This post is also available in: Japanese
I was delighted to see that the train I took to travel from the south east of England, where I live, to Scotland, was a Hitachi Azuma. The journey was smooth and punctual, despite all the issues caused by the need for the trains to be bimodal (able to run on diesel), as the line is not fully electrified. The train was crowded, so it was good to see the seat reservation system was working too.
One of the reasons for it being crowded was that there are plenty of tourist destinations along the line. The journey along the east coast of England and Scotland has wonderful views of the cliffs and the sea, and takes in the ancient cities and cathedrals of Durham and York, going over the spectacular bridges in Newcastle and Berwick on Tweed and you can even catch glimpses of Lindisfarne, also known as the Holy Island, and Alnwick Castle.
I changed trains at Edinburgh, perhaps the most beautiful city in Britain, to travel to Glasgow. Glasgow has its own charm, full of ornate 19th century buildings built when Glasgow was rich from textiles manufacturing, shipbuilding and coal mining.
The latter industry was what drew my great uncle, a Welsh geologist, to take up a professorship at Glasgow University. One of his areas of research was on coal deposits, but his real love was fossils. I remember looking through his fossil collection with him as a child and it was thrilling to walk round the fossil collections at the Kelvingrove museum and sense his presence.
My main reason for visiting the Kelvingrove museum, and also the other Glasgow museums, was to see what they had in the way of Japan related objects and art. The Japanese government donated over a 1,000 items to Glasgow in 1878, as part of a cultural exchange.
Although I tried to see every gallery in the museums, I did not find much that was Japanese. There were plenty of Chinese items on display at one museum, but I had to ask one of the attendants to show me where a particular Japanese print could be found. It turned out to be in the basement. He told me he well remembered the beautiful Japanese furniture and impressive samurai swords that used to be displayed.
It dawned on me that not only could this low profile for Japan be explained by the curator of the Far East collection being Chinese, but also that the museums recently revised their displays to take account of the views of local communities. Glasgow has become host to a large number of Chinese people, including 6,000 students. The old Chinatown and the area I stayed in are full of Chinese shops and restaurants. There are over 450,000 Chinese people in the UK, around a quarter from Hong Kong, compared to only 60,000 Japanese.
The Japanese links to Glasgow continue, however, particularly in energy related fields. For example, Marubeni opened an office last year in Glasgow, focused on offshore wind.
This article by Pernille Rudlin was first published in Japanese in the Teikoku News, 11th October 2023
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