Vol. 4, No. 12 (December 2, 2008)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.



The 16th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Economic Leaders' Meeting


(photo) APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting
Commemorative photo session held on the 2nd day of the 16th APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting. (photo: Aso Cabinet Homepage)

Prime Minister Taro Aso visited Peru for three days from November 21 - November 23, to attend the 16th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting held on November 22 - 23 in Lima, Peru. Read the text of the press conference he held on the final day of the trip.For further information, please see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' page on the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting.

Previous Day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting

-Aso Cabinet Homepage
(November 21, 2008)

On November 21 (local time), Prime Minister Taro Aso arrived in Lima, the capital of the Republic of Peru, to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting.

Read on...

1st Day of the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting

-Aso Cabinet Homepage
(November 22, 2008)

On November 22 (local time), Prime Minister Taro Aso, who is visiting the Republic of Peru to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting, held talks with Mr. George W. Bush, President of the United States of America.

Read on...

2nd Day of the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting

-Aso Cabinet Homepage
(November 23, 2008)

On November 23 (local time), Prime Minister Taro Aso, who is visiting the Republic of Peru to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting, held talks with Mr. Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, President of the United Mexican States.

Read on...


Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy

1st Day of the Summit
2nd Day of the Summit

For more information, please see:


1st Day of the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy

-Aso Cabinet Homepage
(November 14, 2008)

(photo) President Bush welcomes Prime Minister Aso
Prime Minister Aso being welcomed by President Bush (photo: Aso Cabinet Homepage)


Read the press release



2nd Day of the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy

-Aso Cabinet Homepage
(November 15, 2008)

(photo) World leaders participate in Summit
World Leaders participating in the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy (photo: Aso Cabinet Homepage)


Read the press release


"Japan's Leadership" -- Message from the Prime Minister


- Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.7
(November 20, 2008)


(photo) Prime Minister Aso
Prime Minister Aso holds a press conference during the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy (photo: Aso Cabinet Homepage)

Last weekend, I attended the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy for the leaders of 20 nations, including both developed countries and emerging ones such as India and China.

Expectations for Japan stem from its experience in single-handedly recovering from the collapse of the bubble economy. There are also expectations for Japan in view of the role that the world's second largest economy can perform.

Immediately after my speech, leaders including Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Brown told me that they thought it was a good speech with a great deal of concrete content.

Although the summit was brief, limited to just two days, many of the concrete proposals Japan made based on its experience, including proposals on the importance of the injection of public funds, were reflected in the subsequent summit declaration.

Problems like the current crisis, including moral hazard issues, cannot be averted through reliance on US-style market fundamentalism. Conversely, if we were only to strengthen regulations, as in Europe, the economy would not be so free.

The middle course may be the right one. In discussions on financial regulation and supervision, too, Japan's proposals garnered the support of leaders of various countries.

It is the economies of emerging nations, such as India, that are growing significantly. The global economic pie as a whole will not get bigger unless these economies are supported.

To this end, Japan announced that it is prepared to lend a maximum of 100 billion dollars to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This demonstration of leadership by Japan was evaluated highly by Managing Director of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In a special statement on Japan, he said that the country had made "a major contribution to maintaining the stability of financial and capital markets."

We are now facing a so-called once-in-a-century financial crisis. A crisis, though, presents opportunities for the future. History shows us that a new order arises when a crisis is overcome.

At the summit, we were able to agree on specific actions that nations need to take in concert.

It goes without saying that taking these actions is of the utmost importance. It was a historic summit at which the world took, at the very least, its first major strides toward overcoming the crisis.

The day after I returned home, I received a sudden request for a meeting from President of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Ichiro Ozawa. During the meeting, he stated that a second supplementary budget should be submitted to the current Diet session. If not, the DPJ would not allow a vote to take place in the House of Councillors on measures such as the bill to extend the new Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law.

The purpose of the bill is to enable Japan to play a part in the international community's fight against terrorism through the continuation of its replenishment support activities in the Indian Ocean. It has absolutely nothing to do with the second supplementary budget.

Politics that turns its back on the decision-making process will not lead to any progress. The DPJ still avoids party leaders' debates. If the DPJ does put the people first, instead of political point-scoring, it should engage in the Diet discussion openly and squarely, and join hands with us in making decisions that are in the interests of the people.



Telephone Conversation Between
Prime Minister Taro Aso and
U.S. Senator Barack Obama


-Embassy Press Release
(November 7, 2008)


(photo) Barack Obama
On November 4th, Americans elected Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States (photo: barackobama.com)

Read the press release



Obama's Presidential Election Victory in the United States
and Comments in Japan


- Japan Brief article No. 0866
(November 6, 2008)


(photo) Barack Obama with family
United States President-elect, Barack Obama with wife, Michelle, and daughters, Sasha and Malia. (photo: barackobama.com)

Read the Japan Brief article



Nirvana Mini : In Search of the Ideal Space


-by Susan Laszewski
(Embassy of Japan)


(photo) Tea ceremony inside "Fu-an" tea house
Tea master So-Oku Sen serves tea to Nirvana Mini producer Masahiko Shimada, and architects Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama, Kengo Kuma, and Norihiko Dan, inside Kengo Kuma's tea house design "Fu-an." (Photo credit: Satomi Kato)


On November 4th and 5th, the Embassy of Japan was pleased to welcome Japanese author Masahiko Shimada, along with three Japanese architects and renowned tea master So-Oku Sen, to Washington, D.C. for an event produced by Mr. Shimada and focused on his concept of "Nirvana Mini."

"Nirvana Mini" is a concept of design built upon the idea that all human habitats are fundamentally alike and can be extracted to an ideal space. As Mr. Shimada writes, this is because the basic structure of our homes is "prescribed beforehand by the structure of the human brain and body."

The event, held at the Old Ambassador's Residence and Ippakutei tea house on the Embassy grounds on Massachusetts Avenue, showcased tea house designs incorporating the ideas of Nirvana Mini. As Mr. Shimada writes, "when one considers the ideal size, shape and structure of an archetypical space, the Japanese tea house is perhaps the world's best example of basic structure for all times and places." JICC was pleased to welcome three Japanese architects who were inspired by these ideas: Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama, Kengo Kuma, and Norihiko Dan.

On the 4th, guests were first treated to a tea ceremony led by Tea Master So-Oku Sen, the direct descendant of the 16th century founder of the Japanese tea ceremony, Sen-no Rikyu, and next in line to become the head of the Mushakouji Senke School of Tea. The tea ceremony was held at Ippakutei, a traditional Japanese tea house originally built in Tokyo, then reconstructed in Washington, D.C. Much of Ippakutei's architecture is inspired by famous temples and villas and it is known as the finest tea house of its kind outside of Japan. Readers can view Satomi Kato's photo essay documenting the evening's ceremony on the JICC website. Tea Master Sen's ceremony, held in this traditional setting, provided guests with some background through which to appreciate the innovative tea house designs on display at the Old Ambassador's Residence.

The Nirvana Mini concept allows for endless interpretations. The diversity of design, even among just three architects, provided a feast for any hungry architecture enthusiasts in attendance. Mr. Takeyama's design, constructed entirely of a single sheet of paper, emphasized the meditative function of the tea house, creating a space in which the person inside is effectively cut off from the distractions of the outside world, as demonstrated by the solitary doll that sat in the small scale model on display. The name of the design, shi-an, means "paper hermitage" but is also a homophone of a Japanese word meaning "meditation." In contrast, Mr. Dan's design, called kiraku-an, meaning to take it easy, suggests he is more interested in the tea house's function as a place of interaction and communication, both with other participants in a tea ceremony, as well as with the natural world. His tea house is designed to be placed in a garden or forest to allow communion with nature and, accordingly, would be constructed entirely of glass. The small scale acryclic plastic model he displayed at the Old Ambassador's Residence gave viewers a sense of what the tea house might look like. These two designs together gave guests a sense of the freedom of design inherent in Nirvana Mini.

Kengo Kuma's design, Fu-an, meaning "floating hermitage" was presented not as a model, but as a full sized tea house assembled right in the Grand Parlor of the Old Ambassador's Residence. Designed to create a feeling a floating, the tea house's walls are made of an uncannily light, see-through material weighing just 11grams draped over a large balloon filled with helium. At the end of the evening, Tea Master Sen held another tea ceremony (pictured above), this time in Mr. Kuma's tea house, emphasizing the timelessness of the tea ceremony by bringing together the centuries-old practice as it had been passed down to him, and a never-before-seen interpretation of the space in which to perform it.

The event continued the following day, as guests came to learn about tea houses and architecture, touring Ippakutei and spending time getting acquainted with the Nirvana Mini designs and concept. Those who were interested also attended the announcement of the opening of the Nirvana Mini Design Competition. Students of architecture and artists of all ages who are interested in the concept were encouraged to submit their designs for the ideal space.

Despite a little rain, guests of the Nirvana Mini exposition and tours had a rare opportunity to learn first hand about the Japanese art of tea and the architecture surrounding it from experts in the field. Some were drawn there by the original and innovative architectural designs, others by the ritualized and meditative nature of the tea ceremony, and some by the plants in the garden at Ippakutei. All in all, the two day event provided something for everyone to enjoy.

(photo) New tea house designs
New tea house designs by (from left to right) Kiyoshi Sey Takeyama, Kengo Kuma, and Norihiko Dan.


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