published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), lists Tokyo as the world’s safest city. The scale—which ranks cities based on personal, infrastructure, health and digital security—places London 14th. According to Irene Mia, the EIU’s global editorial director, European cities generally perform well in health security but “tend to struggle in the category of digital security”. London is the only European city in the top 10 in this area.
Mizuho Securities Co., Ltd. has become the first Japanese partner of the Paris arm of the London Stock Exchange Group’s London Clearing House (LCH), according to a 2 September story in The Trade News. “As a member of LCH SA, Mizuho will benefit from the largest pool of euro debt clearing in Europe. Clearing through the LCH SA enables us to maintain access to this important liquidity pool while managing our counterparty risk effectively,” said Amandine Triadu, head of credit and emerging markets repo in London, at Mizuho Securities.
As reported by The Guardian on 30 August, the UK has fallen to the bottom of the G7 growth league table. Japan, meanwhile, saw a boost of 0.4%, behind only Canada and the United States. Experts believe the drop was caused by stockpiling in the lead-up to the original Brexit deadline of 29 March, as well as weak car production. Firms are now probably stockpiling again on account of the government’s no-deal preparations, which could boost growth. But economic prospects once the UK leaves the European Union remain unclear.
Uhuru, the Japanese startup backed by SoftBank Group Corp., is expected to raise ¥5bn in the lead-up to its listing on London’s junior alternative investment market (AIM) on 23 October. This will give the only Japanese firm on the AIM board an assessment of more than ¥30bn, according to a 30 August story on Deal Street Asia. The startup is appointing Andrew Rose, who recently retired from asset manager Schroders plc, as an outside director at the end of September. Arden Partners plc and SMBC Nikko are advising Uhuru.
Bristol bakery Pinkmans will take part in Hankyu Department Store’s annual “Best of British” fairs in Tokyo and Osaka from 5 to 20 October. As British Baker reported on 19 August, Pinkmans is planning to send their food and beverage manager and head baker to supervise. “It’s a real honour to be invited,” said co-owner Steven Whibley. “This is such a fantastic opportunity for our bakers and to put Bristol on the international culinary map”.
Prints inspire poets
In collaboration with the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, hundreds of UK-based poets wrote haiku inspired by the Japanese prints on display as part of the Masters of Japanese Prints: Nature and Seasons exhibition. To kick off the show on 5 September, Bristol poet and emcee Bertel Martin and senior curator Kate Newnham hosted workshops and presented haiku from contributors. (Literary website Call of the Page)
Climber Coxsey grabs bronze
Britain’s Shauna Coxsey took home the bronze medal at the Climbing World Championships in Hachioji on 20 August. Despite placing third, the climber was in high spirits. “It is still not over”. The same week saw Coxsey secure a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Climbing is one of five sports that will make their Olympic debut. The others are karate, skateboarding, surfing and baseball, which returns after being dropped following the 2008 Beijing Games. (BBC Radio 2, 19 August)
Sanrio Co., Ltd., the owners of the famous British talking cat and other beloved Japanese children’s characters, has been hit with a fine of €6.2mn (¥762mn) by the European Union (EU).
As reported in a 7 July article in The Asahi Shimbun, the penalty is for restricting cross-border online sales of toys and merchandise. The EU Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, said Sanrio’s practices could lead to “less choice and higher prices for consumers, and is against EU antitrust rules”. The investigation began in 2017 as part of the EU’s hope for a “digital single market”.
Thomas Lockley, a Japan-based British professor at Nihon University College of Law in Tokyo, is close to finishing years of comprehensive research on the largely forgotten tale of the first Japanese people to visit England. In a 4 June story in The Mainichi, Lockley expressed how important the Japanese were to the English in 1589. These visitors made Japan “real” and not just the talk of dreamers. Lockley said his work has attracted interest from potential publishers.
Although Emperor Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on 1 May, the formal enthronement will not take place until 22 October. At the request of the British Government, Charles will represent Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth at the ceremony, the Evening Standard reported on 13 August. During the two-day visit, the Prince will participate in events that celebrate UK–Japan connections. His last visit to Japan was in 2008.
Hinako Shibuno, the 20-year-old golfer who had only been outside Japan once before competing in this year’s Women’s British Open at Woburn Golf and Country Club near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, captured not only the title but also the hearts of the UK crowd. As The Guardian reported on 4 August, Shibuno’s bright attitude, high-fiving of spectators and penchant for snacking her way around the links earned her the nickname Smiling Cinderella. And as in the story, it was a last-minute turn of events that brought on a fairy-tale ending as Shibuno sank a putt from 18ft to edge out American Lizette Salas by one stroke in her major championship debut. She is the first Japanese golfer to win the Women’s British Open.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has implored British Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to take a no-deal exit from the European Union (EU). In a 24 July story, The Japan Times said the request was included in a message congratulating Johnson on his election. Abe advised Johnson to continue cooperating with leaders of the business world. Abe said he hopes to see an efficient Brexit that minimises the impact on Japan-affiliated firms in Britain. Johnson has vowed to leave the EU with or without a deal.
Great Britain is expected to garner the most support of a visiting nation at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games according to a 23 July story in The Telegraph. Team GB, which saw only 280 fans follow them to Rio de Janeiro on official travel packages in 2016, has received more than 4,000 enquiries for Tokyo 2020 packages. To boost numbers, Team GB is generating local support around its training facilities, including the performance lodge at Odaiba Bay High School, Yokohama International Pool—where British swimmers and divers are preparing—as well as Keio University and the Todoroki Stadium. All these venues are already posting locally made signs that read “GO-GB2020”.
Skateboard prodigy eyes Tokyo Olympics
Half-British, half-Japanese Sky Brown, an 11-year-old skateboarder who calls Japan home, has been added to Great Britain’s national team. Skateboarding will make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Brown will be 12 when the Olympics take place and, if Team GB qualifies for the competition, she will be the youngest ever British Olympian. (CBS News, 2 August)
Oxford picks Waseda
To coincide with the Rugby World Cup 2019, organisers at the University of Oxford chose Waseda University in Tokyo as hosts the World University Rugby Invitational Tournament 2019, to be held in September. Founded by Oxford in 2015, the crowdfunded tournament was created to generate more attention in the game at the university level. As of 15 August, ¥6.26mn had been raised, 125% of the ¥5mn goal. (J.Funding, 15 August)
Bilateral honours won in South Korea
Japan’s Katsuhiro Matsumoto and Britain’s Duncan Scott won silver and bronze respectively at the International Swimming Federation World Championships, held 12–28 July in Gwangju, South Korea. Matsumoto set the Japan 200m freestyle record, but was overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Duncan Scott’s podium protest of gold medallist Sun Yang of China, who is facing a lifetime suspension for test meddling in 2018. (The Mainichi, 24 July)
UK exports to Japan grew nearly 7% in 2018–19 to more than £16bn, according to the Department for International Trade (DIT). The rise was thanks to new initiatives and a reduction in barriers by the Japanese government, according to Business Link Japan Chief Executive Steve Crane writing in The Telegraph on 11 July. His team is behind Export to Japan, whose Premium Partners are the DIT, Japan Airlines and Custom Media, publishers of BCCJ ACUMEN.
Firms in a range of sectors—including electrical machinery, fashion, food, drink, transport and pharmaceuticals—have seen benefits from Tokyo’s warmer welcome. Cultural changes are also making it easier to enter the Japanese market. An increase in the number of English-speaking staff at Japanese firms, coupled with a desire to cut costs, means that, in many cases, it is no longer necessary to partner with a large local business.
In London, the DIT offers support to small and medium-size enterprises looking to do business in Japan and elsewhere. This includes trade missions, informative events and trade advisers, all of which can help UK firms big and small get a piece of what looks to be an even stronger market in 2019.
Great Britain‘s unified team of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales became the first European women’s squad to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games with the Lionesses’ 3–0 win over Norway on 28 June. The victory came in the quarter-final of the FIFA Women‘s World Cup France in Le Havre. (BBC, 29 June).
Nanako Fujita, the only female jockey licensed by the Japan Racing Association, has won the Women Jockeys’ World Cup in Stockholm.
The 22-year old competed in Sweden against riders from seven countries, including the UK, which was represented by Jane Elliott and Georgia Cox.