Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 208 (October 27, 2005)
*Next issue will be delivered on November 4, 2005.
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
On Monday, October 24, I invited the ambassadors stationed in Tokyo from approximately 40 Islamic countries and regions to my office and held an Iftar banquet, which is a fast-breaking meal practiced by the people of Islamic countries.
It is a tradition of Islam to refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise until sunset during the approximately month-long period of Holy Ramadan. While it slightly varies from region to region, this year's Ramadan runs from October 5 to November 3. Iftar is the first meal Muslims eat after sunset, and they are treated to a feast more lavish than usual.
This was my second time taking part in an Iftar, and I decided to hold it at my office. I skipped my lunch that day before attending the event to get a sense of what fasting was like. It was a very pleasant gathering with various national dishes brought to the venue for all guests to share.
As a matter of fact, the English word "breakfast" originates from "breaking the fast."
In his remarks at the Iftar, Ambassador of the Tunisian Republic to Japan Salah Hannachi said, "A special sacred bond akin to that between the members of the same family is formed among people that share meals." The importance of food does not change over time and is the same in all countries. It is often said that food is culture. I believe that mutual understanding and friendships are deepened as people with diverse cultural backgrounds sit at the same table and enjoy a meal together.
I believe it would be wonderful if Japan and the Islamic countries can further advance our friendly and cooperative relations by treating ourselves to the various appetizing national dishes as our first step.
Eating is essential to sustaining both our mental and physical health. Intellectual, moral and physical educations are often referred to as the three important elements in life, but I would like to add food education to this list.
Tachibana no Akemi, an Edo-period poet, once wrote:
"Pleasure is when once a while fish is served, and all the children relish it, exclaiming, 'That's good!'"
"Pleasure is when sitting head-to-head with my wife and children, and eating meals at home in peace."
Regardless of whether the fish is caught, bought or given to the family, the children are relishing the fish exclaiming "That's good!" at a time when food was scarce and parents are finding pleasure in seeing their children rejoice over food. The heartwarming bond of a family is well depicted in the above poems.
Autumn, a season for good appetite, is drawing on. I hope that every one of you will enjoy this season to its fullest in a way that best fits your style with both a healthy mind and body. Cherish your time with others while enjoying your meals together.
* 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.
- Iftar (Fast-Breaking Meal during the Holy Ramadan Month) with the Islamic Diplomatic Corps (October 24, 2005)
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