Kan meets soccer champs, perks up


Staff Writer

It looks like the victory of the “Nadeshiko” Japan women’s national soccer team not only gave hope to a nation still recovering from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami but also energized unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who vowed Tuesday to persevere.

“I, too, must not give up and must do my best as long as there are things I need to deal with,” Kan said during a Lower House Budget Committee meeting Tuesday morning.

Later in the day, Kan met with the 21 team members, including captain Homare Sawa and coach Norio Sasaki, and congratulated them for winning the Women’s World Cup soccer final.

“I am very happy that you gave courage to all of the people of Japan,” Kan told the team. “You caught up after (the U.S. national team) had the lead — that is truly the spirit of never giving up.”

Kan has been the target of criticism not only from the opposition camp but also from within his Democratic Party of Japan for his flip-flops on nuclear policy and perceived lack of leadership.

Various opposition lawmakers said Tuesday that Kan should try to copy the close teamwork of Nadeshiko Japan, as the women’s team is known.

And the prime minister himself admitted he hoped to learn from Sawa’s leadership.

“You brought the team together. It may be too late for me, but I would like to learn from” your experience, Kan told her.

After the meeting, reporters asked Sawa if she had any advice for the prime minister.

She said she doesn’t follow politics and had no advice for the leader.

“The good thing about Nadeshiko was that we were able to unite and didn’t give up,” she said.

Kan exit in August?

YONAGUNI, Okinawa Pref.

Katsuya Okada, secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, indicated he expects Prime Minister Naoto Kan to step down in early August.

At a news conference Monday on Yonaguni, an island in Okinawa Prefecture, Okada said it is necessary to consider a third extra budget for this fiscal year to support reconstruction in the Tohoku region “under new leadership.”

He said he has already conveyed the idea to Kan, who is also DPJ president.

“I believe he is sharing the same feeling with me,” Okada added.

Kan has said three bills must make it through the Diet before he will voluntarily step down: the second extra budget for fiscal 2011, a bill to enable the government to issue deficit-covering bonds in the year through March 31 and a bill to promote the use of renewable energy sources.