Several years ago, Foreign Minister Yohei Kono and former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind came up with an idea. Why not try, they asked, to think of ways for Japan and the U.K. to promote each other's image in a better light?

In 1998, the idea was partly realized through a multifaceted tribute by Japan to British life and culture.

And, beginning in May, Britain will reciprocate the gesture on an even grander scale with a festival celebrating Japan titled "Japan 2001." The initiative will run through March 2002 and will involve the staging of 1,000 different events throughout the country.