Some 130 handicapped Japanese athletes scheduled to participate in the Nagano Paralympic Winter Games paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto at his official residence. He related to them the story of his late father Ryogo (former Minister of Welfare) who had disability in his feet but endured rehabilitation until he could climb mountains, encouraging them:
"Congratulations on your having achieved the level of international competiton. If you can advance your respective records, apart from ranks, that will be a very gold medal for you."
Social uneasiness mounts as violent juvenile crime such as stabbing teachers and with a knife is reported more frequently. Educators and other learned people have formed a "Conference on Juveniles - the Leaders of the Future," and held their first meeting with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, Education Minister Nobutaka Machimura and other Cabinet ministers attending.
The conference elected as Tadao Ishikawa, former president of Keio University and current councilor in chief in a Government committee on juveniles' problems, as its Chairman.
Hashimoto took the stage to greet them and called for their opinions from broad range of perspectives, saying:
"If we leave this problem unchecked, we will regret in the future. Treating only the symptoms won't bring any lasting solution."
The conference will meet regularly to discuss juveniles' mental and behavioral problems, their family and school environment, and their social environment including the wired media and publications that they are exposed to.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the modern Japanese fire fighting system based on local governments. A commemorative ceremony was held at the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, with the Emperor and Empress attending as special guests.
On hand for the ceremony were Prime Minister Hashimoto, Home Affairs Minister Mitsuhiro Uesugi, Fire Defense Agency Director-General Tetsuji Sano and 8,500 others.
Emperor Akihito gave his speech "in respect of those who work day and night to fight fire." Hashimoto reiterated his pledge to "do all the Government can for crisis control."
New Zealand's first woman prime minister, Jenny Shipley, was a state guest on March 9 and met Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto at his official residence.
Hashimoto explained Japanese efforts to cope with the Asian financial and currency crises. He also referred to problems of Japanese tuna fishing, whaling and nuclear waste transport in and through the South Pacific, to which New Zealand has consistently been opposed.
Shipley noted the "good and mature relationship between the two countries" and agreed that pending problems will be handled by the two governments at a working level.
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto during his visit to Indonesia on March 14 and 15 met President Suharto at his private residence for about two and half hours.
Hashimoto urged his host to implement the IMF package to which the Indonesian Government has agreed to ease the country's serious economic crisis. Suharto said in reply: "Not all the items of that agreement are easy to put into effect. But as long as the IMF is flexible, we, too, are prepared to act flexibly."
The two leaders agreed that Indonesia must now concentrate on home affairs.
Hashimoto also promised a gratuitous aid of a maximum of \3 billion for humanitarian causes such as pharmaceuticals and food donations.
On the 3rd anniversary of the sarin nerve gas terrorist that local religious fanatics unleashed in subway stations in central Tokyo killing 12, a stage for the dedication of flowers was placed in each of the six terrorized stations in memory of the passengers and station workers who died.
Prime Minister visited Kasumigaseki Station where most of the victims were claimed. He offered a silent prayer to the memories of two ill-fated workers, dedicated flowers to a small shrine to their names and prayed for the repose of deceased people's souls.
"It is terrifying to remember that incident. Such a thing must never happen again.
Eight high schoolers as "Young Private Ambassadors to the UN" paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and reminded him of the UN's "decade (1991 - 2000) to wipe out drug abuse."
They are to visit Vienna on March 21 through 27 to donate to the UN center there a sum of \50 million (in certificates) collected from donors throughout Japan for their cause. They will also mix with Austrian peers to learn more about drug abuse prevention. Back home with fresh knowledge they will keep up their good work.
Outgoing seniors of the Defense University, Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, received compliments from Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma at their graduation ceremony.
Hashimoto emphatically said in his speech: "The Japanese-US relationship is Japan's most important bilateral tie."
He then touched on the "Guideline for Japan-US Defense Cooperation," the problem of building an off-shore heliport in Okinawa and other security-related issues.
The graduating class this year - 417 in the 42nd class - includes 30 women and 10 foreign students (from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and other countries).
March 23 and 24 saw the citation ceremony of the "Fuji Scouts" - the highest rank for Japanese Boy Scouts - at the Constitution Memorial Hall in central Tokyo.
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, himself a scout as a child, was among the attendees and commended them, saying "The Government hopes to educate youth in such a way that you may pursue your dreams and challenge many goals. You scouts should represent youth in doing so. I am sure you deserve the honored title of Fuji Scout and you will be leaders for younger ones."
To date, the total number of Fuji Scouts has reached 2,558, of which about 150 are new this year.
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto met at his official residence a group of visiting Russian dignitaries - Vitalii Ignachenko, former Deputy Prime Minister and currently president of the news agency TASS; Vladimir Gusinsky, chairman of MOST-media group; Alexandre Shokhin, Deputy Prime Minister of the State Duma; among others.
On the topic of President Boris Yeltsin's total reshuffling of his cabinet, Hashimoto expressed "relief over the President's announcement," saying: "He said he will stick to his reform programs. As ever, the Government of Japan will do all it can to help him."
Crown Prince Felipe of Spain flew in as a state guest for a week-long stay from March 20 and was the guest of honor at the banquet given by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto at his official residence on the evening of March 24.
On the following day, the prince visited the Imperial Palace and met the Emperor and Empress in the Bamboo Hall.
It was Prince Felipe's first visit to Japan.
Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto invited 17 medalists of the Nagano Paralympic Winter Games to his official residence and presented silver cups to 7 gold medal winners and special tokens to the winners of silver and bronze medals and their accompanying athletes.
Hashimoto commented: "The eager way you skied and skated not only inspired many physically handicapped people with hopes and courage but also impressed the whole nation greatly."
On behalf of the visitors, Yutaka Takeda, an ice sledge speed racer, expressed thanks for "many people's cheers that helped us exercise our full power."