FORMER JAPAN LEADER GETS WARM WELCOME IN CHUUK

News Release

FSM Information Services Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia Oct. 19, 2008

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori visits Chuuk

As soon as the plane carrying Japan former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and the accompanying high level delegation reached the tarmac, the State of Chuuk rolled out its grand welcome in the traditional Chuukese way.

Governor Wesley W. Simina and the leadership of Chuuk State were at planeside to receive former Prime Minister Mori and his delegation who were accompanied to Chuuk by the National Government leadership, President Emanuel 'Manny' Mori and members of the 15th Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia.

A locally woven mat was rolled out to the steps, lined on both sides with young coconut plants, to begin the traditional welcoming ceremony for Mori Sensei. The former Prime Minister was escorted by Governor Simina and President Mori through a line of honor guards to the Airport's VIP lounge. A sea of flower leis further welcomed the high level delegation inside the VIP lounge where they had some light refreshments and a brief rest before the boat trip to the island of Tol.

Exiting the VIP lounge, Mori Sensei was treated to traditional chants and local dances by a dance troupe from the Hall Islands who continued the welcoming ceremony in the airport lobby. The airport parking lot meanwhile was brimful of primary level students from the different schools on Weno anxiously awaiting the arrival of Mori Sensei. As soon as Mr. Mori emerged from the lobby area, the parking lot erupted in a chorus of Japanese songs. The students sang at the top of their lungs, the younger ones waving little Japanese flags while the older students held up banners and signs in both English and Japanese, all excited with the same message: Welcome to Chuuk Prime Minister Mori!

Moved by such a warm and resounding reception, the former Prime Minister took time to walk the length of the parking lot, and to their extreme delight, shook hands with the students.

Yet another sea of students from the high schools and the college lined both sides of the road between the airport and the dock, this time the general public joined the students welcoming Mori Sensei to Chuuk by waving flags, signs, and banners while others simply waved.

While the whole state was excited by the visit, the portion of the visit that involved Toleisom was respectfully accorded an ambience of reverence.

A central part of former Prime Minister Mori's visit to Chuuk was to visit the grave of the late Suzumu Aizawa on Toleisom. The Aizawa family took care of Mori Sensei's father during World War II. The former Prime Minister has since had a "special relationship" with the Aizawa family, especially the late Suzumu Aizawa.

Mori Sensei observed a very solemn and intimate ceremony at the grave site with candles and prayers. The short ceremony was concluded with the laying of a wreath on the grave. After the ceremony the former Prime Minister and his delegation returned to Weno and docked at the Blue Lagoon Resort.

The breadth of lawn at Blue Lagoon Resort waterfront was later that evening the site for the welcoming dinner reception hosted by the National Government. The State of Chuuk assisted with the details and logistics for the dinner.

Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Lorin S. Robert was the master of ceremonies for the dinner reception and welcomed, on behalf of the national government, Mori Sensei and his delegation to the FSM, especially to the State of Chuuk. Secretary Robert invited both President Mori and Governor Simina to the podium to share brief remarks on the occasion.

President Mori and Governor Wesley Simina both extended warm words of welcome to Mr. Mori and members of his delegation and spoke fondly of the excellent cooperation and strong friendship between FSM and Japan. Both leaders acknowledged with appreciation that it was through the efforts of Mori Sensei that the relationship has been highly strengthened and has progressed successfully thus far.

Inviting Mori Sensei to share a few words on the occasion, Secretary Robert referenced the former Prime Minister as being "Japanese by birth, but Chuukese by heart." This introduction was received with much applause and appreciation by the dinner guests, which included members of the Japanese communities in Chuuk and Pohnpei, the leadership of the state and various distinguished quests. The downpour of rain at the onset of the reception did not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants at the dinner.

When Mori Sensei took the stage, he told the audience that he wholeheartedly embraced the introduction by the Secretary, 'Japanese by birth, Chuukese by heart.'

"Let me tell you why that is," said the former Prime Minister, and whisked the whole audience back with him to his younger days in Japan.

Mori Sensei was born in 1937 and never knew his father until the end of World War II in 1945. His mother passed away the year before the war ended and left him and his two younger siblings. His father remained a mystery to him.

It was during his 2nd grade year that Mr. Mori first met his father and first heard of the island of Truk. Mori senior recounted to his son story after story about Micronesia, the island of Truk, especially the island of Tol and its people - and that's all he would ever talk about. It was those memories and wonderful experiences that his father shared with him about Truk and its wonderful people that gave the State of Chuuk, especially the island of Tol, a special place in his heart.

Mori Sensei noted that dear to his heart is the Aizawa family, especially the late Traditional Chief Susumu Aizawa. It was the Aizawa family that took special care of his father during the war, with daily care given by then young Susumu Aizawa. When Mori Sensei later met Aizawa, it was this care and this experience that forever bonded these two young men. Mori Sensei noted that the late Aizawa, "was like a brother in Chuuk (for me)."

The last time they met was when Aizawa, a famous pitcher in the Japanese league, returned to Japan and threw the opening pitch for his team's home game. Aizawa passed away shortly after his return from Japan.

Concluding the inside-look into his personal relationship with Chuuk, Mori Sensei touched on the bi-lateral relationship between Japan and the FSM.

He acknowledged the many challenges facing the FSM, especially Chuuk and underlined transportation as one of the state's main challenges. Mori Sensei urged that "this is an area for our two sea-faring island countries to continue to cooperate."

Following the pre-dinner formalities, Mori Sensei and his delegation were treated to a feast of island delicacies. In the true form of island welcome various groups performed for Mori Sensei and his delegation, they included the Yoshiro Mori Chuuk Foundation (YMCF), groups from the Northwest region, groups from the lagoon, Jimmy Mori and his Band, and many more groups entertained the visiting dignitaries with dances ranging from Chuukese traditional stick dances, 'moonlight dances' to re-mixed stick dances to the ever popular hula dances, and many, many more.

On the next morning a breakfast was hosted at the Blue Lagoon Resort by Japanese descendants in Chuuk to honor former Prime Minister Mori and his delegation.

On their way to the airport the Honorable Mori Sense and his delegation, and President Mori stopped to pay respects at the grave of the late Tosiwo Nakayama, the FSM's first President and nation builder. The entourage also stopped at the War Memorial Monument at Bay View.

Mr. Mori and his delegation departed Chuuk on September 17, 2008 on Continental flight 956 bound for Japan.

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