Japan – UK Symposium Celebrating the 150 years of Iwakura mission in the City of London
The Iwakura Mission stayed in Britain for a total of 122 days, leaving London for Paris. This mission was the most significant of the Japanese missions sent to Western countries at the dawn of the Meiji period in 1873. It was the first Japanese mission designed according to Western diplomatic principles and perhaps the first mission in world history to include a large proportion of a country's leadership.
The official record covers 446 pages for the UK, 44 pages more than for the USA, more than double the number of pages each for France and Germany and minor sections for Italy and Russia. Europe in coverage by several days spent on the mission in total was less than the UK. The ambassadors and staff were responsible for three different sets of enquiries. One was to study the law and government and examine British political institutions, including both Houses of Parliament. The second was to investigate the economic structure, including industry, transport and communications, banking, currency and taxation, and how it affected trade. Finally, the third was to examine education in all its aspects, together with the equipment and training of military and naval personnel. The principal British cities and areas visited were London, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, The Scottish Highlands, Newcastle, Bradford, Halifax, Sheffield, Burton-upon-Trent, Birmingham, Coventry, Warwick, Worcester and Chester. Occasionally splinter groups formed, visiting Dublin with three other members of the Mission. In contrast, three experts in mining and mineralogy visited the Cornish tin mines and coal fields near Cardiff in Wales. It is worth noting that Ambassador Fujii gave a lecture to the Japan Society of London on 9th June 1997, in which he repeatedly raised the significance of the Iwakura Mission. He quoted from The Times editorial of 20th August 1872, which referred to Japan as "this Eastern Great Britain". He emphasised the shared capacity for change without compromising the essence of their traditions-which characterises the two ancient island kingdoms. Fujii pointed out that Japan was utterly alone in the Meiji era as it sought to modernise itself through trial and error.
Fast Forward 2022, Japan was the first country to sign a bilateral trade agreement in the post-Brexit age. As the current sovereign chair, it is working hard to bring the UK into the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It welcomes the UK in all activities. Reaching this 150th anniversary gives an ideal opportunity to build relations to a new level in carrying out Trade, International Security and Common Purpose. The Institute of Directors (IoD) is here to act as a catalyst and encourage its members and the business community at large to celebrate the business and trade relationship.
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