It was the greatest honor for me to be decorated with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun at the 2019 spring awards ceremony, the first since the ascension of Emperor Naruhito and the commencement of the Reiwa Era on May 1.
The award was conferred on me by the Emperor at the Imperial Palace ceremony on May 23 in the presence of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Established in 1875, the Order of the Rising Sun is the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese government and recognizes politicians and members of the private sector who have made outstanding contributions to society in a variety of fields.
This year, I was among eight persons receiving the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun.
I learned that I received this honor for my contribution to ocean-related activities and international cooperation.
I believe this award was given not in recognition of me personally, but rather of the entire The Nippon Foundation and its partner organizations.
Reporting on the award recipients, NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, said that The Nippon Foundation is supporting social welfare, education, international cooperation and other activities.
It also noted that as the World Health Organization’s Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, I have devoted myself to the battle against leprosy for more than 40 years.
In an interview with NHK, I said that “we have to tackle both the disease of leprosy and the social discrimination associated with it at the same time. There is no other disease like leprosy. Sixteen million leprosy patients have been cured (since the introduction of multidrug therapy). Our next target is zero leprosy.”
I was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun
(May 23, 2019, Tokyo)