Address from Consul General Takaoka: North East Japanese Women’s Association meeting at Durham Castle

Lord-Lieutenant; Mayor of Durham, Mayor of Darlington, Mayor of Stockton and Mayor of Hartlepool; Patrons; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.

This is actually our first visit to Durham. When I was an Oxford student 35 years ago, during the summer holidays, I enjoyed a round trip of England and Scotland by a second-hand Ford Capri with my wife.

I started from Oxford then to the Lake District, the Isle of Skye, Loch Ness, Edinburgh, where I realized that I took too much time and might not be in time for the start of Michaelmas. So, I had to speed up and I could not even stop over at this magnificent city of Durham.

Therefore, today’s visit is my 35 years dream come true. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the North East Japanese Women’s Association and its kind chairperson Sayoko Smith for arranging this unforgettable occasion.

I understand that over the years the Association has been engaged in the most meaningful activities to promote exchanges and friendship between Japan and Durham and North England. I would like to commend its member and chairperson once again. 

I am now feeling the sheer historical weight of this castle with good reason, because Durham Castle has played a significant role in the development of Christianity and England itself.

And this Great Hall, once the largest in England, sits in this famous quarter, where Harry, Ron and Hermione practiced magic together. Today is sure to be every bit as magical!

Before I will be overwhelmed by magic, I would like to continue my sincere gratitude.
I would like to thank Mrs Sue Snowdon, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of County Durham, for your gracious guidance not just extended to me today, but your always considerate and warm support to the Japanese community. Your deep understanding that good state of the community is prerequisite to economic prosperity is evident and well appreciated.

Today I am so happy to have met Sir Paul and Lady Nicholson for the first time. Sir Paul laid the foundation for the incredible development of Durham County as we see it now.
And Lady Sarah Nicholson, you are a legend. I have heard that without your kindness on such a personal level to Japanese ladies who were perhaps a little anxious in a foreign country, the whole story never got started.

Of course, you knew that without warm human relations on community level, economic ties are simply sterile and will not endure. And warm relations usually start with ladies. Without wives, spoiled Japanese children and husband cannot survive in a foreign country.

With hindsight, we now know that what you have started with your kind and generous lunches for those Japanese ladies, in the long run, led to the flock of Japanese investments in the North East England, producing tens of thousands of jobs.

These were indeed magical stories. No matter what form Brexit takes, I am confident that the strong bonds and friendship between Japan and the north east, created with the people present here today around the table in this hall will endure and flourish.

Thank you very much for your attention.