London’s Japan Society acts as bridge of Japan-U.K. friendship



The Japan Society, a private organization that serves as a bridge of friendship between Japan and the United Kingdom, will greet the 125th anniversary of its foundation in 2016. This Hakumon Herald reporter visited the office of the society located near London’s Baker Street underground station during his short stay in the country in the summer and interviewed Ms. Alice Caffyn who works there about what her society does and how Japanese culture is accepted in the U.K.

ロンドン中心部、ベーカーストリート駅のほど近くに事務所を構える、民間団体“THE JAPAN SOCIETY”。白門ヘラルドは、来年で設立125周年を迎え、日英友好の懸け橋として活動を続けるこの団体の職員のアリスさんにその活動、日本文化の英国での地位について話を伺った。


-When was your society established?



Caffyn: It was established in 1891 for the purpose of promoting friendship between the two countries and deepening their mutual understanding.



-What kind of activity do you carry out?



Caffyn: We do an extensive activity including, for example, business, educational and academic programs. In our educational programs, for example, volunteers who can speak Japanese visit British schools and give workshops on Japanese culture and tradition. They teach the language and origami (the art of paper folding) among other things. We also provide Japanese and British students with a place to communicate and interact with each other.



-Can you give us some more specific examples?



Caffyn: We produce our homepage "Japan UK Live", offering a message board where students can write their opinions. We translate them into each other’s languages to promote their interchanges.

Japan UK Liveというホームページを作成し、メッセージボードのような場所に互いの意見を書いてもらい、それを私たちが互いの言語に翻訳することで交流を促進しています。


Preserving Culture

-What else do you do?



Caffyn: Through our “Small Grants” program, we offer financial assistance to organizations which hold small events to deepen the British people’s understanding of Japanese culture and the language. We provide up to 1,000 pounds (approximately 180,000 yen) per event. We also support large-scale events in cooperation with other organizations including the Japanese Embassy in London. We preserve books about Japan and lend them.



-What kind of books do you have?



Caffyn: They are mostly books about Japan written in English. We also have many Japanese dictionaries. Basically they have been donated to us. We manage them carefully because some of them are old and have a great value. We also keep the annual reports of our society, including the first issue written in 1892.



-How is the Japanese culture positioned in the U.K?



Caffyn: It is very popular. Shops dealing in Japanese foods have explosively increased in number particularly in the past several years. I think British people have begun to understand Japanese foods which they hadn’t had before such as ramen and udon. This trend has been given a push by "HYPER JAPAN", a big event held twice a year in London, which is similar to "JAPAN EXPO" that takes place in Paris.

 とても人気があります。特にここ数年で日本食の店は爆発的に増加しました。ラーメン、うどん、などこれまで英国人が食べたことのない料理が理解されはじめていると思います。毎年2回、グリニッジなどで行われている、”HYPER JAPAN” というパリの”JAPAN EXPO”に似た大規模なイベントもこの潮流を後押ししています。


-What has motivated you to take up this job at the Society?



Caffyn: I was looking for a job that would enable me to get associated with Japan and contribute to Japan-U.K friendship while keeping myself in London. So I began to work here upon graduation from my university. This job was what I had wanted. I can experience various types of work. I sometimes find it hard, but I feel it’s really worth doing.



  -Thank you very much.






(Interviewed by: Takaaki Araki)


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