Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

In Praise of FIFA World Cup
Overseas Outreach Committee  / 

July 10, 2002
Here's to the World Cup!
KATO Shigeru

What got the Japanese so excited about the World Cup this time around? After all, most of them were extempore fans of the sport. But the excitement grew in intensity as the days went by. It wasn't because they discovered the joys of soccer nor was it because of the exemplary techniques demonstrated by the participating teams, but because Japan's national team remained in the tournament after the first, second and third round of games. The Japanese were intoxicated by the taste of victory. No reasons were needed - winning was pure joy. It was something the Japanese had forgotten for quite a while. Lacking competition, we had gotten too accustomed to seeing everyone on the same plane. As if laughing aside such a mindset, the World Cup simply taught us the meaning of victory. It also gave the entire nation an opportunity to share in the accomplishment, hand in hand.

Many, many people cheered from the bottom of their hearts the foreign national teams that stayed at their home towns in the days preceding the tournament. They wished for victory as if the guests had belonged to their home team. It was a refreshing human relationship borne of the World Cup which in turn gave rise to a new Japanese. So here's to the World Cup!

The writer is former Executive Vice President, Showa Line Ltd.

The Secret Behind the Joyous Sense of Unity

It is difficult to communicate to my foreign friends the feverish exultation that enveloped this country over the past month from May 31 through June 30.

At home, in the office, on the commuter train, in bars and in restaurants, conversation between men and women both young and old, revolved around a single topic. And what had made people drop everything-else were the games of soccer co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, in pursuit of the World Cup.

The secret behind this phenomenal excitement can no doubt be attributed to the exquisite skills of the sport as demonstrated at the highest level. But more profoundly, the Japanese people, by acting as the host for this magnificent event, woke up to the realization that there were 6 billion human beings out there who were fellow residents of the earth. And this sense of unity as the earth's inhabitants had in fact been the greatest source of such intoxicating joy.

The end of the Cold War ushered in talk of globalization and the IT revolution, but the power gap between nations remains pronounced. Military might and GDP (Gross Domestic Product) are still the decisive factors that shape the international order today. However, in a dimension unrelated to either military force or economics, this festive event celebrating the game of soccer provided an arena in which human intelligence and physical strength alone decided the outcome. Irrespective of national power, human ability alone influenced the chances of winning the glory. In this arena, America --the world's most powerful nation - was treated as a 'developing team.'

Meanwhile, by pitting country against country in the matches, the World Cup contains an undeniable element that encourages nationalism. The enormity of the event has also given rise to concerns that the tournament has become excessively commercialized. While that may be so, this month-long period has convinced the Japanese people of the existence of a world that has nothing to do with politics, economics or military force. In Japan, the televised match between Germany and South Korea got a record-high rating of 48.3%, despite its being a match in which the Japanese national team had no part. This figure illustrates the change that has occurred in the way the Japanese view the world.

The writer is a Professor at Shukutoku University and former London Bureau Chief and Senior Editor of the Yomiuri Newspaper.

Odd nationalism satisfied by mercenaries
Stillman Mikie

There is a Japanese flag painted on the cheek of football supporters or draped over them like a gown. It is the same red rising sun on white background, but this flag is clearly different from that which the Japanese authorities order people to hoist on special occasions. One is voluntarily used by citizens while the other is compulsorily raised by government.

We just have witnessed the very natural emotion among all generations of Japanese hoping for the victory of Japanese team. But this "Japanese" team is led by a French commander and includes one Brazilian naturalized into Japanese.

The reality of football is that a boy born in the slums of San Paolo could be a world rank player if he is good at kicking the ball. Just like young Swiss men working abroad as mercenaries leaving behind their own poor country, today football commanders and players are hired by foreign teams and work for the victory of this foreign country.

The phenomenon of a game between two different countries is more conspicuous in football than in Olympic Games. Supporters, wearing their "cool" national flags, entrust their country's victory on the football field to mercenaries. Isn't that better than citizens being press-ganged to serve their flag as part of their government's military on the battlefield? At least this represents one hopeful development of international relations in 21st century.

The writer is a think tank (NIRA) director. She is former Professor of Osaka University.

The Beginning of Felicitous Changes for Japan
HANABUSA Masamichi

The 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was concluded amid great success, will have an unmistakably positive impact on relations between Japan and South Korea, which co-hosted the event. Such an impact is not of the nature that will immediately be reflected in better political relations, but the atmosphere surrounding the two countries has been dramatically transformed.

While the significance of this development cannot be understated, what interested me more was the impact this feverish event had on Japanese society. In sum, a vast number of Japanese came into close contact-either directly or indirectly - with 'alien influences,' and furthermore accepted such diversity in a positive light.

What was the repeated chant of "Nippon!" coming from the younger generation telling us? It was possibly signaling the emergence of a new awareness, of 'a Japan that exists in a world of diversity.' Until now, the future shape of the world - as vaguely imagined by most Japanese - was of a monotonous global village where the individuality of each country or regional community would fade away, where perspectives centered on Japan or being Japanese would be quite out of date. However, over the past month we witnessed before our very eyes, or through the TV screen to which our eyes were glued, teams from four continents representing a variety of cultures and characters, along with their 'strange' supporters. Through the World Cup, all of us - both old and young - were given a fresh impression of the diversity that exists in our world.

Meanwhile, an elderly politician expressed his discomfort at the hairstyle and dyed hair fashioned by members of the Japanese national team. But young cosmopolitan players like Junichi Inamoto and Hidetoshi Nakata have most probably outgrown such a single-minded mentality that still exists in Japanese society, dictating that the color of hair must be black. I felt a different sense of internationalism at work here.

Looking upon the spectators that packed the stadium, there was a striking contrast between the cool composure of the players, who already had their international experience, and the frenzied enthusiasm of the Japanese spectators, who had only now woken up to the diversity of the world. Through the World Cup I felt the beginnings of a felicitous change, that a new and balanced sense of internationalism was emerging among Japan's younger generation.

The writer is chairman of the English Speaking Union of Japan.

More Soccer in the Middle East

"What are you doing in a place like this, when all the journalists of the world are gathered in Tokyo?" - In early June, an Israeli soldier posted at the checkpoint cutting off traffic between Jerusalem and Ramallah asked me, barely suppressing a yawn. He was of course referring to the World Cup soccer tournament. After my brief interview with Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority, I strolled the streets of Ramallah, where young Palestinians asked me the same question.

"What are you doing in a place like this?" -it's a good question. I'd like to pass it right back to them. 'Israel 503 versus Palestine 1,382'- as of June 8, that is the score in deaths alone caused by the chain of terrorism and military retaliations that have continued since September 2000.

Upon meeting Sholomo Ben-Ami - a parliamentarian who, as acting foreign minister, was Israel's lead negotiator in the peace process during the government of Ehud Barak, I presented him with a ballpoint pen with a 'Korea-Japan 2002' logo inscribed, and explained to him that the Japanese occupation of Korea had lasted 35 years, the same as Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and that it took half a century since the end of the occupation to restore relations to the point of co-hosting the World Cup. "The imposition of a ruling by the international community led by America would be the only possible solution, but there is an end to everything," Mr. Ben-Ami replied with a wry smile on his face.

Will that day ever come, when a sports event is held under the 'Israel-Palestine' logo?

The writer is former Professor of Hakuoh University and former NHK Commentator.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

対外発信委員会 / 

2002年 7月 10日
加藤 繁




北村 文夫













英 正道







平山 健太郎



バラク政権当時イスラエルの和平交渉主席代表をつとめたショロモ・ベンアミ外相代行(現在国会議員)に、「Korea-Japan 2002」のロゴ入りのボールペンを進呈し、日本の朝鮮支配が、イスラエルの「西岸」、ガザ支配と同じ35年間続いたこと、その支配が終わってからW杯の共同開催に漕ぎつけるまで関係修復に半世紀かかったことなどを説明した。「アメリカを主力とする国際社会の裁定強制/imposition以外に解決のメドは立たないが、なにごとにも終わりはあるものさ」というのが、苦笑を浮かべながらのベンアミ氏の反応だった。


一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟