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Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 222 (February 16, 2006)

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

Prime Minister Junichiro KoizumiProfile Japanese

Making Japan a country whose charms appeal to foreigners

Junichiro Koizumi here.

The other day a public survey conducted by the BBC World Service and the University of Maryland in the United States between October 2005 and January 2006 revealed that Japan was viewed as having the most positive influence on the world. The results were based on responses from approximately 40,000 people in 33 countries around the world.

Last week, I invited foreigners residing in Japan to my office and asked what appeals to them about life in Japan seen from the eyes of foreigners.

Among them were a young proprietress of an old-established ryokan (Japanese inn) who hosts her guests in a kimono in the spirit of Japan, a company executive who restored the business of a sake brewery, a tour guide who has climbed 90 of the 100 mountains in Japan recognized for their scenic beauty, and a journalist who has lived in a row house in the old part of Tokyo, built during the Taisho Period. All of them were women from the US.

There was also a female associate professor from Canada who is promoting Taste Japan, a campaign for people to experience the profound charms of Japan. Also, I met a Korean lady who runs a travel agency, who told me that lately an increasing number of Korean tourists are visiting Japan to go golfing and enjoy the hot springs.

And then there was a gentleman from Australia who heads a company and promotes skiing in the winter and outdoor sports such as river- rafting on rubber boats in the summer in Niseko Town in Hokkaido. I also met a person from the US who is the chairman of a company that preserves old urbane houses, as well as offers courses to experience the traditions and culture of Japan.

There was a female associate professor originally from an inland town in Germany who was drawn by the beauty of the Seto Inland Sea which she now works to protect. A university professor from China told me that he now knows that Japan is a peaceful and beautiful country, unlike the impressions of others in his country, even stories he had heard from his own mother. He added that he wanted to do more to introduce these aspects of Japan to the people in his country.

The people I met were all unique, and they taught me about the many draws and charms of Japan that go unnoticed by the Japanese people.

Professor Shosaburo Kimura, the moderator of the meeting, says that, "What is vital is to build a community that is women-friendly, safe for the elderly, and easy to navigate for foreigners." He has kindly contributed an article to this week's issue of the e-mail magazine (Japanese version).

Three years ago the number of tourists visiting Japan from abroad annually was five million people. Nowadays this number is close to reaching seven million due to such factors as the hosting of the EXPO 2005 Aichi, Japan and the exemption of visa requirements for people from the Republic of Korea and Taiwan. I intend to advance efforts in making Japan a country that draws foreigners with the goal of "reaching ten million people by 2010."

The Paralympics are to start from March 10 in Turin, Italy, where heated competitions of the Olympic Games are currently taking place. On the 13th, I attended the send-off party for the Paralympics team held in Tokyo. I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation and respect to the athletes in the national team who have overcome their handicaps and endured intense training.

This week, I have been cheering for the athletes competing at the Olympic Games in front of the TV every day. I am delighted and encouraged by the athletes who are giving all they have to give and delivering astonishing performances beyond the capacity of an ordinary person.

Spring has arrived at my office a little earlier than anywhere else. On the 10th, the festive dolls for Hinamatsuri or Girl's Day, when we wish for the healthy growth of children, were put on display in the lobby of my office. I also received a potted plum tree in full bloom from Dazaifutenmangu Shrine in Fukuoka. Watching the fragrant plum blossoms, my heart cheered up sensing the soon arriving spring while I recalled a haiku by Kobayashi Issa, "Plum trees bloom, nightingales sing...all alone."

* 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 Meeting on Community Building for Tourism from Foreigners' Viewpoints (February 9, 2006)
From a fresh perspective Prime Minister Koizumi listened to the opinions and received advice from the foreign participants who contribute to promoting tourism and community building in Japan.

[The Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine]

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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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