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Tuesday, March 19, 2002


British Council moves house to promote modern-day U.K.

Staff writer

KYOTO -- In an attempt to reach a wider variety of people and introduce modern Britain, The British Council opened its new Kyoto office in the heart of the Karasuma business district last week.

News photo
A Kyoto office worker checks out a computer at the British Council's new Kyoto office.

Previously, the Kyoto office had been located in Sakyo Ward, a residential district that is home to thousands of college students but far away from the center of the city.

"We hope that the move will attract people in this area, especially the surrounding office workers and others," said Alan Hart, manager of The British Council Kyoto.

"Two years ago, we conducted a survey of Japanese on how they felt about Britain. We discovered that, while they had a great deal of respect for the traditions of Britain they did not feel any excitement about contemporary Britain." said Terry Toney, director of the British Council Japan.

"Thus, one of our missions is to bring Japanese a knowledge of modern British culture and society."

The new center was designed by Ben Warner, a Kyoto-based British architect, and is very contemporary in design. No stuffed leather chairs or walnut paneling in sight.

Instead, furnishings include chairs by two modern British designers, Ron Arad and Tom Vac. The walls are done in aqua, lending a feeling more of Scandinavia than Soho, but very bright.

Nor is the Britain that the new Kyoto center wishes to emphasize the one of tea parties, bowler hats and gardening. The emphasis is on the cultural diversity of Britain, the design trends often referred to as "Cool Britannia," and in such non-cultural areas as science and technology.

"Kyoto is well-known as a cultural center. But it also has a strong reputation of science and industry, and we want to show Kyoto that Britain is a country of great creativity in these fields as well," said Neil Hook, consul general of Osaka.

The new Kyoto center will focus on three specific areas. The first will be on the general creativity of Britain in areas from shoes to cuisine.

While some might snicker that British cuisine remains an oxymoron, or consists of little more than meat pies and fish and chips, the Kyoto center aims to introduce Japanese to information on the culinary achievements of world-renowned British chefs, like Jamie Oliver, whose book "The Naked Chef," was an international best seller.

The second area is English language education. Many young Japanese have a strong interest in this area, especially those looking to study or work in the U.K. And the third area is to help Japanese attain necessary qualifications for their careers.

"This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Anglo-Japan Treaty, and there has been a British Council office in Kyoto for nearly 50 years. The new Kyoto office reflects both changing Britain and the continuity of British-Japan relations," Hook said.

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