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Dr. Norman Borlaug receives US Congressional Gold Medal [2007/08/29]
Dr. Borlaug recieving the Congressional Gold Medal (Left to right: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Dr. Norman Borlaug, President George Bush, Senate President pro tempore Robert Byrd)
Dr. Norman Borlaug (age: 93 years), President of the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), has been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that the United States government can bestow on civilians. The medal was awarded for a lifetime of effort as an agricultural scientist--work that is credited with saving more than a billion lives. At a July 17 presentation ceremony held at a joint session of congress, President George Bush and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi praised Dr. Borlaug’s achievements. President Bush commented, “Many have highlighted Norman Borlaug’s achievements in turning ordinary staples such as wheat and rice into miracles that brought hope to millions,” he said. “I thank you for proving . . . that one human being can change the world.”
The medal is only presented to individuals whose achievements are of unusual distinction. Recipients must be approved by two-thirds of both houses of Congress, but Dr. Borlaug’s nomination far exceeded this requirement, gaining unanimous approval. The first Congressional Gold Medal was presented in 1776 to George Washington. Other recipients include such figures as the 14th Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela.
Previously, Dr. Borlaug’s work had already earned him the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for what was then dubbed the Green Revolution. This was a project that drastically increased the food production of India and Pakistan, which were at that time on the verge of famine and mass starvation. As the father of the Green Revolution, Dr. Borlaug is said to be have saved more lives than any other individual in human history.
After expressing his delight at receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, Dr. Borlaug called for further improvements in science and technology to save even more lives. He remarked, “The Green Revolution was a great historic success. In 1960, perhaps 65 percent of the world’s people felt hunger… By the year 2000, the proportion of hungry in the world had dropped to 14 percent of the total population. Still, this figure translated to 850 million men, women, and children who lacked sufficient calories and protein to grow strong and healthy bodies.”
Dr. Borlaug addressing the assembly
Since taking office as SAA President in 1986, Dr. Borlaug has also worked to achieve agricultural reform in Africa. The SAA is currently promoting the Sasakawa-Global 2000 project, intended to raise the standard of living in Africa by teaching scientific production techniques to small farmers, thereby increasing food production.
Gallaudet University Scholarship Students Visit The Nippon Foundation [2007/08/22]
World Deaf Leadership Scholarship recipients
In 1996, The Nippon Foundation established the World Deaf Leadership Scholarship program at Gallaudet University, a liberal-arts college in Washington, D.C. famous for its deaf education program. The scholarship focuses on students from developing nations. This past July, The Nippon Foundation invited three of the Program’s scholars to Japan to learn about the state of education for those with hearing impairments in this country. This was the second time that World Deaf Leadership Scholarship students have come to Japan, following an initial visit in 2005.
WDL scholars giving presentations at The Nippon Foundation
The three students to visit Japan this time were Kaneng Rosa Klandi (Nigeria), Rian Anthony Gayle (Jamaica), and Fernando Ayala-Luiz (Chile). After arriving on July 3, they visited Tokyo Metropolitan Central School for the Deaf, and Tatsunoko Gakuen, a school that teaches sign language. At both of these facilities, they had the opportunity to interact with educators in actual learning environments. On the evening of July 6, the students gave lectures at the Nippon Zaidan Building, describing, through PowerPoint presentations and sign language, both the situations of deaf people in their home countries, and their goals following graduation. Later, they visited western Japan, to tour such facilities as the Kyoto Rehabilitation and Treatment Center for People with Hearing and Speech Disorders, before returning home on July 11. The following are remarks by the three scholars following their lectures.
Kaneng Rosa Klandi: Although there are 1.2 million hearing-impaired people in Nigeria, the country’s laws protecting deaf people are inadequate, and there are not enough work opportunities. Upon graduation, I plan to build a job information center for deaf people. Japan is a beautiful and friendly country, though I was surprised at how complicated the subway system is.
Scholarship recipients dancing in Ryukyu style
Rian Anthony Gayle: Jamaica is home to roughly 200,000 deaf people. However, almost none of them advance to the university level. While vocational schools do exist, there are only two: one for carpentry and one for sewing. It is thus difficult for deaf people to find work. For this reason, in 2002 we established an organization for the betterment of deaf people.
Fernando Ayala-Luiz: I was born, the second deaf member of my family. Chile is home to between 150,000 and 200,000 deaf people, but almost no information is presented in sign language. After returning to Chile, I would like to open a workshop for deaf people.
Used Care Vehicles for Ambulances in Peru [2007/08/15]
Used Care Vehicles for Ambulances
One of The Nippon Foundation’s many forms of support for Japanese social welfare organizations is the donation of care vehicles. From this fiscal year, the Foundation has decided to expand on this program, donating high-quality used vehicles to Peru. The Foundation has already sent six and plans to send another six in the near future. These vehicles promise to contribute to the country’s health and welfare system.
Over the years, The Nippon Foundation has provided approximately 18,000 care vehicles across Japan for such purposes as mobile bathing facilities, wheelchair-compatible transportation, and microbuses. Although many of these vehicles are no longer in use, the Nippon Foundation has decided to reclaim those that have been equipped with wheelchair lifts (of which 4,077 have been distributed) and donate them to recipients overseas. The Foundation chose Peru as the first Recipient, due to its strong need for such vehicles and its flexibility with regard to import restrictions.
Thanks to the cooperation of the Peruvian government, the Japanese embassy in Peru, and the Asociacion Peruano Japonesa, the Nippon Foundation plans to donate a total of up to 500 vehicles to Peru. Peru restricts the import of vehicles five years old and older. Although the vehicles in question are six to eight years old, the Peruvian government has granted special authorization for these imports, exempting them from taxation. Following repairs and modifications, they will be distributed for use as ambulances to the Asociacion Peruano Japonesa, hospitals governed by Peru’s Ministry of Health, welfare facilities, and other facilities.
Twelve vehicles were chosen for the first donation. Of these, six reached Peru on June 29. The remaining six are currently awaiting shipping and are expected to leave harbor soon. They still bear the names of the organizations that used them in Japan. Plans call for using them with the names of the original users intact, so it appears likely that in the future one might see Peruvian ambulances bearing the names of Japanese welfare organizations.
The Island of Etorofu, located to the north of Japan
Marine Day is a holiday established in 1996 as Japan’s 14th national holiday. Originally held on July 20, since the 2003 amendment of the National Holidays Law, it has been celebrated on the third Monday in July. The law defines Marine Day as a holiday celebrated in the hope of prosperity for the maritime nation of Japan, as well as a day of thanks for the blessings of the sea.
Marine day is not Japan’s first sea-related holiday. In 1941, July 20 was set aside as Marine Memorial Day, a holiday with the goal of “increasing interest in the sea and using it to cultivate a spirit of embracing the world.” Marine Memorial Day was established on the anniversary of the 1876 return of the Meiji Emperor to the Port of Yokohama, on the two-masted topsail schooner Meiji-Maru, from a tour of the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions.
At the time, Naval Memorial Day was already a national holiday. Celebrated on May 27, this holiday commemorated Japan’s victory in the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War. Although at the time Japan was already on a wartime footing, those involved in the nation’s merchant marine persuaded Telecommunication and Transport Minister Shozo Murata (previously president of the O.S.K. Line shipping company) to establish a new holiday separate from Naval Memorial Day, in the spirit of fostering growth of the maritime nation of Japan.
This was a quiet gesture of resistance by the merchant marine to the Japanese aritime industry’s otherwise wholehearted support for the naval forces during that era.
This year, on what would have been Marine Memorial Day, Japan’s new Basic Ocean Law took effect. This law was created with the consensus of those involved in Japan’s maritime industries, and 1) calls for the consolidation of eight government offices that previously worked separately on maritime issues; 2) establishes a basic plan for maritime matters, and; 3) creates a comprehensive maritime policy headquarters, run by the Prime Minister. The result is a structure for the integrated promotion of maritime policy. The Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has been appointed to the newly established position of maritime minister.
The Basic Ocean Law, which represents the thoughts and hopes of all those involved in Japan’s merchant marine, was drafted and passed by members of the Diet. The Ocean Policy Research Foundation, a sister organization of the Nippon Foundation, promoted the bill up through its submission to the Diet. Sixty-two years after the end of World War II, the maritime nation of Japan has finally set sail on a voyage to protect the sea.
Takong Beacon Found 20 Kilometers from Normal Location [2007/08/06]
Takong resilient light beacon Takong beacon, as found on August 1, 2007
The Malacca-Singapore Straits are the most heavily-traveled sea route in the world. Used by more than 90,000 large ships every year, the are an artery for Japan, China and all of Asia.
In order to protect the navigational safety of the Malacca-Singapore Straits, aids such as buoys, beacons and light houses have been established in 51 locations along the route. Of these, 45 were built by the Malacca Straits Council, with funding from The Nippon Foundation.
In the middle of the night on August 1 (Thu), it was discovered that the Takong resilient light beacon (１°５’ N, 103°43’ E) had vanished. The beacon had been set in the straits’ Phillip Channel.
The Phillip Channel is feared by navigators, due to its shallowness and the presence of scattered reefs. The Takong beacon was vital in this area, having marked a key turning point for the avoidance of hidden reefs.
The Singapore Maritime and Port Authority later found and recovered one portion of the beacon 20 kilometers away, off the coast of Singapore. From the way the beacon had been mangled, it is thought that it was impacted by a large vessel and dragged for more than 10 kilometers.
At present, due to the absence of a beacon, the area is extremely dangerous and the relevant authorities have issued a warning for passing ships.
In order to protect the safety of the straits, which vital to global trade, the Nippon Foundation plans to temporarily set up a small emergency buoy at a cost of roughly USD 462,000.
The Nippon Foundation is also calling for the establishment of a fund called the Aids to Navigation Fund. The foundation hopes that the shipping and other companies that benefit from the straits will, according to the principles of corporate social responsibility (CSR), either voluntarily contribute the monies required to handle such work as the replacement of this temporary buoy with a permanent one, or that they will participate in the Aids to Navigation Fund. The littoral states and user states are currently discussing the establishment of this fund.
Welcome Inns Reservation Center: Affordable Lodging for Foreign Visitors [2007/08/01]
Welcome Inns Reservation Center
The nationally run Visit Japan Campaign has announced its aim to draw 10 million visitors to Japan per year by 2010. However, in recent decades, one key stumbling block to tourism in this country has been the prohibitive cost of lodging. To address this issue, in 1991, the International Tourism Center of Japan created the Welcome Inns Reservation service, which has grown as an increasingly popular route for prospective visitors to obtain reasonable lodging.
The Welcome Inns Reservation Center, which acts as a go-between, for prospective overseas guests and around 300 small to mid-sized lodging facilities, began accepting internet reservations from overseas in 2002. Prices average 4,800 yen per night (without meals), and facilities include traditional ryokan Japanese-style inns, business hotels, youth hostels and no-frills inns.
Japan hosts many sightseers from South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong, most of whom come in tour groups, and thus rarely use this reservation service. As a result, more than 90% of those who use the Welcome Inn service come from Europe or North America, regions with very high percentages of people who travel alone.
Total users rose from 44,332 in fiscal 2004 to 66,425 in 2006, and although Tokyo and Kyoto are the most popular destinations, facilities in cities such as Osaka, Hiroshima, Nikko, and Takayama also receive large numbers of visitors. One interesting trend has been the fact that, in recent years, younger travelers are increasingly drawn to the low cost of lodging in areas once thought of as flophouse districts, sparking a surprising revitalization of these districts. Those who wish to use the service, conducted in cooperation with the Japan National Tourist Organization, with the support of the Nippon Foundation, are urged to visit its website.