We had a terrific whistle-stop tour round Asia from 18 to 27 March, based around the Meeting Minds in Tokyo event organised by the University’s Alumni Office, accompanied by James Fletcher from our Development Office. This Academic Programme was held at the awesome Toranomon Hills complex in Central Tokyo. Some 500 Asian alumni including ten from Brasenose attended. There were fascinating presentations on Britain in a Global Context, “wild weather” and the Olympic Games. Speakers included a range of alumni such as the Governor of the Tokyo prefecture and Governor of the Bank of Japan along with Oxford’s Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor. Suzanne and I had not visited Japan properly (having flown in and out in one day before) and it was wonderful being there at the start of Cherry Blossom season. As on all the pictures, the blossom really is an exquisite shade of pink.
Round the fringes of the conference we held one-to-one meetings with seven alumni and also held a reception for around fifteen alumni and friends. It was strange bumping into so many Oxford folk in the Hotel Okura in Central Tokyo. All colleges were represented. The conference was very well organised and it is good to record that the main organiser was Jenny Wood who used to be in our Development Office.
I was also able to attend the reception put on by the Law Faculty.
Our tour started in Hong Kong which we visit each year and where we always have a great reception from our dedicated alumni network. This year we held our reception for some thirty BNC alumni at the Hong Kong Football Club which is part of the sprawling complex of the Jockey Club of Hong Kong. We were able to watch racing through the window of the reception when conversation sagged (which it rarely did!). We wish to thank David Powell for his generous donation of the room and reception, especially since he was not able to attend his “own party” because of flu. It was great to see there Sid Siddarth who was JCR President in my first year as Principal and is now an FT correspondent in Hong Kong.
Our alumni in in Hong Kong generally remain confident of the future although there is some concern about the erosion of civil liberties. We were able to gain much political and other wisdom from our alumnus and Honorary Fellow Sir David Akers Jones (former Interim Governor of Hong Kong) in particular. As usual, the alumni we met were a mixture of native Chinese and those visiting for a few years which gives greater diversity of view.
Shanghai was the greatest single revelation of the trip. Suzanne and I had last visited China long ago in 1980 (before the opening to the West when there were few cars to be seen and most people wore Mao suits). Nothing prepared us for the vibrancy and sheer enthusiasm in the City. It is like Hong Kong or New York in that it is a city which never appears to sleep. There are light shows on most of the tall buildings and in every direction an enormous number of skyscrapers.
We were lucky enough to be taken on a boat trip down the Huangpu River (a major tributary of the Yangtze) by an alumnus and we visited several parts of the City. To see it properly however requires at least a week. It was great to see that one of our alumni had a proud photo of his graduation in pride of place on his office wall.
We really love meeting on these trips alumni at all stages of their career and from all parts of the world. It is a great pleasure to be able to thank College donors, resident in cities far away from Oxford, for all that they do to make Brasenose the marvellous institution it is. Brasenose really has a vibrant community with great affection for and commitment to the College everywhere we go. It is truly heart-warming. Being in the Far East demonstrates how parochial some of our current national and even European concerns are.
On the trip (mainly during the long flights) I completed reading The History of Isis by Feraz Gerges, Victorious Century by David Cannadine and Rooted Cosmopolitans by James Loeffler.