The King's speech at the Japan State Banquet

Published

For over four hundred years, our nations have inspired each other, learning from each other’s experience and enriching our industries, cuisines and cultures with elements borrowed and shared.

Your Majesties,

My wife and I are so delighted to be able to welcome you to Buckingham Palace this evening. EI-KOKU NI O-KAERI NASAI. [Welcome back to Britain].

Your Majesties, ours is a partnership with deep roots. For over four hundred years, our nations have inspired each other, learning from each other’s experience and enriching our industries, cuisines and cultures with elements borrowed and shared. Even our hobbies have shared roots; for it was English climbers like Walter Weston in the late nineteenth century, enraptured by the Japanese landscapes they encountered, who helped to introduce recreational mountain climbing in Japan. This is a passion which so many British and Japanese now have in common - not least, at an individual level, Your Majesty and myself!

At the core of our partnership is a close friendship; one based on a mutual understanding of the importance of international rules and global institutions, forged from the lessons of history, including its darkest years. Today, as we face a world in which these principles are ever more challenged, our shared values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law are more important than ever.

Our partnership is also one that continues to grow and flourish, to put out new shoots and branches. We share a bond which sets us apart from so many others, being both island nations whose advancement has relied particularly on our ability to adapt and to create new solutions for society through the power of collaboration and innovation. Indeed, I believe that our people also share an understanding of how tradition and innovation can work together to strengthen each other and the future we work towards.

I saw something of this on my first visit to Japan in 1970 when I toured the first Japanese World Expo in Osaka. As a twenty-one-year-old, the innovations I saw left me with a lasting impression of the power of blending the traditions of Eastern and Western civilisations, together with progress in science and technology for the benefit of all.


My four further visits to Japan since then, and my engagements with your people and companies over the years, lead me to believe that the impressive links forged between our economies and our businesses have built on those same ideals. Over the last fifty years, Japanese investors have made an enormous contribution to the economy of the United Kingdom. Our country has provided a home where I am proud to say these businesses have thrived, while growing numbers of British businesses have been welcomed into Japan.

Our talented scientists are also working together on research and technology to help address some of the most pressing challenges that face our planet. The seriousness and urgency of the climate and Nature crises we face cannot be overstated; our generation owes it to those who follow to face it with vigour, determination and creativity. Against the history of deep traditional respect for Nature in both of our cultures, the private sector has a key role to play. This is why I am so pleased that both British and Japanese companies are at the forefront of creating practical, bankable initiatives, and British and Japanese researchers, who are working on understanding and protecting the Earth, continue to be honoured through the Blue Planet Prize and the Japan Prize.

In addition, I know that our two countries are collaborating ever more closely to provide for our shared security. Our Armed Forces are exercising and sharing expertise at great levels, as befits two powers with an enduring commitment to global peace and security. From energy and the environment, to supply chains and semi-conductors; from cyber security and sustainable food supplies to defence industrial collaboration, our governments are working together to provide a stable world for future generations.

Supporting all these shared endeavours are the enduring ties between our people that transcend geography – and that does not just mean how much we enjoy tea, and talking about the weather!

Your Majesties, I had the enormous privilege of addressing the Diet nearly forty years ago. During that address, I expressed my deep hope that our countries would exchange more of our cultures and, by doing so, enrich our creativity. I cannot tell you how encouraged I have been to see the remarkable array of cultural exchange and coproduction between our countries grow ever stronger. Just today, one hundred and thirty members of the Royal Opera House were on stage in Japan at the Kanagawa Kenmin Hall, led by Sir Antonio Pappano. And as Studio Ghibli’s animé continue to delight audiences worldwide, with Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful ‘The Boy and the Heron’ scooping an Oscar earlier this year, the house is full at the London Coliseum this evening for a stage production of ‘Spirited Away’.

Equally, it has been a pleasure to learn of the British stories behind certain Japanese cultural icons. Perhaps you would allow me to note one particular individual who turns fifty this year, raised in a London suburb with her twin sister, a self-made entrepreneur worth billions of dollars, and a U.N.I.C.E.F. Children’s Ambassador on top of all that. So I can only wish a very happy birthday to… Hello Kitty!

Ever greater numbers of our young people are living, working and studying in world-class institutions in each other’s countries. We are honoured that so many members of the Imperial Family, including Your Majesties, have chosen to study at British universities. I know from Your Majesty's fascinating record of your experiences at Oxford – as well as my memories of our time spent together at the opera and fly fishing – that these opportunities to spend time abroad create lifelong friendships and memories. I am only sorry to report that I haven’t had any better luck with more recent attempts at fishing – the Pokémon phrase “gotta catch ‘em all” may resonate with my grandchildren, but for me it is, perhaps, aspirational..!

Your Majesties, in 1613, Tokugawa Ieyasu wrote to my forebear, King James I, he said: “Though separated by ten thousand leagues of clouds and waves, our territories are as it were close to each other”. Over four hundred years later, that sentiment remains at the heart of our friendship.

And so, it is with a sense of great affection and optimism that I propose a toast to Your Majesties and the Japanese people, and to the next four hundred years of Japanese-British relations. KAN-PAI! [Cheers!]

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