Leaders January 2016

Taking stock

Success heralds an auspicious year ahead

It’s common at this time of year for organisations to look back over the past 12 months to take stock of their achievements, and for the brave to make predictions about the year ahead. I have no crystal ball, but thought it would be interesting to reflect on what I wrote in this column 12 months ago.


First, I commented on the Foreign Chambers in Japan Business Confidence Survey, conducted in October 2014. One year on, I am pleased to note, in comparison, that the October 2015 survey showed a marginal increase in optimism about Japan’s economic situation for the following 12 months.

I was also heartened to read David Pilling’s recent assessment in the Financial Times that, despite a mixed record, Abenomics has done Japan’s economy more good than harm. Moreover, he believes that will continue in 2016. The global economy undoubtedly faces uncertainties, but there will continue to be opportunities for UK businesses to offer their world-class products and services to Japan’s discriminating consumers.


Twelve months ago, members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) were looking forward to one of the highlights of our 2015 event calendar: an exclusive behind-the-scenes visit to JR Central, operator of the Tokaido Shinkansen.

This event included a tour of the driver training facility—not open to the public—where personnel are schooled in the operation of the world-famous bullet train. The safety and service record of this engineering marvel is exemplary, and the recent announcement of the sale of Japan’s bullet train system to India is a welcome addition to the country’s on-going export drive.

This push also saw the opening in County Durham, last year, of an £82mn Rail Vehicle Manufacturing Facility for which Hitachi, Ltd. Rail Systems Company and the UK Department for Transport won the BCCJ 2015 British Business Award for UK–Japan Partnership. Investments such as this are testament to the strength of UK–Japan business relations, and the BCCJ looks forward to applauding further investments in both directions during the year ahead.


The BCCJ’s January events programme would not be complete without our shinnenkai, at which members and guests gather to welcome the New Year in style. Last year’s event was held at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo in Roppongi, and this year, on 27 January, we are delighted to be hosted by the Hilton Tokyo in Nishi-Shinjuku.

This date is most auspicious as it marks the 90th anniversary of the great Scottish inventor John Logie Baird’s first public demonstration of television to members of the Royal Institution.

I sincerely hope that when we look back on this year in another 12 months’ time, we will be able to conclude that this was an omen of great success in Japan for modern-day, UK innovators in 2016.