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Remarks by Miguel Head, Private Secretary to The Duke of Cambridge, on His Royal Highness's upcoming tour to Japan

Published on 19th February 2015


Good afternoon everyone and thank you for coming.

As we previously announced, The Duke of Cambridge will visit Japan and China at the end of this month, at the request of Her Majesty's Government, to support initiatives that are part of the global GREAT campaign to build British prosperity through partnerships in key markets.

The Duke will spend approximately three days in each country. He arrives in Japan on Thursday February 26th and departs for China on Sunday March 1st. The Duke will arrive in China late on Sunday March 1st and undertake engagements in Beijing, in Shanghai to launch the GREAT Festival of Creativity and in Yunnan province, departing for London on Wednesday March 4th.

This will be The Duke's first visit to both countries two of the world's leading economies, and he is very much looking forward to the opportunity to start building a relationship with and an understanding of both China and Japan.

It is also an opportunity for The Duke to listen and engage with initiatives in both countries relating to some of his long-standing areas of interest, not least issues around building confidence and aspirations among young people in difficult circumstances, the value of education, as well as conservation and tackling the illegal wildlife trade.

I will start by running through the programme for Japan and then for China.

Not only is this The Duke’s first visit to Japan, it is the first by a senior member of the Royal Family since 2008 when The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited.

The programme has a number of themes, not least the importance of UK-Japan commercial and cultural exchange and also how tradition and innovation work together in modern Japan. The programme will also give The Duke the chance to show his personal respects to the thousands of people affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 11th March 2011, as well as to highlight the ongoing need for support for recovery in the affected area. 

The Duke will arrive by scheduled flight at Tokyo's Haneda International Airport mid-afternoon on Thursday 26th February. He will transfer immediately to a fast boat for a journey through Tokyo harbour to the city, accompanied by the British Ambassador [Tim Hitchens] and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Governor [Mr Yoichi Masuzoe].

On the journey, The Duke will be shown where some of Toyko's 2020 Olympic site will be built and he will pass under the city's landmark Rainbow Bridge.

The Duke will disembark at the historic Hama Rikyu gardens.  This was the family garden of a former Shogun and donated by the Japanese Imperial family to the people of Tokyo in 1945. It was at this very spot that Prince Alfred, the first British Royal actually the first European Prince arrived in Japan in 1869 to be received as one of the country's first VIP foreign visitors by the teenage Emperor Meiji, after opening up. 

It is a very tranquil and classically Japanese spot, framed by the more contemporary Tokyo skyline. 

The Duke will walk through the grounds to a restored Tea House, where he will be served Japanese green tea in the traditional, ceremonial way by a Grand Master. The ceremony is considered a sign of respect and will no doubt be a lovely welcome to Japan.

The evening will be spent privately at the British Ambassador's official residence.

On  Friday 27th February The Duke will start the day by paying his respects and laying a wreath at Hodogaya Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Yokohama, about 9 km west of Tokyo.

It is another beautifully tended spot replete with the ubiquitous Cross of Remembrance and, unusually, flat grave stones because of the threat of earthquakes. HRH will be accompanied by the Defence Attaches of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India, all of whom have soldiers buried at the cemetery.  Representatives of the USA, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Self-Defence Force will also be present.

The Duke will then return to central Tokyo for several engagements, which we will confirm in due course, probably at the in-country media briefing shortly before the Visit, which Sally will say more about in a moment. 
  
The afternoon's focus shifts from the ceremonial and the reflective to British technology and innovation, when The Duke launches the Innovation is GREAT campaign at Academy Hills on the 49th floor of the Mori Tower in Roppongi, which on a clear day has stunning views over Tokyo towards Mount Fuji.

HRH will join the Innovation is GREAT conference and will be invited to say a few words about British and Japanese collaboration.  The innovation links between Japan and the UK will then be highlighted by video messages of collaboration and partnership between the British astronaut Tim Peake and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui. 

Both astronauts are bound for the International Space Station this year and have a unique opportunity to encourage partnership and innovation during their missions.

The start of this symbolic partnership between the two astronauts and two countries will be marked with a sake barrel-breaking ceremony on stage. This colourful ceremony is traditionally performed at celebratory events, representing harmony and good fortune.

The Duke will afterwards meet three UK Tech Award winners and see a number of product displays demonstrations of British innovation, which are on show for the Japanese delegates.

Immediately afterwards, in the evening, The Duke will attend a Reception at the British Embassy, given by the Ambassador, where he will meet high profile Japanese figures including politicians, artists, young leaders, sportsmen and other leaders in their field.   This engagement marks the last of this day.

On Saturday February 28th, The Duke starts the day in Tokyo before heading Northeast to the Tohuku region to see the consequences of, and the recovery from, the magnitute-9 Great East earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. 

The morning begins at the HQ of Japan's public service broadcaster, NHK.  The company's origins go back 90 years to the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.  NHK is built on the principle that accurate and prompt information protects lives, and so NHK has its own earthquake early warning system, as well as 500 remote cameras at key locations, and 15 helicopters ready to deploy from 12 sites across Japan.  Every night, newsroom staff simulate and rehearse their emergency broadcast drill.  Their levels of preparation are unmatched anywhere in the world.

The Duke will be shown how this vital national public service works. He will also meet cast and crew from NHK's Taiga a long running historical drama, replete with great costumes and wigs, which has been on air for over 50 years. 

Later that morning, The Duke will visit one of the most dynamic districts of Tokyo, Daikanyama, to launch a week-long public exhibition for the Innovation is GREAT campaign.  The exhibition is at the Tsutaya Store, which features a bookshop, designer goods, music, a coffee shop it's a popular for young Tokyoites.  Neatly enough, the whole place was designed by British architect Mark Dytham.  Inside the store, The Duke will take part, with local families, in an interactive, big screen display of UK innovation.

At lunchtime, The Duke will board one of Japan's famous bullet trains and head Northeast to Koriyama, one of the largest cities in Fukushima prefecture.

The next day, Sunday March 1st, The Duke will spend the morning visiting the coastal city of Ishinomaki, hearing first hand some of the stories of bravery and tragedy following the earthquake and tsunami.

By way of reminder, and giving you a sense of context for the visit, you may recall that an estimated 28 foot wave slowly flowed up to 8.5 kilometres inland.  The scale of devastation was almost unprecedented.  The town of Ishinomaki alone lost 3,275 of its people, directly related to the tsunami, with 430 people still unaccounted for.   Approximately 22,000 residents lost their homes, with 53,000 homes damaged. 

The Duke will meet local people affected by the disaster, including the local newspaper editor, who produced handwritten newsletters to keep vital communications going during the days immediately after the tsunami.

The editor has since established a children's newspaper allowing younger members of the community to tell their own stories about the disaster, as well as reporting on current activity, itself a vehicle for healing from the trauma.

From Ishinomaki, The Duke will travel along the coast to a hilltop viewing point, close to a local shrine, and which overlooks the so-called 'Bay of Destruction'.  From this panoramic vantage point, The Duke will be shown the scale of devastation and the significant land clearance currently underway.  His Royal Highness will use this point to pay his personal respects to the victims of the disaster.

If I may, a quick word about Britain's role in the area in the aftermath of the disaster.  We have a proud story to tell.  Throughout this whole morning, a representative from the British Chamber of Commerce Japan will be escorting The Duke.  The reason being is that BCCJ has played an important role in helping small business get back on their feet with small grants for the simple essentials such as a bread slicer for a bakery or a fridge for local fishermen.  These, and many other small acts, were vital in the immediate aftermath and have helped the community rebuild.

After visiting the hilltop shrine, The Duke will travel further up the coast to the town of Onagawa, which was particularly badly hit.  There, the topology of the hills around the town, funnelled the tsunami to an estimated 15 metres high, submerging buildings up to three storeys in height and causing untold devastation to life.  But like all the affected towns along the coast, the surviving residents are working hard to restore their town's commerce and sense of community.  By way of highlighting this, at Onagawa, The Duke will visit shopkeepers and local residents at a new neighbourhood hub, a shopping centre, which has re-established 30 businesses from a tailor's shop, to a greengrocer, café and an artist's design studio.

The Duke will ring the one surviving Onagawa bell, rescued from the mud and now known as the Chime of Hope, before departing for the return journey to Narita Airport and his afternoon departure to Beijing.