Japan Now

Vol. 8, No. 4 (July 3, 2012)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.


In this issue:

1. Prime Minister Noda Attends the G20 Los Cabos Summit

2. Speech by Foreign Minister Gemba at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development

3. A Cabinet Reshuffle, and Looking to the Future

4. Japan: Fascinating Diversity

5. Bursts of Innovation: The History of Japanese Fireworks



Prime Minister Noda Attends the G20 Los Cabos Summit

City of Sendai
The G20 leaders (Prime Minister Noda: 2nd row, 3rd from right)
(Cabinet Secretariat, Cabinet Public Relations Office)

-Cabinet Secretariat,
Cabinet Public Relations Office

June 19, 2012

On June 17 (local time), Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda visited Los Cabos, the United Mexican States, to attend the G20 Los Cabos Summit.

Prime Minister Noda met with Mr. Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, President of Mexico.

On June 18 (local time), Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is visiting Mexico, attended the G20 Los Cabos Summit.

In the morning, Prime Minister Noda held talks respectively with Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia, and Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation.

In the afternoon, the Prime Minister attended the first working session on the world economy and the G20 leaders' working dinner.

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Speech by Foreign Minister Gemba
at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Minister Gemba
Foreign Minister Gemba at the UN Conference (MOFA)

-Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba
United Nations Conference
on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20)
June 20, 2012

Over 15 months have now passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. Japan is steadily advancing along the path of reconstruction. In attending the largest international conference being held this year, I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Japanese people, to express our gratitude for the generous and warm support and encouragement we received from all over the world.

The theme of Rio+20 has a special significance for Japan, in the wake of this unprecedented catastrophe. The Japanese people...

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A Cabinet Reshuffle, and Looking to the Future

Minister Gemba and Secretary Clinton
Prime Minister Noda attends a meeting with the newly reshuffled Cabinet. (Cabinet Public Relations Office)

-Prime Minister
Yoshihiko Noda

June 6, 2012

Originally published in "Prime Minister Noda's Blog".


On Monday (June4), the Second Reshuffled Noda Cabinet was inaugurated.

I believe that the appointment attracting the most interest in this lineup is my asking Prof. Satoshi Morimoto to serve as Minister of Defense. Prof. Morimoto is one of Japan's leading authorities in the field of national security, and I firmly believe he will carry out the responsibilities of his office competently.

In fact, in 1952...

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Japan: Fascinating Diversity

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba

-Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The people of Japan are continuing their tireless reconstruction efforts following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011, which devastated the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan.

In this short five-episode film, five presenters-well-known foreign specialists with extensive knowledge and insight on Japan-guide viewers to intriguing destinations, introducing Japan's fascinating culture and heritage along the way. They also take viewers to the Tohoku region, which shows every sign of recovery.

The film's goal is to help viewers around the globe rediscover the appeal of Japan.

Watch the films

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Bursts of Innovation:
The History of Japanese Fireworks

City of Sendai
Fireworks over the torii, or shrine gate, in Miyajima. (© JNTO)

-Susan Laszewski
Embassy of Japan

Japan is known for its flashy futuristic technology. But robotic limbs, invisibility cloaks and mind-reading robots are just the latest in a long tradition of Japanese innovation. Summer is the perfect time of year to appreciate a less futuristic - but flashier - representative of Japan's technological talents.

Around the turn of the 17th century, fireworks were introduced to Japan as an upper class form of entertainment for feudal lords and wealthy merchants. By the 18th century they had made their way to the masses, particularly in Tokyo, and fireworks artisans began to emerge.

In 1733 Shogun Yoshimune Tokugawa organized the first fireworks festival on the Sumida River. It was called the Ryogoku River Festival but it continues to this day under the name of Sumida River Fireworks Festival. Since the beginning, it has been a venue for fireworks manufacturers to shine. By 1810, the festival became a competition between two rival producers - Kagiya and Tamaya - for the most spectacular rockets. Today, 10 manufacturers compete each summer, setting off around 20,000 fireworks in a little over an hour, cheered on by nearly a million spectators. You can still hear chants of "Tamaya" and "Kagiya" among the "oohs" and "aahs," both at the Sumida River Fireworks Festival and at many of the other 7,000 or so spectacular festivals held throughout Japan each summer. In Japan, fireworks festivals are as integral to summer as watermelon or sunshine.

Several feats of engineering set Japanese fireworks apart from the rest. When Japan ended its isolationist policy at the end of the 19th century, new materials such as aluminum and strontium began to find their way to the country's shores. Fireworks artisans seized upon the opportunity to sparkle in their craft and they have continued to innovate through the centuries. They developed spherical shells when most others were cylindrical. The new shape allowed fireworks to explode in the perfectly round, flower-like shape that we're most familiar with today. Perhaps the most explosive innovation in Japanese fireworks was the layering of different metal salts within each of the tiny "stars" packed in gun powder inside the shell. These layers account for the way fireworks can actually change color in mid-air. The outer layer burns off first, displaying a certain color, and subsequent layers burn different colors.

If you caught the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival that was part of this year's National Cherry Blossom Festival you have seen some of these fireworks from Japan in action. The fireworks lighting up the sky at the Waterfront on April 5th were sent from Nagaoka City in Niigata, Japan. The annual Nagaoka Fireworks Festival spans two days and is one of the biggest and best known festivals in Japan.

But don't fear. If you missed it, you donft have to travel to Japan to see these prize-worthy pyrotechnics. Today, a majority of fireworks manufactured throughout the world rely on these Japanese techniques. Tomorrow as you celebrate the United States' Independence, think also on the friendships between independent nations that have allowed such a beautiful sight to be shared.

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