Four years ago, after the England rugby team had been dumped unceremoniously out of the group stage of their own Rugby World Cup (RWC) and Scotland had come agonisingly close to advancing to the semi-finals, I had a chance to speak to guests at the 2015 British Business Awards (BBA) about the virtues of resilience and persistence.
Much has changed in the four years since—least of all the fortunes of those rugby teams. But some things have stayed reassuringly constant. First, the Japanese national team has continued to play a very entertaining and exciting brand of rugby. Second, as those of us fortunate to live in this country know well, the Japanese people extend a tremendously warm and hospitable welcome to visitors from around the world.
As a rugby fan, it is particularly pleasing to have witnessed the progress of the Japanese national team. Lifting off from the Brighton launchpad four years ago, when they achieved a dramatic RWC 2015 victory against the mighty South African Springboks, the Brave Blossoms have rapidly accelerated the development of their elite squad. This October, taking centre stage in front of record home crowds and television audiences, they reached escape velocity and broke away from the gravitational pull of rugby naysayers. Stunning the world (and their opposition), they achieved a level of accuracy and fluidity that saw them play some of the most attractive attacking rugby of the RWC 2019. And, in the process, they earned their first-ever place in the knockout rounds.
The qualities of resilience and persistence, though, are not just about sport. They are mantras that many of us could benefit from incorporating into our business and personal lives. No more is this apparent than in the stoic example of those who suffered (and continue to suffer) devastating losses in the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis. They have shown what it really means to be resilient, and as we celebrate the 2019 BBA winners this month, we should be mindful of how we can support those communities which show us daily what it means to stand strong in the face of adversity.
Just as sporting fortunes change, however, so do politics and international relations. Trust, in particular, that we frequently take for granted is ultimately fragile—hard won, yet easily lost. If not nurtured, it can all too easily wither and die. I sincerely hope, therefore, that we in the business community, as members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan, can collectively resolve to be resilient and persistent in protecting the trust that exists between Japan and the UK. Furthermore, I hope that we can continue developing and enhancing the existing levels of trust through partnership together.
Once again, the superb breadth and quality of this year’s BBA nominees has shown that Japan–UK business has a major role to play in promoting partnership and collaboration between our two countries. Like the best teams at the recent Japan RWC, higher performance can be attained when we work as a team, and so much more achieved for mutual benefit when we partner together—especially when that collaboration is between Japan and UK business.
I very much hope that we can carry these sentiments with us into the New Year, which will herald the start of another exciting period for Japan in the spotlight. Before that, however, I wish all chamber members a relaxing and enjoyable festive season with family and friends. May it be happy and healthy, and the prelude to a prosperous year ahead!