Vol. 4, No. 6 (May 1, 2008)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.

 

Japan-ROK Summit Meeting

 

-Press Release from the Cabinet
(April 21, 2008)

ROK President Lee Myung-Bak and Prime Minister Fukuda at the Joint Japan-ROK Leaders' Press Conference on April 21 (Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office)

 

From April 20 to 21, Mr. Lee Myung-Bak, President of the Republic of Korea (ROK), visited Japan with his wife, Mrs. Kim Yoon-Ok. On the 21st, President Lee met with Prime Minister Fukuda for a Japan-ROK summit meeting. The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of shuttle diplomacy and discussed the issue of North Korea, as well as a wide range of cooperation in the areas of economy and people-to-people exchanges, including the enhancement of the Japan-ROK Working Holiday Program. They also expressed their expectations for the future activities of the Japan-ROK Business Summit Roundtable. The following is the transcript of the Joint Japan-ROK Leaders' Press Conference that was held after the summit meeting:

 

(Joint Japan-ROK Leaders' Press Conference (April 21, 2008))

 

 

Wings of Defeat:
A New Look at Kamikaze

-by Val Penascino
(Embassy of Japan)

 

"Wings of Defeat" director Risa Morimoto (center) and producer Linda Hoaglund (right) discuss the film with JICC staff member Val Penascino and the audience on April 23

 

To most Americans the word Kamikaze conjures up images of young men gleefully crashing their planes into American ships in a desperate effort at the end of World War II. The Kamikaze were thought to represent another aspect of Japanese culture that was beyond the grasp of Americans: a fanatical patriotism and preference of death over defeat. The Kamikaze presented a fearsome problem to the US Armed Forces--how do you defeat an enemy who is not afraid to die?

In Japan the Kamikaze or Tokkotai (Special Attack Force) have been revered as selfless patriots who willingly gave their lives for their love of country. Some have even gone as far as to call these young men gods. They were a man-made attempt to recreate the "Divine Winds" that saved Japan from a Mongol invasion in the 13 th century. The Kamikaze were seen as the last hope for a doomed nation.

The truth about the Kamikaze is much more complicated. Recently it has come to light that many Japanese veterans of World War II are survivors of Kamikaze training and missions. These men, who quietly held a dreadful secret for most of their lives, are beginning to open up about what they went through and why they became Kamikaze. The majority of these men were conscripted into military service and though they faced death with grim dignity, they did not wish to die.

The film Wings of Defeat tackles the difficult issue of who the Kamikaze truly were by interviewing four survivors of Kamikaze training. These men took off in faulty planes that crashed on their way to attack. Some were never ordered on a suicide mission before war's end or made the difficult decision to turn back from their deadly objective. The interviewees for the film include an ace pilot and two college students who were drafted away from their education and forced to become pilots. They had not dreamed of going on suicide missions when they joined the Imperial Navy.

As an added twist to the film it was directed by Risa Morimoto, who was born and raised in New York City the daughter of two Japanese artists. Growing up, Risa was taught to believe that Kamikaze pilots were fanatical terrorists. It was only later in life that she learned that her uncle had been trained as a Kamikaze. The gentle nature of her uncle severely challenged the images she had held since childhood and was the impetus of Risa's quest to learn more about Kamikaze.

The film's producer is Linda Hoaglund, who grew up in rural Japan as the daughter of two American missionaries. Despite being an American citizen, Linda was taught in Japanese public schools that Kamikaze pilots were innocent victims, heroically sacrificing themselves for the love of their nation.

Georgetown University recently hosted a showing of Wings of Defeat on March 19. This showing was followed by a discussion featuring two of the survivors interviewed in the film. Mr. Takehiko Ena and Mr. Takeo Ueshima provided participants with a valuable chance to speak to former Kamikaze pilots. The men put a very human face to what has always been a symbol of the inhumanity of war. Each of these men was drafted into the military during the Student Mobilization in March of 1943, when 100,000 college students, who had been excused from military duty, were conscripted. As college students, they were expected to take the place of the many officers and pilots who had been killed during the war.

Mr. Ueshima spoke about how he and his friends actually respected America as a country and were well educated about American government and society. While he personally felt no malice towards America, the countries were at war and he had to put aside his personal feelings. Mr. Ena spoke about how much he enjoyed watching American films, which was a rare privilege granted to those in officer training.

Mr. Ena was actually sent on two Kamikaze missions. Each time he had to crash land in the ocean due to engine failure. He spoke about the elation he felt upon surviving the crash landings. His joy was short-lived though, as he realized he must return to his base and would be sent on another suicide mission. When asked if he ever considered hiding or escaping rather than return to base, Mr. Ena responded that he could not ignore his duty to defend Japan. On his way back to his base by train after the second crash, Mr. Ena came upon the ruins of Hiroshima, one day after the atomic bomb was dropped. The horrors that he witnessed there caused him to personally renounce war and began his long and varied efforts to promote peace around the globe.

On April 23, the Japan Information and Culture Center of the Embassy of Japan held a screening of Wings of Defeat. This showing was followed by a discussion featuring Director Risa Morimoto and producer Linda Hoaglund. The two spoke about their personal experiences growing up, their images of Kamikaze and how the film has been received by audiences around the globe. Questioners from the audience included a former Japanese soldier who congratulated the filmmakers on an excellent film. Many audience members expressed that the film had changed their formerly one-dimensional view of the Kamikaze.

Wings of Defeat was released in twenty-three cities in Japan under the title Tokko (short for Tokkotai, meaning Special Attack Forces) in the summer and fall of 2007. It has also been featured in a number of film festivals around the globe. The Japanese DVD version was released in Japan on March 19th. The American DVD will be released later this summer, beginning with an educational launch. Wings of Defeat DVD is highly recommended for high school and university educators who teach Asian Studies, History, and Peace Studies. The educational version of the DVD is packaged with a teacher's guide. Also available is Wings of Defeat: Another Journey, a 40-minute follow up film documenting two U.S. veterans who journey to Japan to meet and reconcile with the former Kamikaze pilots in Wings of Defeat. Please see www.wingsofdefeat.com to watch the trailer and learn more about the film and how to order it.

 

 

Paro:
Human Interactive Robot for Psychological Enrichment and Therapy

 

-by Takanori Shibata
Senior Research Scientist,
National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan

 

Robot therapy with Paro at a pediatric ward in Stockholm, Sweden (Photo courtesy of Dr. Takanori Shibata)

 

Robots have now become part of our lives. Today, robots are not only essential inside factories, but also in our daily lives. Robots that have entered our homes involve human-robot interaction. These human interactive robots have two purposes: physical service and mental service.

In physical services, robots are evaluated by objective measures such as accuracy and speed. Their purposes are limited to accomplishing set tasks. On the other hand, in mental services, robots are expected to touch human emotions. This involves giving joy and comfort to human beings in order to improve quality of life. In mental services, robots are evaluated by subjective measures of the interacting humans. Therefore, the evaluation of robots' intelligence is also dependant on individual humans. Robots' behaviors are interpreted subjectively by the interacting humans while using emotional expression. Therefore, the evaluation of robots' intelligence is dependant on individual humans.

I have been researching "mental commitment robot" for mental services since 1993. One example of my studies is the seal robot, Paro. It has two purposes; one is substitution for pets at home, and the other is substitution for animal therapy at hospitals and nursing homes. In many cases, people can not have animals at home for many reasons such as allergy, danger of bite and scratch, housing regulations, and infection of various diseases.

At hospitals and nursing homes, animal therapy is known to be very effective. In animal therapy, the following three effects can be expected by interacting with animals:

Psychological effect: ex. relaxation, motivation
Physiological effect: ex. improvement of vital signs
Social effect: ex. activation of communication among inpatients and caregivers

However, animal therapy is hard to conduct at hospitals and nursing homes due to the same reasons mentioned above.

Paro's appearance comes from a baby harp seal. Harp seals are non-familiar animals compared to dogs and cats. Therefore, people can accept Paro easily without any preconception. Like an artistic handicraft, every Paro is trimmed by hands of craft workers. However, unlike its friendly appearance, Paro is equipped with high technology. It has tactile, vision, audition, temperature, and posture sensors. For example, Paro can recognize words and learn its name. Paro's body is covered with tactile sensors beneath its soft white artificial anti-biotic fur. These sensors enable Paro to recognize the way it is touched. Paro can tell the difference such as stroked, hit, and tapped. Paro has its own values; it likes to be stroked, while it doesn't liked to be hit strongly. As learning function, Paro changes its character through interaction with its owner, and the way it is treated. Paro has seven actuators that do not cause mechanical noise. Moreover, Paro has behavior generation system that generates behaviors like a real animal. A fusion of high technology and craftsmanship produce the remarkable quality.

 

Paro at a nursing home in Japan (Photo courtesy of Dr. Takanori Shibata)

 

Paro was commercialized in Japan in 2005, and since then, more than 1000 units have been in use. People in hospitals and nursing homes have been enjoying Paro, which led to dramatic improvement of their moods and decreasing stress. Paro has become indispensable companion for them. Taking care of Paro has become a big event in their lives. Also, Paro has effect to evoke past memories. By interacting with Paro inspires past experiences such as taking care of pets or human babies. In addition, Paro is used for therapy for autistic and down-syndrome children in hospitals and schools. They can learn social skill thorough playing with Paro. Since its introduction, Paro has entertained people not only at institutions, but also at many homes as a companion.

Paro is loved by various people not only in Japan, but also internationally beyond cultural and religious differences. Paro is now used in 20 different countries all over the world. Paro has been demonstrated at many exhibitions and museums. Furthermore, Paro has already been used for therapy at nursing homes and hospitals for research.

In the US, there are some hospitals and nursing homes where Paro has been used for therapy. Vinson Hall Retirement Community, McLean, VA, is an interesting example. They provide three kinds of services to the elderly, independent living, assisted and nursing care, and dementia support living, and at each facility. I visited Vinson Hall with Paro at the end of March, explaining Paro's background and purpose. When Paro was passed around the room after my presentation, it was clear that Paro was popular with the residents. The caregivers also seemed to appreciate the new type of pet therapy, which has been successful at Vinson Hall in the past. With Paro's increased visibility in the US (just this past February, Paro was featured in the Kennedy Center Japan Festival in Washington, DC), I look forward to more opportunities for Paro to be of assistance in American medical institutions and nursing homes.

For more information on Paro, please see the official website at http://paro.jp/english.

 

 

Japanese Language Education in the U.S.

-by Shiori Okazaki
(Embassy of Japan)

 

High school students competing at the Japan Bowl on March 22 break into smiles (Photo courtesy of the Japan-America Society of Washington DC)

 

In January this year, The Japan Foundation released a survey report of Japanese language education outside of Japan.

According to the survey, 2.98 million students were studying Japanese in 2006. When divided according to country, the U.S. had the sixth largest number of students studying Japanese--the top three were, in descending order, Korea, China and Australia--with 117,969 students, or approximately 1 in 2,500 of the nation's population. That number accounts for 4% of the worldwide population studying Japanese.

This survey, which in this case was conducted from November 2006 to March 2007, is taken periodically by The Japan Foundation, by sending questionnaires to institutions of Japanese language education located outside of Japan. The preceding survey was taken in 2003.

The number of students in the U.S. in 2006 shows a 16% decline from the number of students in 2003, which was 140,200. This is because it had declined sharply (by 34%) at institutions of primary and secondary education. The survey report explained that the decline in the U.S. was most likely due to recent governmental changes that "has required elementary and secondary public schools to hire only officially licensed teachers to teach core subjects," while Japanese-language teacher licensing programs have been limited. Another likely reason for the decline was that public schools have been "cutting down or closing elective courses such as foreign languages" to "reallocate their budgets to enhance main-core subject courses."

This shift, however, does not seem too negative when the purpose of Japanese language study is considered. Many students today cite their interest in Japanese culture, anime, science and technology as an incentive to study Japanese. When considering the popularity of Japanese anime here in the United States, this trend is not likely to change any time soon. Indeed, the results of the above survey support that theory: even while the total number of Japanese language students decreased, there was an increase in the number of Japanese language students at institutions of higher education and in non-academic education.

There is also evidence that Japanese language education in secondary schools continues to thrive. One example is the Japan Bowl, a national academic competition with high school students of Japanese language. First held in 1993, the annual quiz-bowl competition sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Washington DC has grown bigger and better with each passing year. The Japan Bowl took place this year at the JW Marriott Hotel on March 21 and 22, inviting for the first time special Japanese celebrities to inspire the students and help alleviate their nervousness: Mr. Maki Kaji (the "godfather" of Sudoku), who helped popularize the number puzzle that has become ubiquitous in the U.S. during the past few years; and Mr. Sho Asano, an 18-year-old shamisen prodigy who won over the young students with his performance as well as his amiable personality.

 

The marubatsu (meaning "correct or incorrect") competition during the Japan Bowl championship round featured five "celebrity judges" who decided whether the students' use of certain Japanese idioms was correct (Photo courtesy of the Japan-America Society of Washington DC)

 

During the competition, the three-person teams were divided into three different levels: Level 2, 3 and 4, in increasing level of difficulty. The participating teams, representing more than thirty schools, came from all over the U.S.: from California to New York, from the local Washington, D.C. region to Florida and Guam. The questions test not only the Japanese language, including grammar, vocabulary, onomatopoeia and idioms, but knowledge of Japanese geography, culture and history as well. The students were tested this year on topics ranging from Riyo Mori, the newly crowned Miss Universe who is Japanese; the traditional Japanese martial art yabusame, where one shoots an arrow towards a target while running on a horse; and even the election last summer that resulted in the victory of the Democratic Party of Japan in the House of Councilors. The top three teams of the Level 4 competition, which were Stuyvesant High School ( New York, N.Y.), Lynbrook High School ( San Jose, Calif.) and Monta Vista High School ( Cupertino, Calif.) this year, were invited to a trip to Japan. The opportunity to travel to Japan, as well as participation in the national competition itself, seems to be an inspiration for many high school students to study Japanese, and The Japan Foundation avidly supports the program.

In other positive news: Japanese language education is growing in some aspects. College Board, the administrator of the Advanced Placement (AP) Program, decided in 2003 to add Japanese Language and Culture as one of its subjects. (AP is a program--a combination of a two-semester course and a cumulative exam at the end--for high school students that allows them to study at the college level and, once in university, gives them the possibility to place out of some introductory courses.) Although there are more than twenty subjects, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Russian were the first new languages to be added to the AP Program since its inception. The first AP Japanese courses were offered in fall 2006, and there has been one exam administered thus far, in May 2007. For the number of students who took the exam in 2007, please see the national summary report released by College Board.

To support Japanese language education in the U.S., the Los Angeles office of The Japan Foundation (http://www.jflalc.org/) implements various programs. Please see The Japan Foundation website for details: http://www.jpf.go.jp/e/japan/about.html.

For the entire text and data of The Japan Foundation's "Survey Report on Japanese-Language Education Abroad 2006: Present Condition of Overseas Japanese-Language Education," please see: http://www.jpf.go.jp/e/japan/oversea/survey.html.

For more information on Japan Bowl, please see: http://www.us-japan.org/dc/japanbowl.php.

For more information on the AP Japanese program and exam, please see: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/sub_japaneselang.html?japaneselang.

 

 

Government of Japan Scholarship Programs


 

In 2006, over 117,000 students from around the world attended institutions of higher education in Japan, studying and conducting research in a wide variety of fields. Each year, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology (Monbukagakusho) offers scholarships to international students, providing hundreds with the opportunity to live and study in Japan. Please see information on these scholarships by clicking on the link below ("Government of Japan Scholarship Programs"). We encourage you to take advantage of these unique opportunities to learn more about Japan, its people and its culture. Please note that the Embassy of Japan cannot accept scholarship applications: if you live, study or work in Washington, D.C., Maryland or Virginia, please send your applications to the Consulate General of Japan in New York. If you currently reside outside of those states, please check the jurisdictional map to find your nearest Consulate General of Japan.

(Government of Japan Scholarship Programs)

 

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