Winery Employing Workers with Disabilities Opens in Iwate Prefecture [2019/10/17]
Hoping to make Hanamaki a major Japanese wine-producing area!
I visited Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, in northeastern Japan recently to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of a winery that plans to employ forty persons with disabilities with the support of The Nippon Foundation.
Under the foundation’s “Hataraku NIPPON Project” designed to help create more employment for persons with disabilities, the workers will be engaged in the whole process of wine making, from the cultivation of grapes and fermentation to bottling, labeling and marketing. Under the project, they aim at raising their monthly wage to 30,000 yen, or twice as much as the national average for workers with disabilities, by the end of March 2021.
The winery is called Art Paysan Winery, a combination of two French words, “art” and “paysan,” indicating their determination to pursue wine making to the level of art.
In addition to wine, they will start producing apple cider with sales set to begin in a shop in the winery in February next year.
In the vineyard, a total of 2,200 grape seedlings are being planted in 2018-19 with wine production scheduled to start in 2022.
It is my sincere hope that their wine will sell well, helping expand the employment opportunities and raise the incomes of persons with disabilities, while turning Hanamaki into a major Japanese wine-producing area and revitalizing the economy of Japan’s Tohoku (northeastern) region.
While in Hanamaki on October 4, I also enjoyed touring the winery and wine tasting, and went to the vineyards to work with the staff members of Art Paysan Winery to plant seedlings of Chardonnay, a white grape variety.
They will start producing outstanding wine in 2022!
Working with the staff members of Art Paysan Winery to plant seedlings of Chardonnay, a white grape variety.
Japan Tells Myanmar’s Military Chief It Supports Peace Process [2019/10/16]
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, visited Japan from October 8 to 13 at the invitation of the Japanese Defense Ministry.
As Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, I was sitting in on most of the meetings the senior general held separately with top Japanese officials while in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Defense Minister Taro Kono and General Koji Yamasaki, Chief of Staff, Joint Staff of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.
At their meetings, Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Motegi each stated: “The Government of Japan will continue to provide full-fledged support for Myanmar’s democratic nation-building, and, together with Special Envoy Sasakawa, will provide maximum support for the peace process.”
Regarding the alleged human rights violations in Rakhine State from where hundreds of thousands of people have fled into neighboring Bangladesh, the Japanese leaders said “it is necessary that the Myanmar government and military promptly take appropriate measures based on the recommendations of the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICoE).”
In response, Commander-in-Chief Hlaing expressed appreciation for the assistance of Japan and stated, “We are cooperating with Special Envoy Sasakawa to achieve peace and resolve the issue of internal displaced people. We desire to accomplish eternal peace.”
“We are fully cooperating with the investigation by the ICoE and will take measures regarding those responsible for human rights violations according to the law if such violations were to be revealed” in Rakhine State, the senior general added.
In my capacity as Special Envoy for National Reconciliation in Myanmar, I welcomed the two days of frank exchanges between the Japanese leaders and Myanmar’s top military officer.
To achieve comprehensive peace in a country like Myanmar, it is crucial to establish mutual understanding with and among the government, the military and the armed ethnic minority groups, who have been feuding for the past seven decades.
Since the 1970s, The Nippon Foundation has provided support to Myanmar, whether under the military regime or later the civilian government, ranging from the fight against leprosy, food and humanitarian assistance, construction of houses and schools, agricultural aid and vocational training, including those for the conflict-stricken people in ethnic minority regions.
I have visited Myanmar 99 times during the past seven years since I assumed the post of Special Envoy for National Reconciliation, arranging face-to-face meetings with all the stakeholders to gain their understanding and confidence.
Through The Nippon Foundation’s years of experience in Myanmar, I believe I have earned some degree of trust from the government, the military and the ethnic armed groups.
So far, 10 out of some 15 ethnic armed groups have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government of Myanmar.
I am determined to persist in my efforts to achieve a ceasefire with the rest of the armed ethnic groups, which will be a major step forward in the complicated peace process.
I Welcome Prosthetic & Orthotic Professionals to Their World Meet in Kobe [2019/10/10]
Addressing the opening session of the 17th World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) in Kobe on October 5, 2019.
My speech is available HERE
I went to Kobe last weekend to attend the 17th World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO). The four-day meeting, starting on October 5, brought together an estimated 5,000 professionals from some 90 countries primarily involved in the care of persons in need of prosthetic, orthotic, mobility, and assistive devices.
In my address to the opening session of ISPO’s first biennial meeting held in this country in 30 years, I said it was timely indeed that the congress was taking place in Japan, given that there is just a year to go until the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
“I am confident that the incredible performances of the Paralympians who are using Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O) would move the hearts of all in astonishment and amazement,” I said, adding: “This will be a wonderful and empowering moment to unlock the unlimited potential of people with disabilities. It is every single one of you here, who are supporting all these Paralympians.”
The Nippon Foundation has supported persons with disabilities for more than 50 years. From the early 1990s, our efforts focused on Southeast Asia, where many people have lost limbs after coming into contact with landmines used in internal conflicts.
Recognizing a strong need to educate P&O professionals locally, The Nippon Foundation supported the establishment of schools in six countries−Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar.
In total, we have provided P&Os to over 500,000 people with our donations exceeding US$60 million.
I promised the audience in Kobe that The Nippon Foundation will continue supporting people with disabilities to be fully integrated into society.
While in the western Japanese port city, I also talked with Professor Friedbert Kohler, president of ISPO, and other dignitaries as well as representatives of the schools set up to educate P&O professionals that The Nippon Foundation supported in the six Southeast Asian countries. In addition, I inspected the state-of-the-art P&O devices on display at the conference hall.
An estimated 5,000 delegates from all over the world gathered for the congress, the first time it had been held in Japan for 30 years.
With Professor Friedbert Kohler, president of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO), in Kobe on October 5, 2019.
With representatives of schools to educate P&O professionals, which The Nippon Foundation supported in six Southeast Asian countries, in Kobe on October 5, 2019.
How About a Reunion of SMAP for 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games? [2019/10/07]
In a previous blog on August 14, I suggested that Japanese television stations invite three former members of the iconic boy band SMAP back on their shows so that they can fully engage in activities to promote the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
The three ex-SMAP members − Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori − left the powerful talent agency Johnny and Associates Inc. in September 2017 following the band’s breakup in December 2016. They have been noticeably absent from television since, for reasons I alluded to in my earlier post.
As The Nippon Foundation has been a long-time supporter of persons with disabilities, the sole intention of my suggestion was to help ensure that the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics is a great success.
The Nippon Foundation’s support for the Paralympics was not initiated in haste following the decision to award the 2020 Games to Tokyo. One of the main missions of the foundation for over half a century has been to work for an inclusive society in which people with disabilities can actively participate without discrimination. Through the 2020 Paralympics, we just want to send a clear message from Tokyo to the rest of the world how spirited and vibrant disabled athletes are.
The Japanese version of my previous blog drew a wide variety of opinions, both pro and con, but not a single person was against holding the Tokyo Paralympics.
Taking my suggestion a step further, may I humbly request that all five former SMAP members−the above-mentioned trio plus Masahiro Nakai and Takuya Kimura−set aside any differences they may have and reunite to perform for a limited period of time until the end of the Tokyo Paralympic Games next year?
The five SMAP members had been enthusiastic supporters of The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center, which we opened in May 2015 to support para-sports leagues and help para-athletes prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Even after SMAP disbanded, three of the five − Inagaki, Kusanagi and Katori − continued to support the center. That is why the International Paralympic Committee appointed them as its special ambassadors in July 2018.
If the ex-SMAP members together with Arashi − another popular band whose members have announced they are going their separate ways at the end of 2020 − and other entertainers and TV stations can team up for the success of the Paralympics, I believe the games will be a great success. That is my dream.
My earlier blog from August 14 can be seen HERE.
A Textbook to Address the Crisis Facing Our Oceans [2019/10/03]
Speaking at the Nippon Foundation Nereus Ocean Science Conference on September 15, 2019
I visited Princeton University in the United States in September to attend the final Nippon Foundation Nereus Ocean Science Conference and celebrate the publication of Predicting Future Oceans: Sustainability of Ocean and Human Systems Amidst Global Environmental Change.
The Nippon Foundation began the Nereus Program in 2011 together with the University of British Columbia, Princeton University and three other institutions to undertake an unprecedented initiative to predict the future of the oceans. It was expanded in 2014 and again in 2017 with the addition of 11 institutions, including Harvard University, bringing the total number of collaborative partners to 17.
The Nereus Program has been the world’s frontrunner in investigative scientific research into the marine environment and issued countless warnings to the world regarding the state of our oceans based on scientific evidence. Its work has been featured in some 300 publications, including Nature and Science, the program has been the subject of media coverage from around the world, and its researchers have made presentations at the United Nations and at other international meetings.
In my keynote address at the conference on September 15, I expressed my deepest gratitude to the 23 principal investigators, 46 research fellows and countless collaborators for completing this massive eight-year program. Embodying their achievements is this outstanding new book.
I sincerely hope that Predicting Future Oceans will serve as a textbook for ocean advocates around the world, and a powerful tool to explain the scientific evidence behind the crisis facing our oceans. It provides a synthesis of our knowledge on the future state of the oceans, includes recommendations on how to move forward, and highlights key social aspects linked to ocean ecosystems, including health, equity and sovereignty.
The survival of humankind depends greatly on the actions we take in response to the predictions made about the future of our oceans.
While Nereus Program may have come to an end, I told the audience that I valued “the global network that was built during this program, of experts with brilliant minds and a strong will to dedicate their passion and energy towards the oceans,” adding: “As the next step forward, we will continue to support the human network that was cultivated from the Nereus Program, and we will embark on a new interdisciplinary global initiative.” After my speech in Princeton, I also participated in a special panel session on the future state of oceans with Nereus alumni.
A group photo with the Nippon Foundation Nereus Program fellows and professors at the Princeton University.
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The Nippon Foundation Team Congratulated by Prime Minister Abe on Winning World Deep-sea Technology Competition [2019/09/27]
A group photo of the GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team, winner of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, taken at The Nippon Foundation on September 19, 2019.
I accompanied the GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team to pay a courtesy call on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his official residence on September 18 to report on the team’s winning of the international competition in deep-sea exploration technology, called the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.
As I introduced each member of the group to the Japanese leader, Mr. Abe congratulated us on winning the $4 million award.
Mr. Abe said he had wanted to go to the seafloor eversince he read as a child Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. It is crucial to explore the topography of the seabed if we are to make the most effective use of marine resources, the prime minister said, expressing his hope that we will make tangible progress to achieve our final goal of mapping the entirety of the world’s ocean floor by 2030.
The team, made up of 15 international graduates from 13 countries of The Nippon Foundation/GEBCO Postgraduate Training Program at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), spoke with Prime Minister Abe about the technology that they developed and how their model of international scientific cooperation can help to map the gaps that still remain in our understanding of the ocean floor.
They demonstrated their winning concept to Mr. Abe with scale replicas of the vessels that they used, as well as 3D visualizations of the data that they collected during the competition, and gave him a copy of the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) 2019 – the most recent version of the map of the world’s seabed.
Also joining us at our meeting with the prime minister was Team KUROSHIO, a Japanese team that placed second in the competition.
It is my sincere hope that the meeting will further strengthen the cooperation between the ocean mappers involved with GEBCO, scientists from Team KUROSHIO and Japanese officials as global efforts continue to map the ocean floor.
As Prime Minister Abe noted, understanding the bathymetry of the world’s oceans is imperative for improving maritime navigation, and also for enhancing our ability to predict climate change and monitor marine biodiversity and resources. A comprehensive map of the seafloor will assist global efforts to combat pollution, aid marine conservation, forecast tsunami, and better understand tides, wave action and sediment transport.
Working with all the stakeholders of the international ocean community, we are determined to do everything we can to achieve the goal of mapping the entire seabed by the end of the next decade.
I asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to feel the weight (12 kilograms!)
of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE trophy during our meeting on September 18, 2019.
With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (center) athis official residence in Tokyo on September 18, 2019.
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Let’s Unite for “Zero Leprosy” [2019/09/25]
Group photo with participants of the Global Forum of People’s Organizations on Hansen’s Disease, in Manila, on September 9, 2019.
During my recent visit to Manila to attend key international conferences on leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, I called on participants, including academics, medical stakeholders and those affected by the disease, to unite toward the goal of “Zero Leprosy,” a historical challenge for humankind.
I first spoke at the Global Forum of People’s Organizations on Hansen’s Disease on September 9 and then at the 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC) on September 11 in my capacity as Chairman of The Nippon Foundation and World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination.
The Global Forum, organized by The Nippon Foundation (TNF) and its sister organization, the Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF), brought together some 60 representatives of organizations of persons affected by leprosy from 23 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In my remarks, I enthusiastically welcomed their participation in the forum, thanked them for sharing their experience of the disease, and underlined the important role they can play in tackling stigma and discrimination.
I called on them to urge their governments to fully implement the UN General Assembly resolution and accompanying principle and guidelines unanimously adopted in 2010 on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. From the time TNF and SHF started to raise the leprosy issue as a human rights problem at the UN, it took seven hard years of lobbying and the efforts of many stakeholders before the resolution was adopted.
The delegates to the Global Forum then attended the subsequent ILC, hosted by the Philippine Department of Health, where a person affected by leprosy from the Philippines presented the forum’s conclusions and recommendations based on the preceding four days of discussions.
In my address to the ILC, I shared my experiences over the last 40 years, during which I have devoted myself to the struggle to eliminate leprosy and its associated stigma and discrimination from the world, visiting 120 countries and regions. And meeting with 150 national leaders and countless numbers of those affected by leprosy.
Noting the contribution to date of many individuals and organizations that have worked hard for the elimination of leprosy, I heartily welcomed the formation last year of a new coalition of stakeholders, the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy. I believe that this collaboration will greatly enhance our work toward achieving “Zero Leprosy.”
Taking this into account, I expressed my opposition to leprosy being considered as one of “the Neglected Tropical Diseases.” “Leprosy has never been neglected even for a moment by both persons affected and by people who have worked hard for their betterment. In my opinion, this medical terminology feels like it is looking down on the patients and also shows lack of respect towards those who are still fighting against leprosy today.”
Leprosy is an ongoing issue and there is still much work to be done. To medical stakeholders who attended the congress, I requested that they continue working on discovering the causes of transmission of leprosy, developing a vaccine, and creating prosthetics and orthotics for those with impairments. I also noted that with globalization and migration, there are new cases, even in countries that used to see few cases. “However, the number of leprosy medical specialists is decreasing rapidly worldwide.”
During my stay in Manila, I also had the extraordinary honor to be conferred the prestigious degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa, by Father Jose Ramon T. Villarin, S.J., President of the Ateneo de Manila University of the Philippines, for my life’s work against leprosy.
“I receive this degree together with all those who have worked with me. Now, I am encouraged to take even further action in my remaining years,” I said at the 2019 Traditional University Awards of the Ateneo de Manila University.
Speaking at the 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC) in Manila, on September 11, 2019.
Receiving the degree Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa, from Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, S.J., President of Ateneo de Manila University,in Manila on September 10, 2019.
We Warmly Welcome Senior Military Officers from Myanmar on Japan Visit [2019/09/20]
Speaking at the reception to welcome senior military officers from Myanmar at Hotel New Otani in Tokyo on August 23, 2019.
We wholeheartedly welcomed 10 senior military officers from Myanmar who visited Japan from August 23 to September 3 as part of The Nippon Foundation’s Japan-Myanmar Military Officers Exchange Program.
At a reception held at Hotel New Otani in Tokyo on August 23, I told some 60 attendants from both countries that The Nippon Foundation has been engaged in mediating between the Myanmar government and armed ethnic minority groups, who have been feuding for the past seven decades.
I said that the foundation has so far arranged a total of 95 meetings with the Myanmar military and other stakeholders, expressing my hope that these efforts will be a positive step toward eventually achieving national reconciliation.
In response, the head of the Myanmar delegation, Lieutenant General Than Tun Oo, commander of No. 6 Bureau of Special Operations, Myanmar Defence Services, expressed his country’s gratitude for the foundation’s wholeheartedpeace efforts, adding that delegation members will make the best use of what they learn from the visit.
I was speaking in my capacity as the chairman of The Nippon Foundation and the special envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar.
Earlier in that day, the Myanmar delegation paid a courtesy call on then Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, who was later succeeded by Taro Kono, former foreign minister, in the Cabinet reshuffle on September 11.
This was the sixth group of senior military officers from Myanmar to visit Japan under theprogram that The Nippon Foundation launched in 2014 in cooperation with the Japanese Defense Ministry. The aim is to promote mutual trust between the Japan Self-Defense Forces and Myanmar’s military and familiarize the latter with the role of the military under a civilian government.
During the 12-day visit, the delegation traveled to Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, to observe the Fuji Firepower Review 2019 at the East Fuji Maneuver Area and tour the Air SDF’s Hamamatsu Air Base and to Hiroshima Prefecture, western Japan, to tour the Ground SDF’s Camp Kaitaichi and the Maritime SDF’S Kure and Etajima naval bases.
They also made a trip to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and had free time to interact with Japanese society during their stay.
I might add that the senior Myanmar officers took theopportunity to visit a monument in Hamamatsu commemorating Japan-Myanmar relations. This is where the young Aung San, father of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, lived in exile in 1940 in his twenties before he became the founding father of modern-day Myanmar. I believe the visit symbolized the decades of friendship and mutual trust between the peoples of our two countries.
Group photo with the Myanmar military delegation in Tokyo on August 23, 2019
I Joined TICAD7 With PM Abe, More Than 40 African Leaders – 2 Sasakawa Africa Association to Help Double Rice Production By 2030 [2019/09/18]
The above photograph was taken during the SAA official side event and carried by The Japan Times on the front page of its September 29 edition, although the accompanying story was not about the SAA event itself.
To the left of Prime Minister Abe is AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina and to his right are SAA Chairperson Ruth K. Oniang’o and myself.
The Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) was established by my late father Ryoichi Sasakawa, the founder and the first chairman of The Nippon Foundation, together with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug in response to the devastating famine in Ethiopia in 1984. Their bottom line was to “teach people in Africa how to fish rather than give them fish.”
I accompanied the trio in 1985 on their six-day whirlwind trip to the Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Ghana. We met with their presidents individually and agreed to launch a project to train people how to increase food production.
It was soon after the United States launched a failed attempt to assassinate Colonel Muammar Gaddafi[ of Libya in April 1986 in a pinpoint bombing raid. Ever since, the SAA has been one of the organizations in the world to continue to be engaged in agricultural training for three decades in Africa.
I participated in an opening plenary session of TICAD7, an official side event organized by the SAA and a dinner hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on August 28, and energetically held talks with the following African leaders on the next two days:
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
President Yoweri Museveni, Republic of Uganda
President Azali Assoumani, Union of the Comoros
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Republic of Ghana
Mr. Ibrahim Salim Bagus, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism of Republic of Malawi
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Republic of Mali
President Julius Maada Bio, Republic of Sierra Leone
President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, Burkina Faso
Mr. Adriano Afonso Maleiane, Minister of Economy and Finance of the Republic of Mozambique
Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former President of the Republic of Mozambique
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB)
The TICAD7 official side event hosted by the SAA was marked by lively discussion under the theme of “Sasakawa in Africa – Building on the past, looking to the future.” I sincerely thanked Prime Minister Abe and President Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank (AfDB) for giving keynote speeches at this symposium.
In his address, Prime Minister Abe announced Japan’s intent to help double Africa’s rice production to 56 million tons by the year 2030. “Japanese technology can play a key role in innovation, which is a key to agriculture,” he told the delegates.
The prime minister added that he was pleased the SAA signed a memorandum with the governmental Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) earlier in the day to cooperate to achieve this goal.
“We’ve always believed in the agriculture potential of Africa,” I responded, adding: “We are paying more attention to income-generating activities. We want to help shift the mindset of smallholder farmers from producing-to-eat to producing-to-sell. We are hopeful that Africa’s youth can take agriculture to a new era, and that they can see a career path in agriculture.”
On the gravity of the food crisis on the continent, I totally agreed with President Akinwumi Adesina of the African Development Bank when he said in his keynote address: “In spite of all the gains made in agriculture, we are not winning the global war against hunger. We must all arise collectively and end global hunger. To do that, we must end hunger in Africa. Hunger diminishes our humanity.”
According to the 2019 report of U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the number of hungry people globally stood at a disconcerting 821 million, of which Africa accounts for 31 percent at 251 million people.
Recalling my later father for his tireless efforts in tackling hunger, Mr. Adesina said of the SAA: “Passion, dedication and commitment to the development of agriculture and the pursuit of food security in our world has been the hallmark of your work.”
My speech at the TICAD7 Official Side Event in Yokohama on August 28, 2019, can been seen HERE.
【Photo Diary】Visit to the Philippines – 3 [2019/09/16]
I would like to share with you some of the photographs taken during my visit to the Philippines from September 8 to 11, 2019.[September 11, 2019: Manila] Speaking at a 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC)
This congress is very unique because it is open not only for doctors and health personnel, but also for many other stakeholders including NGOs and persons affected by leprosy.
"Let us unite towards “Zero Leprosy,” a historical challenge for all humankind!"
My speech is available HERE
Receiving a letter of appreciation from Dr. Roch Christian Johnson, President of the International Leprosy Association
With other plenary speakers