Vol. 5, No. 6 (April 6, 2009)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.

 

In this issue

1. Japan Protests the Launch of Flying Object by North Korea

2. Protecting Life and Property - Message from the Prime Minister

3. Japan Prime Minister Aso Meets with Japanese American Delegation

4. Ceremony to Commission Mr. Sadaharu Oh as "Baseball Ambassador"

5. Play Ball! Tommy Lasorda Bridges Cultures through Baseball

6. Experience the Real Japan with the America-Japan Grassroots Summit

7. Katsucon 15: A Con That Claims More than 15 Minutes of Fame!

 

 

Japan Protests the Launch of Flying Object by North Korea

-MOFA Press Release
(April 5, 2009)

(photo) Prime Minister Aso

Foreign Minister Nakasone

 

This afternoon at around 12:30pm the Government of Japan sent the following protest to North Korea through the "embassy route" in Beijing concerning the launch of a flying object by North Korea earlier today.

Regardless of what the intended objective was, the fact that North Korea proceeded with the launch...

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To learn more about Japan's response to the launch, please see the following press releases:

Telephone Conversation between Foreign Ministers of Japan and the United Kingdom (April 5, 2009)
Telephone Conversation between Foreign Ministers of Japan and Russia (April 5, 2009)
Telephone Conversation between Foreign Ministers of Japan and France (April 5, 2009)
Telephone Conversation between Foreign Ministers of Japan and China (April 5, 2009)
Telephone Conversation between Foreign Minister Nakasone and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton (April 5, 2009)
Telephone Conversation between Foreign Ministers of Japan and the Republic of Korea (April 5, 2009)


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Protecting Life and Property - Message from the Prime Minister

-Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 23
(March 19, 2009)

 

(photo) Prime Minister Aso

Prime Minister Taro Aso (photo: Aso Cabinet homepage)

At just past 10 o'clock in the morning on April 21 of last year, a Japanese oil tanker was attacked by pirates as it passed by the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, which is located some 12,000 kilometers from Japan. The tanker was headed toward a port in Saudi Arabia to receive a shipment of crude oil. Shots were fired at the hull of the tanker, damaging the stern and causing tanker fuel to spill out into the sea.

The German frigate Emden, responding to a distress signal put out by the tanker...

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To learn more about Japan's antipiracy mission, see:

Prime Minister Aso's statement Concerning the "Draft Law on the Penalization of Acts of Piracy and Measures against Acts of Piracy" and the Cabinet Decision on the Approval of the Prime Minister concerning Maritime Security Operations (March 13)

Foreign Minister Nakasone's statement on the Cabinet Decision on the Draft Law on the Penalization of Acts of Piracy and Measures against Acts of Piracy ?MOFA Press Release (March 13)

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Japan Prime Minister Aso Meets with Japanese American Delegation

 

(photo) Prime Minister Aso with Japanese American delegation
The Prime Minister with the Japanese American delegation

-Embassy Press Release
(March 5, 2009)

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso welcomed the Japanese American Leadership Delegation at his office on March 3, 2009. Prime Minister Aso, having just returned from travel to Washington DC where he met with U.S. President Barack Obama, expressed to the delegation the importance of the U.S. and Japan alliance as a cornerstone of security for all of East Asia. He further expressed the unique role of Japanese Americans in strengthening Japan and U.S. relations.

The Japanese American Leadership Delegation program promotes the value of sustained people- to- people relationships as a critical factor in assuring the long-term success of U.S. - Japan relations. The delegation is on a 10-day trip to Kyoto, Tokyo and Okinawa where they are meeting with Japanese leaders from the Parliament, the Foreign Ministry, the U.S. Embassy, and business. Earlier this week, delegation members met with Her Highness Princess Takamado, Yohei Kono, Speaker of the House of Representatives, leading Parliamentarians from the Upper and Lower House and Hirokazu Nakaima, Governor of Okinawa. Three members of the delegation...

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Ceremony to Commission Mr. Sadaharu Oh as "Baseball Ambassador"

(photo)Minister Nakasone and Sadaharu Oh
Foreign Minister Nakasone with Baseball Ambassador Sadaharu Oh
(photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)


-MOFA Press Release
(February 26, 2009)

At 17:30 today, February 26, Mr. Hirofumi Nakasone, Minister for Foreign Affairs, handed over a letter commissioning Mr. Sadaharu Oh, Special Adviser to the Commissioner of the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), as a Baseball Ambassador, with a view to promoting friendship with the U.S., Asian and other countries by means of baseball. The commissioning ceremony was also attended by Mr. Ryozo Kato, NPB Commissioner, Mr. Kazuhiko Kasai, President of Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, and others.

First, Mr. Nakasone said...

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Play Ball! Tommy Lasorda Bridges Cultures through Baseball

-Melissa Chasse
Embassy of Japan

(photo) raffle winners with Tommy Lasorda and Ambassador Fujisaki
Lucky raffle winners display their prize for the rest of the audience as they stand with Tommy Lasorda (Center) and Ambassador Fujisaki (right).

On Saturday, February 28 th, the Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan was pleased to welcome World Baseball Classic Global Ambassador Tommy Lasorda to Washington, D.C. for "Play Ball: Bridging Culture with Baseball." In anticipation of the second World Baseball Classic, in which Team Japan defended its championship title, Mr. Lasorda joined the JICC to celebrate the unique role baseball has played in the furthering of Japan-U.S. relations.

Following a screening of "The Zen of Bobby V.," a 2008 ESPN documentary on manager Bobby Valentine's experience in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines, Mr. Lasorda took to the stage amid a thundering of applause. Many of the attendees had waited in line for over an hour to secure a seat in the Freer Gallery's Meyer Auditorium.

Mr. Lasorda, who was named the "Most Influential Person in Sports in the 20th Century" by ESPN SportsCentury, has worked tirelessly throughout his career to promote baseball around the world, playing or managing in 14 countries. After being elected into the Hall of Fame in 1997, he led Team USA to its first Gold Medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

In December of 2008, Tommy was honored by the Emperor of Japan with the 'Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette' for his efforts in the development of the game in Japan and his work to build a bridge between American and Japanese baseball for parts of five decades, while spreading goodwill through both nations' love of the game. The audience once again broke into applause as his assistant displayed the prestigious medal on stage. "I never thought I'd ever get an honor of that magnitude," he said. "I cherish [it]."

A holder of seven honorary degrees, Mr. Lasorda began by speaking about his humble beginnings as a third string pitcher on a high school team in the small town of Norristown, Pennsylvania. He remembered grumbling when his mother would awake him from his vivid dreams of playing ball in the big leagues.

"When you're the third string pitcher on a high school team, you are absolutely worthless!" he pointed out to the audience's delight. "That's what makes it so wonderful. If you dream hard enough, you'll reach your goals in life."

Mr. Lasorda captivated the audience as he reminisced about his 60 years of experience with the Dodgers organization, so much so that the moderators' move to interrupt his musings to take questions from the audience was greeted with a chorus of "boo," like a bad call from the umpire.

Asked to describe his first visit to Japan in 1965, Mr. Lasorda joked, "I remember it like it was yesterday - I can't remember!" He described his admiration for Peter O'Malley, the visionary president of the Dodgers' organization notorious for moving the team from Brooklyn to L.A., crediting his efforts to develop a relationship between the L.A. Dodgers and the Tokyo Giants as beneficial to both Japanese professional baseball and the major leagues.

He praised Sadaharu Oh, who managed the Japanese team to victory in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, as "one of the greatest players who have ever played." Mr. Lasorda also spoke with great affection of Hideo Nomo, the trailblazing Japanese pitcher who popularized the incredible talent of Japanese baseball players in the Major Leagues. After being named as National League Rookie of the Year in 1995, Nomo went on to become the only player to ever pitch a no hitter in both the Major Leagues as well as Japan's professional baseball league. Not only was he an outstanding player, Mr. Lasorda observed, "he represented his country to the highest degree of respect and dignity."

When asked if he believed the World Baseball Classic will eventually evolve into international divisions of Major League Baseball, Mr. Lasorda replied that "Someday soon, there's going to be a real World Series." He lamented that in the past, the difference in skill and development had made it impossible, but added with enthusiasm that the current high caliber of baseball around the world, particularly in Japan, has now made it a very real possibility.

After the lecture, Mr. Lasorda was joined by Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki to hand out World Baseball Classic prize packs to lucky raffle-winning members of the audience.

The Ambassador was also impressed by Mr. Lasorda's command of the audience. "I'm honored to be here, and I learned a lot about how to speak to people. I was really astonished that at 3:00 in the afternoon, no one was [falling asleep]... If I was talking about US-Japan relations, even in the embassy, they'd be [falling asleep]!" he joked. He ended by adding "I'm really grateful that [Mr. Lasorda] did so much for the baseball of Japan and bilateral relations. I think he deserves the honor from the Emperor."

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Experience the Real Japan with the America-Japan Grassroots Summit

 

(photo) Kesennuma port festival

Kesennuma port festival, in one of the 15 places Summit participants will be able to choose from for their homestay location. (photo:John Manjiro - Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange)

-Hiroko Todoroki
The John Manjiro - Whitfield
Commemorative Center for International Exchange

Still planning your summer vacation? How about a once in a lifetime trip to Japan?

The America-Japan Grassroots Summit in Miyagi, north-eastern Japan offers you the opportunity to learn about the real Japan - the one that you can't experience through regular tours and vacations.

Anyone can participate in the Grassroots Summits, regardless of their age or native language. The program includes a homestay in a rural area, where you can experience true Japan for yourself - from the culture to the hospitality of Japanese people - and make lifelong friends. This exchange is a true grassroots, citizen to citizen program between Japan and the United States. The Summit is organized by a non-profit organization and a local volunteer committee, allowing us to offer this opportunity for a very reasonable fee.

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The Grassroots Summit in Miyagi will kick off with an Opening Ceremony and Welcome Party on July 29, in Matsushima.

Matsushima is one of the often cited top 3 most beautiful areas of Japan and was awarded 3 stars by the Michelin Travel Guide. You will stay 2 nights at the famous Hotel Taikanso. Sitting atop a hill, the hotel offers stunning views of the bay, spotted with many small islands densely adorned with pine, from which the area takes its name. For the Local Session (Homestay Program) that follows, you will spend 3 nights and 4 days in one of 15 specially chosen areas of Miyagi prefecture. On the last night, we will reconvene for the Closing Ceremony and Farewell Party to will be held in Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi.

Many unique local summer festivals will be held throughout Miyagi during the Summit. For those who would like to experience even more of the Japan's breathtaking summer festivals, an optional post-Summit program will be held in Northern Japan. This program offers you the opportunity to visit the 'Nebuta' festival in Aomori prefecture, with lantern floats and dancing, the 'Sansa' festival in Iwate prefecture that features a lively and artistic drum and dancing street parade and Sendai's 'Tanabata' festival, famous for the thousands of stunning streamers that decorate the streets.

Other optional post-Summit programs in other parts of the country include homestay programs in Kyoto and Noto, and hotel-stay programs in Tokyo and Hokkaido, among others.

If you would like the opportunity to experience the real Japan - its beauty, its culture, and its people - then this is the program for you.

For more detailed information, please visit the following homepage:

http://www.manjiro.or.jp/eng/

The John Manjiro - Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange is a foundation that promotes grassroots exchange between Japan and America, commemorating the near 170 year long friendship between the families of Manjiro Nakahama and Captain William H. Whitfield.

In 1841, Captain Whitfield rescued Manjiro, then a 14 year old boy, when he was shipwrecked in the Pacific Ocean. Captain Whitfield took Manjiro to his home in Fairhaven and educated him at the local school. 10 years later Manjiro returned to his homeland and made great contributions toward the opening of Japan to other countries.

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Katsucon 15: A Con That Claims More Than 15 Minutes of Fame

(photo)Artists' alley at Katsucon
"Artists' Alley" is a popular area at Katsucon. (photo: DC Anime Club)


-Monique T. Sharp-Wanamaker
D.C. Anime Club

I've only been into anime for the past 7 or 8 years, but I'm as much of an anime fan as my husband, who has been into the genre since he was 7 (over 20 years). I love viewing new anime, especially the anime that used to come with the Newtype USA magazine, which ceased publication in North America after the release of the February 2008 issue. One of my favorite things about the growing world of anime fandom would be the conventions, or "cons," as they are more commonly called. While anime cons are held all over the world the whole year round, I concentrate on the local ones: Otakon (which usually takes place in Baltimore, MD during the summer), Anime USA, in Northern Virginia (I have yet to attend this particular anime con, but hope to in the near future), and Katsucon, an annual three-day event held in the Washington D.C. area over Presidents Day weekend. I first attended Katsucon in 2003 and, while nothing can beat the experience of attending your first anime convention, the experiences of those following are nevertheless still worth sharing. This especially applies to Katsucon 15, which was held from February 13-15, 2009 in Arlington, VA.

For me, one of the most exciting aspects of Katsucon 15 was visiting the Dealer's Room (or Merchant's Hall, as it is sometimes called). I apparently wasn't the only one who felt this way. Every time I visited the Dealer's Room, I had to battle crowds. However, I wasn't really bothered, as I had dealt with this at past cons. Between 2001 and 2005, anime sales in the U.S. more than doubled to as much as $170 million in 2005. The U.S. spends approximately $250 million annually on manga (Japanese graphic novels). Clearly, interest in Japanese anime and manga is experiencing rapid growth in the U.S. Conventions like Katsucon provide a place for these fans to get together and get their hands on the latest DVDs and manga. As I said before, I loved the Merchant's Hall at this year's Katsucon. I went in armed with a list of the anime and other things I wanted, and I came out with the majority of them, plus some other things I hadn't anticipated purchasing. Among the DVDs I purchased were the last two volumes of the "Death Note" anime I needed to complete the series (A total of 9 DVDs), the second live-action "Death Note" movie, and 4 or 5 volumes of "Boys Over Flowers" (AKA "Hana Yori Dango"). One of the great things about anime is the large variety available. It can appeal to people from all walks of life, unlike the traditional "children's cartoons" that we associate with western animation. For example, while I did pick up 2 plushies for my niece and nephew, I also bought a Gothic Lolita outfit and "Bible Black," an anime that is deemed "Absolutely NOT for children." Needless to say, I am afraid to open my Visa statement for the month of February!

While Katsucon staff tries to bring in different guests from year to year, there are just some favorites that attendees look forward to seeing every time they show up. For me, one of those guests is Steve Bennett. Born in Japan, and having spent much of his teen years there with his family, Steve Bennett is known as an animator for "Lum" (based on the manga of the same title). He is also known for his work on 4 online webcomics - "Shakespeare Rodeo," "Aliens of Extraordinary Ability," "Life With Steve"h and "The Angel of St. Thomas." Bennett draws his inspiration from his experiences with companies such as Studio Aoehyma (where he started out professionally) and his work with animators such as Noboru Furusei (New Dominion Tank Police, Lupin III, etc.).

Sadly, Monica Rial, another of my favorite guests, could not attend Katsucon this year. Rial is known in the world of anime fandom for lending her voice to the characters of Tamayo Kizaki in "Angelic Layer" (my absolute favorite anime series!), Angelica in "Gunslinger Girl," Ryoko Takamura in "Hell Girl," and many other notable characters. As anime grows more popular in both the U.S. and around the world, and dubbed versions abound, voice acting for anime has become a field in which talented voice artists can thrive and achieve success. An example of this is "Ponyo On A Cliff," which is slated for release in the US sometime during the summer of 2009. The voice cast for the U.S. release, revealed in November 2008, includes Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin and Cloris Leachman. "Ponyo On A Cliff" is an animated adventure centered on a 5-year-old boy and his relationship with a goldfish princess who longs to become human. In its Japanese theatrical release during the summer of 2008, the film grossed $165 million , making  it Japan's biggest earner for the year.

Aside from seeing the various guests who attend Katsucon year after year, another enjoyable event is watching the cosplay skits performed by Katsucon attendees. "Cosplay," short for "costume play," is the art of dressing and performing as your favorite character, often in elaborate, fan-made costumes. This year, one of the funniest skits involved cosplayers dressed up as characters from the "Super Mario Bros." video games, including Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, and King Koopa. If I get up enough nerve, I may do a cosplay skit of my own at Katsucon 16!

Clearly, I had a blast at Katsucon 15. However, it is impossible to pack an entire weekend full of fun into one article. Therefore, I encourage you, who are reading this, to plan to attend Katsucon 16 in 2010 and experience the excitement for yourself! Limited details, regarding dates and location, are currently available on the official website. However, little else is known at this time. I do know that I plan to be there! Will I see you?

* Newtype USA was the English language version of Newtype magazine, a popular Japanese periodical focusing on anime, manga, and related genres.

 

(photo) Monique T. Sharp-Wanamaker

Monique T. Sharp-Wanamaker has been exploring the world of anime fandom for 8 years and is a member of the D.C. Anime Club, a not-for-profit organization with the mission of educating people in the Washington, D.C. area about Japanese culture through the viewing and discussion of Japanese animation (anime) and Japanese comics (manga). The club co-sponsors a monthly screening of an anime or anime-inspired film with the Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC), Embassy of Japan at the JICC Auditorium at 1155 21st St. NW. For more information on the D.C. Anime Club, visit their website.

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