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Yohei Sasakawa
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My Contribution to the Sankei Newspaper Used in University Entrance Exam [2021年05月10日(Mon)]
The articles I contribute to newspapers and magazines and those posted on my Japanese blog are sometimes quoted by other newspapers and blogs. But it was a particular honor when an article I wrote for the Sankei Shimbun newspaper was used in its entirety in a Japanese university entrance examination.

It is the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that is known to be most cited in university entrance exams in Japan, exemplified by its popular daily column “Vox Populi, Vos Dei,” a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” The paper said in a special column that in fiscal 2020, 541 of its articles were used in entrance exams of 252 Japanese universities, making it the most frequently cited paper in entrance tests among five major Japanese national dailies. Apparently alarmed by a constant decline in its circulation, the Asahi seems eager to advertise its reputation as “the most cited paper in entrance exams in Japan” to boost its readership.

This is the second time that an article of mine has been used in a university entrance exam. On this occasion, it was the piece titled “Achieving Japan’s food security by revitalizing agriculture” that I contributed to the Seiron (Sound Opinion) column of the October 27, 2020, issue of the Sankei Shimbun.

Osaka Aoyama University used the article, comprising a little less than 2,000 words, in an entrance examination in Japanese for its Faculty of Health Sciences on February 21, 2021. Applicants were asked to read it and answer questions about a wide range of issues, including Japan’s food security, agriculture and the Rural Areas Basic Act as well as the meaning of terminology.

In the contribution, I noted that Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate based on a calories-supply basis has been on a constant decline since the 1960s to stand at 38% in fiscal 2019, ranking around 100th in the world. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, I continued, almost 20 countries, including Russia, India and Vietnam, started restricting their exports of wheat and rice as they try to ease pressure on the domestic market.

Although Japan’s farming population has been on the decline, I wrote, I have been encouraged by the increasing number of young Japanese interested in actively taking up farming as well as the unprecedented boom in Japanese food witnessed in many countries following the 2013 designation of washoku, or Japanese cuisine, as an intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Under the circumstances, I stressed the urgent need for Japan to look anew into how to revitalize its agriculture−a sector long considered to be in structural decline−as an important step toward raising the nation’s food self-sufficiency rate.

Founded in 2005, Osaka Aoyama University aims to nurture professionals with intellect, ethics and creativity who contribute to local communities. Its mainstay Faculty of Health Sciences consists of three departments focused on nursing, child education, and health and nutrition with a total of 240 students enrolled. Students of the Health and Nutrition Department are being trained to be experts on food and nutrition, and I look forward to seeing them contribute to enhancing Japan’s food security in the future.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:53 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
Greatly Impressed by Hideki Matsuyama's Caddie Bowing Respectfully to Augusta National Course [2021年04月23日(Fri)]
After Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama wins The Masters on April 11, 2021, at Augusta National, his caddie Shota Hayafuji lit up social media after CBS cameras picked up his respectful bow at the conclusion of the major golf tournament.

Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama made history when he won the 2021 Masters on April 11 at iconic Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, the United States. He became the first Japanese golfer to win a men’s major golf championship and the first Asian-born player to wear the Green Jacket.

But in the aftermath of his triumph, it was his caddie Shota Hayafuji who went viral on social media after CBS cameras picked up his respectful bow at the conclusion of the tournament. He collected the flag from the 18th hole as a keepsake and then turned to face the fairway, removed his hat and made a solemn bow as a gesture of respect to the famed Augusta course.

Following a recent rash of anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States, I was greatly impressed by the image of our countryman bowing at Augusta National, demonstrating an important feature of Japanese culture, which places heavy emphasis on respect−with bowing is one of the primary ways that people in Japan show this.

“An understated act of respect is melting hearts at the Masters and quickly going viral as one of the best highlights of the event,” reported AFP while FOX Sports said: “Matsuyama’s caddie Shota Hayafuji did something that captured the hearts and minds of the sports world.”

“The Masters commands so much respect in the golf world, and Hayafuji clearly recognizes that. To give the respect back to the course shows how much winning the tournament means to him and Matsuyama, well beyond just the money. What an awesome gesture,” golf writer Mr. Larry Brown wrote.

The bow captivated many golf fans and spectators around the world, and they took to Twitter and Instagram to appreciate the gesture.

Here’s a sampling:

“Class all the way. Great culture!” @BigRandyNLU

“Quite an image. My favorite moment of the day. So Japanese. So cool. Great culture.” @Sean_Zak

“This might be the best thing I have ever seen in golf.” @greenmarketguy

“What a moment for @ShotaHayafuji. Bowing to the course after Hideki wins” @caddieworld

“The bow to the course is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in golf. Wow! Big congrats to Hideki! What a weekend. What a tournament. Sad it’s over. Till next year.”@bantamgolf

“Amazing moment, so happy for them and they’re families AND Japan.” @sfish27
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
Honored to be Awarded the “National Order of Merit” of Ecuador [2021年04月01日(Thu)]
With Ecuadorean Ambassador to Japan Jaime Barberis (right) at a ceremony at his country’s embassy in Tokyo on March 29, 2021, to receive the “National Order of Merit”

It was a great honor for me to be decorated with Ecuador’s “National Order of Merit” in the grade of “Grand Officer.” The award was bestowed on me by Ecuadorean Ambassador to Japan Jaime Barberis at a ceremony at the embassy in Tokyo on March 29.

The National Order of Merit of Ecuador was established in 1921 to allow the president of the South American country to acknowledge work and service towards people's wellbeing, according to the embassy.

“In this context, President Lenin Moreno is pleased to pay tribute to Mr. Sasakawa's vision and his hearted passion for social work, which has without doubt led The Nippon Foundation to develop and conduct valuable and life-changing programs all over the world. We are all aware of Mr. Sasakawa's comprehensive experience,” the ambassador said at the ceremony.

In particular, he added: “Your work towards eradicating leprosy and to the improvement of living conditions for people with disabilities, are especially appreciated and recognized worldwide.”

The envoy was referring to more than 40 years of my global battle against leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, and the stigma and discrimination associated with it, as well as the foundation’s campaign to realize an inclusive society in which persons with disabilities can participate fully and are treated with dignity, fairness and respect.

In my quest for a leprosy-free world, I have acted in my capacity as chairman of The Nippon Foundation, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and the Japanese Government Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of Persons Affected by Leprosy, the Ecuadorean government noted.

Ambassador Barberis also stated he must highlight that “along the path of your most distinguished career, you, Mr. Sasakawa and The Nippon Foundation have built alliances, cooperation linkages and friendships with countries, NGOs, international companies, and world leaders.”

“Ecuador is not the exception,” he said, noting: “Thus, a close relationship does exist. We have particularly converged on people with disabilities rights, a topic permanently promoted by Ecuador in international forums.”

In my remarks, I expressed my deep gratitude to Ambassador Barberis for hosting the ceremony despite the novel coronavirus pandemic and asked him to convey to President Moreno how honored I was to receive the award.

The Nippon Foundation and Ecuador share many goals. For example, I have been impressed by Ecuador playing a leading role in global efforts to conserve the ocean environment with its initiative to preserve the marine environment around the Galápagos Islands serving as a role model.

Conserving a healthy ocean environment is one of vital challenges in addressing climate change and environmental degradation, I said, and is seen as crucial for the survival of humankind over the next 500 to 1,000 years. I added that The Nippon Foundation has taken a leadership role as a private entity in this global campaign.

I have also been inspired by the South American nation’s commitment, led by President Moreno, to building an inclusive society in which every individual, with or without disabilities, has an active role to play−a movement which has now spread throughout the world under Ecuador’s leadership.

In this connection, I mentioned that The Nippon Foundation has joined “The Valuable 500” as a Global Impact Partner by providing support totaling $5 million over the next three years to the largest global network of CEOs committed to including persons with disabilities in business.

I look forward to further promoting private sector exchanges between The Nippon Foundation and Ecuador over the coming years.

Talking with persons affected by leprosy at the Hospital Gonzalo Gonzalez in Quito during my visit to Ecuador as chairman of The Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination in October 2016.

With persons affected by leprosy, staff of the Hospital Gonzalo Gonzalez and WHO officials.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 16:58 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
Why Is Japan’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout So Slow? [2021年03月11日(Thu)]
Why is Japan falling far behind other countries in vaccinating its people against the novel coronavirus? With the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games due to start on July 23 and August 24, respectively, we have every reason to speed up the COVID-19 vaccination process.

Japan only started inoculating its population of 126 million people with Pfizer-BioNTech shots on February 17, months after the vaccine rolled out in other major countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

According to data collected by a team of Oxford University students and staff as of March 8 (see table below), Japan administered only 70,796 vaccine doses, compared with 92.09 million for the United States, 52.52 million for China and 23.52 million for the United Kingdom. Japan even falls far behind such Asian developing countries as Indonesia (4.02 million) and Bangladesh (3.68 million).

The delay was largely because the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare took two months more than many other countries to approve its use as regulators were “deliberately cautious” in giving the green light to the vaccine. 

On February 22, U.S. President Joe Biden honored the more than 500,000 people who have died of COVID-19 in the United States−more deaths than those in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined. But on March 2, he said the United States would have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for every adult American by the end of May, dramatically accelerating the administration's previous goal of the end of July.

Japan has had much smaller numbers of COVID-19 cases and fatalities than the United States and some other countries. But since late last year, its health system has been almost overwhelmed by the worst wave of infections since the pandemic started about a year ago, with hundreds of new cases still being reported each day.

For now, Japan’s vaccination campaign calls for giving shots to about 4.7 million front-line medical personnel, a process that is anticipated to take several weeks. They will be followed by approximately 36 million people aged 65 or older who will be administered shots, starting on April 12. But no decision has been made as to when to start inoculating about 8.2 million people with underlying health conditions, some 2 million care workers at nursing facilities and the remaining adult population.

Japan’s slow vaccine rollout came amid concern over supply shortages created by the European Union's new controls on vaccine exports and production delays at Pfizer's factory in Belgium.

In his major policy speech before the Diet (Parliament) on January 18, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said “vaccines will be the decisive factor” in our fight against the coronavirus.

I agree. I sincerely hope Japan will do everything possible to accelerate the vaccination process, not only to save as many lives as possible, but also to stage the Olympic and Paralympic games this summer and bring the Japanese economy back on track.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, as of March 8, 2021

Total number of vaccination doses administered as compiled by “Our World in Data,” a team of Oxford University students and staff. This is counted as a single dose, and may not equal the total number of people vaccinated, depending on the specific dose regime (e.g. people receive multiple doses).

United States 92.09 million
China 52.52 million (Feb 28, 2021)
European Union 42.13 million
United Kingdom 23.52 million (Mar 7, 2021)
India 23.01 million

Brazil 10.95 million
Turkey 10 million
Israel 8.85 million
Germany 7.9 million
Russia 6.67 million

United Arab Emirates 6.29 million
France 5.81 million (Mar 7, 2021)
Italy 5.59 million
Chile 4.95 million
Spain 4.71 million (Mar 7, 2021)

Morocco 4.61 million
Indonesia 4.02 million (Mar 7, 2021)
Poland 4 million
Bangladesh 3.68 million (Mar 7, 2021)
Canada 2.47 million

Japan 70,796

World 312.25 million

Source: Official data collated by Our World in Data – Last updated 9 March, 15:10 (London time), 2021
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:18 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
Receiving Seiron (Sound Opinion) Grand Prize, I Call for “Altering” Japan’s Constitution (2) [2020年10月06日(Tue)]
Addressing the award ceremony for the 35th Seiron (Sound Opinion) Grand Prize for 2019, which was rescheduled from February 28 to September 17 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In my remarks at the Seiron award ceremony, I also reiterated my position in favor of further strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance as the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

President Trump, espousing his “America First” agenda, has reportedly claimed the bilateral security treaty is one-sided and to the disadvantage of the United States, since the Japanese Self-Defense Forces have no obligation to come to the defense of the U.S. even when it comes under attack.

I stated that the bilateral alliance should undergo transformation with Japan becoming more active by providing logistical support for U.S. forces.  

With regard to a vision for building up the country in the post-COVID-19 era, I drew the audience’s attention to the findings of an online survey conducted last year by The Nippon Foundation, covering 1,000 17- to 19-year-olds in each of nine countries−China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.

It showed that young people in Japan ranked last behind their peers in the eight other countries in all areas. For instance, when asked whether they believed that their country will get better in the future, China topped the list at 96%, followed by India (76%) and Vietnam (69%), while the developed countries were far behind with the United States standing at 30%, Britain 25% and Japan a meager 9.6%.

On the other hand, 86% of young Japanese replied that they were happy to have been born in this country, the highest among the nine countries.

I then referred to another survey carried out by the BBC, covering 28,000 people in 25 countries, which found that Japan, along with Canada, was viewed most favorably among the nations of the world.

Just as in the case of the new gengo name, I firmly believe that we should take pride in Japan’s 2,000 years of history and tradition. Through my own experience of spending almost 40% of each year abroad engaged in fighting leprosy and other activities, I can say that people of every nation have pride in their own country.

Those poll results made me believe that it is our responsibility to share with young Japanese a vision of how to build a country that allows them to hope and dream.

I suggested that Japan can and should contribute to the world through its cultural power, which other countries will be hard-pressed to beat.

Just to give them a couple of examples, I pointed to the nation’s many cultural attractions that brought tens of millions of visitors from abroad, until the coronavirus put global tourism on hold; and the tens of thousands of companies that have been in business for more than a century on the strength of their traditional craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail.

Our problem is that young people in Japan do not know these wonderful cultural assets that have accumulated over the centuries and are theirs to inherit.

If Japan, already one of the most favorably viewed countries in the world, partially alters its constitution and becomes more respected as a cultural power, the future for Japanese youth will be bright.

▼Deepest Condolences on the Passing of Ex-Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui

The ceremony began with a moment of silence in memory of Taiwan’s former president Lee Teng-hui, who passed away on July 30 at the age of 97. He was named to receive a special Seiron Grand Prize and had been scheduled to come to Tokyo to attend the award ceremony in February.

I told the event that when I learned of his passing, I felt as if I had lost my own father. I said I had planned to meet with Mr. Lee on the occasion of my visit to Taiwan in March to congratulate President Tsai Ing-wen on her reelection in January, but to my great regret I could not do so as he had already been hospitalized.

Nicknamed "Mr. Democracy," Mr. Lee, a fluent Japanese speaker, studied at Japan's Kyoto Imperial University under a scholarship while Taiwan was a Japanese colony, and later became Taiwan’s first democratically elected president.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:32 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
Receiving Seiron (Sound Opinion) Grand Prize, I Call for “Altering” Japan’s Constitution (1) [2020年10月02日(Fri)]
Receiving the bronze statue Hisho (Flight) for the 35th Seiron (Sound Opinion) Grand Prize for 2019 from President Hirohiko Iizuka (left) of the Sankei Shimbun at a ceremony at Hotel New Otani Tokyo on September 17, 2020.

I was extremely honored to receive the 35th Seiron (Sound Opinion) Grand Prize for 2019 from Fujisankei Communications Group, a Japanese media conglomerate.

At a ceremony at Hotel New Otani Tokyo on September 17, President Hirohiko Iizuka of the Sankei Shimbun, the group’s flagship national daily, presented me with the bronze statue Hisho (Flight) created by the sculptor Susumu Misho. The award is given to academics, journalists and opinion leaders who contribute to the development of the seiron philosophy of fighting for freedom and democracy, he said.

The ceremony had originally been set for February 28 with some 700 invited guests but was rescheduled and scaled back due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

At the event, I was also honored to receive a congratulatory message sent by Mr. Yoshihide Suga, who was elected the 99th prime minister of Japan by the Diet (Parliament) only the previous day. It was read out by the moderator.

President Iizuka told the audience that this prestigious prize had been conferred upon me for a total of 126 articles I contributed to the “Seiron” column of the Sankei Shimbun during the past 14 years, most notably the one in which I proposed that Japan should not stick with the tradition dating back almost 1,400 years of selecting the name of the imperial era, or gengo, from classical Chinese literature. More than 40 years of my life fighting against leprosy and engaging in other philanthropic activities were also taken into account, he added.

My article, carried in the January 3, 2019 issue of the paper, triggered a heated debate about the new gengo among the Japanese public. In the end, Reiwa was chosen as the new era name, the word taken for the first time from an ancient Japanese source−an anthology of poems called the Manyoshu−instead of old Chinese texts.

The Reiwa era, which can be translated as “beautiful harmony”, began on May 1, 2019 when Crown Prince Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne after the historic abdication of his father, Emperor Akihito.

Speaking at the September 17 award ceremony, I began by offering to donate the prize money of one million yen (about 9,500 dollars) to the Akemi-chan Fund, which the Sankei Shimbun has operated since 1966 to help children who have congenital cardiac diseases but lack the wherewithal to undergo surgery.

I then spoke about some of the pressing issues Japan should deal with in a post-COVID-19 era. I first proposed that the country promptly “alter” its constitution to bring it more in line with its identity as a sovereign state with more than 2,000 years of history.

One essence of an independent state is to have armed forces. Of course, they are not necessarily designed only to go on the offensive, but more aimed at self-defense and protecting people from natural disasters.  Learning from the unhappy experience in World War II, I said there must be proper civilian controls in place on the use of force.

Article 9 of the constitution, which came into effect on May 3, 1947, renounces war and stipulates: “Land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” There is no mention of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in the constitution whatsoever although the government has interpreted it in a manner in which the SDF would not be unconstitutional.

The current constitution has been in place for more than seven decades. But I believe the constitution should be “altered” reflecting changes in society over time and that it is the people who should think this over and decide. For that, we need to have an intense, thorough and detailed debate involving as many people as possible.

The key is to make it more understandable and acceptable to the people by softening the tone of the messages and that is why I suggested we should use the word “alter” the constitution. The word “amend” may set off an almost allergic reaction in some quarters among those who see it as something akin to a “total remake” or “overturning a dining table in anger” as a Japanese saying goes, after 75 years of peaceful life.  

Some people are strongly against revising the constitution which they have viewed as sacred for more than seven decades. I believe this has resulted from the lack of efforts by political leaders to make the public understand the charter, which was drafted in just one week or 10 days following Japan’s defeat in the war.

(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:31 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
The Prime Minister, His Health and the Media [2020年09月28日(Mon)]
Mr. Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving Japanese prime minister in history, resigned on September 16, citing the need to undergo prolonged treatment for his ulcerative colitis, a chronic illness.

During seven years and eight months in office, he made 81 overseas trips as prime minister, visiting a total of 80 countries, with the aim of executing his signature “Proactive Contribution to Peace” strategy and “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” vision. The number of overseas visits is a record for any Japanese prime minister since World War II, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Domestically, he devoted himself to his “Abenomics” policies to lift the economy out of deflation; these comprised the three so-called arrows−massive monetary stimulus, increased government spending, and structural reforms. In the wake of strong earthquakes, typhoons, floods, landslides and other natural disasters hitting many parts of the country, he visited affected people to talk with and encourage them on numerous occasions. 

Through my own experience of spending nearly 40% of each year overseas on fighting leprosy and other activities, I realized how much Mr. Abe has been trusted abroad as a Japanese leader. Before Mr. Abe’s reign, few people outside the country, with the exception of diplomats and experts on Japan, knew the name of the Japanese prime minister, who would serve no more than a year or so. 

He established a particularly good personal rapport with U.S. President Donald Trump, conferring bilaterally 14 times (50 times when telephone calls are included), as well as with other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin (25 meetings), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (14) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (12), just to mention a few. Among successive prime ministers, Mr. Abe’s achievements in dealing with world affairs in an age of globalization deserve to be highly commended. 

Given that, it is undeniable that the way the Japanese media covered Mr. Abe’s resignation looked hollow at best despite their seeming tendency to be sensitive to human rights and humanitarian issues.

Among his predecessors, Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki played golf at the Narashino Country Club, east of Tokyo, every weekend to refresh himself in the early 1980s, but to my knowledge, was not the target of harsh criticism by the press. When Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi passed away days after going into a coma due to cerebral infarction while in office in 2000, the media started to shine a spotlight on the health of senior politicians. His successor, Mr. Yoshiro Mori, was chastised by the press when he continued to play golf in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, even upon reports that the Japanese fishery high school training ship Ehime Maru had sunk after being hit by a U.S. Navy submarine off Hawaii. He later learned the accident killed nine high school teachers and students from Ehime Prefecture, western Japan.

Needless to say, a prime minister has to be healthy not only physically but also spiritually to achieve great things. Two years ago, some Japanese newspapers reported that Prime Minister Abe played golf “as many as twelve times a year,” including during his summer vacation. I would argue that staying in the best physical and mental shape is a duty of a nation’s leader, but Japanese media do not appear ready to accept that.

Incidentally, I have heard through the grapevine that President Trump plays golf 50 to100 times a year without being blamed by anyone, while rarely having to attend Congressional sessions except for an annual State of the Union message.

Prime Minister Abe spent the first half of this year working for more than 150 days in a row without a day off or playing golf. He attended a budget committee session for more than six hours on the day after his return home from a lengthy overseas trip. A Japanese prime minister is tied up in the Diet (Parliament) much longer than his counterparts overseas. 

When the Democratic Party of Japan (now the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan) was in power (2009-2012), the post of state minister was created. This allowed ministers including the prime minister to go abroad when the Diet was in session as state ministers would stand in for them and answer questions on their behalf. But now, ministers are barred from making overseas trips during parliamentary sessions as a matter of principle.

Media and opposition party members tend to take ministers’ absence from the Diet as a sign they are making light of the legislature. But if we examine the questions that opposition politicians put to ministers, they seem to be based on weekly magazine reports that they use to boost their appeal for electioneering purposes. They do not show the slightest sign of respect toward the prime minister and ministers who stand to answer their questions. 

As an old Japanese saying goes, ignore what’s trivial to focus on what’s important. No matter where a prime minister is, he can be reached promptly thanks to advanced communications technology. I hope that after Mr. Abe’s departure, they will do away with the habit of forcing a prime minister to stay always at his official residence to do his job.

People should cut some slack when a top political leader takes a holiday to engage in “trivial matters” before focusing on what’s important. I believe that the media, especially newspapers, should show such tolerance. 
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:09 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
How Can We Keep Opinion Polls Trustworthy? [2020年07月02日(Thu)]
There are all kinds of opinion polls on everything from the Cabinet’s approval rating to social issues. Just what is considered a poll can be argued about, but whatever the survey−and these include numerous consumer research and product research studies too−the findings are only valid if the data can be trusted.

So, I was shocked at the announcement by Fuji Television Network Inc. and Sankei Shimbun Co. that their joint opinion polls conducted over one year from May 2019 included data that had been fabricated by a subcontractor.

They said on June 19 that they have retracted all the TV programs and articles that included the results from the tainted surveys on the approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues.

The broadcaster and the national newspaper, both part of giant Fuji Media Holdings Inc., said they commissioned Adams Communications Co. in Tokyo to conduct telephone surveys on some 1,000 respondents for each poll, and then Adams subcontracted about half of the calls to Kyoto-based Nippon Telenet without permission from Fuji TV or Sankei.

But a person in charge at the subcontractor made up poll answers for 14 surveys without actually making the calls, because “it was difficult to secure phone operators,” said the two media companies.

Fuji TV said the company felt a strong sense of responsibility for not being able to check the falsified data and for broadcasting the bogus information. The Sankei Shimbun, meanwhile, commented, "We deeply apologize for delivering mistaken information in our reporting on opinion polls, which is an important role of news organizations." 

This revelation by the nation’s leading news conglomerate that it had utilized fabricated data for as long as one year might have undermined people’s trust in opinion polls taken by media and other organizations. One factor that might have been behind the subcontractor’s behavior is that people are now more reluctant to answer telephone surveys, given the growing number of warnings from the police against scam robocalls.

The Nippon Foundation has carried out an Awareness Survey of 18-Year-Olds since October 2018 to track the attitudes and awareness of young Japanese regarding politics, society, work, families, friends, and other issues. The polls, each covering 1,000 17- to 19-year-olds, have drawn keen interest from the public because they are carried out by private entity, and are reported on by newspapers and television networks on a regular basis. The foundation commissioned a private research firm to conduct the polls, which unlike the method used in the Fuji TV-Sankei surveys are carried out online and not via telephone.

Just to make sure, we checked the past results of our opinion polls, and found everything to be order. But if we find there are any lessons to be learned from the mistakes made by Fuji TV and Sankei, then we will apply them in order to upgrade the quality of our surveys so that they are truly trusted by the public. 
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:33 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
Coronavirus “Fake News” in Taiwan Spotted by Japanese Fact-Checking Body [2020年04月10日(Fri)]

“Fake news” is a familiar term even to the Japanese public, thanks to its repeated use by U.S. President Donald Trump to dismiss media coverage critical of his administration. Fake news has a damaging effect on the political, economic and every other arena.

With this in mind, The Nippon Foundation is supporting a project to fact-check questionable information regarding the coronavirus outbreak. This was in line with a proposal by Mr. Ichiro Kabasawa, executive director of the foundation and a former journalist with NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster.Let me share with you the first result of the project.

It concerned a tweet that spread in Taiwan at a time when fake news about the coronavirus outbreak was proliferating in many countries. Dated February 28, it was purportedly posted by Mr. Taro Kono, Japan’s Defense Minister, and was accompanied by his photograph.

The tweet said in Japanese: “As we received 500,000 masks from Taiwan, I pray for the safety of Taiwan.” The post drew comments thought to be from Taiwanese critical of their government for allegedly sending a large number of masks to Japan at a time when the purchase of masks by local residents in Taiwan was restricted.

A fact-checking organization in Taiwan, Taiwan Factcheck Center (TFC), requested FactCheck Initiative Japan (FIJ) to verify the authenticity of the tweet. Founded in 2017 to support journalists, media outlets and others in fact-checking questionable information, FIJ started a special website in early February this year focusing on fake news on the coronavirus outbreak.

A journalist who works with FIJ contacted the office of Mr. Kono and found out that he did not tweet such a message. Upon receiving this information from FIJ, TFC posted a message in Chinese on its website that the tweet was a fake, and posted the same message on Facebook as well.

This fake news may have aimed at instigating criticism of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who won reelection in January on promises not to allow China to bring Taiwan under its authority. However, it poses a serious problem for Japan if a fake tweet attributed to a Japanese Cabinet minister spreads overseas through social media.

We decided to support this initiative with the aim of combating fake news on the coronavirus pandemic. But I believe it will be one of Japan’s new diplomatic challenges to detect, monitor and prevent fake news going viral against Japan overseas.


FactCheck Initiative Japan (FIJ) investigated this tweet, purportedly from Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono, which read: “As we received 500,000 masks from Taiwan, I pray for the safety of Taiwan.”FIJ confirmed that the tweet, which spread around Taiwan, was a fake.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:03 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
Japan Should Lead the Way Toward Practicing Public Interest Capitalism (2) [2020年03月18日(Wed)]
Business Communities Reluctant to Raise Wages

I have no objection to raising compensation for senior company executives in Japan, which is said to be lower than in the United States and western Europe. But while Japanese companies’ internal reserves hit all-time highs almost every year and executive compensation keeps rising, why do employees’ wages remain stagnant in contrast to other developed countries?

As a rule of thumb, internal reserves are supposed to pay dividends to shareholders, make capital investments, and raise employee wages. Regrettably, Japanese companies have been reluctant both to raise worker wages and make new capital investment, despite the government’s call on the business community to do so.

I understand companies’ cautious attitudes are attributable to Japan’s rapidly aging society and declining population as well as their experience in wrestling with the fallout from the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008−the so-called “Lehman shock” that triggered a global financial crisis. But if so, companies are not taking on social responsibilities.

Konosuke Matsushita (1894-1989), the founder of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., now known as Panasonic Corporation, and revered as the "god of management” in Japan, is famous for such quotes as “Business is people,” underscoring the importance of developing human resources.

Eiichi Shibusawa (1840-1931), known as “the father of Japanese capitalism,” who founded over 500 banks and business corporations, including the First National Bank (now Mizuho Bank), Tokyo Gas, Sapporo Brewery and the Imperial Hotel, developed his solid conviction that morality and economic activity are compatible−the doctrine that saw morality as an essential part of economic activity and stressed pursuit of the public interest. 

It is the mission of a company to value people and proactively work on virtuous business management for society. This is the tradition that Japanese companies have cultivated over the years. From this April, the principle of equal pay for equal work will be applied to large companies. I would hope that the business community will act proactively, working to narrow the income gap between regular and non-regular employees.

Companies’ internal reserves are after-tax revenues. So, there may be a lingering objection in the business community to imposing a tax on internal reserves, claiming that it would amount to double taxation and possibly encourage more Japanese firms to manufacture their products abroad. But if Japanese companies leave their internal reserves mostly untouched, it would give more reasons for a new tax on them. 

The Sense of Crisis Also Spreading in the U.S., Europe

In the United States and Europe, there is also a growing sense of crisis about shareholder capitalism, which has brought about excessive income gaps and serious environmental degradation. Prior to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, the NGO Oxfam International came up with a mind-boggling report revealing that the world’s 2,153 billionaires had more wealth than the 4.6 billion poorest people on the planet in 2019. I do not think that such a distorted society is sustainable.

High on the agenda at the Davos conference was how to redefine capitalism, and there was a strong call for switching to “stakeholder capitalism,” which values all employees, society and the environment.

At a time when shareholder capitalism remains dominant in the world, Japan still maintains stable employment compared to other countries. Japan, which values human resources and social harmony, should be in a position to lead the world toward having second thoughts about shareholder capitalism.

Public interest capitalism should be one of our goals. I sincerely hope that Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), comprising the nation’s 1,412 big business corporations, will take the initiative now to achieve this goal.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
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