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.