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Yohei Sasakawa
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The Nippon Foundation to Help Marshall Islands Achieve “Zero Leprosy” [2019/05/16]

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With President Hilda C. Heine (April 24, 2019, Majuro)

The World Health Organization (WHO), The Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF) have agreed to fully cooperate with the government of the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) to help the Pacific island nation achieve its goal of “zero leprosy”.

“I am very impressed by President Hilda Heine’s determination to achieve zero leprosy in RMI. We are proud of being part of this ambitious campaign,” I told a joint press conference with RMI Health and Human Services Minister Kalani Kaneko in the capital Majuro on April 24 that was recorded for broadcast on national radio.

During my first visit to RMI, I held a series of meetings with President Heine, Health Minister Kaneko, Foreign and Trade Minister John Silk and other senior government officials to discuss leprosy, national security, climate change and other issues.

On leprosy, President Heine acknowledged that RMI had yet to achieve the goal of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem, with elimination defined by WHO as a reduction in prevalence to less than 1 case per 10,000 population. 

But she also said that my visit to RMI as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination gave a strong boost to the zero leprosy campaign, and promised to do whatever is needed to attain this goal.

Minister Kaneko said that for the past three years, the Health Ministry has conducted a mass leprosy and TB (tuberculosis) screening project together with WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, resulting in the detection of dozens of new leprosy cases.

He said that the screening project has so far covered 80 percent of RMI’s population of some 53,000, with remote atolls and islands still to be covered.

I asked the minister to provide us with the data on the screening campaign so that we candraw up plans, including allocation of budgetary and human resources, to achieve the zero leprosy target, working together with WHO, SHF as well as CDC, which will also be directly involved.


I told the president and Minister Kaneko thatno other country in the world has a greater potential to achieve zero leprosy than RMI, and I recommended that the government as part of its ambitious campaign encourage all households in the country to conduct skin check-ups for leprosy.


During my two-day stay in Majuro, I also met with a few persons affected by leprosy, including a lady named Monica who was recently diagnosed with the disease in the course of the mass screeningfor leprosy and TB and was now undergoing treatment. She had very early symptoms of the disease on her left leg and I assured her that if she continued to take her medication, she would becompletely cured.

At the Majuro leprosy clinic, I met a young man who suspected he might have contracted leprosy because he had symptoms similar to his mother, who once had the disease.

I noted that neither the young man nor Monica were hesitant to talk to me about leprosy. Minister Kaneko explained that traditionally, the Marshallese people greatly value family and community unity, making them more inclined to respect and help each other. This might be one of the reasons why the country sees less discrimination and stigma against those affected by leprosy, he added. If that’s the case, I thought, then diagnosing and treating leprosy in RMI becomes a little easier than in some other countries.

President Heine said she plans to visit Japan in October to attend a ceremony to publicly proclaim the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito. I told her that I look forward to seeing her in Tokyo and receiving a progress report on the zero leprosy campaign. 

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A joint press conference with Health Minister Kalani Kaneko (April 24, 2019, Majuro)

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:38 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
【Photo Diary】Visit to Imphal, Manipur State, India [2019/05/14]

I would like to share with you some of the photographs taken during my visit to Imphal, the capital of Manipur State, in northeast India on May 9.

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There was a serene atmosphere in the city of Imphal.

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I visited the India Peace Memorial directly from Imphal Airport.

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Laying a wreath of flowers at the India Peace Memorial, built by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare in 1994

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Praying at the monument to fallen Japanese soldiers who fought in the Battle of Imphal, located next to the Imphal Peace Memorial

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Visiting the Imphal Peace Museum before its opening scheduled for June 22

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The splendid museum is almost completed.

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The Imphal War Cemetery, which contains some 1,600 Commonwealth burials from World War II.

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Meeting with members of the Manipur Tourism Forum, which will operate the Imphal Peace Museum

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With Dr. Thangjam Dhabali Singh (left), president of the Manipur Tourism Forum

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:55 | PHOTO DIARY | URL | comment(0)
【Photo Diary】 Visit to Kalaupapa on Molokai, Hawaii [2019/05/07]

I would like to share with you some of the photographs taken during my visit to Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai, Hawaii, in the United States on April 25.

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The Kalaupapa leprosy settlement is located in Kalaupapa National Historical Park.

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Wild deer and pigs live in the park.

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Leprosy patients were brought by boat to the beach under the steep cliff behind me.

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Ms. Ka`ohulani McGuire, an anthropologist with the Kalaupapa National Historical Park Service, guided us to the leprosy settlement where 10 people who once had the disease still live

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In front of the tomb of Father Damien (1840-1889). Now known as St. Damien of Molokai, he devoted himself to caring for patients.

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We visited an office where artworks by past residents are stored.

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A wheelchair said to have been used by Father Damien.

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Many Japanese immigrants who were diagnosed with leprosy were sent to the Kalaupapa settlement.

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An aerial view of Kalaupapa National Historical Park. It’s only a 4-minute flight aboard a Cessna between Molokai and Kalaupapa airports.

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The Kalaupapa Peninsula is flanked by towering sea cliffs.

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Taking a nap while stretching my back at Molokai Airport.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 17:03 | PHOTO DIARY | URL | comment(0)
【Photo Diary】Visit to the Marshall Islands - 2 [2019/05/01]

I would like to share with you some of the photos taken during my visit to the Marshall Islands from April 23 to 24.

[April 24, 2019: Majuro, The Marshall Islands]

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Kids in Majuro, how lovely they are!

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With Foreign and Trade Minister John M. Silk, discussing leprosy, national security, climate change and other issues

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President Hilda C. Heine told me she aims at achieving a “zero-leprosy country” by redoubling efforts to discover new cases.

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Ms. Monica (center) is under MDT treatment overseen by a nurse

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Speaking at a lunch hosted by Japanese Ambassador Norio Saito

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With the Ministers who joined the lunch

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Meeting with Health and Human Services Minister Kalani Kaneko

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This man visited a clinic for treatment of the side-effects of leprosy medication.

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Attending a press conference with Health and Human Services Minister Kalani Kaneko

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I stressed the need for early discovery and early treatment of leprosy, calling for all the people of the Marshall Islands to have skin checks at home

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 17:00 | PHOTO DIARY | URL | comment(0)
【Photo Diary】Visit to the Marshall Islands - 1 [2019/04/30]

I would like to share with you some of the photos taken during my visit to the Marshall Islands from April 23 to 24.

[April 23, 2019: Majuro, The Marshall Islands]

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Arrived in Majuro, the capital of the Republic of Marshall Islands near the equator in the Pacific Ocean

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At the airport, I was greeted by Health and Human Services Minister Kalani Kaneko and Japanese Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Norio Saito

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Laid a wreath of flowers at the Monument for the Pacific War fallen soldiers in the Majuro Peace Park

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The monument was said to be designed by Japanese

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With U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands Karen B. Stewart

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The Majuro Atoll is made up of some 50 islets which is said to resemble strings of pearls

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President Hilda C. Heine gave me a gift of a traditional handcrafted wine bottle case during a dinner she hosted for me

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The dinner was joined by many Cabinet Ministers

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 17:00 | PHOTO DIARY | URL | comment(0)
Imphal Peace Museum to Open on June 22 in Northeast India [2019/04/26]

The Imphal Peace Museum scheduled to open on June 22 at the foot of “Red Hill”

The Nippon Foundation is supporting a project to build the Imphal Peace Museum in northeast India to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal between the Japanese army and Allied forces.

Under the project launched by the Manipur Tourism Forum, the museum is scheduled to open on June 22 in Imphal, the capital of Manipur state on the border with Myanmar, with a theme of “Peace and Reconciliation.”

The Battle of Imphal is often regarded as one of the fiercest battles of World War II. The Imphal Peace Museum is designed to pass on this history to future generations.

On behalf of the museum, The Nippon Foundation is now seeking donations of photographs, letters, notes, documents and other items relating to those who fought in the Battle of Imphal to exhibit and store there.

We are also asking for monetary contributions to the Special Fund for the Imphal Peace Museum, which will be used to train curators and build additional storage facilities at the museum to be operated by the Manipur Tourism Forum.

In the Battle of Imphal that lasted from March until July 1944, Japanese troops crossed steep mountains from Burma (now Myanmar) and attempted to capture Imphal, an important Allied logistic base controlled by the British, with the aim of disrupting the vital supply route for the Nationalist Chinese under Chiang Kai-shek in Chongqing.

But the Japanese suffered a disastrous defeat after they failed to ensure sufficient reinforcements and supplies. Out of the 90,000 Japanese troops massed for the Battle of Imphal, more than 30,000 were killed−not just in the fierce fighting but also as a result of starvation, disease and exhaustion suffered during their retreat after the operation was called off. An additional 40,000 Japanese were wounded.

After the war, due to a local armed struggle for independence from India, the area has long been out of bounds to foreigners without a special permit.

But in recent years, there came a growing call from the local community in Imphal for passing on the story of the cruel war to the next generation.

In 1994, the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare built the “India Peace Memorial” at the foot of “Red Hill” where many Japanese solders succumbed some 20 kilometers southwest of the center of Imphal.

The peace museum is located 100 meters east of that monument and work on the octagonal building, featuring exhibition spaces, a central hall and more, has almost been completed.

The museum plans to exhibit artillery shells and other items collected by local volunteers. But there are currently very few items from the Japanese side. Given the advancing age of the bereaved family members of former Japanese soldiers, there is a sense of urgency to the task of acquiring such items.

Through the foundation’s efforts, I strongly hope that there will be as many notes, letters, photographs and other items as possible donated from Japan in order to convey the lives of Japanese soldiers involved in the Battle of Imphal.

For details regarding donations, please refer to The Nippon Foundation’s website.


Prime Minister Shinzo Ave wrote “Heiwa” or “peace” on this New Year’s calligraphy for the Imphal Peace Museum
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:30 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)
Congratulations to 11 Nikkei Scholarship Graduates from Latin America [2019/04/22]

I so enjoyed meeting the 11 young Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry who recently graduated from universities and graduate schools in Japan after studying under The Nippon Foundation’s Nikkei Scholarship program.

The foundation established the program in 2003 to provide scholarships to young male and female Nikkei from Central and South America who want to study in the land of their ancestors.

At our meeting on April 17, the newly-mintedgrads, most of them second-, third- or fourth-generation Nikkei, told me about their experiences as they studied for their degrees and worked to master the Japanese language while living in Japan for between two-and-a-half to five years.

The 11 graduates are from 5 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay. They brought the total number of Nikkei Scholarship alumni to about 80, with over 30 more currently studying in Japan under the program.

They form part of a close network of current and past scholarship recipients that includes six newcomers who have just arrived. I hope to see them become leaders for the next generation, working for the development of their respective countries and building new bridges between Japan and Latin America.

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Joined by the 11 happy Nikkei Scholarship graduates from Latin America

(April 17, 2019, Tokyo)

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:02 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)
【Photo Diary】Sylff Leaders Workshop in Beppu, Oita [2019/04/18]

I would like to share some of the photos taken when I visited Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, to attend the closing session of the Spring Session of the Sylff Leaders Workshop 2018-2019 on April 11. Sylff stands for the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund.

Meeting with APU President Haruaki Deguchi (left)

Group photo with the 20 Sylff fellows from around the world


Engaging in lively exchanges on Myanmar and other issues

with the Sylff fellows over lunch


Addressing the closing session of the Sylff Leaders Workshop


“Now is the time when the world needs you the most,” I told them.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 17:00 | PHOTO DIARY | URL | comment(0)
Sylff Leaders Workshop Held in Oita with 20 Fellows from All Over the World [2019/04/15]

Group photo with the 20 Sylff fellows from around the world

(April 11, 2019, Beppu, Oita)

I had a really good time on April 11 talking with the participants in the Spring Session of the Sylff Leaders Workshop 2018-2019 that was taking place at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) in the spa resort of Beppu, Oita Prefecture, in western Japan.

The week-long workshop brought together 20 Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff) scholarship graduates from all over the world under the theme of “The Future of Food Production 2030−What Will Our Children Be Eating? And How Do We Want to Produce It?” The Oita meeting followed a similar session held in Sasayama, Hyogo Prefecture, last fall involving the same 20 alumni.

Talking with the participating fellows, it was gratifying to know that the workshop has become another driving force to strengthen the Sylff network−a diverse group transcending nationality, language, ethnicity, religion and political system.

I was particularly delighted when I heard one of the participants say he was
“really inspired by interacting with the 19 other fellows” during the workshop.

I sincerely hope that they will continue to interact and work together even after the session, and broaden the scope of this working network to include other members of the Sylff family as we grapple with critical challenges the world is facing, such as ocean issues, poverty alleviation and food security that the workshop took up in Oita.

The Nippon Foundation launched the Sylff scholarship program in 1987 to nurture dedicated young leaders who could boldly take on global challenges and devise workable solutions. In the 32 years since then, 16,000 people at 69 universities in 44 countries have received fellowships from the fund.

The workshop was organized by the Sylff Association, which comprises all current and graduated fellows, the 69 Sylff institutions, The Nippon Foundation and its partner organization the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research.

Ritsumeikan APU is one of the three Japanese universities affiliated with the Sylff along with Keio University and Waseda University. I am truly grateful to President Haruaki Deguchi and APU for hosting this successful event.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 17:16 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)
Meeting with Myanmar’s Border Affairs Minister [2019/04/10]

At my recent meeting with Myanmar’s Union Minister for Border Affairs Lieutenant-General Ye Aung in Tokyo, I stressed the importance of effectively developing human resources in his country’s border areas to improve the lives of ethnic minorities living there, which would in turn help support the peace process. 

I also told him I was hopeful that the Minister would take a good look at educational and vocational training facilities while in Japan so that Myanmar could upgrade such facilities for youths from ethnic minorities in the border areas.

I was meeting the Minister in my capacity as the Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and the Japanese Government’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Welfare of the National Races in Myanmar.

Union Minister Ye Aung visited Japan from March 29 to April 2 at the invitation of The Nippon Foundation. After our meeting, he also visited the National Institute of Technology, Nagaoka College, and International University of Japan (IUJ) both in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast as well as Kyoto and Nara in western Japan.


Meeting with Lt-Gen. Ye Aung, Myanmar’s Minister for Border Affairs

(March 29, 2019, Tokyo)

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:11 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
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