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Sir Hugh Cortazzi (1924-2018)

Sir Hugh Cortazzi (1924-2018)
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16 Aug 2018

It is with great sadness that we announce the death (14 August 2018) of Sir Hugh Cortazzi, former British Ambassador to Japan (1980-1984), Chairman of the Japan Society (1985-1995) and author/editor of a considerable number of scholarly works of reference, many published in recent years by Renaissance Books, and almost all in association with the Japan Society. 

His most recent book (July), co-edited with Antony Best, was British Foreign Secretaries and Japan, 1850-1990: Aspects of the Evolution of British Foreign Policy. Two months earlier, in May, a celebration launch of Georges Bigot and Japan, 1882-1899 took place at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, London. This gave him enormous pleasure: it had taken many years in the planning with co-author and compiler Christian Polak.

Paul Norbury, his publisher for the past twenty years, writes:

 “Sir Hugh was certainly the greatest author-diplomat of his generation, and quite possibly of all time. His output was immense, at many levels, with his major reference works being of enduring value, in particular the many volumes he edited of Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits , celebrating the lives of British and Japanese individuals who had contributed to the growth and development of Anglo-Japanese relations, in all fields of human endeavour, since the 1850s.

"In his Introduction to the final volume X (2016), he wrote: ‘This is the fifteenth volume of books about Japan and Britain, which have been published for or in association with the Japan Society in the last twenty-five years. In one way or another, I have been involved with all of them either as editor and compiler or as a contributor. More importantly, all these volumes are the result of a joint enterprise and have been totally dependent on contributors coming forward willing to find time for the necessary research and without reward.’

“Ours was a remarkable and highly productive symbiotic relationship which began in 1998 with the publication of his memoir Japan and Back, and Places Elsewhere . In December 2016, while attending the Emperor’s Birthday Party hosted by Japanese Ambassador Koji Tsuruoka, Sir Hugh leaned across to me and said: ‘Are you ready? I have an idea for a new book: what about a history of the British Royal and Japanese Imperial relations, to be published in time to mark the ascent to the Imperial throne of the new Emperor. What do you think?’  This, co-authored with Peter Kornicki and Antony Best, will now be published as a memorial volume in April 2019.”

Members of the Japan Society and other friends of Sir Hugh are invited to share their memories (and photographs) of Sir Hugh by writing to . They will be posted on a special page on the Japan Society website.