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Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 223 (February 23, 2006)

[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Junichiro KoizumiProfile Japanese

A Japan that is more open to the world

Junichiro Koizumi here.

In last week's issue I talked about encouraging more foreign tourists to visit Japan. On this subject I received many e-mails including comments on how we must have exchanges with people from a wide range of countries or on how readers want to let the world know about the positive aspects of Japan and Japanese people. I also received specific suggestions on building communities easy for foreigners to get around in and requests concerning measures to reduce crime committed by foreigners. I am grateful for your feedback.

Raising the number of foreign visitors to Japan is merely one goal of the Koizumi Cabinet as it strives to realize its goal to double the flow of overseas funds to Japan, or the amount of inward foreign direct investment (FDI).

Japanese people by nature have two conflicting sentiments towards foreign countries. The first is respect for foreigners or foreign- made goods, the other is caution towards foreign countries. Somewhere in our minds we always have this instinct to embrace or take caution.

Even when Japan had closed itself from the outside world in the Edo period, there were people who were strongly drawn to foreign countries as well as those who were xenophobic. As soon as the Edo Shogunate fell and the Meiji period began, these views at once changed to respect towards foreign countries, while even today there are people who start to take caution when foreign capital flows into the country. In fact, the level of foreign direct investment to Japan is now no more than one-tenth the level of FDI in Western countries.

However, in the era of internationalization in which we live today, it is my belief that we must change our attitude of caution towards foreign capital and embrace it. If the people of Japan close their doors to the outside world, we will only grow smaller. Cherish the intrinsically good aspects of Japan while actively incorporating the good aspects of foreign countries.

In Japan there is the word "wakon-yosai," which means to maintain the spirit of Japanese people while embracing Western thinking and learning. As this word suggests, if positive elements of foreign countries are brought to Japan and become a part of our country, that in turn becomes a momentum for spreading the word about the draws of Japan to foreign countries.

The plan to double foreign investment to Japan in five years has been steadily moving along. In recent years, more skiers from Australia, which is nearly in the same time zone as Japan but where the seasons--summer and winter--are opposite, have been coming to Hokkaido. An Australian company in Hokkaido has started a resort business for these tourists coming to Japan from overseas.

At one time concerns were being raised that Japan might hollow out with factories and research centers moving from Japan to such countries as China where costs are lower. Recently, however, foreign companies are beginning to build research facilities in Japan with state-of-the-art technologies. I think as the backdrop of this new trend there is a belief that indeed Japanese researchers are at the top of their fields and that if a company's goods and services are accepted by Japanese consumers, who are the most difficult to please in the world, they will be accepted in the world market.

I believe embracing foreign capital will provide a large stimulus to the Japanese economy from here on and open new avenues towards the vitalization of the Japanese economy.

By increasing the number of foreign tourists to Japan coupled with doubling foreign investment to Japan, I intend to make Japan a country whose charms also appeal to foreigners, and in so doing, make Japan an even better country for the people of Japan as well.

I am sure many Japanese people want these Japanese people working hard in foreign countries to be embraced warmly there. Likewise is it not as important to warmly interact with foreigners who are here in Japan?

The damages from the massive landslide that occurred in Leyte Island of the Philippines are truly heart wrenching. The Government of Japan immediately delivered assistance in kind including tents, blankets, water purifiers and electric generators as part of the international community extending a helping hand to provide relief. The Japanese Government is prepared to immediately mobilize a Japan Disaster Relief Team if there is such a request from the Government of the Philippines. I would like to provide as much assistance as possible while listening to the requests of the affected areas.

The Turin Olympic Games are drawing to a close. I have been a bit short on sleep because I turn on the TV when I happen to wake up in the middle of the night, watch the games being broadcast and find myself getting really absorbed into the games. Nevertheless I have been cheering for the athletes competing who are putting in their best efforts, giving their all, down to the very last drop.

* 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.

[What's up around the Prime Minister]

- The Central Disaster Prevention Council (February 17, 2006)
Prime Minister Koizumi said, "As Japan is an advanced nation for coping with tsunamis, I ask that thorough efforts are made towards each relevant measure."

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General Editor: Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
Chief Editor: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Jinen Nagase
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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