Prime Minister of Japan gives keynote speech at UCL

2 May 2014

The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Shinzo Abe, visited UCL on 1 May to celebrate collaboration between the UK and Japan in education and research – and to explore how this can be further developed.

Prime Minister Abe and Professor Michael Arthur

Mr Abe gave the keynote speech at the Japan: UK Conference ‘Collaboration in Research and Education’ co-hosted by UCL and the Embassy of Japan in the UK. The conference was the first of its kind and was designed to give the leading universities in Japan and the UK the opportunity to showcase their recent efforts in both research and education and discuss future ways to cooperate in these fields.

Following the conference a joint announcement is to be issued signalling participating universities’ commitment to encouraging mutual exchange between staff and researchers in both countries, the development of new collaborative research links and the creation of joint international curricula.

Presidents, Vice-Chancellors, Vice-Presidents and Deputy Vice-Chancellors of the top 14 universities in Japan and 16 UK Russell Group universities attended, along with the British Council, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science and the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science closed the conference.

Professor Michael Arthur (UCL President & Provost) said: “We are honoured to receive Prime Minister Abe at UCL today and to be the co-host of this important conference. We have very strong ties with Japan – historically and right up to the present day – and recognise the importance of making these stronger, not just at UCL but across the UK higher education sector.

“This meeting of University Presidents is unprecedented and it is clear that there is strong commitment to increase the education and research collaboration between the UK and Japan”. 

We are honoured to receive Prime Minister Abe at UCL today and to be the co-host of this important conference.

Professor Michael Arthur (UCL President & Provost)

UCL was chosen as the co-host for the conference because of the university’s close connection with Japanese history and the strength of its current collaborations with Japanese institutions.

Five young Japanese noblemen known as the ‘Choshu Five’, members of the Choshu clan in what is now Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan, secretly left the country in 1865 to study at UCL.

After returning to Japan, they all contributed in their various ways to the modernisation of their country. The five men included Hirobumi Ito, who became Japan’s first Prime Minister and is otherwise known as ‘the Father of the Japanese Constitution’ and ‘the Father of parliamentary government in Japan’. The other men were Kaoru Inoue, who became Japan’s first Foreign Minister and has been called ‘the Father of modern Japanese diplomacy’, Yozo Yamao (‘the Father of Japanese engineering’), Masaru Inoue (‘the Father of Japanese railways’) and Kinsuke Endo (‘the Father of the modern Japanese mint’).

In addition, in 1865 a group of 14 students from the Satsuma clan including Tomoatsu Godai and Arinori Mori arrived at UCL. The Satsuma group also had significant influence on the modernisation of Japan.

The long lasting relationship between UCL and Japan is symbolised by the Japan Monument that stands in the garden next to the South Cloisters at UCL. The nineteen names of Choshu 5 and the Satsuma 14 students that travelled to UCL are inscribed on the granite monument and accompanied by a Japanese waka (poem).

During his visit, Mr Abe visited the monument and was shown highlights from UCL Art Museum’s collection of Japanese prints.

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  • Prime Minister Abe and Professor Michael Arthur by the Japan Monument