Vol. 6, No. 6 (June 23, 2010)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.

 

In this issue

1. Inauguration of the Kan Cabinet

2. Policy Speech by Prime Minister Naoto Kan at the 174th Session of the Diet

3. Opinion Poll: 2010 U.S Image of Japan

4. U.S. Military Japan Alumni Association:
Forging Bonds - People to People, Nation to Nation

5. Samurai in DC: A Forgotten Story

 

Inauguration of the Kan Cabinet

Kan Cabinet
The Kan Cabinet (Cabinet Public Relations Office photo)

-Cabinet Public Relations Office
June 8, 2010

The Kan Cabinet was inaugurated on June 8, 2010.

Upon the formation of a new Cabinet, Mr. Yoshito Sengoku, the new Chief Cabinet Secretary, announced the list of Cabinet members at the Prime Minister's Office.

Later, new Prime Minister Naoto Kan held a press conference. In the evening, Prime Minister Kan attended the investiture of the Prime Minister and the attestation ceremony of the appointment of the Ministers of State at the Imperial Palace, which marked the official inauguration of the Kan Cabinet.

Back at the Prime Minister's Office, Prime Minister Kan held the first Cabinet meeting and a photo session with his new Cabinet members.

To learn more:

Designation of the Prime Minister (June 4, 2010)

List of Ministers in the Kan Cabinet

New Kan Cabinet Faces Challenge of Fiscal Reform -Japan Brief/FPCJ, No. 1018 (June 11, 2010)

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Policy Speech by Prime Minister Naoto Kan
at the 174th Session of the Diet

Prime Minister Kan
Prime Minister Kan (Cabinet Public Relations Office photo)

-Cabinet Public Relations Office
June 11, 2010

1. Introduction

Honourable members of the Diet, fellow citizens, I am Naoto Kan. I have been designated by the Diet to assume the grave responsibilities of the Prime Minister. I am resolved to do everything in my power to meet the nation's expectations.

Last summer, a change of government was brought about by a strong sense of yearning among many people to clear away the feeling of being caught in an impasse which has long plagued our country. But the hopes initially placed in our new government were seriously shaken in the succeeding months due to issues of "politics and money" and the confusion surrounding the relocation of the Futenma Air Station. As a member of the previous Cabinet, I am acutely conscious of the responsibility that I share for failing to...

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See also the Prime Minister's June 8 Press Conference

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Opinion Poll: 2010 U.S Image of Japan

Map: The U.S. and Japan

© Aris Katsaris

-Ministry of Foreign Affairs
June 1, 2010

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs commissioned the Gallup Organization to conduct an opinion poll on the image of Japan in the United States of America from February to March 2010. This poll is the latest in a series of similar opinion polls conducted almost every year since 1960. For the "general public" group, telephone interviews were carried out with 1,201 citizens aged 18 and over who live in the continental United States. For the "opinion leaders" group, telephone interviews were carried out with 202 people in leading positions in the fields of government, business, academics, mass media, religion, and labor unions. (The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3% for the "general public" group and plus or minus 7% for the "opinion leaders" group, at the 95% level of confidence.)

The percentage who perceived Japan as a dependable ally was 79% among the general public and was 90% among opinion leaders, high figures similar to the last year's poll. 72% of the general public and 86% of opinion leaders viewed cooperation between Japan and the U.S. as...

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U.S. Military Japan Alumni Association:
Forging Bonds - People to People, Nation to Nation

Signing of the charter

General Richard Myers and General Ralph Eberhart signing the charter document of the U.S. Military Japan Alumni Association.

-Embassy of Japan staff

On Friday, May 28th at the Army Navy Club in downtown Washington, DC a ceremony was held to celebrate the foundation of the U.S. Military Japan Alumni Association, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Japan- U.S. Security Treaty. Ichiro Fujisaki called the Treaty "not merely a paper, not only a document, [but] a people to people relation," reaffirming the importance of an Association that has an important role to play in further fortifying this friendship between these two countries.

At any given time, nearly 35,000 American service men and women are stationed in Japan.  Together with their families, they are a force for international goodwill nearly 80,000 strong. When their service there is completed, they leave Japan, but a part of their hearts often stays there.

Recognizing such people-to-people relations as the core of the strong Japan-U.S. relationship, the Association's founders* began fleshing out their idea of a national association for U.S. military personnel who had served in Japan. Their vision grew into the U.S. Military Japan Alumni Association. The Embassy of Japan and Consulates General of Japan throughout the U.S. were pleased to lend their support to these men whom Ambassador Fujisaki describes as "the shining stars" he looked up to as a young man wanting to make a difference Japan-U.S. relations - "the people you always see on the TV screens." As one of the founders, Colonel Newman put it, "[We say] think big, start small.  Because of the help of the Embassy, we're starting kind of medium." 

At the ceremony, the Colonel shared the story of his connection with Japan. His wife, Colonel Jane Newman, was serving as an army nurse there. She had been there for a while and was completely immersed in the culture and her life there. When they met, her enthusiasm for the country rubbed off on him and they agreed that they would take any opportunity they could to serve in Japan together. They had fallen in love not only with each other but also with the country where so much of their courtship had taken place.

The Colonels' story is not unique.  Across the country, U.S. military alumni recall their days of service in Japan with a special fondness, sharing stories of the strong bonds forged with Japanese friends and the touching hospitality of their host communities in Japan. 

The newly established Alumni Association aims to provide a place for these men and women to come together as a community. It strives to, in accordance with its four-star mission, help sustain those friendships, share those memories, keep each other informed of what's happening in the community, and support continued strong ties between the two nations.  In addition to face to face reunion activities, the Association will also make full use of online social networking. Those who have served in Japan are encouraged to register at their website and become an active part of the online community.

These real people help keep ties between the two countries strong.  Their openness toward the host culture of Japan and their willingness to forge bonds across cultures pave the way for great contributions in international diplomacy.  

Know someone who served in Japan? Spread the word! www.usmjnetwork.com

* The Founders of the U.S. Military Japan Alumni Association:

General Richard Myers, U.S. Air Force (Ret.)
General Peter Pace, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
General Ralph Eberhart, USAF (Ret.)
Admiral Robert Natter, U. S. Navy (Ret.)
General Paul Hester, USAF (Ret.)
Lt. General John Hall, USAF (Ret.)
Lt. General Thomas Waskow, USAF (Ret.)
Lt. General Joseph Inge, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Lt. General Bruce Wright, USAF (Ret.)
Major General Terry Murray, USMC (Ret.)
Colonel George Newman, USA (Ret.)

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Samurai in DC: A Forgotten Story

Detail: Samurai at the White House, 1860
White House reception for Samurai Diplomats, 1860
(© Library of Congress)

-Melissa Chasse
Embassy of Japan

In the summer of 1860, before the Civil War erased all thought of international affairs from America's mind, a remarkable encounter of cultures took place. May 2010 marked the 150th anniversary of the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the United States. In commemoration of that historic occasion, described in the June 11, 1860 edition of The New York Times as "…an event which, if it have any significance at all, involves consequences the most momentous to the civilization and the commerce of the world for ages to come," the Embassy of Japan partnered with several local organizations to present Samurai Week in Washington, D.C. From May 22-28, a number of events were held at various venues throughout the district, giving residents and visitors alike an opportunity to reflect on the little-known origins of the strong relationship shared by Japan and the U.S. today.

Samurai Diplomacy

When Commodore Perry's steam-powered "Black Ships" lowered their anchors in Edo Bay in 1853, Japan's policy of national isolation, which had been followed for over two centuries, came to an end. Then in 1860, a group of 77 samurai was sent to Washington, D.C. to exchange the instruments of ratification of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (1858). Led by Senior Envoy Shimmi Masaoki, Vice-envoy Muragaki Norimasa, and Inspector Oguri Tadamasa they became the first Japanese diplomatic mission not only to the United States, but to any nation outside of Asia. Bearing the honor and responsibility of ushering Japan into the modern era, the samurai set sail on a trip around the world.

This momentous event was not only a first for Japan, but for the West as well. Before the Japanese Embassy's arrival on American shores, no Western country had ever received a diplomatic mission from East Asia. The significance of this great honor was not lost on the fledgling American republic. Congress adjourned for their arrival at the Navy Yard, while a crowd of 5,000 gathered to greet the samurai at the docks. Another 20,000 Washingtonians - Washington's population at that time was about 75,000 - cheered along their route to the Willard Hotel, where the samurai would lodge during their stay. Men and boys climbed trees to get a better look as ladies tossed flowers from crowded, second-story windows. Urchins broke through the struggling lines of crowd control, swarming the samurai's carriages to shake their hands.

Vice Envoy Muragaki described the scene in his private journal:

"What immense crowds there were! The streets were like seas of human beings; the windows and balconies were thronged with people eager to get a glimpse of the procession. I could not help smiling at the wonder in their eyes, which reached a culminating point when they caught sight of our party wearing costumes that they had never seen before or even dreamt of. I might say that the whole procession seemed to the people of Washington to be a scene out of fairyland, as, indeed, their city appeared to us.

It was however, not without a feeling of pride and satisfaction that we drove, in such grand style, through the streets of the American metropolis, as the first Ambassadors that Japan had ever sent abroad, and that we witnessed the enthusiastic welcome accorded to us by the citizens."1

150 years later, the bilateral alliance shared by Japan and the United States is the cornerstone of a relationship that enriches people on both sides of the Pacific and around the world. As we reflect on the historical impact of the samurai who crossed the ocean in 1860, laying the foundations for the strong friendship we enjoy today, perhaps we can gain some insight into what the next 150 years will hold.

Commemorative Events

Samurai Tea at the Willard Hotel

Over the weekend of May 22-23, the Willard InterContinental and the Embassy of Japan teamed up to recreate the atmosphere that filled the hotel during the embassy's visit 150 years ago.  Performers dressed as Edo period samurai and Victorian ladies were on hand to mingle with guests as they enjoyed authentic Japanese tea, savories and sweets served on china from the residence of the Ambassador of Japan.

Opening Lecture at the Library of Congress

Featuring three of the most highly regarded scholars in their field, spaces for the commemorative lecture Samurai 150! The First Japanese Diplomatic Mission to the U.S. in 1860 filled up almost overnight. After enjoying a display of historic items from the library's collection, guests were treated to a shakuhachi, or Japanese bamboo flute,performance bymusician Dan Gutwein. Moderated by Michael Auslin, director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and featuring keynote speakers Akira Iriye, the Charles Warren Professor of American History at Harvard University, and Ronald P. Toby, Professor of East Asian Language and Culture at the University of Illinois, the program began with an introduction by Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki. The scholars discussed the historical significance of the mission to both countries before taking questions from the audience.

An Evening with Samurai

New York based performance group Samurai Sword Soul presented their mix of beautifully choreographed sword fighting, comedy and drama to full house at the JICC. Imbuing traditional Japanese swordplay with a contemporary edge, Samurai Sword Soul brought bushido, the way of the samurai, to life, even inviting lucky audience members on stage for their Samurai Boot Camp.

 

1. Muragaki Awaji no Kami Norimasa, The First Japanese Embassy to the United States of America, trans. Miyoshi Shigehiko (Tokyo: America-JapanSociety, 1977) 38-39.

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