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Yohei Sasakawa
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Nearly 400 Students Sent to 4 Countries to Study Marine Development [2019年11月29日(Fri)]
With the students in dark red T-shirts, who were sent to the United States, at a meeting in Tokyo on October 11, 2019.

Since 2016, The Nippon Foundation has dispatched nearly 400 Japanese university students to the United States, the Netherlands, Norway and Scotland to study marine development, including offshore oil and natural gas development and wind-power generation.

On October 11 I had the pleasure of attending a meeting in Tokyo with 47 undergraduate and graduate students from universities across Japan who debriefed us on the upshot of their study trips this year. The program was launched in 2016 by The Nippon Foundation Ocean Innovation Consortium, made up of the government, industry, and academia, with the aim of cultivating human resources for offshore development.

I told the young engineers that Japan, despite being an ocean state, is trailing other countries considerably in marine development, and I expressed my hope that it will gain global leadership in this field with their help.

This should be Japan's primary policy as an ocean state. But the government has other jobs to do and there are things that it cannot do especially with its huge budget deficit.

Given the situation, The Nippon Foundation is ready to do whatever it can so that Japan can assume a leadership role in ocean issues.

Against this backdrop, I told the students that they have had a wonderful opportunity to gain fresh insights from having studied marine development in one or other of the four nations−albeit for a short time−and that this experience will doubtless be instrumental in shaping their future.  

So far, 397 fellows have been sent to those nations under this program. It is in the spirit of The Nippon Foundation scholarship programs that participants form a network and collaborate and compete with each other by continuing to interact and exchange information even after they come home.

It is our wish to have these fellows deepen cooperation throughout their careers and engage in more diverse and innovative work. Keeping this spirit in mind, please go on working with The Nippon Foundation, I told them.

With the students who were sent to Scotland.  Some girls wore kilts.

With the students in navy blue polo shirts, who were sent to the Netherlands.

With the students in green T-shirts, who were sent to Norway.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:20 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation Co-hosts 2nd Coast Guard Global Summit in Tokyo [2019年11月26日(Tue)]

Posing for a group photo with participants in the 2nd Coast Guard Global Summit after a farewell reception on November 21, 2019, attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The prime minister is 10th from the left in the front row and I am on his right. 

I was delighted that The Nippon Foundation co-hosted the 2nd Coast Guard Global Summit with the Japan Coast Guard at a Tokyo hotel on November 20-21.

The gathering brought together representatives from 75 countries, including the United States, China and South Korea, as well as such international bodies as the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The number of delegates was double that for the first meeting held in 2017.

In welcoming the delegates, I stated that coast guards around the world continue to play an important role as “the most reliable first responders,” protecting our shores from outside threats, and coming to the rescue when disaster strikes.  “At the same time, they are protecting the entire ocean which controls the climate and conditions for sustaining life of all living beings. Without the ocean there would have been no life on Earth,” I added.

But the responsibilities of coast guards around the world have multiplied into diverse areas as there is rising incidence of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, leading to the depletion of fish stocks, while crimes such as contraband and piracy are affecting global security.

“The action we take from this platform is important because it has global impact on not only maritime security and safety but in mitigating the crises facing our oceans,” I told the delegates.

I stressed the summit was an important opportunity to bring together and share wisdom and experiences from each country to find the most effective way for coast guards around the world to share information, act in close coordination and formulate a diverse international action plan to reduce the damage that we inflict on our oceans.

During the two-day summit, the delegates agreed to start developing human resources capable of tackling global challenges facing the oceans and set up a website to allow those countries and institutions to share their expertise, experiences and information.

The Nippon Foundation is “ready to offer our support to any action that may be initiated as a result of this summit.” I told a farewell reception on November 21, which was also attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

I thanked Admiral Shuichi Iwanami, Commandant of the Japan Coast Guard, and everyone from his organization for their tireless efforts in preparing for this conference.

The delegates agreed to hold the 3rd Coast Guard Global Summit in 2021. 


Addressing the 2nd Coast Guard Global Summit at a Tokyo hotel on November 20, 2019.

The summit brought together leaders of coast guards from 75 countries as well as such international bodies as the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 08:55 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
Sport for All Leads the Way to Health for All [2019年11月21日(Thu)]

Making a keynote address to the 26th TAFISA World Congress on November 14, 2019.

I was truly happy to welcome over 600 participants from 78 countries who attended the 26th TAFISA World Congress which was held at a Tokyo hotel on November 13-17.  

TAFISA, or the Association for International Sport for All, aims to create a better world through the promotion of Sport for All and physical activity in everyday life, and bring joy, health, social interaction, integration and development to communities and citizens around the globe.  

In my keynote address on the second day, I noted that it was most timely that the biannual congress was being held in Japan in the first of the three “Golden Sports Years” of 2019, 2020 and 2021, so called because Japan is hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games and the 2021 World Masters Games.

It is not just athletes and sport fans but also the general public who are getting excited about sports, I said, adding that I hoped the Golden Sports Years “will become a wonderful opportunity for the people to realize the importance of Sport for All.”

I received a round of applause from the audience when I shared my own physical fitness routine, saying: “I am a young man of 80 years old. My daily workout consists of 40 minutes of stretching exercises and 150 push-ups and sit-ups in the morning. This is what keeps me going!” I drew louder applause still when I said: “We all know that physical exercise is good, but the difficult part is to continue it every day.” 

I mentioned that aging is an ongoing challenge in Japan. “It is important that we all raise health awareness and increase our healthy life expectancy. It is said that there is about a 10-year difference between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy in Japan.” Closing this gap will give elderly people a feeling that life is worth living and it would also lead to a cut in the cost of medical care in the long term, I added.

The Nippon Foundation saw this potential 30 years ago and has since been working to promote Sport for All through our partner organization, the Sasakawa Sports Foundation, which has been actively committed to the promotion of sports programs including the World Challenge Day since 1993.

The World Challenge Day has become one of the largest sports events in Japan with the participation of three million people every year.

“I believe that the promotion of Sport for All can be a solution to confront the challenges of aging and to innovate our society,” I stressed, adding: “I firmly believe that Sport for All is what leads the way to Health for All.”

During the conference, it was a great honor for me to be conferred the Jürgen Palm Award, TAFISA’s most prestigious award, which is given to individuals who have made a significant and long-term contribution to the field of international Sport for All and physical activity.


I drew loud applause when I said: “We all know that physical exercise is good, but the difficult part is to continue it every day.”


With Dr. Ju-Ho Chang (center), President of TAFISA, and Mr. Masatoshi Ito (right), President of TAFISA-JAPAN and the Organizing Committee of the Congress.

I was presented with the Jürgen Palm Award, TAFISA’s most prestigious award, by President Ju-Ho Chang for my contribution to the field of international Sport for All and physical activity.

Let’s Have the World Understand More About Japanese Civilization [2019年11月19日(Tue)]

At a ceremony on October 10, 2019, The Nippon Foundation bestowed fellowships on 21 students for study of Japanese language and culture at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies (IUC) for the 2019–20 academic year. 

In his 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, the American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington divided the world into the seven or eight “major civilizations”−Hindu, Muslim, Chinese, Orthodox, Western, Latin American, Japanese and African.

But he had his doubts about Africa, saying it may not be classified as a major civilization. On the other hand, Japan came to form a civilization of its own after becoming independent of Chinese civilization from the 2nd to the 5th centuries.

As part of our efforts to have people around the world know more about Japan’s unique civilization, The Nippon Foundation has supported students engaged in Japanese studies at major universities around the world under The Nippon Foundation Fellows Program at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies (IUC) since 2012.

For the 2019–20 academic year, we bestowed fellowships on 21 students−12 PhD and 9 MA candidates−from the United States, Canada, China, South Korea, Australia, India and Switzerland for study of Japanese language and culture at IUC based in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.  

Resident Director Dr. Bruce L. Batten is teaching with great passion and every year the students return home enriched by their studies following a 10-month program.

I still have a deep concern about how poorly Japan has been doing in transmitting its ideas and information about itself to the rest of the world, and in cultivating foreign experts on Japan.

Having long wondered how we should train Japan experts around the world, I have come to think that the program at the IUC fellowship program is part of the solution.

It is my sincere hope that the 21 new IUC students will achieve a level of proficiency sufficient to pursue their academic or professional goals. This is an important and essential step toward fully understanding Japan and becoming respected Japan experts. 
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:04 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)
Ultimate Hospitality Extended by the Emperor (2) [2019年11月14日(Thu)]
At the Imperial Palace on November 5, we then moved to the Rensui-kita (the north section of the Dining Room) for “a tea party.” In fact, as we had been notified prior to the event, this was a luncheon consisting of a full course of French cuisine. There were six round tables in the room and seven people were seated at each.

Joining me at the table were lighting designer Motoko Ishii, painter Toshio Tabuchi, movie director Nobuhiko Ohbayashi and dancer Nouhou Miyagi. Altogether, there were a total of 42 persons, including the Grand Steward of the Imperial Household Agency, the Lord Chamberlain, the Chief Lady-in-Waiting to the Empress and senior officials of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in addition to the award winners.

The emperor and the members of the Imperial family, operating in three pairs, moved around the six tables. Joining our table first were smiling Princesses Mako and Kako, clad in graceful formal crested kimono with a beautiful white collar. I was surprised by how much they knew about what each of us has done in our respective fields, leading to lively conversation for about 20 minutes.

Coming next were the crown prince and crown princess, who also surprised us by the depth of their knowledge on a variety of topics. Sitting on my right was Mr. Miyagi, who is from Japan’s southernmost prefecture of Okinawa. We talked about Shuri Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was almost totally destroyed by fire in late October.

After days of not so friendly weather in Tokyo, the cloudless autumn sky seen through the well-kept garden was quite impressive.

Finally, the emperor and the empress came to our table. They were well aware of the achievements of each award winner seated there, and our pleasant conversation could have continued forever. Empress Masako, despite her hard work due to a long series of traditional rituals following the emperor’s proclamation of enthronement, including four banquets for foreign and domestic dignitaries, kept on smiling happily and seemed to be enjoying the conversation. I could not hold back my tears at her recovery of health.

At the age of 80, this was for me the most euphoric moment in my life, sharing a table with members of the Imperial family while enjoying wonderful French cuisine accompanied by fine wine.

The members of the Imperial family hardly ate, listening to us closely and carefully. I believe Emperor Naruhito and his family extended to us the ultimate hospitality, and this filled me with emotion.

The event came to a close as the evening twilight descended. I left the Imperial Palace, praying for well-being and prosperity of the monarch and his family.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 15:02 | ENRICHING CULTURE | URL | comment(0)
Ultimate Hospitality Extended by the Emperor (1) [2019年11月12日(Tue)]

Posing for a commemorative photo with 20 others selected as Persons of Cultural Merit at the Okura Tokyo hotel on November 5, 2019.  I am on the far right in the first row.

It has been truly an extraordinary honor for me to be selected as a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government in the first year of the new imperial era of Reiwa. I was among 21 persons to have the award conferred on me by Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiuda at a ceremony at the Okura Tokyo hotel on November 5.

The government said that I was given the honor for my contributions to society and promotion of culture through projects beyond the reach of the government, among them my commitment to fighting stigma and discrimination against those affected by leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, as well as my efforts to achieve comprehensive peace in Myanmar as Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar.

Later in the day, I was invited to a tea party hosted by Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako at the Imperial Palace in honor of those selected as Persons of Cultural Merit as well as six others who were conferred the Order of Culture.  

After arriving at the Imperial Palace at 2 p.m., we rested for a few minutes in the Kita-Damari (North Entrance Hall). Then we all stood in line in the Rensui-minami (the south section of the Dining Room) to wait for His Majesty, who formally proclaimed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne in an elaborate traditional ceremony on October 22.

Escorted by the chamberlain, the emperor entered the room, followed by the empress, Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko and their daughters Princesses Mako and Kako. Smiling, they greeted each one of the award recipients, with the emperor saying he was genuinely pleased by outstanding contributions we had made through the years in academia, the arts, sports and other fields, and hoping that we all stay in good health and continue to do well in the future.


Receiving my award from Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiuda at a ceremony at the Okura Tokyo on November 5.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:21 | ENRICHING CULTURE | URL | comment(0)
Announcing New Initiatives to Tackle Challenges Facing Oceans at Conferences in Europe (2) [2019年11月07日(Thu)]
Meeting with Cabinet ministers from small island states in the West Indies at a hotel in Oslo on October 24.

The second destination of my week-long visit to Europe was Oslo, where I attended the Our Ocean 2019 Conference sponsored by the Norwegian government on October 23-24.

The session brought together some 500 representatives from the business community, the science and technology community, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and funders from all over the globe.

In my speech to the second day session, I stated that The Nippon Foundation has and continues to be committed to the ocean, noting “Based on our founding principle, ‘One World, One Family’, we have been engaging in various ocean initiatives such as the development of human resources who can arrest the crises facing our ocean.”

I announced three new initiatives to take us to the next stage of our work, starting with the NEXUS Program, which will be launched in April 2020. Under this program, The Nippon Foundation will work together with the University of Washington and over 100 research institutions involving 10,000 scientists−the world’s largest interdisciplinary ocean network−to strive to solve the most pressing ocean issues such as climate change and marine pollution that we currently face.

Under the second initiative, The Nippon Foundation will invite the leaders of close to 50 small island states to Japan in 2021 for what will be the first Small Island States Summit. This summit will serve as a platform to enable the voices of small island nations to be heard, and to encourage the development and implementation of policies based on scientific evidence. The idea is to involve the people whose lives are directly intertwined with the ocean and are the first to suffer the impact of climate change. 

The third initiative I advanced was The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Program, under which we are working with diverse stakeholders from around the world to map 100 percent of the Earth’s ocean floor. I mentioned that bold innovative initiatives were announced earlier in the week in London to drive this global movement to the next stage.

“From outer space, planet Earth is ‘one world’ and all of its inhabitants are ‘one family,’” I told the audience, concluding: “With this mindset, let us do our utmost to pass on a healthy and beautiful ocean to humanity 1,000 years and more into the future.”

While in Oslo, I also talked with the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvenstuen, Cabinet ministers from small island states in the West Indies as well as many other participants in the conference.

Speaking at the Our Ocean 2019 Conference hosted by the Norwegian government in Oslo on October 23-24, 2019.

With Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in Oslo on October 24.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
Announcing New Initiatives to Tackle Challenges Facing Oceans at Conferences in Europe (1) [2019年11月05日(Tue)]


Addressing the symposium, From Vision to Action, sponsored by The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 in London on October 22, 2019.

I attended two important international conferences in Europe in late October to announce new initiatives to give fresh momentum to efforts to wrestle with challenges facing our oceans.

I first visited London to take part in a symposium, From Vision to Action, sponsored by The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 at the Royal Society on October 22.

The session was convened to report on the progress made in the two years since the Seabed 2030 project was launched in 2017 and to look to the remaining challenges in achieving the goal of mapping the entirety of the world’s ocean floor by the year 2030.

In my opening remarks, I noted the progress Seabed 2030 has made, saying: “The project was quick to gain momentum with many governments, research institutions and private entities promising their cooperation.”

In the short period of time since it was launched, Seabed 2030 has already seen a doubling of the bathymetric data available to produce the definitive map of the world’s oceans−an increase equivalent in size to the landmass of the entire African continent.

“We mustn’t forget that there is still a long road ahead to reach our goal of mapping 100 percent of the world’s ocean floor,” I went on, adding: “In working towards attaining this goal, there are three areas of focus that I would like to propose for further consideration.”

The first is facilitating the mapping of unexplored areas of the world. There are still large areas of the world where no mapping has been carried out. “I believe that it is vital for us to seek cooperation from both public and private sectors to facilitate mapping in these remote regions,” I said.

The second is collecting data through crowdsourcing. In order to speed up the collection of data, we need a larger number of participants. It may thus be useful to put in place a means by which even those with little or no expertise in this field can easily participate.

The third is advancing technology for data collection. Earlier this year, the GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team won the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE competition by successfully building a solution that enabled rapid unmanned collection of data at a depth of 4,000 meters.

I believe that not only do we need unmanned solutions such as the ones that were developed during the XPRIZE competition, but we also need to come up with technology that allows for the wider public to participate in the collection of data.

Information about the ocean floor holds much potential for the future of our planet and for humanity. To give just a few examples, knowing the shape of the seabed contributes to safe navigation of ships, enables the identification of marine habitats and helps with the prediction of tsunami propagation as well as of the rise in sea levels.

It is my sincere hope that this symposium stimulated the development of new initiatives to accelerate the mapping of the ocean floor.


The symposium was held at the prestigious Royal Society.


Posing for a commemorative photo with the other speakers.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 16:18 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)