Mrs. Akie Abe, First Lady of Japan's Introduction of "Always, Sunset on the Third Street"
At the India International Centre

August 21, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here today, and to have the opportunity to show you my favourite films. I know which country I am in. I know my audience. I know that you are amongst the most cinema-loving people in the world.

So I have no choice but to be extra-bold and to challenge you. The Japanese are only slightly less cinema freaks than you are. I have brought with me a couple of films for you to see.

For those of you who came here yesterday, I am sure Doraemon, the cat-like robot, looked cute and friendly, and the girls who danced the Hawaiian hula were worthy of your applause.

I would like to thank everyone- the Japan Foundation among others -- who made this event possible. Please don't forget that the Japan Foundation in New Delhi now has an enlarged facility, the Japan Cultural Centre, which is only one year old, located near Vikram Hotel. It is my hope that the centre will become a meeting point for you and for all the culture-loving people of India.

Now, what I am about to show you this afternoon is the film that always carries me away to the nostalgic days of the good old 1950s. ALWAYS SANCHOME NO YUHI, or Always, Sunset on Third Street, is its title. Please note how computer graphics have been used to reproduce the Tokyo of the 1950s.

The film is set 13 years after the end of the war, when the entire city was being rebuilt. Massive napalm bombings over Tokyo in March and May of 1945 had caused a death toll of over 100,000 people, many of them women and children. The city had been burnt to ashes, and had been left flattened and destroyed.

Despite this, what we see in this film is that the people in Tokyo remained hopeful and optimistic, walking with their heads held high. Rising above the skyline, they see the Tokyo Tower, half-completed but growing as a symbol of Japan's regeneration. Farther away, they see the sun setting, colouring the daily lives of good people of Third Street with its dreamy orange hue, their dreams, hopes, love and also tears.

Always, Sunset on Third Street, focuses on one small neighbourhood in these promising days: the Suzuki family, -- yes, Suzuki is one of the commonest names in Japan, -- and their small auto repair shop; teenager Mutsuko who has come from the countryside to find work; the barmaid, Hiromi, trying to turn her life around; and Ryunosuke, the candy store owner struggling to become a novelist.

These are the people who make up Third Street. They were believers. They believed that tomorrow would be a brighter day. They believed in each other. Most importantly, they believed in themselves. This is how the people of Japan started their march towards better lives, towards regaining democracy and prosperity. The film is the winner of 13 of 14 Academy Awards of Japan last year, and is based on a best selling comic book series.

The only regret is my husband is absent, as this is amongst the films he loves so much. It somehow brings him back to his simpler days as a child. He was keen on introducing the film to you himself.

Now ladies and gentlemen, please let me invite you to the innocent, nostalgic and optimistic Japan of Always, Sunset On Third Street.

So please enjoy, and thank you.

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