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Ex-EU leader Juncker among 141 foreigners to be decorated in Japan

Former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during a press conference in Sibiu, Romania, on May 9, 2019. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker is among 141 foreigners recognized in this year's autumn decorations for their contributions to relations with Japan, the government said Tuesday.

    Juncker, 65, served as the head of the European Commission between 2014 and 2019, as well as prime minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013. He will be bestowed with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, the highest honor to be given in this autumn's commendations.

    The 141 recipients come from 60 countries and regions. Seven of them will be feted with the highest honor, also including Joseph Dunford, a former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Nepalese Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Padey.

    Additionally, 4,100 Japanese nationals will be recognized with one of the honors this autumn, with 1,920, or 46.8 percent, coming from the private sector. The total includes 412 women -- matching this spring's record high number since the honors system was reformed in 2003 -- or roughly 10 percent, marking the largest proportion of women honorees ever.

    Former Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, 81, and Chairman of Toyota Motor Corp. Takeshi Uchiyamada, 74, are among six Japanese nationals to be bestowed with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.

    Isao Iijima, 75, a special adviser to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, will receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star. It is unusual for an acting member of the government to be decorated.

    Actor Hiroshi Tachi, 70, and author Kenzo Kitakata, 73, will be given the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette.

    Meanwhile, actor Kiichi Nakai, 59, and manga artist Rumiko Takahashi, 63, are among 17 people to be bestowed the Medal with Purple Ribbon, reserved for notable persons in the fields of education and arts.

    Haruo Obata, 81, known as Japan's "super volunteer," will be awarded the Medal with Green Ribbon.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, speaking at a press conference on Monday, praised Obata's efforts for about 31 years to beautify the environment of regional communities, saying, "I hope societal services like these will become more widespread."

    The decorations will be bestowed at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Nov. 11, with Emperor Naruhito conferring the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, and Suga handing out the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.

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