This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government

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Paul Madden

British Ambassador to Japan

29th September 2020 Tokyo, Japan

Former British Consulate in Yokohama

The former British Consulate in Yokohama is a handsome stone building, reconstructed after the Great Tokyo Earthquake of 1923, just like the Embassy in Tokyo. Its location, amidst the downtown shops and offices of Japan’s second largest city, was once the bustling waterfront where East met West. Yokohama was one of several Treaty Ports, where foreigners were allowed to trade, when Japan reopened to the world after 230 years of isolation in 1854. As the nearest entry point to Tokyo, it was to become by far the most important of them.

Nowadays the building houses the Yokohama Archives of History, with an impressive collection of documents relating to the Meiji period when Japan was opening up, rapidly modernising, and beginning its journey towards becoming one of the world’s largest economies. Curator Yoshizaki Masaki invited me to visit the archive to see some of the materials that will be included in an exhibition of UK/Japan relations he is planning for next year. Many Britons played prominent roles here during the Meiji period, as advisers, scholars and business people.

Among them was one of my predecessors, Sir Ernest Satow (1843-1929). Satow was one of the first young British diplomats to arrive in Japan after it opened up. He was to stay for over twenty years, from 1862 to 1883, mastering the language and building strong ties with some of the leaders of the new Japan. His book, A Diplomat in Japan, describes the exciting period when the modernisers, led by the Choshu and Satsuma clans from the far west of Japan, ousted the Tokugawa shogun, and restored the Emperor to his leading role. Satow kept extensive diaries, some of which I have read at the Public Records Office in Kew. Nowadays, many are available in modern publications, thanks to the scholarship of my good friend Ian Ruxton, a professor at the Kyushu Institute of Technology. Satow was to serve in other countries – Thailand, Uruguay, Morocco and eventually China. But it is for Japan he is best known and he was to return as Minister from 1895-1900. In those days our legation in Japan had not yet been upgraded to a full Embassy, but he was effectively the Ambassador.

I have a strong interest in Satow because, after retiring, he spent the last twenty years of his life living in a small East Devon market town, Ottery St Mary – where I grew up – and where he was active in many areas of community life. In his days, as a British diplomat, Satow was not permitted to marry a Japanese – quite a contrast to nowadays, when many of my embassy team have Japanese spouses. But he remained faithful to his Japanese partner Takeda Kane and their three children throughout his life. Some years ago I had the pleasure of welcoming his granddaughter Takeda Fumie to my home town, on her first visit to the UK, and was able to show her the home where Satow had lived, and his grave in the local churchyard.

Looking through some of the original documents and photographs from 150 years ago was a fascinating glimpse of Japan at one of its periods of greatest change. I’m sure Yoshizaki’s exhibition is going to be really interesting.

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.