End of Summer 2016 message

Hello Hugo

So ends another summer, your 5th in Japan, although yours will last well into September.

I shall send you a package shortly to bridge the gap between Children’s Day in Japan and your birthday in November.  I will post photographs below after doing so, either tomorrow or next week – I still have some items to buy.

It has been an eventful summer.  The UK voted for “Brexit” and this month saw the 2016 summer Olympics take place in Rio; the UK took second place in the medal tally, eclipsing even the London Olympics 4 years back.  That success  has been attributed to the (at the time slightly controversial) launch of the National Lottery in 1994 to provide funding for arts, heritage, sport, community projects etc.

I wrote about the London Olympics here, the day after Tokyo was successful in its bid to host the 2020 event.  I have posted this, this and this in relation to the Tokyo Olympics – no doubt there will be more such posts over the next 4 years.   No doubt, also, that the 2020 Games will be one of the key events in your childhood – I well remember the 1988 and 1992 Olympics and, more vaguely, the 1984 ones, all of which took place when I was a boy.  You were born in 2008, itself an Olympic year.

I have had something of an Olympic year myself work-wise but the less said about that the better.  The weather has been nice in London for the most part these past months, including this incredibly hot day in July.

Although I don’t want to say too much here just now so as not to prejudice anything that may happen, there are some signs that the Foreign Office here is beginning to take your situation more seriously, albeit 5 years on from your removal to Japan.  I pray that something concrete will emerge.





Tokyo 2020 clues: when Japan’s PM dressed up as Super Mario


Tokyo 2020 clues: when Japan’s PM dressed up as Super Mario

  • 5 hours ago
  • From the sectionAsia
Dancers perform with Japanese flags during the closing ceremony in the Maracana stadium at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016Image copyrightAP
Image captionThe handover to Tokyo2020 was an all-action affair

With athletes and viewers exhausted, the closing ceremony for Rio2016 was passing off as expected…

Until Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popped out of a giant green pipe dressed up as video game character Super Mario, one of Japan’s best-known exports.

It was then the world got a clue that, for Tokyo2020, the next Olympic hosts would take full and shameless advantage of Japan’s pop culture icons.

Abe making pipe-dream a reality

The Tokyo2020 video beamed to audiences in Rio showed Mario running excitedly around Tokyo then jumping into his famous green pipe.

Cue the slow rise of the green pipe in Rio with a hunched Mario-like figure perched on top.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, dressed as Super Mario, holds a red ball during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty ImagesImage copyrightAFP
Image captionPrime Minister Abe popped out of a pipe just as the Mario character he was dressed as does in the Super Mario games

Japan’s Prime Minister, not famous for his extrovert displays and pop culture references, emerges dressed as Super Mario and doffs his hat to enthusiastic crowds, then setting social media alight.

JapanImage copyrightAP
Image captionShinzo Abe going full cosplay.
Closing ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 21/08/2016. Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe is seen on stage.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionWhat a time to be alive.
@Raitthun tweets: Image copyright@RAITTHUN
Image captionTwitter could barely contain itself

Some were quick to point out that Mr Abe was clearly the star of the show, overshadowing Tokyo’s newly-elected mayor, Yuriko Koike, who was in attendance waving the Olympic flag and dressed in a kimono.

Image copyright@2012SATURI2010
Image caption“Laughing so hard as Yuriko in expensive kimono which was ruined by the rain received the Olympic flag but outdone by Abe’s cheap Mario hat”, said this tweet

The parade ended with Mr Abe holding aloft a now glowing red ball, Japan’s rising sun.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holds up a ball duirng the flag handover segment during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 inImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Super Mario for the uninitiated

Super Mario is a fictional character in the hugely popular Mario video game franchise created by Nintendo. A stout Italian plumber famous for his red cap and blue overalls, he has appeared in scores of video games, becoming the world’s biggest selling video game franchise of all time.

Super MarioImage copyrightYOSHIKAZU TSUNO
Image captionSuper Mario is a stout Italian plumber who is excellent at kart-racing

And what else can we look forward to in Tokyo?

Mario was not the only pop culture icon in attendance. Doraemon, the animation character with a famous magic pocket from which he can pull out gadgets from the future, also featured in a preview video, along with the mouth-less cat, Hello Kitty.

Girls touch models of Doraemon, a Japanese popular animation character, displayed at Tokyo's Roppongi Hills, 30 July 2016.Image copyrightAP
Image captionDoraemon is one of Japan’s most famous characters
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike (right) waves the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, 21 August 2016, Rio.Image copyrightAFP

Some requests for Tokyo from social media

1. Please can Studio Ghibli help direct the opening ceremony? There were calls for Japan’s most famous film studio, Studio Ghibli, known for its fantastical tales and extraordinary animation to have a role in the opening ceremony.

@wendeego tweets: Image copyright@WENDEEGO

2. Can Pokemon Go become a sport in 2020? There were no Pokemon characters in the ceremony – about the only place they haven’t appeared in the past few weeks – but that did not stop people from suggesting it could become a sport in four years time.

@damienics tweets: Image copyright@DAMIENICS

3. Can Tokyo2020 be staffed entirely by robots? Many put in requests for robot volunteers to staff the Olympics or at least the ceremonies to employ robots as performers.

@tejashpatel_ tweets: Image copyright@TEJASHPATEL_

In Japan, the interest in the ceremony was also fevered, with people apparently excited and delighted by their cosplay PM’s guest appearance.

Some even felt the need to mark the once-in-a-lifetime event with caffeine.

PM Shinzo Abe pictured in a coffee art designImage copyright@GEORGE_10G
Image captionPM Abe’s face was translated into coffee art

Others, however, weren’t as impressed, with one commenting that the event was “nothing compared” to Queen Elizabeth playing a Bond girl in the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

Yet Mr Abe’s appearance has provided some form of positive coverage for the Tokyo Games, which has been plagued by controversy. Tokyo was accused of plagiarising its initial Olympic 2020 logo, which it eventually changed, and the original stadium design by architect Zaha Hadid was scrapped due to spiralling costs.

But for now, it seems many people are putting its bad publicity aside, and expecting their minds to be blown by whatever Tokyo has planned for four years’ time.

A huge message is unveiled in the main arena reading Image copyrightEPA

Reappraising Japan-U.K. ties

The Japan Times

Reappraising Japan-U.K. ties


The results of the recent British referendum in favor of leaving the European Union call for a reappraisal of British interests in relation to Japan. These can, in my view, be summed up in the following oversimplified terms.

Japan remains an important trading partner for Britain and significant source of investment in manufacturing and finance. Britain, accordingly, needs a prosperous and politically stable Japan. It is a vital British interest that Japan should remain outward-looking and liberal in its trade policies. Britain, too, must remain open and renew its efforts to encourage and welcome Japanese investment.

Continuing Japanese prosperity hinges on the success of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies (Abenomics). So far success has been limited. Abe’s third arrow, which aims at modernizing Japanese business practices and removing anti-competitive barriers, has so far had only modest results. If Japan is to maintain outward-looking trade policies, more needs to be achieved.

While Japan may face a trade deficit in the future as its society ages and its population declines, it is important for Japan’s future trade and economic relations that the outdated mercantilist attitudes and policies adopted by Japan in the postwar era are buried forever. Trade friction can only be avoided if economic relations are handled in a liberal and open manner, and not seen as a point-scoring game.

Britain cannot negotiate or conclude a trade agreement with Japan while it remains in the EU, but consideration should be given to the possibility of a bilateral arrangement based on the draft Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, which is currently nearing conclusion.

The maintenance and development of Japanese manufacturing investments will inevitably depend to a considerable extent on the arrangements that Britain can agree with the EU. The closer these are to full participation in the single market, the better. Until the nature of the sort of arrangement that will replace Britain’s membership of the EU is made clear, the greater the uncertainty for Japanese companies and the greater the likelihood that they will place new investments elsewhere in the EU.

Japanese banks and securities companies are likely to maintain their positions in the London market so long as London remains a key financial center in Europe, but the Japanese commitment to London would be firmer if financial passporting rights in the EU can be guaranteed.

Britain and Japan have important civil aviation and shipping industries, and the rights of these industries will need to be guaranteed in any future Anglo-Japanese negotiations.

Britain and Japan have key roles in meeting the challenges posed by climate change and cooperation in this area should be intensified.

Scientific and technological exchanges will continue to play an important part in our relations. Joint research and development projects are essential elements in investment decisions and need to be strengthened. British withdrawal from the EU must not be allowed to jeopardize these cooperative arrangements.

When Britain ceases to be a member of the EU, bilateral political relations will become even more important. Ministerial visits will continue to provide important opportunities for high level exchanges as will membership of international groupings such as the Group of Seven.

Britain, as a nuclear power with a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, will remain a significant partner for Japan, especially at the United Nations and in nuclear issues.

Japanese defense forces can play an important stabilizing role in the Far East in cooperation with the United States. Britain accordingly attaches importance to the maintenance of Japan’s defense arrangements with the U.S.

Britain recognizes the threat to Japan from North Korea and understands Japanese concerns. It has no illusions about the North Korean regime.

Britain understands Japanese anxieties over Chinese actions in the South China Sea and of anti-Japanese demonstrations in China. It is a major British interest that these do not lead to conflict. The British accordingly attach importance to the development of a peaceful modus vivendi between China and Japan.

Britain also attaches importance to good relations between Japan and South Korea as well as with the countries of Southeast Asia.

Both Britain and Japan are significant aid donors and should continue to work closely together in aid matters.

Good economic and political relations depend on mutual cultural understanding. The British Council’s activities in Japan make a valuable contribution and the Japan English teachers scheme provides essential backing to English-language study in Japan.

In Britain, the Japan Foundation and organizations such as the Japan Society, the Daiwa Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures make useful contributions to understanding of Japan. Their work should be strengthened next year with the establishment of a Japan center in London. Japanese studies in Britain have made significant progress in recent years and more young British people are taking up the study of Japan, its language and culture. But there is considerable room for improvement in wider British understanding and knowledge of modern Japan.

An important element in Britain’s relations with Japan is Japan’s image in Britain. This has improved in recent years as more British people visit Japan and meet Japanese people in Britain and other countries. Japan is seen as a safe and orderly society and parliamentary democracy. The Emperor has won much respect. The resentments arising from the behavior of Japanese Imperial forces during the last war have been largely buried.

Concerns, however, remain, especially among those directly or indirectly involved with Japan, about right-wing elements in Japan’s governing party. The security laws are regarded with suspicion and visits to Yasukuni Shrine by influential politicians are liable to arouse fears of an attempt to revive state Shinto.

Any attempt to force through constitutional amendments, whether of Article 9 or of other provisions in the 1946 Constitution, could revive wartime memories and raise fears about a revival of Japanese nationalist extremism. The majority in the British political establishment remains liberal in outlook and firmly committed to upholding human rights.

Hugh Cortazzi was Britain’s ambassador to Japan from 1980 to 1984.

Source:  “Re-appraising Japan-U.K. ties”, The Japan Times, 11 August 2016 

Oliver (Olly) (4)

Hello Hugo

This is just a short update as I know that I have not been good at updating the blog this summer.  My sister has sent some further photographs of my nephew, Oliver (Olly):