News Briefs

UK-Japan News June 2019

Tokyo sends seasonal gift
An estimated 4,000 cherry blossom trees will be planted across Britain as a symbol of friendship, according to The Japan Times. The 9 April report says that the trees will be distributed to more than 70 public sites, including London’s largest parks and Conwy Castle in Wales. The initiative was welcomed by Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Theresa May at a 2017 summit, when they announced the UK–Japan Season of Culture, which will run in parallel with the Rugby World Cup 2019 as well as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Most of the trees are expected to be planted by 2020.

NTT eyes London
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), Japan’s biggest telecommunications firm, is expected to open its inter­national headquarters in London. The Financial Times reported on 16 April that “the global financial hub, the tech triangle between Oxford, Cam­bridge and London, and the UK’s open society are all contri­buting factors”. NTT plans to announce its final decision in July.

Uk and Japan host Women and Peace event
Following the 5th World Assembly for Women (WAW!) and the W20 conference, both held in Tokyo on 23 and 24 March, Japan and the UK co-hosted an event entitled “Women in Peacebuilding” at the British Embassy Tokyo on 25 March. As reported by GOV.UK, the event was the most recent example of UK–Japan collaboration on United Nation’s Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.

Jaguar beats Suzuki for Car of the Year

UK-Japan News April 2019

Jaguar’s new pure-electric I-PACE has won the 2019 UK Car of the Year awards. The Daily Mail reported on 4 March that a panel of motoring experts drove the nominated models throughout the year before making their decision. To win the title, the I-PACE beat out 11 others, including Suzuki’s Jimny 4×4, which narrowly missed out on the top prize but did take home honours as the Best 4×4.

Collecting the trophy was Jaguar Land Rover Managing Director Rawdon Glober, who said: “This car was conceived, designed and engineered in Britain. So, to have a selection of the nation’s leading automotive journalists vote it as the overall UK Car of the Year against some stiff compe­tition is a special moment for us”.

Japan and UK to enhance bilateral security ties

UK-Japan News April 2019

According to The Japan News, Tokyo and London are set to begin efforts to improve bilateral security cooper­ation this month. As reported in a 24 March story, the two sides will review their action plan with an eye toward advancement of a new type of medium-range missile, among other things. It will be the first time the two nations will review the plan since it’s conception in 2017. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya were to convene with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Defence Sec­retary Gavin Williamson at a two-plus-two meeting on 8 April in Tokyo, but the British government requested a delay on 4 April due to the  on­going Brexit debate. The meeting will be rescheduled by the end of May.

Kirin to test wine in London

UK-Japan News April 2019

Taking advantage of the recent trade deal between Japan and the European Union, Japanese beverage giant Kirin Holdings Company, Limited, has begun exporting to Europe wines made from Japanese grapes. Nikkei Asian Review reported on 22 March that London is the first European destination for one of the brands operated by Kirin’s wine production arm, Mercian. The firm plans to ship 300 cases of Château Mercian to London in the hopes that entering the British market will encourage future growth in the region.

Nomura to shed British bankers

UK-Japan News April 2019

As part of cost-cutting measures Japanese financial firm Nomura Holdings plans to reduce its UK staff. The Financial News reported on 5 April that more than 100 frontline roles will be axed in Europe, the Middle East and Africa as Nomura streamlines its European investment banking operations. The move is part of a restructuring intended to reduce costs by $1bn. Those at risk of being downsized have been given 45 days’ notice that their situation may change, and some have been offered positions elsewhere in the firm. Reports are that the majority of the London foreign exchange and rates sales desks will be eliminated.

NEWS BRIEFS

UK-Japan News April 2019

Drug maker exits
Ahead of Brexit, Japanese pharmaceutical firm Shionogi has announced plans to merge its UK and Dutch subsidiaries and move its European headquarters from London to Amsterdam. (Tech Register, 10 March)

$1bn no-deal?
On the heels of factory upheaval in Sunderland, Honda, Nissan and Toyota could collectively lose $1bn should the UK embark on a no-deal Brexit. This according to calculations by Moody’s Investors Service, announced on 11 March, which cite the impact a 10% tariff imposed on the UK by the EU would have on the Japanese carmakers. (The Guardian, 11 March)

Pound pushed aside
Activity of Japanese investors in February saw ¥103.5bn of UK bonds offloaded, according to data released by the Japanese Ministry of Finance on 8 April. The data showed ¥632.7bn in bond purchases overall during the period, with significant money shifted to France and Germany. The report speculated, “It was probably difficult for Japanese investors to invest in UK bonds as prospects for a Brexit outcome continued to change very rapidly”. (Bloomberg, 8 April)

Tech Growth
On a positive note, Softbank-backed Uhuru, a Japanese cloud-service startup with a three-person London office, is looking to list on the London Stock Exchange and grow its UK staff to 100 within a few years. Despite the risk posed by Brexit, Uhuru Chief Executive Takashi Sonoda said, “The London market is very appealing in terms of the amount of capital that can be obtained, and the higher profile would give credibility when dealing with global partners”. 
(Deal Street Asia, 11 March)

Olympus whistleblower wins London lawsuit

UK-Japan News March 2019

Michael Woodford, the former CEO of Olympus who blew the whistle in 2011 on a massive accounting scandal, has won a London court battle over alleged wrongdoing linked to his £64mn pension, according to a 12 March report in The Japan Times (page 30). Olympus UK subsidiary KeyMed sued Woodford and former company director Paul Hillman in 2016, alleging they had infringed their duties as directors and trustees of a defined benefit pension plan and conspired to maximise their pension benefits in an illegal manner.

In his judgement, London High Court Judge Marcus Smith said, “In these circumstances, I find that the defendants acted honestly and did not breach the duties—dishonestly, or at all”.

Woodford joined KeyMed as a 20-year-old salesman in 1981 and eventually became the firm’s first foreign chief executive in 2011. He was fired two weeks into the job after persistently questioning unexplained payments. He then alerted global authorities and the media.

Energy giants invest in UK power

UK-Japan News March 2019

Japanese power providers Jera Co., Inc. and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have invested £25 million in London-based energy storage firm Zenobe Energy Limited. Energy Storage News reports that Zenobe Co-founder Nicholas Beatty said: “[The two Japanese firms] bring unique commercial and technical capabilities to Zenobe, as well as unrivalled access to a global supply chain. This investment reinforces Zenobe’s reputation as an innovator in the energy market. Together, we’ll help energy intensive businesses use power intelligently to reduce costs, improve resilience and minimise environmental impact”.

Nissan to pull two more models out of Sunderland

UK-Japan News March 2019

The BBC reported on 12 March that Nissan plans to stop producing two of its Infiniti models at its Sunderland plant (page 30). The move is said to be part of a larger plan to pull the Infiniti brand out of Western Europe entirely. Nissan intends to discuss the impact with the estimated 250 employees who would be affected.

Rebecca Long Bailey, the Labour Party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: “This is yet another blow to Sunderland, only a few weeks after Nissan decided to take planned production of the X-Trail out of the city. When we look at what is happening to the car industry, from Swindon right through to Sunderland, it is clear the UK car industry has been undermined by this government”.

British ship on unsure trip to Osaka

UK-Japan News March 2019

A ship has left Felixstowe for Japan with no guarantee that its cargo can be unloaded. According to CNBC, the sticking point is the lack of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the UK and Japan. Because the cargo ship Thalassa Mana is scheduled to arrive in Osaka on 30 March—one day after Britain is set to leave the European Union—it is unclear how customs barriers and logistics will impact the shipment without an FTA.

Japan pro wrestlers head to London event

UK-Japan News March 2019

In recent years, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) has experienced a massive surge in popularity at home and abroad. In a 13 March story, the Mirror reports that NJPW is responding to growing demand in the UK by scheduling an event at the Copper Box Arena in London on 31 August. NJPW stars Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi (pictured below) will be taking part, and more big names are expected to be announced.

PHOTO: ゾーヒョー [CC BY-SA 3.0] VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Boost for bilateral art links

UK-Japan News March 2019

The Shropshire Star reported on 14 March that 11 projects exploring the artistic links between Scotland and Japan will receive a £100,000 funding boost. The rise in funding is being supported as part of UK In Japan 2019–20, which will start in September this year. The year-long campaign will showcase areas such as UK business, science and arts. The British Council will lead on cultural activities in Japan, bringing in work from across Britain in collaboration with a range of partners. The Japanese government will lead on reciprocal activity in the UK.

Sake classes in London

UK-Japan News March 2019

To join in the celebration of London Sake Week (22 February–3 March), Japan House London (JHL) collaborated with Japan’s National Tax Agency (NTA) to provide three sake tasting master classes. According to a post on the JHL website, the classes were hosted by a sake specialist from the NTA and included a special video screening, talk and tutored tasting. London Sake Week is organised by the Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center (JFOODO) and held in a variety of restaurants across the city

Brexit: Nissan changes Sunderland X-Trail plans

UK-Japan News February 2019

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., has confirmed that the new X-Trail compact crossover SUV, originally planned for production at its plant in Sunderland, will be made in Japan. On 3 February The Independent cited the firm’s Europe chairman, Gianluca de Ficchy, as saying: “We have taken this decision for business reasons. The continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relation­ship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future”. Nissan has made cars in Sunderland since 1986 and employs about 7,000 people. The UK govern­ment said that the decision was a blow to the sector, but that no jobs would be lost as a result.

Asahi to buy Fuller

UK-Japan News February 2019

Japan’s largest brewer, Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd., is purchasing the drinks business of London-based Fuller Smith & Turner. The BBC reported on 25 January that the £250mn deal would preserve the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, west London, where beer has been brewed since 1654.

Fuller’s Chief Executive Simon Emeny said, “The deal secures the future of both parts of our business including protecting the heritage of the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, which was parti­cu­larly important to the Fuller’s board”.

Bilateral fight against disease

February 2019

Lifescience Industry Magazine on 10 January reported that a new £30mn partnership between Japan and the UK will support research into treat­ments for ailments such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. The alliance should provide insight into human regenerative processes which will aid treat­ment methods and technologies.

Dr Mark Palmer, director of inter­na­tional strategy at the UK’s Medical Research Council said that “the UK and Japan are world leaders in regenerative medicine research, and we very much look forward to the opportunity for further collaborative efforts”.

CoCo curry shop opens in Covent Garden

UK-Japan News February 2019

With more than 1,100 locations in Japan and 150 more around the globe, Ichibanya Co., Ltd. is spicing up the UK with the opening of its first CoCo Ichibanya curry shop in London on 12 December. The Japan Times reported on 19 January that large and hungry crowds have been queuing on Covent Garden’s Great Newport Street to try the flavours of the iconic Japanese brand.

Londoners are intrigued by the customisable toppings, and some are willing even to take on its highest level of spice, which spans 12 levels from mild to 10 (and higher on request).

Midlands and Waseda partner on labour study

UK-Japan News February 2019

Scholars at the Birmingham Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) and Waseda University’s Institute for Asian Migrations are joining forces to study the key challenges posed by an evolving workforce. According to an 18 January article on the University of Birmingham’s website, Professor Jenny Phillimore of IRiS said: “Japan and the UK have many political, economic and social differences, yet share one major challenge: a shortage of skilled and unskilled labour. Both [countries] have resisted mass migration, but now under­stand that future prosperity depends on access to foreign labour”.

Scotland’s seasonal snowdrops mirror Japan’s cherry blossoms

UK-Japan News February 2019

Scotland’s answer to Japan’s seasonal blooms is snowdrops—dainty white flowers that are a harbinger of spring. According to The Telegraph on 25 January their arrival marks the end of winter and signals that warmer days are around the corner, much like the delicate pink cherry blossoms for which Japan is famous.

The small white flowers are the basis of one of Scotland’s most popular outdoor events, the Scottish Snowdrop Festival, which takes place in public gardens and on estates across the country from 25 January to 11 March.

Kondo cleans Britain

UK-Japan News February 2019

Tokyo-born Marie Kondo has emerged as a house­hold name in the UK thanks to her Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The Daily Mail reports that Kondo now leads a British de-cluttering spree, as millions have been inspired by the programme. It follows her journey into the homes of British families where she serves as a mentor and assists with cleaning efforts.

Her approach, which encourages people only to keep items that spark joy in their lives, is so influen­tial it has been dubbed The KonMari Method. Department store John Lewis & Partners reports a 518% increase in Twill Stackable Shoe Cubby sales, possibly owing to the show.

Hitachi to delay work on Welsh, Gloucs nuclear plants

UK-Japan News January 2019

The Japanese firm said it will suspend work on a multi-billion-pound UK nuclear project because of rising costs, the BBC reported on 17 January. The decision puts thousands of jobs at risk if the £13bn plant at Wylfa Newydd in Anglesey, north Wales, is scrapped. The firm had been in talks with the UK government since June about funding for the project, which was being built by its Horizon subsidiary. The government said it had failed to agree terms with Hitachi. The nuclear industry said it was “disappointing”. Hitachi said it would also suspend work on another site, in Oldbury in Gloucestershire, “until a solution can be found”. About 9,000 workers had been expected to be involved in building the two nuclear reactors, which were due to be operational by the mid-2020s. Hitachi said the decision would cost it an estimated ¥300bn (£2.1bn) as “extraordinary losses”. It said it was suspending the project “from the viewpoint of its economic rationality as a private enterprise”.

Sterling seesaw after Nomura call

UK-Japan News January 2019

After Prime Minister Theresa May pulled a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal she struck with the European Union, the value of the pound took a crash. The Daily Express reported on 4 January that Japanese investment bank Nomura has issued a renewed call to buy the pound. This comes as it recovers from a plummet and a Nomura currency strategist said that negative viewpoints toward Sterling are exaggerated—and mainly charged by Brexit uncertainty. Predictions are that it would be difficult for Sterling to weaken further, and the currency was up again in mid-January following the Brexit votes in Parliament.

Tokyo LGBT photo project to start in Britain

UK-Japan News January 2019

A young lesbian couple from Japan is planning to take marriage photos in a variety of locations, beginning with Britain in March 2019. According to PinkNews, a UK-based online publication dedicated to LGBT issues, the women, who have crowdfunded their trip, aim to take photos of themselves in all 26 countries that support marriage equality to protest Japan’s outdated LGBTQ+ laws.

Conwy and Himeji City to twin

UK-Japan News January 2019

The Conwy town council has put together a draft of a twinning agreement which would see the small North Wales town twinned with the Kansai city of Himeji, in Hyogo Prefecture. According to the North Wales Pioneer, the accord—set to be signed in October 2020—is a follow-on from the twinning of the castles Conwy and Himeji in July 2018. The draft outlines key points, such as how to promote sustainable tourism, improve language skills, encourage contacts between Conwy and Himeji, and establish a strong friendship between residents. City Councillor Bill Chapman said the establishment of formal ties will contribute to international understanding and present commercial opportunities.

Queen film a hit in Japan

UK-Japan News January 2019

Bohemian Rhapsody, the Golden Globe-winning biographic film that explores the rise of British rock band Queen and the life of lead singer Freddie Mercury, has proven a phenomenon in Japan. According to The Washington Post, Japan’s box office haul is among the top globally, and the website Box Office Mojo ranks Japan fourth globally with receipts of $56 million, out­selling even the band’s native Britain.

Queen was always popular in Japan, where their 1975 tour helped propel them to worldwide fame. Japanese theatres are giving viewers a chance to sing and dance along to the movie. A tabloid, Nikkan Gendai Digital, even published an article suggesting three “tricks” to sound more like Mercury when singing his songs in karaoke bars.

York chippy batters rivals at Osaka fair

UK-Japan News December 2018

For more than half a century, the Hankyu British Fair in Fukuoka and Osaka has been offering Japanese guests a chance to enjoy the best of British culture. Despite Britons consuming and producing more cosmopolitan and complex cuisine these days, one simple British classic is still loved by many: fish ’n’ chips. The Press newspaper in York reports that popular Miller’s Fish and Chips—chosen as the UK’s best at the 2018 National Fish and Chips Awards in London—was invited to take part in this year’s event, which drew more than half a million visitors. “We were blown away by the enthusiasm and demand for British produce”, founder Nick Miller said. “On average, we were serving over 1,000 portions of fish and chips every day with queues growing to 150-deep”. Miller’s broke the record for most fish and chip portions sold at the fair.

Hitachi to help charge London

UK-Japan News December 2018

One of the biggest obstacles to widespread adoption of electric vehicles is a lack of charging stations. According to The Japan Times, Japanese tech giant Hitachi Ltd., together with US-based Uber Technologies Inc., is under­taking a trial in London that will use 3,000 electric vehicles to gather data on driving habits and journeys over the next three years. The aim is to determine the best structure for an effective network of charging points in the city. The trial also involves electricity distributor U.K. Power Networks and will extend to rural areas surrounding the city. The UK was chosen for the study because of the government’s support of the technology and target of 60 percent of new car sales comprising electric vehicles by 2030.

Cat café craze comes to Redcar

UK-Japan News December 2018

There is no shortage of places to hold and pat animals in Tokyo. And while the critters on call range from hedgehogs to penguins to owls, it’s the everyday housecat that is best known. In the county of North Yorkshire, Julie Hatch, owner of the Circles of Life Community Interest Company in Redcar, has brought the concept to the seaside resort town. She sees her C.A.T. (Coffee and Therapy) Café. She sees it as a way to help those facing mental issues, loneliness or learning challenges. “If anyone needs a boost, there’s nothing better than chilling out with a cup of coffee, listening to music and stroking a cat,” Hatch told the Teesside Live news site.

Takeda to buy Shire

UK-Japan News December 2018

The $58.3b acquisition of UK-founded, Dublin-based drug maker Shire by Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd. took a key step forward on 5 December when shareholders of both firms approved the deal. Takeda shareholders also approved the issuance of new stock to finance the purchase. Although concern over an increase in debt has been expressed by some investors, the move—expected to be completed on 8 January—will make Jersey-registered Takeda one of the world’s 10 largest pharmaceutical firms in terms of revenue.