Vol. 5, No. 14 (October 30, 2009)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.


In this issue

1. Policy Speech by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at the 173rd Session of the Diet

2. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Visit to Thailand and the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting

3. The Prime Minister Receives a Courtesy Call from US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates

4. Foreign Minister Okada Visits Afghanistan

5. US President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

6. American and Japanese Students Team up to Solve Global Issues

7. Yurei and Oni and Yokai, Oh my! Traditional Spooks and Demons of Japan



Policy Speech by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama
at the 173rd Session of the Diet

(photo) House of Representatives
A plenary session at the House of Representatives
(©Yomiuri Shimbun)

-Hatoyama Cabinet
October 26, 2009

1. Introduction

Almost two months have passed since that scorching summer day of the general election, and almost forty days since I was designated Prime Minister and a new Cabinet was inaugurated based on a policy agreement of the three-party coalition consisting of the Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party, and the People's New Party.

In the general election, the people of Japan chose to have a change of government. It is the first time for this to occur materially since democracy took root in Japan.

I believe that this change of power was brought about by...

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Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's Visit to Thailand
and the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting: Day 1

(photo) ASEAN+3 Summit Meeting
ASEAN+3 Summit Meeting (Cabinet Public Relations Office photo)

-Hatoyama Cabinet
October 24, 2009

On October 24 (local time), Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who is visiting Cha-am Hua Hin, Thailand, for a series of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-related summit meetings, attended successively the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting with the leaders of the 10 ASEAN member countries and the ASEAN+3 (ASEAN plus Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea (ROK)) Summit.

During the meetings, Prime Minister Hatoyama called for...

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Read about the 2nd day of the ASEAN Summit

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The Prime Minister Receives a Courtesy Call
from US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates

(photo) Secretary Gates and Prime Minister Hatoyama
US Secretary of Defense Gates and Prime Minister Hatoyama
(Cabinet Public Relations Office photo)

-Hatoyama Cabinet
October 21, 2009

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama received a courtesy call from Dr. Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense of the United States, at the Prime Minister's Office.

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Foreign Minister Okada Visits Afghanistan


(photo) Minister Okada and President Karzai
Japanese Foreign Minister Okada and Afghan President Hamid Karzai (Ministry of Foreign Affairs photo)

-Ministy of Foreign Affairs

On October 11th, Foreign Minister Okada visited Afghanistan and met with President Hamid Karzai and other dignitaries to learn more about the current situation in Afghanistan and the country's needs. After meeting with the President, Foreign Minister Spanta, former Foreign Minister and Presidential candidate Abdullah, and UN Special Representative to Afghanistan Kai Eide, Minister Okada paid a visit to a school and a vocational training center. To learn more about Japan-Afghanistan bilateral relations and Japan's aide to Afghanistan, please click here.

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US President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

(photo) President Obama
Recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, US President Barack Obama
(White House photo)

-Japan Brief/FPCJ, No. 0964
October 16, 2009

US President Barack Obama was chosen as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 on October 9. Japan's major newspapers, with the exception of The Nikkei, carried this news on their front pages and devoted several pages to the topic, including related articles. They also reported that Japanese atomic bomb victims welcomed the news, saying...

Continue reading the Japan Brief article

Read Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's comment on the award of the Peace Prize to President Obama.

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American and Japanese Students Team up to Solve Global Issues


(photo) JASC students
Students engage in a War and Peace discussion. (©ISC)

-Michelle Lee Jones, JASC Program Manager &
Regina Dull, ISC Executive Director


American and Japanese Students Team up to Solve Global Issues

“We hope to engage both Japanese and American individuals in a joint effort to make a direct impact…”
-61 JASC: International Development Kiva Lending Team

72 delegates, half from each country, gathered this summer for the 61st Japan-America Student Conference (JASC). Traveling through Tokyo, Hakodate, Nagano and Kyoto, they engaged in frank discussions surrounding the theme of "Global Awareness: Everyday Impact through Interactive Empowerment."

In small roundtable groups of 10, these students discussed and devised ways they could make a difference in international development, the environment, global business, education, health technology, the issue of public interest vs. individual rights, and food security. What did they do?

Global Local Online Business Exchange (GLOBE)


The Globalizing Economies group set out to learn more about the rising interest in the BRIC ( Brazil, Russia, India and China) group of nations. As a result of their research and discussion they agreed to focus on improving the accessibility of BRICs markets for foreign investors and entrepreneurs by creating a new online business exchange: GLOBE.

In discussions on global business, the students found elements such as corporate social responsibility (CSR), globalization, and entrepreneurship to be incredibly interesting. GLOBE (Global-Local Online Business Exchange) began as a way to bring together people who care about these issues and who want to learn about business practices in globalizing economies.

The logo is meant to represent dochakuka, or "localization" in Japanese. The image of a plant growing out of the Earth is our interpretation of the literal meaning of the character, "to be rooted in the ground."

Partnership on International Development: Facebook & KIVA



In order to achieve their goal of "creating a medium to engage both Japanese and American individuals to foster development in developing countries," the International Development roundtable created opportunities for online outreach: a Facebook group titled 61 JASC: International Development -- A Real Solution and a team on KIVA, the person-to-person micro lending website.

So far this group has attracted 69 fans on Facebook and collected $125 to be donated via KIVA to five Filipina entrepreneurs so that they can improve their businesses. As time progresses, the group hopes to continue to lend to other entrepreneurs around the world.

JASC: How to get involved

In 2009, the Japan-America Student Conference is celebrating the 75th Anniversary of its founding. While there is a lot to celebrate about our past, we continue to look for a brighter future.

JASC is made possible though generous donations from individuals and corporations. If you are interested in making a contribution please visit our website and click "donate" at the top, or email us.

Alumni looking to reconnect with fellow JASCers or get involved with recruitment should email us here.

Students interested in applying to the 62nd JASC should visit the International Student Conferences website for more information and an application.


Introducing the 62nd JASC!

Theme: To Understand, To Unite, To Act: Continuous Evolution through Integrated Perspectives

July 23 - August 21, 2009

Richmond, IN -- Washington, DC -- New Orleans, LA --San Francisco, CA

62nd JASC Roundtables:

Empowering Today's Youth: Overcoming Challenges in Society
Revitalizing Education: The Promotion of Individual Character
Security, Military and Peace: the US and Japan
Social Entrepreneurship: The Power to Transform
Spreading Environmental Awareness in Industrial Developing Nations
Sustainable Regionalism: how can urban cities and local communities coexist?
The Role of National Identity in the Globalizing Society

Together the delegates of the 62nd Japan-America Student Conference will be able to explore several dimensions of America through stays in Indiana, Washington D.C., New Orleans, and San Francisco. Applications are available online and students from all academic backgrounds are encouraged to apply.


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Yurei and Oni and Yokai, Oh my!
Traditional Spooks and Demons of Japan


(photo) Tengu mask
The largest tengu mask is housed in Mount Kasho Ryugein Mirokuji Temple and has a nose over 9 feet long. (©Gunma Prefecture/©JNTO)


-Susan Laszewski
Embassy of Japan

It's that time of year in the U.S. again. Ghosts begin making noise in the attic, vampires creep out of their coffins and skeletons rattle in their graves as all kinds of unseen and uninvited guests go bump in the night. These are the traditional players on the Halloween stage.

Japan, too, has its own tradition of jaded ghosts and mischievous ghouls. For these apparitions, familiar in some ways yet so different from their Western cousins in others, Halloween is not the most important time of the year as it is for spooks on this side of the Pacific. Japanese ghosts prefer the summer. While the American variety come out for Halloween, floating through the air in imitation of the leaves floating down to earth and bringing a chill to a room as if competing with autumn for the task of ushering in the winter, Japanese yurei float heavily and stiflingly through the air like an extension of the oppressive humid heat of the Japanese summer. Ask nicely, though, and they may agree to make an appearance at some of this year's Halloween festivities in the spirit of cultural exchange.

These yurei are the Japanese ghosts most likely to be familiar to Halloween merry makers. Like their Western counterparts, they are the souls of the departed, trapped in the world of the living until some wrong can be righted or betrayal avenged. They usually have no legs and float, translucent, above the ground, not fully planted in this world but unable to leave. They are central figures in many kabuki plays and in kaidan, Japan's traditional ghost stories. One of the best known of these is the story of Oiwa, accused of adultery by her husband and subsequently put to death, leaving him free to marry his mistress. Unable to find peace in the afterlife, her spirit made a surprise appearance at her husband's wedding as he lifted the veil of his new bride and the face of Oiwa was revealed. Startled, he cut off her head, only to find that he had murdered his bride.

Yurei are just one type of Japanese Obake, a term for supernatural beings often translated as ghosts. In the 1780s scholar and artist Toriyama Seiken undertook the classification of Obake. This was no easy task, since the very name Obake implies that they are transforming, inconsistent, and impermanent things. Of course, they were also unlikely to line up neatly and orderly to be catalogued. Still, he was able to separate them into three broad categories: Yurei, Oni, and Yokai. If you're considering a costume inspired by the traditional spooks of Japan, the ethereal yurei may be difficult to put together and too familiar to make your costume the talk of the party. You might try instead an oni or one of the many well known yokai.

Oni are the demons of Buddhist hell while many yokai have their roots in Shintoism, Japan's native religion. But while Oni play a role in Buddhist belief, they also have a lighter side, often appearing in children's stories and sometimes taking on a downright comical appearance to balance their normally frightful nature. Oni are usually large with horns and green or red skin. They carry clubs and guard the gates to hell. Yokai is a general term encompassing a number of mischievous Obake, from the fun to the frightful. Unlike yurei, yokai were not formerly human. Two of the best known are tengu and kappa. Anyone who has traveled to Japan has probably seen the likenesses of these frequent subjects of art.

Living in the mountain forests, tengu are mountain deities that look almost like humans except for their red skin and long nose. Often called "long-nosed goblins" in English, they are excellent swordsmen who enjoy making mischief for people, causing them to get lost in the woods or sometimes even stealing children. But they are also protectors of the mountains, and woodsmen and hunters would once leave offerings for them.

Kappa also stand upright with arms and legs like humans, but are normally depicted with a beak, scaly skin, and amphibious features. They live near or in rivers and ponds and their most striking characteristics are the tortoise-like shell on their backs and the bowl shape of the top of their heads, in which they always carry some water. It's said that if a kappa's head is emptied of the water, his impressive strength would be drained along with it. The kappa's favorite food is the cucumber. So, the next time you're at a sushi restaurant and notice the kappa maki, or cucumber roll, you'll know why it's called that.

Today, writers and directors in Japan are able to draw on the rich history of obake to create new nightmarish fiends. Japan is becoming known as a top producer of entertainment in the horror genre, from the ghosts that haunt the family in Ju-on and its Hollywood remake, The Grudge, to Sadako, the well-dwelling girl-in-white who climbs out of the television in multiple versions of The Ring. Tonight, October 30th, in celebration of Halloween, the JICC will present Katsuhiro Otomo's Mushi-shi, a live action film based on the popular manga about the ephemeral "mushi," neither plants nor animals, but primal life forms that only a few can see. One of these few, Ginko, has taken up the work of a mushi-shi, or mushi master, wandering the land to help those who have been adversely affected by the mushis' supernatural presence.

So, this year, make an appearance at your favorite Halloween event dressed as a kappa, or come trick or treat at the JICC for Mushi-shi and add some intercultural flavor to your Halloween experience!

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