Introducing The Yujou
Taking its name from the Japanese word for friendship, The Yujou is an ode to the long-standing relationship between Japan and Scotland and all that it has produced over the past two centuries, while honoring the importance and traditions of friendship on a more general level.
In Japan, friends are hugely significant in peoples’ lives. Social groups are often formed based on common bonds early on and are rarely broken, with people remaining committed to many of their childhood and teenage friendships throughout their adult life.
We see a similar relationship when we look at Scotland and Japan throughout the ages. Scotland was the mentor to Japan in whisky making, teaching young distillers how to produce great whisky, lessons that they took back home and passed on through the generations, resulting in the vibrant Japanese whisky landscape of today. But this was not all that has been shared between these two nations.
They have also shared everything from lacquerware and furniture to cartography and political ideas.
In 1868, Captain Brown from Glasgow was commissioned to chart the Japanese coastline. Around the same time, Richard Brunton from Aberdeen was charged with installing lighthouses around the coast of Japan.
Likewise, Japanese engineer, Kaichi Watanabe, used his expertise to help build the pioneering Forth Bridge, in the 1880s. The bridge is a feat of engineering, and still operates to this day.
Perhaps most notably, during the period leading up to the Meiji Restoration, when Japan was looking to find a true sense of itself once more, looking outwards to the rest of the world for notes on how they should modernize was increasingly common. Many Japanese people felt their country had been left behind thanks to the somewhat archaic and dictatorial Shogunate, and restoration of Imperial rule was at the forefront of Japanese political thinkers’ minds.
During this time, Itō Hirobumi, traveled on a fact finding mission to the US and Europe. It was while in the UK that he liaised with the aforementioned Richard Henry Brunton, and Professor William John Macquorn Rankine of Glasgow University.
He learned a great deal along the way and, on his return to Japan, he helped draft the groundbreaking Meiji Constitution and served as Japan’s first prime minister.
Through The Yujou, we aim to draw focus and pay homage to this fruitful friendship of nations, raising a toast to those that built and strengthened it, while also hoping that these ties continue long into the future.