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Capt. Robert Guy

by Vivienne Kenrick

LONDON — The Japan Society, founded in 1891, is the oldest organization in Britain concerned with Anglo-Japanese relationships. It grew out of a meeting a decade earlier of the International Congress of Orientalists. In over 90 events each year, and largely through a cluster of groups that focus on different interests, the society develops understanding in Britain of the culture of Japan. Its pamphlet states, “We interpret the word culture as being ‘how the other person thinks.’ “

The society provides a forum for social and cultural exchange between Japanese living in Britain and their local communities. Its centenary was celebrated impressively throughout this country by the Japan Festival, and its 110th anniversary last year by Japan 2001. A venerable organization, it displays enduring youthfulness and vigor.

This year The Japan Society arranged a dinner in the Lansdowne Club in London to commemorate the hundred years since the signing of the first Anglo-Japanese Alliance. On Jan. 30, 1902, in the Round Room of what was then Lansdowne House, Britain and Japan agreed on an alliance that was to bolster foreign policies through the Russo-Japanese War and World War I. The alliance continued until it was superseded by the Washington Agreement of 1921.

In Japan, a yearlong U.K.-Japan Green Alliance has been launched with its own program to mark the 100th anniversary of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. It intends to plant over 200 British oak trees throughout Japan’s 47 prefectures.

Capt. Robert Guy has been executive director of The Japan Society since January 1998. This year he became also executive director of The Hong Kong Association and the Hong Kong Society. These appointments marked departures from his career in the Royal Navy, and opened up for him new and active connections with East Asia.

Capt. Guy joined the Royal Navy in 1966. Six years later he served as aide-de-camp to the governor of Gibraltar. His duties diversified as he went on to command a minesweeper in the Fishery Protection Squadron. After a further seagoing appointment when he was operations officer of a frigate, he was selected to be equerry to the queen. Thereafter he was executive officer of two ships, the first of which was sunk in the Falklands War, and commander of a third. He held several staff appointments in the Ministry of Defense until he resigned from the Royal Navy at the end of 1997. He was then senior directing staff at the Joint Service Defense College at Greenwich.

With a longtime interest in modern history and current affairs, Capt. Guy enthuses over The Japan Society and its involvements and activities. He underlines the society’s forward thinking, and the way it “constantly seeks ways to ensuring the relevance, scope and variety of its activities, particularly in view of the fast-evolving nature of U.K.-Japan relations. Most activities provide excellent opportunities for meeting and talking to British and Japanese companies and individuals.”

For many years, Capt. Guy represented the navy at polo. He continues to be a countryside enthusiast and sportsman. In his present position, he is proud of an address he found in the archives of the “Transactions and Proceedings of The Japan Society, Vol. 6, 1902-1904.” The address was given to the society by Motosada Zumoto, then editor of The Japan Times and a corresponding member of the society. The lecture, in impeccable English, was delivered on Oct. 14, 1902, and is regarded as “memorable in the annals of The Japan Society.” Capt. Guy is delighted that, 100 years later, The Japan Times and The Japan Society are still firm friends. This newspaper’s chairman and publisher, Toshiaki Ogasawara, is this month attending a dinner in London with the society’s business group.