Japan Now

Vol. 8, No. 1 (January 11, 2011)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.


In this issue:

1. New Year's Reflection by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

2. Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministerial Meeting

3. Special Speech: "Japan-U.S. Alliance After 3/11 and Beyond"

4. "Road of Destiny" Ikuo Hirayama Exhibit at the JICC

5. The Eye of the Daruma: New Year's Wishes in Japan



New Year's Reflection by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

-Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan

January 1, 2012

I would like to extend my best wishes for the New Year to all the people of Japan...

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Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministerial Meeting

Minister Gemba with Secretary Clinton
Japanese Foreign Minister Gemba with U.S. Secretary of State Clinton. © Ministry of Foreign Affairs

-Ministry of Foreign Affairs
December 20, 2011

On December 20, Foreign Minister Gemba held a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton for approximately 110 minutes from 11:45 A.M. (EST) during his visit to Washington D.C. The outline of the meeting is as follows:

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Special Speech: "Japan-U.S. Alliance After 3/11 and Beyond"
Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Yamaguchi
Vice Minister Yamaguchi (© Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan)

-Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi,
Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister
for Foreign Affairs

at the Council on Foreign Relations/
Asahi Shimbun Symposium

December 8, 2011
Hotel New Otani, Tokyo

I am greatly honored to be invited to this symposium hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asahi Shimbun and to speak today to this audience of eminent persons from both Japan and the United States. This symposium has been doing a great job of providing intellectual input toward Japan-U.S. relations. I am sure there will be lively discussions again this year to enrich our alliance.

After the terrible earthquake and tsunami this year, Japan received warm support from all over the world. But what was extremely special and moving for us was the assistance we received from the United States, including the deployment of an aircraft carrier under Operation Tomodachi. That operation touched the hearts of the Japanese people. On behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to take this opportunity to express once again our deep appreciation to the United States.

The international community at present is in a turbulent state. Europe is struggling to respond to an unprecedented debt crisis triggered by the situation in Greece. The United States is struggling, too, in the face of serious unemployment and an immense budget deficit. Meanwhile, China, India, and other emerging economies are rising to the fore. The "Arab Spring" has...

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"Road of Destiny" Ikuo Hirayama Exhibit at the JICC

Ikuo Hirayama's "Ginkakuji"
Ikuo Hirayama's "Ginkakuji"

-Susan Laszewski
Embassy of Japan

Ikuo Hirayama is best known for his Nihonga, a traditional Japanese style of painting, but his talent as a print maker is no less worthy of awe. This winter, in memoriam of the second anniversary of his passing, the Japan Information and Culture Center presents some of Hirayama’s silkscreens, woodblock prints, and etchings. The exhibit, entitled “Road of Destiny: Ikuo Hirayama’s Silk Road,”  features works in which Hirayama explores the origins of many of Japan’s cultural traditions by depicting enchanting sites along the Silk Road, many of them now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From the Blue Mosque of Istanbul to the inner sanctuary atop Japan’s Mt. Koya, the subjects speak to Hirayama’s passion for discovering and celebrating the common elements that bind cultures together.

As a collection, the works, all of which seem to glow as if illuminated from within, also illustrate beyond a doubt Hirayama’s gift for depicting light and shadow. The moonlight reflecting off the Taj Mahal shines as brightly as the real thing, while the warmly glowing windows of Nightfall at Toshodaiji beckon the viewer into the temple for refuge from the night.

“Road of Destiny: Ikuo Hirayama’s Silk Road” is open for viewing through February 3rd at the JICC at 1150 18th St. NW Washington DC. The gallery is open for self-guided tours Monday through Friday, from 9:00 to 5:00, with extended hours on January 12th until 8:00pm.

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The Eye of the Daruma: New Year's Wishes in Japan

Daruma dolls
Daruma dolls (©Gunma Prefecture/© JNTO)

-Susan Laszewski
Embassy of Japan

What's round and red and has both eyes closed? A daruma doll just before the New Year. Now, what's round and red and has one eye open? Give up? It's a daruma doll just after the New Year.

The eyes of the roly-poly Daruma doll, who rolls back onto his feet if you push him gently, have long played a special role in New Year celebrations across Japan. Early in the year, often at a Buddhist temple, people buy a new Daruma doll with two blank eyes. Then, drawing on the left eye, they make a wish for the coming year. Throughout the year, Daruma's incomplete gaze reminds us to work toward our goals. As the New Year approaches, those whose wishes have been fulfilled will draw Daruma's right eye. As a part of leaving the past behind and looking toward the future, the Daruma doll is set ablaze on a large bonfire at hatsumode.

Hatsumode, the first visit to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple in the New Year, is often performed just after midnight on January 1st in a celebratory atmosphere of community and camaraderie. Waiting in line to pray, with a warm cup of amazake in hand, surrounded by neighbors, hopeful faces, and the glow of the fire is a great way to prepare to take on the New Year!

Daruma has descended from his real life counterpart, Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk who lived around the turn of the 6th century. However, much like Saint Nicholas and Jonathan Chapman have little in common with Santa Claus and Jonny Appleseed, Daruma is more a figure of story time than of history books. In addition to the dolls, Daruma's likeness often appears on kites, and during winter you may see him in the form of yukidaruma, (snow Daruma), a cousin of the snowman. He also makes many appearances in children's games such as Daruma ga koronda, a game similar to red light/green light, and daruma-otoshi. In daruma-otoshi, a perennial favorite among school children who visit the Japan Information and Culture Center's school program, children try to knock all the blocks out from underneath Daruma without toppling him over.

This year, when you make your New Year's resolution, think about making a New Years wish as well. Maybe Daruma will help you make it come true.

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