North East Economic Forum Conference-Celebrating Japanese Investment in the NE

for October, 2015

North East Economic Forum Conference-Celebrating Japanese Investment in the NE

Posted on 19 October 2015 in News -

Given that Nissan recently announced a £100 million investment into the its Sunderland Plant on the same day that Hitachi Rail opened its first UK Manufacturing Facility in Newton Aycliffe, it was no surprise that the theme of NEEF’s 2015 annual conference was about “celebrating the positive impact of Japanese investment in this area”.

Indeed it should be a celebration: Japanese companies make up 70% of  engineering and manufacturing companies in the region and account for around 12% of all NE manufacturing jobs. Japanese Ambassador to the UK, Keichi Hayashi, spoke about the excellent track record the NE has in attracting Japanese investment and many of the other speakers and Government representatives via video link ups to Whitehall noted the immense difference that investment brought to the region not onlywith regards to job creation but to; R & D, a sharing of manufacturing expertise,the introduction of positive manufacturing practices across the whole supply chain, raising skill levels and providing a strong work ethic. I was also pleased to hear the “cultural and educational ties” mentioned-often forgotten but nevertheless important.

It is often said (and mostly proven) that Japanese investment represents a firm and long-term commitment and that certainly forms the foundation of the the relationship between the NE and Japan, that began back in 1862 when 12 Japanese Ambassadors on the Iwakura Mission visited Newcastle upon Tyne to find out about important manufacturing techniques of the time.

Long may it continue.


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Memories from Gunma Prefecture: Ojima Neputa Matsuri

Posted on 15 October 2015 in Satogaeri (Hometown) Project -

One of my first experiences when arriving in a small town called Ojima in Gunma Prefecture 20 years ago was being asked to take part in the town’s annual summer Neputa Festival. The Neputa are colourful floats made out of “washi” (Japanese paper) decorated with images of mythical “kabuki” style characters, often depicted going into battle. I was asked to sit on top of a large Japanese drum and play it in a procession around the town accompanied by male “taiko” players on the ground. In the spirit of Internationalisation and also adventure, I couldn’t refuse.

I was totally unprepared for the humidity of a Japanese summer plus the hard work and commitment that went into training. The Japanese ladies made it look effortless. My arms have never hurt so much and I can still remember the rhythms and chants that we made. It certainly was a memorable experience and was my first introduction to Japanese festivals-or matsuri as they are known in Japan. Most Japanese towns hold Matsuris every summer-some more famous than others but they always involve floats of some description, drumming, people dressing up in “yukatta” (cotton style kimonos) or “happi” jackets wearing the somewhat uncomfortable “zori” (Japanese style footwear) and everyone partaking in the local dance or “odori”.Anyone who has a chance to visit a Japanese matsuri is in for a real treat. The humidity mingled with the array of sounds, smells ,food & drink alongside a real sense of community cohesion is truly captivating. I still have my selection of yukattas and zoris plus of course the much needed “uchiwa” (fan).


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“Practical Guide to Japan” report: Published through “Export to Japan”

Posted on 14 October 2015 in News -

Going on a business trip or trade mission to Japan requires plenty of organisation and research and may seem daunting, especially if it is your first time to visit the country.

This guide gives you all the practical, up-to-date information you will need to take the stress out of that preparation, covering topics such as:

  • Accommodation
  • Getting Around
  • Wi-Fi and Using Your Phone in Japan
  • Money
  • Business Etiquette
  • Interpreters and Translators
  • Shopping
  • Food and Drink
  • Health and Safety Aspects/Emergencies
  • Other Useful Information
  • Japanese Language
  • Useful Phrases for Business

The report also refers to relevant websites and apps, and offers a number of useful tips on navigating areas that may cause potential misunderstandings. Armed with this knowledge, you can enjoy a relaxing and successful business trip. Download the free report from Export to Japan.

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“Satogaeri” (Hometown) Project-Return to Gunma

Posted on 13 October 2015 in News, Satogaeri (Hometown) Project -
Class in Japan2

I am soon going out to Japan to take part in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Alumni’s Satogaeri Project, organised by the Council for Local Authorities and International Affairs (CLAIR)  Tokyo. They have selected 12 ex-JETs from around the world to go back to their Japanese home towns with significant Japanese media coverage ahead of next year’s 30 year celebration of the JET Programme.

In my case, I am going out back to Ojima Town in Gunma Prefecture to meet old teachers and students, visit the school and Board of Education and also visit key tourist destinations in Gunma such as Ikaho Onsen-and Tomioka Silk Mill (to promote them not only on Japanese media but back here in the UK. I will also meet with Gunma Prefectural Tourism board to look at how tourism of the area is being promoted especially in the run up to the Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympics and Para-Olympics. Needless to say, I can’t wait. I have not been back to Gunma since I left there in 1998, wondering where my Japan experiences would take me. I have since heard many criticisms of foreigners who teach in Japan, sometimes described as being in a “dead end” job with no future. From my perspective, what I experienced in Gunma was the foundation for what I am doing now.

Anyone familiar with the JET Programme will know it is more than teaching-it is Internationalisation and not just for the people of the somewhat rural towns and villages many of us found ourselves in. It was my first insight into how people from two very different cultures with very different communication styles can find ways to understand and respect each other and form life-long relationships. Although at times it made me feel lonely and open to scrutiny, being thrown into the heart of a very small town community (see picture of me playing on a festival drum just after arriving there), it gave me the grass-roots understanding and experience of Japan that I use now in a business setting to support business development & understanding between Japan and the UK. Naturally, I have built up many skills and knowledge since leaving Gunma and have certainly expanded my Japan related network.

I hope the Satogaeri project will give me the opportunity to say thank you to those who not only accepted me, but also those who involved me to such an extent that I was able to attend significant family ceremonies, visit so many Japanese places, holiday with my colleagues, stay in people’s homes, go to Japanese festivals, play in local orchestras, discover J Pop and Japanese authors and really get to know about Japanese life. Although certain elements made it impossible for me to stay there long-term, the ties are still strong. Please follow me on social media or on my website with my vlogs and blogs from Gunma.

Although this project will appear on Japanese media, please follow my blogs/vlogs and insights through this website and the social media links below.

Facebook: The JET Programme Alumni Satogaeri Project

Twitter@ JET_Satogaeri





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Triland Metals Cocktail Reception at the Dorchester, London.

Posted on 13 October 2015 in News, Uncategorized -

Thank you to Triland Metals for inviting me to a Cocktail Reception at the Dorchester, London to celebrate the beginning of the London Metal Exchange week. It was a sumptuous affair attended by over 1000 guests and I met a very interesting selection of people from around the world involved in Metal Trading plus of course many Japanese representatives and local staff from Mitsubishi Corporation International (Europe). Triland Metals is a subsidiary of MCIE.

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