Elected to Japan Society of the UK Board of Trustees

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Elected to Japan Society of the UK Board of Trustees

Posted on 28 June 2016 in News, Uncategorized -
The Japan Society Logo

I am proud to have been asked to serve as a Trustee on the Board of the Japan Society in the UK-the leading independent body in the UK dedicated to the enhancement of the British-Japanese relationship- to represent my activities within Japan UK business and also as Chair of JETAA UK. I am also honoured to have been elected at such an important time for raising understanding and trust between our two countries post Brexit. Never has it been more important for us to re-build the trust and make this relationship between our 2 countries stronger.

I was also pleased to have been involved  in gathering stories for the chapter on the JET Programme for the recently published book “Britain and Japan-Biographical Portraits” compiled and edited by Hugh Cortazzi and I attended the launch of this book after the AGM.

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Brexit-Japanese Reactions

Posted on 24 June 2016 in Market Insight, News -

I was asked by the LA Times to comment on the impact of Brexit on medium-term and long-term trade between the UK and Japan. The UK has benefited from massive investment by Japanese companies bringing their European HQ here and there have been unprecedented levels of M&A activities from Japan in recent years, specifically to gain more global market share. Not all of this market share has been tied to the EU but every single Japanese company I speak to quotes the significance of the UK’s membership of the EU as their decision to invest here.  Although it is far too early to predict anything at a very uncertain time, I could tell the Times that from working with and talking to the Japanese business community in the UK at various levels, they were extremely worried about a Brexit and how it would affect their access to European Markets as well as knowing there would be uncertainty on an unprecedented scale following it.

Given the Japanese aversion to change and unpredictability, the Brexit has caused shockwaves amongst the Japanese business and diplomatic community in the UK. It also caused the Nikkei to plunge to the lowest level in 5 years, shares in Japanese companies in the UK dropped and the Yen surged prompting the Japanese Finance Minister to issue a statement that they would intervene where necessary to off-set the affects of this on their currency and Japanese exports.

There is also the issue of the Japan EU Trade Partnership that is currently being negotiated. It is too early to say whether this will continue and whether it will bring more advantages for European companies wanting to trade with Japan. However, British investment in Japan could  stay strong if we can negotiate a separate deal with Japan. We are mostly dealing with the unknowns at the moment- a situation that risk-averse Japan is very nervous about.

On a positive note, there are elements of the Japanese way of doing business that make me feel confident that we will continue to enjoy positive trade with Japan. Most Japanese businesses have long-termism at their core and recent inward investment from companies such as Hitachi Rail in the UK have built upon long-term relationships and were made with the intention of being here for the long run come what may. This will hopefully be the key to what will happen with most Japanese companies in the UK-long-termism along with a propensity to caution and dislike of change will hopefully mean they won’t jump ship straight away and may stick around long enough to support us keeping the UK economy strong and competitive.



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Discussing Gender Roles Japan vs Sweden at Stockholm University’s International Teaching Week

Posted on 3 June 2016 in News -
Stockholm Networking Picture

I was delighted to have chosen to take part in Stockholm University’s First International Teaching Week, where I had many opportunities to really understand the culture of Stockholm Business School through meeting with various academics, attending seminars and debates and delivering my own lecture on the gender roles in Japan versus Sweden and whether ‘womenomics’ can close the gender gap given these ingrained roles.

We visited the Swedish Institute for an insight into how the Swedish government works to promote Sweden as a study destination internationally and attended the Annual Spring lecture at SBS to learn more about the transparency guarantee in Swedish development aid from Assistant Professor Pontus Hedlin and former Minister of Development Assistance Gunilla Carlsson.

We were shown amazing hospitality by our hosts with a wonderful boat tour of Stockholm and opportunities to join in with the amazing afternoon coffee and cakes tradition called Fika.

Stockholm by the river

I really came away with a desire to promote Stockholm as a place of study and hopefully to do more work. I made many contacts in my area of research and am in touch with the students I met there, who are all researching some really Japan related subjects. I hope to go back very soon!

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Symposium:In The Wake of Japan’s Nuclear Tsunami. The University of Sheffield

Posted on 25 April 2016 in News, Uncategorized -

I was asked to make some opening remarks for this Symposium held at Sheffield University on how the Tsunami had affected me personally, as it had prompted me to get back in touch with Japan, get involved with JETAAUK and ultimately start up my own business relating to Japan. I also spoke about how it was viewed by the rest of the world by bringing in observations from people I have spoken to with no knowledge of Japanese society-how they viewed the Japanese people’s  reaction to a crisis, the behaviour of whom was viewed as quite unusual such as the relative law and order and resilience that was still evident even in a time of crisis. I referenced the somewhat fatalistic Japanese spirit of “gamman” meaning to persevere or stick with it, something that people from more individualistic cultures find hard to understand let alone practise. Although there are negative sides to this mentality sometimes resulting in a tendency to not complain and put up with things that are not acceptable at all to avoid the shame of being seen to not being able to practise “gamman”, it did show the world the indomitable spirit of Japan that has stuck with many observers.

At this symposium, we also got to hear from fantastic PhD students who were doing research in areas that linked into the topic such as the nuclear debate and the planning of playgrounds in the affected areas to support the children. Some of the staff from the University are directly involved in implementing these play areas and the clean up of the Nuclear Plant in Fukushima. We also heard from Japanese representatives from Mitsubishi Research Institute and the University of Tokyo about the rehabilitation efforts that are still on-going in these areas.


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How Japanese Companies are Contributing to Sustainability in the UK: Event Report

Posted on 22 March 2016 in Market Insight, News -
Nottingham Event Panel (2)

This event took place at Nottingham Trent University on March 14th, 2016.

The first part of the evening comprised of a welcome by Dr Angelo Bisignano of Nottingham Business School followed by a short presentation by Sarah Parsons, Japan In Perspective, JETAAUK Chair and Associate Lecturer at NTU, who gave an overview of Japanese Investment in the UK including their key elements such as long-termism and huge investment into skills and training. She talked about examples of Japanese investments in sustainability such as Hitachi Rail’s investment into sustainability of the UK’s train infrastructure and highlighted challenges surrounding sustainability in Japan including the need for more sustainable softer technologies/social initiatives to address the ageing population, gender inequalities and corporate culture issues. She also spoke about the challenges for Japan to adhere to the Global Reporting Initiatives (GRI) guidelines for Sustainability Reporting, mainly driven by North American and European stakeholders commenting how Japanese companies are traditionally much stronger in the environmental areas but not so good at reporting social and governance issues.

This “environmental” strength was certainly evident listening to Rob Gorton, Corporate Planning Manager at Toyota Manufacturing UK, who spoke about the upcoming trends at Toyota in the area of sustainability, including their plans for hybrid and hydrogen technology, and also gave an overview of their recently announced 2050 environmental challenge to address key global environmental issues such as climate change, water shortages, resource depletion and degradation of biodiversity by 2050. Rob also re-iterated the long-term aspect of Japanese business mentality reflected in TMUK’s sustainability policies and spoke of how sometimes these can be at odds with the short-term mentality of British business – noting that it is difficult to graft long term thinking onto short term cultures. He used the example of the manufacture of the Prius that took more than 10 years from inception to achieving volume in sales to emphasise the need for long-term thinking; he anticipates that the numbers of Mirais being manufactured will grow significantly over the coming years. He also spoke about how the UK needs an increase in engineers to support sustainable innovation here. Japanese companies such as TMUK and Hitachi Rail are very involved in raising the skill set of young people in the UK in this area through apprenticeship schemes and links with local schools and colleges.

Both Professor David Smith and Dr Michael Ehret agreed that collaboration and information sharing on top of more long-term thinking is the key to sustainability and in some cases, institutional changes need to take place to realise this. Sarah added that although Toyota is a fantastic role model for information sharing through their various processes, there can be cultural challenges for other Japanese companies surrounding the sharing of information from a Japanese mind-set outside of Japan and also on a management level where slower and more structured decision-making processes and different communicational styles & methods of PR sometimes affect information-sharing both within organisations and to their customers and offices globally.

After the panel discussion, there were several Q&As from the audience including questions on the Brexit referendum (again bringing up the short-term versus long-term debate). This was followed by a chance to network and for everyone to sample the fantastic Japanese buffet provided by Japanese Ideas in Nottingham. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive with some students of the MSc in International Business students saying, “I learned so much, wrote so much and got to eat some amazing food so it was a great evening!”

This event was co-organised by the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programmes Alumni Association UK and Nottingham Business School as part of JETAAUK’s “Spotlight on Japanese Companies in the UK” and was attended by around 60 local business people, academics and students from surrounding universities, JETAA members and representatives from the Japan Local Government Centre and JET

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