News Briefs

UK-Japan News March 2020

Photo: McLaren

McLaren and Buzz sign Japan growth deal
Formula One’s McLaren Racing Team Limited have signed a multi-year partnership with Buzz & Co. Asset Management Limited to lead its growth in Japan. (SportsPro Media, 10 March)

Parasite sets records
South Korean film Parasite, winner of this year’s Oscar for Best Picture, has made box office history in Japan and the UK by becoming the highest-grossing film in both countries.

The film had a record-breaking opening day in the UK, earning £1.8mn in 137 theatres across the country. In Japan, the black comedy thriller grossed more than ¥4bn and has topped the box office four weeks in a row. (The Korea Times, 13 March)

England beat Japan in women’s football
After an opening loss to the United States, England beat Japan 1–0 in their second match as forward Ellen White scored late off the bench. The win in New Jersey keeps alive England’s hopes of defending their SheBelieves Cup title. (BBC, 8 March)

Pound–yen rate hit by virus, Brexit

UK-Japan News February 2020

The covid-19 coronavirus, jitters over Brexit and the prospects for a UK–Japan trade deal have led to volatility in the pound sterling–yen exchange rate this month. As the financial blog ExchangeRates.org.uk reported on 16 February, the threat that the Chinese epidemic will result in a slowdown of the Japanese economy is at the heart of the fluctuations. One pound brought ¥143.462 at its high point and ¥141.296 at its low during the week of 10 February, and the instability could continue.

“The spread of coronavirus poses an emerg­ing downside risk to Japan’s economy, although the economic impact will depend on the extent of the spread of the disease and policy responses,” said Paul Cashin, the International Monetary Fund’s mission chief for Japan. “If prolonged and widespread, this would likely affect Japan’s tourism and retail activities through a decline in tourist arrivals and spending from China and elsewhere”.

The pound has weakened against about half of the top 40 currencies, with the yen being the biggest gainer. Sales in 2019 were up 42% over the year before. This has benefitted Japanese tourists to the UK, and Brits have continued to make their way to Japan, in part due to the low cost—the Post Office Long Haul Holiday Report 2019 named Japan the cheapest place to visit. But concerns of health and trade could make travel less attractive for both sides.

The yen has been seen as a safe-haven currency, but the potential trade exposure resulting from pro­longed quarantines and fear of travel has resulted in market anxiety.

Envoy urges new CO2 target

UK-Japan News February 2020

Ahead of this year’s UN climate change conference (COP 26), to be held on 9–19 November in Glasgow, Scotland, members of the Paris Agreement are expected to reveal their reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

According to an 18 February report by NHK World-Japan, the plans are to be announced by the end of the month. The UK has urged Japan to increase its reduction target, with British envoy to COP 26 John Murtin emphasising that Tokyo must invest in renewables to make sure that its industry has access to cheap electricity.

Firms plan clean energy

UK-Japan News February 2020

London-based Winch Energy, which specialises in sustainable solutions for off-grid distributed power, has received a boost from Itochu Corporation, one of Japan’s largest general trading firms. Energy Live News website reported on 18 February that Itochu intends to introduce power to non-electrified regions in Africa and Asia. The firm said in a statement that their strategic investment in Winch Energy will allow them to continue a proactive role in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals by providing clean energy and supporting climate action.

London–Seoul FTA model for Tokyo?

UK-Japan News February 2020

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on 3 February that, post Brexit, the UK is priori­tising free-trade agreements (FTAs) with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.

As the Asia Times wrote on 14 February, the arrange­ment reached between the UK and South Korea last August might be an ideal road­­map for Japan. Using the broad terms of the EU–Korea FTA, London and Seoul agreed a “Continuity FTA” with some modifications to take immediate effect at the end of this year, when the UK leaves the European single market.

Britain has signed continuity agreements with 48 countries, but not Japan. Now that Brexit has taken place, the path forward to a UK–Japan bilateral FTA may become clearer for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who seems to have been taking a wait-and-see approach.

UN goals aid research

UK-Japan News February 2020

In a bid to create technologies that support sustain­able coastal communities, science agencies from Japan, the UK and the Philippines have begun crafting a frame­­work for a multi-funder cooperation.

Driven by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Japan Science and Technology Agency, UK Research and Innova­tion and the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology gathered researchers from South-East Asian countries to discuss recent studies on coastal communities and to consider research collaboration.

UK English for Asia–Pacific area

UK-Japan News February 2020

English UK, a membership organisation for accredited British English language training centres, recently held workshops in Tokyo and Taipei. With more than 50 agents from the Asia–Pacific region joining, the format was designed to allow attendance by as many centres and educators from English UK’s membership as possible.

On 6 January, The Pie News reported English UK Market Development Manager Roz Gill as saying: “This region has always been important for our members. With the education strategy of the Japanese government and the Olympics in 2020, it felt like the right time to reinforce members’ partnerships in this key market”.

News Briefs

UK-Japan News February 2020

New youth work visa
Through a new UK–Japan Youth Mobility Scheme, 1,000 Japanese nationals will be able to live and work in the UK for up to two years. (British Embassy Tokyo, 10 January)

Rok shoppers back UK
A slump in South Korean visitors to Japan has resulted in a boost for the UK, which saw a 12% and 9% rise in tax-free spending during the second and third quarters of 2019. South Korean spending in Japan dropped by 40%. (Drapers, 19 December)

U-19 cricket team in 2020 World Cup
A Japanese Under-19 (U-19) cricket team has qualified for the 2020 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa. Founded in 2017 by the Japan Cricket Association (JCA), which is led by Englishman Alan Curr, the team booked their place in the U-19 World Cup after a 170-run win against Samoa. (The New York Times, 16 January)

Photo: ICC

Reds sign J.League star
Takumi Minamino has signed with Liverpool for £7.25 million. The deal makes him just the ninth player from Japan to play in the Premier League. Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said: “Super. Outstanding. Exactly the player we wanted. Exactly the player we wished for”. (BBC, 10 January)

Tokyo, London ready to talk trade

UK-Japan News January 2020

With the UK set to leave the European Union on 31 January, the governments of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hope to begin talks on a bilateral economic partner­ship agreement (EPA) as soon as February. As NHK World reported on 6 January, the lifting of tariffs on autos is a top priority for Japan.

The terms of the EU–Japan EPA will continue to apply to trade with the UK until the end of December, but a new bilateral agreement will be required after this transition period. In addition to a one-on-one EPA, Japan has stated its support for UK membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Photo: British Embassy Tokyo

Aeon and Ocado sign deal

UK-Japan News January 2020

Japan’s largest shopping mall developer and supermarket operator, Aeon Co. Ltd., has partnered with the UK-based online supermarket and technology firm Ocado Group Plc. A 29 November story in the Financial Times said the move was made to compete with rivals Amazon Fresh and the online grocery delivery service collaboration between Rakuten, Inc. and Seiyu GK, the Japanese subsi­diary of US retailer Walmart Inc.

Ocado will build warehouses in the Kanto region and Aeon will utilise the firm’s automation and distribution technology. Aeon launched an online grocery service in 2008, but sales account for just 1% of its £78bn annual revenue. Japan’s online grocery market is worth £26.7bn, and that is expected to rise as society ages. The partners aim to develop capacity for ¥200bn (£1.35bn) in deliveries by 2023 and ¥1tn (£6.75bn) by 2035. The announcement boosted Ocado’s stock by 15%.

UK to beat Japan in ad spend by 2025

UK-Japan News January 2020

The UK will pass Japan to become the world’s third-largest advertising market by 2025. This was according to a 4 December report by the online news source MediaPost, which said UK advertising was up 7.8% in 2019. It was the sixth straight year of mid-to-high single-digit growth for the industry in Britain.

“Since 2013, the United Kingdom’s advertising sector has expanded by more than half, up 55% over that year’s levels,” said Brian Wieser, global president of business intelligence at GroupM, the world’s largest advertising media firm. “With that growth, the United Kingdom is unam­biguously the fourth-largest market on Earth”. If this trend continues, the UK will unseat Japan within five years.

Brit wins karaoke title

UK-Japan News January 2020

Jenny Ball, from Blackpool, England, has won the 2019 Karaoke World Championship. Some 43 finalists from around the globe competed on a stage at Kanda Myojin Shrine in Tokyo on 27–29 November. According to The Japan Times, Ball outsang more than 30,000 contestants to reach the finals and wowed judges with her renditions of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” and Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You” to take home the gold.

Photo: Oy KWC Organization LTD.

Suzuki claims BDO win

UK-Japan News January 2020

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.

Photo: Tip Top Pics

Tokyo sweet on mint balls

UK-Japan News January 2020

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”.

Prince Charles in visit to Tokyo

UK-Japan News November 2019

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.

BBC NAME #KUTOO AND SUMO STARS IN TOP 100

UK-Japan News November 2019

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.

TMSO PLANS 2020 SCOTS GIG

UK-Japan News November 2019

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.

Queer Eye breaks down barriers

UK-Japan News November 2019

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”.

Record number of UK tourists visit Japan

UK-Japan News November 2019

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.

News Briefs

UK-Japan News November 2019

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)

Time to Automate

UK-Japan News October 2019

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.

Nissan Plans for Qashqai, X-Trail and Juke

UK-Japan News October 2019

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.

Post-Brexit UK: “Europe’s Sick Man”

UK-Japan News October 2019

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.

Flags of the United Kingdom and the European Union.Brexit concept.

London Review for Book on Tokyo Writer

UK-Japan News October 2019

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.

UK to Save Japan’s Trees

UK-Japan News October 2019

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.

News Briefs

UK-Japan News October 2019

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”.

London vs Tokyo

UK-Japan News September 2019

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 in LSE first

UK-Japan News September 2019

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.

Brexit: UK falls to last in G7 Growth

UK-Japan News September 2019

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.