Scholars' experiences

Andrew Jones (2015)

Andrew Jones at a school in Okinawa during his homestay

A couple of years ago, in 2015,  I was lucky enough to undertake a Daiwa Scholarship; a unique 19-month scholarship programme designed to give recipients a solid understanding of Japan’s language, culture and people, intrinsically tied to their own particular area of academic and/or professional expertise. As part of the programme,  Daiwa Scholars commit to an intense year-long language immersion at one of Tokyo’s premier Japanese-language institutes, a month-long homestay with a Japanese family and a 6-month work placement with a Japan-based institution of their choosing. The experience was an incredible and life-changing one which, suffice to say, it is hard to do proper justice to in a few short paragraphs. That being said, I hope that the thoughts below might prove useful to those individuals currently considering applying.

My experience at King’s College London was one of the main factors in my application for a Daiwa Scholarship. Prior to King’s, my academic background had been primarily China-oriented (I graduated with an MA in Chinese from Edinburgh); however, the MA in Geopolitics, Territory and Security gave me a much greater appreciation of the complex regional and global factors shaping modern East Asian security. After focusing on Sino-Japanese territorial issues for much of my MA, a desire to understand better the many and varied factors contributing to these issues from the Japanese perspective ultimately led to my application to Daiwa.

With not inconsiderable effort (and at times a considerable quantities of the best sake my local 7-11 had to offer), over the course of the Daiwa Scholarship I developed a strong grounding in the Japanese language. Such a grounding, coupled with the many friendships and professional contacts I developed during my time in Japan opened up a whole new world to me that would have otherwise have been inaccessible from the relative comfort of London. As well as having a truly brilliant (and, it strikes me now, scandalously privileged) time in Japan, amongst the all-you-can-drink karaokes, cherry blossom viewings and sojourns into the Japanese countryside, I managed to develop a solid, if imperfect, understanding of “Japan”; both its past (and indeed ever-present) traditions and its attitudes to the future. Such an understanding will long stay with me and, it is my hope, help me to engage more effectively with the country and its politics in my professional career.

Though immensely enjoyable, the Scholarship is no walk in the park. Aside from the rigours of being dropped, a mere babe, into what often felt like a strange and foreign (and at times painfully bureaucratic) land, Daiwa Scholars are expected to commit themselves to rigorous study of the Japanese language before undertaking an internship with a Japan-based organisation which will more often than not stretch ones linguistic and professional capabilities. That being said, it has been my experience that Daiwa Scholars come away from the experience so much the better for being pushed outside of their comfort zones. My fellow Scholars and I all had moments of immense frustration where it felt as if we were banging our heads against a brick wall – be that linguistically, socially or professionally – but ultimately it is such moments in which the most invaluable and enduring experience lies.

Though there are too many great memories to mention, my month spent living with the Yoshida family in Okinawa is one that will stay with me forever and one which I think sums up the Daiwa experience perfectly. Aside from spending a wonderful month sailing around on traditional wooden sailing boats on one of the world’s most beautiful seas, the Yoshida family welcomed me into not just their country but their family, and, through the experience, taught me a huge amount about the Japanese language, people and culture.

It may seem a tad trite, but I can not recommend the Daiwa Scholarship enough. For those students or professionals who have a genuine interest in Japan and wish to contribute in their own way to the mutual understanding and engagement between our two countries the Scholarship offers unique opportunities and experiences not to be found anywhere else. Ganbare and yoroshiku onegai shimasu.

Andrew is currently working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London

James Fisher (2013)

My Daiwa Scholarship was undoubtedly the most formative 19 months of my life so far. It has given me new skills, new friends, countless happy memories and many exciting opportunities for the future.

It was an incredible privilege to be able to devote 12 months to full-time study of Japanese (a language that continues to fascinate and frustrate me in roughly equal measure!). I owe all my Japanese abilities – and my continued determination to improve them – to the dedicated staff of the Naganuma School.

The Scholarship also gave me amazing opportunities for professional development. My work placement at the Tokyo office of leading global law firm Hogan Lovells enabled me to contribute to high-profile legal work for headline Japanese clients such as Nissan, Panasonic and Toyota.

On a personal level, I benefited immensely from the wit, wisdom and support of my fellow Scholars and sempai, who remain valued friends. I also connected with Japanese people of many ages and backgrounds, especially during my unforgettable month-long homestay in Kagoshima prefecture. I stayed with a truly wonderful family who showed me everything the region had to offer. Time away from Tokyo was an ideal chance to contribute to real-world Anglo-Japanese relations. I am unlikely ever to forget a month getting to know a motley crew of traditional potters, karate instructors, paragliding OAPs, and Zen monks-in-training (who incidentally make excellent vegan curry).

Following my Scholarship I took up a position as an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Tokyo. I now teach undergraduate and postgraduate courses on English law and Japanese law. My research focusses on English private law but also includes Japanese constitutional law. I am currently working on the first in-depth comparative analysis of English and Japanese trusts. Thanks to the Daiwa Scholarship, there seems little chance of a future in which I am not closely involved with Japanese affairs both personally and professionally.

James is currently an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Tokyo.

Dr Victoria Tuke (2011)

In my graduation speech to conclude the Daiwa Scholarship in March 2013, I compared my time in Japan to a bento box. Japan has always seemed to me a place able to fit a large amount into a small space; a busy commuter train or the average apartment in Tokyo are two further examples.

My 19 months in Japan were similar; crammed full of exciting and diverse experiences. The scholarship was challenging, rewarding and immensely enjoyable and no doubt a formative part of my life and onward career.

The Japanese language-learning experience was intense but learning with others and with some great teachers, and of course living in dynamic Tokyo gave me the necessary motivation to persevere. I spent a wonderful month in Okinawa consolidating my language and learning about the often stark cultural differences with the mainland. For many years I had been keen to visit Okinawa for its historical and contemporary significance to Japanese security, where my academic study had previously focused.

I simply could not have asked for more from my work placements which followed the homestay. Upon my return to Tokyo, I worked for Akihisa Nagashima MP during a tense national election campaign, which thankfully culminated in cheering a celebratory ‘banzai!’ when he was re-elected in December. I also worked in the Marketing team of UKTI at the British Embassy and as a Visiting Fellow at the Tokyo Foundation. This balance between practical and academic work was the perfect way to spend my final few months in Japan.

Following completion of the Scholarship I secured a job on the Civil Service Fast Stream where I have been working for the Ministry of Justice in London. I will be moving departments for the next few years but hope to be able to incorporate Japan into my career again soon. Daiwa was a unique, life-changing opportunity, without which I am sure I would not be where I am today.

Vicky is currently Head of Japan, Republic of Korea and Mongolia Team (East Asia Department, Asia Pacific Directorate) at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Dr James D.J. Brown (2011)

For me, the Daiwa Scholarship has had a wonderfully transformative effect on my career. Prior to commencing the programme, I had completed a Ph.D in International Relations and, while I had a keen interest in Japan, my major research focus was actually Russian foreign policy. By means of the Daiwa Scholarship, I was able to fulfill my ambition of extending my expertise to a second area of study. I am now teaching international politics at Temple University Japan and am engaged in academic research on Russian-Japanese relations. None of this would have been possible without the Daiwa Scholarship.

Coming into the programme, I was somewhat older (29) than some of the other scholars and already had a clear idea of what I intended to use the scholarship for. This made the decisions of where to spend my homestay and work placement relatively straightforward. Wishing to develop my knowledge of Russian-Japanese relations, I asked to spend my homestay in Nemuro (Hokkaido), since this is the closest point to the Northern Territories, the four islands claimed by Japan but occupied by the Soviet Union/Russia since 1945. The Daiwa Foundation’s Tokyo office did a fantastic job in finding a suitable homestay for me and I spent a delightful month with an absolutely charming family. They were extremely generous in helping with my research and could not have been kinder in showing me around the area, introducing me to local residents, and feeding me up on tasty local produce.

Similarly when it came to the work placement, I was sure that I wanted to spend the six months in a research position at a Japanese university. I was extremely lucky in this regard since Hosei University, the university with which the Daiwa Foundation has closest links, is the institution at which one of Japan’s leading experts on Russian politics is based. Professor Shimotomai was very welcoming and kindly arranged for me to be given the position of a visiting research fellow. I spent my time at Hosei conducting a research project on the impact of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake on Russian-Japanese relations. The results of this research were published in ‘Post-Soviet Affairs’ shortly after my completion of the Scholarship.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that the Daiwa Scholarship provided me with to learn Japanese, spend an extended period of time in Japan, and thereby deepen my knowledge of the country’s foreign affairs. In this way, the Daiwa Scholarship significantly helped me to advance my career ambitions. While I appreciate that my interests are somewhat esoteric, the wonderful feature of the Daiwa programme is its flexibility. Irrespective of whether your interests are in Japanese politics, culture, or technology, the Daiwa Scholarship can provide you with the language skills and professional experience you need to fulfill your ambitions.

James is currently Assistant Professor in International Relations at Temple University, Japan in Tokyo. You can read his paper on energy and Russian-Japanese relations published in Post-Soviet Affairs via the link below:

The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Russian-Japanese relations

Dr Samuel Illingworth (2010)

Sam Illingworth lecturing at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (part of his work placement while on the Daiwa Scholarship)

The phrase ‘life-changing experience’ is one that seems to be banded around ever too frequently these days, but in the case of my experiences with the Daiwa Scholarship it is a phrase that really fits the bill. As a 2010 Scholar I was fortunate enough to be exposed to and become integrated into a culture that whilst demanded a lot of hard work and effort, gave back what I put into it ten times over. In short the whole Daiwa experience enabled me to experience things that I would never normally have been able to experience, to meet people that have had a profound effect on my life, and to develop a sense of understanding that has become integral to my view on the world.

Upon entering Japan the first seemingly insurmountable barrier that I was faced with was the language, however little by little and under the expert tutelage afforded to me by the teachers at the Naganuma language school I began to make progress, and by the time of my homestay and work placement I was able to not only ‘get by’, but to engage with the people that I lived and worked with on many varied and interesting topics. It was at this point that the splendour of the Japanese culture really began to open up to me, and living with a Japanese family, being taken in and treated as a member of their household and exposed to their customs and warmth is an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

During my work placement I was fortunate enough to work at Saitama Theatre under the tutelage of the internationally renowned Japanese director Yukio Ninagawa, which was an incredible honour and also greatly inspired my work at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, where I lectured a course on ‘Dramatic Communication’. During my time at the University I was able to develop and teach a module about the importance of scientific communication and how it can be improved by the use of theatrical technique, along the way meeting some truly inspirational students and teachers, and at the end of the academic year I was invited to Beijing, to lecture at Tsinghua University as part of the University’s centennial celebrations. All of these opportunities have definitely helped to shape not only my future career prospects, but also my outlook on life.

I am now working as a researcher at The University of Manchester, investigating the effects of Arctic methane emission on global warming. In this era of scaremongering and lazy journalism it is my unbridled hope that I am able to continue my research and teaching into the importance of effective scientific communication, and also that I am able to continue to forge the links that I have made with both the academic and theatrical communities within Japan. I am forever indebted to Daiwa Securities and the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, as without them I would never have been afforded these truly life-changing experiences.

Sam is currently a lecturer in science communication at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Richard Jones (2010)

Richard during his homestay in Kyoto, next to a Noh actor

Just last week I was reminded again of the extraordinary scope of the Daiwa Scholarship Programme when I told a Japanese friend about my time living with a Noh actor in Kyoto: ‘But even Japanese people don’t get to have experiences like that!’

I emerged from university with a vague idea that I would like to learn about the aesthetics and philosophy of classical Japanese theatre: the Daiwa Foundation turned that idea into nineteen months of opportunity which exceeded my hopes and expectations. I was able to visit kabuki actors in their dressing rooms; shadow a professional Noh actor; work at the New National Theatre in Tokyo; handle a 14th century shō (the oldest working instrument in Japan); and take part in a community sports day dressed as a bear.

It might be worth adding that I was able to do those activities in Japanese (albeit imperfect) despite having had no previous experience of the language. Our time under the rigorous regime at the Naganuma School quickly accelerated us past those who had spent far longer learning Japanese in their home countries and gave us the chance for a more authentic experience in Japan.

To be able to build one’s cultural experience on this linguistic foundation from a standing start is an opportunity unique to the Daiwa programme. It has allowed me not only to fulfill my initial ambitions but has totally shifted my professional and personal expectations for the future. Two years on, I am still grateful to the Daiwa Foundation on a daily basis and the full extent of its influence is impossible to tell.

Andy Bryant (2009)

Andy Bryant

I can say that the Scholarship has been a fantastic experience and a memorable 19 months. It has had a significant impact not just on my appreciation of Japan, Japanese people, the Japanese language and culture, but also the challenges I have undertaken over the last 19 months have taught me a number of things about myself. I will be sure to take with me the skills I have learnt and the impressions made on me by the experience and put them to good use. Certainly, it was a significant decision to take 19 months out of my early career and this was not without its compromises, but I can say it was definitely the right decision for me.

I have spent his career to date accumulating a unique skill set, in an effort to make myself distinctive within today’s competitive working environment. I now seek to leverage my abilities in engineering, management, business, finance and Japanese to enter a senior position in industry, with a plan to start my own company within 5 years. The experience gained from the scholarship, both professional and personal, will be of great benefit in my endeavours.

Following the Scholarship, Andy worked in Tokyo for BDA (Business Development Asia LLC), a boutique investment banking firm, advising on cross-border mergers and acquisitions involving Asia until spring 2013. He then joined their London office, taking 19 months out from September 2015 to participate in the prestigious Entrepreneur First ( scheme. He rejoined the BDA London Office in 2016.

Jessie Cope (2009)

Jessie Cope

For me the move from being a student at the University of Birmingham to living in Japan was very smooth, and in many ways it felt very much like the logical “next step” for developing professionally and personally.

Of course, making the transition from being at university in that student bubble to living independently in a foreign country is quite a big one, but it’s definitely not as extreme as perhaps it initially might sound. You have a great level of support from the DAJF Japan office whilst out here, and you come out with 5 other interesting and like-minded people to join a great network of former scholars who still live in Japan. Most Daiwa scholars choose to live in a similar area, so you tend to get the advantages of living alone (kitchen as clean or messy as you like and no-one steals your milk!) but with plenty of friends nearby to join for a couple of beers and a good chat. The language school you attend is also between two of the trendiest and “youngest” districts of Tokyo (Shibuya and Shimo-kitazawa), so there is somewhat a continuation of that student vibe. Tokyo is also a vast and wonderfully exciting city to live in with a huge range of things to offer to suit almost any taste.

Following the Daiwa Scholarship, in 2014 Jessie completed a Master’s degree at Tokyo University while on a Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship. Since March 2015 she has been working at the Royal Society in London as Scheme Manager, Grants Team. In 2018 she joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Dr Edmund Harbord (2009)


Edmund and his magnet

For an early career scientist, it is pretty rare to take a year off publishing post-PhD, and it was pretty daunting to go back to school – but I am so pleased I did it. It was a great opportunity to come to Japan.

I found Naganuma both very challenging and very rewarding. It was a unique experience, for me unattainable without the Scholarship.

I had a fantastic homestay with the Tairas in Nagasaki-ken – I lived underneath the bakery run by my homestay mother, and every morning I saw the sunrise over a nearby coal island. Every night, I could hear the wild boar snuffling outside.

For my work placement, I was lucky enough to enter Professor Arakawa’s laboratory at the Institute for Quantum Nano Electronics at the University of Tokyo for my work placement, which gave me the opportunity to work on spin pumping individual quantum dots.

In 2011, I was awarded a Fellowship by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, looking at the spin of dark excitons.

When I return to the UK, I hope to be able to use the skills I’ve learn and the contacts I’ve met to develop joint UK-Japan collaboration.

Having completed his JSPS Research Fellowship at the University of Tokyo, Edmund took up a Post-Doc position in November 2013 at the Centre for Quantum Photonics, University of Bristol.

Max Irving (2009)

One of the most tangible legacies of my Daiwa experience came on the London Underground, of all places. Seeing a Japanese couple struggling to make sense of the tube map, I was able to give directions and even slip in a couple of restaurant recommendations for where they were going. Fellow passengers were astonished.

Language was at the heart of my experience as a Daiwa scholar, but not just to cope with everyday situations – it opened the door to understanding so much more about a fascinating and endlessly complex culture. Steeping myself in Japanese was sometimes intensely frustrating, other times thrilling, but always informative. I found Naganuma challenging, like everybody, but I’m still marvelling at the linguistic base it gave me. I can vividly remember the sense of pride I felt when returning from a dinner one evening and realising I’d spoken nothing but Japanese – and that this had been a normal night out with friends.

Professionally, the Daiwa scholarship has been valuable in all sorts of ways. I now work for the Foreign Office and there’s a direct connection to the foreign policy seminars I attended during my work placement at the Japanese Diet. Less obviously, listening to constituents outlining their concerns over the phone and on visits (and stumbling over replying in very formal Japanese) has made me think more deeply about what it means to work in the public sector. And there couldn’t be better preparation for the initial culture shock and subsequent understanding of a different way of seeing the world, essential for any diplomatic posting, than immersing myself in Tokyo life.

I’m so pleased I went to Japan, and I feel exceptionally lucky to have had all the support that came with the Daiwa Scholarship. It’s left a wonderful personal legacy for me – language, friends, an insight into Japanese culture and a deep-seated love of the place that keeps drawing me back.

Max Irving is a member of the Diplomatic Service and is currently Deputy Head of Mission, Dominican Republic

Charlotte Payne (2009)

I received the scholarship as a final-year undergraduate, and at the time I could think of nothing more exciting than leaving to explore an entirely new country, culture and language.

The experience definitely lived up to and at times exceeded all of my expectations – 2 years later, I found myself leaving Japan with several new-found passions for things I never expected to grow to love, including (but by no means limited to) the Japanese language, the tea ceremony, rural Japanese agricultural traditions, living and making friends in downtown Tokyo (‘shitamachi’), and singing very bad karaoke. I was extremely lucky to have a wonderful homestay placement in Shimonoseki and two very interesting work placements, both of which had an important impact on what I have chosen to do since leaving Japan.

For my work placements, I worked in the Kobokan community centre in Sumida-ku, and also as a researcher on Yakushima island, in Kagoshima. I left Japan at the end of the scholarship, and since leaving I have worked with an NGO in India, and with the Medical Research Council and Department of Public Health at the University of Oxford. Next year, I hope to return to Japan as a MEXT (Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) scholar, to study the nutritional implications of entomophagy (the practice of eating insects) in rural communities.

Charlotte was a (Japanese Government) MEXT-funded graduate research student at Rikkyo University, Tokyo, in the department of Interdisciplinary Cultural Studies (2013 to 2015). Her research focuses on entomophagy, the practice of eating insects. She originally became interested in insects as a potentially nutrient-rich source of protein that is cheaper and more environmentally sustainable than traditional livestock.

While affiliated to Rikkyo University, Charlotte was based in Gifu ken, in a small mountain village, where in addition to her studies, she was figuring out how to make ‘tsukemono’ and concentrating on growing herbs and vegetables, developing palatable and nutritious insect recipes, and maintaining an enormous Japanese country house in the heat of the summer.

You can read about Charlotte’s research through her website: Charlotte Payne website

Charlotte is currently completing a PhD at the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, looking at the environmental, health and socio-economic impacts of insect farming.

Dr Anne Gilbert (2008)

Anne Gilbert

Dr Anne Gilbert

I spent my six-month work placement in the parliamentary office of a Japanese Diet Member. I did a real range of things from him – from answering phones (in very formal Japanese!), arranging his travel, writing/editing English letters to various dignitaries through to policy work (researching and writing briefs) and accompanying him on campaign trips. It was a really challenging but an absolutely incredible experience; often very stressful but extremely rewarding and it was absolutely incredible for my Japanese.

In terms of summing up my experience in Japan, I can honestly say that accepting the Daiwa Scholarship is the best decision that I have ever made. I absolutely fell in love with Japan and I really think that the Daiwa Scholarship is one of the best ways of experiencing it. The Scholarship itself is incredibly generous: you are able to attain a really high level of Japanese in the time that you are there (to rival those doing full time Japanese degree courses) and the Foundation’s Tokyo Office tries very hard to find worthwhile work placements. And there really aren’t any requirements on you once you finish. That’s not to say that there aren’t challenging parts.

The work placement can mean long hours and adapting to Japanese office culture. The language study can also be very tough. The language school is a bit of a shock to most people, even those who have language degrees and are used to spending all their time learning languages. The teachers can be pretty strict and the style is pretty different to what you may be used to in the UK. I also found it very hard work. Although classes are only in the mornings, my afternoons were filled with homework or extra Daiwa classes. But if you put in the time and effort, then it’s very rewarding and you learn pretty quickly.

After the Scholarship I moved to San Francisco where my husband’s job was located and ended up working for a non-profit organisation called Kiva, which was actually sort of connected to the work that I did for the Diet Member.

Anne is currently working as an Assistant at Marks & Clerk UK.

Jonathan Hill (2007)

No matter how many layers you try and peel away through experience, Japan will always fascinate. For me, as for so many of my peers, the Scholarship was an unparalleled chance to explore the country’s fantastic and sometimes bewildering contradictions.

Tokyo can be tough and Naganuma unforgiving. It’s easy to get caught in a bubble of everyday routine. But put in the effort and things begin to make sense. The wonders to be found in everyday life still amaze me – whether they be aesthetic charms or intellectual intrigues.

Two years after leaving the scholarship, Japan is still a big part of my life. As a reporter for Chunichi Newspapers, my understanding of Japan is what frames the way I tell news stories, connecting my readers with European affairs.

I have yet to meet another scholar who doesn’t look back on their time with affection.

Jonathan was a Senior Correspondent with the Tokyo Chunichi Shimbun in London before being hired by the BBC Media Action Asia desk.

Edward Knight (2007)

Ed Knight

Learning Japanese on the Daiwa scholarship is definitely a huge challenge, but the support to achieve this is fantastic and the rewards of understanding Japanese make it all worthwhile. A highlight for me was my homestay which I actually spent working on a Japanese apple orchard in the foothills of the Japanese Alps. This was September 2008 so while the financial world was collapsing I was largely oblivious, living the simple life under a mountain in Nagano Prefecture and fully immersed in a Japanese community! After work we would often visit the local onsen, relaxing tired muscles in a hot bath while overlooking the Alps.

I then returned to Tokyo and the realities of the financial crisis to spend 6 months at Daiwa Institute of Research. The experience of working in a traditional Japanese company within an all Japanese department is something very few Westerners can experience. My Japanese colleagues were always very welcoming and fortunately as an intern I escaped the worst of the Japanese overtime hours!

Ed currently works for KPMG as Manager – Finance and Risk.

Dr Melanie O’Sullivan (2006)

Dr Melanie O’Sullivan

In the first week I arrived in Japan, I went to visit the research group I would work for as my work placement the following year, and met all the students who kindly greeted me in English and took me for tea. Fast forward to a year later, and I was carrying out my day job entirely in Japanese, lunching with my colleagues in Japanese, and going out in the evenings with them in Japanese. I could have done my job in English, but as an American colleague enviably pointed out, the language skills and the cultural knowledge that the Daiwa Scholarship equipped me with transformed my experience working there. Invariably the language is tied with up with the culture, and the understanding of both allowed my colleagues to become friends, some of whom I am still in contact with.

Learning Japanese in a year is intense, but I still found plenty of time to explore most of the country, develop an obsession for onsen and sumo, learnt to ski (badly), climb lots of mountains, and butcher renditions of ‘Champagne Supernova’ while being accompanied by a tambourine. I enjoyed ‘Naganuma’. The teachers never speak English- and from month three when you’re integrated with the rest of the school, most of your classmates don’t either, and the immersion and reliance on Japanese to communicate is a lot of fun and very rewarding. It’s a fantastic exercise in patience, perseverance, and learning to grin at your continual (and sometimes embarrassing) mistakes.

In short, Japan became my second home, where I made a lot of dear friends, and mastered a fascinating language. I am exceptionally grateful for the opportunity that the Daiwa Scholarship gave me to live and work there, and would recommend the experience to anyone.

Having completed a PhD and Post Doc in Organic Chemistry at the University of Oxford, Melanie spent a few years at Duke University, USA. She returned to the UK in autumn 2016 and is now a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at Cambridge Display Technology.

Louis Barson (2005)

Louis Barson and Xiaomai Feng climbing Mount Fuji

Applying for the Daiwa Scholarship was one of the best decisions I’ve made. And not for the reasons you might expect! It’s taken me on a fascinating journey that has made my life much richer and helped to build a rewarding career. 

After graduating from Kings College London with a first in Philosophy, I was awarded a Daiwa Scholarship from 2005-7. I applied because I was fascinated with many aspects of Japanese culture – the philosophy, but also film, literature, martial arts… And I had developed a bit of a side line in Japanese ‘taiko’ drumming! So it was an obvious next step. 

The application process can look a little daunting with elements like a second stage, and panel interview from very eminent trustees, but everyone is so nice eventually you forget about all the etiquette worries and it all flows smoothly. 

Once there, for 12 months I did intensive (and Japanese only!) language learning based in Shibuya, Tokyo. I then spent a month on a home stay trying out newfound skills in a real (friendly) context – for me this was a big highlight, living on Sado Island in a beautiful country house, and training with the premier Japanese drumming group in the world, running 5k before breakfast and hard-core drumming all day, with (sumo) wrestling matches the evening entertainment! After that I spent 7 months on an academic placement in Tokyo and Komazawa Universities (many others chose business placements – from finance to architecture) – even getting the chance to lead meditation practice – to be the one who walks around hitting others with a long stick to help them focus! 

There were 7 Scholars in my year, who are all amazing people, we made some lifelong friendships, and still catch up regularly.

The language study got me from beginner to JLPT level 1 (the highest level) over the 20 months, but of course it requires a lot of hard work. I put in many hours outside lessons using a special memory technique on the 2000+ characters you need for fluency. You get out what you put in with difficult languages! 

It also helped me to build links with researchers in my field, and do some interesting research, which was great career positioning. 

I loved every moment of my time in Japan, and being able to interact with people on a natural basis in Japanese made it 10 times more rewarding. 

But it didn’t all result in the career path you might expect. One day, maybe under the influence of Zen, I realised I wanted to do something more tangible than the academic life I was heading for. 

Thanks partly to the well-rounded CV the programme helped to build (and the practice on difficult application processes!) I was again lucky to score a place on the UK Civil Service Fast Stream. Which led to loads of interesting jobs shaping tech policy – right up to today where I’m leading the team designing a new policy framework for the Artificial Intelligence sector (and often helping ministers when they visit Japan). 

I didn’t end up anywhere close to where I was headed at the beginning of the programme, and I feel really lucky the programme gave me that flexibility. 

For me, it feels like it went beyond a ‘good experience’ to become completely formative – it’s difficult to imagine how my life would have gone without it. If you want your life to have Japan in it, or just to broaden your horizons in a way that will support your career, absolutely, apply! 

Louis Barson joined the Civil Service Fast Stream and is currently leading the team creating a new policy framework for the Artificial Intelligence sector.

Dr Carl Randall (2003)

Carl Randall at the 2012 BP Portrait exhibition opening in June with his work, ‘Mr. Kitazawa’s Noodle Bar, Tokyo’

The Daiwa Scholarship allowed me the opportunity, as a young UK artist, to focus on learning Japanese whilst having daily exposure to Japanese culture and society. This experience has taken my own work in new directions, and provided a wealth of subject matter for the future. I am presently continuing the work I began on the Scholarship.

I have been based in Tokyo as an artist since 2003, having been awarded a Daiwa Scholarship, followed by a Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship. This extended period has been used to develop my interest in cities and portraiture, responding to the people and places of Tokyo. During this time I completed a Master’s Degree and Doctorate in Oil Painting at Japan’s prestigious Tokyo University of the Arts, was selected to be artist in residence in Hiroshima City (to meet and make portraits of survivors of the Atomic Bomb), and was chosen to represent Japan as artist in residence at the 2007 Formula 1 Races. I have also exhibited widely in Japan, including Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Arts, and Tokyo Art Award 2009.

In September 2012 Carl exhibited Notes from the Tokyo Underground, a series of line drawings made on Tokyo trains, at The 2012 Jerwood Drawing Prize, London, 12 September – 28 October. More information can be found here .

In 2012 Carl won the Nomura Art Prize which is organised by Tokyo University of the Arts (Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku) to assist with the purchase of outstanding works of art produced by its Doctorate graduate students, and to preserve them at the University Museum. The prize aims to promote fine arts in Japan and to support young artists by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting their works in the Museum. The Nomura Painting Prize was awarded to Carl Randall for his Doctorate Graduation exhibition, one of his paintings being bought by the University Museum for their permanent collection.

He was also awarded the prestigious 2012 BP Travel Award at The National Portrait Gallery in London. All 55 exhibitors (BP Portrait Award 2012) were eligible to apply for this award.

Carl used the Travel Award to return to Japan to create paintings based on The ‘Tokaido Road’ (or ‘Great Coastal Route’). Connecting Tokyo and Kyoto, the road was for centuries the most important road in Japan – scenes along the route being famously depicted in the prints of the Japanese woodblock artist Ando Hiroshige (1797 – 1858).

Just as Hiroshige made prints documenting Japan 200 years ago, Carl made images that document Japan today.

Carl Randall created modern equivalents of these prints, depicting scenes along the road as it exists today, forming a small solo exhibition included in the 2013 BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. His exhibition, In the footsteps of Hiroshige: Portraits of Modern Japan, ran from 20 June to 15 September 2013.

It then toured to the Aberdeen Art Gallery (2 November 2013 – 1 February 2014) and Wolverhampton Art Gallery (3 March – 14 June 2014).

15 paintings are included in the exhibition.

Carl also had a solo exhibition at Daiwa Foundation Japan House in early 2014.

Other pieces about Carl Randall on our website can be found here:

Carl Randall discussing art, identity and migration at the Business Design Centre as part of London Art Fair on 23 January 2015 Carl Randall Tokyo Portrait purchased by Fondation Carmignac in Paris Carl Randall Tokyo Highway Portraits on display in Japan until 11 September 2014 Carl Randall Japan Portraits on sale at the National Portrait Gallery in London Tokyo Portrait on display at Art Volta, June 2014 Japan Portraits documentary of Carl painting in Japan Carl Randall exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 June to 15 September 2013 Carl Randall painting in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition Carl Randall exhibiting at the 2012 Jerwood Drawing Prize Carl Randall exhibiting at the Mall Gallieries and the National Portrait Gallery Carl Randall awarded the BP Travel Award 2012 Carl Randall wins the Nomura Prize

Dr Christopher Harding (2004)

Dr Christopher Harding

The Scholarship experience was a fantastic deep-end drop into Japan, encouraging me and fully equipping me – in terms of the language, job opportunities and broad personal and financial support – to explore the place in my own way.

It has opened up a rich new dimension to my life, helping me to get started in my teaching and research career at the University of Edinburgh and to write about Japan in more general settings such as

Alongside my work at the University of Edinburgh I’ve set up a blog and community site, The Boredom Project, dedicated to exploring the ways that religion, social politics, spirituality, and psychology come together – colourfully and controversially – in everyday life, both in the UK and further afield.

The Daiwa Scholarship has ended up altering my understanding of the world in ways that only comprehensive immersion in a new culture really can.

Dr Christopher Harding is a lecturer in Asian History at the University of Edinburgh. In 2013 he was selected as one of ten New Generation Thinkers 2013.

The partnership between BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) aims to find the academic broadcasters of the future – the brightest minds who have the potential to turn groundbreaking ideas into fascinating radio programmes.

New Generation Thinkers 2013

In 2015, Chris helped set up the Japan Research Network Edinburgh.

In 2017, his history of Japan, Dark Blossom: Resistance and Distress in Japan’s Epic Twentieth Century will be published

Dr Jonathan Batchelor (2001)

Dr Jonathan Batchelor and friends in Asakusa

Ever since first visiting Tokyo as a volunteer at the Kobokan Community Centre in 1995 with GAP Activity Projects (now Lattitude Global Volunteering), Japan has always played a very important part of my life. The Daiwa Scholarship gave me the perfect opportunity to combine my growing interest in Japan with my medical career, by allowing me to develop my language skills further and to make new contacts with doctors and researchers in the field of dermatology. I was also able to rekindle the friendships I had made previously with staff and volunteers at the Kobokan and my greater ability in Japanese meant I was able to help run various activities there and even help interpret for Cherie Blair when she visited the Centre!

Living in Shitamachi (downtown Tokyo), with its winding streets and traditional shops, and becoming part of its close-knit community gave me a deeper understanding of Japanese life and culture. My homestay in Akita prefecture gave me an unforgettable insight into life in rural Japan. I visit Japan whenever I can and keep in contact with many of the people I met whilst living there; my wife and I were privileged to have several friends from the Kobokan come to the UK for our wedding in 2007. I have also been able to act as host to Japanese doctors and researchers visiting the UK, trying to pay back- at least in part- the tremendous warmth and generosity shown to me by my Japanese friends and colleagues during my two years in Japan, the memory of which I shall always treasure.

Jonathan is currently a consultant dermatologist at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust and researcher at the Centre of Evidence-Based Dermatology at the University of Nottingham.

Richard Buttrey (2001)

I have been extraordinarily lucky to have spent time in Japan in three different guises – as a JET, as a Daiwa Scholar and latterly as a diplomat in the political section of the British Embassy. Never once during the enforced exhibitionism that was English teaching in rural Kagoshima did I imagine I would later come to discuss the merits of JET directly with Japan’s Foreign Minister. But for me it was on the Daiwa Scholarship that I developed the most profound and long-lasting relationships with Japanese people and where I learned most about the soul of a nation that continues to surprise and delight me in equal measure. I salute the Foundation’s generosity and look forward to doing what I can in the future to help further develop Anglo-Japanese relations.

Richard recently left his job as  Head of Trade, UKTI at the British Embassy in Tokyo and is back in London.

Dr Stephan Gale (2001)

Dr Stephan Gale

During my work placement at PREC Institute Inc., my line manager put me in touch with one of his former colleagues who had left to take up a position at a botanic garden in the Southwest of Japan. I subsequently arranged a trip to Kochi Prefecture to visit him, and in so doing had the very good fortune to spend five days at the Makino Botanical Garden. I was bowled over – by the design of the gardens, by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and by the earthy good nature of the people I met. Something clicked and I was offered a job as a research botanist.

At the end of my Daiwa scholarship, I moved to Kochi and spent the next five years working at the Makino Botanical Gardens. My job allowed me to walk many rarely trodden paths in the Shikoku mountains and visit many other interesting places throughout Japan. I learnt a great deal about the Japanese flora and saw first-hand the many and varied ways in which plants underpin Japanese culture. And what stays with me to this day, is the thriving, friendly local community in Kochi of which I became a part. My work led onto a doctorate and I graduated from the University of Sussex in 2009. That in turn led onto projects on the flora of China and the flora of Thailand, and I now work at the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, an environmental NGO in Hong Kong, where I coordinate projects for the conservation of rare plants and their habitats in South China and the region.

Stephan is currently a Senior Conservation Officer at Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden in Hong Kong.

Christofer Bullsmith (2000)

Christofer Bullsmith at a business lunch in Tokyo, 2016.

Christofer Bullsmith at a business lunch in Tokyo, 2016.

I’m currently working for a London-based educational software company with offices across Asia, and as a freelance consultant for a few Japanese NGOs and universities. I got my first “real” job for my Japanese skills and ability to navigate Japanese culture, and I still use Japanese daily in my work and travel to Japan every few months. So, it’s clear that my time on the Daiwa scholarship helped me and shaped my course professionally. Rather less expected are the continuous serendipitous Japan connections in daily life … in the last year or so, for example – 15 years since my time on the Daiwa scholarship concluded – I’ve helped European tourists in Japan and Japanese tourists in London, acted as a bilingual wedding MC in Tokyo, and done a little urgent email translation between the Royal Navy and the Japan Self-Defence Force. I’ve helped a neighbour switch off the mystery Japanese announcements in their newly imported car, and fixed my own car troubles only after getting on the Japanese-only Toyota geek forums. I saved a few dollars during my last holiday (and thoroughly confused a bus-load of visiting Japanese pensioners) by taking a Japanese-language-only observatory tour in Hawaii. The holiday before that, I scored a free week-long tour of the Scottish highlands by dint of being the only person in the tour guide’s local who understood both Scots and Japanese schoolgirl. Last week I was asked, rather bizarrely and after getting talking with my fellow diners in a Korean restaurant, to teach Japanese to a group of local expat Japanese children who have been losing interest in their home culture. I’ve used my Japanese from the local farmers’ market (ancient Kyoto gent growing artisan shiitake) to yoga class (now that was a language challenge). Japanese language, people, and culture connections crop up in the most unexpected and thereby most delightful places. All in all, the linguistic and cultural skills I gained from my time on the Daiwa scholarship are not just a few lines on my CV, and not just handy tools I can deploy in my professional life: they’re also pretty defining parts of me, and surprisingly important parts of how I enjoy my time outside work. 19 months very, very, very well spent. Thanks Daiwa Foundation!

Dr Victoria James (1999)

Today, I’m a documentary maker and author. Eighteen years ago, I was preparing for my Daiwa Scholarship. These two facts aren’t unrelated.

Our first night in Japan, we new Scholars walked out into a warm evening filled with the unfamiliar scents and sounds of a small local matsuri. A previous Scholar had suggested we carry a disposable camera (this was long before smartphones), and snap anything that caught our eye before the unfamiliar all-too-rapidly grew familiar. Mine came with me everywhere!

Japan at the turn of the millennium was a country poised between two identities: a pioneer in the emerging digital revolution, yet with a devoutly traditional heart. Intense curiosity was what took me there, and I remain motivated by that desire to discover, to understand, and to communicate. It’s led me to a career as a documentary director. In the past 12 months I’ve been trying to understand Brexit, the US presidential election, and the first 100 days of President Trump in my BBC1 programmes with Jeremy Paxman. 

Of course, as a visitor, you never truly understand another culture. (Who even wholly understands their own?) The Scholarship gave us language training, and professional and social opportunities. But then it was up to each of us to construct our own experience. ‘Japan’ became a story that I told myself, and every Daiwa Scholar will have a different one. Now as an author – my first two novels, GILDED CAGE and TARNISHED CITY are both published by Random House this year – I am telling stories about an alternate contemporary Britain.

The extraordinary experience of a Daiwa Scholarship gave me cultural skills that will last a lifetime. And from the day I got back, (even before then), I haven’t stopped recommending the programme, the Foundation, and Japan itself to everyone I meet!  

Dr Ian Rapley (1999)

ian rapley

Dr Ian Rapley

When I was interviewed for the Scholarship, one of the panel asked me whether I could imagine Tokyo becoming a second home. I demurred – it seemed a bit speculative to say that about a country I had never visited, but 15 years later that is in many respects what Japan is to me. On the occasions I’ve had a chance to come back, landing in Narita and taking the bus or train into town sets off a set of familiar thoughts and feelings. And the last couple of times, I’ve been able to introduce it to my wife and son, too. At the time, the Daiwa Scholarship was simply a great deal of fun: a chance to live across the world and to get to know another culture. Looking back on it, however, my time in Japan had a profound impact on who I am today, professionally, intellectually and personally.

Ian is currently a Lecturer in East Asian History at the University of Cardiff

Mark Crossley (1998)

Whilst on the Scholarship, the most intensive and enriching learning experience of my life, Japan and its people changed my perspective and priorities dramatically. I learned the value of responsibility and good service, was humbled as my ideas about language were revolutionised and moved by my homestay family’s warmth and generosity. The Scholarship even allowed my parents to discover a culture which they would otherwise have not. I’ve retained an interest in Japanese art and culture, and as a recent President of the Daiwa Scholars’ Alumni Association, I maintain links with past and present Scholars.

Mark currently works for Hogan Lovells in London.

Will Sage (1995)

Will and his home-stay little brother (Takemi) “hand-fishing” for ayu in a fast-moving river (8 Sept 1996)

What special years 1995-1997 are for me. What an honour and a privilege it was for me to see and experience facets of Japan which many never get to; be it in the depths of the Ministry of Justice, or through the auspices of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, or through the legal practice of the then largest Japanese law firm, or in the warmth of the Japanese people whether as complete strangers or as life-long friends. All of us Scholars have no doubt had life-changing experiences which will mould our thoughts and actions for the better in whatever we do.

For all of us, we have been given so much from the scholarship opportunities. I’d like to think that my batch also added value as we lobbied through our feedback to make the Scholarship programme Japan-based rather than spending the first year in the UK – a change which I was delighted to see happen as that has surely enriched the experience further for successive generations of scholars.

But what indelible imprint has it left me with? Language and culture are deeply intertwined. We should never forget the underlying core mission of building bridges between cultures and always strive to give back even in small ways. We should build on our friendships to transcend the history and politics which some persist in abusing unconstructively. The new generation can and should cement these friendships. 三本の矢なら折れない! We can all do more. As we all go about our busy lives, I hope we can all remember to give back, and together build and recreate a peace and harmony as profound as that which I found sitting beside the Ryōan-ji rock and sand Zen garden in Kyoto despite the incessant buzz of the crowds of passing tourists swirling around me.

Sarah Bloomfield (1994)


Sarah Bloomfield

My two-year stint as a Daiwa Scholar was an incredibly rewarding, stimulating and enjoyable time – a life experience which I will never forget, and one which I will be forever grateful for.

The opportunities the Scholarship opened up cannot be underestimated. Being able to speak Japanese allowed me to better understand how to do business in Japan. At the end of the programme my career direction changed from engineering to marketing. I stayed in Japan and joined Kodak, where I was able to work at the heart of the Nagano Winter Olympic Games. I then went on to set up Dyson’s subsidiary in Japan . These were roles I would never have dreamed of achieving ahead of the Daiwa Scholarship. On return to Europe I joined L’Oreal. My understanding of working in an International setting allowed me to progress to a Marketing Director role within L’Oreal.

Following an international marketing career in industry I returned to academia. I have been combining a role working for the Open University with a Senior Lecturer position in International Business at Bath Spa University. I have been able to use my international work experiences, including that gained as a Daiwa Scholar, to help further the understanding of my students. I am now extending this knowledge whilst studying for my PhD at the University of Bath, where I am researching social entrepreneurship in an International setting.

Professor Hugo Dobson (1993)

Professor Hugo Dobson

Although it may sound like a well-worn cliché, I really would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the Daiwa Scholarship. My career plan was to complete a PhD in the short term and become an academic with a special interest in Japan in the longer term. However, the missing piece was the fact that I didn’t know any Japanese. First and foremost, the Daiwa Scholarship filled this gap but this was only one of many benefits. It’s humbling to think that almost twenty years have passed since I was first considering applying for the Scholarship but everything keeps on coming back to this unique formative experience. Thanks to the Scholarship I met my future PhD supervisor (now colleague), made the contacts that enabled me to return to the University of Tokyo as a visiting PhD student and later visiting professor, and built working and personal relationships with Japanese scholars that have resulted in numerous workshops, conferences and publications.

In addition, it’s not all work. Without the Scholarship I wouldn’t have made lifelong friends with my fellow Daiwa Scholars as well as a number of Japanese friends, in particular my homestay family from Morioka in Iwate Prefecture. It’s incredible to think that when we first met my homestay ‘sisters’ were six and nine and eager for me to teach them games in English as well as play games in Japanese. Today, they are young, successful women and we are still in touch with each other.

There really is no other programme quite like it and long may it continue.

Hugo is currently Professor in Japan’s International Relations, University of Sheffield.

David Height (1993)

The adventure of the Daiwa Scholarship was an episode in my late 20’s that profoundly re-oriented  my perspective on the world. 

Having been immersed in architectural education up to that point with a wholly European outlook, the leap into Japan’s unique urban culture was transformational.  I had never, to that point, seen or experienced the phenomenon of the Japanese mega-city. I clearly recall the wonder of the first few weeks in Tokyo, seeing virtually no structures older than the C20th, a cityscape of wildly contrasting scales and forms, and, to my amazement, an intensity of use of the city’s streets and buildings by the largest volumes of people I had ever seen.

The sense of Tokyo as a vastly up-scaled village, its innate decorum, and the feeling of communal ownership of its streets and spaces, are as vivid each time I visit now as it was for me as a Daiwa Scholar rambling through the streets of Shibuya.

The balance of public and private city life remains for me not only one of the most resonant experiences of Japan, but an exemplar of urbanism for our era, and  has been a never-failing reservoir of ideas and examples for design and thinking about cities.

The way the experiences of the Scholarship re-oriented my outlook on life, work and architecture has been indivisible from the great friendships formed both with my co – Scholars, and fellow architects at Kajima, and the kaleidoscope of insights and experiences that followed over five years living in Tokyo.

Not knowing at the time how the adventure would play out, I recall a conversation with Sir Peter Parker early in my journey with the Foundation.

His advice, based on his own Japanese trajectory that began during wartime, but was followed by a hiatus until much later, when he became Chairman of Mitsubishi Electric in the 1990s, was that the Scholarship need not be solely the single best entrée to a Japan-focussed career, but alternatively the seed of something that might remain dormant for many years.  

The parabola that has led to me now representing Mitsui Fudosan’s developments in London was in many ways the curriculum he described.  A meeting with an executive at Mitsui in London in 1999 on my return to the UK led, some 15 years later, to a conversation about my current role leading major developments in London.  The conversation could not have taken place without a combination of both the insight and hard-wiring into the world of Japanese business and design that the Foundation opened up to me 25 years ago. (written in 2017)

Professor Edmund De Waal OBE (1991)

‘Hare With Amber Eyes’, courtesy of Edmund de Waal; photo: Ken Adlard (c) International Netsuke Society

The Daiwa Scholarship unlocked many possibilities for me. It helped me do two things: it gave me the chance to work alongside young contemporary Japanese ceramicists and to do significant primary research into a neglected part of the history of ceramics. Above all it led directly to a real change in the way that I work: it allowed me to make connections between my life as a maker and as an artist. I continue writing and researching on Japanese art as well as exhibiting and lecturing in Japan.

On 8 July 2010 Edmund de Waal launched his book The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation. Details of the launch can be found here: The Hare With Amber Eyes


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