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Abe Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.23 (March 29, 2007) ============================================================

"Hello, this is Shinzo Abe" -- Message from the Prime Minister
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Shinzo AbeProfile Japanese

Passage of the Budget and Support for Striving Regions

Hello, this is Shinzo Abe.

I would like to offer my sincerest prayers for the woman who lost her life in the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. I also wish to offer my heartfelt sympathy to those who are still suffering from the effects of this disaster.

I am concerned that many people at the evacuation centers are suffering through sleepless nights from the fear of aftershocks. The Government is giving its full support in providing water, food, medical supplies, blankets and other materials, and we will continue to do all we can so that the people affected by the earthquake are able to live with peace of mind again at the earliest date possible.

On March 24, I visited the cities of Takamatsu and Okayama.

Marugamemachi is a shopping zone that has prospered as the heart of Takamatsu City over the course of its 400-year-long history. During the bubble years, the district was impacted by soaring land prices, such that at one point the residential population shrank to below 100. However, people in the community joined together and established a company to manage the entire shopping district. The company is promoting the development of a community that attracts people and where people feel they want to live, and the launch of a daycare center in the district is just one such community development effort.

I had a chance to stop by a Japanese sweets shop in Marugamemachi and tasted a piece of freshly made "karaimo-kin" (sweet potato cake). It was exquisite. I hear that the shop receives orders from all corners of Japan over the Internet. Without doubt, each region has its own appeal.

In Okayama, people are actively developing secure and safe communities. Volunteers work to prevent crime by conducting activities such as street patrols and cleaning up graffiti. They told me there are close to 600 voluntary crime prevention groups in Okayama Prefecture today.

I helped a group of about a dozen people to clean up a wall entirely covered in graffiti. While scrubbing, I wondered to myself who would draw such huge graffiti, and when could they do it? I learned that if you work with a group of people to achieve one goal, even tiresome labor can be fun.

A female student volunteer told me, "It seems like as soon as we clean up one, they draw another. I make myself very noticeable when I'm cleaning up graffiti in order to make a statement." It is truly inspiring that these young people have an interest in their own community and are taking part in this kind of activity. If you happen to have ever drawn graffiti in the past, I suggest that next time you try helping them clean it up instead.

The FY2007 budget was approved by the Diet on March 26 after roughly two months of deliberations that started at the end of January. I am relieved to see the budget passed before the cherry blossoms come to a full bloom in Tokyo. We can now make a smooth start to the new fiscal year.

The Diet session has passed its halfway point. I will continue to hold myself to the highest standard and give everything I have for the enactment of important bills. These include bills on rebuilding education, bills on regional revitalization, and bills on labor that aim to improve the treatment of part-time workers and to increase the minimum wage.

On March 28, I met astronauts Koichi Wakata and Soichi Noguchi.

Japan has been participating in the International Space Station (ISS) program jointly conducted by the United States, Europe, Canada and Russia. The ISS will be assembled step-by-step in space, combining components carried by a number of space shuttles. Completion is scheduled for 2010. The Japanese experiment module, called "Kibo," meaning "hope," will be finished next year, and a Japanese astronaut will be on a long-term expedition there for the first time. Mr. Wakata and Mr. Noguchi are both currently in training for this mission.

What is it like in gravity-free outer space? A comment that Mr. Noguchi made left a strong impression on me. "When I opened the door of the space station, I could see the Earth directly below me. There was nothing but empty space before my eyes for 300 kilometers. I experienced an initial fear, as though I would be falling into a bottomless abyss if I let go of the door."

Both astronauts shared with me their strong passion for the greater challenges they will be taking on. I sincerely hope for the successful launch of the space shuttle, which will give hope to people in Japan and around the world.

[What's New in Government Internet TV]

- The Challenge of Information Security

- Prime Minister's Week in Review (March 12 to 18, 2007)

- ABDUCTION - An Unforgivable Crime -

[What's up around the Prime Minister]

- Prime Minister Pays a Courtesy Call on Their Majesties the King and Queen of Sweden (March 26, 2007)
His Majesty the King expressed his condolences for the suffering caused by the recent earthquake centered off the coast of the Noto Peninsula, and Prime Minister Abe thanked him for his words.

- Prime Minister Visits Kagawa and Okayama Prefectures (March 24, 2007)
Prime Minister Abe joined volunteers in activities such as cleaning up graffiti and street patrols in Okayama.

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General Editor: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Chief Editor: Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Hiroshige Seko
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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