I've just returned home after spending a full two days in Washington, DC. There is a 13 hour time difference between Washington and Tokyo, and the return flight was 13 hours long. While there is a substantial distance between these cities in a physical sense, over the course of a little over a year, I feel that the distance between us in spirit has become smaller than ever before.
The first event I participated in was a gathering of appreciation to which the Japan side invited people who have helped to cultivate friendly Japan-U.S. bilateral relations. I wanted to convey first of all Japan's feelings of appreciation not only for "Operation Tomodachi," to which more than 24,000 persons had been committed, but also for the circle of both public and private support that spread out all throughout the United States, beginning immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake struck.
We must not forget that non-Japanese were also among the victims who lost their lives during their stay in Japan. One in particular that I cannot forget is Ms. Taylor Anderson, who had been teaching in the city of Ishinomaki as an assistant English teacher. Even after the disaster struck, she continued to give encouragement to the frightened children at the disaster site when she was swallowed up by the tsunami and perished. Despite suffering such a sad occurrence, her parents have donated books to the children of Ishinomaki, calling it the "Taylor Anderson Reading Corner."
One of her students is said to have stated, "I have a dream to become an English teacher. I will study harder to make the dream come true and, someday, I will be a teacher just as wonderful as our teacher, Taylor."
I invited her parents as well as her recently-engaged younger sister to the gathering of appreciation. The wishes of Taylor, who worked to become a bridge between Japan and the United States, will surely be carried on by a great many others. After stating that, I once more delivered words of regret along with words of appreciation.
Through the summit meeting at the White House with President Barack Obama, we were able to discuss very thoroughly not only issues within the Japan-U.S. bilateral relationship but also Asia-Pacific and global issues, making it a highly productive meeting. A Joint Statement, the first we have compiled in six years, indicates the fact that we have brought the Japan-U.S. alliance to new heights.This Joint Statement should serve as an unfailing vision for both Japan and the U.S. to hold in common to ensure the prosperity and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and the world.I perceived very definite results in this visit to the United States.
At the same time, I feel that what supported this summit meeting behind the scenes was the accumulation of exchanges between Japan and the U.S. at a variety of levels.These are not limited to the exchanges that have taken place since the earthquake struck.When I received a courtesy call from the Administrator of NASA during my trip, I heard once again about the significance of Japan-U.S. cooperation on the Kibo module of the International Space Station and elsewhere.There we find Japanese actively pursuing cutting-edge fields, with astronauts Mr. Koichi Wakata and Mr. Satoshi Furukawa heading the list.
In between serious discussions on diplomatic relations, Dr. Henry Kissinger, a grand figure in the world of diplomacy attending the reception hosted by Secretary of State Clinton, said, "The New York Yankees would really love to have (Mr.) Yu Darvish, who serves up some great pitching." The sight of Mr. Ichiro Suzuki and other Japanese major leaguers delivering solid performances has become a facet of daily life for people in the United States.
The ties between Japan and the U.S. are being robustly supported not only by the relationship between myself and President Obama as national leaders but also through exchanges at a variety of levels within both public and private capacities.
This year marks the one hundredth anniversary since Mr. Gakudo Ozaki, called the "God of constitutional politics," presented 3,000 sakura cherry trees to line the banks of the Potomac River in Washington, DC. Marvelous foresight was shown in this stratagem of getting so many people to call to mind friendly relations with Japan every time the sakura come into bloom in the U.S. capital. On this occasion, President Obama announced a gift of 3,000 dogwood trees to Japan.
As thoughts of "thanks" and "repaying kindnesses" echo in our mind, now is an ideal opportunity to sow "seeds of friendly Japan-U.S. relations," which will continue to bloom even a hundred years into the future. It would be a source of immense happiness for me if I succeeded in taking at least some role in this through my visit to the U.S.
At Arlington National Cemetery, which I visited during my stay, the grave markers for military men and women who served their country are arranged in an orderly way and one can feel the spirit of solemn remembrance for the entire nation.I felt that such a place holds one of the sources of the dynamism of the nation known as the United States.I visited the graves of former President John F. Kennedy and his younger brother, former Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and offered prayers there.Both are politicians I respect as people who laid their lives on the line for the destinies they were to fulfill.
We are now entering the latter half of Golden Week. I intend to think deeply in a quiet manner looking towards the future, as I muse again on the lives of such leading figures among politicians.