Audience with emperor ends Taoiseach's visit to Japan


TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen described his meeting with Emperor Akihito in Tokyo yesterday as a “wonderful final highlight” of his six-day official visit to Japan.

The Taoiseach made a courtesy call to the Imperial Palace in the centre of the Japanese capital yesterday and had an audience with the 75-year-old emperor for 30 minutes.

Emperor Akihito recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of his accession to the throne.

In the afternoon, Mr Cowen completed his final official engagement of the visit with a tour of the Tokyo operations of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. While there he discussed new developments in renewable energy and environmentally-friendly technologies.

Mr Cowen also led a trade mission this week involving 70 Irish companies.

Japan is the world’s second largest economy and is a key target for the Government’s Asia Strategy.

Reflecting on the visit, which marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ireland, Mr Cowen said he believed it had been successful.

“All the State agencies had done their preparations well. The business people who came here were very happy with the outcome. We saw some contracts obtained and some new jobs announced. This was all very positive news in the very difficult international context that we are operating in,” Mr Cowen told reporters yesterday.

“And I think on a political level, quite apart from trade issues, meeting with prime minister [Taro] Aso and going through all the political issues with him, was [a success].

The Taoiseach was accompanied on the visit by Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith and Minister of State for Trade and Commerce John McGuinness.

Enterprise Ireland said that €46 million of new contracts, sales and partnerships with Japan had been agreed during the week.

The Industrial Development Authority also announced that 150 new jobs would be created by two Japanese companies with facilities in Ireland.

One of the companies that announced a new partnership was Direct Personnel, which places pilots and other personnel in the aviation business. It said it would be working in the Japanese market with an indigenous human resources company, Human Associates.

Its managing director, Shane Pollard, said the partnership would give it access to 22 major Japanese airline companies and could be potentially worth more than €6 million.

Tom Brennan and Patsy Kearney of Waterford-based Eirgen also announced a joint venture with a leading Japanese pharmaceutical company.

Mr Cowen is due back in Dublin late tonight.