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Ping pong diplomacy endures

I have the honor to be appointed as image ambassador in Japan for the World Expo 2010 Shanghai China. When I accepted the letter of appointment and held the mascot Haibao in my arms, I felt as jubilant as a sakura flower blossoming in springtime.

Expo Aichi hosted by Japan some years ago is still fresh in my memory and World Expo 2010 Shanghai China is drawing near to my great expectations. Through participation in some of the events recently staged in Japan to promote the Expo, I have a better understanding of it. I am also pleased to see the great interest shown by my compatriots. The full preparations Shanghai has made for the coming World Expo leave no doubt that this beautiful coastal city will present the world an event of unprecedented vigor and glamor.

Among all the Chinese cities with distinctive characteristics, Shanghai is one of my favorites. It is the first Chinese city I ever visited and I have returned several times to take part in tournaments or training programs. I am particularly fond of its local snacks, because all of them - be it a fried bun, a steamed cake or a rice cake with braised spareribs - are so delicate in preparation and so delicious in taste.

I can never resist the temptation of those small steamed dumplings, which I can eat 15 at a time! It was also in this city that I learned how to eat Shanghai hairy crabs. I also like the local people who, regardless of gender or age, are all so gentle, so good-natured, so modest, so polite, and so naturally close and dear.

I can even speak a little Shanghainese. In 2007, I visited a primary school in Shanghai during an exchange program. I was extremely flattered when they greeted me with such genuine love. Every time I think of that visit, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of warmth.

I am deeply attached to China and once said that I am a half Chinese. In my childhood, a Chinese mentor taught me how to play table tennis. I traveled across the ocean to China to take part in competitions and training programs when I was still a child. China has been a world leader in table tennis and I admire and respect many of its table tennis players, including Deng Yaping, a great athlete who has retired but is still working unremittingly for the sports cause of her country.

I am now 21, still playing table tennis and sustain my long held dream to match the skills of Chinese players. I also hope that I can soon surpass those of my role models. Table tennis has been a support and companion to me as I grew up, and almost every cherished memory about table tennis involves a Chinese coach or player. I will return the favor from my second hometown by improving my game.

Thanks to the trust and love of both the Chinese people and the Japanese people, I have had the chance to witness the cementing of friendship between the two nations. In 2007, I was appointed the image ambassador of sports for the Year of Sino-Japanese Exchange in Culture and Sports.

In 2008, I was the torch bearer for the Nagano leg of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games torch race and the flag bearer for the Japanese national team at the opening ceremony. Now I am the Japanese image ambassador for promotion of World Expo 2010 Shanghai China, I will shoulder my responsibilities proudly to present World Expo so that everyone can see China's progress in recent years.

I cannot wait to visit the Expo Park, where I can admire the China Pavilion known as the "Crown of the East" and the Japan Pavilion known as the "Purple Silkworm," and where I expect to experience the wisdom of China, Japan and other countries in social, economic, cultural and technological fields.

As an active athlete, I particularly hope that I can establish a bridge of friendly communication and exchange with the help of the tiny ping pong ball. Table tennis is so popular among both Chinese and Japanese people. I also wish to be an emissary for friendship between the two nations. It has been, and will remain, a great honor for me to contribute my bit to the development of Sino-Japanese friendship.


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