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Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 167 (December 9, 2004)

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

Prime Minister Junichiro KoizumiProfile

Apples at 2,000 yen each

Junichiro Koizumi here.

I hear that in Beijing apples grown in Aomori Prefecture are sold at 2,000 yen each.

Some time ago, I heard a story that in Shanghai, Japanese strawberries are sold not in cases or boxes, but by the berry: one strawberry for 300 yen. Out of curiosity, I asked a Chinese person who was visiting my office whether this was true, and to my surprise he confirmed this to be the case and also that the price in Beijing for Japanese apples was 150 yuan each.

Stunned by this piece of information, I looked into the matter a bit further to find out that apples grown in Aomori Prefecture are sold in department stores in Beijing for 150 yuan. With the exchange rate at approximately 15 yen to the yuan, simple arithmetic gives us a price of a little over 2,000 yen per fruit. I was flabbergasted.

The other day I had an opportunity to talk with farmers who sold products abroad and asked one of them what drove him to start their apple export business. He told me that when domestic apple prices fell to far below the breakeven point, he started marking losses. Realizing that he had to change his practices to stay afloat, he first started exporting his apples to Europe. The procedures required to export agricultural products are easier than often thought and any farmer is able to do so.

When he first started with large apples, they were not well-received because of their size, so he switched to "Orin" apples, which are smallest in size, for export to the United Kingdom. Eventually, large apples were sold to China, where because of their delectable taste and rarity, they were sold at over 2,000 yen.

The farmer's entrepreneurship is a great example of how people convert a crisis into a chance for expansion.

Other Japanese agricultural products are also popular abroad. "Nagaimo," a kind of potato grown in Hokkaido, have been exported to Taiwan and are sold at a higher price than in Japan.

Japanese oranges called "Christmas oranges" are pleasing Canadian palates, while green tea is popular in Europe for its health benefits.

A certain type of rice from Shimane Prefecture known for using little pesticide, is registering high sales in Taiwan. Interestingly, people in Taiwan are starting to sell high-quality rice grown in Taiwan at a higher price. I would never have imagined that we would one day be exporting Japanese rice.

Japanese farmers have in the past tended to object to moves to import agricultural products, but I believe that we are now at a juncture where we must change our mentality and realize that Japan can also export its agricultural goods.

Sushi is another fine example. We once thought that foreigners would not eat sushi since they are not accustomed to eating rice and raw fish was pretty much out of the question. However, given that conveyor-belt type sushi bars can now be found in New York, Moscow and other major cities in the world, our false perception was broken. I have been told that the number of sushi restaurants is rapidly growing in Santiago, Chile where I visited recently.

It is important for us to not to be rigid and trapped in conventions and take advantage of challenging situations and turn them into opportunities.

As we move into December, work on budget formulation and also on taxation reforms is reaching a climax. I will ensure that all the money required for disaster countermeasures is appropriated in a supplementary budget. In the budget for the next fiscal year, I will ensure that wasteful expenditures are slashed and press ahead with spending reforms, leaving no stone unturned and will increase the budget in areas that need it.

Yesterday, I gave additional approval for a number of plans for special zones for structural reform and plans for regional revitalization. The plans on this occasion again were rich in knowledge and innovative ideas. They included plans for "special zones for Japanese language tuition" and "special zones for English language tuition," and another proposal for new uses of school buildings that have fallen into disuse as places for music practice and creative studios for arts and crafts, as a means to bring about regional revitalization.

With this, the total number of special zones has reached 475, and regional revitalization plans now total 250 nationwide. I will be wholeheartedly supporting such measures through new regulatory reform, so that the ideas and innovation of the regions can be spread nationwide.

With a spirit of challenge and endeavor, I am pushing forward the reforms.

* 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 Ceremony of Certification of Plans for Special Zones for Structural Reform and Plans for Regional Revitalization (December 8, 2004)
Prime Minister Koizumi bestowed the certificates on each recipient at the ceremony.

- Japan-Tanzania Summit Meeting (December 7, 2004)
Prime Minister Koizumi held a meeting with Mr. Benjamin William Mkapa, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

- Meeting of the Council on the Promotion of Cultural Diplomacy (December 7, 2004)
At the first meeting of the Council, Prime Minister Koizumi stated on the need to nurture other countries' understanding of Japan through cultural exchanges.

- Japan-Algeria Summit Meeting (December 6, 2004)
Prime Minister Koizumi held a meeting with Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the President of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria.

- Recipients of the Prime Minister's Truck Driver Contest Award Pay Courtesy Call on the Prime Minister (December 6, 2004)
Prime Minister Koizumi received a courtesy call from the recipients of the award in the contest, which was held under the slogan of "Aiming for Zero Traffic Accidents."

- World Congress of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) (December 5, 2004)
Prime Minister Koizumi attended the 18th World Congress of the ICFTU, which was held under the theme of "Globalising Solidarity."

- Commendations for Contributors to the Promotion of Barrier-free Environments (December 3, 2004)
Prime Minister Koizumi conducted a ceremony honoring contributors to the promotion of barrier-free environments.

- Statement by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the "Guidelines for Formulation of the FY2005 Budget" (Cabinet Decision) Responding to the Proposals of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy (December 3, 2004)

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General Editor: Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
Chief Editor: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
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