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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Opening Ceremony for the 48th Joint Training for Newly Recruited National Civil Servants

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

 [Provisional Translation]

   Today with the cherry blossoms in full bloom, as the prime minister, the top of the government, I would like to extend my heartfelt welcome to you who are now about to set out on the path before you as national civil servants.
  I feel truly reassured as I look out from this podium to see such young and earnest faces.
   am extremely pleased that with noble ambitions you have chosen the path for becoming national civil servants, by which you will work for the nation and the Japanese people.
  There is a saying, “Strike while the iron is hot.”
  The initial stage of your career may be very demanding.  You may even have arduous experiences.  But for you as young people, each and every one of those experiences will most certainly offer sustenance for your future growth.
  I would like for you all to persevere through whatever trials you may face.  I also wish for you to grow as honorable civil servants and for you each to accomplish your ambitions.
  Iron remains utterly undisturbed whether struck or soaked in water or heated over a flame.  But should you set it aside and neglect it, it will rust and become useless.
  If you forge it, it will come to give off a luster.  But should you fail to take care of it, it will rust.
  People’s ambitions are much like iron.  I ask that you apply yourselves diligently to your studies and continue to set your ambitions high, never forgetting your original intentions.
  Japan is now at a major turning point in this era.
  Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake is still only halfway complete.  We must regenerate a robust economy even as we respond to the rapidly progressing graying of society and falling birthrate.  There is no time to lose in formulating a responsible energy policy or reviving education.
  When we direct our attention to the world outside Japan, we find that a major economic zone is now coming into being in Asia and the Pacific, which constitute a growth center.  Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or “TPP,” have entered their final phase.
  Last week, North Korea launched a ballistic missile.  In the southwest part of our nation, there has been an ongoing series of provocations against our sovereignty.  The security environment surrounding Japan has become even more severe.  Moreover, for Asia, the situation in Ukraine is not merely “someone else’s problem.”
  We cannot avert our eyes from these kinds of issues.  Nor is it acceptable for us to postpone dealing with them.  We are called on to tackle each individual issue head on to work out a solution.
  That is why I would like to state three things to you who will be responsible for policy planning in the years to come.
  “Get out into the field.”
  “Turn your attention to the world beyond Japan.”
   And, “Continue to take on challenges.”
  Nothing will change if you merely cling to your desks in Kasumigaseki.  You are servants of the entire Japanese public and you must advance public administration for the good of the Japanese people.  I want you to head out “into the field” and listen carefully to the voices of the people.
  In this global age, it is absurd to be so isolated as a person that all you understand is life in Japan.  No matter what aspect of public administration you are involved in, I want you to make the best decisions by being engaged broadly with the world beyond Japan.
  People who never take on challenges also never fail.  However, a country in which no one undertakes challenges cannot possibly develop in the future.  I ask that you continue to have a frame of mind in which you take on all kinds of challenges.
  Some 200 years ago, Japan, which was in a state of national isolation, faced a threat from abroad, in the northern seas.
  Against that backdrop, the Tokugawa Shogunate dispatched a single government official to confirm whether Karafuto was part of a continent and likely to be under the control of a foreign power, or a separate island.  That official was Mamiya Rinzo.
  During his initial expedition, he discovered that a strait lies between the Asian continent and Karafuto.  This straight subsequently came to be called the Mamiya Strait.
  Mamiya Rinzo, having attained his objective, returned to Hokkaido for a time, but soon he set out on a second expedition.  He was determined to cross over to the continent on the shore opposite from Karafuto.
  “Your life may be at stake setting out as a Japanese, with your unfamiliar appearance.”
  It is said that the people of Karafuto stopped him from making the crossing.
  In fact, he was caught by the local indigenous people and was himself at risk as he spent a month investigating the watershed of the Amur river.  He returned to Japan after clarifying the state of affairs in this region, including the extent of control by foreign powers.
  During clashes with foreign countries, it is essential to safeguard Japan’s national land.  Fully understanding his mission, Mamiya Rinzo did more than simply carry out the duty he was assigned.  He also actively plunged boldly into unknown territory.
  I would like you to assimilate well this mindset of taking on challenges that was demonstrated by your predecessors.
  Kasumigaseki is often criticized as being vertically segmented.
  However, such segmentation makes it impossible to tackle difficult issues.
  There is no time to lose in enhancing and stabilizing social security.  At the same time, we must also put public finances back on the right footing.  Should the economy deteriorate, we would become unable to provide social security and also unable to undertake fiscal reconstruction.
  We are no longer in an age in which national issues can be resolved by any single government office.  That is precisely why I want you to be national civil servants in the truest sense, always viewing things from the perspective of the nation as a whole, rather than from the viewpoint of the ministry or agency with which you are affiliated.
  In the final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Iwase Tadanari, a retainer of the Tokugawa family, urged that Japan be “opened [to foreign trade and diplomacy], in order to avoid the isolation of Japan” and pressed forward on signing treaties with the Western great powers.
  It is said that even U.S. Consul General Townsend Harris was astonished at Iwase’s superb capacity for negotiation.  The top officials of the shogunate, a large number of which wanted to maintain the isolation of the country, criticized Iwase, arguing that a contingency situation could arise should the shogunate move forward with signing the treaties, perhaps even putting the continued existence of the Tokugawa clan itself in jeopardy.  It is said that Iwase responded to such criticism saying, “In facing this situation, those in positions of great responsibility involved in the sovereign power of the state should be convinced of place great emphasis on a “Sha-shoku”.
  The “Sha-shoku” here means the nation.  During a crisis, he resolutely stated that, “the nation is more important than the Tokugawa clan.” 
  You too are national civil servants affiliated with the nation, a fact which takes precedence over you being civil servants affiliated with particular government ministries and agencies.  I ask that you continue to stay intensely conscious of this and work to the best of your ability for the sake of the nation and the Japanese people.


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