Address from Consul General Takaoka: Franco - Scottish Encounters with Japan lecture in Glasgow

Thank you for the kind introduction. My name is Nozomu Takaoka, Consul General of Japan in Edinburgh. It is always an honour for me to be here in Glasgow and a pleasure to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of this city, somewhat different from Edinburgh, although I refrain from dwelling upon the details.

Let me also express my thanks to the university’s active engagements with Japan supported by the great friends of Japan including Dr Olivier Salazar-Ferrer and Dr Saeko Yazaki, and my appreciation for this academically significant initiative by Dr Ramona Fotiade focusing upon Franco-Scottish Encounters with Japan, as part of Japan-UK Seasons of Culture.

Since we are going to learn from today’s symposium so much about Japan and Scotland and France as well as encounters among them and how the modernity was or is reinvented, let me share my somewhat prosaic observations of my own on the links among the three of us which I encountered on my recent vacation to the North of France with my wife.

In total, I drove over 2000 miles from Edinburgh and incidentally on the way to the Tunnel, we stopped over at Cambridge where we had the rare luck of experiencing the highest temperature ever recorded in the UK, 38.8 Celsius.
Then at Folkestone, I bought yellow jackets not because we are going to participate in gilets jaunes movement but because somebody told me that it is mandatory in France to put them in the car while driving.

By the time we reached France, thankfully the weather was milder. Anyway, we avoided Paris which recorded 41 Celsius a few days before and went to the Claude Monet’s house in Giverny, where we were pleasantly surprised to find so many Japanese tourists.
With good reason because that famous garden with a pond covered with lotus flowers and the famous bended bridge modelled after Japanese Taikobashi, as well as the two rooms in the house dedicated to the Japanese artwork including Ukiyoe collected by Monet, and his personal photo together with Kojiro Matsukata who visited Giverny in 1921 and to whom Monet generously agreed to sell 18 of his masterpieces on the spot; all these attest to the strong link between Japonism and French Impressionism.

In Scotland the link between Japonism and Impressionism is also evident. On a separate occasion, we visited Broughton House in Kirkcudbright, the Edwardian home and studio of E A Hornel, one of those Glasgow Boys. Currently on display are so many art crafts and photographs which Hornel had collected during his one and half year stay in Japan in the 19th century as well as his masterpieces depicting Scottish women and Japanese women in kimono. After visiting Giverny and Kirkcudbright, one cannot avoid the feeling that there must be something deep in common between Japan and Scotland and France.

Back to our personal journey which took us to chateaus in Loire Valley, after which we were pleasantly surprised again when we were walking on the footpath above the sea leading to the Mont St-Michel, because we found a deep red tori-gate, obviously inspired by the infamous “floating” gate at Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima—another small island accessed by boat from Hiroshima.
Thanks to Google, I learned that marking the 150 years of Franco-Japanese relations in 2008, the mayor of Mont St-Michel decided to erect this Torii, recognizing the similarity with Itsukushima. Both of them are not just hugely popular tourist destinations, but also profoundly spiritual sites on an island visited by Catholic and Shinto pilgrimages, and registered as World Cultural Heritage.

These commonalities are obviously shared by the Isle of Iona except for the World Cultural Heritage status. Without dwelling on UNESCO applications, we are reminded once again of the deep rooted cultural and even spiritual similarities among Japan, Scotland and France.
I hope I have done my job properly to warm up for Professor Alan Spence, who is second to none in his interpretation of the world of Japanese Haiku for which decorated by the Emperor of Japan.

Thank you very much.