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Michio Ochi
House of Represetntatives
Tokyo Sixth District

delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on 
"Religious Freedom and the New Millenium"
Tokyo, Japan May 23-25, 1998

I have been a member of the House of Representatives for 23 years. I am now the House Budget Committee chairman. As you know, many Japanese are Buddhist. I am no exception. When I was little, I attended an American kindergarten. Furthermore, my father has been engaged in trade with the United States. As a result, I have received education about Christianity on many occasions. Twice, as head of the Japanese delegation, I attended the National Prayer Breakfast in the United States. Representatives from many countries and religions attended these prayer meetings at the Washington Hilton.

What kind of mind and heart we hold is very important from now on. All religions have one important common ground. We tend to think humans are the greatest beings in the universe. Yet we have a Supreme Being far above us, an existence we call God or Buddha. It is important that we hold on to the heart of that Supreme Being and live with a humble heart and mind.

No matter what country might be able to create horrible new weapons, we cannot avoid disaster from a natural disaster such as a hurricane. Therefore, we need to think of the relation between the human soul and the universe. We also have to take care of nature. In that sense, our oriental culture tends to go along with nature. European gardens are often cut in the shape of a triangle or rectangle. In a Japanese garden, however, we try to preserve the natural grasses, trees, and water. As much as possible we try to preserve the natural harmony of the ecology that God created. I feel that it is important to preserve nature in a harmonized state.

You are gathered here in Tokyo. The special government guesthouse in Akasaka is a European imitation, and so is the Diet building. They have a symmetrical shape. Traditionally, however, Japanese don’t create a building with a symmetrical shape. On the right-hand side when we enter a temple is a special couch, and on the left-hand side is a bell. East and West each has a different culture. Based on our traditional culture, how to create peace of mind is key.

There is a disease that is more terrible than AIDS. That is loneliness and lack of relationships. Many children don’t have a friend to speak to and just have give and take with a machine. When we break the basic bonds of human relationship, that leads to violence. In Kanji, the Japanese written characters, the human being is represented by two sticks, which are holding together, thus demonstrating that relationship which brings social security and brightness to the human heart.

As Budget Committee chairman, I am very busy every day. The most important thing is the mind, rather than money. The most difficult problem in Japan is that we cannot really see the future. When we think about our future life, we can’t see what lies ahead 20 years from now. We need to have a conviction that we can have such and such a future in 20 years. That is the politicians’ work, and it is also the responsibility of some of you who are active in religious circles. In generating a vision of the future, you give examples and guidance to the Japanese people. That is very important.

I only know Christianity from my youth, but I believe that Buddhism and Christianity both have great things to contribute. For this purpose, we are here together at this important conference. In the 20th century, with the different religions, we have to be able to have that kind of world.

With regard to religious freedom, I believe that Japan is making progress slowly but surely. One thing we are concerned about is that there is a move to try to contain this kind of movement. In the legislature, we will be discussing in the near future the disclosure of information by religious organizations. Given the mystical nature of religion, we face a dilemma here. Of course, those organizations that are earning money illegally must disclose information. However, for other religious organizations that may not be necessary. Personally speaking, I think we should not force religious organizations to disclose information unnecessarily.