"One of the benefits of retirement is that you still have the energy to go to another career. When I came out of diplomatic service, I decided I wanted to do two things: charitable work and art. I am lucky to be able to do both. Now as chairman of Asia House, here I am again," said Sir Peter Wakefield.

His most recent visit to Tokyo was unusually rushed, and called upon deep reserves of energy. He has lived here twice, for three years in the 1960s at the British Embassy and three more in the '70s. In his career, though, originally his sphere was the Middle East rather than East Asia.

Wakefield was of the age to enter the army after his graduation from Oxford University. After the end of the war he entered military government service in Eritrea.