Vol. 6, No. 9 (October 22, 2010)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.
In this issue
United Nations General Assembly
--Cabinet Public Relations Office
Prime Minister Naoto Kan attended the United Nations (UN) Security Council Summit, and delivered an address on September 23 (local time) in New York, where he attended a UN General Assembly meeting.
Later, Prime Minister Kan held talks with Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, at a hotel in New York City.
Editor's Update: Following his visit to the U.S., Prime Minister Kan has praised President Obama's sense of involvement with the Asia Pacific region, and has said that he welcomes the United States' participation in the East Asia Summit later this month.
Prime Minister Kan's Address
I extend my heartfelt congratulations to His Excellency Mr. Joseph Deiss on assuming the Presidency of the sixty-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly. I also express my appreciation to His Excellency Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki for his efforts in the previous session. I would like to express my respect as well to His Excellency Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his leadership.
Sixty-five years ago, at the time of the United Nation's creation...
Policy Speech by Prime Minister Kan
-October 1, 2010
Citizens of Japan, members of the Diet, I am Naoto Kan. Four months have passed since I took up leadership of the administration in June; in September, I was reelected president of the Democratic Party of Japan, and I reshuffled my Cabinet and the party's posts. Now we have entered the phase of launching the new administration in earnest. This is the point of departure for my "true-to-its-word Cabinet." What deeds will we seek to achieve? In a word, these will be the important policy agendas that have been postponed so far. There is a deepening sense that...
Japanese High School Students
Music lovers were in for a treat as "America's International Musical Ambassadors," the United States Air Force Band, hosted a somewhat less traditional - but very enthusiastic! - group of ambassadors from Japan back in August.
These "ambassadors," the Anjo Gakuen High School Wind Orchestra, have won numerous awards and prizes in their home country, and have performed all over the world. This, however, was their first visit to the United States, and you could tell they were excited. Having already visited Detroit and Atlanta on this trip, one girl asserted that "DC was the highlight of this tour. The town itself is clean and nice, and I would love to come back!"
The event was held at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington. The memorial's already impressive spires were granted a serene and almost fantastical quality by the night's bright red harvest moon, peaking during the stirring solo of a guest trombonist from Japan.
The evening's magic continued with the hauntingly beautiful traditional Japanese melody Sakura, expertly sung by the Singing Sergeants in honor of our guests. The song was lent an air of authenticity thanks to the words of Air Force Band Conductor Lieutenant Colonel A. Phillip Waite. Having served in Japan for three years, he regaled the audience with his reverent description of the tall cherry blossom trees lining the base where he had been stationed.
In fact, Lt. Col. Waite really made the night for me. Not only did his words of thanks to the veterans in the audience cause me to stop and really consider their sacrifices, but the conductor complemented his serious respectful attitude with a great sense of humor and lightheartedness. The faces of all the Japanese visitors around me were lit up with smiles as Waite threw out a few Japanese phrases to the visiting conductor, "Yoshimi-san! Suteki desu ne!" ("They sound wonderful, Mr. Yoshimi!")
The Anjo Gakuen students played like pros. Well, maybe pros having a little more fun than they should be - but we'll get to that. With segments of the show featuring each band alone as well as a few together, the kids easily held their own. They seemed right at home playing with a professional band, and they were just as great when the Air Force Band left the stage. In fact, it was when the students played alone that their true energy came out.
After a string of classical pieces, the audience seemed surprised but intrigued when the next song was announced: the Village People's classic, YMCA. The familiar tune was accompanied by a playful flute, and the audience was on their feet grinning when the kids in the back row put down their instruments and began making the famous YMCA motions along with the song.
But they were just getting started. At one point during the next piece, the entire band curled down, heads bowed, then suddenly burst up all together, continuing the high-energy performance. The kids were obviously having a blast up there, and YMCA ended up being one of the clear highlights of the night. The kids felt the same way - one student said, "YMCA was the best, and I enjoyed playing it a lot. What made me really happy was looking at the audience clapping their hands, dancing to the music, and the standing ovation. Standing ovations aren't a part of our culture, so they're never seen in Japan."
They deserved it. At home, their orchestra practices every morning for two hours before school starts, then again after school for three more hours; plus, twelve hours on weekends! With comparatively much less rehearsal time with the Air Force Band, many of the kids were a little nervous, "We arrived in DC Thursday morning, and then practiced at a nearby high school. Yesterday's rehearsal with the USAFB was surprisingly short and I couldn't stop worrying about our performance. We had an interpreter, but doing rehearsal and getting instruction in English was another tough part." You'd never know it from the strong show they put on. As their conductor, Kozo Yoshimi, said, "I am sure that last night's performance was a wonderful experience and an unforgettable memory for the students."
With strong performances from both the Anjo Gakuen students and the Air Force Band, it was a night to remember.
The Cocoon's Metamorphosis into a Flower
Much like the caterpillar inside, it is the destiny of the silk cocoon to transform into something beautiful. In Japan, silk worms have been cultivated for their cocoons - mayu, in Japanese - since around 10 B.C. Over the centuries, Japan has refined the craft into a fine art. The tiny cocoons realize their potential in the ultimate form of rich and delicate textiles.
But artist Tomiko Sakai has envisioned another path by which the cocoons can become beautiful works of art: hanamayu. She shares her creation with the American public at the gallery of the Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan.
Hanamayu are both intricate floral arrangements and masterful deceptions. From afar, one would swear they are looking at vibrant, living flowers, or hana. But from up close, one can see the petals are actually layers of cocoon. By working with the natural curve of the mayu and beautiful dyes, Ms. Sakai is able to help even those cocoons with discoloration or other flaws, that might have been discarded, fulfill their destiny.
The gallery's transformation into a hanamayu garden will last until November 22nd, meaning there's still plenty of time to come and take a stroll among the blossoms. From the autumn pampas grass reaching for the sky to the wisteria and cherry blossoms that hand on the wall, the arrangements are sure to delight. The Japan Information and Culture Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 to 5. Guests to any of our evening programs, which require advance registration, are also free to view the gallery. Don't miss this original, one of a kind artform.
Japan Foundation Furoshiki Design Contest:
The Japan Foundation is pleased to announce its second International Furoshiki Design Contest for students-specifically, university and vocational school students around the world who are the designers of the future.
Furoshiki are traditional Japanese cloths used to wrap and carry small objects. With the focus on environmental problems in recent years, the reusable and versatile furoshiki are attracting renewed attention.
Don't delay! Entry deadline is October 29th.
The 2010 Reischauer Scholars Program Japan Day Honorees
The Stanford Program on International and Cross-cultural Education (SPICE) honored two of the top students of the 2010 Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP) at the RSP Japan Day event at Stanford University on August 16. The RSP, an online course on Japan and U.S.-Japan relations that is offered to high school juniors and seniors across the United States, recognized the students based on their coursework and exceptional research essays.
The event featured opening remarks by SPICE Director Gary Mukai, Acting Consul General of Japan in San Francisco Hideyuki Mitsuoka, and Professor Emeritus Daniel Okimoto of Stanford University. The program was highlighted by the presentations of student honorees Rachel Waltman and Jiyoon Lee, who wrote research essays on changing roles of women in the workplace in Japan, and media censorship following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Named in honor of former Ambassador to Japan Edwin O. Reischauer, the RSP annually selects 25 - 30 exceptional high school students from throughout the United States to engage in an intensive study of Japan. Selected students will participate in this online course on Japan from February to June 2011. Currently entering its eighth year, the RSP provides students with a broad overview of Japanese history, literature, religion, art, politics, economics, and contemporary society, with a special focus on the U.S. - Japan relationship. Ambassadors, top scholars, and experts throughout the United States and Japan provide online lectures and engage students in live discussion sessions. Students also complete readings and weekly assignments, with the coursework culminating in an independent research project. Final research projects are printed in journal format, and students also lead presentations on Japan at their schools or in their local communities. Students who successfully complete the course earn Stanford Continuing Studies Program (CSP) credit and a Certificate of Completion from SPICE, Stanford University.
The Reischauer Scholars Program:
Edwin O. Reischauer once said: "A great deal must still be done to educate people in the United States, Japan, and everywhere else for peaceful participation in a world community." The Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP) does just that. RSP was a wonderful experience, and I would strongly recommend it to any high school student seeking to gain a deeper knowledge of Japan, as well as a better understanding of U.S.-Japan relations.
The path that led me to RSP was somewhat different from that of my fellow classmates. From an early age, I always have been interested in the study of foreign languages and culture. Throughout high school, I have studied five different foreign languages, although not Japanese – at least not yet! My interest in other cultures and in meeting new people led me to participate in the High School Diplomats (HSD) program, sponsored by AIU Insurance and the Freeman Foundation. HSD brings together forty American and forty Japanese high school students for ten days at Princeton University to learn about each other's life, culture, and country. I loved this program, and especially enjoyed meeting my counterparts from Japan, many of whom I still keep in touch with today. While the program taught me a lot about Japan, I also discovered how much I didn’t know, and how much there was that I wanted to learn.
When I was accepted into RSP, I was overjoyed and also a little nervous, since I did not speak Japanese and did not have an extensive knowledge of Japanese history. However, I soon discovered that all that was required to succeed in the program (aside from an internet connection) were enthusiasm and a desire to learn. The topics covered in the course – from feudalism, to Japanese perspectives on Pearl Harbor, to contemporary Japanese society – were fascinating; the lectures by noted experts, such as Stanford Professors Peter Duus and Daniel Okimoto, among others, were first-rate; and once I overcame my initial shyness, the interactive discussions with my fellow students on the RSP discussion board were really fun and something I looked forward to each week.
Bringing together twenty-six students from around the country with diverse backgrounds and different levels of experience related to Japan allowed for spirited discussions and a sharing of knowledge that was unlike anything I have experienced in my regular high school classes. Since many of the students in the program had lived in or visited Japan, they could often share personal anecdotes that really made the learning come alive.
When it came time to choose a topic for the final research paper, there were many different topics that had sparked my interest, making it hard to choose just one. I ultimately decided on the changing status of women in the workplace in Japan, because this issue touches on so many of the different topics we studied during the course – from the Meiji Era’s concept of the "good wife, wise mother," to the guarantee of women's rights in Japan's post-war Constitution, to the more contemporary issues of Japan's declining birth rate and aging population.
At the end of the program, I was fortunate enough to be selected to present my research at RSP's Japan Day event at Stanford University on August 16, 2010. While there, I had the pleasure of meeting a number of prominent Japanese scholars and dignitaries, including Acting Consul General Hideyuki Mitsuoka, Consulate General of Japan, San Francisco, as well as members of the Japan Society of Northern California and the Freeman Spogli Institute.
Participating in the Reischauer Scholars Program not only has expanded my world view, but also has deepened my desire to pursue the study of Japanese language and culture. I thank everyone at SPICE, especially Naomi Funahashi and Gary Mukai, for providing me with this wonderful opportunity.
The Reischauer Scholars Program: Discovering New Passion
I still cannot believe a whole season of summer has already passed since I turned in my independent research paper as the last assignment of the Reischauer Scholars Program. It feels like the five months I spent with the fellow Reischauer scholars and faculty were only yesterday. Looking back, I realize that I had a very unique opportunity to learn about Japan with a group of people who had different backgrounds and experiences, but a shared enthusiasm and curiosity towards Japan. Also, it was a privilege to watch engaging, eye-opening lectures of renowned scholars and professors, all in the comfort of my own home. The five months were truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Before I joined the Reischauer Scholars Program, my interest in Japan was mainly focused on Japanese television dramas (and not to forget about my all-time favorite actor, Kimura Takuya). Therefore, I was more excited to talk about Japanese popular culture or contemporary Japanese society, than to talk about, for example, Japanese politics. However, the lively, meaningful, and respectful discussions following the online lectures and readings from the first week immediately pulled me into spending minutes and hours in front of my laptop, reading others' posts on topics like Japanese history and politics and writing my responses to those posts. Even though the assigned weekly topics were very broad, such as "religion" or "education," my peers and I found ways to narrow down these topics and to come up with our own subtopics by using examples from our readings, lectures, and our own experiences, as if we had agreed to do so beforehand. I eventually became heavily engaged in reading the textbook and in watching the lectures so as to write more and interact more in the discussion forums. The virtual classroom sessions, led by amazing guest lecturers, also helped me understand various topics on a deeper level.
I am especially glad that my RSP peers and I were required to write our own independent research paper, because it provided a thought-provoking closure to the course. At first, I was a little intimidated by the thought of writing a ten-page paper. However, after deciding on a topic, the research and the writing came more naturally than I expected. I chose to write on the U.S. censorship on the atomic bomb, because I wanted to write about something that I had no previous background knowledge of. Through writing my research paper, I not only learned a great deal about a part of history that I would not have learned through my other high school classes, but also about ways to effectively express and organize my thoughts on a particular subject.
My interest and curiosity towards Japan only grew throughout the course of the program. I am now strongly motivated to further explore Japan, its history, culture, and politics in college. I thank the Reischauer Scholars Program for helping me discover this new passion.
Other Topics of Interest
-Ministry of Foreign Affairs