Japan honours women's squad
© AFP

Japan on Thursday honoured its FIFA Women's World Cup™-winning footballers as people's heroes, presenting the squad with traditional Japanese cosmetic brushes.

The 21-member squad, who last month beat favourites the USA, were named recipients of the "People's Honour Award", previously won by the likes of baseball home-run king Sadaharu Oh and film director Akira Kurosawa.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan spoke at a ceremony to recognise their victory over two-time champions the USA to win Asia's first football FIFA World Cup™ title. The victory by the team, nicknamed "Nadeshiko" after a pink flower seen in Japan as a symbol of beauty, was a rare moment of brightness for the nation following the 11 March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

We want to further devote ourselves to giving people inspiration and courage.
Norio Sasaki, Japan Women's Football Coach

"You gave courage to and reinvigorated all of the people who are trying to recover from the devastation of the Great East Japan Earthquake," Kan told the ceremony.

Afterwards coach Norio Sasaki told reporters: "We want to further devote ourselves to giving people inspiration and courage."

The award, created in 1977 to honour figures who have given "bright hope" to the public, has been presented to 18 individuals in the sporting and entertainment worlds, but never before to a group. The squad were also given commemorative "Kumano fude", traditional cosmetic brushes crafted in Kumano, Hiroshima prefecture. The "Kumano" brush is a favourite among Hollywood stars and make-up artists.

"I'll unlikely be using (the brush) ahead of football games, but I would like to use it on other occasions," vice captain and midfielder Aya Miyama told reporters. The Nadeshiko upset holders and hosts Germany and swept aside Sweden on their way to a penalty shootout win over the USA in July.