10 March 2009
Embassy of Japan in the UK, London
On March 10 2009 representatives from 15 UK local authorities and local government-related organisations, plus a number of representatives from UK-based Japanese organisations convened at the Embassy of Japan in London to discuss issues around local authority links between the UK and Japan.
The conference took place against the backdrop of the on-going year of events to celebrate Japan-UK 150, the 150th anniversary of the first diplomatic ties between the two countries. The meeting was first suggested by a local authority last year as a means to achieve better coordination between UK local authorities with links to Japan, which it was anticipated would result in stronger ties and greater overall benefits. Indeed, different ideas on how such collaborative efforts could be facilitated proved to be one of the most discussed points of the meeting.
The meeting also enabled the local authorities present to share some of the pitfalls in past international relationships not only with Japan, but also other cities and regions around the world. A number of contributions hailed the vibrant economic ties between Japanese companies and localities in the UK, such as that of Toyota, with its plants in Derbyshire and Flintshire, both of whom are also twinned with Japanese local authorities.
Noboru Fujishima, Director of JLGC also encouraged local authorities to make use of the JET Alumni Association, which has a large number of chapters spread throughout the UK.
With regard to funding exchange programs, the point was raised that there is never a “good time” to seek funding, even in more buoyant economic circumstances, but when applying for funds the overall economic benefits of establishing and maintaining the relationship should be emphasised. The role played by UK-based funders of Japan-related projects and activities was highlighted as such.
Overall the meeting was felt by those in attendance to be beneficial insofar as it provided a platform for a new era in Japan-UK local links.
UK local authorities represented:
Buckley Town Council
Sheffield Council (Creative Sheffield)
Derbyshire County Council
Flintshire County Council
Greater London Authority
Bath and North East Somerset
Shepway District Council
Peterborough City Council
Beverley Town Council
Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council
Other UK organisations represented:
Local Government Association
University of Birmingham (West Midlands link)
Japan-related organisations represented:
Embassy of Japan in the UK
Japan Local Government Centre (JLGC)
Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO), London
Japan Foundation London
Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), London
Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO), London