August 5, 2005 Vol. 1, No. 1

Dear Readers,

It is my joy to announce the inauguration of the e-mail version of our newsletter, Japan Now. Starting with this issue, we plan to send to you this e-newsletter twice a month, publishing articles that include topics of politics, economics, and culture.

While there are numerous benefits to this new format compared to our previous printed newsletter, what is most advantageous of this online medium is its flexibility. The e-newsletter will enable readers to receive news more frequently and in a timelier manner, especially on pressing topics such as political affairs. With the e-mail itself kept relatively brief and a complete version of each article on our website, we will have less restriction than the printed medium in word count and depth of content.

Through e-mail, we also hope to reach a broader readership nationwide and in all corners of the world, reaching any and everyone who is interested in Japan and its relations with the United States. Above all, we hope to be more receptive of feedback, and have more interaction between Japan and the American or international public, which is ultimately the goal of diplomacy.

Thank you for your continued patronage of Japan Now, and I look forward to seeing you on the electronic page.

Sincerely,

Mitsuru Kitano
Minister for Public Affairs
Embassy of Japan

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The leaders of Brazil,
Germany, India and Japan
meeting on UN Reform

Answering China's Japan Bashers
-Part 1 of 3-


-By Kitaoka Shin'ichi
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations

In late March this year a massive Internet campaign was launched in China to collect signatures opposing Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. And April 9 brought the start of a series of stormy anti-Japanese demonstrations in cities throughout China. Around the same time, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun began clearly articulating his own opposition to the possibility of Japan as a permanent Security Council member. How should we view these developments? How serious are they? And how should Japan respond? These are the issues I propose to address here, focusing on the situation in China.

Any change to the makeup of the Security Council, such as Japan is now seeking, involves amendment of the UN Charter, which in turn entails the adoption of an amendment resolution by the General Assembly by a two-thirds majority, followed by its ratification by at least two-thirds of all member states and by all permanent members of the Security Council, including China. Thus, if China (or one of the other four present permanent members--Britain, France, Russia, and the United States) refuses to accept the change, it cannot be adopted.

BEHIND THE PROTESTS

A key factor to keep in mind when analyzing these developments in China is the recent success the so-called Group of Four--Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan--has enjoyed in laying the groundwork for reform of the Security Council.

In September last year, the G4 began actively promoting Security Council reforms entailing an increase in the number of permanent and nonpermanent members, and during the open debate in teh General Assembly it garnered the support of about 120 countries. This number dwarfed the group of 20 or so expressing support for what was then known as the "Coffee Club"--a coalition of states, including Italy and Pakistan, that favor an increase in the number of nonpermanent members only.

Last November, Secretary Kofi Annan's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change submitted a report proposing two possible alternatives for Security Council reform. Model A would increase the number of permanent members to six and the number of nonpermanent members by three, while model B would establish eight quasi-permanent seats with terms of four years but the possibility of multiple terms, together with one additional nonpermanent seat. During general debate, the G4 announced its support for model A and was backed by more than 60 countries, while model B won the support of only 10 or so. The reason for this apparent dwindling of support for G4 is twofold. First, countries were growing more cautious as the possibility of decision loomed nearer. Second, model A included other elements that provoked opposition, including a change in the regional distribution of nonpermanent members. Third, many African nations were refraining from expressing themselves on this issue because the African Union was preparing a new position. However, at that point we (the Japanese government, and more specifically my colleagues and I in Japan's permanent mission to the UN) believed that with suitable revisions to model A and patient lobbying, we had a reasonable prospect of securing the two-thirds majority needed for passage of a General Assembly resolution. And at the beginning of March this year, the African Union adopted a common position in support of expanding the Security Council along lines similar to those of model A, further strengthening the G4's position.

However, in an organization composed of sovereign states, there is a tendency to value consensus and avoid decision by majority vote. The Coffee Club began to make the case that rather than let one country of group of countries push through its own proposal, the UN should take the time to build a consensus. Around the middle of February, this group adopted the name "Uniting for Consensus" and made the decision to hold a meeting on April 11, to be presided over by Italy's foreign minister. The G4's response was that inasmuch as debate over the expansion of the Security Council has been going on for 12 years, further debate cannot be expected to bring about a consensus; the time has come to settle the question through a vote.

On March 21, the secretary general issued his report on the issue. He called for a decision on Security Council reform by September this year, noting, "It would be very preferable for Member States to take this vital decision by consensus; but if they are unable to reach consensus this must not become an excuse for postponing action." This was the outcome we had expected, and it seemed to be a major blow to the Uniting for Consensus Group. In all likelihood it also spurred China, which opposes Japan's inclusion as a permanent member, to make serious plans to derail Tokyo's bid and to begin implementing that strategy. This, then, is the background to the Internet petition and the anti-Japanese demonstrations that broke out in China in the spring of this year.

Now let us look at these developments more closely. Examining the online petitions, one frequently saw a single name appearing many times in raid succession--as many as 40 times in one second. Clearly, names were being input by machine to manipulate results.

On April 4, UN Ambassador Wang Guangya, president of the Security Council for that month, took the unusual step of expressing his position on this pending issue at a press briefing in his capacity as president. Touching on the expansion of the Security Council, Wang insisted that it was vital to achieve a consensus. This came in response to questions from a Hong Kong television station and a Pakistani newspaper, strongly suggesting that China has allied itself with the Uniting for Consensus Group.

Discussion of the secretary general's secretary began in the General Assembly on April 6. On this occasion, too, Ambassador Wang stressed the need for consensus, and the following day, the United States made the same point and expressed its opposition to an "artificial" deadline. The United States did not make its statement in concert with China or the consensus group. But Washington was clearly displeased with the fact that reform had picked up momentum with little US involvement. In any case, the opposition of two permanent members of the Security Council to the secretary general's timetable could not but have a powerful impact.

On April 9, anti-Japanese demonstrations broke out in China, and the April 11 Uniting for Consensus meeting was attended by 119 countries, approaching the number that had participated in the G4 meeting on March 31(134). This gave rise to the perception that the G4's prospects had suddenly become clouded. In fact, there is nothing remarkable about the fact that 119 countries attended the Uniting for Consensus meeting. "Consensus" is a word beloved within the United Nations, and if several key nations hold a meeting and invite foreign ministers to attend, smaller countries find it difficult to refuse. Many of those who attended announced their intention to do so to the G4 beforehand.

The campaign by Uniting for Consensus, China's maneuvers, and a lack of cooperation from the United States have indeed raised major obstacles to Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council. Small countries are easily influenced by major powers. Still, none of this came as shock. If I were part of the Chinese government, I would probably have considered a similar course of action.

The bottom line is that I believe these hurdles can be overcome.

WHAT QUALIFIES A COUNTRY FOR THE SECURITY COUNCIL?

In my view, the most important qualifications for any country wishing to become a permanent member of the Security Council--leaving aside the current members' qualifications or lack thereof--are the will and the ability to contribute to world peace and security.

Japan's record as a peace-loving nation over the past 60 years is unmatched. Our country has not been involved in a single war during that time, and it does not possess weapons of mass destruction. China, on the other hand, has been involved in several armed conflicts. It possesses nuclear weapons and in fact a number of missiles aimed at Japan. For such a country to cite the "fear of resurgent Japanese militarism" is truly ironic.

Japan has also been extremely active in the area of economic cooperation, particularly in East Asia. About 20% of all aid to developing nations over the past 10 years has come from Japan. There is no doubt that the remarkable pace for economic growth and development in China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia during that time owes much to the substantial assistance that Japan has provided.

In China's case, the key to economic development was infrastructure; without considerable investment in infrastructure, the economic vitality we see in that country today would not have been possible. Japanese aid was a source of funds for the construction of the Beijing and Shanghai airports and of numerous expressways.

In recent years, Japan has been obliged to scale back its foreign aid program somewhat as it struggles to address the huge national debt that accumulated during the economic downturn of the 1990's. Even so, it has continued to provide effective and generous assistance, from the emergency aid provided for the victims of the recent Indian Ocean tsunami to vast quantities of mosquito netting donated to fight malaria in Africa. Beginning in the 1990's, Japan's foreign aid program came to focus actively on Africa as well as East Asia. Numerous African heads of state have attended each session of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, demonstrating their high regard for the forum and for Japan's Africa initiatives.

Because Japan has adopted a stance as a peace-loving nation, the government was long reluctant to send troops abroad. The nation was unable to get beyond the concept of achieving peace through the example of pacifism. Eventually, however, the Japanese came to see that this is not a very effective means of promoting peace. Since sending troops to Cambodia to participate in the UN's peacekeeping operation there in 1992, Japan has been an active participant in peacekeeping activities. All told, Japan's record of achievement as a peace-loving nation over the past 60 years would be difficult to match.

China, meanwhile, has shown the world its true colors with its recent actions. Images of policemen standing by while demonstrators hurled stones at Japanese diplomatic offices were telecast to the entire world. Beijing's refusal to respond to Tokyo's protests and demands for an apology goes counter to accepted diplomatic practice. In covering the April 17 meeting between Foreign Ministers Li Zhao Xing and Machimura Nobutaka, the Chinese press passed over Tokyo's formal protest and reported Machimura's citation of an earlier statement by former Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi as if it were a new apology from Tokyo. Some might regard this as a well-meaning effort by the Chinese government to quell anti-Japanese feeling. But the fact is that Beijing just as easily could have broadcast the protest and withheld coverage of any apology (in fact, that is what it has most often done until now). This is the kind of government China has, and the recent series of events has brought that fact home to people all over the world. The climate of opinion is shifting in the West, where a number of newspapers have begun referring to the protests as "attacks."

In time the flimsiness of the consensus group's argument will become clear. Precious few of the really important decisions in world history have been made on the basis of consensus; indeed, China's admission to the United Nations in 1971 was approved by a vote of 76 to 35. For a country with veto power (in other words, one with the power to break consensus) to plead the importance of consensus is ironic. The consensus group's insistence that adding permanent members to the Security Council would be undemocratic is also paradoxical, given the kind of government that prevails in some of the countries of that group.

(To be continued in Parts 2 and 3, which will be published in Japan Now Vol. 1, No. 2 and Vol. 1, No. 3 (August and September 2005)...)

Kitaoka Shin'ichi received his doctorate in law from the University of Tokyo. He has been a professor at Rikkyo University and the University of Tokyo. He is now deputy permanent representative of Japan to the United Nations. He is the author of Nihon no Jiritsu: Tai-Bei Kyocho to Ajia Gaiko (Japan's Autonomy: Cooperation with the United States and Asian Diplomacy) and numerous other works.

This article was excerpted from Japan Echo, Special Issue 2005, pp. 12-17, which was in turn translated from "Iware naki Nihon Hihan o Haisu," Chuo Koron, June 2005, pp. 54-63., with some revisions by the author as of April 20, 2005 (Courtesy of Chuo Koron Shinsha and Japan Echo).


The University of Southern
California Trojan Marching Band
with cheerleaders (Photo courtesy
of the Aichi Expo U.S. Pavilion)

Aichi Expo 2005: June Celebrates National Days of Japan and of the United States

The 2005 World Expo in Aichi, the first world exposition in the 21st century, is currently taking place in Aichi prefecture, Japan, from March 25 to September 25. Over 120 countries and 4 international organizations are participating in Expo 2005, under the theme "Nature's Wisdom." These countries and organizations will be celebrated in events during more than 100 "National Days" and "Special Days," respectively. On National Day, the pavilion representing that country plans a plethora of events and attractions. June was a significant month in this manner, presenting the National Days of both the host country, Japan, and the United States.

Japan presented "Japan Day" on June 6, followed by "Japan Week," which ran from June 7 to 12. For both celebrations, a major theme was music, which, the Japan Pavilion writes, "breaks through the language barrier, to create a time and space that all citizens of the world can share." Musician Sadao Watanabe, who is the Japan Pavilion Projects Director-General, was responsible for these programs. Originally a jazz musician and saxophone player, Watanabe showed the breadth of his musical talents by not only composing the Japan Pavilion Projects theme song Share the World--using only five key notes--but singing it on Japan Day with a chorus of 200 children he had trained. Japan Week was a festival featuring both traditional Japanese music and songs and dances from around the world.

June 20 marked the National Day of the United States. Called "A Celebration for Children," the many events on this day included a parade by the University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band and cheerleaders, leading 600 children from the U.S. Pavilion Friendship Cities of Anjo, Toyohashi, and Toyota (all in Aichi prefecture); Japan's premier show of the musical Sesame Street Live; and performances by the Voices of Eve N' Angels (VOENA) Children's Choir of Napa Valley, Calif., and by tenor Daniel Rodriguez.

For the National Days of both Japan and the United States, children were major participants of the events. The Japan Pavilion writes of its hope to give "these future leaders of the 21st century the chance to experience for themselves how people of the world can unite," and many children personally selected by Sadao Watanabe took part in the Japan Day and Japan Week events. The U.S. National Day was scheduled on the eve of the 300th birthday of Benjamin Franklin, whose holographic image acts as virtual host of the main show at the U.S. Pavilion. "Benjamin Franklin is the perfect messenger to children because of his youthful enthusiasm and his love for exploring the wonders of the natural world," said Douglas West, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aichi USA 2005.

There have been more than 8 million visitors to the Aichi Expo so far. The Expo site, which is about 20 kilometers east from the central part of Nagoya City, is accessible by both public transportation and by car; one convenient method is the 38-minute direct shuttle from Nagoya station.

For more information on the Expo and the Japan and U.S. Pavilions, please visit:

Official site of the 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan: http://www-1.expo2005.or.jp/en/
Japan Pavilion website: http://www.nippon-kan.jp/pavilion/cyber_sitemap_e.php
U.S. Pavilion website: http://www.uspavilion.com/

Cell Phones in Japan: From Entertainment Gadget to Credit Card

The cell phone is an essential part of the Japanese society today. Japan is known for its invention of smart electronics, but the penetration of the tiny phones is now such that, the idea that cell phones are made to be carried by serious businesspeople is long gone. It is not a necessity by any means, but an entertainment popular for everyone regardless of age, including twelve-year-olds who are busily typing in text messages or playing Tetris as they walk home from elementary schools. 

To name a few data, considering the Japanese population of approximately 127.4 million, one finds that more than 2 out of 3 people are cell phone subscribers--including babies that are just born and elderly people who are in bed. The number of subscribers in 2005 increased 6.7% over the past year. While the increase is smaller than previous years (the peak is from 1995 to 1996, with a 135.6% increase)*, it shows that the proliferation of cell phones is unstoppable.

But the numbers of cell phones in the United States are rapidly catching up. More than 3 out of 5 Americans are cell phone subscribers, and the increase from 2003 to 2004 is about 14.8%**, more than twice that of Japan.

In the past decade, the cell phones in Japan and in the United States have becoming tinier and sleeker, carrying a rapidly increasing number of hardware and software functions. With both American and Japanese phones, people write text messages, accompanied by emoticons and other small pictures, browse the internet, take photos and shoot videos, send these clips to one another, play games, and download, listen to, and send mp3s. The latest invention in Japan is the web camera, where one can talk to someone face to face via the cell phone, and it will no doubt come to the U.S. very soon. For both nations, the cell phone is essentially a mini-computer, mini-TV, a digital camera and a video camera, and a telephone all rolled into one.

But in Japan, various companies are taking advantage of the fact that nearly everyone is carrying a cell phone, all day and everyday. NTT DoCoMo, the largest cell phone company in Japan, for example, has introduced into its phones an integrated circuit (IC) chip technology by Sony called FeliCa. With this innovation comes the phenomenon DoCoMo calls the "wallet cell phone." Numerous companies have made contracts with DoCoMo to take advantage of this technology, enabling cell phone users to shop in convenience stores, vending machines and online; check in at airline counters or pass through the ticket gates at train stations; and identify themselves and disarm the security alarm of their own residences--all by holding up the phone in front of the scanner. The phone can also be used as member cards or point cards at certain shops, or as an ATM card or credit card. All this contributes to replacing the numerous membership, mileage, and bank cards in one's wallet. But the cell phone also has distinct benefits, such as the ability to look up the remaining amount of money in one's bank account anytime and anywhere, or transfer funds between accounts. Although there are currently only about 40 companies participating in this new campaign, one can only expect this number to continue to expand.

The cell phone is thus becoming not simply a technological toy or gadget, but an essential part of daily life. A future where one uses the phone as a pedometer or to measure blood pressure, for example, may not be too far ahead.

For more information, please visit:

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications: http://www.soumu.go.jp/english/index.html
CTIA, an international association for the wireless telecommunications industry: http://www.wow-com.com/
NTT DoCoMo's "wallet cell phone" (Japanese only): http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/p_s/service/felica/

*Calculated and drawn from data according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (http://www.soumu.go.jp/joho_tsusin/eng/Statistics/telephone.html)

**Calculating using data from CTIA (http://files.ctia.org/img/survey/2004_endyear/slides/SemiAnnual_1.jpg)

FMF Memoirs <1>
-A Series by Past Fulbright Memorial Fund Participants-


-By Kyle Bacon

Sponsored by the Government of Japan, the Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program provides American primary and secondary school teachers and administrators with fully-funded short-term study programs in Japan.

My experience as a Fulbright Memorial Fund Award recipient has been very monumental in my growth as an educator. As a former social worker, I have had many opportunities to observe excellent instructional practices while assisting former clients. However, my Fulbright journey is not just an award or acknowledgment of a job well done. Rather, it has created an opening for the understanding and acceptance of different cultures. There are not enough words for me to describe how much we have seen and learned in Japan.

While in Japan, I was exposed to many different facets of Japanese culture, including tours of the Diet and of Japanese elementary, middle, and senior high schools, several informative workshops on the state of Japanese education, a kabuki performance, a home-stay program, and several train rides throughout Tokyo. From my three-week journey, I came back to the United States transformed in mind and spirit. I found myself very open to all of the new experiences and understood that there is a universal connection of all spirits across the world.

From an educational perspective, I learned that many Japanese students experience trouble in middle school because of parental and internal pressure to do well on their national standardized examination. I also noticed a difference in the size of their textbooks. Although the textbooks were smaller than in the United States, the instructors motivated their students and pushed them much far beyond the curriculum standards.

From an interpersonal perspective, I enjoyed all of my educational visits. The one that stood out the most for me was the visit to an elementary school in Shingu. While we were there, children sang and performed for us. The children were energetic, happy, and at one with life. It truly was a heartfelt moment. As a middle school educator, I received a closer look at the educational process at the primary level. Additionally, my prefecture group was treated like rock stars. I must have signed at least 300 autographs. When I was introduced, everyone called me Bacon Sensei. All of the children knew who I was, and many of them wanted to shake hands or rub my bald head. I can understand what celebrities must go through on a daily basis. In spite of being nearly trampled, I humbly signed sheet after sheet of paper and greeted extremely warm smiles.

I also had an excellent home stay experience. While there, I toured many parts of Shingu, attended several school functions, and spoke with my host father and his family at length regarding the differences in Japanese and American schools and culture. There were many moments in which we learned more about each other's culture and one another as people.

I would encourage all educators to explore all of the wonderful opportunities that the Fulbright Memorial Fund experience can bring. It allows educators from all across the country to bond, experience a new culture, and, most importantly, impact the children we humbly serve each day.

Kyle Bacon is a Math Teacher at Thomas Johnson Middle School in Lanham, MD and participated in the FMF Teacher Program in November 2003. More information on the Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program is available at www.iie.org/fmf. Applications will be available in late summer, and the anticipated deadline for next year is early December.

254-Piece Ukiyo-e Exhibition at JICC

From May 20 to July 12, the Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC), Embassy of Japan displayed 254 ukiyo-e prints and paintings that are on loan from the Kawasaki Isago no Sato Museum in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan. This private collection of Mr. Fumio Saito, the Director of the Museum and a former member of the Japanese House of Councilors, showcased many pieces never before publicly displayed, even in Japan.

Referring to the artistic style that flourished during the Edo period (1603-1868), ukiyo-e literally means "pictures of the floating world." Ukiyo-e print techniques utilize only a chisel and one hand-held bamboo-skin press to express highly refined skill and beauty. Introduced to the world by artists such as Kitagawa Utamaro, Katsushika Hokusai, and Ando Hiroshige, ukiyo-e continues to captivate modern day audiences.

This was the first time Mr. Saito brought his collection to the United States, and the ukiyo-e were so numerous that they were spread over two phases, in which the works displayed were changed completely. To commemorate this large exhibition, JICC and the Isago no Sato Museum celebrated the opening nights of the two phases, on May 19 and June 17. The event on May 19 featured a memorial lecture by Mr. Saito, who spoke about the highlights of his collection; a performance of gagaku, the music of Japan's imperial courts; and an extravagant reception complete with a full dinner buffet, sake, and wooden trays and porcelain plates that the audience could take home.

On June 17, the opening night of the second phase was celebrated by a memorial lecture by Mr. Shigeru Shindo, the Executive Director of the International ukiyo-e Society. Mr. Shindo spoke about the "magic of ukiyo-e," including the difference and respective allure of ukiyo-e prints and hand-drawn ukiyo-e paintings.

Unlike in European paintings, each image in ukiyo-e has distinct outlines. "The charm is that the artist's line can be shown directly through the thickness and force of the line," said Mr. Shindo. "Each artist takes pain not in geometrically drawing a line, but in 'illustrating' a line."

In giving the artist direct control over the lines and the colors, the hand-painted ukiyo-e are extremely alluring--but unfortunately, their price is steep. Mr. Shindo spoke about the backdrop of the ukiyo-e art during the Edo period, explaining that only the wealthy could afford to buy the paintings. The solution to this problem of cost was woodblock prints, which could be mass-produced. Each ukiyo-e print could be bought with our current equivalent of $4. "The birth of ukiyo-e prints was a revolutionary event in that even common folk were able to buy them at a cheap price," Mr. Shindo said. "Even the word 'ukiyo-e' first appeared around 1680, coinciding with the start of ukiyo-e prints. This serves to show that the prints made for the common people, rather than the hand-drawn paintings, were at the center of ukiyo-e."

Later on, ukiyo-e fascinated many Impressionist artists of the Western world. "This is because," Mr. Shindo said, "the ukiyo-e, which they recognized as 'art,' was integrated into the Edo common folk lifestyle. In Europe, artists needed wealthy or noble patrons in order to survive. But ukiyo-e artists didn’t need patrons. If their ukiyo-e became popular, people bought them. In other words, their patrons were the common folk."

Woodblock prints constituted the majority of the art collection on loan at JICC. One of the most famous works here were Utagawa Hiroshige I's One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: Sudden Shower over Ohashi Bridge at Atake, which is a result of overlapping two separate prints--light gray and dark gray--to portray the lines of rain. Thirty years later, this piece inspired Vincent van Gogh’s oil painting, Bridge in the Rain.

Other internationally known works in this exhibition included Katsushika Hokusai's Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji: The Hollow of the Great Wave off Kanagawa (affectionately called The Big Wave); as well as Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji: Warm Breeze, Fair Weather (also known as The Red Fuji), also by Hokusai.