I turned 55 during my trip to Camp David just outside Washington, DC in the United States where the G8 summit was held.
I believe that in a world in which emerging economies are rising to the forefront, there are various viewpoints regarding the proper course for the G8. However, it is of particular value to have a forum at which the heads of state and government of developed countries sharing common values can be seated around a small circular table and enjoy frank exchanges of views in a true face-to-face manner. I perceived keenly that the G8 is genuinely meaningful as a forum for aligning our shared recognitions concerning global affairs.
The topic that the leaders discussed at the greatest length was the global economy, particularly the problem of the European sovereign debt crisis. I explained that in order to prevent ripple effects into Asia or the global economy, Japan is making contributions through its efforts to reinforce the financial foundations of the IMF and strengthen measures to enhance the financial stability of Asian nations.
As for regional affairs, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan were all among the topics of discussion. As the representative of the sole participating Asian nation, with regard to the North Korea issue, I put forward the issue by stating that we "should explicitly indicate that the international community intends not to grant any rewards to wrongful acts," and I succeeded in confirming that each of us will act in cooperation to deal with this issue.
I feel that in making the greatest possible use of the strengths of the G8 framework, including numerous bilateral meetings and informal talks, I was able to have truly meaningful discussions.
Through the kind arrangement of our host, President Barack Obama, at dinner I was presented with a cake lit up with candles. I already mentioned the episode in which we presented a birthday cake at dinner during the recent Mekong-Japan Summit, but not even in my dreams did I ever think that I myself would be on the receiving end. It was quite a gratifying surprise.
Now I am fifty-five. Were this before the Meiji era, I might now have entered the "long-lived" category. But in this age, the average age of Japanese is 45 and the average lifespan is approaching 80. Every time I get a year older, I renew my pledge for living my life in the future.
Right now three "55-year-olds" come to mind.
First of all there is Mr. Tadataka Ino, the pioneer who first created an accurate map of Japan. Ino began his surveying of the coastline of Hokkaido in earnest after turning 55. It is said that he was around 72-just before he died-that he finished his survey of the entire country.
Next is Mr. Takeshi Okada, the former head coach of Japan's national soccer team who is of the same generation as I. This year, at age 55, he is beginning a new position as a manager of a soccer team in China. I hear that he went abroad thinking, "As a member of the 'parents' generation,' I would like to do something for the 'children's generation' in East Asia, where we can't predict what will happen in the future."
The last is Mr. Konosuke Matsushita, whom I looked up to as a mentor. He was more than 50 years old when, being forced to resign from his company during the post-war purge of various officials, he established the PHP Research Institute, citing the ideal of "peace and happiness through prosperity." Afterwards, he returned to the corporate presidency and at about 55 he once again took his position at the grueling managerial helm.
In each of these stories, I sense a passion for embarking on a new challenge even beyond the halfway point in one's life. I think that their destinations all share the aspect of "newly taking action in order to leave something to future generations."
No one knows how long he or she will live. Exactly for this reason, people want to channel the passion of their later years in doing "something for future generations." I feel a strong sense of empathy with such thinking.
When I blew out the candles, President Obama said, "You can make a wish," and so I wished for world peace and prosperity. That is a wish not just for the present moment but one for the future as well.
The leaders of the G8 confirmed once again that to bring about prosperity, fiscal reconstruction and economic growth have to be pursued simultaneously as two wheels on a single axle. I will strive to do my utmost for the next generation, sketching out the path forward by which we will overcome these challenges and be able to hand over the baton in a more favorable way.
That is my pledge upon turning 55.
I got back to Japan late Sunday night, and since yesterday questioning by the opposition parties has begun within the Special Committee on the Comprehensive Reform of Social Security and Taxation Systems. At this Committee, attended by the most prominent persons in the opposition parties, everyone is extremely earnestly engaged and I feel that discussions have gotten off to a rather good start.
Today, Tokyo Sky Tree opened to the public. While the view from the observation deck may not have been ideal as a result of the unfortunate weather, on a clear day you can see quite far along the Kanto Plain. I hope that this broadcasting tower, which is the best in the world, takes on a symbolic role, restoring confidence to Japan as a whole.
This week I will once more move forward step by step, carving out prospects for "politics that makes decisions" and enabling the people to see Japan's bright future clearly.