Vol.5 November 2007
- Marine Self-Defense Force Halts Refueling Activities
- Edo on the East Side
- Journey Across the Pacific: A Japanese American in Japan
- Japan Info X-tra - New Immigration Procedure to Start November 20
- Visit Japan - International City of Peace and Culture: Hiroshima
- Culture Connection - Exciting New English Releases from Japanese Publishers
- From the Ambassador's Desk
- The Winds of God -KAMIKAZE-
- Unheard Notes - A Piano Concert for the Differently-Able
The Antiterrorism Special Measures Law that provided the legal basis for Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) refueling activities in the Indian Ocean expired on November 2. Minister of Defense Shigeru Ishiba issued a withdrawal order to the supply ship Tokiwa and its escort ship Kirisame, and both vessels headed back to Japan. Refueling of foreign ships, part of Japan’s contribution to the international fight against terrorism, came to a halt with no immediate prospect for their resumption.
Regarding the withdrawal, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda issued a statement emphasizing that core aspect of the international community’s fight against terrorism is to ensure “Afghanistan does not once again become a hotbed of terrorism”. He reiterated, “For Japan to play a responsible role in the joint efforts by the international community to eradicate terrorism, continuation of the refueling activities is a must. The Government of Japan will do its utmost to achieve the early enactment of the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law so as to resume the refueling activities as soon as possible with the understanding and support of the Japanese people.”
Operation Enduring Freedom and Refueling Activities
The Antiterrorism Special Measures Law was enacted with the purpose of providing logistical support to US operations in Afghanistan that began in October 2001. The Maritime Interdiction Operation (MIO) involves wide-ranging duties, including the refueling of ships of countries from the “coalition of the willing” participating in the Afghan War, as well as measures to prevent weapons and drugs from falling into the hands of terrorists.
Commenting on the withdrawal of Japan’s ships from the Indian Ocean, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed his hope for an early resumption of refueling activities. On October 18 ambassadors in Japan from twelve nations which received fuel supplies, including the United States, gathered to emphasize the need for continuing the program at an extraordinary meeting open to Japanese lawmakers. Approximately seventy Diet members from both ruling and opposition parties attended.
Diet Debate on the New Antiterrorism Special Measures Bill
Following the termination of MSDF’s refueling, the clash between the ruling and opposition parties over passage of a new antiterrorism special measures bill moved into high gear. On October 17, the government submitted a new bill to the Diet. Prime Minister Fukuda and DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa held party-leader meetings on two occasions, but Ozawa rejected the prime minister’s request for support of the bill.
Prime Minister Fukuda confirmed his government’s policy of extending the current session of the Diet, scheduled to end on November 10, in order to push for a new bill. The DPJ, meanwhile, has not changed its opposition. Unless the two sides reach a compromise, it seems likely the bill will be approved in the House of Representatives, where the ruling coalition has an overwhelming majority, only to be rejected by the opposition-controlled House of Councillors. In this event, the government would return the bill to the House of Representatives for a second round of voting since, in accordance with constitutional regulations, the bill would be enacted because the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito hold a majority of more than two-thirds in the lower house.
(Editorial Note: On November 13, the bill was passed in House of Representatives and was immediately sent to House of Councillors.)
This article is an extracted from Japan Brief (Foreign Press Center / Japan).
On October 30th, an event promoting the city of Kawagoe’s tourist attractions, culture, and a variety of local products was held at Ambassador Sakurai’s residence on the Upper East Side. The event was jointly organized by the Kawagoe Style Club, a private organization formed by a group of young entrepreneurs from Kawagoe City, and the Consulate. It was the first time a non-government related organization from Japan sponsored a function at the Ambassador’s residence.
Kawagoe City is only about twenty miles north of Tokyo (a thirty minute train ride) yet going there can be like a voyage back in time. It is often said that “Kawagoe is the mother of Edo” since the streetscapes in this historic city in Saitama Prefecture retain the charm and vibrant atmosphere of Edo-era Tokyo. For this special event, the Ambassador’s residence was transformed into the historic Japanese castle town.
Among the evening’s guests were representatives from the publishing industry, including travel and food publications, as well as distinguished members of artistic organizations. Ms. Asako Kishi, a well-known judge on Food Network’s “Iron Chef” program, gave a lecture about the history of food during the Edo Period. She also spoke about recent developments in Japanese cuisine; for example, she noted that there are now more than 250 varieties of recipes for tofu.
Other notable activities included a performance by a master calligrapher who drew the characters “Kawagoe” on a huge piece of paper while accompanied by traditional woodwind music. There was Japanese traditional dance, typical of the style seen at the ‘dinner shows’ of the Edo Period. The evening was rounded out by a kagami biraki - the ceremonial breaking of a sake barrel to wish health and success to the celebrants, as well as a Kawagoe-style dinner that combined recipes of the Edo Period with modern flavors and arrangements. In addition, guests were treated to a Japanese decorative-pastry demonstration. And finally, the residence was filled with the sights and sounds of the “Kawagoe Matsuri”, a recreation of the annual festival that attracts millions of visitors each October.
The Consulate hopes the positive reaction from attendees will strengthen tourism to the timeless city of Kawagoe, and it looks forward to continuing to support more joint enterprises with both private organizations and local governments to introduce Japan’s diverse regional culture, foods, and products at the Ambassador’s residence.
By Donna Tsufura
Ihad heard it was "the trip of a lifetime."
This year I was one of thirteen Japanese Americans selected to be a member of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation. The program, sponsored by the Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, is aimed at creating closer ties between Japanese and Japanese Americans, as well as strengthening Japan-US relations. During our eight day trip to Japan this past March, we met with top-level political, business and cultural representatives.
Our trip began in Tokyo, where we engaged in a whirlwind of meetings with members from business and government, including the Speaker of the House. We attended a briefing with U.S Embassy staff and the president of the Japan Foundation. At Forum 21, a session with the next generation of corporate leaders, we discussed volunteerism--an uncommon activity in Japan where most of society's needs are taken care of by government and business. Our delegation also met with the Keidanren, Japan's national business association and we took part in a lunch with Japanese American businesspersons living in Tokyo. The latter group’s insights into how they skillfully use their dual identities in their professional interactions were particularly enlightening.
Another Tokyo highlight was an after-dinner karaoke with young parliamentarians headed by Taro Kono, the outspoken son of the Speaker of the House. Mr. Kono, who prides himself on being an enthusiastically terrible karaoke singer, entertained us by belting out his campaign song off-key at warp-speed.
Our stay in Tokyo included a memorable visit with the extraordinary Princess Takamado at her residence. The conversation ranged from the international influence of Japan's popular culture to how the educational benefits of technology and privacy issues have affected her own daughters. The Princess spoke of the Emperor's concern for the welfare of Nikkei all over the world. In a subtle reference to Japan's military history, she cautioned about making harsh judgments of those who acted in the past, offering that we could never fully grasp the background and circumstances of those who made critical decisions. Before leaving Tokyo we toured the Edo Museum and experienced a predawn exploration of Tsukiji, the famous fish market.
A bullet train ride to Kyoto passing by Mt. Fuji was like a trip back in time. In the ancient capital we watched a private kyogen (traditional Japanese farce) demonstration by a renowned performer at his residence. Later, we visited famous temples and in Kyoto's historic side streets we spotted an elusive Maiko, a young geisha in training.
In Hiroshima, we visited the Peace Museum, which documents the devastation of the atomic bombing. We heard an emotional and haunting presentation by a woman who barely survived the blast as a young girl. Later, at a public symposium, three delegates spoke on a theme entitled “Japanese Americans at a Crossroad: Connecting Past, Present and Future”. After the symposium we spoke with Hiroshima residents in small groups. We spent our final day touring the sacred island of Miyajima before returning to Tokyo and flying back to America.
It is impossible to fully describe the impact this delegation made on me. However, some impressions stand out: I gained an appreciation of the diversity of the Japanese people and in the company of my fellow delegates, I became aware of the diversity of the Japanese American community, as well. I was struck by the scarcity of Japanese women in leadership positions. But a positive aspect of our delegation was that half were women, and our presence demonstrated the contributions and leadership of women in the Japanese American community and American society. After visiting Hiroshima, I was amazed by Japan's phenomenal transformation from utter devastation to prosperity and economic power. That Japan and America, former enemies, could become partners and friends gives the world tremendous hope in the face of present conflicts.
Throughout the journey, I felt the constant conflict of how to conduct myself: as an American, as a Japanese American or as Japanese. My delegate experience has enabled me to create new avenues of communication, interaction and understanding between the Japanese and Japanese American communities.
I envision a future where both Japan and the United States make decisions in the context of serving the well-being of all humanity while providing for their own citizens and inspiring other countries to do the same. The Japanese American Leadership Delegation empowered me to do my part to create this future for the world.
It was indeed a trip of a lifetime--and the journey continues.
Donna Tsufura is a filmmaker and media consultant.
New Immigration Procedure to Start November 20
As of November 20, 2007, foreign nationals who apply to enter Japan will be required to be fingerprinted and photographed (facial photographs), and then interviewed by immigration inspectors.
This procedure is to enhance the accuracy of border control, but it is not targeting any specific country or region. Japan welcomes tourists and visitors from around the world.
The new procedure will apply to all foreign nationals upon their entry into Japan except for those exemptions as follows:
- Special permanent residents.
- Persons under the age of 16.
- Persons engaged in activities which fall under the status of residence for ‘Diplomat’ or ‘Official’.
- Persons invited by the heads of administrative organizations.
- Persons provided for by the Ministry of Justice ordinance as equivalent to a person listed in 3 or 4.
Please click here for details: http://www.ny.us.emb-japan.go.jp/en/e/Outline_070925.pdf
The new procedure allows for faster, more accurate matching of applicants with the list of people who have previously overstayed or have criminal records. There were just over 56,000 deportation cases in 2006, and 7,300 of them had previous deportation records. Some changed their names, some obtained a different citizenship and passport, and some even used passports that did not belong to them. For these reasons, the immigration authorities need to take more strident steps to prevent such individuals from re-entering Japan. The new immigration procedure also enables authorities to verify if the applicant is the authentic holder of the passport.
On the same date, Tokyo-Narita airport immigration will install an automated gate for foreign nationals who have re-entry permission. Those who wish to use this gate should register in advance. Detailed information is available at: http://www.moj.go.jp/NYUKAN/nyukan63-3.pdf
International City of Peace and Culture: Hiroshima
By Toru Mukaikubo
Director of Japan Local Government Center
(Representative of the City of Hiroshima)
A thriving metropolis of 1.2 million, Hiroshima, the internationally known city of peace, is a vibrant mix of old and new.
The history of Hiroshima begins in 1589 when Terumoto Mori, grandson of the lord who ruled most of the region, began building a castle on the Ota River delta. He named the area Hiroshima (lit. “wide island”). During the Tokugawa Era, the Mori family was forced to retreat and Hiroshima Castle was eventually taken over by the Asano clan, which would rule for twelve generations, or 250 years, until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Hiroshima Castle, Shukkeien Garden, Fudoin and Mitaki temples are landmarks that speak eloquently of the city’s historic past and are much loved by residents and visitors.
On August 6, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima. That single bomb instantly destroyed most of the city’s buildings, taking hundreds of thousands of lives. The reality of the Hiroshima tragedy must be passed on to future generations in order to prevent the repetition of such suffering and to achieve lasting world peace. With this in mind, all visitors to the city should visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Built in 1955 to convey the human toll of this unprecedented tragedy, the museum collects, stores, and displays artifacts from the atomic bombing. Millions of people come from around the world to visit as do scores of Japanese school children on field trips who listen to the vivid personal stories of the survivors of the atomic bombing. Peace Memorial Park, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims were constructed by the city of Hiroshima as an appeal for world peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons. The extensive park grounds are filled with monuments, including the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, the Flame of Peace, the Children’s Peace Monument, and the Fountain of Prayer.
Hiroshima is rich in culture and offers many activities for visitors. One of Hiroshima’s great attractions is the large number of art museums and public galleries, as well as its zoo and botanical garden. The Hiroshima Museum of Art, with works by Cezanne, van Gogh, and Renoir, boasts one of the largest and finest collections of French impressionist paintings in the world. The Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art is among the few public museums of contemporary art anywhere. Its wide-ranging collection features works by contemporary artists like Henry Moore, Andy Warhol, and Masuo Ikeda. The Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum is among the largest art museums in Western Japan with works by renowned Japanese artists. Furthermore, the Hiroshima Botanical Garden has the largest greenhouse in Japan, and the expansive Hiroshima Asa Zoological Park lets the animals live in comfort. Also, Hiroshima is headquarters of the Mazda Motors Corporation, and the Hiroshima City Transportation Museum offers a unique look at vehicles and the history of transportation. Finally, Hiroshima is known throughout Japan for its gourmet delicacies and products. Most Japanese consider Hiroshima’s oysters, with their perfect texture and superior flavor, the city’s most famous specialty.
Hiroshima is the largest, most vital city in the Chugoku-Shikoku region. Reduced to rubble by the atomic bombing of 1945, the city achieved an amazing post-war recovery thanks to the remarkable rebuilding effort carried out by its citizens. Today, typified by modern buildings lining Aioi Avenue, elegant shops and restaurants in the Motomachi district, and outdoor cafes on the Motoyasu River, downtown Hiroshima is a vibrant, popular destination for both residents and tourists alike.
For more information: http://www.hiroshima-navi.or.jp
Exciting New English Releases from Japanese Publishers
Thanks to the remarkable influence of Japan’s pop culture in recent years, Japan-related titles are hotter than ever. Here are just a few of the latest offerings from Japanese publishers based in New York.
- The Tokyo Look Book
- Stylish to Spectacular, Goth to Gyaru, Sidewalk to Catwalk
- Philomena Keet
- Photographs by Yuri Manabe
- Kodansha International
Author Philomena Keet, is a British-born former JET participant and Ph.D candidate in cultural anthropology whose thesis focuses on the incomparable world of Tokyo street fashion. Her main interest is exploring the difference in the overall conception of fashion between Japan and the U.S./U.K.. “Culturally, there may be something in the Japanese ability to have fun with clothes and enjoy them for what they are rather than as perceiving them as some meaningless frivolity which detracts from the ‘inner self’, she says. The book is based on photos and interviews collected while Keet explored the streets of Tokyo with photographer Yuri Manabe from the fall of 2006 until the spring of 2007. The Tokyo Look Book finds its inspiration in the cutting-edge, often wild, styles of Tokyo youth culture. It includes typical youth looks from business suits to kimono, punk to luxury brands to the otaku (“geeky” or “nerdy”) subcultures. Most interestingly, the book not only catalogs the many looks of Tokyo fashion it introduces the personal stories of the young people who wear them.
- Cute Dolls & Fun Dolls
- Aranzi Aronzo
- Vertical. Inc.
Vertical, based in New York and Tokyo, publishes novels, as well as Japanese anime, horror, and how-to books. Vertical is perhaps best known for translating and publishing the English version of Koji Suzuki’s modern classic horror novel, Ring, which was made into the hit 2003 movie The Ring. The publishing house releases about thirty publications a year, and their November releases include two fun and fascinating craft books entitled Cute Dolls and Fun Dolls. Both titles are “mascot” making books with introductions by Aranzi Aronzo, a Japanese sister duo the designers behind “Morizo” and “Kikkoro”, the mascots of the 2005 Aichi Exposition.
The books include patterns to make small-sized stuffed animals that are cute, mischievous, and fun. The easy to follow instructions enable children to create their own cute dolls. Japan’s love of cute (kawaii) characters is not, however, limited to children and teens -- many adults who also love cute products. The idea for Cute Dolls and Fun Dolls was born when Aranzi Aronzo could not keep up with demand for their products in Japan and the sisters decided to provide directions so consumers can make them.
On a completely different note, another new Vertical release is Guin Saga the paperback version of a sci-fi fantasy written by Kaoru Kurimoto, which features Guin, a leopard-headed warrior as its protagonist. Since the publication of its first volume in 1979, the Guin series has surpassed over one hundred volumes in Japan.
To discover more about recent Japanese literature translated into English, please visit the Japan Foundation web page. It features a search function of the latest translated works: http://www.jpf.go.jp/
L ast month, I had the pleasure of hosting a farewell party for the Chinese Ambassador and Consul General in New York before his return to China. I invited a group of other Asian Consuls General in New York to join us for the luncheon at my residence.
It was a social gathering, and we had a very pleasant time talking with the Chinese Ambassador and his wife, and Heads of Mission from Korea, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia, along with their spouses. The event was a valuable opportunity for Asian Consuls General to meet and to engage in a meaningful discussion of issues in an informal setting.
In other news, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made concerted efforts to strengthen ties with Japanese Americans for several years now. With this aim in mind, on September 23 I invited members of JAJA (Japanese American and Japanese in America), an organization composed of young Japanese American and Japanese individuals, to an evening reception at my residence. In attendance were Japanese guests from organizations and companies in the creative and media fields. Compared to the West Coast, in New York there are fewer places for young Japanese Americans to interact with each other. Therefore, I hope we can help support networking between young, professional Japanese Americans and Japanese. All of us at the Consulate look forward to broadening our ties with JAJA members in the future.
Selfless Sacrifice. The Kamikaze Pilots of World War II
- December 7 to 20
- 239 East 59th St., NYC
- Info: 212-371-6682 or www.TheImaginAsian.com (theater) www.TheWindsOfGod.com (official website)
B ased on the play, The Winds of God - Kamikaze, director and playwright Masayuki Imai brings his powerful story to the big-screen. The story, which focuses on the Japanese Kamikaze pilots of World War II, tells their tale from another point of view, two modern day Americans. Mike, a Caucasian male and Kinta, a half American & half Japanese male, travel back in time after colliding with a truck to August 1945 and into the bodies of two kamikaze pilots injured in a training accident during World War II. While both men deal with the harsh discipline and expectations of this commitment, they somehow retain the memories of their own lives making for an intriguing and modern story.
The play, written by Imai and performed by him for 18 years from 1988-2006 provides a history of the kamikaze pilot that, while it has been widely talked about and shown in film, is rarely discussed in detail and chronicles the reasoning behind their heartbreaking choices.
Another film, the documentary Wings of Defeat, also examines the kamikaze, by interviewing surviving Japanese kamikaze pilots, who reveal their ambivalence and resentment at a military which demanded they sacrifice their lives for their country. Widely acclaimed during its theatrical release in Japan in 2007, it will be screened at universities, with a likely theatrical release in the U.S. in 2008. Although its screening date and venue have not yet been confirmed, the detail of the documentary is available at its official website (http://www.wingsofdefeat.com). Through first-hand accounts by both former Kamikaze and American sailors who survived a Kamikaze attack, filmmakers Risa Morimoto and Linda Hoaglund invite the audience into reconsider a painful chapter of World War II.
December 3rd, 6pm
United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium
December 5th, 1pm & 7pm
Carnegie Hall Weill Recital Hall
Info: 212-926-2550 (New Heritage Theatre Group)
Celebrating the musical gifts of physically impaired men and women, Unheard Notes “Differently - Able” Pianists, is a special night of music as part of the Piano Paralympics, an international piano music festival that originated in Japan. In its New York debut, disabled yet world-class pianists from eight different countries will take part in a demonstration concert to raise awareness of the next Piano Paralympics in 2009.
Hosted by Japan’s Institute of Piano Teachers & Disabled Research Association (IPD), the Japanese were the first people to establish an institute for the Piano Paralympics, which first took place in Yokohama, Japan, in 2005. Its goals are to reach better methods to teach the disabled and educating piano teachers to help train them. The concert allows anyone with a physical disability to enter the competition and perform. Another important goal of the festival is to give these talented musicians the chance to share their gifts and explore their possibilities while showing people that everyone can overcome great challenges.
With two concert performances, one being on December 3rd, at the United Nations Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium as part of the U.N.’s International Day of Disabled Persons and the other on December 5th at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, these concerts will undoubtedly show the great abilities that those musicians possess, but also shed light on this fantastic musical events.