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His Lifework: A Japanese-Brazilian Man on Taiko [2008/04/30]
Fernando Kuniyoshi (34) is a Japanese-Brazilian who is fascinated by taiko, the Japanese drum. Recently, he completed two years of taiko training in Japan and has devoted his life to making and playing Japanese drums. He will soon return to Brazil to realize his dream of promoting the Japanese drum there. When we met him at the completion of his training, he radiated satisfaction.

A Japanese-Brazilian whose parents come from Okinawa Prefecture, Fernando hails from Parana State, in the south of Brazil. Some ten years ago, he came to Japan to work at an electronics factory in Kanagawa Prefecture. At a summer festival, he heard Taiko for the first time and was so taken that he decided to learn to play the instrument. When he returned to Brazil, he initially practiced the art by beating a car tire and a hanging carpet with broomsticks, but on learning that a nearby temple owned a taiko drum, he borrowed it and began practicing in earnest. On admission to art college, he began actually crafting the drums, but realizing his technical limitations, he sought to study in Japan.

(Photo: Chairman Sasakawa with nikkei students from Central and South America visiting Japan on Nippon Foundation Nikkei Scholarships)

It was the support of the Nippon Taiko Foundation and The Nippon Foundation that eventually made it possible for him to study in Japan. He came and received Taiko training at the Osuwa-Daiko Preservation Society in Nagano Prefecture, from 2006 to March 2008. Osuwa-Daiko is a form of the art that has been handed down from the “Warring States” period. It was performed at the Tokyo Olympic Games and Nagano Winter Olympic Games, and is regarded as one of the top three Taiko styles in Japan.

(Photo: Takashi Robson Yamamoto (left), a friend of Fernando who is studying at the graduate school of the University of Tsukuba)

Fernando has undergone rigorous training, including making, repairing and playing the taiko. He had thought that after two years, he would gain confidence and polish his Japanese technique. However, now that he has completed the training, he says, “My technique is not enough. I have realized my lack of skill and feel I have to work harder.” Nonetheless, he received a second-rank taiko technical certificate--the official certificate of the Nippon Taiko Foundation. He remarks, “If I had a little more confidence, I would be able to take a first rank.” After returning to his country, he intends to devote his life to deepening exchanges with various Taiko groups, while teaching Taiko to students in workshops at the art college.
Posted by TNF at 14:56 | Human Resources Development | URL
Protecting the Disabled in Times of Disaster [2008/04/28]

Residents evacuated during the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake
(Courtesy of The Association to Continuously Record the Great Hanshin Earthquake)

How should the physically disabled be evacuated in the event of fire, when surrounded by flames and suffocating, blinding smoke? When an earthquake or a flood hits, what can they do? Growing emphasis is being placed on measures to protect the disabled in the event of disasters, and on March 8, a forum on just this theme was held in Beppu, Japan. (Photo: Forum venue)

The forum was hosted in part by Shinsai ga Tsunagu Zenkoku Network (National Network Formed through Earthquake Disasters), a group of 24 earthquake disaster support organizations from around the nation, which with support from The Nippon Foundation has since 2002 conducted educational campaigns to reduce disaster damage.

In Beppu City, a severely disabled woman died in an apartment fire last year, a major shock to the disabled, welfare workers, and the community in general. The forum, which was attended by about 200 disabled people and welfare participants, sought to establish lessons from this accident. “I’m worried I’ll die if another fire breaks out,” said 37-year-old Mr. Hironori Fukuda, who lives in the apartment where the fire had occurred. “Cooperation between neighboring residents is essential for emergency evacuations of disabled people.” (Photo: Mr. Fukuda)

Mr. Yasuyuki Tokuda of the Support Network for Homebound Disabled People commented that it was not possible to discuss disaster prevention without taking the disabled and elderly into account. He cited an example from the Great Hanshin Earthquake in which an emergency call from a severely disabled person was ignored, and one from the time of the 2000 Tokai flood in which a hearing-disabled person failed to notice flooding. Mr. Kurita said, “Although local governments and groups can’t do everything, residents tend to depend on measures others can provide. The first thing is to make it possible for people to help each other within the community.” (Photo: Mr. Kurita)

The Shinsai ga Tsunagu Zenkoku Network will hold its classes in six locations across the nation this fiscal year. The group also edits and sells booklets on earthquake disaster support for community education.
Posted by TNF at 11:10 | Social Welfare | URL
Preparation of Sign Language Dictionaries in Six Asian Nations [2008/04/23]

Hearing-disabled people from Indonesia and Sri Lanka in the training program

With the goal of disseminating sign language throughout Asia and facilitating the social participation of hearing-disabled people, The Nippon Foundation has since 2002 supported the development and publication of sign language dictionaries in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Partial sign language dictionaries and textbooks have already been published in these four countries, and are expected to be complete by 2009. Launched in October 2007, the second phase of this project marked the start of participation by Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

The Nippon Foundation first announced its sign language dictionary project to the media in Cambodia on February 23, 2008. On March 6, the Foundation held a ceremony to celebrate the start of the project’s second phase at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. At this ceremony, representatives from the four countries that had participated from the first phase presented the results of six years’ of work, while researchers from Sri Lanka and Indonesia reported their own activities.(Photo: Sign Language Interpreters from Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia)

The project differs radically from traditional approaches to developing sign language dictionaries, in that in each country the teams working on the dictionaries include both linguists and hearing-disabled people. Dr. James Woodward, a world-renowned linguist from the United States, serves as the overall project director. The hearing-disabled people chosen to participate in the project are required to attend classes in sign language linguistics and to deepen their knowledge and understanding of language in general before beginning work. Information on local sign languages collected through studies of hearing-disabled people is analyzed and edited for inclusion in dictionaries, resulting in works that faithfully reflect the language used in local communities of hearing-disabled people.

In the dictionaries, each word is accompanied by an illustration of the sign representing it, allowing users to look up signs for a particular word or a word for a particular sign. A sign language textbook will be produced and distributed with the dictionary to allow those with normal hearing to learn sign language.

“The number of hearing people who want to learn Vietnamese sign language grows year by year,” said Mr. Van Ho, who made presentations at the ceremony on behalf of the team producing the dictionary in Vietnam. “That makes this dictionary and textbook especially helpful.” This practical sign language dictionary appears to have already proven useful in communications between the hearing-disabled and people who can hear.(Photo: The venue of the ceremony)

Almost one and half years have passed since the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognizes sign languages as valid languages. In reality, however, very few Asian countries regard sign languages as full languages. The Nippon Foundation intends to expand this project gradually in the hopes that sign languages will begin to be recognized as languages throughout Asia and that increasing numbers of hearing-disabled people will begin to participate as full members of society.
Posted by TNF at 10:15 | Basic Human Needs | URL
Japanese nationality granted to three second-generation Japanese-Filipinos [2008/04/21]

Three siblings who have been granted Japanese nationality

On March 26, the Tokyo Family Court recognized the Japanese citizenship of three second-generation Japanese-Filipino siblings left behind in the Philippines during the war. The brother and two sisters, who had applied for Japanese citizenship in spite of an inability to officially confirm their father’s Japanese identity, were informed of the ruling on March 28. They will be registered as Japanese citizens in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, making a total of seven second-generation Japanese-Filipinos who have been granted Japanese nationality to date.

The new Japanese citizens, who live in Mindanao, the Philippines, are Laurencia (85), Salud (79) and Andres (82) Kamiyama. Their father, Kosuke Kamiyama, was from Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, but emigrated to Mindanao Island before World War II, where he sold salt, rice, and sugar. He married a local woman in 1915, and fathered a total of nine children. (Photo: A street in Mindanao Island)

Kosuke died of malaria in 1930, and during World War II, his wife and children were required to aid the Imperial Japanese Army in various ways, including providing their house for the Army’s use. At the end of the war, the siblings remained in the Philippines, in part because more than 10 years had passed since Kosuke’s death. Of his five sons and four daughters, six had already died at the time of March’s ruling. The remaining three applied for Japanese citizenship in August 2006, but in October of that same year during a visit to Okinawa, their father’s hometown, they were unable to confirm their father’s family register. Luckily, they did meet their cousins, and this meeting eventually led to the court ruling. (Photo: Kamiyama siblings visiting Okinawa)

In addition to the verification of their cousins, a record of “Kosuke Kamiyama from Okinawa Prefecture, Japan” was found in a church in the Philippines. Based on this evidence, the Tokyo Family Court recognized their Japanese citizenship. The siblings were informed of the court ruling by the members of the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center (PNLSC), which, with support from the Nippon Foundation, is active in helping second-generation Japanese-Filipinos in the Philippines. Salud commented, “This recognition that I am the child of a Japanese citizen helps solve so many problems.”

The three siblings are married to Filipinos, have eight to thirteen children each, and currently live with their families. Their recognition as Japanese citizens is expected to help pave the way to employment in Japan for third- and fourth-generation Japanese-Filipinos.

This case marks the second occasion on which Japanese citizenship was granted without confirmation of a father’s census register. Currently, 55 people have filed for Japanese nationality at the Tokyo Family Court. According to the PNLSC and Sakura Law Firm, which represents them, other second-generation Japanese-Filipinos also plan to apply.
Posted by TNF at 11:18 | Basic Human Needs | URL
Landmine Removal in Cambodia [2008/04/16]

Unexploded bombs being buried in a pit

This past February, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, lead a fact-finding mission in Cambodia to observe the removal of landmines and unexploded ordnance by the nonprofit Japan Mine Action Service (JMAS).

During the 30-year civil war that started in 1970, some 6 million landmines were planted throughout the country, resulting in the world’s highest landmine density. In addition, the nation’s seemingly idyllic landscape hides large numbers of unexploded ordnance, left behind following the US bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail during the Vietnam War. Even since 2000, some 700 to 800 of these bombs have exploded each year.

JMAS is a nonprofit organization established in 2002, composed mainly by retirees from the Japanese Self-Defense Force who provide their technical expertise and experience in the field of unexploded ordnance. Since members began removing landmines in Laos and Cambodia in 2006, they have disposed of approximately 40,000 landmines and unexploded bombs. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation has supported this clearing of landmines in Laos and the preparation of technical materials on their disposal. (Photo: Site where unexploded bombs are disposed of)

The disposal site is located in a rural area, about one-and-a-half-hours west of Phnom Penh, in a region featuring elevated houses surrounded by tall sugar palm trees. After arriving at the site before noon, the JMAS party buried about 20 landmines and unexploded bombs, including an anti-tank landmine, which had been collected from the surrounding area. JMAS members then evacuated spectators and cattle to a location 450 meters away and ignited a detonator by remote control. The explosion sent up a cloud of dust nearly 20 meters high and gave off a thunderous roar, creating a crater measuring 8 meters in diameter and 2 meters deep.(Photo: The explosion could be heard from 500 meters away.)

According to Mr. Tadamasa Yamamoto, representative of the JMAS Cambodia Office, since unexploded bombs have value as scrap metal, countless children continue to be injured by explosions. In addition to disposal of unexploded bombs, the JMAS also provides safety-training programs for residents, with a strong focus on children. (Photo: Children listening attentively to warnings)

People maimed by the civil war, landmines, and unexploded bombs account for nearly 5% of Cambodia’s population. The Nippon Foundation has helped train prosthetists and donated artificial limbs as part of relief efforts in this area, and plans to continue developing these efforts.

*Click here for the movie(1:28)

Posted by TNF at 10:03 | Basic Human Needs | URL
Japan-U.S. Sea Power Dialogue [2008/04/14]

Japan-U.S. Sea Power Dialogue (1:57)

From March 5 to 7, the first Japan-U.S. Sea Power Dialogue was held in Washington, D.C. The meeting was hosted by the Ocean Policy Research Foundation and the Center for a New American Security with financial backing by provided by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA.

The meeting focused on building stronger maritime ties between Japan and the United States, and dealt with the role of maritime security in maintaining peace and development, both in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world.(Photo: The conference room in Washington D.C.)

In his opening address, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation said that since the enactment of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, the global environment and conditions have undergone dramatic change. Further, he said that given today’s circumstances, no country can deal with maritime issues on its own. International organizations, nations, private sectors, and NGOs must work together to address various threats within the framework of international cooperation. Mr. Sasakawa went on to refer to new navigational safety measures in the Malacca-Singapore Straits and the establishment of a framework for the preservation of the maritime environment, arguing that the private sector must play an important role in maritime security. He also called for change in the way the private sector regards the oceans, a common resource for all people around the world. (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa)

In the keynote speech, Former Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso commented that following World War II, maritime order had collapsed, becoming a vast strategic game. He went on to frame the need for expanding cooperative ties between Japan and the United States with respect to global maritime issues. (Photo: Mr. Aso, former Japanese Foreign Minister)

In the dialogue that followed, participants discussed how Japan and the United States should approach their leadership roles to solve various issues faced by maritime society, including threats of violence from pirates and maritime terrorism, conflicts over resource acquisition and island sovereignty, over-exploitation of fishery resources, maritime environmental pollution, congestion in sea lanes, and the frequency of maritime accidents.
Posted by TNF at 11:17 | Sea & Ship | URL
Future leaders exchange opinions at Goa retreat [2008/04/09]

Members of the retreat

From February 17 to 24, young Asian leaders gathered in Goa, India to exchange opinions on a variety of issues, including environmental pollution in Asian countries. A total of 20 people participated from 12 countries, including India, Japan, China, and Bangladesh, engaging in lively discussions on how to build a better Asia. This is the third such retreat; the next will be held in Beijing after the Olympic Games.

The first retreat, held at Beijing University in September 2006, was hosted by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Eighteen young Asian leaders participated. Subsequent retreats have been held with the support of the Nippon Foundation and in cooperation with the Information and Resource Center in Singapore. Participants in this year’s retreat consisted of university professors, members of NGOs, researchers and artists, many of whom were involved in various projects of the Nippon Foundation and its affiliated organizations. The participants, primarily in their thirties and forties, are regarded as the future leaders of Asia. From Japan, four people attended the retreat, including an expert on satoyama-forest issues.(Photo: The Secretary-General of ASEAN appears as a guest speaker)

Under the theme “Let’s Talk about the Future of Asia,” there were lectures by guest speakers and group discussions in the morning, while participants went out on the streets of Goa and interviewed citizens in the afternoon. They visited various places such as hospitals, markets, and beaches to talk with citizens and to get a sense of the lives of residents. Among the lecturers was Surin Pitsuwan, former Thai Foreign Minister and the current Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), who emphasized Asia’s enormous potential and the importance of building networks in the region.(Photo: Members engaged in discussion)

At the end of the retreat, participants summed up their experience by affirming their commitment to building a better Asia. Now that Asia faces various trans-national problems, establishing networks of these future leaders today is expected to contribute to the resolution of problems tomorrow. A member of the Nippon Foundation who attended the retreat noted, “I think it is significant that the future leaders of Asian countries are gathering and meeting in China and India, which have achieved remarkable development.”(Photo: Members who ventured into the streets)
Posted by TNF at 15:18 | Human Resources Development | URL
International Arts Festival for the Disabled in Cambodia [2008/04/07]

Asian Festival of Inclusive Arts in Cambodia

From February 23rd to March 1st, a group of performing artists with disabilities held an arts festival in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 12 groups and individuals from seven Asian countries participated, delivering a dramatic testimony to their potential.

This festival, formally known as “Spotlight: An Asian Festival of Inclusive Arts,” was produced by Epic Arts, a Cambodian NGO. As with last year’s “International Disability Concert: A Musical Event,” held in Laos, this festival was funded exclusively by The Nippon Foundation, a Japanese organization that sponsors a wide range of charitable activities. Related foundation projects in Asia have included the provision of artificial legs and limbs for the disabled and the construction of schools in Southeast Asia.

The opening ceremony was held in the National Theater of Cambodia. Some 800 people filled the 700-capacity theater to standing-room capacity. Cambodia’s crown princess, Buppha Devi, who once served as the Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, made an appearance as the guest of honor. (Photo: The princess is wearing an orange dress)

The festival was held, “First, to show society that prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities are unwarranted. And second, to provide people with disabilities with an opportunity to build up their confidence and pride,” said Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation. He went on to express his hope that the arts would play a role in breaking down barriers between the disabled and the able-bodied.

In the subsequent special performance program for the ceremony, a visually impaired Cambodian, a hearing-impaired Singaporean, and several other individuals presented songs and pantomimes. Eight hearing- and speech-impaired drummers of the Koshu Roa Taiko from Japan appeared on stage in headbands and Japanese-style livery coats and played two songs in a 15-minute performance at the end of the ceremony. Their drumming elicited powerful applause from the audience. Princess Buppha expressed her admiration for the performance. “How did they give such a great performance without hearing the sounds and without a conductor?” Said leader Sasaki, “We tried to deliver the following message – we can do the things we want to do even without hearing the sounds.” (Photo: the Koshu Roa Taiko)

During the festival, participants mingled with disabled individuals and led several workshops. On February 25, the members of Koshu Roa Taiko participated in a concert performed by amateurs with disabilities at a welfare facility in Phnom Penh, then again at a ceremony hosted by the Japanese Embassy commemorating the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Cambodia.

Although the Cambodian economy has made significant strides in recent years, up to 5% of the population is disabled, due to injuries from landmines and unexploded ordnance, as well as delays in medical care and a chronic shortage of pharmaceuticals.

*Click here for the movie(1:36)

Posted by TNF at 11:32 | Basic Human Needs | URL
Nippon Foundation Scholars Association members provide career counseling to Brazilian children [2008/04/02]

Latin American Students of Japanese descent, with Brazilian schoolchildren

The scenic Kiso River flows through the city of Minokamo in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. This valley is sometimes called the Japanese Rhine, due to the similarity of the landscape to its German counterpart. Some 10% of the city’s residents are non-Japanese, of which two-thirds are Brazilian, and have come here to work at Japanese factories. Many of their children attend the Sociedade Educacional Brazilian School. On February 21st, university students of Japanese descent from South and Central America, currently studying at universities across Japan under a Nippon Foundation scholarship program, visited the school to provide career counseling. (Photo: Brazilian School)

The six scholars from the Nippon Foundation Scholars Association were led by Akira Uchimura, a Chilean national who received his degree from the International Christian University Graduate School in Tokyo and now supports foreign students in Japan through the Association of Nikkei & Japanese Abroad. Students at the Sociedade Educacional Brazilian School range from preschool to high school, and 90 of them received lessons from the visiting scholars.(Photo: School Director Tanaka and Scholars)

In the morning class, the delegation offered career counseling, based on their own experiences and knowledge, to help children consider their futures. After their talks, the children posed one question after another. What made you decide to study medical science? Have you ever felt like giving up on academics? Do you ever feel like doing something else? In response, the university students encouraged the students to try to find out what kind of career would capture their imagination, to explore options, and to try to become the best in whatever they chose to do.(Photo: Children listening during class)

In the afternoon class, members gave junior high school students a detailed seminar on nutrition. Maky Fabiola Furuki Kishimoto, a student of medicine, also answered questions from the children on cancer.(Photo: Children giving a commemorative present to the university students)

In 2004, the Nippon Foundation, in cooperation with the Association of Nikkei & Japanese Abroad, established a Nippon Foundation-Nikkei Scholarship, called “Dreams to Reality” which awards scholarships to young people of Japanese descent from Latin America who wish to study in Japan. So far, it has awarded scholarships to 30 people. The delegation to Gifu was made up of students studying under this scholarship.

*Click here for the movie(0:54)

Posted by TNF at 11:58 | Education | URL