The government is considering giving the People’s Honor Award to the national women’s soccer team, which won the Women’s World Cup last week, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Monday.
Past recipients have included the late film director Akira Kurosawa, former Olympic gold-medalist Naoko Takahashi and actress Mitsuko Mori. But this would be the first time for a group to win the high-profile award.
Speculation immediately started swirling, however, that the administration of unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan was trying to boost its approval rating by giving the award to the wildly popular team.
Edano, however, denied such speculation, stressing that the award should be given to those who truly deserve it.
“Nothing would be easier than to increase government popularity by giving such an award, if that were possible,” he said.
But, Edano added, “I wonder if there actually is anyone who really believes that giving this award would raise the support rate.”
According to Edano, the decision will be made as soon as possible after the government consults with various experts.
” ‘Nadeshiko’ Japan has repeatedly made earnest efforts and overcome many hardships and accomplished a great achievement by winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011 for the first time,” Edano told a news conference.
“They touched the people’s hearts and gave bright hope for society.”
The team’s stunning victory came at a time when the country is still trying to recover from the March 11 catastrophe.
According to a government official at the Cabinet Secretariat, the aim of the award is to “honor those who are widely loved and respected by the people and accomplished great achievements in giving bright hope to society.”