Scotch Draws Kyoto Native

UK-Japan News July 2019

Highlander Inn owner Tatsuya Minagawa’s love of whisky brought him from Japan to Speyside in 1998.

According to a 27 June article by Scottish Licensed Trade News, Kyoto-born Minagawa began working at the inn in 2005 and purchased the hotel in 2015. Under his management, the Highlander Inn expanded its collection from 70 to more than 300 whiskies. Today, travellers from all over the globe visit to taste the extensive range of blends curated by Minagawa.

News Briefs

UK-Japan News July 2019

Rugby tackles tattoo ban

While body ink has long been taboo in Japan—particularly in hot springs—its prevalence in other countries has led the oper­ators of onsen facilities to rethink the usual ban. The financial prospects of some 400,000 expected Rugby World Cup (RWC) visitors may be spurring change.

Dozens of baths in the towns of Beppu and Yufuin, Oita Prefecture, have already announced that they will allow tattoos during the six weeks of the RWC 2019, which kicks off on 20 September. (The Guardian, 8 July)

Sacred Figures in London

As part of the UK in Japan 2019–20 initia­tive, the British Museum will display 15 rare Buddhist and Shinto sculptures.

All the sculptures are on loan from Nara Prefecture and date from the seventh century. The collection, which includes Japanese National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties, can be seen this autumn. (Broadway World, 13 June)

N. Irish priest Gets Rising Sun honours

Father Jude McKenna, a Capuchin Franciscan priest from Northern Ireland, has received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, from Japanese Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland Mari Miyoshi.

The 84-year-old judo expert lived in Zambia from 1966 to 2017. During his mission there, he promoted the martial art, and for that the Ballymoney native caught the attention of the Japanese government. The Order of the Rising Sun is given annually to people “who make a very signi­ficant contribution to the spread of Japanese culture”.
(Catholic News Agency, 8 July)

London rolls out Azuma trains

UK-Japan News June 2019

The first train in a new 65-strong fleet has been rolled out by London North Eastern Railway (LNER), according to a 14 May story in The Guardian. The Azuma high-speed train, manufactured by Hitachi, Ltd., will operate on the 300km stretch between London and Leeds.

The LNER plans to extend the Azuma services as far as Edinburgh by the end of this year. David Home, managing director of LNER, said the Azuma is “more reliable, stylish, environmentally friendly and accessible” than anything in the existing LNER fleet of 45 trains.


UK joins Huawei ban

UK-Japan News June 2019

Amid the US-led investigation into Chinese tech giant Huawei, leading global carriers have suspended sales of the firm’s new 5G smartphone. According to a 22 May CNN story,  the decision came soon after Google severed ties with Huawei.

Others are following suit, with EE and Vodafone—two of UK’s largest mobile networks—stopping sales over security concerns. Japan’s three largest carriers, NTT DoCoMo, KDDI and SoftBank have also taken measures.

Tokyo awards medical honours

UK-Japan News June 2019

Lord Ara Darzi of Denham, director of the Imperial College London’s Institute of Global Health Innovation, has received one of Japan’s most prestigious awards: the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.

Professor Darzi, the college reported in a press announce­ment, was recognised for his global efforts in healthcare and significant contribution to UK–Japan relations in medicine, including patient safety. His dialogue with the government of Myanmar recently resulted in the release of two Reuters journalists.

Back to nature, Japan style

UK-Japan News June 2019

The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, decorated a Japanese-inspired garden for the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show 2019. The garden, entitled Back to Nature and co-designed by the Duchess with Andree Davies and Adam White, showcased elements of shinrin-yoku, the Japanese concept of forest bathing. “She brought the concept to meetings, noting how office workers escape to the trees in Japan for lunchtime respite,” The Huffington Post reported on 20 May. Find out more highlights from the Chelsea Flower Show and three Japanese designers who won honours for their inspiring creations.


Brits win medals in Yokohama

UK-Japan News June 2019

Commonwealth Games champion Jade Jones-Hall won the women’s World Para­triathlon Series in Yokohama. Jones-Hall finished 30 seconds ahead of the US’s Kendall Gretsch, the 2016 world champion. As the BBC reported on 18 May, Jones-Hall was not the only Brit to take home honours. Team­mates Fran Brown and Claire Cashmore both left with medals. Brown won silver in the PTS2 race, and Cashmore won silver in the PTS5 race. Meanwhile, Melissa Reid, who finished with bronze at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, took bronze here in the PTVI class. On the men’s side, Steve Crowley finished fifth in PTS4.


News Briefs

UK-Japan News June 2019

Home Builders in JV
One of Japan’s largest builders has entered into a joint venture with government body Homes England and UK developer Urban Splash. About 300,000 new modular housing units are expected to be built in the next few years.
(The Financial Times, 14 May)

World Firsts for new Lush  Tokyo Store
UK-based retailer Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics plans to open its Asia flagship store in Shinjuku this summer. It will be the largest Lush store outside the UK and the world’s first digital shopping experience. (Japan Today, 22 May)

No More paper forms
The Home Office scrapped all landing cards for Japanese and international air and sea passengers as part of its new “e-gate” electronic logging system. The move extends e-gate services, previously open only to the European Economic Area, to all travellers. (BBC, 16 May)

London hosts huge manga expo
As part of UK in Japan 2019–20, the British Museum unveiled the world’s largest manga exhibition outside Japan. Running until 26 August it showcases manga and anime history from 19th century drawings to Pokémon, created in 1996. (The Independent, 22 May)

RWC: Cold Beer will never run out

UK-Japan News June 2019

In preparation for the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2019, a visit to Japan by event sponsor Heineken has led to concern over a potential beer shortage. According to The Sun on 4 April, Heineken representatives found a small bar with only five kegs of beer at one of the RWC venues. Compare that with London’s Twickenham Stadium, which stocks 1,300 kegs.

An official at Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium, which will host six RWC matches in September and October as well as the final on 2 November, was surprised to see how much alcohol rugby fans consume. “A spectator [in Japan] typically drinks one glass of draft beer during a soccer match, but rugby watchers [abroad] consume four to six glasses per person,” she said.

Heineken is optimistic that Japan will devise a plan in time for the tournament. Hisafumi Tezuka, head of the organising committee’s catering section for the 12 RWC venues assured the Asahi Shimbun on 12 December that “we’ll serve beer cold, and it will never be sold out”. So, it seems to be an issue about which organisers are already aware.

Matlock climber makes history at Toyama falls

UK-Japan News June 2019

James Pearson, a world-famous climber from Matlock, Derbyshire, made history when he and his team climbed Japan’s highest waterfall. According to a 16 April story in the Matlock Mercury, Pearson scaled the 350m Shomyo Falls in Tateyama, Toyama Prefecture, for a film produced by US outdoor products firm North Face Inc. Of the thrilling feat, Pearson said, “You can’t really compare this experience with the other climbing I’ve done in the past”.

Museum Reopens

UK-Japan News June 2019

A flurry of requests has resulted in the reopening of a Surrey museum dedicated to Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki (1867–1916). As one of Japan’s first govern­ment-sponsored scholars sent abroad, he was dispatched to the UK from September 1900 to December 1902 to do research. In honour of his contributions, Soseki appeared on the ¥1,000 note from 1984 to 2004. After having been open for 32 years, the museum closed in 2016 due to financial difficulties, according to a 19 April story in The Japan Times.


VIPs Mark Kohima Battle

UK-Japan News June 2019

Dignitaries from Japan, the UK, Myanmar and the US commemorated the 75th anni­versary of the Battle of Kohima, which was fought from 4 April to 22 June, 1944, during the Burma Campaign of WWII. Digital news plat­form EastMojo reported the theme of the day as “Remembrance, Reconciliation and Rebirth”. British High Commissioner Sir Domini Anthony Gerard Asquith KCMG reaffirmed the bond between India, Japan and the UK, saying that the nations stand toge­ther “as three big democra­cies”.

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.


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.


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”.