2010/11 Medway

Activities and Events

Japan Day Seminar

2010/11 Medway

Rochester, Kent – March 4, 2011
International Partnerships: A New Approach

Participants from around the UK gathered at our 2010/11 Japan Day Seminar and Local Links Conference event held in Rochester, Kent. The event combined both the Japan Local Government Centre’s annual seminar and the Local Links Conference commenced during the Japan-UK 150 year of events organised by the Embassy of Japan in the UK. The event was an in-depth discussion of links between Japan and the UK, with a particular focus on how local authorities can create value through economic or cultural exchanges with an international partner

The event was also the first time that the three historic place links celebrated during the Japan-UK 150 celebrations had come together under the same auspices.

The event was co-hosted by Medway Council and the Embassy of Japan, with the assistance of the University for the Creative Arts, and sponsored by the Japan External Trade Organisation, Japan Foundation and the Japan National Tourist Organisation.

To view the programme from the day click here (PDF).

Proceedings of Japan Day Seminar: Local Links Conference: Creating value through local partnerships

Corn Exchange, Rochester

The event began with some opening words by Counsellor Masami Tamura from the Japanese Embassy, who welcomed the opportunity to experience Anglo-Japanese relations in a town with such a strong partnership with Japan.

His opening was followed by a speech from the chair, Councillor Susan Haydock of Medway Council, whose speech outlined the history of Medway’s link with the cities of Ito and Yokosuka in Japan. Originally drawn up between the town of Gillingham and Ito and Yokosuka in 1982, it was transferred to Medway when the Council was formed out of several small towns in the area, including Rochester and Gillingham. The link was born out of a historical connection: Gillingham was the birthplace of William Adams, the ‘father of the Japanese navy’ and the inspiration for James Clavell’s novel ‘Shogun’.

Professor Conte-Helm (Director, Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation) presented on the historic but very live links between the North East of England and Japan, noting the apt connection between the shipyards of Tyneside which built the early Japanese Imperial Navy and Rochester’s own longstanding association with shipbuilding through the nearby Royal Dockyard at Chatham. In the more recent period however, Japan’s connections to the region had been forged around economic links, beginning with the NSK factory in Peterlee in the 1960s through to Nissan and Komatsu plants in nearby Sunderland and Gateshead in the 1980s. Since then the character of the links made continues to be largely economic but focusing on emerging technologies and knowledge transfer, for instance the academic partnership between Teesside University and Chuo and Osaka universities in Japan around virtual reality applications for infrastructure projects, although the Hitachi Trains announcement made earlier in the week for a new plant at Newton Aycliffe demonstrated that large-scale investment in the region by Japan continues to be as strong as ever.

Kenji Ikeda (Secretary General, CLAIR) spoke on the health of Japan’s place partnerships with the rest of the world, focusing on the changing nature of the relationship from the post-war common sister city twinning to the more value-added economic and cultural links being generated and the role of local government in this. Such links had taken on unusual forms, for instance the partnership between Nerima ward in Tokyo and Annecy in France around their common recent histories in the production and hosting of animation. However, in a climate of reduced public spending, local government had to ensure that such links were defendable and transparent in the value they brought to local communities and here he cited the role of international links in the intercultural work of city governments around community cohesion. As such CLAIR was well disposed to further this work on behalf of local government in Japan and their global partners.

Aberdeen’s historic link with Nagasaki, as expressed through the life of Thomas Blake Glover (founder of the early Mitsubishi and Kirin companies), was also celebrated at the event with a presentation by Dr Peter Smart (Aberdeen Business School), while Medway Council’s Ashley Davis discussed the council’s links to Yokosuka and Ito; 2012 will be the 30th anniversary of Medway’s links with Japan. A key part of the relationship is an annual student exchange which sends four students to Japan and also receives a group from both Ito and Yokosuka each year.

Aberdeen and Nagasaki signed a Citizen’s Friendship Agreement in July 2010 and are very much looking forward to where this new partnership will take them.

Joanna Lavan (Creative Sheffield) addressed Sheffield’s city development company and its global profile and work, particularly its international strategy to secure the regeneration of England’s fourth largest city through inward investment and city marketing (the ‘three t’s’ of trade, talent and tourism). While she felt that Sheffield had not made the most of international opportunities in the past, it was trying to shore up capacity for SMEs to access advice around cultural, legal and language barriers to enable them to access new markets. As well as promoting trade and investment, international connections would also encourage local people to understand different languages and cultures to enrich the city’s own fabric. Links now existed between Sheffield and Kawasaki and Sapporo in Japan, with clear emerging work underway between Sheffield and Kawasaki around low carbon technologies ahead of Kawasaki’s eco-tech fair next year.

The presentations were followed by a short question and answer session, during which further questions were asked regarding economic links between towns and cities in the UK and abroad, as well as funding available in the UK for Japan-related activities.

At a reception hosted by the Embassy of Japan, the academic partnership between the University for the Creative Arts (based in Medway) and UEDA College of Fashion in Osaka was commemorated. The schools have collaborated on joint student shows in 2006 and 2008, and 250 UEDA students visited the UK for the 2010 show in London’s Spitalfields.

The next Japan Day Seminar will take place in Gateshead in July, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the council’s partnership with Komatsu City, and will focus on economic partnerships between the UK and Japan and local government’s role in this.

We would like to thank all the speakers, our kind hosts and sponsors, the venue and everyone who took the time to attend.