Japan–United Kingdom relations

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Japanese - British relations
Map indicating locations of Japan and United Kingdom


United Kingdom
Ambassador Keiichi Hayashi Ambassador Paul Madden

Japan–United Kingdom relations (日英関係, Nichieikankei) is a bilateral and diplomatic relation between Japan and the United Kingdom.


The history of the relationship between Japan and Britain began in 1600 with the arrival of William Adams (Adams the Pilot, Miura Anjin) on the shores of Kyushu at Usuki in Ōita Prefecture. During the Sakoku period (1641–1853), there were no relations between the two countries, but the treaty of 1854 saw the resumption of ties which, despite a hiatus during the Second World War, remain very strong up until the present day. On 3 May 2011, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Japan is "one of our closest partners in Asia".

British people had often held the view that Japan was like "the Britain of the East", due to certain cultural similarities such as the constitutional monarchy, being an island nation, driving on the left, sense of humour and a perceived emphasis on being polite whilst coming across to others as reserved.

Chronology of Japanese - British relations[edit]

  • 1587. Two young Japanese men named Christopher and Cosmas sailed on a Spanish galleon to California, where their ship was seized by Thomas Cavendish. Cavendish brought the two Japanese men with him to England where they spent approximately three years before going again with him on his last expedition to the South Atlantic. They are the first known Japanese men to have set foot in the British Isles.
William Adams (1564–1620)
  • 1600. William Adams, a seaman from Gillingham, Kent, was the first English adventurer to arrive in Japan. Acting as an advisor to the Tokugawa Shogun, he was renamed Miura Anjin, granted a house and land, and spent the rest of his life in his adopted country.
  • 1605. John Davis, the famous English explorer, was killed by Japanese pirates off the coast of Thailand, thus becoming the first known Englishman to be killed by a Japanese.[1]
The 1613 letter of King James I remitted to Tokugawa Ieyasu (Preserved in the Tokyo University archives)
  • 1613. Following an invitation from William Adams in Japan, the English captain John Saris arrived at Hirado Island in the ship Clove with the intent of establishing a trading factory. Adams and Saris travelled to Shizuoka where they met with Tokugawa Ieyasu at his principal residence in September before moving on to Edo where they met Ieyasu's son Hidetada. During that meeting, Hidetada gave Saris two varnished suits of armour for King James I, today housed in the Tower of London.[2] On their way back, they visited Tokugawa once more, who conferred trading privileges on the English through a Red Seal permit giving them "free licence to abide, buy, sell and barter" in Japan.[3] The English party headed back to Hirado Island on 9 October 1613. However, during the ten year activity of the company between 1613 and 1623, apart from the first ship (Clove in 1613), only three other English ships brought cargoes directly from London to Japan.
  • 1623. The Amboyna massacre occurred. After the incident England closed its commercial base at Hirado Island, now in Nagasaki Prefecture, without notifying Japan. After this, the relationship ended for more than two centuries.
  • 1639. Tokugawa Iemitsu announced his Sakoku policy. Only the Netherlands was permitted to retain limited trade rights.
  • 1673. An English ship named "Returner" visited Nagasaki harbour, and asked for a renewal of trading relations. But the Edo Shogunate refused. The government blamed it on the withdrawal 50 years earlier, and found it unacceptable that Charles II of England married Catherine of Braganza, who was from Portugal, and favoured the Roman Catholic Church.
  • 1808. The Nagasaki Harbour Incident: HMS Phaeton enters Nagasaki to attack Dutch shipping.
  • 1832. Otokichi, Kyukichi and Iwakichi, castaways from Aichi Prefecture, crossed the Pacific and were shipwrecked on the west coast of North America. The three Japanese men became famous in the Pacific Northwest and probably inspired Ranald MacDonald to go to Japan. They joined a trading ship to the UK, and later Macau. One of them, Otokichi, took British citizenship and adopted the name John Matthew Ottoson. He later made two visits to Japan as an interpreter for the Royal Navy.
  • 1854. 14 October. The first limited Anglo-Japanese Friendship Treaty was signed by Admiral Sir James Stirling and representatives of the Tokugawa shogunate (Bakufu).
  • 1855. In an effort to find the Russian fleet in the Pacific Ocean during the Crimean war, a French-British naval force reached the port of Hakodate, which was open to British ships as a result of the Friendship Treaty of 1854, and sailed further North, seizing the Russian-American Company's possessions on the island of Urup in the Kuril archipelago. The Treaty of Paris (1856) restitutes the island to Russia.[4]
  • 1858. 26 August. The Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed by the Scot Lord Elgin and representatives of the Tokugawa shogunate for Japan, after the Harris Treaty was concluded. Britain obtained extraterritorial rights on Japanese with British Supreme Court for China and Japan, in Shanghai. A British iron paddle schooner named Enpiroru was presented to the Tokugawa administration by Bruce as a present for the "Emperor" from Queen Victoria.
  • 1861. 5 July. The British legation in Edo was attacked.
Photo at Knightsbridge by W. S. Gilbert, c. 1885
Guide to the Japan–British Exhibition of 1910.
Second Japan-UK Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting on 8 January 2016 in Tokyo.

See also the chronology on the website of British Embassy, Tokyo.[22]

Britons in Japan[edit]

Embassy of the United Kingdom in Tokyo

The chronological list of Heads of the United Kingdom Mission in Japan.

Japanese in the United Kingdom[edit]

Embassy of Japan in London

(see article Japanese in the United Kingdom).

The family name is given in italics. Usually the family name comes first, but in modern times not so for the likes of Kazuo Ishiguro and Katsuhiko Oku, both well known in the United Kingdom.


In Japan:

In the UK:

List of Japanese diplomatic envoys in the United Kingdom (partial list)[edit]

Ministers Plenipotentiaries[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stephen Turnbull, "Fighting ships of the Far East (2), p 12, Osprey Publishing
  2. ^ Notice at the Tower of London
  3. ^ The Red Seal permit was re-discovered in 1985 by Professor Hayashi Nozomu, in the Bodleian Library. Massarella, Derek; Tytler Izumi K. (1990) "The Japonian Charters" Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 45, No. 2, pp 189–205.
  4. ^ Thierry Mormanne : "La prise de possession de l'île d'Urup par la flotte anglo-française en 1855", Revue Cipango, "Cahiers d'études japonaises", No 11 hiver 2004 pp. 209-236.
  5. ^ Information about 1885–87 Japanese exhibition at Knightsbridge
  6. ^ Gowen, Robert (1971). "Great Britain and the Twenty-One Demands of 1915: Cooperation versus Effacement". The Journal of Modern History. University of Chicago. 43 (1): 76–106. ISSN 0022-2801. 
  7. ^ Gordon Lauren, Paul (1978). "Human Rights in History: Diplomacy and Racial Equality at the Paris Peace Conference". Diplomatic History. 2 (3): 257–278. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7709.1978.tb00435.x. 
  8. ^ H. P. Willmott (2009). The Last Century of Sea Power: From Port Arthur to Chanak, 1894-1922. Indiana U.P. p. 496. 
  9. ^ Xiao Yiping, Guo Dehong, 中国抗日战争全史Chapter 87: Japan 's Colonial Economic Plunder and Colonial Culture, 1993.
  10. ^ Protocole entre le Gouvernement du Japon et le Gouvernement de la République française, 1957. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan.
  11. ^ a b "Ceremonies: State visits". Official web site of the British Monarchy. Archived from the original on 6 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  12. ^ "OUTWARD STATE VISITS MADE BY THE QUEEN SINCE 1952". Official web site of the British Monarchy. Archived from the original on 21 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  13. ^ http://linguanews.com/php_en_news_read.php?section=s2&idx=2321
  14. ^ The British-Japanese Parliamentary Group, About us, official site.
  15. ^ Penguin Pocket On This Day. Penguin Reference Library. 2006. ISBN 0-14-102715-0. 
  16. ^ "UK: Akihito closes state visit". BBC News. 1998-05-29. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  17. ^ http://www.ukjapan2008.jp/
  18. ^ "Emperor's thoughts ahead of visit to the United Kingdom". The Mainichi. 2012-05-12. Archived from the original on 18 June 2012. 
  19. ^ "(Nearly) meeting the Emperor". Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation. 2012-05-18. 
  20. ^ "HRH The Duke of Cambridge to visit Japan and China - Focus on cultural exchange and creative partnerships". http://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/. Retrieved 2 March 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  21. ^ Parker, George (4 September 2016). "Japan calls for ‘soft’ Brexit — or companies could leave UK". Financial Times. Retrieved 5 September 2016. 
  22. ^ http://www.uknow.or.jp/be_e/uk_japan/relations/

Further reading[edit]

  • The History of Anglo-Japanese Relations, 1600-2000
    • I. Nish, and Y. Kibata, eds. The History of Anglo-Japanese Relations, Vol. I: The Political-Diplomatic Dimension, 1600-1930 (2000)
    • I. Nish, and Y. Kibata, eds. The History of Anglo-Japanese Relations, Vol. II: The Political-Diplomatic Dimension, 1931-2000 (2000)
    • I. Gow and Y. Hirama, eds. The History of Anglo-Japanese Relations, 1600-2000: Volume III, The Military Dimension, 1800-2000 (2003).
    • J. Hunter and S. Sugiyama, The History of Anglo-Japanese Relations, 1600-2000: Volume IV: Economic and Business Relations (2002)
    • G. Daniels and C. Tsuzuki, eds. The History of Anglo-Japanese Relations 1600–2000: Volume V: Social and Cultural Perspectives (2014).
  • Akagi, Roy Hidemichi. Japan's Foreign Relations 1542-1936: A Short History (1979) online 560pp
  • Auslin, Michael R. Negotiating with Imperialism: The Unequal Treaties and the Culture of Japanese Diplomacy (Harvard UP, 2009).
  • Beasley, W.G. Great Britain and the Opening of Japan, 1834-1858 (1951) online
  • Beasley, W. G. Japan Encounters the Barbarian: Japanese Travelers in America and Europe (Yale UP, 1995).
  • Best, Antony. Britain, Japan and Pearl Harbour: Avoiding War in East Asia, 1936-1941 (1995) excerpt and text search
  • Buckley, R. Occupation Diplomacy: Britain, the United States and Japan 1945-1952 (1982)
  • Checkland, Olive. Japan and Britain after 1859: Creating Cultural Bridges (2004) excerpt and text search; online
  • Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits edited by Hugh Cortazzi Global Oriental 2004, 8 vol (1996 to 2013)
  • British Envoys in Japan 1859–1972, edited and compiled by Hugh Cortazzi, Global Oriental 2004, ISBN 1-901903-51-6
  • Denney, John. Respect and Consideration: Britain in Japan 1853 - 1868 and beyond. Radiance Press (2011). ISBN 978-0-9568798-0-6
  • Dobson, Hugo and Hook, Glenn D. Japan and in the Contemporary World (Sheffield Centre for Japanese Studies/Routledge Series) (2012) excerpt and text search; online
  • McKay, Alexander. Scottish Samurai: Thomas Blake Glover, 1838-1911 (Canongate Books, 2012).
  • Marder, Arthur J. Old Friends, New Enemies: The Royal Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy, vol. 1: Strategic illusions, 1936-1941(1981); Old Friends, New Enemies: The Royal Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy, vol. 2: The Pacific War, 1942-1945 (1990)
  • Morley, James William, ed. Japan's foreign policy, 1868-1941: a research guide (Columbia UP, 1974), toward Britain, pp 184-235
  • Nish, I. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance (2nd ed 1985)
  • Nish, Ian. "Britain and Japan: Long-Range Images, 1900-52." Diplomacy & Statecraft (2004) 15#1 pp 149-161.
  • Nish, I., ed. Anglo-Japanese Alienation, 1919-1952 (1982),
  • Nish, Ian Hill. Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits (5 vol 1997-2004).
  • Sterry, Lorraine. Victorian Women Travellers in Meiji Japan (Brill, 2009).
  • Thorne, Christopher G. Allies of a kind: The United States, Britain, and the war against Japan, 1941-1945 (1978) excerpt and text search
  • Thorne, Christopher G. The Limits of Foreign Policy: The West, The League and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1931-1933 (1973)
  • Towle, Phillip and Nobuko Margaret Kosuge. Britain and Japan in the Twentieth Century: One Hundred Years of Trade and Prejudice (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Woodward, Llewellyn. British Foreign Policy in the Second World War (History of the Second World War) (1962) ch 8

External links[edit]