Vol. 4, No. 3 (February 25, 2008)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.

 

Asia: Building the International Stability

 

-Speech by Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura
44th Munich Conference on Security Policy
(February 10, 2008)

 

Foreign Minister Koumura (second from right) delivering his speech at the 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy

 

On Saturday, 9 February and Sunday, 10 February, Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura attended the 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy and delivered a policy speech on Japan 's efforts in building stability in Asia.

In his speech, Minister Koumura emphasized the need to increase transparency in Asia through political and military confidence building, thereby lowering the risks that lead to instability. Further, Minister Koumura raised three important pillars in order to achieve this goal. First, continued U.S. engagement in the stability and development of Asia is indispensable. Second, constructive and future-oriented relations have to be built among Asian countries. Third, frameworks for a multi-layered, open and interest-sharing regional cooperation have to be promoted. The following is his speech:

 

(Speech by Foreign Minister Koumura (February 10, 2008))

 

 

Japan's GDP in 4Q of 2007 Posts Strong Growth of 3.7%,
But Future Looks Uncertain

(Japan Brief article by Foreign Press Center Japan (February 18, 2008))

 

 

Reflections on the Japan-U.S. Leadership Network Program Fall 2007

 

-by Lisa Curtis
(The Heritage Foundation)
and Devin Stewart
(The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs)

 

The six participants of the second delegation of the Japan-U.S. Leadership Network Program: (L-R) Dr. Jennifer Amyx, Dr. Michael Auslin, Ms. Lisa Curtis, Mr. Devin Stewart, Dr. Mark Manyin and Mr. Phillip Lipscy

 

In the fall of 2007, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Foundation's Center for Global Partnership hosted six American foreign policy specialists to take part on the second delegation of the Japan-US Leadership Network Program (formerly the Emerging Leaders Network Program). The weeklong trip provided the Americans a unique opportunity to exchange views with senior thought leaders from Japan's policymaking, political, business, and cultural circles.

From Oct. 28 to Nov. 4, the group visited the cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Kyoto. We were privileged to be part of a politically diverse delegation that included Dr. Jennifer Amyx of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Michael Auslin of the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Phillip Lipscy of Stanford University, and Dr. Mark Manyin of the Congressional Research Service.

We had a busy agenda filled with both group and individual meetings that allowed us to engage on a variety of issues important to the Japan-US relationship. Our first day allowed us to get acquainted with each other and with our Japan Foundation hosts, who briefed us on issues including the history of U.S.-Japan relations, Japanese current foreign policy concerns, and Japanese public diplomacy initiatives. We had two full days of meetings with various senior Japanese officials from the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the National Defense Academy. These meetings provided an extraordinary opportunity to exchange views with senior officials on the most pressing issues facing the Japan-US alliance.

On our last day in Tokyo, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japan Foundation arranged for us to meet separately with different interlocutors to focus on our individual interests and areas of specialty. We were highly impressed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japan Foundation's efficiency in coordinating six different schedules, and, needless to say, highly appreciative of their efforts to tailor the program to our individual requests.

To deepen our familiarization with the Japanese business culture we visited several important companies such as Toyota Motor Corporation and Isobe Denka. We also had the opportunity to meet with distinguished researchers at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and the University of Tokyo. The group also participated in a tour of the Yokosuka Navy Base, a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto, and a dinner with Doshisha and Kyoto Universities' graduate and undergraduate students.

One of the most illuminating and popular meetings took place at the small manufacturer Isobe Denka, which supplies parts to Toyota as well as to Honda. Our hosts were able to show Japan's many sides, from the ancient tea ceremony to the high tech factory floor of Tokyo to the suppliers that make its business possible.

Jennifer Amyx commented: "In Nagoya, we enjoyed a tour of a factory at Toyota Motor Corporation and met with managers of Japan's top-performing firm. Importantly, we were also provided the opportunity to meet for an extended period of time with the owner of a small parts maker outside of Nagoya. This experience enabled members of the delegation to get a better sense of how policies made in Tokyo affect the private sector in firms of varying size across the country. At the small auto parts maker, we were surprised to see so many foreign workers and found the discussion with the firm's owner to provide a helpful window onto how immigration policies and cost-cutting pressures from larger firms affected incentives for the small auto-parts maker to hire foreign workers and engage in production innovations. We also learned how small firms, such as this parts maker, are encouraged by government subsidies to design production and recycling programs in environmentally friendly ways."

The American participants agreed that this program was exceptional in the quality of the meetings, substance of discussions, and attention to detail. As Mark Manyin put it: "I've participated on a number of study groups to foreign countries. This was one of the most useful, for several reasons: The meetings were with high level officials. The customized meetings were unique--it's highly unusual to have individual meetings arranged during a group tour--and extremely valuable. And, the workshop helped make us think about, articulate, and debate some of the issues that arose during the week. Overall, the study tour provided a useful overview of the current status of U.S.-Japan relations and helped me expand my network of contacts with important Japanese. The side trip to Nagoya was a nice compliment to the discussions we had in Tokyo. Other highlights of the week for me were the visit with Isobe Denka, which gave us a window into some of the challenges faced by smaller Japanese manufacturers, as well as the immigration issue."

Phillip Lipscy noted that the range of issues covered during the trip was impressive: "Our discussions with policy officials covered a wide range of policy issues including security, trade, energy, environmental cooperation, cultural diplomacy, and contemporary Japanese politics. The trip also gave us exposure to a fascinating spectrum of contemporary Japanese society and culture: the kanban system in operation at the high-tech Toyota plant; the small parts manufacturer that has switched to a predominantly foreign workforce; and the magnificent cultural treasures of Kyoto. Overall, it was a stimulating and fruitful trip that will be invaluable for my future research on Japanese politics and U.S.-Japan relations."

Michael Auslin, who delivered the closing remarks from the delegation to our hosts, emphasized the lasting effects and long-term potential of the program: "Since a new generation of bureaucrats and scholars is emerging in Japan, our trip gave us an unparalleled opportunity to meet both senior and junior thought leaders. Thus, we were able to talk both with those who have created policy in recent years or have written analyses of the world scene, as well as with those who are just beginning to conceptualize Japan's role in Asia and the world in the 21st century. Such meetings will be very helpful as we each include Japan in our work on U.S. foreign policy and seek to discuss Japan in the larger policy sphere in America. This should be just the beginning of such cross-cultural/cross-generational dialogue between our countries."

The Tokyo portion of the trip culminated with our group providing public presentations for a distinguished Japanese audience. This was an extremely important part of the trip since it allowed us to reflect on the conversations and exchanges of the week and provide our insights into the future of America's alliance with Japan. Michael Auslin's provocative presentation which developed a dim scenario of Asia's future brought home the importance of continuing to foster US-Japan ties to fulfill our mutual security interests.

Like the delegation before us, we are eager to remain involved with this important program, helping to grow a network of opinion leaders who can nurture a strong U.S.-Japan relationship from a position of common understanding.


 

Fifty-Three Stations of the Yokaido Road

-by Val Penascino
(Embassy of Japan)

 

A scene of Kyoto, with Kitaro in the forefront, based on the "Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road" ukiyo-e series

 

From March 5 through May 5, the Embassy of Japan will proudly present "Fifty-Three Stations of the Yokaido Road," an exhibition of works by famed manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, at the gallery in the Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan.

Mr. Mizuki is the creator of the renowned manga, GeGeGe no Kitaro. First published in 1960, the Kitaro series has run for almost 50 years, first in comic books and later in television programs, video games, and animation movies. A live-action, feature-length movie was released in 2007.

The story of GeGeGe no Kitaro follows the life of a young Yokai goblin, Kitaro, and his struggles to mend the rifts in the relationship between humans and his people, the Yokai. Yokai are not simple ghosts, but spirits who occupy a special place in Japanese folklore. Famous Yokai from Japanese legends make up the majority of the characters in GeGeGe no Kitaro.

In creating the art for this exhibition, Mr. Mizuki recreated the famous Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road series of Ukiyo-e prints by Hiroshige Utagawa. This series includes many of the most famous Ukiyo-e prints ever created, such as his version of Nihonbashi. For the Yokkaido Road series, Mr. Mizuki added his own ghostly twist to the celebrated images: in place of humans; he inserted his own characters from GeGeGe no Kitaro. The result is a humorous and frightening journey down a classic highway.

At the opening reception for this exhibition, on March 5 at 6:30pm, the JICC will present a taped interview with Mr. Mizuki. He will discuss what exactly yokai are and where they can be found in this world. Mr. Mizuki will additionally talk about his inspirations for GeGeGe no Kitaro. Also speaking at the opening reception will be friends and close associates of Mr. Mizuki, and a special taped interview with Takashi Murakami--one of Japan's most prominent contemporary artists-- will be presented. Mr. Murakami produced a series of cover artwork for hip-hop artist Kanye West in 2007. He is also currently presenting a mid-career retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

This exhibition is supported by Mizuki Production, Yanoman, the Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints, Kodansha International, and the Japan-America Society of Washington DC. It is co-produced by Mie Ikeda of Mie, Inc.

The JICC gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission to the gallery is free of charge. The display will be closed on March 20 and 21.

 

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