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Plans For Belly Button Museum Embarrass Japanese Politicians

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-06-16

For its organisers, the G 8 Summit is a serious business. Eight of the world's political heavyweights are going to arrive with their huge entourages of aides, secretaries and secret service minders. The amount of paper used for translations, drafts, drafts of drafts and endless protocol instructions will in all likelihood be enough to fell half the Amazon rainforest.

One fact which has probably escaped the notice of these organisers is that most of the world is, as yet, unaware that this conference is taking place at all. Many newspaper readers' eyes glaze over at the mention of such events. Even when they are actually happening, the interest in them and the photo opportunities for politicians they give rise to, tends to be mild. News coming out of such jamborees is rarely momentous. Who can recall any of the decisions made at previous summits? "Precious few" is the answer that Okinawa's toiling legions of summiteers would be reluctant to concede is true.

However, the Summit, as is its due, has at last been given some substantial international media space, in the august pages no less, of one of America's most respected newspapers, the Washington Post. But the Summit organizers will not be pleased to learn that the article in question is frivolous in the extreme.

It concerns a letter devised by the Ginoza mayor's office and the local chamber of commerce to attract some publicity to the village, known as the Belly Button of Okinawa, because it is the point on the island where lines of longitude and latitude cross. The letter invited all the G8 leaders to have casts made of their navels. The idea was to build a Belly Button Museum after the Summit where tourists could come to view the different sizes and shapes of the insides of their leaders' navels.

Yasukatsu Urasaki, Mayor of Ginoza, was of the opinion that prints of hands and feet were boring and predictable and could be found in many places around the world. Why not do something different, he thought. Urasaki's further had the idea of casting the world leaders' navels in porcelain, though he claims the method for achieving this is still being researched.

Hirokazu Kishimoto, a Ginoza local government official, wanted to widen the scope of the Belly Button Museum to include other species. He dreamed up the idea of including the cast of an elephant's navel in the planned display. He even went so far as to contact the Tokyo zoo about obtaining the object and says they were very receptive to the idea.

What seemed like a bit of harmless fun now however, seems to have spiralled out of control. Ginoza officials in charge protocol matters affecting the G8 Summit needed to find out the addresses of Clinton, Chirac, Blair and the rest. So they contacted Japan's Foreign Affairs Ministry in Tokyo, who naturally wanted to know what was going on.

When informed of plans for the Belly Button Museum, alarm bells started ringing in Tokyo's corridors of power. Could anyone actually be making fun of the Great Summit, symbolic of Japan's newly enhanced status as a responsible world power?

It seems the answer was yes and the wrath of Tokyo's bureaucrats descended on the heads of the hapless Ginoza mayor and his friends in the Chamber of Commerce. They forbade any such project and are stonewalling any enquiries on the subject. The Ginoza mayoralty must have been given a proper dressing down, as they now deny the existence of any letters sent to world leaders on the subject of belly buttons.

Meanwhile Sachio Igei, leader of a Ginoza community group, insists that the Belly Button Museum will go ahead regardless of what his mayor or the faceless bureaucrats of the Tokyo Foreign Affairs Ministry think.

Igei believes there is a sorely lacking of a sense of humor surrounding the entire G8 gathering.

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