Shin’ichi Iida (1967-2021)

Last week I got the very sad news that Shin’ichi Iida (飯田慎一) had passed away. I had first got to meet Iida-san when he was based at the Japanese Embassy in London. What always impressed me most about him was how enthusiastic he was about everything. I have also also not come across someone at the Embassy who was so prepared to use honne (his real views).

Shin’ichi Iida, was born in 1967 in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture. He passed the diplomatic service examination in his third year at the Faculty of Law in University of Tokyo. After entering the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), he studied at Amherst College in Massachusetts, USA. After working for the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN in New York from 2003 to 2006, he held positions as Director for Oceania Division, Director of Global Issues Cooperation Division, and Director of Consular Policy Division at MOFA. In July 2016, he was assigned to the Embassy of Japan in the United Kingdom as Minister for Public Diplomacy and Media.

As well as seeing him at a number of events in London, he also came to Cardiff. On one occasion he gave a lecture about the potential impact of Brexit (the lecture happened before Brexit had been completed) and UK-Japan relations at the University. Full details about this event can be found here. The lecture focussed on the long-term and cooperative relationship that Japan has with the UK and what impact Brexit will have on business in light of Japan’s role as the second-largest non-EU investor in Britain. Iida-san also spoke about the core principles that Japan and the UK share, including adherence to the rule of law and respect for human rights, and to the two countries’ commitment to working together to tackle a range of important global issues. Furthermore, he touched upon the importance of cultural and people-to-people exchange between Japan and the UK as a springboard for advancing our relationship for the benefit of future generations.

It was a wonderful, engaging talk which provided the audience – which included staff, students and members of the public, including local companies – with an opportunity to learn about the significance of the UK-Japanese relationship in a range of areas. Such insights are hard to come across in the media.

This photograph (based on an image at: https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/view/777169-japanese-minister-visits-school-for-post-brexit-lecture) is sadly probably one of the few pictures of me with Iida-san

For more information about Iida-san, see this interview with him that was done by the Japanese Embassy back in 2016.

I still cannot believe that he is gone and that we won’t have a chance to meet again. I really wish that I could remember many more of the things he said to me over the years. I also wish that I could share some of them here. His loss is a huge one to all of us who knew him, to Japan, and, of course to his family – including his wife, Makiko Kikuta (菊田まきこ) , who was on the final campaign trail for the general election on 31 October when the tragedy struck.

May Iida-san rest in peace.

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