Japan and the Midlands

17th October 2018

Japan and the Midlands

by Rob Gorton – JETAA Midlands Chair

When I first returned from the JET programme I lived in London, where there’s an extremely large Japanese community. When I moved to the Midlands for work, I wondered whether I’d be able to find anything similar, and was worried not. Would there be anyone who shared my interest in Japan or my experience living there? People returning to parts of the UK away from the capital might feel the same – is there the opportunity to meet up with people from Japan or with an interest in Japan, to continue their interest in the country’s culture – maybe even to keep up Japanese language skills?

As it turns out there’s quite a diversity of groups in the Midlands provided you know where to look – alongside JETAA of course!

Universities are a great place to start. Nottingham University has a very active Japan society, for example, which acts as a social platform for both students and members of the public to experience Japanese culture in Nottingham – with film viewings, meals, pub quizzes, and cultural experiences like origami or flower arranging. Recently they’ve held joint board games evenings with JETAA Midlands. Many universities are likely to have something similar.

Enterprising individuals have established groups on returning from Japan. The Birmingham Japanese Conversation exchange is one such group. It’s held every Saturday at the ICC in Birmingham, attracting up to 30 people, and holds special events such as hanami, origami, sushi making and calligraphy each quarter (supported by JETAA). It’s a great opportunity to meet similar-minded individuals.

Businesses can also be a catalyst for Japan / UK exchange. Toyota has had a large factory in Derby for the past 25 years. In fact, Derby, Derbyshire and South Derbyshire are twinned with Toyota City in Japan, and are celebrating their twentieth year of twinning this year. The East Midlands Japan Association is formed of companies in the area and holds events in support of Derby Japanese School – a school teaching Japanese and maths to children of Japanese expatriates in the area.

Finally, of course, there are social groups which were started by people originally from Japan living in the area. Hitomikai in Nottingham was formed many years ago – originally it was a support group for Japanese people living in the area, but over time it’s evolved into a group for all people with an interest in Japan and Japanese culture. Aside from two annual dinners, it holds smaller events – most recently, Ichigo Daifuku making, which was a particular success for parents of small children.

Of course, if there’s not a group in your area or with your interest, you could start your own! With the imminent Rugby World Cup and Tokyo Olympics interest in Japan is high and will only grow over the next few years – in fact 2019 and 2020 have been declared the “UK-Japan season of culture”. It’s a great opportunity for those of us who had the opportunity to live and work in Japan and experience Japanese culture to spread it across the whole of the UK.

Are there any groups you’d like to showcase or introduce? If you’re interested in any of the groups listed here, please contact If you’d like to showcase a group you’re involved with in a future issue of this newsletter, please contact or

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