When my friend Kenji first came to England in 1972 he was given just one pound in exchange for a 1,000 yen note. This year he exchanged 1,000 yen for £8. This eight-fold increase in the value of the yen is partly a reflection of the rise of Japan’s economy and partly due to the relative decline of ours. In 1972, Japan was just beginning to export its odd little cars to the UK. How we scoffed. Who would dream of buying a Japanese car with a funny name when you could buy something British called the Humber Super Snipe? But soon after this my mother fell for the sporty Toyota Celica and now my family own four Japanese cars and every camera and TV in our house is Japanese.
I’ll never forget the sense of awe which I felt when I first visited Hong Kong and saw its soaring skyscrapers. Arriving in Tokyo today revives that feeling. It’s not just the buildings – everything is modern and up to date – light years ahead of our own capital city. I feel privileged to be able to share in that wealth when I visit Japan. I’m full of admiration for what they’ve achieved, but I can’t help feeling that when you add together all the Japanese stuff we’ve bought over the years, I’ve paid for quite a bit of it.