The Japan Society

Stephen Barber

Stephen Barber became fascinated with Japanese culture, society and business after his first trip in 1980 as a young investment manager. Visits to temples and museums were as frequent as those to steel furnaces, car plants and Ginza bars. The following year he was a British winner of the Japan Foreign Ministry Essay Prize on Japan-EU relations and never looked back.

In 1987 at the height of the bubble he was posted to Tokyo as head of the tiny subsidiary of a foreign asset manager with a mandate to gain an investment trust licence from the Ministry of Finance. He then began to learn to read and write Japanese in earnest.

Five years later, mission accomplished, Stephen returned to London to take up a senior role at Pictet & Cie, the Geneva wealth and asset manager. Part of his mission was to turn around the company’s struggling Japanese business. Eventually, Pictet became one of the top three foreign asset managers in Japan.

At Pictet he was an equity partner and head of group communications. In this role he honed his skills as an experienced editor and writer in finance, culture and fiction, an accomplished public speaker and chair of boards and advisory committees.

Stephen founded and built the Prix Pictet, now the world’s leading photographic prize (whose subject is sustainability), of which he is chairman. He has held several exhibitions at the prestigious TOP photography museum in Tokyo.

He is a managing trustee of the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, a trustee of the International Tree Foundation, a Visitor at History of Scuence Museum in Oxford and a member of the advisory board of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust. He holds an MA in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford (St John’s).

He is married to Kimiko, author of nine English language books on Japanese cuisine. With three adult sons, they divide time between London and Oxfordshire, where she keeps bees and cultivates vegetables, while he tends his arboretum and restores an ancient meadow.