Address from Consul General Takaoka: Emperor’s Birthday Reception

Distinguished Guests, Cabinet Secretary, Member of the Scottish Parliament, Provosts, Mayors, my colleague Consul Generals, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for joining us this evening.  My name is Nozomu Takaoka. Two months ago, I arrived in Edinburgh to take up my post as Consul-General of Japan.  Since this is the first large reception for me to host with my wife Yumi, you are our very special guests tonight. 

 Today we gather to celebrate the 85th birthday of His Majesty, the Emperor.  Being the 125th in hereditary line, the Emperor represents the oldest uninterrupted monarchy in the world.   

Today will be the last reception to celebrate His Birthday since His Majesty will formally abdicate next year on the 30th of April, to be succeeded by His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince.

This makes your kind presence here tonight all the more invaluable. I am grateful to so many honorable guests, colleagues and friends, including Ms. Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

Secretary Hyslop has been the strongest promoter of our friendship through her gracious engagement with Japan. This year again, her visit in July to Tokyo and Yokohama has promoted regional ties and students’ exchanges. On another occasion, she has visited Nagasaki where the Scottish Rugby Team will camp immediately before the Rugby World Cup starts in Japan in September 2019. I very much hope that she will continue to be our driving force in 2019 and also in 2020 when Tokyo will host Olympics and Paralympics.

I also hope that many of you in this hall will follow the Cabinet Secretary’s footsteps and visit Japan, since I am certain that Scottish, English and UK national teams will offer ample opportunities for you to cheer them on in the Japanese stadiums both in 2019 and 2020.
Here in Edinburgh, the most valuable development for Japan took place in the Scottish parliament, the first ever formation of the Cross-Party Group on Japan. I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the leadership role taken by Mr. Dean Lockhart MSP together with another important member of the group, Mr. Bill Bowman, both of them are kindly here today. Thank you very much for your presence gentlemen.

I would also like to recognize Mr. Roddy Gow OBE, Founder and Chairman of the Asia Scotland Institute and Mr. David Birrell, Director of that Institute.  The Asia Scotland Institute has always supported the lively dialog and exchanges between Scotland and Asia and I trust that it will accelerate its activities for Japan. Thank you very much again.

I have already told you that I came to this city two months ago and my wife and I are enjoying the beautiful and safe atmosphere of the city, which is becoming increasingly rare all around the world. For this I am thankful to the Edinburgh Police and would like to express my special gratitude to Stirling Police Station’s kind help during the most difficult time for the Japanese families.

 I would also like to take this opportunity to recognize and appreciate many memorable and heartwarming events that took place in the cultural and academic field.

Actually, it happened before my arrival. But in September, the Victoria and Albert Museum in Dundee celebrated its opening with the gracious presence of the First Minister the Right Honorable Nicola Sturgeon and its Japanese architect, Mr. Kengo Kuma who is also famous for designing the main stadium of Tokyo Olympic 2020. I must confess that I have not visited that museum nor Dundee. I must visit there soon and I believe those of you who haven’t been there will also be welcomed.

Another must go place is the Japanese Garden in Cowden, Clackmannanshire. This garden was restored and renovated this year after half a century of its closure. Again, this reopening happened before my arrival, so I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and commend the efforts of those people who realized this.

Another welcome event will take place in renowned National Museum of Scotland when its new Asian wing opens next February. I commend the enthusiastic work being done by the curators to prepare rich collection of Japanese culture.

This year witnessed many traditional friends of Japan being recognized and honored. Let me take this opportunity to recognize Mrs. Deborah Hathorn for receiving the Order of the Rising Sun for her contribution to international exchange through ikebana.  We are truly fortunate to enjoy her masterpieces, actually three of them, here in this hall. Thank you very much.

The Order of the Rising Sun was also received by Professor Alan Spence for his achievements in the promotion of Haiku as well as his novels, which promoted a greater awareness of Japanese culture. Thank you very much professor.

I would also like to recognize Mrs. Sayoko Smith, who will also receive the same order for her untiring contribution to support Japanese community and promote international exchange as Chairperson of the North East of England Japanese Women’s Association. Thank you for coming all the way from New Castle together with her husband Mr. Kingsley Smith, Former chief executive of the Durham County Council.

The Treasurer of the Japan Society of Scotland, Mr. Callum Farquhar will receive the Foreign Minister’s Commendation for the promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and Scotland. I would like to recognize his longstanding contribution too, because it is precisely organizations like the Japan Society of Scotland, which has assumed the role of passing the baton of friendship through generations.

It is truly reassuring to be reminded that world famous academic institutions in Scotland and North England are expanding their exchanges with Japan;   Edinburgh University, Stirling University and Durham University. I am profoundly thankful to all these people engaged in these important activities and exchanges.

 In my short time in Edinburgh I am already impressed with the robust economy of this area and strong presence of Japanese companies. Some of the companies’ representatives kindly prepared stands tonight informing guests of their activities and their importance to local economies. 

A special mention therefore goes to Mitsubishi Electric Air Conditioning Systems, which is situated in Livingston and employs more than 1000.  They produce heating system using the environmentally-friendly heat pump technology. They are warming offices and households not just in the UK but the rest of Europe as well. This is good for the UK environment and good for UK export.

Another big exports from Livingston this time to all over the world is generated by electronics company Shin-Etsu Handotai, which employs 500. Maybe you don’t know that 90% of smart phones in the entire world, be it iPhone or any other high-tech smart phones using high-frequency technology, they are totally dependent upon the supply of very sophisticated silicon chips produced from high grade silicon wafers displayed in this hall manufactured by Shin-Etsu. Without them there will be no 5th generation communications.

Yet another display in this hall is by a Japanese architecture company BDP. BDP has designed many important projects throughout UK, but I have asked them to display its landmark project in Scotland. Their creation is Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC), opened by Her Majesty the Queen in summer 2015, which provides workspace for 1,200 academics and researchers of the University of Strathclyde.

My natural instinct for politics tells me that I should avoid uttering a word tonight starting with BR, not Britain but Brexit. But one thing I would like to say is that no matter what will be the choice that Scottish, British and European friends will make, I very much hope that those companies that I mentioned will continue to stay here and even expand its operation. For that purpose, I am determined to work very closely with the Japanese companies in Scotland and north England as well as the Scottish government and the UK government.

At 9pm this Monday on BBC1, a new series of the Rise of the Clans has started. Its first episode, entitled “The Bruce Supremacy” was very much interesting to me because I found a lot of similarities between the story of the Scottish King Robert Bruce and the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate Minamotono Yoritomo in the 12th Century Japan.  I even feel a destiny when I note the historical fact that more than 500 years later, the direct descendent of King Bruce, the 8th Earl of Elgin head the British delegation to Tokugawa Shogunate Japan and signed a treaty to open its border and start commerce in 1858.

This challenging time of Brexit also offers opportunity to reflect upon these historical backgrounds. In this context, visiting the Broomhall House and see the exhibition "Diplomacy and Discovery: An Imperial Encounter with Japan, 1858" was truly inspirational for me and I thank Lord Charles Bruce for making that precious opportunity available.

I wish you a very good evening with Japanese hospitality omotenashi, and Wagyu beef, kindly provided Japanese company Zen-Noh, which owns the Scotch Frost of Glasgow, cooked by my personal Chef Yukino Katsura, together with other recipe items including this famous ‘Fiona sush’i invented by the Cabinet Secretary. Please also try Japanese sake and beer brewed by Asahi beer whose staff has just finished crash course only yesterday to get a permit to serve alcoholic drinks under the Scottish law.

Thank you, Asahi beer staff, and please enjoy.