The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.
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In this issue:
Open Reconstruction in the Aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake
-Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Thank You Again
The Government of Japan would like to express its sincere gratitude for generous support from around the world after the Great East Japan Earthquake, and reconfirm its commitment to continue to work with the residents of the affected region and the people of Japan, expending all efforts to overcome the present difficulties and secure safety for the disaster victims, including foreigners, and an early recovery for the region.
Re-establishing a Safe and Secure Japan
Japan is already on a steady, step-by-step path towards recovering safety in relation to the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station. Except in areas surrounding the power station, radiation levels are now at normal levels in Tokyo and elsewhere, posing no health hazards. This concurs with the Preliminary Summary of the report issued on June 1 by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) fact-finding mission that was sent to Japan from May 24 to June 2. The preliminary summary states: "To date, no health effects have been reported in any person as a result of radiation exposure from the nuclear accident." Mobilizing knowledge and technology from around the world, work is underway to bring the situation under control. We are gradually regaining a safe and secure Japan. At the G8 Summit in Deauville in May...
A Series of Town Hall Meetings with Disaster-Stricken Communities Starts!
-Prime Minister Kan's Blog
Prime Minister Kan started hearing requests from heads of municipalities directly by telephone as early as March. The current series of meetings will gather people dealing with the disaster from both the Government and local communities. The Government side is represented by Senior Vice-Minister of Cabinet Office for National Policy Tatsuo Hirano. The Prime Minister attended the first meeting.
Messages of Sympathy from Prime Minister Kan
-Ministry of Foreign Affairs
On Sunday, May 22, a tornado hit the state of Missouri in the U.S., causing many casualties in the area and prompting the state to declare a state of emergency.
In response to this disaster, Prime Minister Naoto Kan sent a message of sympathy to President Barack Obama and Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto did the same to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, May 24 (Japan time).
In those messages, they expressed their feelings of condolence and sympathy and conveyed that Japan is prepared to provide necessary assistance.
Overcoming Extreme Obstacles:
When Brian Lee, Senior Administrator at the Newseum first read in the Washington Post about the handwritten newspapers in Ishinomaki, Japan, he was struck by the display of journalistic spirit they represented. He embarked on a mission to make the papers a part of the museum's permanent collection. The endeavor would be as close an encounter with the true meaning of journalism as anyone could hope for.
The story begins with the people who crowded into a handful of refugee centers in Ishinomaki, Miyagi, the city now known as one of the hardest hit by the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake. With the power out, there was no reliable source of information and many were completely in the dark as to the whereabouts of their loved ones. Even emergency radios were unreliable in the continuing black-out. This was the desperate situation in which the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun, declaring that as long as they still had a marker, there was nothing stopping them from publishing the newspaper, stepped up.
Six reporters took to the streets to learn what they could. Lee was especially touched by the tale of one reporter who was swept away in his car while on the job. After three days in the hospital he was back to work.
Three writers, armed with a black marker, wrote up the news for distribution at the refugee centers. Though the presses weren’t working, the paper was still intact and they tore a large section off to write in oversized, visible script. They wrote out six copies to be distributed to various refugee centers.
March 12th, the day after the devastating tsunami, the newspaper simply spelled out the facts of the damage. But, beginning on March 13th, the papers began to carry messages of hope. "March 13: Rescue Crews Arrive from Across the Country," "March 16: Getting Through It Together," "March 17th: Lights Come on Through the Town." In addition, the news was now accompanied by lists of names of those at the refugee centers in an effort to help people locate loved ones.
All of this struck a chord with Lee. He told Japan Now that he has "never seen any other newspaper company around the world that did handwritten newspapers" and called it one of the best examples of the journalistic spirit he has ever seen.
He got in touch with Mr. Omi, President of the Ishinomaki Hibi, and began discussing the possibility of bringing the newpapers to the Newseum. There were others interested in the papers, but Mr. Omi liked the idea that, at the Newseum, the papers would be on display for children and school groups. And Lee's ideas about the message that the papers could send to the public that even in extreme conditions resonated with him. The papers arrived at their new home on April 11th, but the story doesn't end there.
Lee's efforts led to other outcomes for the Newseum as well. The handwritten papers' journey to America proved to be a catalyst for another connection. One of the many media outlets to publish a story on the Newseum's acquisition of the papers was the Nishinippon of Fukuoka. For the Nishinippon, the story had some local flavor; Fukuoka City is Brian Lee's hometown. Having been brought together by the story of the handwritten news, he was able to get them on board to become the second ever Japanese newspaper uploading their daily front page to the Today's Front Pages Gallery. The Japanese media's presence in the Newseum is increasing and curious Washingtonians now have more ways to learn about the Japanese perspective on recent events.
But for Lee, the true value of his efforts was made clear by the visit of fourteen 5th and 6th graders from a Japanese school in New York whose eyes lit up with interest at the sight of the newspaper, reportedly their favorite part of the trip. After their visit they sent him a thank you for their tour - complete with a DVD slideshow of the pictures they'd taken documenting their visit to the Newseum. With such enthusiasm, could these kids be the future of Japanese journalism?
In an age of decreasing sales and increasing perturbed and foreboding commentary on the uncertain future of print media, the Ishinomaki Hibi will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, still a strong a pillar of the community. Their secret, it would seem, is that same journalistic spirit that attracted Mr. Lee to their story. As President Omi said is his message to the press, "We must not prioritize only those things which are the most convenient, efficient, or which make the most sense. More than that, we must value the bonds between people, bonds which begin with love for the people and the community."
Visitors to the Newseum can see the March 12th paper on display in the World News Gallery. The others are carefully preserved in the museum's temperature controlled archives for future generations and society's collective knowledge.
Of Dolls and Robots:
What do a plate of wax sushi, a pair of robotic limbs and a decorated Self Defence Forces officer have in common?
Each year in May, embassies throughout Washington, DC open their doors to the public to introduce their countries' cultures. This year, the Embassy of Japan was thrilled to welcome nearly 4000 people through its doors on Saturday, May 7th. Guests got a peak at our collection of delicate porcelain dolls from Japan, traditional Japanese kites and tea sets and, of course, the building itself, the "Old Ambassador's Residence" of the Embassy - a National Historic Landmark from 1931.
But many visitors were most impressed with the Hybrid Assistive Limb, or "Robot Suit HAL." Professor Yoshiyuki Sankai of the University of Tsukuba demonstrated how the wearable robot picks up the wearer's own neural signals to work in synchronization with their limbs, helping those recovering from spinal injury stand and walk again. HAL can also enable the wearer to lift heavy things and could have many applications in factory work or rescue work.
For the Embassy of Japan, the Around the World Embassy Tour this year was also an opportunity to show appreciation for the outpouring of support from Americans following the devastating earthquake in March - and to educate people about some of the ways Japan and the U.S. have been cooperating to restore peace of mind to the people of Tohoku. Particularly, it was an opportunity to show people to hard work of Operation Tomodachi (meaning "Operation Friend"), the U.S. military effort for the region's recovery. The cooperation between the U.S. Military and the Japan Self Defense Forces has truly lived up to that Operation's name. Officers of the Embassy's defense section were also present to answer visitors’ questions.
If you missed it, don't despair. We'll have more fun and learning planned next year, but you don't have to wait until then. Stop by the Japan Information and Culture Center any weekday between 9 and 5 or stop into one of our many evening events! See you there.
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