"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] New Year's Reflection by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

[Date] January 1, 2017
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

Happy new year to all.

The poem read by Emperor Showa 30 years ago in the Utakai Hajime (the Imperial New Year's Poetry Reading) of 1987 goes,

"The dawn redwood tree

grows year by year

along with Japan's recovery."

After the war, Japan arose out of burnt-out ruins stretching as far as the eye could see to achieve recovery in a truly marvelous way. In 1987 when the thoughts of Emperor Showa turned to the path Japan had followed, both Japan and the world had already neared a major transition stage.

The number of children born that year was the lowest ever in the postwar era. The economy was surging in the "bubble" years, but that became the prologue to an extended period of deflation. On the world stage, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear forces, signaling the end of the Cold War that was to come.

A quarter-century later, Japan found itself facing a rapidly shrinking birthrate and a swiftly graying society, a deflationary mindset that could not be shaken off, and an increasingly severe security environment. The Abe Cabinet has done its utmost to tackle such issues over the past four years.

Before the LDP retook the reins of government, there were even pessimistic views kindling anxiety toward the future, claiming that Japan could no longer grow or that Japan was heading into its twilight years.

But under no circumstances shall we give up. There is no doubt that we can change the future by building up our efforts over time with a strong sense of determination. The Abe Cabinet will continue to take on challenges toward the future.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Constitution of Japan coming into force.

Former Prime Minister Hitoshi Ashida made an appeal upon the enactment of the present Constitution, saying, "In the present day, as a result of the historically unprecedented defeat Japan suffered, most of the imperial capital has been transformed into burnt ruins, and tens of thousands of widows and orphans cannot even find the respite that would allow their tears to dry. How can we impart to them the ‘light of hope'…?"

Amidst the ruins and the extreme poverty, our predecessors resolutely raised themselves to their feet and created for us who would live in the future the world's third-largest economy, renowned around the world as a free and democratic nation.

We who are living today must squarely confront the many issues facing us and impart the "light of hope" to our children and grandchildren, who feel unease about the future, as well as to future generations. We must fulfill our responsibilities toward the future.

We will create a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged, where each person is able to demonstrate his or her abilities, whether female or male, old or young, a person with a disability or an intractable illness, or someone who has failed before. By doing so, we will map out a new trajectory for growth for the Japanese economy.

In the rough seas of a rapidly-changing international situation, we will hoist the flag of Proactive Contribution to Peace even higher and make Japan shine in the center of a worldwide stage.

Moreover, it is children that are the very future of Japan. We will create a Japan in which all children can pursue their dreams full of hope for the future, regardless of their family circumstances.

Our future is not something that is given to us by others. We Japanese are now called upon to have the mettle to carve out our own future with our own hands.

This year, the Abe Cabinet will together with the Japanese people launch in earnest its efforts to build a new nation, keeping our eyes firmly fixed on the future, to 2020 and beyond. We will make 2017 a year in which we carve out the future of this country. I am resolutely determined to do so as we begin this year, which will be a major turning point for our nation.

As I bring my New Year's reflection to a close, I would like to extend my heartfelt wishes for 2017 to be a splendid year that is happy and prosperous for one and all.

Shinzo Abe

Prime Minister of Japan