A ceremony was conducted on 31 August at a site next to the British Embassy Tokyo as the UK and Japan concluded a contract to exchange the ownership rights of the leased land owned by Japan for the British Embassy premises.
Mr Ichiro Miyashita, the State Minister for Finance, and Ms Julia Longbottom, the British Chargé d’Affaires, exchanged official contract documents at the site and both gave short remarks.
State Minister Miyashita said:
The land for the premises of the British Embassy Tokyo was first leased by the Japanese Government to the British Government when then Foreign Minister Soejima granted deeds to the land to the British Legation in 1872. In a prime location near the Imperial Palace, the British Embassy has been located on this state-owned land for more than 140 years, going back as far as the Meiji Era. The site takes on even more historical significance when considering that throughout this time it has been contributing to the strengthening of friendship between Japan and the UK.
After its return to the Japanese Government, the Ministry of Environment plans to maintain the beauty and tranquility of the area by turning the land into a public park, extending the parkland along the west side of the Imperial Palace. It is my hope that today’s conclusion of the contract to exchange the ownership rights of the leased land and its subsequent transformation into a public park will become a symbol of continued exchange and friendship between Japan and the UK.
Chargé d’Affaires Longbottom said:
I am delighted to see the best result for both the UK and Japan as we conclude the contract to exchange ownership rights of the leased land. When we learned that the land would be transformed into a public park, we asked HRH The Duke of Cambridge if he would be willing to mark the occasion during his visit to Japan in February this year. The area is already known for its particular beauty during the cherry blossom season, with one tree dating as far back as some 80 years, so we were delighted that The Duke agreed to plant a rare taihaku cherry tree and hope that as many people as possible will now be able to enjoy this new addition to the area.
As well as planting a cherry tree in this historic location, The Duke was also in Japan to look to the future. He launched our year-long “Innovation is GREAT” campaign, aiming at further strengthening partnerships between the UK and Japan. It is symbolic that we’ve been able to conclude today’s exchange in the year that we are promoting new UK-Japan partnerships across a diverse range of areas. I hope that many people will be able to visit and soon enjoy the public park and that they will pause to reflect on not only the area’s natural beauty, but also its historical significance and symbolism for the future of UK-Japan friendship, strengthening from generation to generation.
Closing the ceremony, State Minister Miyashita and Chargé d’Affaires Longbottom posed for a photo with a taihaku cherry tree planted by HRH The Duke of Cambridge during his first visit to Japan in February 2015. Ms Toshiko Takeya, the Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Finance, joined the photo session.
The cherry tree will be re-planted when the returned land is transformed into a public park, extending the existing national park area that forms the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace.