May 29(Sunday)

"A new, humane wind" and an okiagari-koboshi doll

 

I have now returned to Japan, having attended the Commemoration Ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of the OECD in Paris, the G8 Summit and summit meetings with paricipating national leaders in Deauville (France), and the Japan-EU Summit Meeting in Brussels (Belgium).

 

This was the second G8 Summit that I have attended as the Prime Minister, following last year's Muskoka Summit (Canada).  All of the participating leaders were the same as last year, and with the Chair, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, addressing each of us on a first name basis, I was able to engage in the summit in a relaxed manner too.

 

Yet at the same time, there was also a tension in the air that was different from last year.  That was the emphasis placed on Japan.  This year's summit became a crucial forum for conveying directly to the international community the situations regarding the earthquake disaster and the nuclear accident―even at the lunch meeting on the first day, President Sarkozy asked me to give the lead-off remarks, saying, "Let's start with Naoto."

 

Each leader expressed his or her sympathy to Japan, and they all spoke of their feelings of respect for the Japanese people for raising themselves up with courage in a level-headed manner.  This was truly encouraging.  I am taking this opportunity to report this to you, as this was a message to the Japanese people as a whole, and above all to the disaster victims.

 

In addition, heartfelt remarks extended towards the disaster areas were made at the joint press conference with the leaders of the EU, which wrapped up the diplomatic events during this trip.  As he finished his remarks, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, also presented in English a haiku poem that he had written the night before.

 

The three disasters

Storms turn into a soft wind:

A new, humane wind.

 

Hearing this poem for the first time there at the podium, I jotted down the simultaneous interpretation there on the spot, and as I concluded my own remarks, with feelings of appreciation I read out the poem again, this time in Japanese.  But as I finished the second line, I found myself choked up for a moment, filled with emotion.

 

President Van Rompuy is a great fan of haiku poetry, having even published a collection of the poems that he has written, entitled Haiku.  When I met him last year, he graciously signed a copy of his anthology, which I had brought along.  This year's summit, which was called the "Kizuna Summit"―or, the "Summit of the Bonds of Friendship"―also demonstrated a strong feeling of solidarity from the EU side towards Japan.

 

During this trip, I kept a small commemorative okiagari-koboshi doll in my suit jacket pocket.  This is a kind of traditional folk art that I had purchased the other day when I visited a shop in Tokyo selling goods made in Fukushima.  The spirit represented by this doll, which always rights itself after it is knocked down, imparted surefire strength to the message I sent to the leaders from around the world, that Japan will without a doubt become revived once again.



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