August 22, 2006 Vol. 2, No. 12

U.N. Security Council Resolution Gives Warning of Sanctions Over Iran's Nuclear Development Issue

WTO Round Collapses, Leaving Japanese Manufacturers Concerned About Future Exports

(Chair's Summary: The G8 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia (July 17, 2006))

For comments by Prime Minister Koizumi on the suspension of the WTO Doha Round negotiations, click here.

The Dominican Republic

A Good Idea Gone Bad

-By Thomas H. Snitch*

In the late 1950s, the Government of Japan leased farmland in the Dominican Republic (under special arrangement with that country) to Japanese emigrants for free. Approximately 1,300 Japanese emigrated, thinking they would be working with fertile terrain, but the land they were given turned out to be largely barren. Almost half a decade later, 177 of the emigrants commenced a legal battle with Tokyo for the hardships they had faced. They obtained success on July 21 this year, as Prime Minister Koizumi apologized to them, promising compensation.

For those Japanese farmers and fisherman who decided to move, the dream of paradise quickly turned into a never-ending nightmare.

In July 1956, 28 families left Yokohama bound for the Dominican Republic. During the next 3 years, another 1700 individuals followed in their footsteps, and most ended up on small farm plots in eight colonies located very near to the DR's border with Haiti. The few fishermen who made the journey quickly discovered that there were few fish in the waters they were allowed to fish in, and many gave up. For the farmers, the problems were insurmountable.

Instead of moving to an area of verdant acreage, the Japanese were sent to a land with extremely poor soil in a region plagued with drought. Promises of schools and hospitals were not met, and the farmers had no access to transportation options so they could not take their meager crops to market. The Japanese could barely feed themselves, let alone develop a thriving farm business.

By late 1961, most of the original settlers had left the Dominican Republic for Brazil or to return to Japan. A census in 1962 showed only 276 Japanese emigrants still in the DR.

However, some of the original emigrants and their descendants stayed in the DR and eventually moved to more fertile land. They managed to gradually create a viable community as well as a thriving agricultural business; a number still live in the DR.

In 2000, some of the surviving emigrants filed a legal suit in Japan requesting compensation from the Japanese Government for sending them to a land that proved to be unsuitable for farming. After a six-year legal battle, the emigrants won their case and Prime Minister Koizumi apologized to them for their sufferings. In addition, each emigrant still living in the DR received a 2million-yen payment, while those who returned to Japan received a lesser amount. The emigrants who decided not to become party to the suit were also compensated.

Fifty years ago, the Japanese Government was looking for unique solutions to the challenges plaguing a struggling post-war society. The promise of a tropical island soon became a place of misery for those who chose to leave Japan. Now, after 5 decades, with the compensation issue settled, both the emigrants and their descendants can move on to the better life they had originally been promised.

*Thomas Snitch is president of Little Falls Associates in Bethesda, Md., and specializes in U.S.-Asian security and economic issues.

The Snow of Yesteryear, by Sahomi Naka

"Creative (Original) Prints" by Sahomi Naka: Mixing the Traditional with the Modern

-By Shiori Okazaki
(Embassy of Japan)

"Creative (or original) prints" might be a phrase that is hard to understand right away. After all, this genre cannot be described merely as "creative" or "original"--it is both. But when one sees Ms. Sahomi Naka's exhibition currently ongoing at JICC, it may seem as if it is the perfect phrase to describe her artwork.

Ms. Naka, a Japanese artist residing in Maryland, specializes in printmaking and mixed media, many of them abstract. She uses an unusual combination of materials, bringing out each medium's characteristic in the resulting piece.

In conjunction with her current exhibition, entitled "Coming Together: Creative (Original) Prints, Mixed Media and Folk Art (Mingei-Hin)," Ms. Naka gave a lecture at JICC on August 3. She discussed the difference between traditional ukiyo-e woodblock prints and creative (original) prints, what distinguishes Japanese beauty from western beauty, her own creative process, and what it means to have artistic freedom within tradition.

Although she began the lecture by stating a disclaimer, "I am not a good speaker; I prefer to let my art speak for me," she was eloquent in her speech, making the audience laugh several times. (One instance was by saying, "I cannot pronounce the word 'wood.'" Whenever she came across the word in her speech, she would instead spell it out: "W-O-O-D.")

Ms. Naka first explained creative (original) prints as a genre by contrasting two renowned print artists, the ukiyo-e master Hiroshige (1797-1858) and the modern printmaker Shiko Munakata (1903-75). Ms. Naka said that she agreed with Munakata in thinking that image-drawing is traditionally the most important part of printmaking. "Printing and drawing are in the end different art," she said. "This is different from Western arts and architecture."

Continuing on the topic of differences between the arts in the West and in the East, she said that in the West, arts, architecture, sculptures, gardens and crafts are finished, pursuing the perfection of beauty. But in Japan, "arts sometimes appear unfinished, expressing wabi-sabi, or the transcendence of physical beauty," she said. "The work is the spirit of the artist. The focus is on his or her creation, and on giving birth to the work. The power comes from beyond him or her, in the form of 'shoot without shooting.'"

But "whether East or West, it is important to preserve individual and personal expression," she said, transitioning into an explanation of her artistic style.

Ms. Naka, who grew up in Kyoto, Toyama and Tokyo, knows both the traditional and the contemporary. Her artwork is influenced by many factors in her life, including the music and calligraphy lessons she took until high school, the fact that her father was a chemist, especially for textiles, her discovery of printmaking in Venice, and her trainings of printmaking in the U.S.

"Art is influenced by the process of life," Ms. Naka said. "I don't know much about complicated thoughts and would like to avoid them. I do sketches when something speaks to my heart. I believe that we feel and see things more by drawing, writing, and working through the hands."

The length of how long it takes to complete each artwork depends on her inspiration. She waits until the image is ready, she said, and when she can see the image on the plate, the materials just follow.

The materials and colors also depend on her inspiration. She goes to Home Depot for cheap wood, favors zinc plates for etching, and seeks other materials from her surroundings. Although she does not mix many colors of ink, she combines different kinds of ink to create a unique effect, mixing carefully and staying cautious of when to stop, she said.

"You must be patient and relax," Ms. Naka said. "If the image doesn't come out the way I want, I walk around outside and come back." A prime example of this was when she was searching for the ideal material for the moon in her print, TheSnow of Yesteryear. After two years, she found a Japanese confectionary wrapping paper that fit perfectly what she was searching.

The Snow of Yesteryear and numerous other prints by Ms. Naka are on display at JICC until August 30. To contrast the conventional with the modern, her prints in the exhibition are complemented by unknown artists' works of traditional Japanese art (mingei-hin), such as pottery, wood carvings, lacquered tableware, kimono, baskets and small toys made by hand.

The author with third graders in Japan

FMF Memoirs <4>:
-A Series by Past Fulbright Memorial Fund Participants-

-By Rosemary Northcutt*

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.

In October 2005, I was honored to be a participant in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund (JFMF) Teacher Program. I was one of two hundred teachers, selected from a national pool of over 2,500 applicants, who traveled to Japan for three weeks in an effort to promote greater cultural understanding between the two nations. My experience began in Tokyo, where we stayed at the beautiful Hotel New Otani. My room looked down onto the hotel's exquisite garden and out over the Imperial Palace Gardens.

Our first week was filled with presentations about the Japanese theater traditions of Kyogen and Kabuki, a panel discussion on the government system of Japan (featuring Diet members from the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors), seminars on women's status in Japan and peace education, an art education lecture with hands-on components, and a visit to the Asakusa Shrine. I made a 4:30 AM trip by subway to the enormous Tsukiji Fish Market and a visit to the John Lennon Museum. I rooted for the Tokyo Swallows at the last baseball game of the season and feasted at the program's wonderful luncheons, receptions, and banquets.

After an incredible weekend when I took day trips to Kyoto and Kamakura, our large group was divided into groups of twenty, which headed off to different parts of Japan. My group boarded the Shinkansen to go to Nagaoka in the prefecture of Niigata. Nagaoka had suffered a very serious earthquake the year before, and some rebuilding was still in progress. We went to the Nagaoka City Hall where we were welcomed by Mayor Tamio Mori, and met the Superintendent of the Nagaoka Board of Education. We learned about the Spirit of Kome Hyappyo, Nagaoka's guiding principle of thinking not only of the present, but acting today to prepare for the future.

We visited Niigata University where we had discussions with faculty and students in the Department of Education and Human Sciences. Spending time in the classrooms with the students of Sakanoue Elementary School, Asahioka Junior High School, and Ohte High School was a highlight of our trip. We met with parents at the City Educational Center and shared mutual goals and concerns about the educational and developmental progress of all of our children.

We visited shrines, temples, and the Niigata Prefectural Museum of History. We went to a sake brewery and a rice cake factory that both used the high-quality regional rice, Koshihikari, as their prime ingredient. It was here that we bid "Sayonara" to our wonderful interpreter, Yayoi Kawano. We spent the night at a ryokan where we had a multi-course feast and experienced two earthquake tremors.

I had a wonderful Home Stay with Harumi and Yoshio Kashiwagi. First, Harumi and her friend, Yasuko, took me to the Jukichi Komagata Art Museum, the Admiral Yamamoto Memorial Museum, and a Shinto shrine. Then Yasuko brought us to her home for an exquisite lunch with her husband and her mother. Later, Harumi and her friends hosted me at a beautiful Tea Ceremony followed by a delicious pot-luck dinner. After an evening of conversation and a night's rest, we were off to a Buddhist temple and an exhibit of antique kimonos. Next, we went to the historic Nagaoka Samurai Warriors' Procession with hundreds of Nagaoka residents of all ages in colorful costumes. We finished our day together at a charming tea/coffee shop. A few days later, I was incredibly touched when Harumi and Yasuko came to the train station to see me off when our group left Nagaoka to return to Tokyo.

Back at the Hotel New Otani, each small group of teachers made a presentation to share some of what we had learned during our time in the various regions of Japan. On my last afternoon in Japan, I made a quick trip to the National Museum to see the Hokusai exhibit which had just opened. There were final farewells to group members and our intrepid group coordinator, Keiko Yoshizaki; the packing of suitcases; the bus ride to the airport; and the long journey home.

This was an amazing experience which I am still processing. I created a display of Japanese children's literature at the Conshohocken Library in Pennsylvania. I also shared some of my photographs and memories during a library book discussion of The Salaryman's Wife. (This mystery by Sujata Massey is set in Japan, with a scene actually happening at the Hotel New Otani.)

I have been reading Japanese folktales and fairytales to my students. I have begun to share some of my photographs with different classes. I have gathered some wonderful folktales to enrich my Silk Unit, which will begin in the spring when the mulberry leaves are big enough to feed the hungry hordes of silkworms I'll be raising with my students. I look forward to the continued writing of haiku with students as a way to capture special moments in time.

I am so grateful to the Government of Japan for sponsoring the Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program. My life has been enriched by the experiences that I have had with Japan's people, cultural traditions, history, and geography. I will be sharing these experiences with my students and my community over the years to come.

*Mrs. Rosemary Northcutt is a teacher at the J. S. Jenks Elementary School in Philadelphia, Penn.

Japanese fireworks in the night sky

Fireworks: Night Flowers in the Summer Sky

-By Sayaka Nakai*

What do you remember thinking about summer? Swimming, camping, visiting family...summer life is full of exciting memories. As you may have read in an article in the previous issue of Japan Now, "Summer Break in Japan: Fast and Fleeting," the Japanese summer break is a bit different from the one in America. Why don't we explore the Japanese summer a little bit more? Today, I'd like to introduce one of the most enjoyable things of the Japanese summer, hanabi. Hanabi, or fireworks, are loved by Japanese people regardless of their age.

Firework Events

Many American people might think of Independence Day when they think of fireworks. They are very beautiful and exciting. But in Japan, unlike in the U.S., there are many firework events during the summer. If you search the phrase "Japan firework festival" on the Internet, you would find a lot of events everywhere and almost every day. Japanese firework events are a little bit different from American ones; they are festivals for fireworks, not festivals with fireworks. We have firework festivals even on days that are not special holidays such as Independence Day or New Year's Day. Fireworks are not always for celebrating something. Fireworks themselves are the main theme.

Therefore, everything about Japanese firework festivals is big. First, the shows are longer than American ones, lasting about 1-2 hours. The number of people who attend firework events is also incredibly large. The biggest number of attendees at a firework event last year was 1,390,000 at the Edogawa Firework Festival in Tokyo. The number of fireworks per festival is amazing, too. The biggest firework events showcase approximately 40,000 fireworks!

Our firework events are not only big, but also have many kinds of fireworks that change depending on the trends of the year. We see new types every year. One of the cutest fireworks is character-shaped. We could see a big Pikachu, Doraemon, Hamutaro or Hello Kitty in the sky. We, however, love traditional ones, too. Japanese traditional fireworks are different from western ones. Western ones are designed to be dynamic and powerful, but Japanese ones are more elaborate and spherical. They look like flowers. (Actually, the word for fireworks, "hanabi," literally means "flower fire.") Today, our fireworks shows are a mix of Japanese and Western ones. We are exchanging our cultures through fireworks, too.

Going to firework events

Many people go to firework events wearing yukata, Japanese summer wear. These are mainly for girls but some boys also wear them, too. Their designs are very beautiful. Flowers, fish, rabbits, fun part of firework events is seeing the beautiful yukata of the many attendees.

Another part of firework events is demise, or booths of food and games. There, we can get wataame (cotton candy), kakigori (shaved ice), yakisoba (pan-fried noodles), ringoame (candied apples), etc. There are also booths that sell fun things like masks or offer games of yo-yo-tsuri (water balloons), kingyo-sukui (goldfish scooping), and so on. Wear yukata, play at the booths, get some food, and then watch the fireworks--that is the typical way to enjoy these events. Fireworks are very fun and memorable. Everyone has his or her special memories that are associated with them.

Fireworks only for you

Big fireworks in the sky are very beautiful. We, however, also love small fireworks. We can personally and easily get them at many places such as toy stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, and so on. We enjoy fireworks on many occasions: at camps, the beach, and even in the garden of our houses. We have many kinds of fireworks. Some of them are bottle fireworks to be left on the ground and others are handheld ones. One of the most popular handheld fireworks is senko-hanabi (Japanese sparkler). It is very small and calm. It is not colorful and powerful, but is very delicate and beautiful. They look like small chrysanthemums. When we are children, we play with the sparklers, competing whose will last the longest. Adults also love sparklers, enjoying the relaxing time when they chat with each other while gazing at the tiny sparkle.

Fireworks are dear to many Japanese people. When we see fireworks, we feel that the summer has come. If you visit Japan during the summer, I recommend that you go see fireworks. You could go to firework events or try handheld fireworks wearing yukata with your friends and family. You might be able to see the real Japanese world.

*Sayaka Nakai is a senior at Osaka University, and has been studying abroad at the Nazareth College of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y. for the year 2006. She was an intern at the Japan Information & Culture Center from June to August 2006.