Mr Alexander Stewart MSP; Mr. David Russell of the Japan Society of Scotland, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to this house to cheer for the 29 ambitious youngsters who are departing to Japan in two weeks’ time to participate in Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, known as JET.
This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the JET programme launched back in 1987. Since then, more than 68,000 hopeful youth from 73 countries all over the world have participated in this programme and made a precious contribution in their own way to enhance the education of English language in Japan and promote exchanges and friendly ties between Japan and their respective native countries.
I am very glad that those of you departing for Japan next month will follow their footsteps, especially because I myself was a director in charge of the JET Programme in the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo back in 2001. The day after you arrive in Japan, a representative of the Ministry will give welcoming remarks to more than 1000 participants in a huge hall. That was me 20 years ago.
As you may know, in his twenties the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt spent two years in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nagasaki teaching English and learning Japanese. On one occasion, he said that learning two thousand Kanji was difficult, but he did it. I am not sure whether reading Kanji like those on the wall will help you to become a Foreign Minister, but certainly having an internationally oriented positive attitude like his, should serve as a great quality for engagement of international exchange. I am sure that all of you share that spirit with the Foreign Minister.
Today, I am glad to be able to introduce people you should meet before your departure to Japan. Mr Alexander Stewart MSP is an important member of the Cross-Party Group on Japan in the Scottish Parliament, which started this year thanks to the thoughtful leadership of Mr. Stewart and others to promote bilateral relations between Scotland and Japan.
I would also like to commend the members of the Japan Society of Scotland, today represented by Mr. Russell for their longstanding activities to nurture friendship between our two nations.
Mr. James Gamgee is the Chair of the Jet Alumni Association of Scotland, engaged in valuable activities to build and maintain networks among the alumni and kindly participating in various Japan related activities.
I would also like to introduce the sponsor of today’s event who came from London to join us, Mr. Narutoshi Kimata, Deputy Director General of the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, known as CLAIR, London Office.
I have also invited three diplomats from India, Russia and Taiwan currently stationed in Edinburgh who have a brilliant command of Japanese language and Mr. Wei-Ting Hu kindly join us today. This reminds you that you can meet wide variety of people while you are in Japan, maybe future Foreign Minister.
I am also glad that we have representatives of Japanese companies based in Scotland, Mr. Hiroshi Ohashi of Fujifilm Kyowa Kirin Biologics Co., Ltd, EU branch currently serving as the chairman of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Scotland, Mr. Yoshihiro Sumida of Mitsubishi Electric Air Conditioning Systems Europe Ltd. and Mr. Naoki Okusawa of Mitsubishi UFJ Baillie Gifford Asset Management Ltd.
It is actually my humble intention to encourage exchanges between JET participants and Japanese companies so that someday somebody might find it attractive to continue to build their career in connection with Japan.
You will have the added benefit of experiencing Japan at a time when the eyes of the world will be on it, I am talking about the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Embrace this opportunity, along with the UK-Japan Season of Culture which will take place based on the agreement by Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister May. Please check with the British Embassy in Japan if there is any cultural event planned near the town where you will be posted.
When you go to Japan, you will notice that wherever cultural events take place, there are always beautifully arranged flowers. And you will learn that appreciating Mrs. Deborah Hathorn’s flowers decorating this salon, the dining room and entrance here in Edinburgh is a great privilege because many Ikebana teachers come from Japan to this country to seek her guidance.
Another thing you will always encounter in important events in Japan is Sake, like beer and whisky in Scotland and the UK. Today I have prepared sake from Gunma Prefecture because I have noticed that as many as six of you will be dispatched to that prefecture. Gunma is famous for onsen, strong dry wind in the winter, and strong women. Please get prepared for that by sipping sake which is their favourite.
In fact, not just sake, but experiencing and understanding the Japanese way of life outside the office and the classroom should be a great help in gaining insight into Japanese culture and society while the local community acquire greater understanding of British society through your relaxed yet precious presence.
I would like to finish with a message for the new JET participants - please embrace every new challenge in Japan with vigour, determination, and a happy disposition. By doing so, you will gain unforgettable memories and lifelong friendships.
Let me propose a toast for your success and good luck in Japan.
Address from Consul General Takaoka: JET Programme Pre-departure Reception 2019
July 24, 2019