The Nippon Foundation to Give 5 Billion Yen in Emergency Aid to People Hit by Typhoon Hagibis [2019年10月30日（Wed）]
Many schools were damaged by flooding, including this one in Marumi Town, Miyagi Prefecture, northeastern Japan.
Typhoon Hagibis, known in Japan as the season’s 19th storm, left more than 80 people dead and brought record rain that caused 71 rivers to burst their banks, flooding tens of thousands of homes and large areas of farmland in 13 prefectures.
I have the feeling that the Japanese archipelago seems to have entered a completely abnormal weather cycle in which unexpected disasters are the norm.
With the provision of governmental relief based on strict damage assessment procedures, the official response is inevitably delayed. Given such, The Nippon Foundation announced on October 17 that it will provide 5 billion yen in emergency relief for people hit by the typhoon, which struck central and eastern Japan from October 12 to 13.
The Nippon Foundation has been involved in disaster response and recovery operations more than 60 times, beginning with the major earthquake that devastated Kobe in 1995.
Based on past experience, we decided to give priority to supporting volunteers to be sent to the affected regions and helping nurseries, kindergartens, primary, middle and high schools, and other educational institutions.
According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, 1,734 schools and institutions, including colleges and universities, were damaged by the typhoon, of which about 300 were closed as of October 15. If nurseries and schools are reopened, the burden on parents would be alleviated considerably.
Assuming more schools will be reported damaged, we have earmarked 2 billion yen−up to one million yen each−for 2,000 schools. The money will be spent on books, physical education equipment and musical instruments for the affected schools.
In the aftermath of Typhoon Hagibis, the media have often reported on pupils cleaning up their damaged schools. If they contribute in this way, it will naturally encourage their love for their schools and the local communities they live in as well as foster a spirit of self-reliance. To assist their clean-up efforts, we set aside 500 million yen, that is, up to 500,000 yen each for 1,000 schools.
I believe that at a time when unexpected, unusual weather events are happening with more frequency, cherishing such volunteerism is the key to our disaster preparedness.
In addition, our relief will cover payment of condolence money (100,000 yen per person) to the family members of those who died as a result of the flooding and landslides, the installation of 500 temporary, hygienic toilets at evacuation centers and assistance to volunteer groups−including those students and athletes with whom the foundation has built a good working relationship after years of cooperating together.
Typhoon Hagibis has struck wide-ranging areas of Japan, with each facing their own specific problems. It is my sincere hope that media organizations will continue to conduct thorough reporting on each of the affected local communities and keep us informed.
I announced 5 billion yen in emergency relief for those hit by Typhoon Hagibis during a press conference held at The Nippon Foundation in Tokyo on October 17, 2019.
A road remains flooded in Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture, central Japan,
more than a week after the typhoon hit the area.
Growing Number of Chinese Sasakawa Fellows Promoting Mutual Understanding with Japan 3 [2019年10月28日（Mon）]
At a ceremony to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Sylff at Yunnan University in Kunming on September 25.
▼3.83 Million Japanese Books Donated to 75 Chinese Universities
Under the Education and Research Library Project, our partner organization, the Japan Science Society, donated a total of 3.83 million Japanese books to 75 universities all across China.
To Yunnan University alone, which we visited, 182,000 books have been donated in 33 installments to their library’s Japan section.
There are about 650,000 students who are taking Japanese courses at 508 universities all over China. I believe we should increase the number of Chinese institutions to which we donate Japanese books to 100.
Chinese students from more than 100 universities are participating in the essay contests organized by the Japan Science Society. It now allows the growing number of Chinese winners to come to Japan to compete with their Japanese counterparts, further promoting mutual understanding between them.
The Nippon Foundation and its sister organizations are engaged in a wide variety of exchanges with China, like the Japan-China Field Officer Exchange Program that invites officers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to Japan.
But the three programs we inspected firsthand this time are making steady and visible progress.
After this latest trip, I am convinced that undertaking these projects in China will go a long way toward promoting mutual understanding and friendship between our two countries.
Japanese books corner at the library of the Yunnan University
Many Sylff fellows and faculty members attended the ceremony at Yunnan University in Kunming on September 25.
Growing Number of Chinese Sasakawa Fellows Promoting Mutual Understanding with Japan 2 [2019年10月25日（Fri）]
Addressing a forum organized by the Sasakawa Medical Scholarship Alumni Association on September 28, 2019.
▼From Learning to Joint Research
The Nippon Foundation started the Japan-China Sasakawa Medical Fellowship in 1986. So far, it has invited a total of 2,404 medical students and professionals to Japan to study and conduct joint research at universities, hospitals and research institutions all over country. The fellows now serve at the center of the Chinese medical profession, and include presidents of medical universities and hospitals, and professors across the nation.
Initially, we invited some 100 doctors, pharmacists and nurses every year to study at Japanese universities, hospitals and other institutes across the country. But with Chinese medical research advancing substantially as the years went by, we now invite some 30 health professionals for doctoral courses and joint research programs with their Japanese counterparts under the fifth phase of the fellowship program.
During our visit to Shenyang in the northeastern province of Liaoning on September 27-28, I told a meeting of their graduates, the Sasakawa Medical Scholarship Alumni Association, that I don’t know of any other fellowship program that covers a whole range of high-level medical studies and has continued for more than three decades, adding that The Nippon Foundation is so proud of having supported a project that directly affects Chinese people’s health.
I learned that planning is now under way to hold a gala ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in 2021 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Sasakawa fellowship program, which will be attended by not only alumni but also some 1,700 professors and instructors from 225 Japanese institutions who have taught and worked with the Chinese students across Japan.
At a dinner hosted by Mr. Zhao Qunk, President of the Sasakawa MedicalScholarship Alumni Association, at a hotel in Shenyang on September 27
Growing Number of Chinese Sasakawa Fellows Promoting Mutual Understanding with Japan 1 [2019年10月24日（Thu）]
Addressing a ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the Sylff program at Chongqing University in Chongqing on September 23, 2019.
I visited China in late September to take a firsthand look at the progress The Nippon Foundation and its partner organizations have made by undertaking fellowship and book-donation programs for Chinese students.
In the quarter century since the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff) and the Japan-China Sasakawa Medical Fellowship were launched, more than 10,000 Chinese recipients of fellowships are now working actively in various circles in China. Also, the Japan Science Society under its Education and Research Library Project has donated as many as 3.83 million Japanese books to Chinese universities, helping promote Chinese students’ understanding of Japan.
During this period, China became the second largest economy in the world, surpassing Japan and bringing about dramatic changes throughout its society. To help further promote mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries, I look forward to building upon the brand awareness of our programs in China and making the best use of the growing network of Sasakawa alumni.
▼Chinese Account for Half of 16,000 Sasakawa Fellowship Alumni
During my week-long trip to China, I first attended the ceremonies to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Sylff at two Chinese universities, Chongqing University in Chongqing, an industrial hub in southwest China, on September 23 and Yunnan University in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, in the southwestern border area on September 25.
Sylff was initially established at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in the United States in 1987, with an endowment fund of one million dollars, to cultivate human resources to take on global challenges. In the 32 years since, 16,000 fellows at 69 universities in 44 countries around the world have received scholarships from the fund.
In China, five universities, including Beijing University and Fudan University, were chosen for the program in 1992, and they were joined by five others, such as Chongqing University and Yunnan University in 1994, bringing the total to 10.
In those days, there were few such scholarship programs available in China and one million dollars was considered a much more generous amount than it is now.
As Deputy Secretary-General Li Chunsheng of the China Education Association for International Exchange stated at the 25th anniversary ceremonies at the two universities, “Sylff was something of a blessed rain after a long drought,” with China now accounting for half of the total fellows at 8,000 from 10 universities, including 500 from Chongqing University and 1,600 from Yunnan University.
Mr. Zhang Zongyi, president of Chongqing University, told me before the ceremony at his school that he was a Sylff fellow himself and learned a lot from the program. He added that with years of tradition behind it, the name of Sylff resonates through the Chinese community of international exchange programs, with many students still aiming at becoming fellows. I told him that we are proud of being of some help to him and others.
Mr. Ming Ju, vice president of Chongqing University, stated that many Sylff alumni are now serving as the leaders of various circles in China, forming bonds between the two countries, while Mr. Yang Zeyu, vice president of Yunnan University, agreed, saying the Sylff program has produced numerous leaders of Chinese academic and business communities.
These comments have made me convinced that the Sylff program has contributed considerably to the development of China.
At this moment, there are scores of scholarship programs in China. How to differentiate Sylff from the others is something we have to consider from now on. Fortunately, the Chinese authorities, usually reluctant to approve the formation of private organizations in their country, have given the go-ahead to the Sylff Association, which is starting to support the fellows’ academic advancement and encourage networking among the graduates−something that makes Sylff unique compared with other fellowship programs in the world.
The association comprises all current and graduated fellows, the 10 Chinese institutions, The Nippon Foundation and its partner organization, the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, which administers the fellowship program.
A group photo with faculty members and Sylff fellows at Chongqing University in Chongqing on September 23, 2019.
Winery Employing Workers with Disabilities Opens in Iwate Prefecture [2019年10月17日（Thu）]
Hoping to make Hanamaki a major Japanese wine-producing area!
I visited Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, in northeastern Japan recently to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of a winery that plans to employ forty persons with disabilities with the support of The Nippon Foundation.
Under the foundation’s “Hataraku NIPPON Project” designed to help create more employment for persons with disabilities, the workers will be engaged in the whole process of wine making, from the cultivation of grapes and fermentation to bottling, labeling and marketing. Under the project, they aim at raising their monthly wage to 30,000 yen, or twice as much as the national average for workers with disabilities, by the end of March 2021.
The winery is called Art Paysan Winery, a combination of two French words, “art” and “paysan,” indicating their determination to pursue wine making to the level of art.
In addition to wine, they will start producing apple cider with sales set to begin in a shop in the winery in February next year.
In the vineyard, a total of 2,200 grape seedlings are being planted in 2018-19 with wine production scheduled to start in 2022.
It is my sincere hope that their wine will sell well, helping expand the employment opportunities and raise the incomes of persons with disabilities, while turning Hanamaki into a major Japanese wine-producing area and revitalizing the economy of Japan’s Tohoku (northeastern) region.
While in Hanamaki on October 4, I also enjoyed touring the winery and wine tasting, and went to the vineyards to work with the staff members of Art Paysan Winery to plant seedlings of Chardonnay, a white grape variety.
They will start producing outstanding wine in 2022!
Working with the staff members of Art Paysan Winery to plant seedlings of Chardonnay, a white grape variety.
Japan Tells Myanmar’s Military Chief It Supports Peace Process [2019年10月16日（Wed）]
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, visited Japan from October 8 to 13 at the invitation of the Japanese Defense Ministry.
As Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, I was sitting in on most of the meetings the senior general held separately with top Japanese officials while in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Defense Minister Taro Kono and General Koji Yamasaki, Chief of Staff, Joint Staff of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.
At their meetings, Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Motegi each stated: “The Government of Japan will continue to provide full-fledged support for Myanmar’s democratic nation-building, and, together with Special Envoy Sasakawa, will provide maximum support for the peace process.”
Regarding the alleged human rights violations in Rakhine State from where hundreds of thousands of people have fled into neighboring Bangladesh, the Japanese leaders said “it is necessary that the Myanmar government and military promptly take appropriate measures based on the recommendations of the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICoE).”
In response, Commander-in-Chief Hlaing expressed appreciation for the assistance of Japan and stated, “We are cooperating with Special Envoy Sasakawa to achieve peace and resolve the issue of internal displaced people. We desire to accomplish eternal peace.”
“We are fully cooperating with the investigation by the ICoE and will take measures regarding those responsible for human rights violations according to the law if such violations were to be revealed” in Rakhine State, the senior general added.
In my capacity as Special Envoy for National Reconciliation in Myanmar, I welcomed the two days of frank exchanges between the Japanese leaders and Myanmar’s top military officer.
To achieve comprehensive peace in a country like Myanmar, it is crucial to establish mutual understanding with and among the government, the military and the armed ethnic minority groups, who have been feuding for the past seven decades.
Since the 1970s, The Nippon Foundation has provided support to Myanmar, whether under the military regime or later the civilian government, ranging from the fight against leprosy, food and humanitarian assistance, construction of houses and schools, agricultural aid and vocational training, including those for the conflict-stricken people in ethnic minority regions.
I have visited Myanmar 99 times during the past seven years since I assumed the post of Special Envoy for National Reconciliation, arranging face-to-face meetings with all the stakeholders to gain their understanding and confidence.
Through The Nippon Foundation’s years of experience in Myanmar, I believe I have earned some degree of trust from the government, the military and the ethnic armed groups.
So far, 10 out of some 15 ethnic armed groups have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government of Myanmar.
I am determined to persist in my efforts to achieve a ceasefire with the rest of the armed ethnic groups, which will be a major step forward in the complicated peace process.
I Welcome Prosthetic & Orthotic Professionals to Their World Meet in Kobe [2019年10月10日（Thu）]
Addressing the opening session of the 17th World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) in Kobe on October 5, 2019.
My speech is available HERE
I went to Kobe last weekend to attend the 17th World Congress of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO). The four-day meeting, starting on October 5, brought together an estimated 5,000 professionals from some 90 countries primarily involved in the care of persons in need of prosthetic, orthotic, mobility, and assistive devices.
In my address to the opening session of ISPO’s first biennial meeting held in this country in 30 years, I said it was timely indeed that the congress was taking place in Japan, given that there is just a year to go until the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
“I am confident that the incredible performances of the Paralympians who are using Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O) would move the hearts of all in astonishment and amazement,” I said, adding: “This will be a wonderful and empowering moment to unlock the unlimited potential of people with disabilities. It is every single one of you here, who are supporting all these Paralympians.”
The Nippon Foundation has supported persons with disabilities for more than 50 years. From the early 1990s, our efforts focused on Southeast Asia, where many people have lost limbs after coming into contact with landmines used in internal conflicts.
Recognizing a strong need to educate P&O professionals locally, The Nippon Foundation supported the establishment of schools in six countries−Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar.
In total, we have provided P&Os to over 500,000 people with our donations exceeding US$60 million.
I promised the audience in Kobe that The Nippon Foundation will continue supporting people with disabilities to be fully integrated into society.
While in the western Japanese port city, I also talked with Professor Friedbert Kohler, president of ISPO, and other dignitaries as well as representatives of the schools set up to educate P&O professionals that The Nippon Foundation supported in the six Southeast Asian countries. In addition, I inspected the state-of-the-art P&O devices on display at the conference hall.
An estimated 5,000 delegates from all over the world gathered for the congress, the first time it had been held in Japan for 30 years.
With Professor Friedbert Kohler, president of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO), in Kobe on October 5, 2019.
With representatives of schools to educate P&O professionals, which The Nippon Foundation supported in six Southeast Asian countries, in Kobe on October 5, 2019.
How About a Reunion of SMAP for 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games? [2019年10月07日（Mon）]
In a previous blog on August 14, I suggested that Japanese television stations invite three former members of the iconic boy band SMAP back on their shows so that they can fully engage in activities to promote the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
The three ex-SMAP members − Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori − left the powerful talent agency Johnny and Associates Inc. in September 2017 following the band’s breakup in December 2016. They have been noticeably absent from television since, for reasons I alluded to in my earlier post.
As The Nippon Foundation has been a long-time supporter of persons with disabilities, the sole intention of my suggestion was to help ensure that the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics is a great success.
The Nippon Foundation’s support for the Paralympics was not initiated in haste following the decision to award the 2020 Games to Tokyo. One of the main missions of the foundation for over half a century has been to work for an inclusive society in which people with disabilities can actively participate without discrimination. Through the 2020 Paralympics, we just want to send a clear message from Tokyo to the rest of the world how spirited and vibrant disabled athletes are.
The Japanese version of my previous blog drew a wide variety of opinions, both pro and con, but not a single person was against holding the Tokyo Paralympics.
Taking my suggestion a step further, may I humbly request that all five former SMAP members−the above-mentioned trio plus Masahiro Nakai and Takuya Kimura−set aside any differences they may have and reunite to perform for a limited period of time until the end of the Tokyo Paralympic Games next year?
The five SMAP members had been enthusiastic supporters of The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center, which we opened in May 2015 to support para-sports leagues and help para-athletes prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Even after SMAP disbanded, three of the five − Inagaki, Kusanagi and Katori − continued to support the center. That is why the International Paralympic Committee appointed them as its special ambassadors in July 2018.
If the ex-SMAP members together with Arashi − another popular band whose members have announced they are going their separate ways at the end of 2020 − and other entertainers and TV stations can team up for the success of the Paralympics, I believe the games will be a great success. That is my dream.
My earlier blog from August 14 can be seen HERE.
A Textbook to Address the Crisis Facing Our Oceans [2019年10月03日（Thu）]
Speaking at the Nippon Foundation Nereus Ocean Science Conference on September 15, 2019
I visited Princeton University in the United States in September to attend the final Nippon Foundation Nereus Ocean Science Conference and celebrate the publication of Predicting Future Oceans: Sustainability of Ocean and Human Systems Amidst Global Environmental Change.
The Nippon Foundation began the Nereus Program in 2011 together with the University of British Columbia, Princeton University and three other institutions to undertake an unprecedented initiative to predict the future of the oceans. It was expanded in 2014 and again in 2017 with the addition of 11 institutions, including Harvard University, bringing the total number of collaborative partners to 17.
The Nereus Program has been the world’s frontrunner in investigative scientific research into the marine environment and issued countless warnings to the world regarding the state of our oceans based on scientific evidence. Its work has been featured in some 300 publications, including Nature and Science, the program has been the subject of media coverage from around the world, and its researchers have made presentations at the United Nations and at other international meetings.
In my keynote address at the conference on September 15, I expressed my deepest gratitude to the 23 principal investigators, 46 research fellows and countless collaborators for completing this massive eight-year program. Embodying their achievements is this outstanding new book.
I sincerely hope that Predicting Future Oceans will serve as a textbook for ocean advocates around the world, and a powerful tool to explain the scientific evidence behind the crisis facing our oceans. It provides a synthesis of our knowledge on the future state of the oceans, includes recommendations on how to move forward, and highlights key social aspects linked to ocean ecosystems, including health, equity and sovereignty.
The survival of humankind depends greatly on the actions we take in response to the predictions made about the future of our oceans.
While Nereus Program may have come to an end, I told the audience that I valued “the global network that was built during this program, of experts with brilliant minds and a strong will to dedicate their passion and energy towards the oceans,” adding: “As the next step forward, we will continue to support the human network that was cultivated from the Nereus Program, and we will embark on a new interdisciplinary global initiative.” After my speech in Princeton, I also participated in a special panel session on the future state of oceans with Nereus alumni.
A group photo with the Nippon Foundation Nereus Program fellows and professors at the Princeton University.
at 11:26 | OCEAN