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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


Jason James OBE, Director General, Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation

Graduated 1987

After studying Japanese at Cambridge (King’s 1983) I have had a varied Japan-focussed career. I started as a Japanese equity fund manager in London, but after two years was head-hunted into a role as a brokerage analyst in Tokyo at James Capel (which later became HSBC Securities). I spent a decade and a half at HSBC in Tokyo and London, eventually becoming Head of Research in Tokyo, and later Head of Global Equity Strategy at the Canary Wharf HQ.

But I’d always had a hankering to become an academic, so I dropped out of banking in 2004 and returned to Cambridge to do a PhD on the economics of the Japanese tax system. Translation work helped to pay the bills, but slowed the PhD, until in 2007, another approach from a head-hunter tempted me to drop it altogether. I moved back to Tokyo as the British Council’s Director in Japan, concurrently acting as Cultural Counsellor at the British Embassy. A very happy four years there working on cultural and educational links between the UK and Japan was only slightly marred by the constant need to restructure, as the UK’s “age of austerity” reduced the Council’s government funding.

In my current role as Director General of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation I do much the same sort of job at the London end of the relationship. Because of our role as one of the main funders in this sector, I am fortunate to be able to maintain close relationships with the university sector in general, and the Japanese Studies community in particular. Many academic books on Japan are launched at the Foundation, and we also have a programme of scholarships for post-graduate Japanologists.

My love for Japan and its people has only increased over the years, and the excellent grounding in the language that I received at Cambridge has been an invaluable tool. My classical Japanese is rusty these days, but a little knowledge of the classics goes a long way in diplomatic circles, while the exposure the Cambridge course gave me to Japan’s history and religion has helped me understand the broader cultural context taken for granted by my many Japanese contacts and friends. The photograph shows me with my wife at a James Bond-themed party on a British warship moored in Tokyo Bay (note the helicopter in the background). Parties are, believe it or not, an essential part of my job!

March 2017