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Paul Madden

British Ambassador to Japan

2nd August 2019 Tokyo, Japan

Japan in Northern Ireland

Many Japanese don’t know much about Northern Ireland, although the recent media reporting on the “Irish backstop” issue has made them more aware that the island of Ireland is divided into Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland.

Japan will shortly be welcoming teams from all the constituent elements of the United Kingdom for the Rugby World Cup which begins in September. Our Embassy will be very busy with four teams and tens of thousands of visiting fans to support. The Ireland team is an “all of Ireland” team, so we are working closely with our friends from the Irish Embassy.

There is a long history of Japanese business investment in Northern Ireland. So I took the opportunity of a summer visit back home, to spend a couple of days in Belfast. It’s only 80 minutes flight from London: similar to the short hops that Japanese make around their four main islands. I met with a range of Japanese companies there,from sectors including: medical equipment; ICT; automotive components; aluminium castings and block chain. They were very complimentary about NI as a location, with high quality staff and a cost-base significantly cheaper than most other parts of the UK.

I had a good briefing from Invest Northern Ireland, the investment promotion agency, which has recently set up a new, strengthened office in Tokyo, based at our Embassy. I also met political and economic experts from the Northern Ireland administration to add background context.

A big part of Northern Ireland’s competitiveness rests on its high quality education system. Its primary schools are ranked sixth in the world for maths. I visited both  the long-established Queen’s University, and the more modern University of Ulster, and learned about their links with Japan. Queen’s has joint research projects with a number of Japanese institutions: there were 365 co-authored papers in the last five years. One interesting collaboration is in the field of Peace Studies, with Hiroshima University. Conflict resolution is a particular strength of the University, drawing on the huge progress made in inter-community relations since the Good Friday Agreement over 20 years ago. I also met representativeas of some Further Education Colleges, who also had links with counterparts in Japan, in places like Toyama and Kagoshima.

Tourism from Japan to Northern Ireland is small but growing. Just after I left Belfast, it hosted the British Open, which will certainly have helped get it onto the radar screen among Japanese golf aficionados. Fans of the “Game of Thrones” TV series, which was filmed there, will also recognise some of the scenic backdrops. I was taken to look at one of the Province’s most famous tourist sites – the Giant’s Causeway – for an informative briefing from the National Trust team who run it. I remember studying its unique landscape of hexagonal basalt pillars, formed through volcanic processes, as part of my geography degree. But, visiting for the first time, I also enjoyed hearing the atlternative explanations of its origin, at the hands of the legendary giant Finn MacCool. Japan is a country with many myths and legends too, so I’m sure Japanese visitors appreciate this.

As Ambassador, I represent all parts of the UK in Japan, so it was very good to have an opportunity to get to know Northern Ireland, and its many strengths, a little better. I look forward to encouraging more Japanese to go there.

7 comments on “Japan in Northern Ireland

  1. Hello Suzuki san

    My name is John McGurk, I’m an engineer from Derry and I previously took part in the Vulcanus in Japan programme organised by the EU-Japan center for industrial cooperation:


    I would love for this programme to be further promoted within NI and Ireland in general.

    As for this stage of my career, I would be very interested in developing business links between NI and Japan. Are you aware of any existing bodies that already do this? And will any bodies be emerging to handle the unique post-brexit status of NI as a UK / EU (de facto) hub?

    Kind regards,


    1. Hi John,

      Many thanks for your comments, happy to discuss, I’ve dropped you a line.

      Mark Graham
      Invest NI
      British Embassy Tokyo

  2. I am from Northern Ireland. I studied Japanese in University of Ulster Coleraine. I lived and studied in Okinawa,Japan for 1 year. Japan is a beautiful country with amazing culture and wonderful people – no different to us. It would be fantastic to do more to link up both countries as we both have so much to offer each other X

    1. Hi Majella-san,

      This is Kaori Suzuki from Invest Northern Ireland Japan Office. Thank you for your message and your interest promoting NI in Japan.

      You may be interested in joining “Northern Irish Connection” for any upcoming activities and news both in NI and overseas. https://www.niconnections.com/event-toolkit#sign-up

      Our work (INI Japan) is primarily on business promotion in NI and Japan, so please contact us if you have any business enquiries!

  3. Hi Paul, look out for HNK coverage of the All-Island nature of the Ireland rugby team following their visit to Ireland in April. Enjoy the Rugby World Cup

  4. I’m so glad to ready this article. I studied in Ulster University in a Coleraine campus until last December for a year and a half. I talked to my friends about my experience in Northern Ireland, but not many of them recognize about there. Friends say “Is it UK” or “Is it Ireland”? Well, it’s technically in the UK, but I always emphasize “Northern” Ireland, as I know some of locals don’t like to refer the country as UK.

    Nobody knows what’s gonna happen in the UK as well as Northern Ireland over the Brexit, but it’s worth learning and knowing about there with its long history, culture, and people.

    I’m Japanese, but I do love Northern Ireland. If embassy has some events, seminar or whatever about Northern Ireland, I’d be really interested in them.
    I’d appreciate if you know any community of Northern Ireland in Japan and could let me know about it.

    Yours sincerely,

    1. Hi Haruka-san,

      This is Kaori Suzuki from Invest Northern Ireland Japan Office. Thank you for your warm message and your interest in NI. I’ve just sent you a separate email, so please let me know if you have any questions!

Comments are closed.

About Paul Madden

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017. He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia…

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017.

He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia until February 2015. Prior to this he was British High Commissioner in Singapore from 2007-2011.

A career diplomat, he was previously Managing Director at UK Trade and Investment (2004-2006), responsible for co-ordinating and
implementing international trade development strategies to support
companies across a wide range of business sectors.

As Assistant Director of Information at the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (2003-2004) he was responsible for public diplomacy policy,
including managing the FCO funding of the BBC World Service, the British
Council and the Chevening Scholarships programme. He led the team
responsible for the award-winning UK pavilion at the Aichi Expo in Japan

He was Deputy High Commissioner in Singapore from 2000-2003 and has
also served in Washington (1996-2000) and Tokyo (1988-92). Between
1992-96 he worked on EU enlargement and Environmental issues at the FCO
in London.

Before joining FCO he worked at the Department of Trade and Industry
(1980-87) on a range of industrial sectors and trade policy, including
two years as a minister’s Private Secretary.

He has an MA in Economic Geography from Cambridge University, an MBA
from Durham University, studied Japanese at London University’s School
of Oriental and African Studies, and is a Fellow of the Royal
Geographical Society. His first book, Raffles: Lessons in Business
Leadership, was published in 2003.

Married to Sarah, with three children, he was born in 1959, in Devon.