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.

Red Rhino enters market

UK-Japan News December 2018

Grantham, Lincolnshire-based Red Rhino Crusher (UK) Ltd., which produces mini crushers and screeners used in recycling around the world, is making its first foray into the Japanese market. The Construction Index industry journal reports that the firm has signed an agreement with Nikko Co., Ltd. granting exclu­sive distri­bu­tion rights for Red Rhino mini crushing and screening equip­ment in Japan. The first shipment of RR 7000+ and RR4000 mobile crushers, RR3000 electric and RR2000 static crushers, and an RR mobile screener went out in late October. All Red Rhino products are manufactured in the UK.

British museum to host biggest manga expo

UK-Japan News December 2018

One of Japan’s best-known cultural exports, manga, enjoys a global following. In May, the British Museum will host the largest exhibition dedicated to manga ever held outside Japan, bringing comics, cosplay, films, games and graphic novels to UK fans. The range of the genre is much wider than many people out­side Japan realise, and this exhibition offers a chance to explore the depth and seriousness of the topics covered in manga stories. Curator Nicole Rousmaniere told the Evening Standard: “It is almost visual storytelling, it’s not just relying on words, it is images. Words support the story, but the images are central, and manga is part of the future because we are going towards that Instagrammable, image-led world”.

Japan sees UK as part of TPP11

UK-Japan News November 2018

As the UK prepares for Brexit, scheduled for 11pm UK time on 29 March, 2019, striking trade deals to take effect after the transition period ends on 21 January, 2021, is of great importance. Japan sees the UK as potentially part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, also known as the TPP11. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that the UK would be welcome to join the trade pact, which, The Nikkei Asian Review reported on 30 October, will go into effect on 30 December after Australia became the sixth country to ratify it. The UK would be the only member without a Pacific border.

South London youth top SoundScan classical charts

UK-Japan News November 2018

Libera, an all-boy vocal group comprising some 40 singers aged 7–16, reached the top spot on Japan’s SoundScan classical weekly chart for the week of 4 November with their album Beyond. Charles Kennedy, founder of the band’s UK label Invisible Hands Music, told a Press Association correspondent: “After all their hard work, seeing Libera plant a Union Jack at the top of the charts in Japan, the world’s second-biggest music market, is immensely gratifying. This sales triumph, following their Top 20 chart performance in the United States, is a win for British exports”.

Ranking passport power

UK-Japan News November 2018

According to the 2018 Henley Passport Index, a ranking based on the number of countries to which a passport holder can travel without a visa, Japan has leapfrogged the UK to become the issuer of the world’s most powerful passport. Japan moved into the top spot with visa-free access to 190 nations while the UK fell to fifth with 186. In 2017, the UK ranked fourth with visa-free entry to 173 countries and Japan was one spot behind with 172. Although the UK now trails Japan, the results reflect improvements for both nations and their global relationships.

Honoured by the Emperor

UK-Japan News November 2018

The Government of Japan announced on 4 November that it would bestow honours on 135 non-Japanese in a ceremony at the Imperial Palace on 6 November. Three UK citizens were recognised for their accomplishments.

Sir David Warren KCMG, Ambassador to Japan between 2008 and 2012, received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun for his work to strengthen bilateral relations and promote friend­ship between Japan and the UK. Professor Baron Peter Piot KCMG, a microbiologist known for his research into Ebola and AIDS, also received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun. He has been acknowledged for promoting Japan’s global health efforts. And the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star was conferred on geneticist Sir Paul Nurse for promoting research exchange as well as science and technology cooperation between the two countries.

Robots take to tracks in London

UK-Japan News November 2018

Pepper, the sleek white robot produced by SoftBank Robotics, has become a common sight in Japan, working in restaurants, shops, airports and stations. Now, the last of those roles will be going to St Pancras International station in London, as high-speed rail operator Eurostar International Ltd. is set to deploy the droids on platforms to help travellers learn about departures and destinations, according to a 24 October press release. The announcement comes three years after Pepper joined the staff of Haneda International Airport, where the artificial concierge began introducing travellers to the Keikyu Line on 28 November, 2015.

Ki No Bi shines as dry gin market grows

UK-Japan News November 2018

Global sales of UK gin doubled from 2013 to 2018, to reach £2bn annually. Some see £3bn as a possible figure by the end of 2020. The surge is driving the creation of modern local takes on the traditional spirit. British Business Awards headline sponsor Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry Gin earned the gold medal in the 2018 World Gin Masters competition for its uniquely Japanese combination of yellow yuzu, hinoki wood chips, bamboo, gyokuro green tea and green sansho peppercorns. In a 6 November story recapping the results in trade publication The Drink Business, Judge Kit Chiu, a wine educator at Shanghai-based ASC Fine Wines Co., Ltd. said, “Competition is certainly ramping up [as] different styles of gin from other countries such as Australia and Japan are booming in the global market and keep exceeding expectations in terms of consumption”.

Countries team up to tackle Facebook data law breach

UK-Japan News November 2018

The revelation on 4 April that information from 87 million Facebook accounts was compromised by data firm Cambridge Analytica created a firestorm in security and privacy circles, and has led to scrutiny of the social media platform in the United States. Now Japanese and UK authorities have jointly launched an investigation according to The Nikkei Asian Review, which was told by Facebook’s Japanese unit on 12 October that they are cooperating with Japan’s Personal Information Protection Commission and that company officials are being called in to provide the commission with answers. The UK’s collaboration with Japan comes after the Information Commissioner’s Office said it would be making enquiries into the scandal together with its overseas counterparts.

Butterz brings grime to Tokyo

UK-Japan News November 2018

London’s Butterz, an independent music label specialising in grime, a musical style with hints of hip-hop, reggae and Jamaican dance hall that took form in London in the early 2000s, celebrated its eighth birthday on 10 November at the nightclub Unit in Daikanyama. Japan is one of the places grime first took hold, which is the reason Butterz founders Elijah Thomas and William Eugene chose to mark the occasion in Tokyo, according to a 7 November Japan Times story. The show was also an opportunity for Thomas and Eugene to recognise local promoter DBS-TOKYO, with whom Butterz enjoys close ties to promote UK music in Japan.

Foreign ministers agree to work for better bilateral ties

UK-Japan News October 2018

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s visit to Japan was covered by many media, with particular focus on a speech he delivered entirely in Japanese, making him the first UK minister to do so, Sky News reported on 18 September.

Mr Hunt met with a number of figures, including Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono. This led to the two reconfirming their countries’ strategic partnership, The Japan Times reported.

The two also agreed to work towards a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, the report said, referring to an initiative aimed at promoting free trade and navi­gation in the region, leading to economic prosperity for the countries involved.

Mr Hunt also met with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, when he donated an old mobile phone to the “phones for Tokyo 2020” recycling initiative.

Jeremy Hunt met Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike during his visit to Japan.
PHOTO: British Embassy Tokyo

Oxbridge top, Tokyo 42nd

UK-Japan News October 2018

Japan’s universities have made progress during the year, after a long period of decline, according to a UK-based ranking of the world’s higher education institutions, Japan Today reported on 27 September.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings lists 1,250 institutions around the world, with Japan having 103 of those, up from last year’s 89. The University of Tokyo was ranked 42nd, up four places, and Kyoto University rose nine places to 65th.

However, despite some improvements, Phil Baty, editorial director of the global rankings, was quoted as saying that, “the majority of Japan’s institutions still decline or remain static amid intensifying regional competition”.

Oxford University retained first place, with Cambridge second.

Five chambers ask Japan to allow same-sex marriage

UK-Japan News October 2018

The British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ), along with four other foreign chambers of commerce, called on the Japanese government to legalise same-sex marriage, The Mainichi reported on 20 September.

The BCCJ, along with the American, Canadian, Irish as well as the Australian and New Zealand chambers of commerce in Japan, said that marriage equality would “strengthen the international competitiveness of business in Japan” by boosting recruitment from LGBT communities, the report said.

The statement from the chambers said allowing same-sex marriage would also create more diversity, and allow LGBT workers to feel comfortable in their workplaces.