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Koizumi Cabinet E-mail Magazine No. 228 (March 30, 2006)

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

Prime Minister Junichiro KoizumiProfile Japanese

The successes of foreign-born sumo wrestlers

Junichiro Koizumi here.

On March 27, the FY 2006 budget passed the Diet. Now that the budget has gained Diet approval within the current fiscal year, I would like next to make an effort to implement the budget smoothly from April. My aims in so doing are to ensure that the solid economic recovery that Japan has finally achieved becomes even more certain, and to break the economy out of deflation as rapidly as possible.

At the Diet, from now on discussions on a number of important bills such as the administrative reform promotion bill and a bill related to medical reform are set to begin. In order to proceed with the reforms on a continuing basis, I will make strenuous efforts for the enactment of these bills.

A number of foreign guests have visited me at my office over the last week. On March 23, I met with Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and President Georgi Pirinski of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria, and on March 28, I met with Prime Minister Miyeegombyn Enkhbold of Mongolia.

In each of our meetings, we held frank discussions concerning the strengthening of cooperative relations and the development of friendships between our two countries, as well as on current international issues beginning with the United Nations reform.

Fortunately, sumo wrestlers from both Mongolia and Bulgaria had been performing remarkably at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, and so we enjoyed some lively conversation about sumo as well.

I heard that Prime Minister Enkhbold watched the final day's playoff between the two Mongolian compatriots, and awarded the Mongolian Prime Minister's Award directly to Asashoryu, the winner of the bout and the tournament. In addition, on the strength of his performance, Hakuho won promotion to the rank of Ozeki. So the Mongolians really sparkled at this tournament.

Prime Minister Enkhbold told me that in Mongolia these days, whenever the Grand Sumo Tournament begins it is broadcast live on TV and gets 80 percent viewer ratings. Almost everyone has their attention focused on the matches. More and more Mongolians are feeling a greater affinity with Japan and relations between the two nations have become very close with the success of the Mongolian wrestlers.

Although sumo is Japan's national sport, there are currently almost 60 foreign-born wrestlers from 12 countries-including (in addition to Mongolia and Bulgaria) Russia, Georgia, China, the Republic of Korea, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Brazil-competing in the Grand Sumo Tournament. In the elite makuuchi division, twelve of the wrestlers, or 30 percent of the total, are from overseas.

The success of foreign-born wrestlers has not only helped to spread the popularity of sumo around the world. It has also served as a conduit for dispatching Japanese culture overseas and has made possible substantial advances in friendly international relations. I would like to take this opportunity to praise the foreign-born wrestlers for their efforts and their successes, and to express to them my sincere appreciation.

In Tokyo, the warmth of spring is finally upon us, and the area around my office is becoming dyed day by day in the colors of cherry blossoms. I am starting every day with the feeling expressed by Tachibana no Akemi, an Edo-period poet:

"It is a pleasure when, rising in the morning, I go outside and find a flower that has bloomed that was not there yesterday."

We will be entering the new fiscal year next week. I expect that a lot of people will be meeting the start of this new fiscal year with a mixture of expectation and tension. Some of you will be moving onto the next stage of your education, some of you will be going out into the world for the first time as adults, and some of you will be trying to polish your own abilities and expertise. To all of you who are about to venture out into a new world, let me close by wishing you the very best of luck.

* 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.

[Special Contribution]

"Turkey, a close friend to Japan located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia" - Part I

By Yoichi Kanno, Chairman of the Japanese Society of Istanbul

When Prime Minister Koizumi visited Turkey in January this year, he received a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the people of Turkey. It is not an overstatement to say that Turkey is the closest friend to Japan among all countries in the world. In surveys, the Turkish people always list Japan as one of the countries they like the most.

Here in Turkey, it is a well-known story that the crew on board the Frigate Ertugrul that wrecked off the coast of Wakayama in the Meiji Era were under the hospitable care of the people of Wakayama. The people of Turkey have not forgotten about the favor Turkey received from the Japanese people at this time. During the Iran-Iraq War, Turkey lent a hand to help the alienated Japanese nationals living in Tehran escape by flying a special flight piloted by Mr. Ali Ozdemir, heedless of the danger.

During his visit, Prime Minister Koizumi met with former pilot Ali and expressed his gratitude. This became big news among the Turkish people, and it seems that they regard Japan with even more positive feelings. These feelings are rooted in the history and culture shared by Japan and Turkey, rather than their admiration for the Japanese high-tech goods.

Do you know that there are synagogues and Greek Orthodox churches in Istanbul? Freedom of religion was recognized by the Ottoman Turks, and this tradition still lives on in this part of the world. In Turkey, guests are treated to a cup of tea even during the month of Ramadan, although as many followers of Islam they refrain from consuming any beverages. The Turkish peoples' tolerant attitude towards other religions is astounding.

President Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern Turkey, pressed for the separation of church and state approximately 80 years ago. Islam and democracy are indeed well-balanced in this country. Although religious conflicts are giving rise to serious issues in the world at present, I believe Turkey is resolving these issues skillfully. It may well be that this is where lies the secret to the rule of the Ottoman Turks who continued to maintain one of world's great empire for over 400 years.

It is often said that Turkey has an important standing geopolitically, but it is after I began living here that I actually came to realize this. The Bosporus Straits is the only sea route that links the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea.

While Turkey is currently applying to become a member of the European Union (EU), it has strong cultural and economic ties with the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) zone and the countries bordering the Caspian Sea in Central Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East, in addition to European countries. The Bosporus Straits is an essential route for transporting energy resources from Russia and Kazakhstan, and I am sure Turkey will play more important role as a transit country for the flow of substantial energy resources which will be produced in Central Asia and exported to consuming countries.

Turkey is literally situated at the center of this region. It must not be forgotten that this vital friend of Japan occupies an extremely important location, sharing borders with many countries such as Iraq, Syria and Iran.

(Part II will follow in next week's issue.)

* Profile of contributor

* Landscape of Istanbul

[What's up around the Prime Minister]

- Primary School Students Working on Global Warming Issues Pay Courtesy Call on the Prime Minister (March 29, 2006)
Prime Minister Koizumi indicated to the students, "Environmental issues can be approached from the perspective that we have borrowed the Earth from future children."

- Japan-Mongolia Summit Meeting (March 28, 2006)
Prime Minister Koizumi held a meeting with Mr. Miyeegombyn Enkhbold, the Prime Minister of Mongolia.

- Prime Minister Attends the Graduation Ceremony of the Japan Coast Guard Academy (March 26, 2006)
After the graduation ceremony, Prime Minister Koizumi observed the practice of firing warning shots at the simulation center, which is a simulated bridge of a patrol vessel.

- Japan-Timor-Leste Summit Meeting (March 23, 2006)
Prime Minister Koizumi held a meeting with Mr. Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri, the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

- Meeting of the Council for Science and Technology Policy (March 22, 2006)
The 3rd Science and Technology Basic Plan and the Promotion Strategy, which the government will intensively carry out over five years from FY2006, were approved.

[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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