The People’s Honor Award is presented by the Prime Minster to those who are widely admired by the Japanese people for outstanding achievements that have inspired society at large. Mostly it has been awarded to athletes for setting impressive records or to entertainers for making an outstanding contribution over a long period. The government planned to offer baseball player Ichiro the award at his retirement in March, but he turned down the offer. This was the third time he had declined. The first time was in 2001 when he joined the major league (in the USA) after becoming the batting champion in Japanese baseball for seven straight years in a row. He became the batting champion in his first year in the major league and though he was named MVP (most valuable player), he declined the honor saying it was too early for him to receive it. The second time was in 2004 when he set a new record for the greatest number of hits in a single major league season totaling 262. He declined the award again for the same reason. After that he set many new records, including having more than 200 hits for ten seasons straight and the world’s all-time greatest hit record with 4,367 hits, including those he made in Japan. The third time he declined, he said, “I will make every effort to receive it at the end of my career.” This could be interpreted as meaning that he intends to continue to challenge himself in different ways after retirement. You might say that the sight of Ichiro declining the People’s Award while continuing to push himself during his lifetime is even more inspiring to most people.
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