Foreign and Military Affairs

Wen reaches out to Japanese pop group

Updated: 2011-05-23 07:37

By Wu Jiao and Dong Wei (China Daily)

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Premier meets pop band, baseball team on Japan visit full of warmth

TOKYO - In addition to the wide range of high-level meetings and activities on Premier Wen Jiabao's calendar, he found time to personally greet a Japanese pop group on behalf of its many Chinese fans before the band makes its long-awaited trip to the mainland.

Wen reaches out to Japanese pop group

Premier Wen Jiabao shakes hands with Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, a member of the Japanese pop band SMAP, while another band member, Shingo Katori (second right), looks on during a reception in Tokyo on Saturday. Huang Jingwen / Xinhua

Wen, who is in Japan for the annual trilateral summit that also involves the Republic of Korea, met with Japanese band SMAP on Saturday.

Joking that he is too old to have ever really listened to the band's songs, Wen told the group "you have a lot of fans in China".

He said he hopes SMAP's songs will help nourish the friendship between the two countries when the band makes its scheduled performance in China later this year.

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SMAP sang their hit song, Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana (The only flower in the world), in Chinese for Wen during an event at a Tokyo hotel.

"I hope that your performance in China will plant seeds of friendship between China and Japan and that they will bear beautiful flowers," Wen told the five-member all-male group.

Group leader Masahiro Nakai told reporters after the meeting: "We strongly want to do our first show in China."

Fan Chen Yan, 21, a university student in Beijing, said he believed SMAP wanted to perform for Wen to show the gratitude of the Japanese people following the support China gave after a huge earthquake hit the island in March. Chen said he thought the song represented the Japanese people's confidence that they will overcome difficulties in the reconstruction process.

Another post-graduate student from the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, 24-year-old Miao Tianyu, who is also a fan of the band, said he hopes there will be more people-to-people exchanges between China and Japan to promote understanding.

The group is scheduled to hold its first performance in Beijing on Sept 16, according to its management firm, Johnny & Associates.

The event will help mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic ties in 2012, the Japan-based Jiji Press said.

Wen reaches out to Japanese pop group

Plans for a performance by the band in Shanghai last October were cancelled when China-Japan relations deteriorated after a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japanese patrol ships off the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

SMAP started out as a fresh-faced boy band almost 20 years ago and remain popular in Japan and much of Asia.

During the event, Wen also met young Japanese members of a baseball team from Sophia University who he first met last year.

"We have a friendship bridging our significant age difference," Wen said as their meeting started. "I really missed you."

He said he would now like to see the baseball team visit China to play games against their Chinese peers.

"A small baseball can serve to transfer the affection between our two countries," Wen said. "I also hope I can swing a baseball bat again with you in the future."

Wen also took the opportunity to encourage young Japanese people to prepare to make a great contribution to disaster reconstruction efforts following the earthquake.

During his last visit to Japan in May 2010, Wen took part in a morning practice with the baseball team and invited 15 students to visit the Shanghai World Expo.

Earlier this year, the students collectively wrote a finely-crafted letter to Wen expressing their appreciation and noting that they would like to foster bilateral ties through the sport of baseball. Wen wrote a thank-you letter in response this month, recalling the smiling faces of the young Japanese men on the team and the happy time he spent with them on the sports field.

Shida Shun, a 20-year-old junior student at Sophia University, said Wen's visit showed he has a big heart.

"Last year, he came to my college to play baseball with us and now he came back to meet us again, so soon after the earthquake. It is very important to have this kind of friendship across borders."

Jean-Claude Hollerich, a professor at Sophia University, said he was impressed with Wen's emphasis on communicating with Japanese students.

"Young people are the best ambassadors of peace and friendliness," Hollerich said. "I think a lot of Japanese people will have been touched by his visit."

Zhou Wa contributed to this story.



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