Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 227 (March 23, 2006)
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
The Japanese national team won the world championship at the 2006 World Baseball Classic (WBC). Like many in Japan, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time as I excitedly watched the WBC semifinals and the final in front of the television.
The WBC took the form of 16 teams from Asia, Africa, North and South Americas, Europe, and Oceania, divided into four groups, competing against each other in a round-robin style tournament, with the top two teams from each group advancing. The second round consisted of two divisions playing in a round-robin elimination, with the top two finishers in each division making the semifinals.
Japan lost 3-2 against the powerhouse Republic of Korea (ROK) national team in the first round, yet still qualified for the second round as it finished in second place. In the next round, Japan once more placed second, having again lost to the ROK, this time by a score of 2-1. The Japanese national team, however, did not give in to its chain of defeats. In their semifinal matchup, Japan defeated the ROK 6-0, advancing to the final on the strength of its strong teamwork.
The national team of the United States, the birthplace of baseball, failed to advance to the semifinals despite beating Japan 4-3 in the second round. Like Japan, the US finished the second round with a record of one win against two losses, but it placed behind Japan as its runs-allowed ratio was a mere 0.01 points higher than that of Japan.
The Cuban national team, which Japan played in the final, advanced to the championship game by beating the Dominican Republic in their semifinal matchup. Earlier in the tournament, Cuba had lost to Puerto Rico in the first round and to the Dominican Republic in the second.
The games against the superpower Cuban national team, which won gold medals at the Olympic Games a number of times, as well as against the ROK national team, following two earlier losses, were both splendid. They were fantastic competitions, possessing both the qualities of the tension felt in the Japan Series and the devotion seen in the all-Japan high school baseball championship tournament. I am proud of the performance demonstrated by the Japanese national team, led by manager Sadaharu Oh, which has risen to world champion. I have every hope that the players continue with their excellent work for the baseball fans around the world.
Promising assessments regarding the employment situation are starting to be heard, given the upward trend seen in the Japanese economy of late and other factors. The ratio of the number of jobseekers to the number of jobs offered by corporations, which had fallen at one point to 0.51, has recovered to 1.03 in recent days. In the Tokai and the northern Kanto regions, there are areas where this ratio has exceeded 1.5.
The unemployment rate, which at one point hit 5.5 percent, has recently fallen to the mid-4 percent range.
Nowadays, improvement is starting to be seen in the labor market, in which it was once said that even college graduates found it difficult to acquire jobs, as the scheduled number of recruitment spots for youths with college degrees at companies has been recording an increase of over 20 percent a year.
Although Japan has not yet been able to break away from its declining trend in full-time employment and increasing trend in part-time employment, bright signs are starting to be seen in the employment situation as well.
It is almost certain that the FY2006 budget, to begin from April, will be enacted next week, before the end of this fiscal year. Through its enactment, I will further solidify the move of economic recovery, which we are finally seeing.
In Tokyo, the arrival of cherry blossoms was announced two days ago. This is seven days earlier than usual. I will give my all to fill the air with happy news as we move toward the height of spring.
* The title of this column "Lion Heart" is a reference to the Prime Minister's lion-like hairstyle and his unbending determination to advance structural reform.
"Rebuilding Japanese Tradition"
by Sarah Marie Cummings, Director of Masuichi-Ichimura Sake Brewery
I traveled halfway across the world to reach this country because I hankered after the "true" Japan. But when I got here, what a shock! Rapid economic growth had led to the steady erosion of old traditions. There was no time to waste; I began to do what I could to keep those traditions alive. Doing what you can means taking action.
First came a drive to bring back barreled sake in an effort to cultivate successors to the craft of coopering. When I saw the cooper in Katsushika Hokusai's 36 Views of Mt Fuji I knew we couldn't let this beautiful trade vanish overnight.
A vista of rippling tiled roofs can be one of the most appealing features of a country town. The aim of the next initiative is to revive local tile-making. New (mass produced) tiles are far too bland. Too often we have lost that old scenic beauty, where each tile had an individual character while contributing to the overall visual impact. In Obuse we hope to fire our own local tiles in an effort to bring tiles back to every town and village in Japan.
We have a meeting once a month called "Obusession," where people can learn and exchange ideas. And in a move to exercise not just the mind but the body too, in July of each year we hold a half-marathon, the Obuse Sightseeing Marathon.
I've been called the "Typhoon Girl" for my whirlwind approach. What is the source of this fierce enthusiasm? The answer is the unrivalled quality of traditional Japanese culture, revealed to me through life in a small town in Nagano Prefecture. The traditions of rural life hide centuries of the most incredible history.
Kawaranakucha! (No "tile" to waste; we must change now!)
I explained this phrase to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at a recent "Meeting on Community Building for Tourism from Foreigners' Viewpoints." In Japanese, the phrase is simple to grasp and remember. With this slogan in our hearts, let's all change together.
* Profile of contributor
* Activities of Obusession
- Prime Minister Delivers an Address at the National Defense Academy Graduation Ceremony (March 19, 2006)
- Japan-Malawi Summit Meeting (March 17, 2006)
- The United Nations Young Civic Ambassadors Pay Courtesy Call on the Prime Minister (March 17, 2006)
- Opening Event of the Japan Fashion Week in Tokyo (March 16, 2006)
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