April 3, 2006 Vol. 2, No. 6

Japan Wins First World Baseball Championship

BOJ Ends Quantitative Monetary Easing; Next Key Issue is When to Quit Zero Interest

Cherry Blossom Festival Celebrates Japan-U.S. Ties

-By Shiori Okazaki
(Embassy of Japan)

The 2006 National Cherry Blossom Festival began on March 25, and will continue through April 9. The festival celebrates approximately 3,000 cherry trees that were given in 1912 from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the people of Washington, DC. In the same year, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador then, planted the first two of these trees by Tidal Basin. Now, the thousands of cherry trees ranging in variety from the popular Yoshino to the rare Shirofugen and Okame (of which there exist only one each) surround not only Tidal Basin but all of East Potomac Park, running along the Potomac River and near the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. More trees dot the greater Washington area as well, from downtown to the suburbs. They bloom every year from the end of March to the beginning of April, ushering in the most beautiful season of the Washington area and welcoming visitors from all over the nation and the world.

According to the website of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc., the coordinating organization of the festival, the first festival was held in 1935, and was expanded to two weeks in 1994. "This festival . . . embodies the friendship and goodwill between Japan and the United States," writes Ambassador Ryozo Kato in the opening remarks in this year's Cherry Blossom Festival brochure. The Embassy of Japan has been involved extensively in the festival, and a prime example this year was the family day and opening ceremony on March 25 at the National Building Museum. Various organizations hosted exhibitions and activities all day, including make-your-own Japanese rock garden, Hawaii-based Japanese-American designer Anne Namba's fashion show, youth performances such as jazz and a kendo demonstration by students of George Washington University. Besides featuring Ambassador Ryozo Kato as a key speaker at the opening ceremony, the Embassy contributed by organizing ANIME BLOSSOM!, a new event this year that showcased modern popular culture in Japan. In various rooms of the museum, ANIME BLOSSOM! featured throughout the opening day popular Japanese animated films (anime) and bestselling Japanese comics, as well as the interactive Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), a DJ-like music video game that gives instructions on how to dance with vigorous steps.

While not directly a part of the Cherry Blossom Festival, on this same weekend was the 14th Annual Japan Bowl, organized by the Japan-America Society of Washington, Inc. This quiz-format national competition of Japanese language and culture for high school students welcomed participants from all over the nation, and featured Akitaka Saiki, Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Japan, as a speaker on March 26.

Other prominent events of the Festival include the 10-Mile Race on April 2, where participants ran under the blossoms around Tidal Basin, in the city and over Memorial Bridge, and the lantern-lighting ceremony on that evening with local dignitaries, Japanese performers and the 2006 Cherry Blossom princesses. The Sakura Matsuri (literally translated as "Cherry Blossom Festival"), the annual street fest with Japanese food, entertainment, crafts and market on 12th St. and Pennsylvania Avenue on April 8 is also very popular with locals and visitors alike, but the highlight of the Festival is the Parade on the same day, which runs through Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th Streets, complete with floats, marching bands, balloons and oversized kites.

Some of the ongoing events include "Wako Kido in Washington, DC: Hope - Nature's Wisdom - After the World Expo" (through April 14), an exhibition at the Japan Information & Culture Center that features the paintings of the official artist of the Aichi World Expo last year. The National Geographic Society is hosting an exhibit called "From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru" (through April 23), telling the story of a real-life geisha through her personal kimonos. The Freer and Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian Institution are also showcasing many Japan-related exhibitions, from Hokusai (through May 14) to artists of Edo from 1800 to 1850 (through May 29), to a screening of Japanese animated films (April 1) and the works of director Mikio Naruse (various dates through April 9).

For more information on the National Cherry Blossom Festival, visit their website: http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/cms/index.php?id=390

(L-R) Dr. Haruo Hayashi and Dr. Shigeo Tatsuki

Kobe Earthquake Recovery Inspiring to Hurricane Relief Efforts

-By Shiori Okazaki
(Embassy of Japan)

The Kobe earthquake commemorated its tenth anniversary only 14 months ago. The Hanshin-Awaji earthquake, the most disastrous earthquake in Japan's recent history, has commonalities with the more recent natural disaster of the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast. Now, half a year after the hurricane devastation, two professors from Japan spoke about what could be learned from the reconstruction of Kobe and applied to the rebuilding of New Orleans.

In a lecture entitled "Rebuilding New Orleans: Lessons from Kobe," Dr. Haruo Hayashi, a professor at Kyoto University and Chairman of the Kyoto University Disaster Prevention Research Institute, and Dr. Shigeo Tatsuki, Professor of Sociology at Doshisha University and Senior Research Scientist at the Disaster Reduction & Human Renovation Institute, spoke about the recovery and reconstruction of Kobe. They discussed both material factors such as urban planning and finance, and intangible factors such as societal interaction and psychological sense of normalcy.

Hayashi began the lecture by discussing the strategies for holistic recovery. He first touched upon Hurricane Katrina, where "two disasters occurred in conjunction with each other," Hayashi said. The first was the hurricane, a Category 5 disaster which hit the Gulf Coast, but the other was the unexpected levee breach in New Orleans. It was the levee breach that had flooded 80% of the city and caused fire, civil unrest and the deaths of more than 880 people.

The fact that there was an unexpected second disaster is a similarity New Orleans shared with the Kobe earthquake, Hayashi said. Hayashi compared the earthquake in Kobe to that of Northridge, Calif., which struck on January 17, 1994. Happening exactly a year before Kobe, which had a magnitude of 6.9, the Northridge earthquake had a magnitude of 6.8. But the aftermath was entirely different: Northridge had a casualty of 57 people and a total property loss of 42 billion USD, while 6,433 people died in Kobe, with a total property loss of more than 150 billion USD.

"The main difference was that we [Kobe] had 3.5 million people living right on the earthquake fault," Hayashi explained. The Kobe earthquake had lasted only 10 seconds, and the majority of people died because of building collapses.

There are three goals to the Kobe recovery plan, which is continuing even now: physical, economic, and life recovery. These are integrated with each other: physical recovery such as the redevelopment of destructed cities becomes a tool for economic recovery, which in turn helps life recovery such as assistance to disaster victims.

Physical recovery was a success: it was completed in five years, with quick debris removal and restoration of infrastructure. Longer-term plans such as construction of safe buildings and wise land-use planning were executed swiftly as well, benefiting from a two-year moratorium the mayor of Kobe had announced for the first two months after the earthquake.

There were problems with economic recovery, however, such as an over-reliance on public spending, with little initiative for new economic developments. With the government as the only risk-taker, customers did not wait for recovery and Tokyo received the major contracts, killing local small businesses. Kobe had been the busiest port in Japan before the earthquake, but has not since returned to that position.

"Life recovery" is an elusive term referring to personal and family recovery. In a survey, victims of the earthquake revealed that there may be at least seven elements that must be fulfilled in order for them to feel that they have recovered: housing, maintaining existing social network and/or creating new ones in case of forced relocation, having proper land use plan and/or townscape regulations, improving disaster mitigation levels, mental and physical health, securing enough income and work, and governmental assistance.

Eleven years after the earthquake, Hayashi said, there is still much to do: assistance for major industries and small business, and individual assistance for victims are yet to be completed. But "we learned that structural mitigation really worked to reduce damages, and that long-term recovery management became an important new issue for disaster communities," Hayashi said. "The planning process should be participatory; everybody should join. It was very hectic for Kobe to accommodate people's wishes, but the result was a really good outcome," Hayashi said.

Following this comment, Shigeo Tatsuki took over the lecture, discussing the role of civil society and human networks for long-term life recovery after the Kobe earthquake. Tatsuki moved the audience by opening his lecture with two videos: both showed houses burning, but while the first was flooded with the sound of fire engines as well as the panicked cries of the shooter of the film, the second was silent save for the noise of residence walls and roofs burning and crumbling. "We have to just let houses burn--that's what a disaster is. It's different from a crisis, which can be dealt with. A catastrophe is when you just hear houses burning," Tatsuki said.

To illustrate the importance of cooperation among people, Tatsuki focused on the north Noda district of Kobe, where 220 houses burned down (the death toll was 41). Members of the Noda community held land readjustment meetings where, instead of rebuilding their houses in the same size as before, everyone reached the consensus to give up a certain percentage of their own land to create wider roads. "Wider roads not only facilitate daily life, but in case of emergencies, make it easier for people to take refuge," Tatsuki said. The result was not only roads that were more accessible but a change in the entire townscape, with parks and other efforts to make the community more beautiful and appealing.

Tatsuki then touched upon some theories of sociology, and said that those who placed more emphasis on community solidarity rather than self-governance, as well as people who were able to change what they experienced in the earthquake to positive appraisal, had the highest sense of life recovery.

"Before the earthquake, people thought there were only two sectors of society: public (or government) and private. But society is now thought to have three sectors: public, private and civil society," Tatsuki said. 1.3 million people came to the earthquake site to help with the relief and recovery efforts, and this precipitated the concept of civil society. "The disaster itself is really unfortunate, but it gave a positive impact on society," he concluded.

The lecture was attended by personnel of the National Science Foundation, the Department of Transportation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other members of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as an architecture class of Catholic University. Before returning to Japan, Hayashi and Tatsuki gave the same lecture in New Orleans on March 22, at the New Orleans Harbor Department.

Japanese, European and American
cosmetic brands are all popular in Japan.

Japanese Beauty Starts with Self

-By Kanako Lyons
(Embassy of Japan)

In the past ten years, the consciousness of beauty has drastically changed among Japanese women. Japanese women now do not try to copy the makeup or fashion of European models as much as they did before. Now, they have figured out a way to bring out their own beauty using both traditional Japanese methods and new techniques resulting from technological advances in the cosmetics industry.

What is "beautiful" anyway? To the Japanese, the answer is "Irono shiroi wa shichinan kakusu." In other words, "Beautiful bright skin can cover seven flaws." Whitening and brightening lotions and creams are now staples among many female consumers in Japan. Skincare for Japanese women is the most important beauty step for Japanese women, and skincare sales support this.

The very first step of skincare starts with establishing a clean base--washing your face. Even though there are so many different types of face wash products available in Japan from all over the world, natural products such as "husk of rice mud wash," "stool of Japanese bush warbler face wash," "sake (Japanese rice wine) face wash," "sulfur soap" and other herbal products are still popular. It seems to me that when it comes to skincare products, domestic brands are more popular than foreign products.

There are thousands of pores on your face. Cleansing your face with just regular bubbles that you make in your palm is not good enough. Using a face wash net that is available at regular drugstores, it is essential that you apply the soap to your face gently (try not to squash the bubbles). A good rinse with lukewarm water and then very cold water will achieve a good cleaning.

On the other hand, European and North American makeup products have gained more popularity among Japanese women. The brilliance of colors in European brands amazes me in particular. When I go to the ladies' room in Japan, I notice that many Japanese women use European and American brands' lipstick and eye shadows such as Chanel, Dior, Estee Lauder and more. We tend to check out each other's beauty tips, so take good notes and take advantage of learning from your peers!

If you have ever traveled to Japan, you might have been amazed by the large selection of cosmetic brands in department stores. Almost all the major department stores in Japan have a tremendous selection of cosmetic brands. Comparatively, each cosmetics floor of the average department store in Japan looks like the cosmetics floor of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York. This is testimony to the importance of skincare and cosmetic products in the Japanese society.

One of the things that I started noticing after living here a couple of years is that there are not too many European or Asian brands available in the United States as compared to Japan. In Japan, you can get almost any brand from all over the world. It shows that in the Japanese market, there is a much stronger demand for cosmetic products and beauty products than there is in the U.S. The high demand creates a competitive market--which benefits all those vying for the latest cosmetic products at the center of fashion magazines and the "buzz" on the streets of Tokyo! A major sales component of Japanese department stores is cosmetic sales, which shows that Japanese women wouldn't mind spending a lot of money on cosmetic and beauty products. When one product gains popularity in Japan, the rush is on to use the new product despite the high price.

But I have come to realize that real beautiful skin cannot be attributed just to skincare products. The Japanese also pay a lot of attention to food, drinks and lifestyle. Japanese food is typically low in fat and sodium, and includes a lot of vegetables, seafood and an adequate amount of meat. The same thing goes with drinks. We drink a lot of green tea (which are rich in antioxidants) in our daily lives, and other nutritious drinks. If you go to convenience stores in Japan, you would see a great selection of healthy drinks and teas.

As for lifestyle, taking a bath everyday is a must for the Japanese. Not only are these baths good for hygiene but they also provide a great mental break from the toils of the day! Taking a bath with onsen (hot springs) powder, aroma oils or herbal products makes you relaxed and allows you to focus on the simpler things in life. Going to hot springs is one of the most common methods to relax for the Japanese and is a pillar of Japanese society.

It is a part of our culture to take care of ourselves in our daily lives. As a result of a good diet, we have the longest lifespan in the world--81.9 years. Japanese beauty was not built in a day; it takes daily doses of the Japanese lifestyle to bring out your very best.