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North Caucasus representatives attend Second South Caucasus Conference [2007/11/28]
Chechnyan representatives in caps unique to the Chechen Republic
On October 20-21 in T’blisi, Georgia, a conference on regional security was held by private research institutions and other organizations from the three nations of the South Caucasus: Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. The event marks the second such conference, following the first in 2005. This year, the republics of Russia’s northern Caucasus region also took part, including the Chechen Republic, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. The group took part in a broad exchange of opinions on conditions and issues throughout the Caucasus and took a firm stand with regard to Russia, which is increasingly asserting itself in this region. (Photo: Approximately 140 participants exchanged views on a range of topics)
The Caucasus region is home to a wide range of cultures, languages, and religions, and has seen the emergence of three independent nations following the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, differences in attitude and orientation have hindered efforts to build a federation. For example, Azerbaijan and Armenia are currently involved in territorial disputes, Georgia is seeking to strengthen ties with the EU and NATO, and Armenia remains steadfastly on a pro-Russian track. Relations have grown even more complex in recent years as Russia, the EU, and the rest of the world focus on Caspian Sea oil and Azerbaijan’s natural gas fields.
Approximately 140 people attended, including representatives of research institutions and diplomats from Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, the north Caucasus region, nearby Russia, Turkey, and Iran, and European and North American nations. Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli opened by saying, “It is highly significant that the nations of the north and south Caucasus should meet together at this single venue. We expect that this conference will include discussions that will help strengthen regional security.” Chairman Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation said, “My hope is that social and economic cooperation in this region will also contribute to prosperity in Asia and Europe.” (Photo: Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli)
The first day featured an exchange of views regarding the South Caucasus. On the second day, the focus shifted to the North Caucasus and issues concerning future directions. In the course of the meetings, participants were able to air a number of differences, such as the contrast between Georgia and Azerbaijan’s energetic calls for strengthened ties with the EU and NATO, and Armenia and Russia resistance to this. In view of such healthy exchange, the conference’s future direction is currently under discussion.
The focus of the trip was a national sanatorium in the village of Umbak, 60 kilometers south of the national capital in a desert bordering the Caspian Sea coast. Constructed in 1953—the year of Stalin’s death—as a joint facility to be used by the three Soviet republics of the South Caucasus region (Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) the facility housed more than 200 patients at its peak in 1960. (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa greeting each resident individually)
However, preceding the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of the three South Caucasus nations in the 1980s, the number of patients declined due to the use of multidrug therapy (MDT). Today, the facility only treats roughly 30 patients from within Azerbaijan. Director Arief described the difficulties faced by the facility: “We used to have a number of patients from Georgia and Armenia. But now, with the facility deteriorating, the government cannot even afford the repairs that we need.”
The sanitarium was constructed adjacent to Umbak village, located in the Gobistan desert two hours south of Baku on an unpaved road. According to Director Arief, a number of similar facilities were constructed across the Soviet Union before its collapse.
In recent years, Azerbaijan has attracted considerable attention for the oil and natural gas that it produces. “I didn’t even know leprosy facilities existed in Azerbaijan,” said Mr. Rabal Bashirogle, a reporter from a local news agency who accompanied the delegation. “The financial state of the government must be better, what with the recent rise in crude oil prices, and I don’t understand why this facility is languishing in this condition.” (Photo: An oil storage station on the Caspian Sea)
People’s Liberation Army Officers Visit Japan for Exchange [2007/11/21]
This year marks the seventh exchange since 2001
On October 25th, twenty-one field officers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were welcomed to Japan in a ceremony held at a Tokyo hotel. The contingent, led by Senior Colonel Chang-ming Hu and including military advisers such as retired General Zhen-wu Yu, is part of the seventh field-officer exchange between Japan and China. Over the course of 12 days, the group toured the Ministry of Defense, the National Defense Academy, the Hokkaido-based 11th Ground Self-Defense Force Division, and the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Ominato base. After visits to the Imperial Palace and the Meiji shrine, the officers returned to China on November 3.
One hundred and fifty people attended the reception, including Defense Ministry representatives, politicians, and the media. Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, former Defense Minister Akio Kyuma, and former Defense Agency Director General Koichi Kato also made appearances. Chairman Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation greeted the attendees with the following remarks: “At first, we wondered how private-sector participation in military exchange would work. But the fact that this exchange has continued, even in the face of interruptions in government-level exchange, suggests the advantages of private-sector participation.” (Photo: Participants gather around Minister Ishiba)
“Through this project, China has learned that today’s Self-Defense Forces differ from Japan’s prewar military,” said Mr. Kyuma, who served as Japan’s first Defense Minister when the Defense Agency became the Ministry of Defense on January 9, 2007. Mr. Kato expressed his high esteem for the efforts of participants, saying in Chinese, “This project is one of the most important of the various exchange projects involving Japan and China.” Minister Ishiba brought smiles to the faces of attendees when he noted, “I haven’t had many enjoyable experiences [like this one] in my first three months in office.” He then toasted future progress in building good relations between Japan and China.
For the Chinese side, Senior Colonel Hu observed that, “Relations between Japan and China will improve if both sides develop mutual understanding through exchange.” The reception was notable for the gentle, friendly conversation between members of both sides. Senior Colonel Jian-ping Ou of the Defense Academy at the National University of Defense Technology, expressed his appreciation for the program: “Although both sides need to work to overcome pressing issues between Japan and China, I believe progress is being made toward building good relations between the two nations.”
First held in 2001, this field-officer exchange involves annual visits between the two countries. In June, twelve Japanese Self-Defense Force officers visited China. To date, a total of 80 Japanese and 170 Chinese officers have taken part in the program, but this year’s event was the first to include military advisers—chiefly retired officers.
NISVA to dispatch former Japan Self Defense Forces official to the Philippines [2007/11/19]
Former Japan Self Defense Force official Mr. Nejime
The Nippon Skilled Volunteers Association (NISVA), is an organization that recruits highly experienced Japanese senior citizens and dispatches them to developing countries in Asia. Recently, the group recruited a Mr. Fumio Nejime (61), a former official of the Japanese Self-defense Forces. Nejime, from the city of Yokohama, be will be sent to the Philippines in the near future as the first ex-Self Defense Force member dispatched by NISVA. “Since people from the Self-Defense Forces have the ability to adapt to their environment,” he noted, “I think we are particularly well-suited to serving as volunteers overseas.”
Nejime has years of experience in the Self-Defense Forces. Born in the Iki-Tsushima Islands region of Nagasaki Prefecture, at age 16 he entered the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Youth Technical School in Yokosuka. From that point until his mandatory retirement in 2002, he devoted his entire career to the service, working in a variety of positions. After retiring, he worked at a disaster training company in Tokyo, until this past March.
After hearing about NISVA from a friend, Nejime thought, “I could do that,” and with strong encouragement from his family, decided to register for the program. He will be assigned to Sual City, Pangasinan Province, the Philippines. NISVA has already dispatched two female volunteers to Sual City as dressmaking instructors, and when personnel from the organization visited the city, the mayor made a point of requesting a volunteer to train people in welding. (Photo: Sual City Hall)
Sual City houses a thermoelectric power plant purchased by a Japanese firm. The mayor would like to develop the city’s industry, centered on this plant, and to do so would like to train a cadre of welding technicians. For this reason, he chose Nejime from among the NISVA registrants. Although Nejime learned to weld while working for the Self-Defense Forces, his training took place when he was still young. Thus, after being appointed to Sual City, he attended the JGSDF Ordnance School in Kasumigaura, Ibaraki Prefecture to brush up on the latest welding technologies. He also obtained training materials from the school, and through a one-week visit at the end of October has made preparations for obtaining the equipment he needs. Following this, he will spend six months in Sual City, training the city’s young people in welding.
Court Recognizes Japanese Citizenship of Second-Generation Japanese-Filipinos [2007/11/14]
The two plaintiffs express their happiness at being recognized as Japanese citizens
For the first time in history, the Tokyo Family Court has recognized the Japanese citizenship of two second generation Japanese-Filipinos born to Japanese fathers who disappeared in the Second World War. Following the decision, the two received official recognition as Japanese Citizens on October 9 in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.
While in February of last year, two other second generation Japanese Filipino siblings had been recognized as Japanese citizens, they were a pair whose father’s identity and last whereabouts were had been known. The recent ruling was the first time that Japanese citizenship was granted in a case where census registers could not be confirmed, and it is expected to open the doors to employment in Japan for third and fourth generation Japanese-Filipinos. (Photo: A lot of news media at the press conference)
The two plaintiffs were Ms. Juanita Sakamoto (80), from the town of Baliuag in the Philippine province of Bulacan, and Ms. Meleshia Yoshikawa (89), who lives in Sagada in the Mountain Province. Ms. Sakamoto is the second daughter of Mr. Takeichi Sakamoto, originally from Hiroshima Prefecture, and Ms. Yoshikawa is the eldest daughter of Mr. Masutaro Yoshikawa, originally from Nagasaki Prefecture. Each originally applied for citizenship in October 2005.
Both of the women’s parents registered their marriages in the Philippines. In addition to, in Ms. Sakamoto’s case her father’s name and photograph were discovered in prisoner-of-war records found in the United States’ National Archives and Records Administration. The baptismal name and certificate of Ms. Yoshikawa’s father were found in a church. Taking these pieces of evidence into consideration, the court concluded that the two plaintiffs had acquired Japanese citizenship upon birth. (Photo: The two plaintiffs with Takeju Ogata, President of the Nippon Foundation)
The women were informed of the October 8 ruling by the Tokyo-based Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center, which helped to locate the evidence above with support from the Nippon Foundation. Following this, the women held a press conference at a Manila hotel. Expressing her joy, Ms. Sakamoto said, “I am happy to have my own roots made clear; I would like to live the rest of my life with pride as a Japanese citizen.” Ms. Yoshikawa noted, “Now that I’ve been recognized as a Japanese citizen, I think back on my father, who worked to help the Philippines. I’m looking forward to going to Japan.”
Guizhou University presented with 160,000 Japanese books [2007/11/12]
The presentation ceremony at Guizhou University
With support from the Nippon Foundation, the Japan Science Society (chair: Mieko Oshima) is promoting a project under which unused Japanese educational and research books are donated by businesses, universities, and publishers, and then given to Chinese universities. On September 8, a presentation ceremony was held at Guizhou University in Guizhou, China (President: Chen Shuping), to which the Japan Science Society has donated more than 160,000 books. On the same day, the university opened its Japanese literature center. The Japan Science Society has already donated some 1.75 million books to 24 universities throughout China, and plans to continue promoting cultural exchange efforts involving the two nations.
At the presentation ceremony, Japan Science Society Chair Oshima and Guizhou University President Chen exchanged letters announcing and accepting the donation. Takeju Ogata, President of the Nippon Foundation, joined Long Dang, the university’s committee secretary in a tape-cutting ceremony at the opening ceremony for the Japanese literature center. (Photo: The opening ceremony for the Japanese literature center)
In response to requests from the Chinese Ministry of Education, the western regional government, and other entities, the Japan Science Society has since 2005 donated a total of 166,333 books to Guizhou University. The university’s collection of Japanese-language volumes is now one of the largest in China. Of this collection, some 97,000 titles were donated from the library of the Tokyo Metropolitan College, closed when it was consolidated with Tokyo Metropolitan University. The donated books span several decades and many fields, like astronomy, geography, biology, science, literature, and social studies. (Photo: Japanese volumes from a range of disciplines)
“Please use these 160,000 Japanese volumes as you see fit,” advised President Ogata of The Nippon Foundation, addressing some 200 students at the presentation ceremony. “I hope each of you will deepen your knowledge and understanding of Japan and will visit Japan to help build a relationship of trust between our two countries.”
“We’ll need to study more to read and understand these books,” said one student who helped organize the collection. “If we can’t read them, they won’t help us advance.”
It is hoped that such highly motivated Chinese university students will put these books to good use, and that these young people will help strengthen the ties between Japan and China.
New Japanese Studies Courses at Twelve UK Universities [2007/11/07]
Press conference at the Japanese embassy in London
In order to expand Japanese studies in the United Kingdom, The Nippon Foundation and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation have established posts for 13 young instructors at 12 British universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. As a result, new courses on such subjects as Japanese politics and modern Japanese culture will begin in September of 2008. The initiative is meant to counteract the recent decline in interest in Japanese studies.
In recent years, British universities and government agencies have focused more and more on Chinese studies, at the expense of Japanese subjects. For example, three universities including the University of Essex have recently closed Japan programs and departments, while others, such as the University of Birmingham have downsized these areas.
Since the Edo period (1603–1868), exchange between Japan and the UK has been strong, in fields from economics to science to culture. Achievements in these areas have been reinforced by exchange among universities, government agencies, and the private sector. The recent stagnation of Japan studies, however, could lead to a shortage of experts capable of maintaining this communication. At the same time, numerous surveys of young people in the UK have shown that interest in Japanese culture, primarily focused on manga and anime, is increasing. The foundation project was launched in response to these trends.
At an October 4th explanatory meeting at the Japanese embassy in London, Mr. Tatsuya Tanami, Executive Director of The Nippon Foundation, said, “To ensure that interest in Japan does not stagnate any further, we are working to strengthen ties between the UK and Japan through this program.” Prof. Mark Williams of the University of Leeds and President of the British Association for Japanese Studies stated that, although people generally believe that the 21st century will be the century of China, neglecting the development of the next generation of researchers on Japan--the world’s second-largest economy--would be detrimental to Britain.