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Meeting with the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands [2008/05/28]
Chairman Sasakawa and President Tomeing
On April 9, Chairman Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation met with President Litokwa Tomeing of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. At the Tokyo meeting, Chairman Sasakawa informed President Tomeing that the Nippon Foundation was willing to assist his government in preserving the maritime environment and cultivating maritime resources in the Marshall Islands. The Nippon Foundation has already provided support for human resource development through the secretariat of the Sasakawa Pacific Island Nations Fund, a partner organization. Additional contributions will be handled primarily by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.
President Tomeing was elected last fall as his country's leader, assuming office in January 2008. He arrived in Japan on April 7 on an official state visit, during which he met with the Emperor and Empress and exchanged views with various governmental officials on future ties between the two countries.
In his meeting with the president, Chairman Sasakawa explained Japan's Basic Act on Ocean Policy, enacted in Japan in 2007, and the human resources development project promoted by the secretariate of the Sasakawa Pacific Island Nations Fund. He also underscored two issues: 1) that Japan and the Republic of the Marshall Islands need to strengthen exchange as maritime nations with vast exclusive economic zones (EEZ); and 2) that the nations could work together in various projects, including environmental conservation and the development of fisheries and undersea resources.（Photo: They exchange each idea of the two countries' relationship）
For his part, President Tomeing expressed gratitude for the Nippon Foundation's contributions to the human resource development project. “We intend to strengthen our support system so that young people trained in Japan can take full advantage of the experience after returning home. Japan and The Nippon Foundation offer strong expertise in preserving the maritime environment. I hope our two nations can work together on projects based on this expertise.”
Located in Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has a population of about 52,000. It entrusts its national defense and security to The United States. Japan is the second largest donor of Overseas Development Assistance after The United States.
First meeting of Nippon Foundation Partners [2008/05/26]
The participants of the conference
On April 18 to 19, a conference of internationally active partner organizations of The Nippon Foundation was held at the Nippon Zaidan Building in Tokyo. Founded on October 1, 1962, The Nippon Foundation has in the ensuing 45 years participated in the founding of many partner organizations, both at home and abroad. This event marked the first time that representatives of the various groups had come together for an exchange of views on how to establish joint efforts.
The meeting included representatives from 16 organizations, including The Nippon Foundation. Simultaneous interpretation was provided in Japanese and English. In Chairman Yohei Sasakawa's opening speech, he outlined his hopes for the meeting: "People are interested in what the Nippon Foundation and other foundations do, and what positions they take. Perhaps if the representatives of our organizations can come together and exchange views, we can better understand each other and develop cooperative programs. You were invited here to help you to grasp our collective range of activities."
Clarifying the relationship among the organizations, Sasakawa said, "The foundations here and abroad are all autonomous. They are sibling organizations. The Nippon Foundation has no binding or controlling power over its partners." Chairman Sasakawa also commented that The Nippon Foundation is currently focusing on organizing nonprofit organizations, nongovernmental organizations and volunteer groups, supporting the activities of these groups to assist the elderly, the disabled, and the poor. Thereafter, all participants introduced themselves and discussed their activities, exchanging views on how best to build cooperation.(Photo: Participants listening to reports by the partner organizations)
In March, a stakeholders' conference was held at Hanoi National Institute of Ophthalmology, where representatives of Juntendo University, HKI, and The Nippon Foundation met to discuss the training to be conducted this coming July. Stakeholders' roles were decided upon, and the schedule was confirmed, moving the project from the planning to the operational stage. (Photo: Stakeholders' conference at Hanoi National Institute of Ophthalmology)
The goal is to train 15 ophthalmologists and 415 local medical workers and treat 1,500 cataract patients over the three years from 2008 to 2010. Training will be flexible and will range from the technical skills involved in cataract surgery to basic public health training. The course is expected to advance the skills of medical workers and significantly reduce the number of people who lose their sight to cataracts. (Photo: A cataract operation)
National statistics issued in 2002 show that some 523,000 Vietnamese suffer from blindness. Around 71% of these cases are attributable to cataracts. While the Vietnamese government has provided treatment in cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, the nationwide medical system remains relatively undeveloped, and the skills of rural nurses and medical workers are inadequate. Many treatable patients go un treated and are forced to live lives of hardship.
Many patients also have no understanding of cataracts and accept the loss of sight as a natural result of aging. Experts point out that this problem is largely attributable to the lack of knowledge among medical workers. The Nippon Foundation intends to improve the overall public health system in Vietnam by providing appropriate training for medical workers in the provinces, districts, and villages. (Photo: Cataract patients waiting to see a doctor)
Emergency Relief Supplies for Victims of the Myanmar Cyclone [2008/05/19]
Elementary School in Myanmar
On May 8, the Nippon Foundation decided to provide 10 million yen in emergency supplies to Myanmar, following the catastrophic damage it sustained in the Cyclone Nargis. This aid is part of a joint project with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat. Supplies will be sent to Myanmar via Royal Thai Air Force aircraft. The emergency aid is being provided in response to a request from ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan (former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand). (Photo: Emergency aid to Sri Lanka)
On May 6, the Myanmar government announced that cyclone Nargis had directly landed on the Irawaddy river delta May 2-3, killing 22,000 people and leaving more than 41,000 unaccounted for. With thousands of homes destroyed, the ultimate damage could prove to be considerably worse.
Relief efforts by the military and NGOs have just begun. Food and medical supplies remain in short supply, leading to concerns about the spread of infectious disease. The Nippon Foundation determined the content of the relief supplies it would provide after consulting with ASEAN. The supplies will be procured as quickly as possible in Thailand, then transported to Myanmar on Royal Thai Air Force aircraft for distribution by the Myanmar government.
In related activities, in F2006, The Nippon Foundation launched a three-year plan to provide three hundred thousand dollars per year of emergency food and medical supplies to Sri Lankan refugees who lost their homes due to civil war and earthquake.
Bilingual School for Deaf Children Opens on Site of Closed School [2008/05/14]
Venue of the Mesei Gakuen opening ceremony
Meisei Gakuen in Tokyo is a new private bilingual school for deaf children that teaches sign language as a first language, and reading and writing as a second language. On April 9th, the school held its opening ceremony with some 250 people in attendance. The school was founded by the Bilingual Bicultural Education Center for Deaf Children (BBED), a nonprofit organization that uses donations from individuals and The Nippon Foundation to operate Tatsunoko Gakuen, a free school in Shinagawa Ward. Meisei Gakuen is the first school in Japan that teaches deaf children in sign language.
Meisei Gakuen has rented the former Yashiokita Elementary School building from Shinagawa Ward, renovating part of the facility. A total of 41 students (16 preschool, 25 elementary school), are enrolled.(Photo: Parents waving to children entering the venue)
At the opening ceremony, President Yonaiyama and Principal Saito discussed the importance of schools that teach in sign language. Said President Yonaiyama, “The hardships and efforts of our predecessors in deaf education have borne fruit, much to the delight of children. Today marks the start of a new kind of education.” Principal Saito explained the origins of the school name. “Meisei is expressed in sign language by showing the back of one hand and the palm of the other. The name ‘Meisei’ comes from the deaf concept of enlightenment after an age of darkness.”
In 1933, the Ministry of Education decided to focus on oral deaf education in teaching deaf children. Under this method, children with hearing disabilities simply imitate the shape of their teacher’s mouth. To enforce this way of learning, sign language was barred in many schools for deaf children. (Photo: Children presenting a short play)
Although oral deaf education is still used in many schools for the deaf, Tatsunoko Gakuen was established in 1999 by parents who wanted sign language education. Since the school was free, the BBED asked the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to approve the unique educational curriculum. Shinagawa Ward was thereafter designated a special education zone by the national government, and 45 million yen was raised to organize a private school--Meisei Gakuen.(Photo: Children picking up balloons following the ceremony)
Korean Motorboat Racers Stage exhibition Race in Japan [2008/05/12]
Korean motorboat racers in the exhibition race
The Omura Motorboat Racing Course in Nagasaki Prefecture is the birthplace of motorboat racing. On April 6, the course invited six Korean star boat racers to hold an exhibition race--the first time that Korean motorboat racers have raced in Japan. The purpose of the event was to promote ties between Japan and Korea, and marked a new stage in the international sport.
Motorboat racing began at Omura on April 6, 1952, after which race courses were built all over the nation in response to its popularity. Decades later, South Korea also took up the sport, adopting the Japanese style of organization, including operating and racing procedures, and the establishment of the Cycling and Motorboat Racing Act of 1991. (Photo: Photos of Misari Motorboat Racing Course on display)
Motorboat racing in Korea began at the Misari Motorboat Racing Course in Hanam City, near Seoul, on June 18, 2002. Races are held every Wednesday and Thursday from March to December. Some 150 racers (including 21 women) are currently registered, and the greatest annual earnings by a single racer to date stands at around 13 million yen. Although Misari is Korea’s only racecourse, people can watch races on screen and bet at several off-site locations, including one in Seoul.
The six racers (four men and two women) who participated in the exhibition represent South Korea’s top motorboat racers. Although the race was held while tickets were being sold (meaning that punters could not bet on the Korean race), many spectators gathered to watch and cheer the racers. The winner of the race was a woman, Pak Jung Ah (29), who started from the first slot and demonstrated superb racing form.(Photo: An exhibition race at Omura Motorboat Racing Course)
A photo exhibition and a talk show were held in conjunction with the exhibition, in order to introduce Misari Motorboat Racing Course. People were encouraged to vote for the racer they thought was going to win. A free trip to South Korea was presented to one person drawn at random from among those correctly picking the winner. Motorboat racing has been in decline due to the stagnating economy and the recent increase in varieties of leisure sports. However, the strong support of fans led the industry to mark up total sales of 1 trillion yen in fiscal 2007. While other public sports continue to face difficulties, motorboat racing is on the road to recovery.
Chinese Quiz bowl Winners Praise Japan [2008/05/07]
In front of the Red Gate of the University of Tokyo
Winners of a Chinese quiz tournament about Japan visited the country this past January, following which they conveyed their impressions to the Japan Science Society. The tournament is sponsored by the Japan Science Society with support from The Nippon Foundation as an extension of a project to distribute Japanese educational and research books to Chinese universities. The fourth tournament was held last September in Eastern China, Jilin and Heilongjiang Provinces, and the 22 students who won the contest or who served as emcees were invited to Japan. The students visited Tokyo, Okinawa, Kobe and Kyoto.(Photo: Students listening to Chairman Sasakawa)
The impressions of many students involved comparisons to China. Their general feeling was that the cities are clean, and the people polite. Lyu Xin of Changchun Teachers College said, “Japan is so clean it seems in danger of becoming transparent.” Song Ying, a staff member at Zhejiang Gongshang University, said, “Japan is indescribably clean, and the trains are quiet.” Sun Wen Bo of the Anhui China-Australia Technology and Vocational College, said, “I’m deeply impressed the cities are so clean, despite the absence of trash cans.” (Photo: In Kyoto, female students delight in wearing Japanese kimono)
During their visit to the Nippon Foundation, Chairman Yohei Sasakawa encouraged the students to learn more about Japan, rather than simply learning to like the country. Accordingly, Chu Yan An of Nanjing University wrote, “Through the exchange of views between young people, we were able to grasp the conditions in each area of the country, something that we couldn’t learn from textbooks.” (Photo: Two students enjoying themselves at a toy store)
Ms. Zhang Fengjie, the head of the group, praised the behavior of the students during their visit to Japan. “They demonstrated dignity, diligence, seriousness, honesty, and a practical turn of mind, cultivated under the influence and guidance of Japanese culture.”
Safety in the Malacca-Singapore Straits: Aids to Navigation Fund [2008/05/05]
On April 17th, in the Malacca-Singapore Straits, a new initiative known as the Aids to Navigation Fund was established to protect navigational safety in the straits. The fund, which was started with an initial contribution of 1.35 million US dollars from The Nippon Foundation, is the first of its kind in the area. It was finalized at the first Aids to Navigation Fund Committee meeting held between The Nippon Foundation and the three littoral countries (Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore).
The Nippon Foundation also announced plans to contribute one-third of the cost of the fund for the first five years, while encouraging the shipping industry and nations using the straits to make voluntary contributions for the remainder. The foundation expects to establish a well-balanced burden-sharing system based on an international framework.
The foundation chose to contribute to this fund due to the recent increase in risk of maritime accidents in the Malacca-Singapore straits accompanying rising international shipping demand. Some 90,000 vessels passed through the waters in 2004, a figure expected to increase by 50 percent by 2020 to approximately 140,000 vessels. Moreover, the costs of installing and maintaining navigational aids and of building buoy tender vessels have continued to rise, weighing heavily on littoral nations.
The Nippon Foundation intends for the fund to be centered on a framework, whereby not just the littoral countries but nations and shipping firms using the straits shoulder the responsibility for managing them.