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Yohei Sasakawa
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Nearly a Fifth of the World’s Ocean Floor Now Mapped in Seabed 2030 Project [2020年06月29日(Mon)]
The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, which aims to complete the mapping of the world’s ocean floor by 2030, has announced that nearly one-fifth of the task has now been completed.

Coverage of the global seabed has risen from 15% to 19% in the last year with the inclusion of new bathymetric data for an area of 14.5 million square kilometers−almost twice the size of Australia−in the latest GEBCO Grid.

The announcement, which was made in London and Tokyo to coincide with World Hydrography Day on June 21, was reported on by a host of international media outlets, including the BBC, Reuters, the New York Times and the Independent, with many calling it a “significant milestone.”

When The Nippon Foundation launched Seabed 2030 at the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017, only 6% of the world’s seabed had been mapped to modern standards, even though we were already familiar with the entire surface of Mars by then.

GEBCO, which stands for General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, is the only intergovernmental organization with a mandate to map the entire ocean floor. It has its origins in the GEBCO chart series initiated in 1903 by Prince Albert I of Monaco.

The effort to map 100% of the Earth’s ocean floor has since gathered momentum with133 official partners, contributors and supporters from across industry, governments, philanthropy and academia now having officially signed on to Seabed 2030.

But it is also true that there is still a long road ahead to reach our ultimate goal, as Mr. Jamie McMichael-Phillips, Seabed 2030 Project Director, told the BBC: “Today we stand at the 19% level. That means we've got another 81% of the oceans still to survey, still to map. That's an area about twice the size of Mars that we have to capture in the next decade.”

To further accelerate the mapping of the ocean floor, I announced at a conference in London late last year three initiatives that need further collaborative activity: supporting the mapping of unexplored areas, collecting data through crowdsourcing, and advancing technology for data collection.  

In early 2019, the GEBCO-Nippon Foundation Alumni Team, comprising mostly graduates of an international scholarship program operated by The Nippon Foundation, won the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a $4 million international competition in deep-sea exploration technology.

I am hoping that the team’s expertise and technology, featuring unmanned, high-resolution measurements of a 278.9 square kilometer area at a depth of 4,000 meters, will be instrumental in helping attain the ambitious global goal. 

I was truly heartened by the comment by Ms. Vanessa O’Brien, a British-American explorer, who said she hopes her dive on June 12 to Earth’s lowest point, or the bottom of Challenger Deep, 10,925 meters below the surface of the western Pacific Ocean, will draw more attention to Seabed 2030. After scaling the peak of Mount Everest in 2012, she thus officially became the first woman to reach the world’s highest and lowest points, ITV News reported.

A complete map of the world’s ocean floor is imperative to facilitate a heightened understanding of fundamental processes including ocean circulation, weather systems, sea-level rise, tsunami wave propagation, tides, sediment transport, benthic habitat distributions and climate change.

Seabed 2030 will continue to seek out new partnerships and technological advancements. The more organizations and individuals get involved in the project, the more confident I would be that our ambitious goal of mapping the world’s entire seabed will be achieved by the end of the next decade.  

Map of the ocean floor in the vicinity of the Ryder Glacier in northern Greenland when Seabed 2030 was launched in August 2017


The same area with newly included data

The GEBCO 2020 Grid can be seen HERE

For more detailed information on The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, please visit OUR WEBSITE
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:22 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation to Support Unmanned Ship Development Projects By 5 Japanese Consortia (2) [2020年06月26日(Fri)]
The following are the five consortia The Nippon Foundation will support for their participation in the Joint Technological Development Program for the Demonstration of Unmanned Ships. The program calls for conducting demonstrations of autonomous shipping technologies by March 2022, and putting crewless ships into commercial service by 2025.

(1) Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co. and Shin Nihonkai Ferry Co. will jointly undertake a project to develop and demonstrate technologies to enable unmanned ship navigation in Japanese coastal waters, using a large high-speed car ferry called a “Smart Ferry.” They will also invite academic institutions, IT companies and control system engineering firms to add additional expertise to the project, which will be conducted on a route between Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan, and Tomakomai, Hokkaido, northernmost Japan.

A “Smart Ferry” featuring an unmanned ship navigation system developed by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co. and Shin Nihonkai Ferry Co.

(2) A four-member consortium, led by Marubeni Corp., a major trading house, will conduct a pilot project on a route between Mikasa Pier and Sarushima Island in Yokosuka, west of Tokyo, with the aim of establishing crewless technology developed by Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding for small-sized passenger boats.  

A small passenger boat that will be used to demonstrate autonomous navigation technology in a project undertaken by the Marubeni consortium.

(3) Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), a leading shipping company, and Japan Marine Science Inc. will lead a 22-company consortium to carry out the world’s first long-distance demonstration of a crewless maritime autonomous surface ship in congested waters. The demonstration will be conducted on a route between Keihin Port near Tokyo to Tomakomai under the concept of “creating the future of the Japanese shipping industry.”

A large container ship that will be used to demonstrate unmanned voyages in a project involving a 22-company consortium led by Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) and Japan Marine Science Inc.

(4) Mitsui OSK Lines, Ltd. (MOL), another major shipping firm, will lead an eight-company consortium to conduct demonstration voyages to test technologies for unmanned vessels from unberthing to berthing. The group will use two vessels of different types--a large-scale coastal car ferry on a route between Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo, to Tomakomai, and a coastal containership on a Tsuruga-Sakai Minato route in the Sea of Japan. The container ship will also feature mooring support technology using a drone.


A large-scale coastal car ferry (top) and a coastal containership (above) to be used for demonstration voyages by an eight-company consortium led by Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL).

(5) ITbook Holdings will lead a five-member group in conducting a demonstration of unmanned navigation technologies for an amphibious sightseeing bus, centering on berthing, unberthing, navigating and remote operating technologies, in the Yamba Dam lake in Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo.

An amphibious sightseeing bus to be tested in demonstration tours in the Yamba Dam lake by a five-member consortium led by ITbook Holdings.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation to Support Unmanned Ship Development Projects By 5 Japanese Consortia (1) [2020年06月24日(Wed)]
The author (center) and representatives of five consortia participating in the Joint Technological Development Program for the Demonstration of Unmanned Ships, following a press conference in Tokyo on June 12. Dubbed “MEGURI 2040,” the program envisions making half of Japan’s domestic coastal ships crewless.

The Nippon Foundation has decided to provide a total of 3.44 billion yen (about 32.45 million dollars) to five consortia of Japanese companies for their participation in the Joint Technological Development Program for the Demonstration of Unmanned Ships.

I announced the decision at a press conference in Tokyo on June 12. Under the program, the five consortia, bringing together a total of more than 40 Japanese shipping, shipbuilding, equipment manufacturing, IT and other companies, will each aim to conduct voyages demonstrating autonomous shipping technologies by the end of fiscal 2021 (March 2022), and put their crewless ships into commercial service by 2025. It is also noteworthy that their projects will involve a mix of car ferry and container ships, large and small, as well as tourist boats, in a bid to maximize their applications to commercial shipping.

Currently, Japan’s domestic coastal shipping industry is characterized by an aging population of seafarers, more than half of them aged 50 and older, as well as a declining number of crew members working in the industry. Under the circumstances, autonomous ships are expected to go a long way in reducing workloads and trimming operating costs. Besides, crewless sailing can also address safety issues by reducing human errors, which account for about 80% of marine accidents.

Assuming that 50% of Japan’s domestic coastal ships operate unmanned in 2040, the foundation estimates the economic impact of autonomous shipping will be as much as one trillion yen (about 9.43 billion dollars) a year. So, we have now dubbed the program “MEGURI 2040,” indicating half of Japan’s coastal ships will be “circulating” around the country efficiently, safely and autonomously in 2040.

I told the press conference it is the foundation’s strong wish that this “all Japan” initiative will lead the world by conducting the first successful demonstration of autonomous operations by a large ship in congested waters.

I have learned that it is technologically possible for Japan to commercialize crewless ships, given the high levels of the nation’s IT and AI technologies combined with its years of experience as a leading shipping and shipbuilding country. 

I hope strongly that major Japanese shipping and shipbuilding companies will collaborate with IT and other firms in the consortia and come up with innovations that see Japan become the pioneer of unmanned vessels.  

That will enable Japan to exert influence in future global rule-making for autonomous shipping, led by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), an arm of the United Nations that sets rules for international shipping operations.

(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:52 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
A Milestone Reached with the 100th Issue of My Newsletter as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination [2020年06月16日(Tue)]
Heading in the right direction: astride a mockup of the leprosy

I reached a milestone in May when I put out the 100th issue of my newsletter as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination. 

I started this newsletter in April 2003 with the support of The Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Health Foundation. This was not an official WHO newsletter, but it was designed to share information about my work as Goodwill Ambassador, activities of endemic countries, the stories that individuals had to tell, and more. 

It was my strongest hope that the exchange of information would become a catalyst for further action, turning the leprosy elimination campaign into a global social movement.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my wholehearted appreciation to my readers, contributors and others as well as staff members of the two foundations who have helped to keep the publication going over the past 17 years.

In this newsletter, I have reported on my visits to some 100 countries to meet with presidents, prime ministers, health ministers and governors to seek their political commitment to fight leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, and to liaise with health authorities and frontline health workers. I have also made a point of hearing directly from individuals affected by leprosy about their lives and have encouraged them to speak out and make their voices heard, especially concerning the stigma and discrimination they face. Over the years I have met with thousands of people.

My message has been three-fold: leprosy is curable, free treatment is available around the world, and stigma and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy have no place.

I have made the goal of a world without leprosy my life’s work. As Goodwill Ambassador, I have cooperated with governments to help them achieve the numerical target that was set by the WHO of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem, where elimination was defined as a prevalence rate of less than one case per 10,000 population. But achieving “elimination” was a milestone, not the end goal; it did not equate to no more leprosy. Now I welcome the fact that we have a new target to aim for, which is “Zero Leprosy.”

I do not know whether this goal is achievable in my lifetime. But I think what is more important is that all stakeholders work toward it together. 

My fight against leprosy will continue, and so will my newsletter.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:16 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
Over 40 Artists with Disabilities from 15 Countries/Regions Collaborate on Music Video with a Message of Inclusivity [2020年06月10日(Wed)]

I am extremely happy that The Nippon Foundation has relaunched the True Colors Festival by releasing a music video in which 46 artists with disabilities from 15 countries and regions perform an updated rendition of “Stand By Me”, the classic Ben E. King hit. The video might well be the first to feature such an international line-up of artists with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 4-minute video, filmed collaboratively but remotely in each artist’s home, is a message of hope, positivity and inclusivity from the artists to the global community of people with disabilities.

As the world struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, the foundation decided to call off True Colors Festival events planned for fiscal 2020. But I think it was a great idea to relaunch them, starting with this music video, with an eye to building a more inclusive and caring society amid the global coronavirus crisis.

According to the United Nations, 15% of the world’s population−more  than 1 billion people−have some form of disability, making them the world’s largest minority community. Amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, the challenges they face have intensified.

I believe the “Stand By Me” music video well serves as a catalyst to raise awareness about this situation, while presenting a gathering of talented artists performing a well-loved song in a music video that connects people everywhere.  

The geographically diverse line-up of performers spans many styles and genres, from a cappella to rap, jazz to classical, and ballet to breakdancing.  

Among the artists are rapper Signmark (Finland), the first Deaf artist in the world to be signed to a major record label, Warner Music; Sparsh Shah (US), 17-year-old child prodigy, performer, speaker, and social media sensation; Caliph Buskers (Malaysia), an award-winning pop band of visually impaired vocalists and instrumentalists; members of Drake Music Scotland, the world’s first disabled youth orchestra that makes music with digital instruments; members of world renowned street dance crew, ILL-ABILITIESトレードマーク(TM) (represented by members from Canada and Holland); rapper, composer and music producer Wheelsmith (Singapore) who performed in Singapore’s 2019 National Day Parade; singer Aliènette Coldfire (Philippines), who placed third in the 2016 edition of France’s Got Talent; Yusuke Anazawa (Japan), a blind virtuoso jazz violinist; and the blind singer-songwriter Koshi Kishita (Japan), who is known as the Stevie Wonder of Japan.

The video also features Amber Galloway Gallego (US) who provides the sign language interpretation of the song.

Founder of ILL-ABILITIESトレードマーク(TM), Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli, said: “By participating in a project like this, we hope to bring people together and inspire us all to stand by one another, no matter what obstacle comes our way.”

Mr. Ichiro Kabasawa, Executive Director of The Nippon Foundation, said: “As societies everywhere envision life post-COVID-19, the global community of people with disabilities must be factored in, right from the ‘reset’. We can build a world in which everyone’s needs are catered for, and no one is left behind.”

The True Colors Festival creates opportunities to embrace diversity in disabilities, genders, generations, languages and nationalities through performing arts. My sincere hope is that the music video points the way toward a society where all people support one another during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Stand By Me” music video can be seen on YouTube and the True Colors Festival official website STAND BY ME page.
Letter to the Italian Foreign Minister to Express My Concern at His Use of Leprosy as a Negative Metaphor [2020年06月08日(Mon)]
I have sent a letter to Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio in which I noted with regret his recent remark quoted widely in the international media that he will not have his country treated as a “leper colony.” He made the comment in reference to other countries closing their borders to Italian citizens as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“References that draw on deeply ingrained negative stereotypes of leprosy to make a point about something else only serve to reinforce discrimination against people affected by the disease and their families,” I said in the letter, dated June 1, which I wrote in my capacity as Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and Japanese Government Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of Persons Affected by Leprosy.

“As you will be aware, leprosy is now a curable disease and there is no cause to isolate someone” with leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, I went on, adding: “Notwithstanding, persons affected by the disease continue to face stigma and discrimination in various parts of the world as a result of misinformation and long-held beliefs, often exacerbated by unfortunate remarks reported in newspapers and on television and social media.”

I then drew the minister’s attention to the December 2010 U.N. General Assembly Resolution adopted unanimously by 193 countries, including Italy, approving principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.

“While I am sure that it was not your intention in any way to reinforce stigma against leprosy or cause anguish to people affected by the disease, I fear this may have been the consequence,“ I concluded, humbly requesting the minister to refrain from using leprosy as a negative metaphor in future.

For those interested, my letter to Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio can be seen here:
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:16 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
MetLife Foundation Donates $1 Million to Help Facilities for the Elderly Across Japan [2020年06月04日(Thu)]
MetLife Foundation, the philanthropic arm of MetLife Inc. of the United States, has donated $1 million (about 100 million yen) to The Nippon Foundation to support hospices and home-care nursing centers across Japan in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nippon Foundation will utilize the grant to support approximately 6,800 beneficiaries, including nurses and caregivers in hospices and home-care nursing centers across Japan, a joint announcement said on May 29. 

Specifically, the donation will help to maintain a safe work environment through the provision of masks, sanitizers and other PPE (personal protective equipment) to “protect some of the community’s most vulnerable members and those who care for them.”

Nurses and care-givers have been under stress due to a dire shortage of PPE amid the coronavirus pandemic, so this donation is extremely welcome. It will also be used to help reinforce staffing for nurses and care-givers.

Mr. Eric Clurfain, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of MetLife Insurance K.K. (MetLife Japan), said: “We hope this donation will help those who are struggling under these difficult conditions, as well as the exceptional people in nursing care who work to support them.”

On behalf of The Nippon Foundation, I extended my wholehearted gratitude to the MetLife group, adding that the donation “will be used to secure resources to support the fight against the coronavirus and provide the necessary supplies for healthcare workers who are caring for the elderly.”
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:06 | IN THE CAUSE OF LIFE | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation to Provide 5 Billion Yen Assistance to Hospitals Fighting COVID-19 [2020年06月01日(Mon)]
Media covering a “Doctor Car” that The Nippon Foundation will provide to emergency medical service hospitals taking care of COVID-19 patients.

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe lifted the state of emergency for Tokyo and four other prefectures on May 25, following a noticeable decline in the number of novel coronavirus cases in the capital and other parts of the country. The state of emergency has now been lifted across the nation. 

However, I believe firmly we need to prepare not only for a second and third wave of coronavirus infections with no vaccine or effective treatments developed yet, but also for a major disaster such as a huge earthquake, typhoon or other natural calamity hitting Japan simultaneously with a new outbreak of COVID-19.

Toward this goal, I announced at a press conference on May 26 that The Nippon Foundation will undertake a five billion yen, three-year initiative to financially support 139 emergency medical service hospitals now taking care of severely ill and high-risk patients across Japan.

Under the Fire Service Act, medical facilities in Japan are divided into three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary-care facilities refer to clinics without beds that are assigned to treat patients with mild symptoms who can be safely discharged home, while secondary-care facilities are assigned to provide care for patients with moderate symptoms who require admission to a regular inpatient bed.

Tertiary-care facilities are emergency medical service centers, which are assigned to provide care for patients with severe, life-threatening symptoms who require admission to the intensive care unit and/or undergoing emergency surgery.

Out of some 300 tertiary-care facilities across Japan, the foundation plans to assist 139 Japanese Association for Acute Medicine (JAAM)-designated emergency medical service hospitals that are currently looking after coronavirus patients.

The foundation will start furnishing this assistance by the end of June based on requests hospitals submit to a third-party commission of experts for items they need. Already, we have chosen four hospitals−Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Medical Hospital (Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo), Nippon Medical School Tamanagayama Hospital (Tama City, Tokyo), Yokohama Rosai Hospital (Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture), and Saiseika Senri Hospital (Suita City, Osaka Prefecture)−to provide respirators and personal protective gear for medical professionals, as well as a “Doctor Car” (a.k.a. “rapid response car”) with a full inventory of medical equipment and supplies. I hope these hospitals serve as model cases for other institutions.

In early to mid-April when COVID-19 cases spiked in Japan, there was growing concern about the possible collapse of the nation’s healthcare system as doctors, nurses and medical staff came under heavy stress with a dire shortage of personal protective gear such as masks, gloves and gowns, and medical equipment.

To help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, The Nippon Foundation came up with its first initiative in April to set up a makeshift facility in Tokyo with up to 600 beds for patients with minor or no symptoms. Then, earlier this month, we unveiled a second project to help transport coronavirus patients with mild symptoms, and doctors and nurses working around the clock to combat COVID-19, to and from hospital. The latest initiative is thus the third in our series of responses to the pandemic.

Japan has so far been spared the kind of explosive surge seen in the United States, parts of Europe and Latin America, and elsewhere, with 16,968 cases and 898 deaths as of May 31, according to media reports.

I believe this is thanks to the efforts of Japanese people to reduce people-to-people contact, with a focus on avoiding the “three Cs”: closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings, and observe other guidelines issued by the central and local governments.

I told the press conference on May 26 that Japan will be commended highly by the international community for its efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Emergency medical services form an essential part of the nation’s response to major disasters, focusing on saving lives that can be saved. Through these efforts, I sincerely hope that we will be able to see what will become the “new normal” for emergency medical services: their preparedness to handle a natural disaster (or even multiple disasters) while also coping with a second or third wave of COVID-19.  

Details of The Nippon Foundation’s first and second initiatives in response to the COVID-19 outbreak can be seen HERE:

A “Doctor Car” with a full inventory of medical equipment and supplies takes a team of doctors, nurses and paramedics to treat a patient prior to transport to a hospital.

The foundation will provide a “Doctor Car,” personal protective gear, medical equipment and other assistance to 139 JAAM-designated emergency medical service hospitals across Japan that are treating coronavirus patients.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:06 | IN THE CAUSE OF LIFE | URL | comment(0)