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.
British filmmaker Matt Kay premiered Little Miss Sumo on 30 May at the Short Shorts Film Festival in Tokyo.
As The Mainichi highlighted in a 3 June story, the film documents the journey of 21-year-old sumo champion Hiyori Kon as she prepared for the 2018 Sumo World Championship in Taiwan.
Communications agency Eat Creative, founded in Tokyo in 2000 by former British Chamber of Commerce in Japan President Alison Jambert along with Ayako Chujo and Steve Martin, has become part of the Australia-based Fusion Group according to a 28 June story in Campaign Asia.
Looking to grow in Japan and Asia–Pacific, Fusion sees the addition of Eat’s experience in the challenging Japanese market as a key asset. “The partnership for Eat means we can offer our clients an extended range of services across Asia–Pacific, allowing us to develop a broader knowledge of retail disciplines and channels and expand the geographical footprint of our agency,“ said Jambert. ”Being part of the Fusion family also gives us the opportunity to partner with our sister agencies and deliver a best-in-class team, allowing Eat to focus on our core services”.
Japanese Ambassador to the UK Koji Tsuruoka visited the Sony UK Technology Centre in Wales. According to a 20 June article in Business News Wales, this marked his first visit to the facility. Afterwards, Tsuruoka stopped by Tri-Wall Limited, a manufacturing firm in Monmouth, before attending a reception in celebration of the long-standing friendship between Wales and Japan. The reception, hosted by the Welsh government, is part of the kick-off of the Japan–UK Season of Culture 2019–20 initiative.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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”.
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.
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”.
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’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”.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
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”.
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”.
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.
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.