2018 BBA Winner Profile: UK–Japan Partnership – Japan House London

Nov. 29, 2018


A mere five months into operations, Japan House London has scooped a 2018 British Business Award in the category of UK–Japan Partnership at the BCCJ’s gala ceremony on November 2.

The new cultural home of Japan in London was commended for its efforts to build lasting partnerships between Japan and the UK. Since opening on Kensington High Street on June 22, it has successfully attracted 34 member organisations—including 32 from Japan’s corporate sector—and exceeded visitor targets set for its first year.

London is one of only three locations worldwide for the Japanese government-led initiative, which aims to increase awareness of Japan’s creativity and innovation while offering visitors authentic and surprising encounters with Japan.

To date, members and visitors alike have been impressed with Japan House London’s exhibitions, gallery, library, shop and restaurant.

Speaking of the win, Carolyn Burnett, the organisation’s director of corporate development, said Japan House London is “delighted and honoured to accept such an incredibly prestigious award from such an influential and recognised organisation as the BCCJ.” 

“We feel that we won it on behalf of our members, because it’s their investment in us and their support for us that has enabled Japan House London to receive this award,” she added.


Fostering ties

Japan House London offers a nimble and customised approach to membership. It can provide exclusive invitations and access to exhibitions, venue hire and entertaining space, as well as resources and brand alliance, all according to member needs. 

“It’s about building a relationship with each and every member,” explained MaryAnn Broughton, partnerships manager. “It is important to us to understand their priorities and desired level of engagement.”

Now that a strong foundation of Japanese members has been established, work is underway to attract more British organisations to the fold, to foster Japan House London as a platform that helps develop new partnerships between Japan and the UK.

“We aim to provide a place for strengthening business, educational, social and cultural relations between the UK and Japan at a time when business and economic links between the two countries are becoming increasingly important,” said Burnett of Japan House London’s long-term goal.


Opening minds

Japan House London is working hard to draw visitors, too. The theory is that if they have a positive experience at the facility, they may decide to travel to Japan or pursue Japan-related study or work, which would also foster bilateral ties.

So far, visitor numbers have exceeded expectations, with first-year targets met within months of opening. What’s more, Japan House London is attracting not only those living in the UK but also those from overseas, on holiday or business trips. The audience ranges from those who are Japanese or understand Japan deeply to those who have very little knowledge about Japan other than what they have perhaps seen in film.

“The feedback that we are receiving from visitors is demonstrating there is a tremendous interest in and appetite for Japan,” said Burnett.

Touring and local exhibitions held so far have included some of the lesser known aspects of Japan, to introduce people to more of what the country has to offer, particularly in relation to innovation and creativity. By doing so, it is hoped the audience can see beyond stereotypes of Japan.

“It’s a challenge for us to show something that is authentic and appealing across the spectrum of our audience group, but visitor feedback indicates we have been achieving this so far,” said Burnett.

Broughton added that Japan House London offers infinite possibilities for everyone—from beginner to seasoned Japan visitor—to learn about the country as well as its many unique regions. 



Looking forward

As Japan House London is still relatively new to the UK’s cultural scene, the pair is hopeful that receiving the UK–Japan Partnership trophy will raise awareness of the organisation and attract new members.

Long-term, the team is set to explore partnerships, audiences and collaborations with other institutions based on research carried out on operations this year. Another area of consideration is how the organisation might engage with audiences across the UK, either by bringing Japan House London to them or encouraging more people to visit.  

In the lead up to the Rugby World Cup 2019 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Japan House London is planning a series of related events, as well as participation in the UK–Japan Season of Culture.

Running concurrently to the global sporting events, the Season will showcase the best of UK and Japanese creativity by bringing together artists, technology experts, researchers and business leaders from both countries. Activities in Japan will be led by the British Council, while activities in the UK will be led by the Japanese government.

Japan House London is looking forward to leveraging this special time for UK–Japan relations, to create further opportunities for new partnerships. 

Produced by Sterling Content for the BCCJ