"I am glad to think that we have got away from the era when, so story has it, whenever a paper about Japan was submitted to one of your predecessors he used simply to write on it 'I do not like the Japanese.' I confess, however, that I still have the impression that Ministers as a whole tend only to focus on Japan when a problem arises with it."

Sir Hugh Cortazzi wrote these words near the beginning of his final dispatch to London as the British ambassador to Japan, as a forthright "parting shot." It was Feb. 8, 1984, and Sir Hugh was 60 years old. In the 34 years since then, the lingering ill feeling toward Japan in Britain has virtually vanished. I am happy to say that there are signs in both countries of the desire to return to a close alliance.

Sir Hugh was one of those who laid the foundations for this goodwill. He was ambassador during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher. During his tenure, he played a part in the establishment of a first Nissan automotive factory in Britain but was also vexed by Tokyo's failure to express clear support for London in the Falklands War.