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

 

Prime Minister Fukuda Visits the Republic of Korea
And Attends the Inauguration Ceremony for the New President Lee Myung-bak

 

-Press Release from the Cabinet
(February 24-25, 2008)

 

Prime Minister Fukuda with new ROK President Lee Myung-bak (Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office)

 

From February 24 to 25, Prime Minister Fukuda visited the Republic of Korea (ROK). On the second day, he attended the inauguration ceremony for the new President Lee Myung-bak. The two then held the first Japan-ROK Summit Meeting since President Lee took office, discussing a variety of issues including overall Japan-ROK relations, Economic Partnership Agreement with the ROK and the issue of North Korea. The following is a press release from the Cabinet:

 

(Press Release from the Cabinet (February 24-25, 2008))

 

 

Prime Minister Fukuda Receives a Courtesy Call
From U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

 

-Press Release from the Cabinet
(February 27, 2008)

 

Prime Minister Fukuda with Secretary Rice (Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office)

 

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Tokyo at the end of last month, making courtesy calls on Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura on February 27. On the same day, she also held ministerial talks with Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura and Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba. The two foreign ministers discussed Japan-U.S. relations (including the incidents in Okinawa, the Japan-U.S. security agreement and Japan-U.S. economic relations); the fight against terrorism; the situation in Asia; and
cooperation toward the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit. (Click here for Foreign Minister Koumura and Secretary Rice's joint press availability, here for Secretary Rice's interview with NHK, and here for her interview with Fuji TV.)

The following is a press release from the Cabinet about Secretary Rice's courtesy call on Prime Minister Fukuda:

 

(Press Release from the Cabinet (February 27, 2008))

 

 

Revised "Course of Study" Guidelines
And Educational Reform

(Japan Brief article by Foreign Press Center Japan (February 20, 2008))

 

 

Rei:
Respect and Discipline on the Judo Mat

-by Val Penascino
(Embassy of Japan)

 

Mr. Yamashita (left) demonstrating judo with his three students at Janney Elementary School

 

World-famous Judo competitor Yasuhiro Yamashita visited Washington DC for a few days this past February. Mr. Yamashita gave lectures at the Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC) on February 21 and at Janney Elementary School the following day. His visit to Washington was made possible by the Embassy of Japan and the Japan Foundation. The Janney Elementary visit was done under the auspices of the Embassy Adoption Program of the Washington Performing Arts Society. Janney Elementary has been adopted by the Embassy of Japan for this year and has been working closely with the JICC.

Mr. Yamashita is well known throughout the world of Judo for his outstanding career as a Judo competitor. He retired with an impressive record of 203 consecutive wins and was undefeated in international competition. Mr. Yamashita captured four world championships and was the All-Japan Judo champion from 1977 to 1985. His crowning achievement came at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles when he captured Gold in the Men's Open-Weight division in his only Olympic appearance.

Mr. Yamashita began his lectures talking about his days as a wild and unruly child. In an effort to find an outlet for his enormous amount of energy, his parents enrolled him in Judo lessons. Judo gave him a focus for all his youthful energy and he poured himself into it with an uncommon zeal. It was during this time that he began to learn the other necessary aspects to Judo--respect and discipline. While he knew the importance of physical strength, he found that it is just as important, if not more so, for a competitor to have mental toughness.

During the lecture, Mr. Yamashita emphasized the importance of having a dream to work towards and give focus to your life. He is afraid that many of today's young people do not look to the future, but are caught up in instant gratification. As a person who accomplished his biggest goal--to win Olympic gold--he can speak firsthand about the trials and tribulations of pursuing a dream. He came close to competing in the Olympics twice, but was defeated by injury and politics (Japan had boycotted Moscow in 1980) before he was finally able to achieve his dream.

While Mr. Yamashita is one of the few people who accomplished the lofty goal he set for himself in childhood, he emphasized the importance of not living in the past, but to always be looking forward with new ambitions and desires. He said that none of his many trophies and medals are on display at his house. The only item related to all his Judo triumphs on exhibit in his home is a certificate he received from his grade school classmates upon winning the gold medal. The certificate represents his classmates' forgiveness to him for all the trouble he caused as a child. He said that this is his most treasured possession.

These days Mr. Yamashita is using Judo as a means to promote cross-cultural interaction as well as his own message of respect and discipline around the globe. The visit to Washington this time was part of his trip to Russia. He visited Iran in 2005 to lecture and teach, and was called a hero by the local children. From 2003 to 2006, he was the Education and Coaching Director for the International Judo Federation. This group sends Judo equipment, instructional books, videos, and even instructors to developing nations to make them aware of the benefits of Judo.

In 2006 he started a Judo-based non-profit organization, Judo and Education Solidarity, to promote Judo around the globe. This organization has been highly involved with preparing the Chinese men's Judo team for this summer's Olympics. The Chinese men's team has never won a medal at the Olympics and Mr. Yamashita is trying to change that. The team has come to Japan to train numerous times and Japanese instructors, including Mr. Yamashita, have gone to China to teach them. Many people support Mr. Yamashita's actions but others question them. They ask how he will feel if China defeats Japan in the Olympics and wonder which team he will cheer for. His hope is that the Japanese and Chinese teams will meet in the finals, since only the strongest competitors will advance. If that happens, he will be rooting for Japan, of course.

In helping the Chinese Judo team, Mr. Yamashita sees his organization as having more important aspirations, beyond winning Judo matches. He hopes that the Olympics will be a chance to strengthen the relationship between China and Japan. He also feels the Olympics are a perfect opportunity to further Japan's goal of improving relations with its neighbors.

Mr. Yamashita was accompanied by two of his students from Tokai University in Tokyo, Japan. One of his students studying abroad at Georgetown University also joined him. These students put on a display of Judo techniques to accompany Mr. Yamashita's lecture. In full Judo-gi, the students laid out some mats on the JICC stage and then performed a series of Judo throws, chokes and submissions. At Janney Elementary, the chokes and submissions were left out, but an impressive series of acrobatic throws were demonstrated to many "oohs" and "aahs" from the delighted students and staff.

At five-foot eleven-inches tall and weighing a good bit over 200 pounds, Mr. Yamashita cuts an imposing figure even in a suit and tie. His daunting form belies his gentle and unassuming nature. He took the time to speak individually to many members of the audience and posed for a number of pictures with his fans. He truly exemplifies the humble and considerate Judo competitor he trains his students to be.

 

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