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Visit to the Leprosy Island in Palau [2011年05月28日(Sat)]

The Leprosy Island in Palau


Visit to the Leprosy Island in Palau


WHO Goodwill Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy
Yohei Sasakawa


“The “Raibyo Shima” is a little ways from here”, I was told when I visited Koror, the capital and the largest city in the archipelago of the Republic of Palau in Micronesia, on November 11, 2010.

Raibyo-shima? I thought this was a name in Palauan, but after thinking for a while I realized that it was Japanese meaning leprosy island, or Raibyo-shima.* I was puzzled as to how it came to be called the Raibyo-shima, what is the history behind this island, what is it like today….many things ran through my mind simultaneously. The purpose of my visit to Palau was to attend a government and non-government international conference for strengthening maritime surveillance capacity in the Micronesia region, but it also turned out, accidentally, to be a historical trip of tracing the very precious history of leprosy.

Palau is a republic surrounded by beautiful ocean and coral reef, an archipelago composed of many islands with a population of approximately 20,000 people. It gained its independence in 1994, having been ruled by Spain, Germany, Japan and the United States. Apparently there are about 1000 Palauan words that are exactly the same as Japanese, as remnants of the Japanese rule of the past. For example, toilet is benjo, baseball is yakyu, both are Japanese words.

My stay this time was a brief one day. I was told that this was the rainy season but I was blessed with beautiful weather on this day and the deep blue sea was shining so beautifully under the sun. 11AM. I started out for the Belau National Hospital built on the coast, in a spare moment of the conference, to visit leprosy patients. The number of registered patients in the Republic of Palau was 2 patients in 2009 and 4 in 2010 totaling to 6 patients.

Arriving at the hospital I was met by the 6 patients and their family members who were waiting for me under a little resting place roofed with coconut leaves. As I shook hands to greet everyone I met a young girl. She was 17 years-old and told me that her name is Shostie. Discovering that she had no sensation on a patch of her leg, her mother took her to hospital. I was once again puzzled; why on an island with only 6 patients must there be a young patient like her? I could not help feeling the mystery of the yet undiscovered transmission route of this disease.

At the same time I learned that health administration was functioning perfectly here on this island so that the 6 patients were receiving medication from the early stages of the disease. As a result there was no deformity caused by late treatment and all the patient are cured. Ms. Connie, a nurse to whom I spoke told me that she visits each household, together with the nurse in charge of tuberculosis, to make sure that the patients are continuing with their treatment. I felt reassured when she also told me that the multidrug therapy (MDT) from the World Health Organization (WHO) was delivered in ample supply. It was then that I was told of the following story: that one of the patients, Ella’s relative, was forced to be isolated and confined to this island under the isolation policy during the days of the Japanese rule and that once isolated there was a certain degree of discrimination from the society.

Leaving Belau Hospital I hurried to a small boat that was waiting to take me to the Raibyo-shima. After a while I could see the small island becoming visible even with naked eye from the boat. It was a distance of a mere 1 mile (1.5 kilometers). My eyes were fixed on the approaching island while my mind was full of anxiety and expectation as I pondered at the possibility of landing on the island. When the boat arrived at the small island, we could not land as it was in the shallows and could not go into the inlet. But I just could not give up the idea of going on to the island, so I got off the boat and with my shoes on I walked right into the inlet and waded for about 10 meters to the island. I was solely intent on finding something, anything that had to do with leprosy that I could confirm with my own eyes. I soon found in the overgrown bushes a set of dilapidated wooden steps and started to go up these steps cautiously making sure that the steps would not give way. My heart ached as I thought of the leprosy patients who must have climbed up these steps as they were brought to this island to live in isolation.

After going up about 10 steps or so, the grass and bushes were so deep that I could not see the steps any longer and found myself walking up a basically non-existent path. Arriving at the top I came right into a jungle. I walked around trying to find some traces of leprosy, avoiding the branches, entwined ivies, and spider webs. But my search was in vain. Since time was so limited, with great reluctance, I had to start descending the steps that I had climbed a little while ago. I returned to the conference hall after making a round of the island. Returning to the conference I was met with the former minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Yano, who had brought with him valuable documents on the Raibyo- shima, knowing that I was the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy. The document was a 60-page “Survey Report on Ngerur Island” based on the survey carried out by Jolie Liston of the International Archeological Research Institute in 1998.

According to this Report, the official name of this island is Ngerur Island. It is 4 acres in total area, 350 meters long and 250 meters wide and the altitude is 30 meters. It was once a volcano and geographically a rare island. The reason why it was called Raibyo shima is written in the report. It was because when Palau was under the Japanese rule in the 1930’s, leprosy patients were brought to this island under its isolation policy. Leprosy facility was established in 1931, with 3 Japanese-style houses and a well, and there were 18 patients under treatment at the time. The Report does not indicate until when this facility was used for leprosy patients but there is a record to say that the family of former president Ngiratkel Etpison renovated the building in 1950. There were photographs of the houses and graves of the leprosy patients that were taken in 1998, which still remain on the other side of the island to where I was. I could not help but feel the regret that had I seen these documents before going to the island I would have been able to see these remains.

I also found out, after my return to Japan, that a gentleman in his 80’s who had once lived on this island, is living in Koror. He was taken into the leprosarium when he was 10 years old and lived there for a few years, until moving to another island as the war intensified. According to this gentleman, a doctor would come once a month with medicine, and the staff would bring rice and canned foods while they themselves grew taro, tapioca and sweet potatoes.

As you know, leprosy was said to be an incurable disease in the past, and each country implemented a policy of isolation in order to stop the spread of the disease. For that, the leprosy facilities all over the world are found in locations away from the cities, on islands or in the deep mountains or in ravines. Culion Island in the Philippines and Molokai Island in Hawai are well-known. I have, in addition to these islands, visited the leprosariums built on different islands in Japan, Sorok Island in Korea, Robben Island in South Africa, Bunaken Island in Indonesia. I have seen the world schematics of “Leprosy, isolation and islands.”

“Raibyo-shima” that I visited this time is the smallest of the leprosy islands that I have so far visited. It could perhaps be the world’s smallest leprosy island. Yet there were historical facts that we are apt to forget, even on this tiny island. We still have living witnesses of history of leprosy today and we can still find what exists of documents and sites of demolished facilities. I felt that I must visit as many of these places as possible, talk to people, see with my own eyes and record my observations and keep them imprinted in my mind. It was a trip where I reconfirmed my important duty to pass on what I learn to the whole world.

 I have kept to the word “Raibyo-shima” exactly as it is called in Palau, although the word raibyo, meaning leprosy in Japanese is a discriminatory term today and no longer used in Japan.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 08:15 | Leprosy | URL | comment(0)
Information Transmission Compared: Japan and China [2011年05月27日(Fri)]
Information Transmission Compared: Japan and China

Whenever I come across the issue of information transmission, I am grieved to see the poor transmission of information from Japan, and I have always wished, in earnest, that this situation would be remedied without delay.

Japan is content to rest within the domain of the Japanese language and has been left far behind, when compared with China and South Korea, in transmitting information from Japan in any other language, even today, in this age of globalization. It is enough for me to watch television in my hotel room on my overseas trips as evidence of this situation.

Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the government of China, has launched its world English TV channel, CNC World, providing service 24 hours a day. It is the CNN of China and can be accessed from mobile telephone and the internet. It covers mainly domestic new, of course, but also news acquired from around the globe by its 600 correspondents stationed at approximately 130 overseas branch offices. But, of course any news that is critical of the Chinese government is rejected.

According to the New York Times’ article of June 7. 2010, there has been a new office established specifically for foreign public relations at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the allocated budget for the purpose of having more voices heard by the rest of the world, is a colossal $ 8.7 billion (\696 billion @ \80/$1). This must be equivalent to the amount of Japanese ODA.

It is not only the media that is actively involved. The Office of Public Diplomacy Support and the State Council Information Office have been established to invite world executives of news agencies and think tanks, influential commentators who shape public opinion aggressively to China. The Chinese government is desperately trying to improve the image of China to the rest of the world through its diplomacy.

Yet, The New York Times points out that without liberalization and respect for human rights in the Chinese society, the whiff of immature propaganda in the Chinese media cannot be completely erased and the efforts made in China will not produce any effect. However, regardless of the fact that the international community has a very critical eye towards the issue of human rights and the rigorous restrictions on free speech, the rating of favorable impression for China is a surprising 5th where Canada and Japan place 1st, according to the BBC survey. It is astonishing that China places above the United Kingdom and the United States. It must be the fruit of their publicity diplomacy..

What then can one say about the Japanese transmission of information. It is far behind that of China and South Korea, despite the efforts made by the Nippon Broadcasting Corporation; NHK (Japan’s national public broadcasting organization). Professor Taniguchi of Keio University (Japan) sharply points out that NHK World TV is in no way up to the level to call itself an international broadcasting channel.

In addition to this, the Sankei Newspaper has reported that the government’s announcement concerning the current Fukushima nuclear power plant accident “has harbored an unamendable distrust among the foreign media”
I would like to cite my article which appeared in the RONTEN (Yomiuri Newspaper editorial), in 2006. I mentioned at that time that there were more than 100 countries receiving information from each of the major international broadcasting companies, namely CNN (US), BBC World (UK), TV5 (France), 78 countries from China CCTV, 63 countries from Arirang TV of South Korea , while only 12 countries from NHK. .

Even if we assume that NHK has made great efforts since then, this obvious disparity continues to expand both quantitatively and qualitatively.

In this age of globalization, it not only goes without saying how important it is to transmit information to the world to promote correct understanding of Japan, but Japan has lost a great deal of credibility through the incorrectness of information that it had sent out concerning the current nuclear power plant accident. It is indeed of great regret and extremely unfortunate. 

Yet, in spite of all this, the politicians in Japan have essentially discontinued the support to the JAPANECHO.net which is a tool for what little information the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was transmitting to the world, under the claim of review and prioritization of government programs.

If the Chinese government’s overseas pubic relation budget is likened to the size of a missile that of Japan would not even be the size of a bamboo spear but a mere toothpick. It is truly disappointing..
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Cultivating Culture of Giving -4 [2011年05月25日(Wed)]

Mr. Hasegawa constantly on the move to raise donations

Cultivating Culture of Giving -4
--The Nippon Foundation’s Case—

These series of 4 blogs have been written before the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. As such I wondered if I should bring them up to date but decided against it, as my basic thoughts remain unchanged.

The Nippon Foundation, as is well known, draws its fund to support many project from 2.6% of the proceeds from the motorboat racing managed by local governments. Motorboat racing industry is rapidly losing its proceeds recently, from 2 trillion 200 billion yen at its peak down to below 800 billion yen. Profoundly grateful to all who try their best to increasing the proceeds, the Foundation is committed to effectively manage costs and efficiently allocate its funds.

For example, providing a subsidy or a grant of a million yen will involve collaboration of a great number of motorboat racing fans. We ensure that each member of our staff clearly understands this and will be committed to managing costs wisely.
At present, a fan will spend about 10,000 yen a day to purchase racing tickets, of which the Foundation receives 260 yen. This means that it will require 3,846 persons to add up to 1 million yen. Imagine that 3, 846 fans were lined up 1 meter apart starting from Akasaka where our office is located, past Shimbashi and Shinonome and right down to the Tokyo Bay and there will still be many who have not been counted. Our staff is reminded by this powerful image of the preciousness of the fund provided and the need to use it wisely and cost effectively.

Takahiro Hasegawa, a young member of the staff, working after hours without overtime pay, mobilized like-minded volunteers to start a study group on fund raising, including the possibilities of raising general donations, receiving bequests and receiving redemptive offerings (donations given by those who committed offenses which The Nippon Foundation uses, in principle, to support victims of criminal offenses.

Currently we have started with the cooperation of automatic vending machine installers, a project whereby 10 yen will be donated per a bottle sold. We now have over 800 machines under contract and this translates to in excess of 40 million yen a year on the basis of 50,000 yen per machine. There are all together 2.5 million vending machines in Japan. Assuming 10 yen per bottle of proceeds, it will come to 125 billion yen. Our journey has just begun.

Japan Dentists Association (Chairman Dr. Michio Okubo, Membership 65,000) started a tooth fairy project to benefit the Nippon Foundation. The dental gold and other fillings are donated to the Foundation with address payment arrangement. Two or three times a year we sell these to the metal collectors at market price. The proceeds are used in projects concerning child cancer, child hospice and building primary schools in the hills of the Southeast Asian countries. Once again, if all of the 65,000 dental clinics are kind enough to participate, the proceeds from the project are estimated to be 6.5 billion yen.

This project which began in June 2009 has at present 3218 dental clinics participating, which brings in a total donation of 165,887,426 yen. While not all participants have sent the medical fillings, it comes to an average of 100,000 yen per a participating clinic. Our ambitious goal is to win 20,000 clinics to join the project to raise a sure 2 billion yen.

The Nippon Foundation also invites living donations and bequests for which we prepare gratis all necessary documents with the supervision of a lawyer. For bequests exceeding 5 million yen we express our gratitude by disclosing donor’s name if so desired.

Our accurate Business and Financial reports state clearly how money is spent. By putting into place a process that properly expresses gratitude to the donor, the Nippon Foundation is working hard to become a model of cultivating culture of giving in Japan.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Cultivating Culture of Giving -3 [2011年05月24日(Tue)]

Korean star, Lee Seu Jin who cooperates with the Nippon Foundation

Cultivating Culture of Giving -3
-Active role played by artists and athletes-

*As the series of these 4 blogs have been written before the Great East Japan Earthquake struck I wondered if I should bring them up to date. I decided against it as my basic thoughts remain unchanged.*

Artists and athletes are playing important roles in fund-raising in the world and there is countless number of them that are actively involved in the work of NPOs.

Unfortunately Japan is still a developing country in this respect, with one exception, Ryotaro Sugi, an actor.

He has foster children in Vietnam and has been working for twenty years to establish educational institutions in that country, makes regular visits to prisons and for many years have held gatherings for exchange of opinions and lecture sessions with prison guards and inmates, all discreetly.

This is the kind of work we would like to see more from the persons of culture, artists and athletes in Japan. I have a firm belief that they are the people that are loved and respected by many and their influences will stimulate the citizens and greatly contribute to the enhancement of culture of giving in this country.

Following is the 2007 official record of Top10 persons of culture and artists in the amount of donations made, in the United States

1. Oprah Winfrey $50.2million (TV host)
2. Herb Alpert $13 million (Trumpeter and founder of A&M Records
3. Barbara Streisand $11 million (Singer, actress and film director)
4. Paul Newman $10 million (Actor)
5. Mel Gibson $9.89 million (Actress and film director)
6. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt $8.4 million (Actress and models, actor))
7. Lance Armstrong $ 5 million (Professional road race cyclist)
8. Michael Jordan $ 5 million (Professional basket-ball player)
9. Eric Lindros $ 5 million (Professional ice hockey player)
10. Rush Limbaugh $4.2 million (Radio talk show host)

Angelina Jolie who places sixth has made a commitment to donate one third of her income henceforth. She has been very active in raising funds for the relief activities of the great earthquake in Haiti.
She says, “I have been active in trying to help someone in need, but then I realized that I was the one receiving so much energy”.

Value of life is not measured by how much money or goods one possesses. These people have realized through their goodwill activities that they are leading a worthwhile life having experienced a different sense of satisfaction and achievement from that of their professional life.

It is my hope and expectation that there will be more persons of culture, artists and athletes that would think in the same way and play the leadoff role for creating a culture of giving amongst the citizens of Japan.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 08:04 | URL | comment(0)
Leprosy Elimination Activities in Malaysia [2011年05月21日(Sat)]

Jerejak Island, Leprosy Island in Malaysia

Published in the [Shinsei] Tohoku Shinsei En
March 20, 2011

Leprosy Elimination Activities in Malaysia

WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination
Yohei Sasakawa


Leprosy in Malaysia

November, 2010. I visited Malaysia, located in Southeast Asia just north of the Equator. The total landmass of Malaysia is 330,000 sq.km. (90% of Japan) and a population of 28 million people. It is a young federal constitutional monarchy having gained independence in 1963.The population density is one-fourth of that of Japan and much room for many rainforests. Ethnic groups are Malay, Chinese, Indians and others, religions are Sunni Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism, and the languages used are Malay, English and Chinese. It is truly a country of diversity.

Malaysia achieved elimination of leprosy according to the WHO criteria of less than 1 patient for 10,000 population, in 1994. But there is a long history to tell until elimination was achieved. According to records, the oldest of the leprosy colonies is on the Island of Seribun, offshore of Malacca, established in 1850 by 21 leprosy patients. Later in 1871, leprosy centers were built on Jerejek Island (Pulau Jerejak) at the southeastern tip of Penang. In 1874 the enactment draconian law of isolation of leprosy patients led to the establishment of leprosy centers in each state. There were 100 new patients brought in to these centers every year but many of the patients were transferred to Jerejek Island and there were only about 20 patients who remained in isolation at these leprosy centers.

With the Leprosy Enactment Act of 1926, all leprosy patients in the Malay Peninsula were transferred to Sungai Buloh (Valley of Hope), 25 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur under the British colonial rule. As a result a leprosy hospital was opened in Sungai Buloh in 1930.

World War II impacted greatly on the treatment of leprosy. Because of the war, the number of leprosy hospitals declined and most patients were returned home. Yet there were some patients who had to stay on at the hospital and they had to survive on tapioca and snails to keep off starvation. Mortality rate went as high as 30% and according to records there remained 640 patients at Sungai Buloh and 300 at Jarejak Island. Leprosy Control Program starts six years after independence, in 1969. Sungai Buloh was then designated as the Leprosy Control Center of Malaysia once more and all other leprosy facilities were closed.

November 20. I visited the island of Penang, an island that has prospered for a long time as a commercial city, to attend a conference of Asia Fellowship, a Nippon Foundation scholarship r project. Penang is a small island in the western part of Malay Peninsula, 24kilometers north to south and 15 kilometers east to west. Right next to Penang is Jerejak Island. It is said that Captain Francis Light (1740-1794) landed there in 1786 before arriving at Penang.
Jerejak Island which is only 362 hectares in total area was the island where leprosy patients were taken to live in isolation. Leprosy increased rapidly as immigrant workers from China and India came to Penang and the Straits Settlements established forced isolation facility, in 1871, extended it in 1880 as Leprosy Center until its closure in 1969.

Jerejak Island functioned as a quarantine station from 1875 and a hospital for tuberculosis patients was also built there. However with the start of the Leprosy Control Program in 1969 leprosy patients were all transferred to Sungai Buloh. At the same period the tuberculosis hospital and quarantine station were closed and a prison was built on the site. Until the prison was closed n 1993, Jerejak Island was referred to as Alcatraz of Malaysia. Today the island has been developed into a resort and from what I hear many tourists are coming to the hotels there.

As with Sungai Buloh, Jerejak Island plays a very important role in the history of leprosy in Malaysia, as a place of isolation for leprosy affected people and their family members, yet that is not widely known. Even my guide, 29 year-old Faisal Omar who went to a local school until he graduated from high school told me that he was never taught that the island had such history. It was only two years ago that he first learned about it from an Indian visitor to the island who had once worked at the leprosarium, and whom he accompanied as a guide.

However in 1933, Dr. Fumio Hayashi, who was a medical officer at Nagashima Aisei-en visited the island from Japan and has written a valuable record published in the [Leprosy Travels around the World] published in 1942. According to the record, there were 765 patients on Jerejak Island at the time, among them 601 were Chinese and 128 Indians. In another words, 78% of the patients were immigrants from China. There were however also recorded that there were 1200 patients at Sungai Buloh and 80% of the patients were Chinese. Jerejak Island that Dr. Hayashi visited was a quarantine station with a capacity to take 4000 people and it occupied half the island, and the other half was occupied by the leprosy hospital. This leprosarium was also divided into 4 sections according to the severity of the illness and ethnic groups. The only treatment was with chaumoogra oil and it is written in the record that the patients ate the fruit of the chaumoogra tree that were planted on the premise.

On the morning of November 20, we rented a boat and went to the island. It is just 10 minutes from the Penang wharf. The hospital was on the side of the island that could not be seen directly from Penang, and arriving there I found along the coastline in the deep grass of the rainforest, traces of the old wharf and the office building of the leprosy hospital, now dilapidated, and a hut used by the guards but nothing else of the traces of the past were to be found. We were told that there were seen remains of the common kitchen for the patients and the housings for the hospital staff a while ago, but today, there is nothing left of the hospital or of the prison. Even the people of Penang say that they do not know much. The history of Jerjak Island had been obliterated..

read more...
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | Leprosy | URL | comment(0)
Cultivating Culture of Giving - 2 [2011年05月20日(Fri)]


Cultivating Culture of Giving - 2
Corporate Social Responsibilities

As the series of these 4 blogs have been written before the Great East Japan Earthquake struck I wondered if I should bring them up to date. I decided against it as my basic thoughts remain unchanged.

The mandates of NPOs and corporate social responsibilities (CSR) are to reach out to people for whom the government services, for lack of financial resources, or for other reasons, fail to cover.

CSR activities have just begun in Japan and, therefore, lag far behind those of the western countries. There are 1700 corporations listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Nippon Foundation takes the trouble to rank top 100 of those companies and make the names available to the public.

There are two reasons for doing so.
First, students looking for companies, financial shall we say, will want to check what the organizations stand for, and if there are similarities among them, they will want no doubt to look for one active in CSR activities. Companies, on the other hand, are well advised to energize their social activities if they wish to hire talented students.

Second, the list of corporate CSR activities that the Foundation makes public through Bloomberg, a premium business and financial information group reaches financial circles and investors worldwide. To become an attractive investment destination, corporations will have to boost CSR activities.

I believe corporate image is even more important than advertisements of its products. In other words, we live in an age when managing and creating corporate image through CSR activities has become essential.

CSR activities can no longer remain a typical Japanese business custom of keeping with the others. There is definitely a need to create a CSR department with public relations and advertising experts. I am committed to seeing to it that this becomes a solid trend.

I am pleased to note that recent disaster has galvanized corporate setup for cooperation. During the flooding damage that engulfed Niigata and Hyogo prefectures in 2009, corporations sent relief goods including water, instant foods in large quantity. But goods sent with their good will did not reach the victims due to lack of administrative resources and were left out in the open, according to the report of the members of our staff.

Similar to today’s “Tiger Mask” phenomenon, one’s good will is not guaranteed to be appreciated by the people you want to help. Best thing to do is to get in touch with the local city office, check what is needed and how much and where they are to be delivered.

Work in rain will require raincoats, hats and boots, while brush and detergents are needed to clean homes inundated with polluted water. And shovels and buckets are needed to remove mud out from under floor.

When oil was spilled from Nakhoduka off Niigata, large number of men in human wave formation was involved in recovering oil. What they needed were huge amount of dippers, work gloves and polyurethane buckets.

It will be helpful if donating companies will have a corner of their website dedicated to listing donations in kind. This will greatly enhance the efficiency of relief activities.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Cultivating Culture of Giving -1 [2011年05月19日(Thu)]


Cultivating Culture of Giving - 1
“Business card” culture and NPOs

In the last ten years or so, specified nonprofit organizations have proliferated like mushrooms after a rain. There are today over 40,000 such NPOs in Japan. A cynical view of this phenomenon appears to be related to the Japanese culture of exchanging business cards at our first encounter with another person. It is noted that the most important information on the card is one’s position title.

After retirement one no longer has a business card to distribute in gatherings, starting with one’s own alumni reunion. Just a plain card with one’s name is bit awkward. No wonder I receive many business cards with the name of an NPO organization, which is easily approved today. To help vulnerable people and serve communities is recognized as a smart thing to do. Some gave me two name cards, one the regular business card with his position title and another of his NPO.

I know I will be reproached for saying this, but NPOs come in different shades, a mixture of gems and stones as we say in Japan and many more stones, to be sure. There was even a media report that someone managed an adult entertainment business behind the cover of an NPO.

According to the Cabinet Office, there were 184 NPOs throughout the country that lost their NPO status in FY 2010. The Tokyo metropolitan government oversees 6700 NPOs, and revoked authentication of 40 such organizations. The reason for the annulment is that for over 3 years they had failed to submit a business report and financial statement called for under the Non-Profit Organization Law.

That is only the top of an iceberg. The Tokyo government admits it takes a year and half to investigate one NPO before deciding to revoke its status. The number of NPOs is just too immense for the government to process this, even with sizable number of staff. As a result most are left unchecked.

This is such a nuisance to many NPOs that are truthfully carrying out their mandates. Existence of such dubious entities can harm the image of decent NPOs.

Organizations that fail to submit documents that are due by law within a deadline, should be given one, and only one, warning, and then automatically repealed, if non-compliant. Since NPOs are relatively easily authenticated, it makes sense that their nullifications follow strict rules.

Now-a-days, business organizations are actively involved in supporting NPOs or carrying out joint programs with them as part of their CSR activities. Business enterprises, however, do not always know or have the conviction which NPOs are trustworthy.

The Nippon Foundation has a record of supporting a total of 58,000 programs managed by NPOs and social welfare organizations. We rank 8000 NPOs, including social welfare organizations, into five levels for their levels of information disclosure. The results are posted on our public community site, CANPAN. Anyone interested is invited to check it out.

At any rate, I strongly urge the government to strengthen the monitoring of dormant NPOs and carryout a thorough process of annulment of their privilege as called for.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities [2011年05月18日(Wed)]

a volunteer foreign student having a merry playtime with children in the disaster zone

Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities
Student volunteers-2

Student volunteers sent by the Nippon Foundation are needless to say very popular. For one thing they receive all the needed explanation even before they depart, they put on the Foundation logos on their backs and arms so they are disciplined as well as have good work attitudes. The program itself is popular among participating students because they receive after completing their volunteer work a certificate issued by the Foundation.

While major media report that there will be a rapid decline in the number of student volunteers after the long holidays in May are over, the disaster areas continue to need volunteer help. We believe, therefore, that it is important to have a lasting support program, so that the great experience will not end as a one-time boom.

The Foundation’s sister organization, The Nippon Foundation Student Volunteer Center plans to establish working partnerships with each university, and if possible sign a memorandum to continue to provide stable supply of students hopefully with the cooperation of university administration in calling up students volunteers.

We are posting the names of the universities the student volunteers are studying at as an expression of our respect to them. They have come from universities across the country, as far south as the Ryuku University in Okinawa, paying their way and all other expenses, which certainly were not small money, and persevering all 5 days on a daily ration of bread and cup ramen. The names of the countries of the foreign students who have been featured at work in TBS television program are also listed.

The following is the schedule for future student volunteer relief activities.
The 5th group: May 20 – 23
The 6th : June 3 – 6
The 7th June 10 -13
The 8th June 24-27

For each group we are recruiting 100 eager-to-help student volunteers.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities [2011年05月17日(Tue)]

Japan Coast Guard Academy’s Unique Physical Exercise

Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities
Student Volunteers-1

It was a golden week for disaster stricken areas when caring and thoughtful volunteering students gathered from all over the country to remove deadly debris, and to help local people put their lives back. I was truly pleased to feel that through these precious experience the next generation of young people seemed now to have a sense of solidarity and a feeling that they were indeed part of the whole- true to the slogan that became a household word after the disaster struck: “One Japan--we are all in it together!”

They may have appeared a group of easy-going youngsters but our experience at the Nippon Foundation tells a different story. They knew what was at stake and willingly came in spite of it all.

The Foundation arranged for a bus to take them north and to bring them back to Tokyo, that was all. All other expenses were paid for by the volunteers themselves. They were asked to come at noon to the reception desk, pay 1,400 yen to pay for their non-life insurance premium. Then we sat them in a room, showed video of the devastated area, while one of our staff explained what work they had to do, as well as in case of emergency what they will have to do and where to go for refuge. They were asked to breakup in groups of 7 to 8 to ensure orderly action, appoint a group leader and agreed to a chain of command structure. They were then ready to board the bus around 15:00 hours for a 3-nights and 5-days of working trip.

They brought their own sleeping bags, long boots, gloves, food, all paid for by themselves and carried by them. Some were heavily prepared and they looked as if they were off to Mount Everest. Each, however, had a deep sense of responsibility and a burning wish to be helpful. It was good to see such a cheery and hopeful group of young students off to their task.

Many volunteers gathered over that golden week, and our volunteer students joined fellow students from National Defense Academy and Coast Guard Academy to work at a fishing village in Ojika district. They were assigned work to find and collect oyster shelves, fishing nets, buoys, even fishing boats and anchors, many of them scattered up some hills, not just on the shorelines, all the scars left by the tsunami. Buoys collected came to 3,000 and more. It is not hard to imagine how energised fishing folks of the village were seeing young volunteers hard at work. They were sorry to see them leave and told them: “You have been really helpful. We’ll be cultivating oysters like we used to, no matter how many years it may take. So, come back here, we’ll treat you to a lot of good oysters. Now be sure to come back!.”



Recovered buoys laid up neatly by student volunteers


At the send off ceremony I had told them:”Make this an opportunity to think what life is all about. Think what it means to live and the relations between nature, science and technology. Think about these while you work. Come back with “something you can treasure for life”. They certainly lived up to my expectation.

Students from Japan Coast Guard Academy (cadet school for training high-level officials, established in 1948 in Kure City, Hiroshima) and National Defense Academy are quite different compared to regular students from academic universities. They have trained bodies, and high discipline nurtured in group living. The Coast Guard Academy has a unique exercise regime which they performed daily, catching smiles, and awe, of other students as they looked on.

Class room learning is one thing, but days spent outdoors perspiring working with others in clean-up activities, certainly provide lessons on life. I had, therefore, asked Hisayasu Suzuki, Director General of Japan Coast Guard Agency to arrange for all students of the Academy to come over the holidays to pitch in as volunteers. Academy has a tight curriculum but he obliged and all its students turned up.
Sincere and thoughtful work of the Coast Guard Academy students must surely have given many fishing folks a renewed hope of returning to sea.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
The Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities [2011年05月16日(Mon)]

Golden Egg ?

The Great East Japan Earthquake Relief Activities
The World’s Greatest Treasure ~Stradivarius to be Auctioned

Nippon Music Foundation, a partner foundation of the Nippon Foundation owns nineteen famed Stradivarius masterpiece stringed instruments with the objective of supporting global cultural activities. The Foundation is the world’s largest collector/custodian yet not only for the sake of collection but for the loan of the instruments gratis to those world accomplished, as well as to young promising musicians who are selected by an international Loan Committee (Chairman of the Committee, Lorin Maazel), and have over the years given pleasure to classic music fans around the world. The efforts made by Ms. Kazuko Shiomi, the President of the Nippon Music Foundation have brought about the recognition of the good work of this Foundation.

It has been decided that one of the instruments will be auctioned in June for the support of the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

This violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1721 is called Lady Blunt due to the fact that it was once owned by the daughter of Lord Byron, the poet. It is a gem with its shimmer and the shape preserved almost in perfect condition as when it was made. The June auction has already been reported by world leading media such as the Wall Street Journal, the BBC and those in China, and is already drawing attention globally.

There are billionaires in Russia and China with assets above our imagination. A few years ago, the news of a Russian oil king who bought the Romanov Imperial Easter Eggs at a very high price became the talk of the town.

The Imperial Easter Eggs are an exquisite arts and crafts work of eggs adorned with jewelry and enamel. The Tsar commissioned the workshop of Peter Carl Fabergé every year to give as gift to his wife and empress dowager. It is said that there are about forty of these Fabergé eggs in the world today, a number of which are exhibited at the Moscow Kremlin Armory (more precisely the Treasury).

The famous Forbes family of the American economic journal Forbes is also one of the collectors of these Easter Eggs. When I was visiting New York a few years back, I had the opportunity of admiring their beautiful collection that was displayed on the first floor of their office, to my heart’s content.

A few years ago, the Russian oil king heard that the Forbes family was going to auction nine of their valuable collection pieces together with other works of arts and crafts. This oil king, who made the decision to acquire them, apparently bought them before the auction was held. The official price has never been announced but it is said to be 80 million US dollars, or even 120 million US dollars.



The nine beautiful Imperial Easter Eggs are works of arts and crafts adorned lavishly with jewelry. Our one Stradivarius violin is of no comparison in value but believing that there are benevolent individuals in the world I pray that this beautiful instrument will be successfully sold to a high bidder.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
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