UK-Japan Global Seminar 2013 “Fostering Strategic Partnerships”

London, United Kingdom

I am delighted that The Nippon Foundation is co-organizing this UK-Japan Global Seminar with Chatham House and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation. I am also pleased to see so many distinguished individuals from Europe, the United States and Japan, participating in this first seminar to be jointly held here, at Chatham House.

As you are all aware, this is a special year commemorating two anniversaries between the United Kingdom and Japan: the 400th anniversary of the start of shared history of good diplomatic, trading and cultural relations and the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of five avid samurais, known as the “Choshu Five,” who left Japan illegally, disguised as Englishmen, and risked their lives to learn the secrets of the success of the Western world. But there is one more anniversary that you might not be aware of. That is, the 140th anniversary since football was introduced to Japan by an officer of the Royal Navy, serving as a bridge between the UK, Europe and Japan.

Although Japan has only recently started to make its name as a major player, the outstanding performances of our men’s and women’s national football teams have dramatically increased the sport’s popularity. The most idolized players are those who are playing in the world’s top ranking football clubs. And here too, we have four Samurais who are playing for the Premier League. Myself a Samurai at heart, I am very proud of what these young men have accomplished.

The UK and Japan have enjoyed a favorable relationship. This has been cultivated through active exchanges in business, science and technology and culture. Among the various bilateral initiatives that have been taking place between the two countries, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation has long been playing an integral role. Established in 1985 by The Nippon Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation’s primary objective is to strengthen mutual understanding and good relations between the UK and Japan. Over the years, the foundation has nurtured the growth and promoted the exchange of culture and human resources in a broad range of fields, including arts and culture, science and technology, and sports.

Furthermore, in recent years, The Nippon Foundation and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation have been working to create an environment where young people can pursue Japanese Studies and go on to find careers in this field through the establishment of teaching and research posts at 12 leading British universities. We are also conducting training projects at the University of East Anglia and School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London to nurture talented translators for Japanese literature and academic dissertations. Through these activities we hope to foster the next generation of Japanese experts and further deepen the bilateral relationship which will continue to be of great importance to our two nations.

Shifting our gaze to the world landscape, we can see that dynamic change has taken place over the last three decades. Many countries, especially those once regarded as “developing” are experiencing unprecedented economic growth and prosperity. With new centers of power springing up in different places, the world order is becoming increasingly more multi-polar. Global growth has brought benefits and opportunities but also formidable challenges. Increased economic interdependence and insecurity, as well as widening disparities between the world’s richest and poorest countries are just a few of the global challenges that we are not yet fully prepared to tackle.

Our two governments have established a strategic partnership and are working together in a wide range of pressing global issues such as security in Afghanistan, peace in the Middle East and Overseas Development Aid in Africa. These initiatives are of course all significant and necessary, but I believe with the involvement of non-state actors – academia, the private sector, and civil society – our bilateral relationship can be elevated to a new dimension.

As one representative of this sector, I believe our strength lies in our flexibility and innovative thinking. Going beyond existing frameworks to offer innovative solutions to global challenges, is the distinctive feature that will set this conference apart from other existing initiatives.

The first step of this five year endeavor will be to tap in to our pool of knowledge and experience to identify critical global issues facing the UK, Japan, Asia, and Europe, under four topics: economy, security, energy, and the environment. I am confident that these annual conferences and discussion groups will not only enhance our knowledge of the global issues at hand, but also generate tangible outcome and offer new solutions to these global issues.

I would like to once again convey my appreciation to Chatham House and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation for their partnership and extend my best wishes for the success of this seminar.

Thank you.