Vol. 6, No. 3 (March 26, 2010)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.


In this issue

1. Earthquake Disaster in the Republic of Chile

2. Courtesy Call of Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada by the Japanese American Leadership

3. The Aschiana Foundation: Nest of Hope for Afghanistan's Children

4. "Miracle Banana" Gives Message of Hope

5. Curtain Falls on Vancouver Winter Olympics



Earthquake Disaster in the Republic of Chile
(Dispatch of Japan International Disaster Relief Medical Team)

A resident removes rubble from a destroyed house in Talca, Chile
A resident removes rubble from a destroyed house in Talca, Chile (© VOA News)

-Ministry of Foreign Affairs
March 1, 2010

The Government of Japan has decided to extend its emergency assistance to the Republic of Chile in response to the request of the Government of Chile, taking into consideration serious damage caused by the huge earthquake that occurred in the...

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Learn more from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

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Courtesy Call on Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada
by the Japanese American Leadership

Minister Okada meets with leaders of the Japanese American community
Minister Okada meets with leaders of the Japanese American community (© MOFA)

-Ministry of Foreign Affairs
March 5, 2010

The Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) paid a courtesy call on Mr. Katsuya Okada, Minister for Foreign Affairs, for approximately forty five minutes from 5 p.m. on March 5 (Fri). The Delegation, which was invited to Japan by MOFA, is made up of fourteen Japanese Americans who are active as leaders in various fields within the United States of America.

During the courtesy call...

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The Aschiana Foundation: Nest of Hope for Afghanistan's Children

Aschiana Foundation's 5th annual Kite Gala

Left to right: Mrs. Yoriko Fujisaki, Ambassador of Japan Ichiro Fujisaki, Tricia Silberman of Aschiana Foundation, Mrs. Shamin Jawad and Ambassador of Afghansitan Said Tayeb Jawad. (© Satomi Kato)

-Susan Laszewski
Embassy of Japan

Aschiana. The word means "nest" in the Dari language of Afghanistan and since its inception in 1995 the Aschiana Foundation has lived up to its name. Fifteen years ago, the non-profit organization began as a single room in which working children in Afghanistan could come in off the street to find warmth and be fed. Today, Aschiana operates centers throughout five provinces whose doors are open to the country's 600,000 children working to feed themselves and their families. At the centers they not only come in from the cold for a meal, but also receive education and training for their futures.

Japan has been one of the largest contributors of funds to rebuild civil society in Afghanistan and re-integrate former combatants to civil life. As Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States Said Tayeb Jawad told Japan Now, "there is hardly any aspect of reconstruction in Afghanistan not being touched by Japanese assistance." It's natural, then, that the Japanese Embassy was honored to host the Aschiana Foundation's 5th annual Kite Gala at Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki's residence.

On display were several of the items planned to be included in a silent auction to support the Foundation's efforts. Proceeds from this year's auction will go to complete the construction of a new center and school. In addition to vacation packages, silk scarves, and Afghan rugs, some less expected highlights of the silent auction included one-of-a-kind works of art by children of Aschiana and an exquisitely embroidered silk obi, or kimono belt, donated by Ambassador Fujisaki's wife, Mrs. Yoriko Fujisaki, which had been in her family for generations.

The evening's guests could rest assured of the impact their generosity will have, knowing that the Foundation operates with an overhead as low as 3%. And what seems to us like a little goes a long way indeed. Just $35 can provide a classroom with a desk and chair for another student; $30 can buy a blackboard for a classroom that has gone without. As little as $200 can outfit an entire school with the most essential supplies.

Step by step and dollar by dollar, Aschiana is working to expand working children's opportunities for education, so that one day, when they are ready to leave the "nest," children will be empowered to break the vicious cycle of poverty for future generations.

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"Miracle Banana" Gives Message of Hope

Image: film "Miracle Banana"

(© Miracle Banana Partners)

-Susan Laszewski
Embassy of Japan

"For us Japanese, it is impossible to see the hardships that the people of Haiti are suffering as someone else's problem." So spoke Ms. Misako Ito, director of the Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan, at the February 17th screening of the 2005 Japanese film Miracle Banana, as she recalled the magnitude 7earthquake Japan suffered just 15 years ago. The film, screened in cooperation with the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, DC, was chosen for the February installment of the JICC's J-film series in support of the people of Haiti and to project hopeful thoughts during a time of tragedy.

Miracle Banana is the story of a young woman, Sachiko, whose first assignment at a Japanese Embassy overseas takes her to Haiti, where she gradually begins to feel at home despite the harsh realities of life there. When she discovers that the large quantities of banana leaves routinely discarded as a by-product of Haiti's vast banana crops can be used as raw material to make paper - a rare luxury for the people of Haiti - her path becomes clear.

The film is based on an actual paper-making project that has since become a part of Japan's long-running Official Development Assistance program for developing nations. Ms. Ryoko Ushikoshi, upon whom Sachiko's character is based, was first dispatched to Haiti in 1999. Now in Haiti again as part of the relief effort with the Japanese Red Cross, Ms. Ushikoshi sent this message for those in the audience at JICC the night Miracle Banana was screened:

"Some of the people I work with are victims of the earthquake, but working and laughing with them each day, it feels as though the earthquake never happened. But when I step out into the city, the ruins of collapsed buildings speak to the tragedy it caused. Despite this harsh reality, my impression is that the people of Haiti have not given into grief, but continue to live strong each day.

10 years have passed since I was first dispatched to Haiti in 1999, and returning now, I feel a mysterious yet deep connection to this country.

When I first became involved in the Banana Paper Project, I was impressed by the strength of the Haitian people. That impression has not changed at all. I believe this strength is one of Haiti's greatest qualities.

Through this film, I hope that people even unfamiliar with Haiti will learn about the country and discover its beauty."

Many attendees said they were indeed inspired by the film's real-life message of hope. Thanks to the generous donations made by members of the audience, the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, DC, the Embassy's co-sponsor for the sreening, was able to raise nearly $500 toward UNICEF's earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

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Curtain Falls on Vancouver Winter Olympics

Vancouver's Olympic Village at night
Vancouver's Olympic Village at night (© Philip
Alexiou / VOA News)

-Japan Brief / FPCJ, No. 0986
March 4 , 2010

The 21st Winter Olympics in Vancouver ended on February 28 (March 1 Japan time). The "festival of snow and ice," which continued for 17 days from February 12, was participated in by 82 countries and territories, the highest number ever. While the host country, Canada, performed exceedingly well, ranking first among the participating countries and territories with 14 gold medals, South Korea and China also stood out with some stunning achievements. The next Winter Olympics will be held in the Black Sea health resort of Sochi in southern Russia in 2014.

At the Vancouver Olympics there were 86 events in 7 sports, the highest number ever, and Canada finished top in terms of the number of gold medals won. In terms of total number of medals won (gold, silver, and bronze), the United States came first with 37, followed by Germany in second place with 30 and Canada in third place with 26. Russia placed sixth with 15. Noticeably, South Korea ranked seventh with 14 medals and China eighth with 11 medals. Japan, with five medals, came fifteenth, but nevertheless its tally of three silver and two bronze medals exceeded...

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