Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 235 (May 25, 2006)
[Lion Heart -- Message from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi]
Last weekend I visited Noto Peninsula and Kanazawa City in Ishikawa Prefecture and Takaoka City in Toyama Prefecture.
Three years ago in January, I announced the goal of "doubling the number of foreigners visiting Japan by 2010." I want more foreigners to visit Japan, and I think we must turn our country into a place that many more people from abroad would want to visit. With that intention in mind, I set out on this goal.
Since then, in order to "make Japan into a nice place to live and a great place to visit," people who are working hard to promote tourism in tourist spots nationwide have been asked to pursue the goal of "one region, one tourism" in their capacity as "Charisma Ambassadors of Tourism."
Japan has many intriguing and charming facets, including its history, traditions, culture, and nature. If they are presented in clear and easy-to-follow ways, I believe Japanese people and foreigners would enjoy and appreciate Japan's charms. I recall that President Jacques Chirac of France also told me that he felt the same way.
Immediately upon sharing these thoughts last year with Dr. Hayao Kawai, the Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the public including the nation's avid travelers were invited to submit their ideas on travel plans they recommend. Ultimately nearly 800 ideas were received. The Agency for Cultural Affairs then selected plans which best expressed the appeal of travel and introduced them under the title of "My Journey: the Best 100." I am glad that I was able to realize my goal of visiting these places.
The main focus of my latest trip was to visit the place that was selected for the Grand Prix.
The trip started off in Wajima City. Thanks to the creation of Noto Airport, I was able to get there in about one and a half hours by taking a direct flight from Tokyo. In the city, I observed the world renowned Wajima-nuri (lacquered) ware and Kiriko, or giant lanterns used for festivals. I learned a lot on this trip. For instance, I knew that the English word for porcelain ware was 'china,' but I had no idea that lacquer and lacquer works were called 'japan.' Japanese lacquer art and Japanese culture continue to impress me.
I then went to Senmaida in Shiroyone Town. Senmaida is selected as one of Japan's 100 best terraced rice paddies. I had always wanted to see them. It consists of over 1,000 paddies remarkably laid out in tiers along the terrain on a steep slope facing the Sea of Japan. The small paddies are only about the size of half a tatami mat. Each and every rice paddy is irrigated in which lush green seedlings are planted. There are tadpoles swimming in the paddies and pond snails are found too. It felt so good to see such a familiar landscape for the first time in a while.
Even more than the beauty of the landscape, my hat goes off to our forefathers who worked painstakingly to lay out the rice paddies without giving up because of the steep sloping terrain. I heard that four farming households currently cultivate the land but I imagine it must be very hard work. Going there reminded me once again that we must protect these beautiful treasures.
That evening I stayed overnight at the Wakura hot springs that attract many visitors from all over the country. Apparently many tourists from Taiwan have been visiting Wakura in recent years. I was able to soak in the hot springs and enjoy the excellent seafood served in beautiful Wajima-nuri ware.
The next day I traveled to Kanazawa. At the museum of modern literature housed in a red brick building which used to be the former National Fourth Upper Secondary School, I pondered the works of Yasushi Inoue who is said to have spent much of his time on judo when he was a student there. I also toured Kenrokuen garden, a district where samurai residences are preserved, and saw a pottery kiln of Kutani style.
In Takaoka City, I observed historical buildings and streetscape including a mud-walled machiya (townhouse) and compounds of the middlemen for kitamaebune ships that transported such goods as kelp, cloths and rice between Hokkaido and the Hokuriku and Kansai regions during the Edo period.
I saw so many beautiful things during this whirlwind tour and realized that there are many tourism resources in Japan that are waiting to come out of the shadow.
In all corners of Japan each and every region has its own distinctive charms. There are many more things we have to promote. I hope people will think of ways of building a community that will be enjoyed by Japanese people and foreigners and will help revitalize the regions, while valuing Japan's history, traditions, culture, and nature.
Professor Shosaburo Kimura says that "What is vital is to build a community that is women-friendly, safe for the elderly, and easy to navigate for foreigners." I will advance efforts to build Japan as a beautiful, people-friendly, safe and easily comprehensible country.
* 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.
- Japan-Malaysia Summit Meeting (May 24, 2006)
- 1st Meeting of the Council for Comprehensive Financial and Economic Reform (May 22, 2006)
- Prime Minister Visits Ishikawa and Toyama Prefectures (May 20 to 21, 2006)
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