Knight of Malta, John Major to become a Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun

Sir John Major to receive prestigious award from Emperor of Japan

Sir John Major, the former prime minister, is to receive the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor of Japan on Tuesday.

By Julian Ryall in Tokyo
9:11PM BST 07 May 2012

The honour is the highest that can be awarded to foreign nationals and is presented to individuals who have promoted relations between Japan and Britain, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo said.

“The Rt Hon John Major, KG CH is conferred with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun in recognition of his invaluable contribution to Anglo-Japanese relations through his work not only in the political and economic arena but also in promoting mutual understanding,” the government said in a statement.

The award dates back to 1875 and the design is of rays of sunlight emerging from the rising sun. Traditionally, the design symbolises the energy of the rising sun and includes a red-and-white-sash.

Sir John became prime minister in 1990 and visited Japan in July 1994 for the Group of Seven summit, at the end of which he pledged in a press conference to help make relations between the two nations “more mature.”

He returned two months later on an official visit, addressing the Nikkeiren Economic Organisation and announcing a series of initiatives in the areas of academia and business designed to bring the two nations even closer together.

“Throughout much of his political career, and more recently following his retirement as a Member of Parliament, Sir John has placed priority on nurturing relations with Japan and has played an important role in the steady development of closer bilateral relations in many fields,” the ministry said.

Sir John will receive the award from the Emperor at the Imperial Palace.

“Sir John believes it is extremely important to continue to build on our friendships with important trading nations like Japan,” a spokesman for the former prime minister told The Daily Telegraph. “He is hugely honoured to be receiving this award.”

Previous recipients include Carol Bellamy, the former executive director of UNICEF, Sir Robert Menzies, the 12th prime minister of Australia, and Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA.

The Japanese government is also honouring Sir Bobby Charlton with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, for “his outstanding contribution to the promoting cultural exchange between Japan and the United Kingdom, and to the development of football in Japan.”

Sir Bobby played a key role in supporting Japan’s bid to jointly host the 2002 FIFA World Cup and for the last two decades has continued to support the Japanese FA in developing the sport here.

In November, he was involved in a special football match held at Wembley organised by the Japanese Embassy in London in support of victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake of eight months previously.

Sixteen high school students from areas affected by the earthquake and the tsunami that it triggered were invited to Britain and given the opportunity to play at the stadium.

“Sir Bobby attended as a special guest, and at the opening ceremony not only offered them rousing words of encouragement but also presented them with souvenirs, leaving the students extremely moved,” the Japanese government’s citation said.

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