Vol. 7, No. 4 (August 23, 2011)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.
In this issue:
-Prime Minister Kan's Blog
Step 1 of the Roadmap towards Restoration from the Accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station compiled by the Government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was completed as planned. The Prime Minister visited the site to directly meet the people working there who made this happen and gave them words of appreciation and encouragement. Listening to their needs, the Government will join together with these people as we embark upon Step 2.
Homecoming & Charitable Activities:
In August the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the Japan Tourism Agency introduced a "homecoming" program through which former participants of the JET Program who served in areas that have been affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake will have the opportunity to go back. For the months of August and September the 14 participants in the program, 8 from the U.S., will have the opportunity to learn about the current situation on the ground and share what they learn with the public back in the U.S.
If you are only passingly familiar with the JET Program, you may think it's all about teaching English in Japan. Even those who are well versed in the program often get so focused on the language aspect of it that they forget about some of the program's other aims. In fact, language education is just one means to the program's ultimate end goal: grass-roots international exchange.
As the Program's website states, "many former JET participants use their experiences in Japan to continue enhancing relations between Japan and their home countries." In fact, while politicians and educators have been busy debating and trying to measure the affect of the program on English education, JET has been quietly successful in this larger goal. The hardships that Japan has faced during these last five months, particularly the Tohoko area where the homecoming program is focused, have shown us just how successful.
It should come as no surprise that there would be interest in this program. Since March, chapters of the JET Alumni Association (JETAA) around the country have shown an outpouring of support toward the country they briefly knew as home. They're rebuilding schools, releasing music videos, and holding fundraising events ranging from benefits in Northern California to hot yoga in New York.
The DC chapter has been anything but silent during this time. When news of the earthquake struck, JETAA DC immediately started asking what they could do to help. "Focusing on anything other than Japan was almost impossible," says President Maurice Maloney. "From an association standpoint, we (along with assistance from CLAIR and the JET Office in the Embassy) stayed focused on keeping our membership informed on the developments in Japan and how JETs were coping. JETAADC leadership was in constant communication with the JETAA USA country representatives, and within 24 hours, we had the beginnings of our National Relief Fund."
JETAA DC's first fundraising event for the Fund, held at Bourbon in Adams Morgan on April 21st, was a smashing success. But the alumni are nowhere near finished. As Maloney tells Japan Now, "JETs and JET Alumni are not just limited to one role in the reconstruction of Japan." In fact, "JET Alums have volunteered expertise in the field as emergency workers, have organized events to raise money for the relief effort, and some have been involved in high level discussions with policy makers in Washington, DC. Regardless of their specific actions, I think the most important role JETs and JET Alumni can play is by keeping attention drawn to Japan and the Tohoku region during the rebuilding process. Many times, the rebuilding process is ignored after major disasters, and JETs' and JET Alums' connection to Japan can keep the rebuilding process fresh in the minds in their respective communities."
The JET Program has been carefully cultivating grass-roots ties with other countries since 1987. The support alumni have shown, whether returning to their second home in Japan or sending their thoughts and support from their own countries, is a testament to its success.
Read the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' and Council of Local Authorities for International Relations' messages of appreciation to JET participants and alumni.
What could have caused one hundred people to gather at Sony's Washington, D.C. office on July 17th? A free PlayStation 3 giveaway? No, it was something even better, a chance to watch two of the world's greatest soccer teams battle it out for the title of World Cup Champions. While the JICC provided Japanese flags and stickers for fans of Nadeshiko (the nickname for the Japanese women's team), fans of the American ladies were just as welcome, and quite a few of them came to watch the game on Sony's giant HD screens.
The office-turned-viewing venue was packed early, but luckily, guests had some form of entertainment before the match began. Sony, who very generously provided their office and resources for the event, had a large 3D TV on display, and 3D Glasses were available for everyone to test the TV's capabilities, which allow one to watch TV in 3D even if a channel is broadcast in 2D. The real fun began once the match started, and the atmosphere helped turn every near-goal or intercepted pass into a reason for gasps and cheers. The atmosphere in the room was intense throughout the match, with fans rising to shout with joy (or disappointment) as both teams traded a goal once during regular time, and again during extra time. While many dreaded the decision of the game by a penalty shootout, the Japanese supporters would be happy to see their team win that shootout, 3-1.
As evidenced by the frequency of questions such as "How many minutes are in each half?" not everyone in attendance was a soccer aficionado, but the chance to witness the country's top women achieve national glory was enough to bring everyone together for the game and eventual celebration. And it was an extra-special celebration for Japan, a country that has endured the multiple disasters that occurred only four months prior to the World Cup final. Members of the Japanese women's team have said that the destruction wrought by the disasters bolstered their desire to win and bring back a trophy, not for themselves, but for the Japanese people.
In return for their hope-instilling win, the Japanese government announced that Prime Minister Naoto Kan would bestow the "People's Honour Award" to the Japanese women's national soccer team. The award was first granted in 1977 as a means of honoring those, such as entertainers, writers, and athletes, who achieve great accomplishments in their field. This is the first time it was awarded to a group. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano explained the decision, saying "[Nadeshiko Japan] have given Japanese people the courage to face difficulties such as the Great East Japan Earthquake." In response to receiving the award, team captain and MVP Homare Sawa, stated "I'm very surprised and honored to receive such a prestigious award. If we were able to give everybody some hope and energy while Japan is rebuilding its strength, I'm very happy."
Japanese people were not the only ones celebrating. Certainly, those who saw Sawa play for the local Washington Freedom from 2009-2010 would be happy to see her receive the award as well. Hillary Clinton, for one, sent Japan her congratulations along with some apples from New York State.
As for the American team, having won 21 previous matches against Japan, they may not have been expecting the defeat, but after a hard battle, view Nadeshiko as a worthy opponent. No one could deny this was one of the most compelling games in women's soccer history. These feelings from the U.S. team and their fans serve to strengthen the mutual trust and friendship between the two countries.
This year's World Cup final will be hard to beat in terms of excitement and level of play, but we wish for the success of both teams in the future, and eagerly await their return in 2015!
New in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Check out the topics below for more on what's new in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
EAS Foreign Ministers' Consultation - July 27
Stay up to date on the nuclear recovery: