| Japanese (日本語)

Vol.26 September 2009


Inauguration of the Hatoyama Cabinet

the designation of Yukio Hatoyama as the prime minister

Photo Courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office

In the afternoon of September 16 Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama was designated as the ninety-third prime minister of Japan; he is the sixtieth person to hold the post. After his designation, the new prime minister immediately entered the Prime Minister’s Office and announced his 17-member cabinet, including Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada. In the evening of the same day a prime minister’s investiture and cabinet ministers’ attestation ceremony performed by the Emperor were held at the Imperial Palace, thus officially inaugurating the coalition government of Prime Minister Hatoyama comprising the DPJ, Social Democratic Party, and People’s New Party. It is the first time in postwar Japan for a change of government to take place after an opposition party gained an outright majority in a general election for the House of Representatives.

the new cabinet

Photo Courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office

According to major newspaper reports, at the first press conference after his appointment, held in the evening of September 16, Prime Minister Hatoyama declared his determination to realize politics that sheds its dependence on the bureaucracy. He also indicated his intention to give top priority to measures to stimulate household budgets, such as the establishment of a child allowance and abolition of the provisional gasoline tax rate, which the DPJ pledged in its election manifesto. With regard to financial sources for these measures, Prime Minister Hatoyama said that “for the first fiscal year, we are certain that we can secure the necessary amount, which is somewhat over 7 trillion yen” by thoroughly reviewing wasteful spending. The new prime minister added that he would immediately launch the Administrative Reform Council in order to eliminate administrative waste. Prime Minister Hatoyama also indicated his intention to thoroughly review the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget, under which some projects have already been started, but added, “We will give careful consideration to such cases where work has already begun and there would be serious consequences should this be halted.” Regarding compilation of the fiscal 2010 budget, Prime Minister Hatoyama said that budgetary requests by ministries and agencies “will be reconsidered from a zero-based budgeting approach” but added that he would aim to compile a budget draft by the end of the year.

Also in the evening of September 16 the new cabinet met and decided on a basic policy stipulating the framework of politics-led decision making, such as the establishment of the National Strategy Office as the precursor of the National Strategy Bureau, which among other things will compile the outline of the budget; the integration of government and ruling party decision making; and the abolition of meetings of administrative vice-ministers (top bureaucrats). In addition, at an informal gathering of ministers after the cabinet meeting, it was confirmed that the relationship between politics and bureaucracy would be one in which politicians draft, coordinate, and decide policies in a responsible manner and bureaucrats provide assistance in this process.

©2009 Foreign Press Center, Japan
This article is based on Japan Brief/FPCJ, No.0955. Japan Brief is an original production of the Foreign Press Center, Japan, and does not represent the views of the Government of Japan or any other body.


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PM Hatoyama in NY

PM Hatoyama at the UN Summit on Climate Change

Photo Courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office

Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama arrived in NY on September 21st, immediately after his designation as PM and the formation of his cabinet on September 16th. He stayed in NY until his departure for Pittsburgh to take part in the G20 Summit on September 24th. It was his first visit abroad as Japan’s new leader.

On the 22nd, Prime Minister Hatoyama, together with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, attended the UN Summit on Climate Change held under the initiative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. At this meeting, the prime minister made a statement in which he announced Japan’s mid-term goal of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. He said that Japan would aim to reduce its emissions by 25% by 2020, as compared to the 1990 level, consistent with what scientists call for in order to halt global warming. He also stressed the necessity of the establishment of a fair and effective international framework in which all major economies participate, saying that the commitment of Japan to the world is premised on agreement on ambitious targets by all the major economies. UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as other world leaders highly appreciated the statement by Prime Minister Hatoyama as a strong message facilitating the process toward COP 15 in December this year (For the statement, visit: http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/un/assembly2009/pm0922.html).

PM Hatoyama at the UN Security Council Summit

Photo Courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office

On the 24th, the prime minister and foreign minister attended the UN Security Council Summit on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament held under the initiative of U.S. President Barack Obama. In his speech at the summit meeting, Prime Minister Hatoyama welcomed the vision of a “world without nuclear weapons” proposed by President Obama this April, called upon nuclear-weapons holding states to reduce their nuclear arsenals, and stressed the importance of taking other actions (For this statement, visit: http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/un/assembly2009/pm0924-1.html). On the same day, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada attended the 6th Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the CTBT (For his statement there, visit: http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/un/disarmament/ctbt/state0909.html).

Soon after the UNSC Summit, PM Hatoyama made his address at the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly. In his address, PM Hatoyama stressed Japan’s intention to again play the role of “bridge” between the East and West for the purpose of tackling five challenges, including the global economic crisis, climate change, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, issues of peace-building, development and poverty, and the building of an East Asian community (For his address, visit: http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/un/assembly2009/pm0924-2.html).

Meeting with the US President Barack Obama

Photo Courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office

On the sideline of these multilateral events, PM Hatoyama held several bilateral summit meetings. During his first face-to-face with the US President Barack Obama, which was held on September 23rd, both leaders discussed how to develop the Japan-US relationship as well as how to deal with the situation in the Asian-Pacific region and other global challenges. Prime Minister Hatoyama stressed that the Japan-US alliance will continue to be the cornerstone of Japan’s foreign policy. Both sides agreed to further strengthen their bilateral alliance. President Obama said he was looking forward to his visit to Japan in November. Prior to this meeting, on the 21st, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada met with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and discussed bilateral and global issues.

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

On the 23rd, after the Japan-US Summit meeting, Prime Minister Hatoyama joined a luncheon organized by Japan Society. About 60 invited guests, many of whom were American business leaders, welcomed Prime Minister Hatoyama and enjoyed the opportunity to engage in informal conversations with him. In his brief speech at this luncheon, the prime minister praised the significant role which Japan Society has played in the development of the Japan-US relationship.

The prime minister’s wife Miyuki Hatoyama accompanied her husband to the United States and enjoyed her stay in New York City, visiting various educational and cultural institutions as well as the Japanese School in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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PM Hatoyama in Pittsburgh

Photo Courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office

On September 24th, Prime Minister Hatoyama travelled from New York to Pittsburgh where the leaders of many countries and international organizations met to intensively discuss a wide range of global economic challenges at the G20 Pittsburgh Summit chaired by U.S. President Barack Obama.  The G20 summit meetings were held on the 24th and 25th of September, they included a plenary session on the 25th which was attended by Prime Minister Hatoyama and Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii. The G20 is composed of the G8 (Japan, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Russia, EU), Mexico, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Argentina.

World leaders who attended the G20 Pittsburgh Summit assessed the progress they have made together in addressing the global crisis and agreed to maintain the steps to support economic activity until recovery is assured. They further committed to additional steps to ensure strong, sustainable, and balanced growth, to build a stronger international financial regulatory system, and to modernize the architecture for international cooperation. After the meeting, the world leaders issued a Leaders’ Statement which reflects their commitment to act decisively to achieve these goals. They designated the G20 as the premier forum for their international economic cooperation. They agreed to have a G20 Summit in Canada in June 2010, and in Korea in November 2010, expecting to meet annually thereafter, and to meet in France in 2011.

Photo Courtesy of Cabinet Public Relations Office

After the Summit, Prime Minister Hatoyama held a press conference in which he praised the outcome of his visit to the United States, saying that it was a good opportunity to explain his efforts to change Japan’s diplomacy and policies.

Finishing out his schedule in Pittsburgh, the prime minister dropped by PNC Park where he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Los Angeles Dodgers game. In preparation for his Major League debut, before departing Japan, the prime minister had met and played catch with a former member of the Pirates, retired pitcher Masumi Kuwata, who played for the team during the 2007 season. Immediately after the event at the baseball stadium he departed for the airport to return to Japan.

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culture connection

Japanese Elementary Schools: More than Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

All of us attended elementary school when we were young, and know that our experiences in elementary schools helped form our characters and personalities. For those who are interested in development of other nations cultural identities, viewing elementary school life can provide a useful lens. Robert Fish, a scholar of the history of childhood and schooling in Japan, briefly talks about Japanese elementary schools.

“Japanese schooling” conjures images for many Americans of children sitting in neat rows, wearing identical uniforms, listening to teachers lecture to them as they sit silently. Every summer, I bring groups of American educators to Japan, and most are surprised to find the Japanese elementary schools stray far from this image. Elementary education in Japan very much emphasizes active learning, problem solving, and integrates the arts into many different aspects of education.

The Japanese school year runs from April through March, and all children who are six years old as of April 1 will enter first grade. Elementary school runs through sixth grade. Almost 98% of Japanese children attend public elementary school, and, in almost all cases, attend the public school closest to their house. In the past, elementary school children always wore full uniforms and attended school on Saturdays. However, in an effort to provide children more freedom, most elementary schools no longer have school uniforms, beyond often a uniform colored school hat, and no longer have school on Saturdays. Nonetheless, summer vacation typically begins the last week of July and ends on August 31, so Japanese children attend school for more days than most American school children. Japanese elementary school students also are assigned extensive homework over the summer break in order to minimize the typical decline of skills that occurs over summer vacation. Of course, many Japanese children do wait until the last minute to complete these assignments!

Japanese elementary schools teach an extensive academic curriculum. However, what many American teachers find surprising is the extensive emphasis on the arts and physical education. For example, all elementary school learn to read music and play the recorder, and most students learn to ride a unicycle as a means of developing balance and coordination.

Among the most important aspects of Japanese elementary education is the “informal” curriculum. Japanese elementary educators are very purposeful in designing activities outside of formal class lessons to teach children things such as responsibility and cooperation. For example, in all elementary classes, there are a set of duties, such as “lunch duty,” which all of the children take turns fulfilling. Students assigned to lunch duty will bring the food for the entire class to the classroom, and be in charge of serving it, making sure that all of the students clean up properly, and returning the dishes to the equivalent of the school kitchen. Through these activities, students are being taught both formal skills such as proper nutrition and hygiene, but also behavioral skills such as how to organize a group and taking responsibility for cleaning up after oneself. Children also spend part of each day cleaning the classroom and school, together with their teachers, which also forms a vital part of their “informal” education.

One activity that often greatly interests American teachers visiting Japanese elementary schools are the “Radio Exercises,” or Rajio Taiso. Originally created by an American life insurance company to promote good health, these sets of rhythmic exercises were imported to Japan in the 1920s, and continue to be practiced in Japanese elementary schools, quite often by the entire school body on the school grounds. The exercises are stretches designed to be completed following an eight beat rhythm while listening to rajio taiso song. In addition to promoting exercise and health, this activity also promotes the development or rhythmic awareness, following directions, and, for the younger students, counting ability. While Japanese elementary school students certainly must study hard, truly understanding the Japanese elementary school experience requires looking beyond the students’ experiences learning about reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Robert Fish is Director of Education and Lecture Programs at Japan Society. His Ph.D. is in modern Japanese history, and his research focuses on the history of childhood and schooling in Japan. At Japan Society, he works extensively on helping American educators teach effectively about Japan, including through the website, About Japan: A Teacher’s Resource .

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From the Ambassador's Desk

PM Hatoyama at Japan Society

©Ken Levinson

September was full of change and activity.
On September 16, Mr. Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), was elected Prime Minister of Japan by the Diet. A new cabinet, which was formed the same day, included Japan’s new foreign minister Katsuya Okada. Japan’s August 30th general election brought about a historic shift in political power in Japan.

Prime Minister Hatoyama who is 62 years old comes from one of Japan’s most prestigious political families. Soon after being elected Prime Minister, the new Hatoyama diplomacy was unveiled during a trip to the United States for UN-related talks and the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh. All of us at the Consulate worked very hard preparing for making that important visit successful.

I believe Prime Minister Hatoyama found it gratifying to make his debut on the diplomatic stage here in the United States. It is a place close to his heart: he received his Ph.D. from Stanford University before he went on to a life in politics. It was certainly the impression I had when I saw him at a luncheon at Japan Society on September 23; he clearly enjoyed his conversations with American business leaders, VIPs, and other distinguished guests.

PM's wife Miyuki at Japanese school

On the morning of September 23, Prime Minister Hatoyama and President Obama held their first face to face meeting. In their discussions, Mr. Hatoyama stressed that the Japan-US relationship would remain the cornerstone of Japan’s foreign policy. It is my strong conviction that the future relationship between our countries will be further strengthened based upon the mutual trust established between the two leaders during their first bilateral talks in New York.

Finally, we must not forget that September includes the anniversary of 9/11. Twenty four Japanese were killed in the attacks of that day. Each year as the anniversary arrives my thoughts turn to the victims of terrorism everywhere. I share the determination of all civilized people that we must work together through close international cooperation to prevent such terrible crimes from being planned and perpetrated ever again.

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Event Calendar

Art of the Samurai

Momoyama Period, late 16th to early 17th century
Iron, gold, lacquer, silk; 27.3 x 18.8 cm Lender: Tokyo National Museum

Beginning October 21, 2009 and continuing through January 10, 2010, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present its first comprehensive exhibition focused on the contrasts of martial prowess and cultural acumen found among the Samurai. Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms & Armor, 1156 to 1868 will feature the arms, armor, portraits, and personal effects of these Japanese warriors who have long fascinated people around the world, as symbols of strength, courage, and discipline. Many of Akira Kurosawa's movies are based on them.

Art of the Samurai gathers as many as 215 masterpieces, including 34 National Treasures, 61 Important Cultural Properties, and six Important Art Objects. The focus will be arms and armor, showcasing the finest examples of armor, swords, archery equipment, firearms, banners, surcoats (jimbaori), and related accessories.

The majority of the objects are from the era of the rise of the samurai during the Heian Period (8th to 12th century) until their demise at the end of the Edo Period in 19th century, when samurai was abolished as a social class.

Samurai were members of the military class with the sword as their most famous weapon. During the aristocratic Heian Period, wealthy landowners hired samurai to protect their land. Not long after, the samurai began to dominate Japanese politics, economics, and social status. As the number of wars increased, the fame of their exploits made them paragons of bravery and loyalty. The word samurai originated as a derivation from the Japanese verb saburau/saburai, meaning "the one who serves nearby."

Edo Period (17th century)
Iron, gold, leather, lacquer, silk
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History, Hyogo, Japan

The threat of a Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274 and 1281 transformed the craft of the swordsmith, resulting in swords that were sturdier, thinner, and shorter, in response to the reputed speed, power, and strong armor of the Mongols. Fascination with Japanese swords (tachi) continues to abound throughout the world. Visitors can see Sword (Tachi), a classic example of the mastery of the craft by a pupil of the Ichimonji School Yoshifusa from the 13th-century Kamakura Period. Sword is a National Treasure that epitomizes the swordmaking style that became unique to Japan.

Other rarities to be seen include a beautifully decorated 17th-century Surcoat (Jimbaori), a garment worn by samurai over their armor. A surcoat worn by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the most famous samurai who unified Japan ending the Warring States period, was received as a gift from Oda Nobunaga, his former liege lord. Portrait of Asai Nagamasa-Oichi, a silk hanging scroll, depicts the sister of Nobunaga, Lady Oichi. Famous for her beauty, she chose to die rather than be taken as Hideyoshi's bride when Hideyoshi defeated her second husband Shibata Katsuie after Nobunaga’s death.

An outstanding example of the combination of superb metalworking, lacquering, and leather-making techniques is the extremely rare 18th-century piece, Armor for a Woman, from the Edo Period. This was the period of the renowned samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, who was known as one of the finest swordsman ( kenjutsu) and the author of The Book of Five Rings.

Accompanying the exhibition, there will be film screenings, lectures, family programs, and gallery talks that will give viewers more information about arms and armor from the time period.

Six-panel folding screen Japanese, 17th century
Ink, color and gold leaf on paper 155 x 358 cm
Lender: Nagoya City Museum, Aichi, JAPAN

Signed by Echizen Yasutsugu
Steel; length 35.3cm, curve 0.45cm
Momoyama period 17th century
Lender: Atsuta Jingu, Aichi Prefecture
Important Cultural Property


Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor, 1156-1868
October 21, 2009 to January 10, 2010
The Tisch Galleries, second floor
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028

Audio guide will be available for rental $7, $6 for members, and $5 for children under 12.




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Talk Like Singing

(Book Lyrics Direction)

Talk Like Singing, a new Japanese musical, will make its debut in New York with former Japanese pop star, Shingo Katori, in the starring role. The November 13 world premiere will be the first of 13 performances running through November 22 at New York University's Skirball Center. Koki Mitani, Japan's answer to Neil Simon, a well-known and widely respected playwright, will direct this original Japanese musical premiering in the U.S. before its 2010 opening in Japan.

Talk Like Singing is the story of Tarlow (Shingo Katori), a young man who cannot talk but can only sing. A four-man band resides in his head, and as a result, he can only communicate by singing. He goes to see a speech therapist, Dr. Nimoy (Keiko Horiuchi) and then a psychologist, Dr. Dyson (Jay Kabira) who hypnotizes him. The therapy seems to be successful, eliminating each member of the four-man band. For the first time in his life, Tarlow doesn't hear the singing voices in his head and is able to talk without singing. However, he is unhappy and misses the songs. How will he adjust to becoming this new "ordinary" Tarlow? Performed in both Japanese and English, audiences without knowledge of either language will find it easy to enjoy Tarlow's struggle to find happiness.

(Music, Musical Director)

Known for his witty comedies, Koki Mitani has written numerous screenplays. His two-person play, “Warai no Daigaku” (The Last Laugh) received the 4th Yomiuri Theater Grand Prix "Best Play" award in 1996. It has been translated into English, Russian, and French, and has been performed in Russia, Belarus, and Canada. Its English adaptation by Richard Harris had a run on London's West End in 2007.

Shingo Katori is a member of the famous pop group SMAP, a Japanese version of N'Sync. Debuting in 1991, SMAP has been immensely successful, releasing over 30 singles and over 20 albums with most releases reaching #1 on the pop charts. Since leaving the group for the acting profession, the versatile Mr. Katori has taken on both serious, dramatic roles and appeared in lighter variety shows. He has hosted an English-oriented show and has even released a series of books about English.

Both energetic and comedic, Talk Like Singing will greet its audience with music by Yasuharu Konishi, a prolific musician, composer, and producer. He was the star of the Japanese pop group Pizzicato Five in 1985, and whose songs were heard in the film "Charlie's Angels." He also heads his own record label and has worked with popular Japanese recording artists Akiko Wada, Mari Natsuki, and SMAP.

(Actor, Singer)

Talk Like Singing
Preview: November 12, 8:00 P.M.
World Premiere: November 13, 8:00 P.M.
Additional Show times:
November 14 (2:00 P.M. & 8:00 P.M.)
November 15 (3:00 P.M. & 7:00P.M.)
November 17, 18, 19, 20 (8:00 P.M.)
November 21 (2:00 P.M. & 8:00 P.M.)
November 22 (3:00 P.M.)
NYU Skirball Center
566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square South
TICKETS: $30 - $70
Call 212-352-3101
or visit www.skirballcenter.nyu.edu/talk_like_singing

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9/10 - 10/10 New Ceramics Laboratory Vol. 2 Ippodo Gallery
9/11 - 10/16 "with the flow of time " ISE Cultural Foundation
9/16 - 10/30 Light In Motion
ISE Cultural Foundation
10/1 - 25 "Powder Print World" Kinokuniya Bookstore
10/1 - 14 Contemporary Metal Master Works Onishi Gallery
10/3 -12 Japan Exhibition in NY. SoHo Season's Gallery
Exhibitions Music
10/7 - 17
The Nippon Gallery

10/ 24
The Reona Ito Chamber Orchestra & Chorus
Broadway Presbyterian Church
10/ 24
Singing Hope 2009
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center

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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