| Japanese (日本語)

Vol.7 January 2008


New Antiterrorism Special Measures Bill Enacted

Japanese fuel ship Oumi will resume refueling in Indian Ocean

After months of sharp debate, the Japanese Diet passed a new antiterrorism special measures law on January 11. The law (also known as the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law) provides the legal groundwork for the resumption of refueling activities by the Maritime Self-Defense Forces in the Indian Ocean that were suspended in November.

The legal basis for Japanese refueling activities of foreign vessels in the region was originally provided by the time-limited Antiterrorism Special Measures Law, enacted in October 2001. The law was extended three times. But a fourth extension became impossible and the MSDF was withdrawn from the Indian Ocean when Diet deliberations on a new bill became stalled after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party suffered a heavy defeat in the House of Councillors elections last July.

As a result of the election, the Diet is divided. The ruling LDP and New Komeito control more than two-thirds of the seats in the lower House of Representatives and the opposition parties hold a majority in the upper House of Councillors. With the government and ruling parties on one side and opposition parties on the other, Diet members clashed over the refueling issue. The government called for the activities to continue as part of “Japan’s international commitment”, but the opposition remained strongly opposed to extending the law.

The Fukuda government submitted a new bill to the Diet in October of 2007. It also extended the Diet session twice to push for a resumption of refueling, and the new special measures bill had been the main focal point of the extraordinary session of the Diet since September. Although the bill was initially rejected in a plenary session of the House of Councillors, where opposition parties are in the majority, it eventually passed a second vote in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by a ruling coalition. According to Japan’s constitution, a bill requires the support of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. However, if the House of Councillors rejects a bill that has been passed by the House of Representatives, or if the House of Councillors does not vote on a bill sent by the House of Representatives within 60 days, the bill becomes law if it is passed in a second vote in the House of Representatives with the support of two-thirds or more of the members present. The vote on the special measured bill marked the first time since 1951 that a bill was passed in such a manner.

After the enactment of the bill, Minister of Defense Shigeru Ishiba immediately gave instructions to begin preparations for the dispatch of the MSDF to the Indian Ocean. The MSDF is scheduled to send a fuel-supply ship and an escort ship in late January.It will be joined by a refuel supply and refueling activities are expected to resume by mid-February. (Editor’s Note: The MSDF dispatched an escort ship, the destroyer Murasame on January 24th and fuel supply ship Oumi on January 25th) After the enactment of the legislation, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda issued a statement saying, “It is truly significant that Japan can now rejoin the ‘fight against terror.’ . . . The Government of Japan will continue to actively implement humanitarian and reconstruction assistance and contribute to the nation-building of Afghanistan in close coordination with the international community.”

This article is extracted from Japan Brief January 16, Foreign Press Center, Japan.

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Japanese Sensei Gather in Texas

Ms. Asako Kishi

Students in Texas perform Yosakoi Soran dance

The Annual meeting of the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) 2007 was recently held at San Antonio, TX from November 16th to November 18th. The ACTFL is a national professional organization representing over 10,500 foreign language educators and administrators from all levels of instruction and languages in the U.S. ACTFL is a leading national voice among language educators and administrators, and it helps set standards and expectations to result in high quality language programs. The organization’s annual event includes workshops aimed at developing the quality of language instruction and an exhibition introducing various languages and their respective cultures. Over 6000 educators and administrators from across the nation participated.

Among the educators in attendance were members of the NCJLT(National Council of Japanese Language Teachers), an organization dedicated to the promotion and development of Japanese language teaching at the elementary, secondary, and college levels across the United States.

The NCJLT organized a Japan Pavilion featuring thirteen Japan-related booths. The Pavilion opened with greetings by the NCJLT’s past president and a Japanese shamisen performance by Yukio Koma from Japan. Mr. Koma performed Japanese music and popular American music on the traditional Japanese string instrument, drawing large crowds to his performances. Local NCJLT representatives from Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York (NECTJ: Northeast Council of Teachers of Japanese), Oregon, Texas, and Washington gave demonstrations of elements of Japanese culture such as calligraphy. One of the most popular demonstrations was the Texas Yosakoi Soran, a dance troupe led by Masumi Reade of Woodlands High School, TX. Yosakoi Soran is a popular Japanese group dance among high school students in Japan. The group demonstrated a Texas-style performance of a dance they performed at the Hokkaido Yosakoi Soran Festival in Japan last year. The group was a big hit receiving applause from the Japanese teachers and other language teachers and exhibitors. The ACTFL 2007 also saw the presentation of a Florence Steiner Award for Leadership in Foreign Language Education to Hiroko Kataoka from California State University Long Beach. It was the first time a Japanese language teacher received the honor at the annual conference.

The NCJLT also sponsored workshop sessions on a range of topics, including AP (Advanced Placement) Japanese, integrating technologies like podcasting and blogging into language learning, heritage language education, curriculum development, and content-based instruction. The event was a perfect opportunity to discuss the future of Japanese language education in the U.S. and the future of NCJLT as an organization. The group looks forward to participating again next year.

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Japan-US Relations 2017

By Devin Stewart

The Delegation Meets with Yohei Kono, the Speaker of the House

Japan-U.S Leadership Program Participants in Kyoto.
(Devin Stewart, second from right)

AJapanese Diet committee last month adopted a resolution urging the United States to keep North Korea on its blacklist of terrorist states. The committee warned that consequences could include “serious impact on the Japan-US alliance.”

Meanwhile, the Fukuda government had been pleading with the opposition to rejoin the U.S. war against terrorism and allow Japanese ships to continue to provide fuel and support in the Indian Ocean for operations in Afghanistan. Luckily, common sense prevailed.

Beyond the differences in the two countries over the threat assessment of terrorism, some in the United States and Japan have begun regarding each other with mutual confusion. When I traveled to Japan in November with a Center for Global Partnership delegation, many officials voiced concern about what they saw as a growing inward-looking posture in the United States, the same accusation many U.S. policy experts are slinging at Japan. Talk about perception gap.

These concerns fuel a general anxiety about the future of the alliance amid political change in both countries and shifting power relations in Asia. Nevertheless, the long term rationale for the U.S.-Japan alliance has not diminished. Acting together, Japan and the United States are more likely to influence the political agenda in Asia.

It may be useful to consider possible future scenarios in Asia to recall this point. Scenario-building is helpful in identifying risks and developing long term plans. If force is mass times acceleration, China is the most likely body to exert “serious impact” on the near future of East Asia. It is therefore logical to hold the U.S.-Japan alliance as a constant in order to plan for scenarios that could vary greatly depending on China’s ability to pull off the Olympics and avoid an economic crisis.

In scenario one, China hosts the Beijing Olympics successfully, dampening further speculation about an impending financial crash. Rising fuel prices and pollution controls in China actually do the trick to shift the policy environment toward conservation and energy efficiency, putting China’s regional leadership position in greater stead.

The United States and Japan would have much to offer the region in the areas of energy, security, and economic cooperation. In the face of a strong China, however, the United States and Japan would be able to offer a more attractive package even trilaterally than as states with diverging senses of purpose.

Open goods, capital, and labor markets taking shape in comprehensive economic partnership agreements can act as a carrot to countries that respect human rights. The best path toward securing influence is a strong U.S.-Japan alliance and a deeper integration of the U.S. and Japanese economies, building on a Korea-U.S. (KORUS) Free Trade Agreement and leading to a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

In scenario two, China fails its Olympic test. Pollution is one risk: Perhaps the performance of athletes will suffer as a result of poor air quality. Or a discomfiting story related to environmental degradation could embarrass the Chinese. The government may not be prepared to respond to critical questions from foreign journalists, nor to their own citizens disseminating controversial information over the Internet. Activists are already planning protests with respect to human rights, the environment, and civil liberties to correspond with the international attention the Olympics will draw to Beijing. Protests might be violently quelled, begging more questions about China’s human rights record.

As political scientist Ian Bremmer recently put it: “Even if police are able to maintain order in Beijing, can they extend that control across the country? Can they manage the flow of information and ideas through the blogosphere as online activists open yet another front in their battle for free information?”

Faced with rising fuel and labor prices, growing scrutiny over corporate governance and non-performing loans, and a slowing U.S. economy, the balance could tip in China, bursting the stock market and real estate bubbles and causing investor flight. It is unclear whether China would remain politically stable if such a crash were to occur.

It is also unclear how the U.S. and Japanese economies would fair if Chinese economic growth took a nosedive. Rising world interest rates and inflation, falling profits, and further financial instability could worsen the subprime loan problem, bringing about a world recession. A strong U.S.-Japan alliance would provide a welcome anchor amid this potential chaos.

In scenario three, I posit a wildcard: possible causes of the gradual or abrupt disintegration of the U.S.-Japan alliance. They could conflate in a number of events: the election of protectionist leaders in the United States and Japan; unification of North and South Koreas calls into question the rationale of the alliance; a dramatic incident such as a rape on a U.S. base in Japan; a China-Taiwan armed conflict in which Japan fails to defend U.S. forces due to its constitutional interpretation; or a terrorist attack on Japanese energy interests in the Middle East.

The next year may bring any number of possible events that could alter the economic and political atmosphere in East Asia. In scenarios in which economic prosperity and peace flourish, the United States and Japan would be better positioned to offer a compelling vision of universal values in the context of the alliance. In scenarios in which conflict breaks out, Japan and the United States would be better equipped to complement one another, given the difference in capacities.

Let’s not allow Pyongyang to drive a wedge between friends.

 kagami biraki


Devin Stewart is program director at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and editor of Policy Innovations. He participated in the “Japan-US Leadership Network Program” in Tokyo, which was coordinated by the Center for Global Partnership and MOFA last month. This essay was adapted from his comments at a panel in Tokyo entitled “Japan-US Relations 2017.”

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culture connection

Government of Japan Honors Mr. Philippe de Montebello 

Mr. de Montebello (left)

On November 3rd, 2007, Philippe de Montebello, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, was honored with one of the highest Japanese decorations, The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, for his outstanding contributions to the introduction and development of the arts and culture of Japan.

After studying art history at Harvard University and New York University, Philippe de Montebello joined The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he has spent almost forty years. As Director of the Museum, Mr. de Montebello has made major contributions to the development of the arts around the globe. His efforts are especially influential in Japan, as the Metropolitan frequently lends pieces from its collections to museums there. Mr. de Montebello is also recognized for his outstanding work introducing the art of Japan to a wider audience, through the establishment of a permanent gallery for the display of Japanese art and the staging of special exhibitions at the Museum. Further, Mr. de Montebello has worked tirelessly to personally promote friendship and develop ties among leading figures from Japan, the U.S. and other countries.

Sackler Wing

The conferment ceremony for Mr. de Montebello was held on December 6th 2007 at the residence of Ambassador Motoatsu Sakurai, Consul General of Japan in New York. Approximately 50 people, including Mr. de Montebello’s wife, children, grandchildren, staff and trustees of the Metropolitan Museum, friends and supporters from various fields, gathered to celebrate Mr. de Montebello for this honor in a warm and sociable atmosphere. During the ceremony, Ambassador Sakurai praised Mr. de Montebello for his strong leadership and his enthusiasm in making Japanese art accessible to the Western world.

Sackler Wing

Mr. de Montebello established the Arts of Japan galleries in The Sackler Wing, which opened in 1987. Mr. de Montebello said that he believed the Met did not have galleries that did justice to Japan’s extraordinarily rich, artistic heritage and therefore decided to create a gallery for Japanese art. He added that the creation of the gallery represented a remarkable and unusually close cooperation between the people of two countries. Mr. de Montebello also announced the exhibition “The Art of the Samurai” which is going to be held from October 21, 2008. The exhibition, the first comprehensive show devoted to the arts of the samurai, will feature examples of armor, swords, firearms, archery equipment, and banners taken from public and private collections in Japan.


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Visit Japan map of japan yokoso Japan

Tokyo Midtown

Invitation to Tokyo

By Ryuichi Kohama
Director of Japan Local Government Center
(Representative of Tokyo Metropolitan Government)


The history of the city of Tokyo stretches back some 400 years. Originally named Edo, the city started to flourish after Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603. Edo was the center of politics and culture in Japan and grew into a large city with a population of over a million by the mid-eighteenth century. During this time, the Emperor resided in Kyoto, which was the formal capital of the nation. The Edo Period in Tokyo lasted for nearly 260 years, until the Meiji Restoration in 1868 when the Tokugawa Shogunate ended and imperial rule was restored. The Emperor moved to Edo and the city was renamed Tokyo and became the capital of Japan. Today the overall population of Tokyo is about 12.5 million, and the area is about 2,187 square kilometers. In 1964, the Olympic Games were held in Tokyo, the Bullet Train began service and the Metropolitan Expressway was opened. These achievements signified the beginning of Tokyo’s current prosperity. Its central location makes the city a hub for Japanese aerial transport and railroad networks.

Cherry Blossom Festival

Tanabata Festival

Torino Ichi "Open-Air Market"

Seasonal Events

In the spring you can enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms. Hanami ‘cherry blossom viewing’ has been celebrated for many centuries and some of the most popular spots are located within Tokyo. Cherry blossom events and festivals are held every year to honor Japan’s unofficial national flower.


The traditional festivals of the summer are the Tanabata festival ‘wishes-come-true’ and the O-bon ‘All Souls’ festival for spirits of the dead. The sound of Ohayashi ‘festival music’ and the shouting of “Washoi, Washoi” from the portable shrine carriers can be heard from afar. As the small and large portable shrines bounce up and down along the streets, the participants and viewers enthusiastically engage in the celebration and tradition.

As they have done since the Edo Period, each autumn the Torino Ichi ‘open-air markets’ festivals take place in shrines around Tokyo. Many people visit the stalls to purchase highly decorated bamboo rakes in the hope of bringing them good luck, both personally and in business.

In the winter, the most important of all annual celebrations is Shogatsu, the New Year. It is a time to thank the gods (kami) for protecting their harvests and to welcome the spirits of ancestors who protect their families. It is followed by Hatsumode ‘the first visit to the shrine or temple’. During this visit, one will pray for the safety of his family and a rich harvest. In February, the Tokyo Marathon, which is a new addition to the city's calender of events, is the largest civic marathon in Japan.

What’s New

Tokyo Midtown

On March 2007, Tokyo’s latest shopping, business, residential, dining, and entertainment complex, Tokyo Midtown, opened in Roppongi. Tokyo Midtown boasts the tallest building in the Tokyo area (Midtown Tower), the Suntory Museum of Art, and Design Sight 21_21 a workshop and design museum dedicated to design and created by world-renowned fashion designer Issey Miyake and architect Tadao Ando. The area attracts a large number of Western tourists, and in the evening its night clubs and restaurants are quite popular. Tokyo is a city where fine dining is an integral part of the culture. This past November 2007, the Michelin Guide bestowed a veritable galaxy of 191 stars to 150 restaurants in Tokyo -- more stars than in any other city in the world.

On June 30, 2007, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government submitted its plans to host the 2016 Olympic Games to the Japanese Olympic Committee . Tokyo hopes its bid is accepted so it may welcome the world to a great city overflowing with Japanese hospitality and culture.

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culture connection

New Year celebration-Oshogatsu


Oshogatsu, the first week of the New Year, is one of the most important holidays for Japanese people. The Japanese celebrate the New Year by eating special dishes, osechi-ryori. Each dish has a symbolic meaning such as promoting good health, fertility, good harvest, and happiness. There are also many traditional customs and events. For example, people visit shrines during the first three days of the New Year (hatsumode), give pocket money to children (otoshidama), exchange postcards (nengajo, which is still popular in Japan although e-mail is quickly becoming an alternative to letters), play New Year's games, create rice cakes (mochi-tsuki) and so on. This January, there were many Oshogatsu-related events held in and around New York.

A girl performs "Sakura Sakura"

The Japan Society of Fairfield County held a New Year celebration at the Plum Tree Japanese restaurant in New Canaan, Connecticut on January 13th. This year, Japan Society of Fairfield County will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Members and guests enjoyed an obento-box style Osechi-ryori lunch along with a Japanese dance routine, a Shamisen performance and a rice pounding (mochi-tsuki) event. A ten year-old girl performed a Japanese dance, “Sakura Sakura” (cherry blossom) and received a great deal of applause. During the mochi-tsuki event, selected members tried hard not to lose their balance while using a heavy wooden hammer to pound the rice cakes, as spectators cheered for them. After the rice cake pounding, everyone enjoyed the hot sticky rice cakes with red bean paste and soybean flour. http://www.home.earthlink.net/~jsfc/

Fukuwarai (funny face) Game

© Japan Society

The Japan Society in New York held an event, “Japan’s New Year’s Day Celebration: Oshogatsu”, on January 13th. 500 people gathered to celebrate Japan’s New Year’s holiday. They enjoyed lion dancing (shishimai) accompanied by live taiko drumming and fue (Japanese flute made of bamboo), as well as a Miko (Shrine maiden) dance performance. There were lots of traditional New Year’s activities for children, including special New Year’s calligraphy (kakizome), kite-making/flying, blinded folded “create-a-face” game (fukuwarai) and traditional rice cake pounding (mochi-tsuki).

A boy wearing happi trys mochitsuki

Another New Year's event was held at the Japanese Parenting and Family Center at the 14th Street Y on January 20th. More than 400 people participated. Many Japanese and American children gathered and experienced an entertaining afternoon with their parents and friends. One of the main events, which took place a few times during the Fair, was rice-cake pounding. Children took turns wearing a small-sized happi coat and hitting the rice with a small wooden hammer. The children and their parents were also very excited to see the performances by Samurai Sword Soul and Kyokushin Karate. It was a great opportunity for everyone to gain a better understanding of Japanese culture through a variety of programs and activities.

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From the Ambassador's Desk


Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Happy New Year! I hope you are enjoying a wonderful 2008. This year we welcome in nezumidoshi, the year of the rat; it is said to symbolize prosperity and a time to enthusiastically pursue one’s goals.

One of our goals at the Consulate is ensuring that the Japan-U.S. relationship remains strong. During his first visit to the United States in November, Prime Minister Fukuda announced a new initiative to strengthen our countries’ partnership for the mid and long term. The Prime Minister’s plan includes three main measures: strengthening intellectual exchange by supporting relationships with American think tanks and universities; increasing grass roots exchanges like the JET Program and ties with Japanese-Americans; and promoting Japanese language education in secondary and higher education. The Consulate looks forward to doing our part. I hope that by working with our friends and partners here in the New York area we can realize the goals of this initiative and build healthy relations between the people of Japan and the United States.

I again wish all the readers of Japan Info a successful, healthy, and prosperous 2008.

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Event Calendar

JAPAN! Culture + Hyperculture


February 5 - 17
The Kennedy Center
2700 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20566
Info: 800-444-1324 or www.kennedy-center.org/

W ith a long standing history shared between Japan and the Kennedy Center,what better place to host the international Japanese culture festival JAPAN! Culture + Hyperculture than at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts? Celebrating Japan’s traditional art and design, anime, fashion, and the visual arts, this two week festival will feature more than 40 performances and over 450 artists. This will be one of the largest, if not THE largest gathering of award winning directors, dancers, musicians, and artists from Japan in one place.


Artists such as Mika Ninagawa, one of Japan’s popular photographers and filmmakers, will have some of her floral photos featured. Her father, Yukio Ninagawa, an award-winning director from Japan, presents Shintoku-Maru, a production based on a Japanese “Noh” play. His tragic fable of love and lust features one of Japan’s biggest stars, Tatsuya Fujiwara, of Battle Royale fame.

Amon Miyamoto, another famed director from Japan, conceived and directed the musical, Up in the Air: The Story of Boonah, the Tree-Climbing Frog. Created for young adults and their families, Up in the Air is about a frog that scales the tallest tree near his pond and learns an unforgettable lesson about nature’s grand design and the cycle of life.

Sankai Juku in Kinkan Shonen (Kumquat Seed)

Throughout his storied career, architect Tadao Ando has won many awards for his work using natural light and landscape as his muse. In this special exhibition, he presents his glass installation Four Cubes to Contemplate Our Environment, as he explores sustainability and the environment. Look out for performances by Japan’s biggest butoh company Sankai Juku, a dance theater group that has to be seen to be believed. Here they will perform Kinkan Shonen (Kumquat Seed), an interpretation of the origin of life and death through a young boy’s dream.

New National Theater Ballet, Tokyo

For a more traditional look at Japan, the New National Theatre Ballet, Tokyo will make its international debut with Raymonda, Marius Petipa’s last great ballet creation, telling the story of a woman caught between her suitor and a seductive warrior who duel for her heart. The ballet company will also be putting on a mixed repertory program for one-night only featuring George Ballantine’s Serenade with music by Tchaikovsky, Maki’s And Waltz with music by Ravel, and Nacho Duato’s Duende with music by Debussy.

If that isn’t enough, featured events include the best music, dance, and art that Japan has to offer. Six stages will showcase 15 premieres and more than a dozen free events. You might even see a few robots! Digging deep into the cultural and artistic experience of Japan’s rich heritage, noh, kabuki, taiko, manga & anime, along with otaku, the “nerd culture” of robots, will also be exhibited. From the past to the future, this festival encompasses the culture and hyperculture that is Japan.

Maywa Denki

Mansaku-no-Kai Kyogen Company

Robotopia Rising, Toyota Partner Robot

Up in the Air

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Performance / Films Exhibitions
2/28 & 3/1@8pm
3/2 @ 2pm
2008's Israel Non-Stop "Black Rain"

Jewish Community Center
11/24 - Fall,08
Cornucopia: Recent Acquisitions in Japanese Art
Philadelphia Museum of Art
2/14- 3/15
Mizue Sawano Exhibition
Gerald Peters Gallery

Exhibitions Music
2/8 ,9 /08
Akiko Yano: Voice & Piano
Japan Society
2/9 @8pm
Tokyo String Quartet
92nd St. Y
Music Lectures
2/23 & 24
Music from Japan "Festival 2008"
Merkin Concert Hall
An Evening with Donald Keene
Japan Society
2/20 @6:00pm
Discovering Japanese Modern
The Center for Architecture
The Noguchi Museum

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(c) Consulate-General of Japan in New York
299 Park Avenue 18th Floor, New York, NY 10171
Tel: (212)371-8222