Almost 300 Sylff Fellows Receive COVID-19 Relief to Continue Studies, Start New Careers (2) [2022年01月13日（Thu）]
In his letter dated July 5, 2021, Mr. Seth Owusu-Mante, a 2019 fellow at the Fletcher School of Tufts University in Massachusetts, the United States, expressed his “sincere appreciation” for the Sylff COVID-19 Relief award, which enabled him to start his PhD course at The Fletcher School in Fall 2021.
“Thank you for supporting my journey towards pursuing a career in teaching, energy policy consultancy, and evidence-based research that informs policies consistent with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” he said, adding: “Not only will I remain an active member of the Sylff community but in the future, I am confident about reciprocating the benefits through mentoring and financial gifts in support of younger fellows.”
Ms. Gabriele Slizyte, a 2019 fellow at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (CNSMDP) of France, wrote in her July 24 letter: “Since the outbreak of the pandemic, I am feeling your support which inspires me each day to move forwards and to seek new academic heights.” “With the help of the COVID-19 Relief for Sylff Fellows 2021, I will be able to cover my living expenses in France and hopefully pay a visit to my family which I have not seen since last year.”
“As my country starts reopening, I cannot wait to renew my professional activities and to present my latest research in various conferences in France,” she wrote.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your philanthropic activities which bring so much optimism into this world,” she said, adding: “I am proud to be a Sylff’s fellow and I am looking forward to support and to mentor the younger fellows in the future.”
We are committed to helping fellows pursue their goals during these difficult times. I am particularly happy that many of the grant recipients expressed their willingness to be active in the Sylff Association and mentor young fellows. I sincerely hope that the relief funds have made a real difference in helping the fellows either continue their studies and research or transition smoothly to the labor market.
Almost 300 Sylff Fellows Receive COVID-19 Relief to Continue Studies, Start New Careers (1) [2022年01月12日（Wed）]
The novel coronavirus pandemic has directly impacted people’s lives everywhere in a way the world has never seen before. Fellows studying at 69 universities around the globe under The Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff) are no exception. With COVID-19 presenting challenges to their studies and daily lives, some of them were almost forced to give up working toward a master’s or doctoral degree.
In line with a proposal advanced by Ms. Mari Suzuki, executive director of the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, our partner organization that administers the fellowship program, the Sylff Association has offered “COVID-19 Relief for Sylff Fellows 2021” to support current and recently graduated fellows facing financial difficulties in earning a degree or starting a career due to the pandemic.
In response, a total of 287 fellows at 55 universities successfully applied for the award−a lump sum to cover living expenses for about 3.5 months in the country where they are based, separate from the annual grant they receive as fellows. In total, the foundation paid out $1.2 million in COVID relief to the fellows.
The Nippon Foundation launched the Sylff scholarship program in 1987 to nurture dedicated young leaders who could boldly take on global challenges and devise workable solutions. In the 34 years since, more than 16,000 people at 69 universities in 44 countries have received fellowships from the fund.
I serve as chairman of the Sylff Association, which comprises all current and graduated fellows, the 69 Sylff institutions, The Nippon Foundation and the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research. It is designed to support the fellows’ academic advancement and encourage networking among the graduates−something that makes Sylff stand out from other fellowship programs.
I have been delighted to receive many letters of thanks from the fellows who took advantage of the relief funds. Here, I would like to share with you excerpts from the three of them.
Ms. Le Huhyen Nhung Nguyen, a 2018-2019 fellow at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) in Oita Prefecture in western Japan, wrote in her letter dated June 23, 2021: “I am deeply moved by the COVID-19 Relief in 2021. I humbly receive and am sincerely thankful for this timely support from Sylff Association.” When she visits Tokyo in the future, she said, she would like to thank me and the secretariat in person.
She recently completed a self-sponsored process of returning to Vietnam after much difficulty due to the COVID-19 travel constraints. In her home country, Ms. Nguyen said, she continued her research work remotely and finished her submission to the Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group publisher on schedule.
“This is my first time participating in a book project and I received great support from family, editors, colleagues and especially from Sylff Association,” she said, adding: “I strive to mentor and financially support younger fellows at my best capacity.”
(To be continued)
Honored to Talk with Nobel Laureate Dr. Yunus About Post-COVID-19 World [2021年12月21日（Tue）]
I join an online talk session with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus (right above) on December 2, 2021, to discuss our vision for the world in a post-COVID-19 era.
It was a great honor and pleasure for me to participate in an online talk session with Nobel laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus to discuss our vision for the world in a post-COVID-19 era, focusing on education.
Dr. Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist and civil society leader, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize with Grameen Bank, a microfinance organization he founded in 1983 to provide loans to poor people who cannot access mainstream banks. This initiative has since inspired similar programs worldwide.
In the December 2 talk session, he noted that as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the world economy has “stopped functioning and collapsed” with billions of people falling below the poverty line across the world.
However, he insisted that this has given us a “great opportunity to build a new train to a new destination”, to redesign the whole capitalist system based on his vision of a new economy of “three zeros: zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero CO2 emissions.”
Even before COVID-19, Dr. Yunus said, the capitalist engine in its current form has inevitably led to rampant inequality, massive unemployment and environmental destruction. Only about 1% of the world’s population owns 99% of the global wealth, a situation that has been exacerbated by COVID-19. This is “a ticking time bomb,” he said, warning: “Before it’s too late, we should redesign the machine.”
Toward this goal, Dr. Yunus called for a global support network to help young entrepreneurs launch their start-ups. He invited young people to join his movement by becoming entrepreneurs, to be a “pilot of this new spacecraft” and start innovative social businesses designed to serve human needs rather than accumulate wealth. “We can do that. We should not give up.”
In my remarks to the session, which I joined at his invitation, I supported his philosophy of “three zeros,” noting that his comments made me believe that the world really needs him as he is one of the few people to think of the post-COVID era in a positive way. Especially, I fully agreed with him when he stated that young people should take the lead in innovating society, adding: “Your prescient presentation gives people of the world courage, hope and passion.”
In connection with the social businesses he mentioned, I stated that The Nippon Foundation has joined the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Development Bank of Japan in forming an organization to provide poor women in Asia with unsecured loans for starting up businesses. “It may be a bit different from what Dr. Yunus is doing, but the number of loans giving Asian women ways to make a living is increasing at an extraordinary pace," I said.
I also told the session that the foundation has joined “The Valuable 500” as a Global Impact Partner by providing support totaling $5 million over the next three years to the global network of CEOs of 500 companies committed to including persons with disabilities in business through access to jobs, products and services.
The Valuable 500 membership includes global companies from 36 countries, among them Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, BBC, BP, Daimler, P&G, Unilever, Sony and Softbank.
There are more than 1.2 billion persons with disabilities in the world, who have talent, passion and ability, but many of them are excluded from society because of their disabilities and not having the opportunity to work, I stated.
Referring to the disparities in wealth Dr. Yunus mentioned, I am asking the CEOs of those global companies if it is OK to leave the world’s inequality unattended. “What we are trying to do is to solve the CEOs’ poorness of mind,” I added.
I also noted that an increasing number of young Japanese have come to believe that they can make their life meaningful by using what they learn through education for the sake of those in need.
As Dr. Yunus said, it is young people who can challenge and change the world. I am ready to work with him, Valuable 500 CEOs and others to encourage and support the young across the globe to become entrepreneurs who are not just in it for themselves, but who help each other in a spirit of altruism in a post-COVID-19 era.
Congratulations on the 35th Anniversary of Sasakawa Africa Association [2021年12月01日（Wed）]
The Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) is celebrating its 35th anniversary by holding special ceremonies in its four focus countries−Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Uganda−in November and December.
In a video message I recorded for the first of those functions on November 1, I expressed my sincere respect for SAA’s efforts over 35 years to improve the livelihood of millions of smallholder farmers across the continent struggling to avoid the poverty trap. “No other organization has consistently provided agricultural assistance in various parts of Africa for so long as SAA.”
SAA was established in 1986 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, and my late father Ryoichi Sasakawa, the first chairman of The Nippon Foundation, in the wake of the devastating famine that ravaged the Horn of Africa in 1984-85.
Over the years, SAA has worked in 15 countries across the continent with the support of The Nippon Foundation. Currently, it has country offices in the four focus countries with a Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) program also operating in seven additional countries to provide leadership for building human resource capacity in agricultural extension.
As a core donor, the foundation has provided over US$300 million in support of its programs−an unprecedented figure from a donor to a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) on a continuous basis, according to SAA’s 2020 annual report released in July this year.
In my message, I also welcomed a new Strategic Plan (2021-2025) SAA has drawn up to better address the changing trends in agriculture, including the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic on food systems and SAA’s activities, with travel to and between African countries seriously restricted.
The limitations imposed by COVID-19 have affected most of SAA’s activities along the crop value chain, including access to extension and advisory services, input and output markets, financial services and labor availability as well as learning activities at universities and agricultural colleges under SAFE.
In developing the strategy, which was approved by the SAA board and The Nippon Foundation, consultations involving SAA staff, partners and stakeholders “identified ways in which SAA could realign its operations to solve the issues facing smallholder farmers today,” the annual report said.
The strategy calls for realizing its aspiration for a resilient and sustainable food system by, among other things, working with African smallholder farmers to increase their food, nutrition, and income security by catalyzing technological innovation in agriculture and to attain market-oriented agriculture for ensuring farming as a business.
I told the ceremony participants it is a wonderful new strategy that fully reflects SAA’s experience, wisdom, and passion, but there will always be unexpected difficulties. It was at such times, I said, that we need to show our resolve, as we have done in the past, and overcome them.
"I strongly hope that you will continue to cooperate across countries and organizations for the future of agriculture in Africa,” I said. “If we can join forces and work together, we can make the lives of people in Africa more prosperous and bring about a more hopeful Africa.”
SAA’s annual report 2020 can be seen here.
The Nippon Foundation Donates 100 Oxygen Concentrators, Pulse Oximeters to Indian State to Help It Combat COVID-19 [2021年08月02日（Mon）]
Mr. N. Biren Singh (third from right), Chief Minister of Manipur State in northeastern India, receiving the oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters donated by The Nippon Foundation at a ceremony in Imphal on July 8, 2021. The equipment is intended to help the state fight the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.
The Nippon Foundation has donated 100 oxygen concentrators and as many pulse oximeters to the state of Manipur in northeastern India to help it fight the South Asian country’s second wave of novel coronavirus infections.
At a ceremony in the state capital of Imphal on July 8, the 52 million-yen (about $470,000) worth of equipment was handed over to Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and Principal Secretary of Health and Family Welfare V. Vumlunmang by Dr Thangjam Dhabali, founder president of Manipur Tourism Forum (MTF), and Imphal Peace Museum director Haobam Joyremba on the foundation’s behalf.
Chief Minister Singh expressed his gratitude to The Nippon Foundation, noting that the equipment would be very helpful in dealing with the deadly waves of the pandemic prevailing in the state.
Currently, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Manipur is outpacing that of hospital beds available, requiring many patients to self-quarantine at home. Even though infections reported in the whole of India have been on the decline in recent weeks, those in the northeastern state are trending upward once again.
This has led many experts to predict a third wave of infections hitting that part of the country, underscoring the need to prepare.
Under these circumstances, The Nippon Foundation decided to donate 100 battery-operated oxygen concentrators−medical devices that compress oxygen from the air−that can be used during power outages, and 100 pulse oximeters, which can easily detect irregular blood oxygen levels, to help the state improve the quality of home medical care of COVID-19 patients.
The decision came as the foundation and its partner organization, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, came to realize how dire the infection situation is in Manipur through contacts with the MTF with which we worked together to establish the Imphal Peace Museum in June 2019 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal between the Japanese army and Allied forces−one of the fiercest battles of World War II.
The Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society, an NGO based in India, and the MTF assisted us with local coordination with the state government.
Arranged by Kintetsu World Express and ANA Cargo, the equipment was shipped by air to Delhi, arriving on June 21, and from there was transported 2,500 kilometers by road to Manipur, arriving on June 29.
The Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation sincerely hope that the equipment will help the state of Manipur to improve home medical care service for COVID-19 patients to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters ready for shipping at an ANA Cargo distribution center near Narita International Airport on June 18, 2021.
The oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters being loaded at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo for shipment to Delhi on June 21. (Photo provided by ANA Cargo)
The shipment arriving in Imphal, the capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, on June 29 after being transported by road from Delhi.
The Nippon Foundation Stepping Up Partnership with United Nations in Nurturing Professionals to Tackle Ocean Issues (2) [2021年07月01日（Thu）]
(B) The United Nations-Nippon Foundation Thematic
This fellowship aims at increasing capacity at the national level through funding of advanced training and research in specific thematic areas of ocean affairs and the law of the sea and related disciplines, so as to provide the necessary knowledge to assist countries in formulating relevant policies in conformity with the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This newly established program lasts four months and is structured as follows:
1. Three months of training on ocean affairs and the law of the sea at the U.N. Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UNDOALOS) in New York, which serves as the secretariat for UNCLOS.
2. A one-month placement with relevant U.N. organizations, including the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London and the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) in New York, or a New-York based program of briefing and activities.
(C) The United Nations-Nippon Foundation Critical
This fellowship aims to deliver critical capacity assistance in the implementation of UNCLOS and related instruments, as well as Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which calls for member nations to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources” as well as other related SDGs. Customized capacity assistance is provided to government officials from developing states and least developed countries, who are filling key positions but have limited experience in ocean affairs and the law of the sea. The program is aimed at addressing critical needs identified by the participants and their governments.
(D) Capacity-building for Biological Diversity of Areas
Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)
This program establishes new short courses, held twice annually at U.N. headquarters, to improve government-to-government negotiating skills and gain legal, policymaking, and scientific knowledge and technologies related to BBNJ, for the conclusion of BBNJ treaties.
The programs are tailored to the needs and requests of participating countries so as to enable them to better address strategically important and time-sensitive issues related to the law of the sea and ocean governance.
Upon completion of these four programs, the fellows are expected to have an advanced awareness and understanding of key issues and best international practices in ocean affairs and to return to their home countries to contribute their experience to assist with the effective implementation of UNCLOS and related instruments and programs.
The world’s oceans are in a critical state. Humanity cannot exist without healthy oceans. I sincerely hope the fellows will take the lead in pioneering innovative collaborations and frameworks to address ocean challenges on a global scale. The Nippon Foundation is there to support them.
The Nippon Foundation Stepping Up Partnership with United Nations in Nurturing Professionals to Tackle Ocean Issues (1) [2021年06月29日（Tue）]
Since its establishment in 1962, The Nippon Foundation has undertaken various human resource capacity-building programs in developing and developed countries.
To mention just a few, it has provided scholarships for advanced education of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons and those with visual impairment as well as for students at agricultural universities in Africa and elsewhere. We built schools to educate prosthetics and orthotics (P&O) professionals in Southeast Asian countries where many people have lost limbs after coming into contact with landmines used in internal conflicts. The Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA), a research and design organization we established at the University of Houston 35 years ago, has produced four astronauts.
But this blog focuses on the foundation’s partnership with the United Nations in nurturing professionals to tackle ocean and marine issues that are now recognized as one of the world’s most pressing challenges.
In a webinar on May 19, I agreed with U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Miguel de Serpa Soares to redouble our efforts to cultivate professionals to address ocean issues. To date, 182 fellows from 82 countries have completed the training programs under our partnership with the U.N. I am proud to say that most of them are now back in their home countries, hard at work on finding solutions to the issues facing the oceans.
Our initiatives are administered primarily with the U.N. Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UNDOALOS) in New York, which serves as the secretariat for the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and consist of the following four programs:
(A) The United Nations-Nippon Foundation Fellowship
This fellowship provides advanced training and research opportunities in the field of ocean affairs and the law of the sea and related disciplines, including marine science in support of policy and management frameworks, to government officials and other mid-level ocean professionals from developing states. It aims to provide the necessary knowledge and skills to assist developing states in formulating comprehensive ocean policies, and in implementing UNCLOS and related instruments. The program lasts nine months and is structured into two phases:
1. Three months of training on ocean affairs and the law of the sea and research on an agreed topic at UNDOALOS.
2. Six months at one of 48 participating academic institutions in 24 countries, where fellows are able to conduct supervised research and prepare a thesis on their topic.
(To be continued)
It’s Japan’s International Commitment to Host Tokyo Olympic, Paralympic Games This Summer (2) [2021年06月24日（Thu）]
▼Opportunity to Confirm the Spirit of Global Unity
In a February 25 post titled “No Way Will Tokyo Olympics, Paralympics Be Cancelled This Summer,” I called for holding the games despite the pandemic because I believe they would become the most fitting opportunity for the international community to confirm the need to work together to conquer COVID-19.
Up to now, there have been more than 178 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide with the death toll exceeding 3.8 million. By comparison, the Spanish flu pandemic from 1918 to 1920 infected 500 million people−about a third of the world's population at the time−with the death toll typically estimated to have been somewhere between 20 million and 50 million.
In the modern world where millions of people travel across borders daily, it is extremely difficult to prevent a fresh wave of infections from spreading to many parts of the globe even though one or two countries successfully stem the spread of the coronavirus.
I believe it will become possible to conquer COVID-19 only if countries work together effectively in exchanging information and developing and sharing vaccines.
During a video summit hosted by Japan on June 2, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged an additional $800 million to the COVAX vaccine-sharing plan, expanding efforts to make COVID-19 shots more available to people in poorer nations. The move, I believe, forms part of Tokyo’s efforts to build up burgeoning international unity in fighting COVID-19.
Hosting the Olympics and Paralympics aims to create and boost that spirit of global unity. I hope the Japanese government and organizers will redouble their efforts to get on with the preparations in a positive and resolute manner.
The long-drawn-out pandemic has had a heavy impact on people’s lives and the economies of virtually all countries. Hardest hit have been persons with disabilities and women. It is difficult to overcome the coronavirus without international unity and cooperation−all the more so when national-populist and protectionist sentiments appear to be on the rise in many countries.
Most of the athletes as well as journalists, officials and staff will be required to be fully vaccinated and follow complex testing rules in their home countries before departing for Tokyo, where they will continue to be subjected to strict protocols.
They must also agree to have their location monitored by GPS (global positioning system), download several apps, sign a pledge to follow the rules, maintain social distancing, stay off public transportation for the first 14 days and keep organizers informed of their whereabouts.
These measures are expected to be used as reference for other countries to beef up their battle against COVID-19. Besides, under the influence of global warming, the world could be hit by new pandemics of unknown infectious diseases in the future. Holding the Olympics and Paralympics amid the pandemic reminds us of the need to prepare for such crises to come.
To make the events a symbol of humanity’s resilience in overcoming the pandemic, the central and Tokyo governments, the Tokyo Organizing Committee, sponsors and all other stakeholders must work together as hard as possible. If the games turn out to be a success, they will hold a unique place in the history of the Olympics and Paralympics.
▼Sports Cheering Up People and Society
Sports know no limits in their power to cheer up people and society.
The Olympic torch relay started on March 25 in Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan with Japan's women's national soccer team, or Nadeshiko Japan. The organizers of the Tokyo 2020 games chose Fukushima as the starting point of the flame’s 121-day journey to highlight the region’s recovery from the 2011 triple disaster--the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. From there, the journey is progressing, though on a limited scale in some prefectures, with about 10,000 runners carrying the torch through Japan’s 47 prefectures in a show of unity.
Even though not all fans can be in the stadiums, they will be moved and inspired by the spectacular performances of world-class athletes, who I salute for training so hard for the Olympics and Paralympics during the long-drawn-out pandemic.
It is my hope that once the games begin, heartwarming and stirring news stories from Tokyo will bring encouragement to people around the world and that through hosting the games, Japan’s position in the international community will be further boosted.
It’s Japan’s International Commitment to Host Tokyo Olympic, Paralympic Games This Summer (1) [2021年06月23日（Wed）]
On June 1, Australia's women's softball team became the first international athletes to arrive in Japan for the Olympic Games scheduled to start on July 23 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The team is to be followed by about 15,000 athletes, who will compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as some 53,000 journalists, sponsors, officials and staff visiting Japan for the events.
▼Great Significance of Hosting Olympic, Paralympic Games
Tokyo was chosen to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics by promising to hold the games in a safe and secure manner with the spirit of omotenashi, or selfless hospitality. Many countries that have undergone or are currently battling much more serious COVID-19 infections than Japan are sending athletes in the belief that the host nation will live up to its promise.
Polls show that people in Japan are divided over whether the games should be held this summer, with a persistent call for cancelling or further postponing the events. They were originally slated for the summer of 2020, but delayed by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But what is important now is not to discuss whether or not to hold the games, but to redouble our efforts to realize a safe and secure Olympics and Paralympics. That is a responsibility of a host nation and how we should express our gratitude to the countries that supported Tokyo’s bid to host the events.
At the same time, the games held amid the pandemic will be an important opportunity to demonstrate global unity in battling COVID-19, putting the Tokyo events in an unprecedented position in the history of Olympic and Paralympic Games.
▼G7 Leaders Support Holding the Tokyo Games
The leaders of the Group of Seven countries issued a joint communique at the end of their meeting on June 13 in Cornwall, the United Kingdom, reiterating their “support for the holding of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe and secure manner as a symbol of global unity in overcoming COVID-19.”
U.S. President Joe Biden at his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga prior to the G7 meeting said that he “affirmed his support for the Tokyo Olympic Games moving forward with all public health measures necessary to protect athletes, staff and spectators,” according to the White House.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Mr. Suga that he is looking forward to attending the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, said the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
The Japanese prime minister lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency covering Tokyo and eight other prefectures on June 20 as the curve of new cases has flattened, but the capital and six other prefectures will stay under a “quasi-emergency” state until July 11, keeping some curbs such as on restaurant hours.
▼More Compact Games Than Originally Planned
Foreign spectators are banned from attending the Games. Following so-called Five Party talks online on June 21 between the central government, the Tokyo Metropolitan government, the Tokyo Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee, Tokyo Games minister Tamayo Marukawa announced that attendance during the Olympic games will be capped at 10,000 per venue or 50% of the venue capacity−whichever figure is lower.
Prior to this announcement, Prime Minister Suga didn’t rule out banning spectators to ensure safety and security. “If a state of emergency is declared, that is a possibility,” he said.
The Olympic and Paralympic games will be less showy and more compact than they were projected when the IOC voted in 2013 to choose Tokyo as the host of the 2020 games. But given the circumstances, it is much more important and significant to host the events this summer than in normal times.
(To be continued)
Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Tree I Planted in India Blooms [2021年01月08日（Fri）]
The sakura (cherry blossom) tree I planted at the opening ceremony of the Imphal Peace Museum in northeast India in June 2019 comes into bloom.
When I attended the opening ceremony of the Imphal Peace Museum in northeast India in June 2019, marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal between Japanese troops and British-led Allied Forces, I was one of 10 Japanese, British and Indian dignitaries who each planted a sakura (cherry blossom) tree.
The Battle of Imphal is often regarded as one of the fiercest battles of World War II. The Nippon Foundation supported the project, launched by the Manipur Tourism Forum, to build a peace museum with the theme of “Peace and Reconciliation” to pass on the story of the cruel conflict to future generations.
In December 2020, I was delighted to receive an email from Mr. Haobam Joyremba, secretary to the tourism forum, saying that among the sakura trees planted at the opening ceremony, only mine had bloomed, as shown on the photo above. It is unusual for a cherry blossom tree to bloom just over a year or so after being planted, delighting people in Imphal, the capital of Manipur State. Some even called it a miracle.
The cherry blossom tree produced its dainty-colored blooms near what is known as Bleached Bones Avenue. This was the escape route used by Japanese soldiers during their retreat after the operation was called off. In all, more than 30,000 Japanese soldiers died−not just in the fierce fighting but also as a result of starvation, disease and exhaustion suffered during their retreat.
When I think of the spirits of those soldiers who died, my feelings are complicated because I have lived a long life (I turned 82 years old on January 8) in a peaceful country, Japan. I feel very sorry for their sacrifice, but their efforts were never in vain.
Bearing in mind that the precious peace we share today is the legacy of the ultimate suffering of those who fought and fell in battle, we must remind ourselves that our duty is to continue protecting our peaceful society.
In Japan, the sakura tree is often regarded as a symbol of peace. With its blossoming in Imphal, I wish with all my heart that the peace museum will become a bridge to connect the past and the future to create peace in the world for all time.
Mr. Haobam Joyremba, secretary to the Manipur Tourism Forum, which launched the project to build the Imphal Peace Museum with the support of The Nippon Foundation in June 2019, with the Sakura tree.