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David Warren

Ambassador to Japan, Tokyo
Posted 07 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments

We had a marvellous visit a few days ago from Alistair and Katherine Wight, from Edinburgh.   Alistair was one of eight British sailors who came to Tokyo in August 1945, as part of HMS Return, and who reopened the British Embassy, which had been closed since the British staff had been repatriated to the United Kingdom in mid-1942, some months after the outbreak of war with Japan. 

Mr WightHe is now 86, as is Katherine, and had not been back to Tokyo since his brief visit in 1945.   I was fascinated by his recollections of Tokyo in the aftermath of war - the department stores still open in the Ginza, with staff giving items away in panic, the trams still running past the Embassy's front door in spite of the terrible bomb damage across much of the city, the natural reluctance of local Japanese to fraternise with foreign troops, and of course deep suspicion on the Allied side after the brutalities of the Imperial Army in the Asian conflict - but also the kindness that Alistair and his colleagues received from some of the Japanese residents of Tokyo whom they met.
Alistair and Katherine's trip was partly to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.   It was funded by the UK Lottery's Heroes Return programme .   Alistair showed us a photograph of himself at 21, in the garden of one of the Embassy houses, sitting on the veranda steps that are still there today.  We went and recreated the photograph 65 years later.   Alistair and Katherine presented us with the cap ribbon from HMS Return.   It was moving and inspiring to listen to his memories.

David Warren
07 June 2010

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Posted 03 June 2010 by David Warren | Comments
Although the press had been speculating about Prime Minister Hatoyama's having to stand down because of his falling popularity ratings and the breaking up of the coalition over the US Futenma basing issue in Okinawa, his announcement yesterday morning that he was resigning came as a shock to many.   The Prime Minister's announcement of his resignation - and his apology for failing to settle the Futenma problem was emotional.  Inevitably, there has been agonising among political commentators about the fact that no Japanese Prime Minister since 2006 has lasted longer than a year in office.   There is a vigorous debate going on in Japan about the political system, and whether there are lessons that Japan can learn from other countries, including the UK, about how Government is run and about the relationship between the political world (which I heard one Japanese businessman describe in a lecture this week as still "quite closed") and the public that it represents.
But as we reflect on his resignation, we ought also to remember the leadership Japan showed under his Prime Minister ship on climate change - the 2020 25% carbon emission reduction target, which helped to kick-start the debate on climate change in the run-up to last year's Copenhagen conference, and the generous support that Japan announced earlier this year to the stabilisation of Afghanistan - $5 billion over the next 5 years.   And the start that the Government has made to dealing with some difficult issues, such as the need to make progress on deregulation, from which foreign investors, and Japanese businesses themselves, should benefit in the longer term.
The new leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (and, if approved by the Diet, Prime Minister) will be elected tomorrow, so further blogs will follow.

David Warren
03 June 2010

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Posted 15 October 2009 by David Warren | Comments

Blog Action Day 2009  We welcome the new Japanese Government’s commitment to a 25% reduction target by 2020, as part of a comprehensive deal at the COP15 meeting in December in Copenhagen.  It continues to be controversial here in some parts of Japanese business. 

Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, visited Tokyo last week, and sent a powerful message to Japanese industry that there isn’t going to be a high-carbon future; and that the “first movers” in such an environment will have the business advantage.  My sense is that that message is beginning to get across.  But we are working hard to reinforce it in our own contacts.

David Warren
15 October 2009

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