Vol. 4, No. 10 (October 3, 2008)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.

 

Inauguration of the Aso Cabinet

-Press Release from the Cabinet
(September 24, 2008)

(photo) Mr. Taro Aso is designated as Prime Minister
Mr. Taro Aso is designated as Prime Minister

 

On September 24th, Mr. Taro Aso was designated as the 92nd Prime Minister of Japan, the 59th person to assume the post. Immediately afterward, the Aso Cabinet was formed. For more information, please see the press release from the Cabinet (September 24, 2008) and the text of the Press Conference by Prime Minister Aso (September 24, 2008).

 

 

Policy Speech by Prime Minister Taro Aso
to the 170th Session of the Diet

-Press Release from the Cabinet
(September 29, 2008)

(photo) Prime Minister Aso delivers Policy Speech to the Diet
Prime Miniser Taro Aso delivers Policy Speech to the Diet

 

(Press Release from the Cabinet)

(Policy Speech by Prime Minister Taro Aso to the 170th Session of the Diet)

 

 

Address by H.E. Mr. Taro Aso, the Prime Minister of Japan
at the 63rd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

-Address by Prime Minister Aso
63rd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations
(September 25, 2008)

(photo) Prime Minister Aso addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations
Prime Minister Aso addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations

 

On September 25th, just a day after his inauguration, Prime Minister Taro Aso addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations at UN Headquarters in New York, expressing Japanfs eagerness to join the international community in tackling the challenges faced by todayfs global economy. The Prime Minister pledged to work toward stimulating the economy, citing economic stability as a prerequisite for the international community's goals of development and combating climate change. In his first engagement since assuming office, the Prime Minister also addressed Japanfs dedication to peace in the Middle East and its role in the fight against terrorism. The following is the full text of the Prime Ministerfs address.

 

(Address by Prime Minster Taro Aso (September 25, 2008))

 

 

Address by H.E. Mr. Hirofumi Nakasone, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
at the High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals

-Address by Minister Nakasone
(September 25, 2008)

(photo) Foreign Minister Nakasone
Foreign Minister Nakasone Addresses the General Assembly

 

On September 25th, Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone delivered an address at the High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at UN Headquarters in New York. The Foreign Minister reaffirmed Japan's commitment to the MDGs and introduced some of the country's initiatives set out at the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD) and the G8 Summit, both held in Japan earlier this year. The full text of the address follows.

 

(Address by Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone (September 25, 2008))

 

 

Japan Braces for a Turbulent Economic Outlook
as the U.S. Financial Crisis Deepens

-Japan Brief
(September 18, 2008)

(photo) Tokyo stock exchange
Tokyo Stock Exchange

 

(Japan Braces for a Turbulent Economic Outlook (September 19, 2008))

 

 

"Japan Day"
With Reischauer Scholars Program Honorees

 

-By Reischauer Scholar Program Honorees Allison Fink and Alex Warofka,
With an Introduction by Reischauer Scholars
Program Coordinator Naomi Funahashi


(photo) Reischauer Scholars honored at Japan Day
(from left to right) Gary Mukai and Isao Tsujimoto of the Japan Foundation NY Office; Consul General Nagamine; Japan Day Honorees Alex Warofka and Allison Fink; RSP Coordinator Naomi Funahashi; and Stanford University Professor Emeritus Dan Okimoto

 

The Stanford Program on International and Cross-cultural Education Honors Reischauer Scholars


By Naomi Funahashi
Reischauer Scholars Program Coordinator

 

The Stanford Program on International and Cross-cultural Education (SPICE) honored two of the top scholars of the 2008 Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP) during a special "Japan Day" event at Stanford University on August 22, 2008. The RSP, an Internet-mediated course on Japan and U.S.-Japan relations that is offered to high school juniors and seniors across the United States, recognized the students based on their coursework and exceptional research essays.

The event featured opening remarks by The Honorable Yasumasa Nagamine, Consul General of Japan in San Francisco; Stanford Professor Daniel Okimoto, Department of Political Science; and Isao Tsujimoto, Director General of the Japan Foundation New York and Acting Director of the Center for Global Partnership New York. The program was highlighted by presentations by student honorees Allison Fink and Alex Warofka, who wrote research essays on Japanese education and the juku system, and the rise of the middle class in Japan as seen through ukiyo-e.

Founded more than 30 years ago to help students understand the increasingly interdependent world in which we live, SPICE serves as a bridge between the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) and elementary and secondary schools in the United States and independent schools abroad. In addition to the RSP, SPICE develops curriculum based on Stanford scholarship and conducts teacher professional development seminars locally, nationally, and internationally.

Named in honor of former Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer, a leading educator and noted scholar of Japanese history and culture, the RSP annually selects 25-30 exceptional high school juniors and seniors from throughout the United States to engage in intensive study of Japan. Through Internet-based lectures and discussions, the program provides students with a broad overview of Japanese history, literature, religion, art, politics, economics, education, and contemporary society, with a focus on the U.S.-Japan relationship. Prominent scholars affiliated with Stanford University, the University of Tokyo, the University of Hawaii, and other institutions provide lectures and engage students in online dialogue. The RSP received funding for the first three years of the program from the United States-Japan Foundation. Funding for the 2007 and 2008 RSP was provided by the Center for Global Partnership, the Japan Foundation.

The RSP has begun accepting applications for the 2009 program. To download the application form, visit www.reischauerscholars.org. The postmark deadline for the 2009 RSP application is October 17, 2008. For more information about the RSP, contact Naomi Funahashi, RSP coordinator, at nfunahashi@stanford.edu.

 

Editor's Note: The following are essays by the two scholars who were honored on "Japan Day," Kseniya Charova and Sekhar Paladugu, about their experiences with the Reischauer Scholars Program.

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The Reischauer Scholars Program: Learning to Ask New Questions

by Allison Fink

(photo) Japan Day Honoree Allison Fink
Japan Day Honoree Allison Fink presents her research

 

It isn't often that American high school students are given the chance to pursue an academic subject to its fullest, to really delve into the complexities of a certain topic and explore them deeply. As a member of the 2008 Reischauer Scholars Program, I count myself as one of a privileged few who were able to do just that. Perhaps even more importantly, I was able to do so in the company of thirty bright, interesting scholars from across the country, under the guidance of world-class professors who are literally the foremost in their fields- all of this from the comfort of my own home!

The Reischauer Scholars Program is a distance-learning course offered through Stanford University that covers many different aspects of Japanese culture, politics, and history, as well as the US-Japan relationship. In retrospect, I guess my motivations for applying to the course were somewhat different than many of my RSP peers. Unlike some of the students in the course, who already had a strong interest in either Japanese language or culture, for me, the Reischauer Scholars Program was an opportunity to intensively study a subject that was relatively new to me. At my small high school in Manchester, NH, I had taken an Asian history elective when I was a sophomore that briefly covered Japan, but beyond that, my knowledge of Japan was extremely limited. In the fall of my senior year, when I heard about the Reischauer Scholars Program from a favorite history teacher, I was nervous about applying. I had no real expectation that I would be accepted- after all, with my limited knowledge of Japan, what could I offer to a class of Japan experts?

When I received my letter of acceptance in January, I was thrilled and excited. I had no idea what to expect from the program, but I quickly discovered that the class was made up of students with a variety of backgrounds (ethnic, geographic) and also varying levels of academic experience with Japan. I soon realized that enthusiasm and motivation were the only prerequisites necessary to make the RSP a rewarding experience- and with such an energetic group of students and teachers, it was almost impossible not to get caught up in the infectious excitement. The pace of the coursework was more rapid than I had initially expected. Between readings, online discussion forums, Virtual Classrooms, and online lectures, I found myself spending over 6 hours weekly on RSP work- but the material and formats were both so varied that the time passed very quickly.

I thoroughly enjoyed the reading materials (on subjects ranging from historic Japanese religious practices to anime and manga) and lectures (by preeminent Stanford professors and other highly regarded Japanese scholars from around the world), but my favorite part of the course was interacting with my fellow students. At first I was wary of voicing my opinions on the discussion forums or in virtual classroom, but I quickly lost my shyness and recognized the amazing wealth of knowledge that my RSP peers could offer to me. Many of the students in the program had visited or lived in Japan, so they could often supplement readings with personal anecdotes that made the information come alive.

When it came time to choose a topic for my final research paper for the course, I had a difficult time deciding. So many of the lectures had sparked my interest, and rather than satiating my curiosity about Japan, I found that I was left with more questions at the end than I had had at the beginning of the course. It was at this point that I realized something about academics in general: truly learning about a subject does not mean that your knowledge about that subject will one day be complete. Rather, it means that with a solid foundation of understanding, you will have a method and a means to ask new questions, and continue discovering new questions as they arise. I chose to research Japanfs education system for my final paper- a subject that I find deeply interesting and controversial. However, I know that because of my experience in the Reischauer Scholars Program, I am now equipped to continue my research and questioning about many different topics regarding Japan and the US-Japan relationship. I look forward to pursing my ongoing questions in the future, and I know that no matter what I choose to study in college, the knowledge that I have gained from participating in the RSP will serve me in very good stead.

 

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The Reischauer Scholars Program: Sharing Expert Knowledge Across Time Zones

by Alex Warofka

(photo) Japan Day Honoree Alex Warofka
Japan Day Honoree Alex Warofka presents his research

 

At the time I applied for the Reischauer Scholars Program last fall, I had been studying the Japanese language and culture for five years. However, I knew relatively little about Japanfs politics, economics, and its relationship with the United States, and it was with the hope of increasing my knowledge in these areas that I submitted my application. Upon being accepted and beginning the program, though, I found myself enthralled not only by the portions of the program pertaining to these subjects, but also by those which took the topics I was already somewhat familiar with and explored them in the context of US-Japan relations.

One of the greatest strengths of the Reischauer Scholars Program is the in-depth knowledge of the expert guest lecturers. Each of the topics covered in the program is taught by experts in the subject, including Japanese and American ambassadors and professors from Stanford University, Tokyo University, and other prestigious institutions. The lectures, which consist of pre-recorded video along with PowerPoint slide presentations, provide an opportunity for students to listen at their convenience as leading scholars share their expertise. The on-demand accessibility of the lectures allows students with busy schedules from all time zones the opportunity to participate in the program.

Throughout the course, students in the program attend nine virtual classroom sessions. These sessions are often led by the same experts as are featured in the recorded lectures and allow students, using only their computer and an audio headset, the opportunity to discuss the course topics in real time with both their classmates and the guest lecturers. This virtual classroom allowed students from across the country to communicate and participate as though they were sitting in one physical room. A text-based discussion forum allowed participants to continue the conversations begun during these sessions beyond the hour-long classes as well as to discuss other Japan-related topics.

The culmination of the course comes in the form of a ten to thirteen page research paper in which students are encouraged to explore a Japan-related topic in depth a Japan-related topic. In the course of completing my research project, entitled gThe Rise of the Japanfs Middle Class as Seen Through Ukiyo-e,h I traveled to Japan, tracking down the locations found in a 150-year-old set of woodblock prints, and to a number of museums throughout the United States, meeting with curators and exploring relevant exhibitions.

I was fortunate enough to have my research paper selected as one of two which were presented at the Japan Day event held at Stanford University on August 22. At the event, I was given the opportunity to meet and present my research to a number of scholars of Japan and Japanese dignitaries, including Japanese Consul General Yasumasa Nagamine and the director of the Japan Foundationfs New York office, Isao Tsujimoto.

My experience with the Reischauer Scholars Program has only confirmed and strengthened my desire to continue pursuing my passion for the Japanese society and language. I plan to major in both Japanese Studies and Business Management in college, and hope that my career after graduation provides me with an opportunity to utilize my knowledge of Japan. I strongly endorse the program for any student with an interest in Japan and its culture, history, and role in the global economy.

 

For more information, please see the press release from the Consulate-General of the Japan in San Francisco about "Japan Day" and the homepage of the Reischauer Scholars Program.

 

National Strength

-by Val Penascino
(Embassy of Japan)

(photo) Children playing baseball
Not all young Japanese baseball players will grow up to be the next Ichiro Suzuki, but Nationals' Strength Coach Kazuhiko Tomooka hopes one day to see more young people take their passion for the sport in other directions.

The influx of Japanese talent to Major League Baseball has not been confined to players. There is a small but growing number of Japanese support staff popping up around the Major League. This includes the Washington Nationalsf Strength and Conditioning Coach, Kazuhiko Tomooka. I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Mr. Tomooka about his experiences behind the scenes with the Nationals.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Tomooka has not played competitive baseball since his elementary school days. His athletic pursuits are varied and include handball, competitive skiing, and even American Football. But he always dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player.

Mr. Tomooka majored in German literature during his undergraduate days, but he admits that he did not study very hard and that his eyes were on living in America. While searching for a program that would allow him to live and study in the US, he came across the University of Floridafs Exercise Sport Science program. This allowed him to combine his love of athletics with his interest in improving strength and wellness. He graduated with his degree in Sports Science in 1998.

Faced with the question of what to do after graduation, Mr. Tomooka wrote a letter to every professional baseball team in Japan seeking an internship. When none of them wrote back, he wrote to every professional baseball team in the United States. He finally got a reply from the Florida Marlins. They offered him a one-week unpaid internship. During this time, the Marlins General Manager, David Dombrowski, took a liking to Mr. Tomooka and decided to hire him as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach. The team did not have much money, so they only offered him room and board, not a real salary. Still, he was happy to accept this amazing opportunity.

When the ownership of the Marlins changed, Mr. Tomooka took a job with the Montreal Expos. The Expos became the Washington Nationals in 2005 and Mr. Tomooka came along with the team. He very much enjoys working in Washington. In Montreal, barely any fans came to the games. In DC, there are great fans and a wonderful new stadium with many amenities to help in his job.

A typical game day for Mr. Tomooka and the players starts around 1pm. The players do some weight training and running during the hours before game time. Around 4pm there is some stretching and then outside practice on the playing field. The relief pitchers take a run. This is followed by batting practice and then warm-ups for the pitchers. Some of the position players choose to lift weights closer to game time. As the game gets even closer, Mr. Tomooka helps individual players as they stretch out. During the game, he will run a stretching session for the relief pitchers and deal with any issues that may come up with individual players. He helps to make sure the players are able to avoid tightness, injuries, or fatigue throughout the game. After the game, many players will lift weights, some for the second time that day. The day usually finishes up around 11 or 12 at night.

During the season, major league players often have only two or three days off a month and Mr. Tomooka is no different. He joins the Nationals on all road trips. This grueling schedule often leads to wear and tear on the players and Mr. Tomooka must guide them in their workouts and diet. He says he often feels like a teacher or parent to the players, telling them what they can or cannot do or eat. But he cannot force the players, and can only make suggestions and hope that they listen. When he first came into the league, this was difficult to do--many players were skeptical when they saw a small, Asian man offering them advice. Over time, he has been able to establish relationships with the players and earn their respect and trust. The influx of Japanese players has also helped Mr. Tomooka, as more Americans realize that Japan has produced some excellent baseball talent.

During the off season, Mr. Tomooka often travels back to Japan to run seminars for little league players. He also gives lectures and speaks at colleges and universities--sometimes even in Korea. He wants to help and encourage young people who are interested in sports science, because he knows how difficult it can be to find a job in that field in Japan. Until recently, there had not been many schools or programs available in Japan.

As much as he is enjoying working with the Nationals, Mr. Tomooka sees himself returning to Japan someday. He would like to open his own gym or work to give more opportunities to Japanese youth who are studying Sports Science. He hopes that the Nationals will make the playoffs before he leaves and of course would love to have his own World Series ring. That didn't happen this year, but with the Nationals rebuilding, he will help set the foundation for future success.

 

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