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

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Paul Madden

British Ambassador to Japan

22nd February 2021 Tokyo, Japan

Sankyu (thank you) Japan: a farewell twitter campaign

As I prepared to leave Japan at the end of February, on completion of my assignment, I have been reflecting on my four years as Ambassador here, as well as the four years I spent here earlier in my career. I’ve been flicking through my photos.

I decided to do 39 tweets highlighting things I particularly love about Japan. Why 39? The numbers 3 and 9 are pronounced “san kyu” in Japanese, which sounds like “Thank You”.

In the tweets I’m featuring places, like the cultural treasure trove of Kyoto, and aspects of Japan’s extraordinary natural environment – lakes, mountains and the beautiful inland sea. But it’s also an opportunity to focus on other iconic Japanese things, like sushi, sake, kimonos, and izakaya (Japanese pubs). And I like to reference places with particular British links, like the Treaty Ports where we established our first consulates from the 1850s, and the Choshu and Satsuma students who travelled to study in the UK then returned to play key roles in the modernisation of Meiji Japan.

My tweets have attracted a much bigger reaction than I expected. My pinned tweet explaining the exercise gathered 67,000 likes and 800 direct replies. I’m maintaining a tally of which of the 39 gets the most likes – Castles is winning so far.

Japanese people seem to really like the fact that British diplomats make the effort to learn their language, travel their country widely, and try to understand their culture and history. Above all they seem delighted to know that a foreigner can come to love their country – which isn’t really hard to do. They readily offer tips on other places to visit, on their favourite foods and festivals, and on things they’ve enjoyed about the UK. The tweets also seem to have struck a chord in reflecting back to Japanese the many wonderful places in their country that have been hard for them to visit during the last year of COVID.

The exercise has attracted attention in the mainstream media too: it’s been covered in newspapers and featured by four TV networks. Way beyond what I expected when I began what I thought was a simple farewell. It’s a reminder that digital media can really help an ambassador communicate with ordinary people. And it’s been a great way to say “san kyu”

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.