Sir Hugh Cortazzi – Terry Bennett

I was deeply saddened to hear of Sir Hugh Cortazzi’s death. Energetic, and not one to suffer fools gladly, he was, nevertheless, a modest, kind and unaffected man who in all the years I knew him was unwavering in his deep affection for Japan and its culture.

In life, we probably only come across a handful of people, at most, who end up shaping us. Sir Hugh certainly had an impact on my life, and I will miss him.

We met, for the first time, in April 1982 at the British Embassy in Tokyo. In his spare time, he was finishing off one of his early books – a cartographic history of Japan. I had come across an old – perhaps the oldest – map of Japan and a friend suggested that as I was going to be in Tokyo, I should call on Sir Hugh to show it to him. He was delighted and was just in time to reproduce it in his book.  After our brief conversation, he kindly gave me a short personal tour of the impressive Embassy building, and then made his apologies saying that he had to leave for a meeting at the Japanese Foreign Office. At that time, Argentina had just invaded the Falkland Islands, and Sir Hugh said that he needed to convince the disbelieving Japanese officials that Britain, which had just sent out a naval task force, was not just sabre-rattling and was prepared to go to war. We agreed to stay in touch.

When Hugh retired from public service in 1984, he took some directorships and advisory positions with some private organisations. The least significant of these, by far, was a small financial services company with which I was involved. In the early 1990s, Hugh accepted my invitation to join as a part-time senior adviser, and he stayed on for a few years. His involvement led to significant growth in our Japanese business, and the company benefited enormously. Successful as his career in public service was, I’m sure that he would have excelled in business had fate in early life taken him in that direction. He had many talents.

Over the years, Hugh and I collaborated on some articles and books. In 1995 he encouraged me to co-author with him my first book – a work on early Japanese photography. This work gave me the confidence to do more in that field.

Success in dealing with the Japanese, he would tell me, was down to ‘PPC’ – patience, persistence and consistency. Perhaps he applied this rule to his work and life in general. I’d like to think so. Rest in peace, Hugh.

 

Terry Bennett

 

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