Adress from Consul General Takaoka: Conferment ceremony for Mrs Sayoko Smith - Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays

Good afternoon.
Mrs Sue Snowdon, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for coming all the way to Edinburgh to congratulate Mrs. Sayoko Smith for receiving the Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays. This order is awarded to those whose distinguished contribution to society and the well-being of people is recognized at the highest level of the Japanese Government.

Born in Wakayama in Japan, Mrs. Smith’s subsequent international journey encompassed Scotland, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Kenya, Botswana and Northern England where she found her permanent home with Mr. Kingsley Smith more than 20 years ago.

 These experiences must have been a great asset for her later activities in which she pursued her precious cause in contributing to the local Japanese community and the friendship between Japan and the North of England England.

It is widely recognized that economic and business undertakings such as trade and investment are the driving force in strengthening bilateral relations.

But what is equally important and sometimes not appreciated enough is the fact that those economic activities are only possible with the warm support of the host community and only prosper with deep mutual understanding.

Mrs. Smith was the best fit to be engaged on those two fronts, having already been involved in volunteer work with the Red Cross, as well as in helping Japanese families settle into their new lives in Northern England as Japanese companies decided one after another to invest there.

Her tireless efforts and invaluable contribution which led to the friendly environment in the local community, came to be widely known not just in Northern England but also in Japan. This has prompted such major investments as the Hitachi Rail Europe manufacturing facility in Newton Aycliffe which now employs more than 1000 people.

Mrs. Smith’s other major role was in establishing and leading as its Chair, the Japanese Women’s Association of Northeast England. This deserves further applause because with the involvement of the community leaders such as Baroness Sarah Nicholson, and the Association has enormously contributed to the dissemination of Japanese culture and fostering the warm friendship between Japan and the North of England.

This warm friendship proved to be very precious in times of great needs. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, Mrs. Smith performed the important role of personally delivering the generous contributions raised through the Japanese Disaster Fund, which was kindly set up by the Council of the Durham County immediately after the disaster. Subsequently, she arranged for boys and girls from Miyagi Prefecture, one of the hardest hit areas to visit Escomb area of Bishop Auckland.

 I am sure that those boys and girls and people of Miyagi felt the immense solidarity and warm friendship. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the leadership and people of Durham County and Mrs. Smith once again.

It is therefore my great pleasure to present Mrs. Smith with the Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays, on behalf of the Government of Japan.

I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Mrs. Smith on her commendation, and to express my hope that this commendation will contribute to the further deepening of ties between Japan and the North of England and the United Kingdom.

Thank you very much.