Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Everyone needs to be needed
香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 必要とされる実感 ／東京
This year's rainy season has started in most parts of Japan. There are patients coming to my clinic complaining that they usually don't feel well around this time of year. I don't think it's just in their heads; I believe humidity and changes in atmospheric pressure are affecting them both mentally and physically.
When the rainy season starts it reminds me of a patient I met when I was younger and working at another hospital. The patient had been hospitalized for a long time, and he was in charge of taking care of people's umbrellas when it rained. He would come to the entrance hall and take hospital visitors' umbrellas, hand them number cards and return their umbrellas in exchange for the cards when they left. The first time I went to the hospital after I was dispatched there by a university hospital, the patient came to me out of nowhere and said, "Where's your umbrella?" A bit dumbstruck, I handed him my umbrella.
After working at the hospital for a little while, I came to learn that there were a number of patients doing various jobs at the hospital, just like the umbrella man. It would make sense as part of a rehabilitation program if those people were scheduled to be released from the hospital, but there were no prospects of them leaving the hospital anytime soon. Then, I thought, the hospital was using them as free labor. The young hospital staff, myself included, argued that it was wrong that those people were given jobs without pay, and told them that they didn't have to work anymore. For those who kept doing their tasks despite our suggestion, we told them, rather forcibly, "Please stop doing this."
The umbrella guy was one of those patients. I myself had repeatedly told him not to continue working and thought, "I freed him from unfair labor practices."
One day, I found him sitting on his bed and chatted with him. "Are you feeling a little better now?" I asked. He then replied, "I don't like rainy days. I have nothing to do now since my job was taken away."
I was taken aback by his response. I realized that even if it looked like an unfair labor practice from my perspective, he took pride in it and it had motivated him to live. If we were going to ask him to stop working, we should have given him another role to fulfill.
Being "right" doesn't necessarily mean we get to know how patients feel. That was what I learned from him.
Everyone, from kids to the elderly alike, wants to have something only they can do, and to feel that people need them, even if they are hospitalized. Every time it rains, I remind myself of that.
(By Rika Kayama, Psychiatrist) （精神科医）
Editorial: Political parties need to debate long-term economic policies
参院選へ アベノミクスの行方 地に足の着いた議論を
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the pros and cons of the government's determination to speed up "Abenomics," the economic policy mix promoted by his government, to the maximum extent is the key point of contention in the upcoming House of Councillors election. However, it is essential to examine the results of speeding up Abenomics before evaluating the policy mix.
Prime Minister Abe worked out a scenario of reviving the economy 3 1/2 years ago. Under the scenario, if the government and the Bank of Japan (BOJ) shared the goal of achieving an annual inflation rate of 2 percent within two years and implemented all possible policy measures to that end, Japan would overcome deflation, generate a virtual economic cycle and achieve the high growth that the country had previously experienced.
However, the government is far from achieving this goal.
The inflation rate was minus 0.3 percent this April for the second consecutive month. The average real-term economic growth rate between 2013 -- shortly after Abe returned to power -- and 2015 came to 0.6 percent, far below the goal of 2 percent.
The public is becoming increasingly pessimistic about the economy. According to a survey conducted by the BOJ, 38 percent of respondents predicted that economic conditions will worsen in a year, close to 41 percent who answered so in a survey shortly before the Abe government was formed in December 2012.
Despite these scenarios, Prime Minister Abe emphasized that Abenomics has produced positive results. He often cites the ratio of job offers to job seekers, which is the highest in 24 years, as evidence of the success of his economic policy mix. However, the rise in this index is attributable to a shortage in the workforce. There is a particularly serious labor shortage in the day care and nursing care fields where there is a growing demand for human resources.
It is difficult to secure workers in these fields because the number of people working is falling, wages are lower and workers in these fields are forced to work long hours. The rise in the ratio of job offers to job seekers due to such circumstances is never favorable but problematic.
The prime minister explains that Abenomics is producing positive results but that its effects are dampened by the world economy. However his explanation is inaccurate. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised downward its forecast for Japan's economic growth this year to 0.5 percent. The range of the drop and the sluggishness of economic growth in Japan is conspicuous as compared with Western countries.
It is obvious that Abenomics is not making its intended achievements. Then why is the economic policy mix not working well?
The problem is that the government set unrealistic goals in the first place. Japan's economic growth rate is far lower than those of other developed countries. However, the figure is not necessarily too low considering that Japan's potential annual economic growth has declined to 0 to 0.5 percent.
The fact that Japan's potential economic growth has declined due largely to a decline in its population should be called into question. However, the Abe administration pictured a scenario of reviving rapid economic growth based on the assumption that a virtuous cycle of economic growth can be generated if Japan overcomes deflation.
The Abe government is still pursuing its dream of economic growth.
In September 2015, the second phase of Abenomics was unveiled under the slogan of "the dynamic engagement of all citizens." Under the policy mix, the government is aiming to increase Japan's gross domestic product to at least 600 trillion yen by 2020. This goal is based on the assumption that productivity will be raised to levels equivalent to those during the economic bubble in the late 1980s to the early 1990s. The goal is based on a hypothesis that even many experts believe is unfeasible.
One cannot help but wonder what would happen if the government were to speed up Abenomics based on such an illusion of rapid economic growth. It must be kept in mind that the most negative aspect of Abenomics could be exposed.
The BOJ has kept buying a massive number of government bonds. The outstanding amounts of government bonds that the central bank has amassed have exceeded those owned by commercial banks and account for about one-third of the outstanding government bonds. The amount of such bonds that the BOJ possesses will likely continue to increase.
Risks involving the BOJ's purchase of massive amounts of government bonds would be exposed when consumer prices rise and the BOJ is forced to decrease the volumes of government bonds that the central bank buys. The government bond market has been stabilized because market players believe that bond prices will not decline because the BOJ will continue to buy them. However, if the central bank suggests it may discontinue buying massive amounts of government bonds, the prices of the bonds could plummet.
To avoid such risks, the central bank needs to continue purchasing large amounts of government bonds. However, such a practice could cause the economy to overheat, and it could become impossible to control inflation. Such risks have heightened to an alarming level. If the BOJ is to buy growing amounts of government bonds in response to the prime minister's order that Abenomics be sped up, the central bank would find it increasingly difficult to find a way out of this policy.
Neither Prime Minister Abe nor BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda will talk about these risks. During the campaign for the upcoming upper house race, ruling and opposition parties should not only evaluate Abenomics but also address such potential risks involving the policy mix.
Opposition parties should show new economic policies to counter the unrealistic economic growth policy line in Abenomics. In particular, it is necessary to work out policy measures to respond to the population decline as the country's population is estimated to fall by 10 million over the next 15 years. The opposition parties should address the issue of accepting more foreign workers, which tends to be viewed as a taboo, in addition to reforming labor practices and expand day care services to promote women's empowerment.
Policy measures that bring only short-term benefits to the public, such as the government's decision to postpone the consumption tax increase, and future visions that are overly optimistic could cause anxiety among members of the public. Due to such concerns, people continue to save money even though interest rates on their savings are almost zero while companies are hesitant to make capital investments.
Both the governing and opposition parties should squarely face the reality and hold in-depth debate on long-term economic policies.
香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 脱差別 日本も仲間入り ／東京
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Discrimination has no place in Japan
The so-called anti-hate speech law has come into force.
When I first saw a hate speech demonstration, with marchers barking vicious slogans aimed primarily at Japan's Korean residents, I could barely believe my eyes. On the internet, too, people toss out discriminatory comments against other foreign citizens, against Japan's Ainu and Okinawan peoples, against those receiving welfare benefits and the disabled. There are those who spread false rumors that these people are getting unfair financial aid.
The new hate speech law is what you might call a "principle law," as it has no provisions for punishing violators. Furthermore, it only protects "those originally from nations outside this country" who are "living legally in Japan." As such, it does not outlaw discrimination against Japanese citizens or foreigners applying for refugee status, among other groups. However, the supplementary resolution that accompanied passage of the law states, "It would be a mistake to believe that discrimination against groups not specifically mentioned in the law is forgivable." I suppose we can say that the Diet essentially stated, "Discrimination is unforgiveable in Japan."
In fact, I have a lot of people struggling with discrimination come to my practice; people discriminated against because they are foreigners, because they are ill, because they are single mothers. Some are treated unfairly at work or in the areas where they live, are looked upon with frigid eyes that seem to say, "You are not like us," all for some aspect of themselves that they cannot change.
What's more, the reasons given for this prejudice are usually untrue. For example, the romantic partner of one of my patients didn't want to get married "because depression is inherited." This is simply not true, and in the end I had the couple come in together to explain things. When the session was done, the reluctant party was reluctant no more, leaving with a smile and promising to "explain this to my parents as well." Arbitrary "those people are all so-and-so" labels are very often founded on basic errors of fact.
I have read a paper based on research conducted outside Japan that showed that ethnically diverse workplaces produce more creative ideas than those dominated by a single race or nationality. In contrast to working with people who understand one another from the get-go, getting people with wildly varying perspectives and ways of thinking together in one place apparently sparks the easy flow of groundbreaking ideas.
So, talk to someone different than yourself. Even if that's impossible right away, you will come to understand one another somehow. It's time to put an end to knee-jerk hatreds, to discrimination and pushing away our fellow human beings. With the new hate speech law, Japan has finally become a country where we can say, "We will not tolerate discrimination."
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist) （精神科医）
Editorial: Upper house election opportunity to review Japan's democratic politics
参院選へ 安倍首相の手法 民主政治を問い直す時
The battle between ruling and opposition parties has begun as the campaign for the July 10 House of Councillors election is scheduled to kick off on June 22.
Three and a half years have passed since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in December 2012. As Abe is predominant in the political world, his government has taken advantage of its majority in the Diet to overwhelm opposition without even attempting to form consensus. After winning an election, the Abe government has acted as if it had been given carte blanche.
One cannot help but wonder whether Prime Minister Abe will retain his predominance following the upper house race.
Attention is focused on how voters will evaluate the past 3 1/2 years of Abe government. Moreover, questions should be raised over how democratic politics should work.
When he announced at a June 1 news conference that the government has decided to once again postpone a consumption tax increase from 8 percent to 10 percent, Prime Minister Abe said he will "seek voters' trust" in his government over the decision in the upper house election. "The biggest point of contention is whether to speed up Abenomics (the economic policy mix promoted by his administration) or roll it back," he told reporters.
The phrase, "seek the voters' trust" usually means dissolving the House of Representatives for a general election that could lead to a change of government. When he decided in November 2014 to delay the consumption tax hike the first time, the prime minister dissolved the lower house for just that reason. This time, he is trying to ask if voters support his latest decision through the upper house race. The prime minister may have wanted to show his determination to stake his political life on the decision.
However, one should keep in mind that Abe has repeatedly sought the voters' verdict on Abenomics in particular.
In the last upper house election in 2013, Abe emphasized the achievements of the "three arrows" of his government's economic policy mix, while he stressed during the December 2014 lower house race that Abenomics is "the only way" to achieve economic recovery.
After these elections, however, the Abe administration placed priority on other policy issues.
Following the last upper house election, his administration hastily tried to pass the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets allowing the government to keep secret not only sensitive security information but also information disadvantageous to the administration, which could threaten freedom of speech. Also fresh in people's memory is the ruling coalition's railroading of security-related legislation that could run counter to Japan's war-renouncing Constitution. The ruling coalition did not bring these policies up for debate in elections held shortly before the laws were passed.
Before the enactment of the security laws, the government appointed a Foreign Ministry bureaucrat who shares views on the issue with the prime minister as head of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. This was a blatant bid to smooth the reinterpretation of the Constitution to open the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. The Abe Cabinet then decided in July 2014 to change the interpretation of Article 9 of the supreme law.
In other words, the Abe government carefully laid the groundwork to drastically change Japan's security policy while carefully preventing the topic from being a key issue during elections.
These are the issues that require thorough explanation as they could split public opinion. The Abe government appears to have used the economic policy mix as a cover to change Japan's security policy and achieve other of the prime minister's most cherished aims.
Prime Minister Abe's ultimate political goal is undoubtedly to revise the pacifist postwar Constitution. Nevertheless, the prime minister has failed to clarify specifically which clauses he wants to change and how. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is reluctant to make the issue a point of contention during the upper house election campaign.
Still, if the ruling LDP-Komeito coalition plus other parties in favor of constitutional amendment -- such as the Osaka Ishin no Kai (Initiatives from Osaka) -- won a combined two-thirds of the seats in the upper chamber, the prime minister would certainly speed up moves to change the Constitution. Constitutional revisions can be proposed only if supported by two-thirds of all members of both Diet chambers. Voters should keep this in mind.
Prime Minister Abe's claim at the June 1 news conference that the government would only postpone the consumption tax hike because the world economy is on the brink of crisis, while Abenomics is producing steady results here in Japan, is far from convincing.
It is apparently not the prime minister's style to admit his own failures. This appears related to his tendency not to listen to different opinions.
Abe has occasionally shown himself to be a realist, such as when he signed the Japan-South Korea agreement late last year on the comfort women issue, over which Tokyo compromised to a certain extent. He was able to make that compromise because his government has a strong power base.
However, he has certainly made light of Diet discussions, as was shown when he jeered at an opposition party legislator during Diet deliberations, saying, "Ask your question quickly." Intraparty discussions among those who have diverse opinions within the LDP have disappeared.
The prime minister also tends to simplistic divisions between friend and foe. Since the inauguration of the Abe government, there have been moves within his Cabinet that look designed to intervene in TV news coverage critical of the prime minister.
The minimum voting age will be lowered from 20 to 18 in time for the upper house election. In preparation, supplementary teaching material on democratic politics, compiled jointly by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, have been distributed to all high school students across the country.
The material says democratic politics means politics through discussion, and that a final decision is generally made by a majority.
At the same time, it goes on to say, "To make good use of decisions by a majority, diverse opinions should be expressed and if minority opinions are right, they should be utilized as much as possible. Policy measures can be more effective if people are convinced by the decisions."
This is the basics of democratic politics. Needless to say, opposition parties cannot win support from voters if they only voice stiff opposition to government policies. Specific policy discussions should be held during the upper house election campaign.
Kaleidoscope: Parents need a refuge, too
香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 親の相談機関も足りない ／東京
According to the National Police Agency (NPA), police nationwide reported 37,020 children as suspected of being abused to child consultation centers last year. It was the worst figure on record.
What's striking about the data is that the types of abuse on the rise are different from those that were common in the past. There was a 41 percent increase in verbal abuse and other forms of emotional abuse -- the most noteworthy of which were cases in which children witnessed parents and other family members being violent toward each other.
Some may argue that it's not such a big problem if children are just seeing the violence and are not being targeted by it, but that's hardly the case. Children suffer deep emotional wounds when they see their father hit their mother, or their parents hit a sibling. Not only do they wonder if they might be next, they blame themselves for not being able to help the ones who are being abused.
One person I know told me that as a child, they had watched their younger sister always being hit by their father. When I said, "You're lucky you were never hit," the person shook their head. "I should've been the one to be hit. My sister did nothing wrong. I'm a really cruel person for having pretended to see nothing."
The person managed to graduate from school and find work, but even when they found someone they liked, they couldn't think about dating or marriage. The person was convinced that someone who could not save their sister did not deserve to be happy.
"You did nothing wrong. You were still a young child, so it's no surprise that you weren't able to protect your sister from the violence," I said. It took a long time for that person's sense of guilt to subside.
Getting food on the table and bringing up children is difficult nowadays, and no matter how much love you have for your children, it's not hard to suddenly get the urge to hit them or blurt out that you wish they'd never been born. What, then, can be done to prevent parents from having such emotional outbursts?
Blaming them for their violence is actually counterproductive. First, we as a society must create refuges where parents can escape to for help. Sure, there is a huge lack of daycare centers. But we also lack places where parents who are barely keeping their head above the water making a living and raising children can seek help. It is important to get insurance to cover fertility treatments. But just as pressing is the creation of a societal framework in which both parents and their children can live happily.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Normal is wonderful
香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : ふつうってすばらしい ／東京
Among the people who come to see me at my office, sometimes there are those who complain that their daily lives are too uneventful and boring. Of course, they come for some other reason, like insomnia or irritation, but the cause of those symptoms seems to be in their "uneventful" lives.
Once, a woman who was approaching her 50th birthday had this problem.
She told me, "Both my children are adults, and my husband is hard-working, but our conversations lack a little in excitement. After five years he will retire, but he apparently has no plans for after that. When I think that maybe my life is going to end like this, I feel suffocated. Every day is just a repeat."
I suggested she find hobbies or volunteer, but she turned those down, sighing and saying there wasn't anything in particular she wanted to do. To other people it would hardly look like the woman had something to complain about, but she was serious.
This "every day is the same" complaint, though, can easily disappear. People who were affected by the recent Kumamoto Earthquake are saying on social networking services how they wish they could return to "a normal life." I have seen an online comment that said, "I'm not asking for something special. I just want to wake up in my house, go to work, come home, eat and sleep. While living at an evacuation shelter that kind of lifestyle seems like a dream."
If the people writing things like that saw the complaint of the woman who came to see me, they would probably want to say to her, "What are you talking about? There is nothing as wonderful as regular everyday living."
However, people are troubled creatures, and while in times of disaster they may think "I would be thankful for a regular everyday life," once their situation settles back down, they quickly start wanting this and that again.
Of course, it can be said that it is because people strive so much that our society has come this far, but the problem is that we feel dissatisfied when our wants aren't met. The woman who complained that everyday life was boring thought that a life full of change was more valuable than what she had. Dissatisfied with her life, she was stressed.
I hope that, even if people desire more, they will be able to convince themselves that the regular life is wonderful and that there is satisfaction to be found there. This is obvious, but we are quick to forget it.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
Hibakusha praise Obama Hiroshima visit, but fear history will go unquestioned
米大統領・広島へ ／下 被爆者、訪問の意義評価 謝罪なき「和解」に懸念も
It was fall of 2009, about six months after U.S. President Barack Obama made his historic speech about seeking a world without nuclear weapons, that U.S. Ambassador John Roos, who had just been posted to Japan, visited Hiroshima with his family. The purpose of the visit was to meet with then Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, to sound out a possible visit to the city by President Obama.
"We want President Obama to come to Hiroshima," Akiba told Roos over lunch. "We are not seeking an apology. We will welcome him." On Aug. 6 the following year, Roos attended the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, marking the first such visit by a serving U.S. ambassador. There were no strong objections to the visit from American politicians or the American public.
The Japanese government has since sent out the message that it would not demand an apology if Obama were to visit Hiroshima, and both the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture and the mayor of the city of Hiroshima have told press conferences that they are not intent on getting one.
Has the White House's announcement that Obama will make a visit to Hiroshima later this month resolved the bad blood felt by those who lost their families to the A-bomb and continue to suffer the effects of the bombing?
Sunao Tsuboi, 91, co-chairman of Hiroshima Hidankyo, a confederation of groups of Hiroshima A-bomb survivors, admits that deep down, he still feels enmity toward the U.S. However, he adds, "I've started to realize that we must use the power of reason to overcome such loathing."
According to Kazumi Mizumoto, deputy chief of Hiroshima City University's Hiroshima Peace Institute, anger toward the atomic bombings was more visible 10 to 20 years ago compared to today. When the 9.11 terrorist attacks took place in the U.S. in 2001, one hibakusha -- or A-bomb survivor -- told a newspaper reporter, "I shouldn't say this, but I feel as though I've had a weight taken off my chest." Mizumoto says there were other hibakusha who felt the same way.
Meanwhile, an 85-year-old hibakusha who lost family members and friends to the A-bomb has a different take.
"Until Obama's visit was announced, I wanted an apology. I would be lying if I said I didn't feel anger toward the U.S., but I've come to think that the very fact that he is coming to Japan amid widespread public opinion (in the U.S.) that the atomic bombing was justifiable, already implies an apology," he said.
Japan took to the stand when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, held an inquiry in November 1995 on the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. Then Hiroshima Mayor Takashi Hiraoka and then Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito declared that nuclear weapons were inhumane weapons of mass destruction that killed indiscriminately, and that their use violated international law.
However, a Japanese senior Foreign Ministry official who made a statement just before the two mayors did not address the legality of the use of such weapons, and said that anything that was subsequently expressed by the two mayors that were not factual were not necessarily views held by the Japanese government.
Hiroshi Harada, 76, a Hiroshima A-bomb survivor who was the director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum at the time of the ICJ hearings, said that efforts were made to coordinate testimony with the Foreign Ministry prior to the hearings.
"I stood my ground that as a city that experienced the atomic bombing, we should declare that the use of nuclear weapons was illegal, even if the government avoided saying so," he recalled.
In the years since then, Japan has failed to be a leader in discussions within the international community on the elimination of nuclear weapons. The paradox lies in the fact that at the same time Japan has advocated for the complete abolition of nuclear weapons, it has been protected by the U.S. "nuclear umbrella," relying on its deterrent power against North Korean nuclear armament and other threats.
At the U.N. General Assembly in December 2015, a Japanese-government-sponsored resolution encouraging world leaders and youth to visit the A-bombed cities was formally adopted. The Japanese government also, however, abstained from voting on a "humanitarian pledge" resolution that would strengthen legal frameworks for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons, which passed with 139 votes. The abstention was a decision made out of consideration for the U.S., which opposed the resolution.
The Japanese government has repeatedly claimed that it wants to serve as a bridge between nuclear and non-nuclear states. However, its inconsistent behavior on the international stage has generated a sense of distrust toward it from both sides.
Former Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum director Harada is concerned by the emphasis on forging a "forward-looking" relationship between Japan and the U.S.
"I fear that the shaking of hands by President Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the cenotaph for A-bomb victims in Hiroshima will be made into a symbol of reconciliation that ignores historical accountability," Harada said. "As long as people continue to justify the atomic bombings, the complete elimination of nuclear weapons will not become a reality."
Seventy-one years have passed since the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a visit to Hiroshima by a sitting U.S. president is finally about to take place. The big question is whether or not the visit will spur bridge-building between the A-bombed cities and the Japanese government, as well as between nuclear and non-nuclear states.
Obama to visit Hiroshima on May 27 as 1st sitting U.S. head of state
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will make the first visit to Hiroshima by a sitting U.S. head of state on May 27 to renew his resolve to seek a world free of nuclear weapons, both governments said Tuesday.
Officials from the Japanese and U.S. governments said the purpose of Obama's planned trip to the atomic-bombed city will be to promote a future-oriented stance on nuclear disarmament rather than for the U.S. leader to apologize for the nuclear attacks 71 years ago.
The U.S. president's visit to Hiroshima with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will "highlight (Obama's) continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," the White House said in a statement.
Abe said he welcomes the U.S. president's visit to the Japanese city devastated by a 1945 U.S. atomic bomb in the final days of World War II "from the bottom of my heart" as a big step toward realizing a world free of nuclear weapons.
"I believe that President Obama making a trip to Hiroshima, seeing the reality of the consequences of atomic bombings and expressing his feeling to the world, will be a big force toward a world without nuclear weapons," Abe told reporters.
One of Obama's close aides, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, said the president is unlikely to comment during his visit to Hiroshima on whether the atomic bombings of Japan are justifiable.
Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, dismissed the view that Obama's visit to the city could be tantamount to an apology for the nuclear attacks.
"If people do interpret it that way, they'll be interpreting it wrongly, so I don't think that there's much risk in that," Earnest told reporters.
Survivors of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and local government officials generally welcomed the announcement but some said he should have visited the atom-bombed city earlier, rather than in the final stage of his eight-year tenure. Obama leaves office in January 2017.
Obama will make the trip on the day a two-day Group of Seven summit in Japan ends.
The U.S. media have reported Obama could give a speech similar to his 2009 Prague address calling for a world without nuclear weapons if he visits Hiroshima.
Obama will visit the Peace Memorial Park near ground zero, where the arch-shaped cenotaph is located, Earnest said. A Japanese government source said the president may visit the Peace Memorial Museum, which displays artifacts of atomic bomb victims and survivors, such as a charred tricycle.
It is not yet decided whether Obama will meet with some atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima, Earnest said.
In mid-April, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited memorial locations in Hiroshima such as the museum and the Atomic Bomb Dome, skeletal remains of the only major building partially left standing after the explosion. He did so on the sidelines of a G-7 foreign ministers' meeting in the city last month.
Obama, who took office in January 2009, was awarded that year's Nobel Peace Prize for his stated intention to seek a world without nuclear weapons, a commitment he made in the high-profile speech in Prague three months after inauguration.
A visit by a serving president to Hiroshima is expected to stir controversy in the United States due to concerns it could be construed as tantamount to an apology for the attacks.
There is widespread belief that the atomic bombings were necessary to make Japan surrender earlier than it would otherwise have done and save the lives of many U.S. soldiers as a result.
During his first trip to Japan as president in 2009, Obama told a press conference in Tokyo that he would be "honored" to have the opportunity to visit the cities.
The United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 and another on Nagasaki on Aug. 9. Japan surrendered on Aug. 15, bringing the war to an end.
The number of people -- most of them civilians -- who had died by the end of 1945 from the bombings is estimated at 140,000 in Hiroshima and 74,000 in Nagasaki, according to the cities.
The highest-ranking U.S. official so far to have visited Hiroshima is Nancy Pelosi, who did so in 2008 as speaker of the House of Representatives. The House chief stands behind only the vice president in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency.
In 1984, Jimmy Carter, as a former American president, visited the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima.
Obama has sent U.S. ambassadors John Roos and Caroline Kennedy to the annual peace ceremonies in the atomic-bombed cities since 2010. Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, also attended the ceremony in Hiroshima last year.
Kaleidoscope: Take care of yourself first, no need to rush as aftershocks continue
香山リカのココロの万華鏡 : 今は自分を大切に ／東京
In the massive earthquakes that have hit Kumamoto Prefecture and surrounding areas, many people have been killed or injured. Homes and other structures have collapsed, and roads have cracked or caved in.
One of the most unique characteristics of the latest disaster is the incredible number of ongoing aftershocks. No one can escape the ground on which they stand, so when it shakes, it can cause deep fear. Such circumstances can lead to anticipatory anxiety, a phenomenon in which people cannot get the fear that a temblor will strike again out of their heads, causing yet more anxiety. Some people are impacted and overwhelmed more by such anticipatory anxiety than by the actual earthquakes.
Among those who live outside the directly affected areas but have experienced major earthquakes themselves, seeing news reports and photos of the latest disaster can also trigger flashbacks, sometimes causing dizziness and headaches.
The Kumamoto Earthquake, therefore, has wrought psychological pain not only on those who live near the epicenter, but also to those who live far away. How, then, can we mitigate psychological damage from the disaster?
Some say that people need professional help, but I think it's too soon for that. What's important is to first secure a place where one can be as safe and as comfortable as possible. For example, if you're in an evacuation center, try to put up a wall to create some privacy between you and your neighbors, and stretch out your legs. People living outside the disaster areas should try not to overwork, and take time for nutritious meals and comforting baths, at least for the time being.
And for now, put off thinking about why the earthquakes are happening, and try to regain a sense of normalcy by sticking to your routine when it comes to eating, sleeping and relaxing.
To protect yourself emotionally from various fears and anxieties, and to prevent the psychological effects of the disaster from becoming long-lasting, make self-care and keeping up a routine your top priority. Taking care of your body in turn helps take care of your mind and emotions.
It will take the areas that have been hard hit by the quakes a long time to rebuild. Recovery will require assistance from across the country. That's why, for now, you must all take care of yourselves first. And once the emotional and physical energy depleted by the disaster has been replenished, can you stand up again and move forward. Urging survivors still in the midst of aftershocks, "Don't give up," or "Cheer up," may be important. But I'd also like to send the message to first, rest up. There is no need to rush.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Recognizing others' kindness
香山リカのココロの万華鏡: 「かさじぞう」になろう ／東京
I am often asked which types of people are likely to experience emotional disorders. Truthfully speaking, the answer is "anyone."
While even intransigent or unkind persons are sometimes known to experience depression, it is also true that a large number of the patients who visit my office could be characterized as people who are considerate and serious.
Despite feeling unwell and suffering from illness themselves, quite a few such persons often say thoughtful things to me such as, "You are looking a little pale. Are you feeling tired?"
I suppose that this is a tendency among kind people to go out of their way to do things for others, even if this means inconveniencing themselves -- and often using up all of their energy in the process.
Sometimes I struggle when thinking about this matter, since it would seem as if kindness is somehow a demerit, while those who think exclusively of themselves end up enjoying benefits.
To be sure, people who defiantly take an attitude of "I was not the one at fault" no matter what the situation at hand, and who consistently blame others without looking at themselves, likely never end up practicing self-reproach or facing exhaustion.
Faced with the question of whether one might like to live in a society where everyone thinks only of their own well-being, however, and acts accordingly, I would wager to guess that most people would answer negatively.
Small, thoughtful actions and consideration -- such as allowing others to pass in front of you on the street, or saying you are fine when asked how you are feeling to avoid causing others worry, even though you are actually feeling tired -- seem to help preserve the tranquility of everyday society.
So what can be done to avoid thoughtful people becoming hurt, as well as to make sure that persons who are deeply considerate of others do not become tired to the point of exhaustion?
In my view, the answer seems to lie in the act of someone recognizing this type of thoughtfulness -- and then saying something like "Thank you" or "Please don't push yourself" to the person who is exercising it.
In reality, however, people these days are so occupied with their own personal issues that they simply pretend not to notice the presence of an overly considerate person -- and many of them will even go as far as to use such persons for the purposes of their own personal benefit.
There is an old Japanese fable titled the "kasa jizou" -- "straw hat bodhisattva" -- which tells the story of an elderly couple who give their last straw hat to a bodhisattva statue to protect it from the snowy cold, and are later rewarded by a visit from the statue bearing gifts of food.
Through this tale, we understand that acts of kindness end up by eventually becoming rewarded. I wonder whether a modern-day version of this scenario exists, wherein people reward others by telling them, "I see your thoughtful actions."
While I try to do my own part by acting as a "straw hat bodhisattva" in my office, it is unfortunate that the people who come to me are already exhausted and facing conditions such as depression.
It is my great hope that you, too, will become a "straw hat bodhisattva" by speaking up and letting someone know that their kindness has not gone unnoticed.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist) （精神科医）