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Yohei Sasakawa
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Amazed and Gratified by 124 Million Yen Anonymous Donation [2020年01月28日(Tue)]

The first business day of the year 2020, or Reiwa 2, in Japan was January 6. At The Nippon Foundation, it was business as usual with a series of meetings on compiling the budget for the next fiscal year starting on April 1. I didn’t make a New Year speech.

During the day a big cardboard box was delivered to our office via a parcel delivery service. The sender was anonymous, and remains so. Even though the invoice indicated the box contained books, we were stunned to discover it was full of 10,000 yen notes. It took 2.5 hours for four members of our staff to count the notes, which added up to 124,110,000 yen. The cash was accompanied by a letter which read: “Please use the money to help support people hit by natural disasters.” I was at a loss for words to express my gratitude. I do hope the sender of the donation will come forward so that we can thank him or her in person.

I have been doing my best to foster a culture of donation in Japan. To those who contribute 10,000 yen or more to the foundation, I sent a signed handwritten letter of thanks. I sometimes write as many as 500 such letters a day and I have developed a corn on my finger as a result. I plan to travel across Japan as part of a nationwide campaign to promote bequest donation, working with local newspapers.

The anonymous donor might have taken into account my efforts, as well as The Nippon Foundation’s track record of acting quickly to support people struck by disasters such as the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake, and the 2019 torrential rains in Nagano, Okayama, Osaka, Saga and Chiba Prefectures, and the Tohoku Region. The anonymous donation−which is not the first we have received, but by far the biggest in recent years−was reported by two television stations, Nippon TV and TV Asahi, as well as other media.

We seem to have entered a completely abnormal weather cycle, probably brought on climate change, in which unexpected disasters are the norm. It is important for each one of us to have the resolve to help ourselves. But we also need to think about the aged and people with disabilities.

With its years of experience, I believe The Nippon Foundation has accumulated the most knowhow necessary for disaster response and recovery operations. We are determined to continue to respond to natural disasters as expeditiously as possible.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 16:39 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
Japan Needs Basic Law to Set Forth New Vision for Child-Rearing (2) [2020年01月24日(Fri)]
▼Treat Children as Autonomous Individuals

Mechanisms such as the Children’s Commissioner in the United Kingdom and Children’s Ombudsmen in other countries can be models for consideration in Japan. Under these systems, independent officials are charged with investigating whether children’s rights are protected and making policy recommendations if necessary.

Concerning Japanese society, critics argue that children’s rights tend to be neglected, while their parents’ rights are too strong. Japanese society as a whole should be more sensitive to children’s calls for help by treating them as autonomous individuals. As a matter of urgency, the whole of Japanese society−communities, families, schools and workplaces−needs to play a role in child-rearing, the burden of which is mostly placed on mothers these days ?  

I’ve heard through the grapevine that the government is reluctant to enact a basic law on the child, maintaining it can carry out what’s enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child by enforcing existing laws and regulations. But issues surrounding children are diverse, complicated and deep-rooted.

If Japan enacts a basic law, it would make clear a new vision for child-rearing that would be shared with the whole of society and pave the way for making more effective use of existing laws and regulations. It would also encourage those parents, who have been apt to pay attention only to their own children, to take a broader view and look out for other children too. Besides, it would help create a society in which children are taken care of by the whole community, which is fitting for a rapidly aging country.

Japan has a total of 50 basic acts, including the 2007 Basic Act on Ocean Policy that The Nippon Foundation helped to formulate. As far as child-rearing is concerned, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has a Parliamentarians League to Think About Child Rearing and Children’s Future, while there is a nonpartisan Parliamentary Group to Protect Children from Child Abuse. In December last year, I spoke about the role of the Children’s Commissioner in the U.K. before a joint study meeting of the two groups.

The number of babies born in Japan in 2019 fell an estimated 5.9% from the previous year to 864,000, a mere one third of the so-called baby boomers born during a major surge in births between 1971 and 1974.

The faster than expected graying of Japanese society is attributed to an increase in the number of people marrying later in life or not at all with fewer babies born as a result, as well as to the heavy burdens placed on women in the workplace. In other words, Japan is far behind other countries in improving the environment for growing children.

To raise healthy and sound children for the future of Japan, I hope that a basic law on child-rearing will be enacted on the initiative of nonpartisan parliamentarians. It is my sincere hope that members of both ruling and opposition parties will have a heated debate on the issue and that we will once more see a Japan that looks after and cares for children like no other country in the world, as once observed by Dr. Edward Morse and Isabella Bird.   
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
Japan Needs Basic Law to Set Forth New Vision for Child-Rearing (1) [2020年01月22日(Wed)]
“In no country in the world, are babies more closely attended or better behaved than in Japan,” wrote the American zoologist Dr. Edward Morse, who is known for discovering the Omori Shell Mounds, in his book Japan Day by Day based on his observations of the country while living there during the late 1870s and early 1880s.

Ms. Isabella Bird, an English traveler and writer who toured many parts of Japan in the late 19th century, wrote in her book Unbeaten Tracks in Japan that she had never seen people who cared as much about their children as the Japanese.

In the century and a half since, Japan has been transformed into a modern, affluent nation.

On the other hand, child-rearing has become a concern, with more cases of child abuse reported. According to a preliminary report compiled by the Heath, Labor and Welfare Ministry, child welfare centers across the nation handled a record 159,850 cases of child abuse, including physical and psychological abuse and child neglect, during fiscal 2018.


▼Fading Culture of Raising Children as a Treasure of Society

Behind this is the fast decline in the Japanese tradition of children being regarded as a treasure of society and being raised by the whole community, due to the growing number of nuclear families, the declining birthrate, the aging of society and the collapse of a sense of local community.

Under the circumstances, Japan needs to develop a new culture of child-rearing. Toward this goal, I would like to propose enacting a basic law on the child, setting forth a new parenting vision and a basic policy on child-rearing.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 196 countries, stipulates state parties shall recognize that every child has the right to survival, protection and education. Under the convention, which it ratified in 1994, Japan shifted the focus of child nursing from institutions to homes through the revision of Child Welfare Act as well as the Child Abuse Prevention Act and the Juvenile Act.

But the government cannot cope with the rapid changes taking place in society adequately due in part to the vertical relationship between ministries and agencies that supervise relevant laws and regulations.

According to a survey conducted last summer by non-governmental organization Save the Children Japan, covering about 30,000 people ranging from 15- to 80-year-olds across Japan, the least observed right of the child as laid down under the convention is contained in Article 19, which calls for protecting the child from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation.

It was truly distressing that a 5-year-old girl in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, and a 10-year-old girl in Noda City, Chiba Prefecture, died after each had allegedly been abused by her father in March 2018 and in January 2019, respectively.

In its report made public in February 2019, The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about “the high level of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation of children” in Japan, urging the authorities in Tokyo to, among other things, “speed up the establishment of child-friendly reporting, complaint and referral mechanisms for child victims of abuse.”

(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 16:56 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
Environment Minister Koizumi Gives Keynote Speech at Social Innovation Forum [2019年12月10日(Tue)]
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The Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum 2019 opened with a keynote address by Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi at Tokyo International Forum on November 29, 2019.


The Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Forum 2019 was held from November 29 to December 1 at Tokyo International Forum in central Tokuyo.

The annual gathering opened with a keynote speech by Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, who took up a Cabinet portfolio for the first time in September this year. This was his fourth appearance in as many years at the forum, which is designed to search for specific measures to resolve increasingly complex social issues through innovative ideas and actions.

In his speech to an estimated 1,000 audience, Minister Koizumi said that he has assumed “the post which most requires social innovation,” expressing his determination to lead the world in tackling what is no longer being called climate change but the climate crisis, and challenges facing the oceans, especially marine plastic waste, and other issues.

He cited an estimate that there would be more plastic waste than fish in the sea by the year 2050, and warned that 90 percent of Japan’s sand beaches would disappear by 2100 if the Paris climate agreement for reducing the world’s greenhouse gas emissions is not attained. He does “not want to pass on such a future to the next generation,” including his own child expected to be born early next year, he stressed.

I followed up his presentation with a speech dealing with ocean environmental issues, stressing the importance for every one of us to do whatever we can in a concerted effort to change the future.

It was quite fortunate for The Nippon Foundation to have Mr. Koizumi as a keynote speaker for four years in a row, since one opinion poll after another puts the 38-year-old son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the top of the list of candidates for the next prime minister.

The three-day forum also featured 12 “Future Sessions,” in which new acquaintances who met at the venue engaged in creative dialogue on a wide range of topics such as family and child-rearing, work style, community, agriculture, and artificial intelligence (AI).

The final day of the forum saw the selection of The Nippon Foundation Social Innovation Award 2019 winners. Pending final approval by the foundation’s board of directors, the top prize of 10 million yen will be given to Mr. Tomoya Onaka of the NPO “Silent Voice” for developing a service for matching hearing-impaired persons on the web with an instructor who can communicate in sign language. The winners were chosen from among the 10 finalists who made presentations during the forum and 131 entrants from all over Japan.

Altogether, more than 3,000 people participated in the forum. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who took part as well as the foundation’s staff members for their hard work to make it a success.

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I followed Minister Koizumi with a speech dealing with ocean environmental issues in front of an audience estimated at 1,000.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:56 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)
8-year-Old YouTube Star Ryan Donates $100,000 for Kids Hit by Typhoon [2019年12月06日(Fri)]
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I was really heartened when The Nippon Foundation received a $100,000 donation from Ryan Kaji, an 8-year-old American YouTube star, and his family to support the Foundation’s relief activities for people hit by Typhoon Hagibis.  

Ryan is the son of a Japanese father and Vietnamese mother and his family said in a statement that they “directly felt the impact of the typhoon as our father, Shion, was in Tokyo on business when the typhoon struck Japan” in mid-October. “We are making this donation to The Nippon Foundation to support these children,” they added.

Ryan operates the popular YouTube channel “Ryan ToysReview,” which features a variety of educational videos, including science experiments, skits, and family activities, and is popular in North America, Europe, and Asia with its cumulative subscribers reaching 31.44 million. Ryan was named the “highest-paid YouTube star” by Forbes magazine in 2018, when he was estimated to have earned $22 million.

The Nippon Foundation has been receiving donations from many people to support our disaster response and recovery operations.

We fully recognize the responsibility entrusted in us to make good use of such heart-warming donations as we engage in our activities.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:07 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)