Tributes to Ian de Stains II

Written by Sterling Content
January 11, 2018


Written by Sterling Content
January 11, 2018

Former Executive Director of the BCCJ (1987-2011), Ian de Stains OBE, passed away in the early hours of Monday morning, Dec 18, 2017.


Messages of tribute continue to arrive at the BCCJ office and a selection of these are below.

When I arrived in Japan in 1978 Ian was already an established figure within the British community. Later most other foreign communities knew him, as well as a large number of indigenous Japanese.

We knew each other as passing acquaintances until 1987, as I recall, when I met him in the street close to the American Embassy looking particularly forlorn. He had just become the Executive Director of the BCCJ, but he was not in a good place. His immediate predecessor, whose name I thankfully cannot recall, departed his post in a huff and had destroyed all relevant BCCJ files. Furthermore he had inherited a shoe box of an office, and perhaps wondered if he had made the right career choice.

Poignantly, I was in the process of moving the Japan Branch of Sedgwick (much later merged into the Marsh Group) into the Kowa 16 Building directly opposite the American Embassy, with a surplus of office space along with the convenience of two entrances. By erecting a couple of partition walls, we created two offices with a large shared conference room. This was put on a proper footing by charging the BCCJ a peppercorn rent, and hey presto the BCCJ had spacious and decent lodgings for many a year.

Ian was always popping into my office for a chat, or to seek an alternative opinion on something, and every now and then we would slip across the road and into the Okura Hotel for lunch : a cheap one I might add. A 30 year friendship had been launched, and Ian never forgot the help he received when the future looked bleak.

Shortly before I retired from Cornes & Co.,Ltd. in 2010, I received a letter from the President of the BCCJ inviting me to become a Life Time Honorary Member of the Chamber. Not only do elephants have good memories, but Executive Directors too.

Ian cared about his friends, as my story illustrates, but he also cared about others less fortunate than himself in a serious way. Stories about his charitable efforts are legion, but much of what he did he kept to himself. Some very uncharitable folk put it about that Ian did what he did for recognition and applause. This upset him terribly, because another character trait was his extreme sensitivity combined with innate modesty. He perked up a little when I offered to punch any such uncharitable detractor on the nose. This is something he would never contemplate because he was a gentle soul, eschewing anger and violence whatever the provocation.

Ian organized and ran the Christmas Cracker annual event at the British Embassy for 25 years, in order to raise funds for various charitable causes. I recall that I attended them all, as good supportive friends always do, with Tim Minton leading the Granchester Meadows choir. These were fabulous heart warming occasions with Ian in his element as a RADA trained actor.

At the very last Christmas Cracker, when Sir David and Lady Pamela Warren were installed in the No.1 House, we presented Ian with a gift in recognition of what he had done in the previous 25 years. His actors guise disappeared in a flash, as he stepped forward pink with embarrassment along with modest downward eyes focused on the stage below his tartan kilt.

These words of mine are strewn with character clues, which in combination confirm Ian de Stains OBE as a truly gentle gentleman.

To say that he will be missed is an understatement. Rather, how will we be able to recover from his demise at such a young age, and enjoy the future without him?
– Robin Maynard MBE

I was deeply saddened to hear the news about Ian’s death. Ian was one of the first people I met when I arrived in Japan in 1994 and he was incredibly supportive when I left my employer and set up my own business the following year. My company became a Chamber member and eventually I became a member of the Executive Committee. Our relationship grew both professionally and on a personal basis and he was instrumental together with Graham Harris in encouraging me to become the first lady BCCJ President in 2004.

Ian taught me so much and quite frankly I found him to be a walking, talking encyclopaedia not only on the subject of Japan/UK relations but in many other subjects too. He actively encouraged entrepreneurship, was supportive to those who needed help both professionally and personally and had superb diplomatic skills. Ian also had a wicked sense of humour and we shared many moments of fun and laughter.

Unknown to some, Ian was afraid of heights and I had to hand it to him on two particular occasions for being so brave. Back in 1995, our first office was on the 32nd floor of the Shinjuku Nomura building and I invited him to visit our new office of which I was extremely proud. I didn’t know he found it incredibly difficult to get in a lift. But he did – it was business and he was visiting a new chamber member so he made himself do it. Having offered him a cup of tea when he arrived, in hindsight I’m sure he would have preferred a stiff gin and tonic! The second occasion was when we both went down to the Japan Expo in Aichi in 2005. The Expo was huge and there was a cable car that went right across the site from one end to the other. It was too far to walk so we got in the cable car. I was troubled that Ian couldn’t take his eyes off me. His glare was so piercing I asked him if he was OK having forgotten about his height problem! He said “Alison if you don’t mind, you have to keep talking because if I don’t look into your eyes and pay attention to your every word, I shall faint in this cable car”. What bravery – enough said.
Ian and I shared a love of cats among many things and on my 50th birthday he gave me the most beautiful drawing he had done of a Siamese cat. He was an excellent artist. He and Hajime also gave me a beautiful piece of Japanese pottery made by Hajime’s mother. Two things to be cherished in memory of Ian and the wonderful life he and Hajime shared.

Ian will be sadly missed, I am honoured to have known him and shared a part of my life with him.
– Alison Pockett MBE (BCCJ President 2004-2007)

We have been deeply sad since learning that Ian had passed away on 18 December. I had last met him over a drink at the Palace Hotel in May, where we shared many happy reminiscences of the late 1980s and early 1990s; when he was Executive Director of the Chamber and I was on my final of four tours at the Embassy as Commercial Counsellor. Ian made a very significant contribution at that time and since to British commercial interests in Japan, well reflected in his appointment as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Ian’s ever positive approach, deep understanding and affection for Japan’s culture and much focused and hard work were instrumental at a definitive time for our trade and investment relations. The Chamber and the Embassy’s collaboration with it thrived thanks largely to his well directed enthusiasm and professionalism. Ian would not have accepted the term but he became a legend. We shall always miss him and send our lasting sympathy to his partner and to his sister.
– Paul and Carolyn Dimond

I am writing to express our sincere condolences for the sad passing of Ian de Stains.

I first met Ian in 1989, and we hit it off immediately. His office was within the British Council building on ‘soto-bori-dori’ and Ian and his lovely staff always made us feel welcome. He had a certain sense of humour that could make light of the absurdities in any situation while dispensing sage advice. He had a strong sense of the right thing to do, and sought harmony and equilibrium in every situation, expertly navigating between the cultures of Britain and Japan and understanding their vital contribution to successful business development.

We celebrated many festive occasions together in Japan, including Christmas and we continued to meet up when we returned to visit, bringing old fashioned British things such as Patum Peperium Gentleman’s Relish for Ian and Hajime to enjoy, and he would respond in kind with his delicious homemade marmalade.. We last met in June, when, too ill to venture out, Michio and I made our way to Ian and Hajime’s lovely house, taking smoked mackerel as a gift and spent a day catching up with old times. Michio last saw him in November. Ian was kind, loyal, intelligent, loved cats and had a gentle curiosity about all people as well as a strong sense of moral justice realised in his charity work whereby he expected the people around him to be as decent as him, and indeed, we strove to be. Our thoughts are with Hajime and all his family. A lovely person has gone and he’ll be much missed.
– Jenny White and Michio Harada

So sad to hear of Ian’s untimely passing. In my time in Japan and as President of the BCCJ, Ian WAS the BCCJ, he knew everything, everyone, and was ever present, an invaluable resource and never one to turn away from the challenges the membership and aspiring market entrants might present. Ever charming, if there was an ambassadorship for being ‘The British Gentleman’ it was Ian’s. Off watch and on Stage, his sense of humor was natural, his delivery, theatrical (of course), and his timing, perfect. I’d like to think our relationship was more than professional, he made it more without trying. He will be remembered, and missed by all those that knew him.
– David Blume OBE, Former President, BCCJ

Ian was a pleasure to know and to work with. Kind and genuine, he took such care with what he wrote for Acumen, always considering what the readers wanted to read and always humble about his great talent with the pen. He was a lovely person and will be missed.
– Kathryn Wortley, Sterling Content, Former Editor BCCJ ACUMEN magazine

For more tributes to Ian, please also see