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World Ocean Crisis Requires Collective Action Across All Sectors [2020年07月30日(Thu)]
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Speaking at a webinar for the first session of the Blue Recovery Series jointly sponsored by The Economist, The Nippon Foundation and the Ocean Policy Research Institute of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation on July 23, 2020.

I really enjoyed participating in the first session of the Blue Recovery Series on the theme of “Ensuring a robust ‘blue’ recovery in Asia and the Pacific,” held online on July 23, celebrating Japan’s Marine Day.

The webinar was jointly sponsored by The Economist of London, The Nippon Foundation and the Ocean Policy Research Institute of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (OPRI-SPF).

Moderated by Mr. Charles Goddard, editorial director for global initiatives at The Economist Group, the event was also joined Mr. Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., president of the Republic of Palau, Ms. Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), OPRI-SPF President Atsushi Sunami, and other marine experts and business leaders.

In my keynote remarks, I stated: “The challenges facing our oceans are becoming more and more diverse and complex at a pace we have never imagined,” warning that “global warming and ocean acidification, depletion of fishing resources, and millions of tons of plastic debris” are threatening the seas.

This clearly calls for “a collective action across all sectors to reach a viable solution,” I said, adding one example would be technological innovation, such as the digitalization of the ocean industry, which I believe has a huge potential to make dramatic changes to logistics, fisheries, navigational safety, ocean observation, information and communication, and security.

“We are navigating into the age of New Normal as we turn away from traditional top-down policy to active public-private collaboration,” I went on, adding: “Therefore, we must come to terms with the ocean by addressing its plight as an ultra-long-term challenge of a thousand years. Left unattended, in time, it will have a profound impact on the very survival of humankind.”

“I believe it is absolutely necessary that the leaders of states and businesses as well as every member of the global community take action being fully aware of the prevailing threat,” I said.

My friend President Tommy Remengesau presented an example of a successful partnership. As Palau set up the National Marine Sanctuary in 2015, the challenge of monitoring the large ocean space for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing was daunting. At his request, The Nippon Foundation has donated a 40-meter coast guard boat, the PSS Kedam, that today allows Palau to conserve its waters effectively, he said.

We were able to hold this webinar because of the support from The Economist for The Nippon Foundation’s approach of looking ahead a thousand years to address the issues facing the ocean.

The webinar was the first in a three-part series on Blue Recovery, which we sponsor. I look forward to the second one set for August 26 on the theme of “Science, innovation and the blue recovery” and the third for September 3 on “The blue recovery and the delayed ocean ‘super’ year.”


The transcript of my remarks to the July 23 event can be seen HERE.


If you are interested, you can view the webinar here:




Economist 3.jpg I addressed the session from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Tokyo, Japan, which The Economist used as a platform to broadcast the webinar. 


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Mr. Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., President, Republic of Palau.

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Mr. Charles Goddard, editorial director for global initiatives at The Economist Group, who moderated the event.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:59 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
More Than 135 News Outlets Worldwide Report on Seabed 2030 Milestone [2020年07月22日(Wed)]
Since The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project announced on June 21 that nearly one-fifth of the world’s entire ocean floor has now been mapped, this has been reported on by a total of at least 135 news organizations of 36 countries.

The announcement, which was made in London and Tokyo to coincide with World Hydrography Day, was covered by a host of international news outlets, including the BBC, Reuters and the New York Times as well as such influential British papers as the Times and the Guardian both of which carried lengthy commentary stories. Also putting together in-depth pieces were international shipping and scientific journals like Hellenic Shipping News, Oceanographic Magazine, Geographical and Nature Scientific Data.

In Japan, 31 news outlets, including the Asahi, the Yomiuri and other major newspapers, television stations and internet media, reported on the milestone announcement.  

It was also covered by media outlets of the following 35 countries and regions:
  • Europe: Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Sweden, Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Luxemburg, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina,
  • North America: United States and Canada,
  • Latin America: Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico,
  • Asia and the Pacific: China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, and Taiwan,
  • Middle East: Jordan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates,
  • Africa: Nigeria.

It was at the United Nations Oceans Conference in 2017 that I proposed The Nippon Foundation and General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) jointly launch the Seabed 2030 Project with the aim of mapping 100% of the world’s ocean floor by 2030.

Since then, I have been enormously encouraged by the extensive media coverage that the project has received worldwide, which I am sure will have reached tens of millions of people across the globe.

I believe the more people know about and understand Seabed 2030, the more momentum it will gather to achieve our ambitious goal of mapping the entirety of the world’s seafloor by the end of the decade.

My blog on the June 21 Seabed 2030 announcement can be seen HERE.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 17:22 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
Tokyo Governor Koike Visits Facilities The Nippon Foundation Built for COVID-19 Patients [2020年07月20日(Mon)]
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With Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (right) on July 1, 2020, when she visited makeshift facilities The Nippon Foundation has built in Odaiba on Tokyo Bay for coronavirus patients with minor or no symptoms.


I had the pleasure of accompanying Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike when she visited makeshift facilities The Nippon Foundation has almost completed in Odaiba on Tokyo Bay for coronavirus patients with minor or no symptoms. 

During the July 1 inspection tour, she went through 100 10-square-meter private rooms built in The Nippon Foundation Para Arena, a dedicated para sports gymnasium, and prefabricated buildings with 140 20-square-meter private rooms and a large air-conditioned tent with 60 beds, both built in a parking lot of the adjacent Museum of Maritime Science.

In the July 5 Tokyo gubernatorial election, Ms. Koike was re-elected for a second term by garnering about 3.66 million votes, or about 60% of the total ballots cast. Polls by media organizations showed that 70% to 80% of voters supported her handling of the coronavirus pandemic, contributing largely to her election victory.

During her visit to Odaiba, wearing a green and gray anti-disaster windbreaker, she closely inspected the facilities, which I took as a sign of her determination to do everything possible to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a press conference, Ms. Koike pointed out that the number of novel coronavirus cases in Tokyo, including those with no symptoms, was on the rise again, and expressed her appreciation to the foundation for providing such facilities at this critical moment. “We need to remain vigilant against the further spread of the disease,” she added.

I told the reporters that the foundation initiated the support in the belief that “providing is preventing,” but it now seemed possible the facilities will have to be used.

After their completion, we are turning over the facilities to the Tokyo metropolitan government, which will use them for COVID-19 patients who are asymptomatic or display only mild symptoms in a bid to free up hospital beds for severely ill and high-risk patients. The contracts the metropolitan government has had with hotels to accommodate patients with no symptoms have been expiring, so I expect the facilities will be used for them.

If COVID-19 cases were to spike in a second or third wave of infections, we will ready more beds in the large air-conditioned tent. Out of the 140 prefabricated private rooms, 10 will have two beds in order to accommodate multiple family members who have contracted the virus.


2.jpg Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and I speak to reporters at a facility The Nippon Foundation has built in Tokyo for COVID-19 patients.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 15:47 | IN THE CAUSE OF LIFE | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation to Use 118 Million Yen Donated by Seven & i to Support Hospitals Combating COVID-19 [2020年07月16日(Thu)]
The Nippon Foundation has announced that it will earmark over 118 million yen (US$1.1 million) donated by Seven & i Holdings Co. for supporting emergency medical service hospitals all over Japan fighting COVID-19.

The grant will be used as part of the foundation’s three-year, 5 billion-yen initiative to provide the hospitals with respirators and other medical equipment, and personal protective gear for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, as well as to repair and improve their facilities.

Totaling 118,295,483 yen, the donation was collected from customers of the retail group’s 7-Eleven convenience stores, Ito-Yokado supermarkets, department stores, restaurants and other services across the country from mid-April to the end of May.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my wholehearted gratitude to every one of those donors for their generosity.

Professor Akihito Nakai of Nippon Medical School Tamanagayama Hospital (Tama City, Tokyo) welcomed the announcement by saying: “Despite some confusion at the initial stage of the pandemic, my colleagues on the front line have now united to battle what can be called a national crisis. From here on, as people are called on to adapt to what will become the ‘new normal,’ it is most urgent for hospitals to get better prepared for providing ‘With COVID-19’ emergency medical service. I hope this donation will help ensure that patients are taken care of securely and comfortably.” His hospital is one of the first four to which the foundation is starting to furnish this assistance.

Out of the 139 emergency hospitals designated by the Japanese Association for Acute Medicine (JAAM) across Japan, the foundation’s support will be provided based upon the request of institutions now looking after COVID-19 in-patients with severe to moderate symptoms or proactively treating out-patients with minor symptoms.

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

It is my sincere hope that our assistance will help emergency service hospitals in Japan to be better prepared not only for a second and third wave of coronavirus infections with no vaccine or effective treatments yet developed, 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.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 12:07 | IN THE CAUSE OF LIFE | URL | comment(0)
Japanese Youths Split Over Introducing September School Year Start [2020年07月14日(Tue)]
One of the issues on which the coronavirus pandemic has ignited debate in Japan concerns a proposal to change the start of the academic year from April to September. High-profile politicians such as Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and her counterpart in Osaka, Mr. Hirofumi Yoshimura, have called on the government to study the proposal seriously, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at one point it is one of the leading ideas for the government to explore. 

Opinion polls conducted by media organizations by and large showed that more people are in favor of the September school year start, in part as a way to internationalize the country’s education system. Supporters of the reform say a September start will make it easier for Japanese students to study abroad and foreign students to come to Japan.

But should the school year start in September 2021, then children born in the 17 months from April 2, 2014 will be eligible for enrollment in elementary school, resulting in a temporary shortage of teachers and classrooms. Kindergartens will face a similar challenge. 

Against this background, more than 80% of members of the Japan Association of City Mayors and the National Association of Towns and Villages have urged caution with regard to revamping the school year. The ruling Liberal-Democratic Party’s working panel, which was set up to review options on the issue concluded that it will be difficult for the government to change the start of the school year any time soon.

On June 2, the government decided not to change the start of the academic year to September in either 2020 or 2021, making it an issue for the nation to consider over the long run. 

This is my recollection of what has happened to the debate on the academic year. But how do young Japanese of 17 to 19 years old think of the issue? To look into this, The Nippon Foundation conducted the 26th in the series of the Survey of 18-Year-Olds for three days from May 26, focusing on school education and the September academic year start proposal. 

The online poll, covering 1,000 17- to 19-year-olds in Japan, showed that young Japanese were split over the proposed shift to September, with 38.4% of the respondents supporting the idea, 31.2% opposed and 30.4% answering they don’t know.

Of those supporting the change, a vast majority (81.3%) said they could make up for the truncated academic year resulting from school closures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than 30% said they would be able to avoid taking exams during the winter months and it would be easier for them to study abroad, where many schools start their academic year in fall. 

Of those who are against the September start, a majority (55.4%) said the change would affect entrance exams, 39.1% said it is a Japanese tradition to enter and graduate from schools in spring, and 36.9% said the change of the academic year would impose a financial burden.

Schools in Japan mostly closed for about three months from March due to the coronavirus outbreak. Regarding the effect of the school closures, more than half of the respondents (58.6%) felt there was an inequality in education during the pandemic, with some noting the lack of online classes in some schools during the closures.

To cope with the discrepancies, they called for increasing online classes (52.5%) and reducing summer vacations and long holidays (38.8%).

It remains to be seen if and when a second or third wave of COVID-19 strikes Japan, resulting in another round of school closures. Some students cited positive aspects of school closures, commenting that online classes make it easier for truants to participate.

I have the feeling that the coronavirus pandemic will encourage Japanese schools to switch to more online classes at an accelerated pace.

The survey respondents were also asked for their views regarding the cancellation of the annual national high-school baseball tournament and other national sports competitions due to the coronavirus outbreak. More than two-thirds felt that rather than cancelling such events outright, they should have taken place with no spectators, or been postponed until they could be played later.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:11 | A FUTURE FOR YOUTH | URL | comment(0)
British-American Explorer Becomes 1st Woman to Reach Earth’s Highest & Lowest Points as Seabed 2030 Project Takes Her 10,925 Meters Below the Waves [2020年07月10日(Fri)]
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The bathymetric map of the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean.

The surface of the Earth is uneven. The highest point is the peak of Mount Everest (8,848 meters) and the lowest is the bottom of Challenger Deep (10,925 meters) at the southern end of the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean. On June 19, ITV of Britain reported that Ms. Vanessa O’Brien, a British-American explorer, has officially become the first woman to reach Earth’s highest and lowest points, a double feat which has been ratified by Guinness World Records.

Ms. O’Brien scaled Mount Everest in 2012 and then K2 (8,611 meters), the second highest mountain and also known as the most dangerous on Earth, in 2017. Then, on June 12 this year, she travelled via submersible to the bottom of Challenger Deep.

The explorer was quoted by ITV News as saying that she hopes her submersible dive will draw attention to The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO (General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans) Seabed 2030, a collaborative project aimed at mapping all of the ocean floor by 2030. She made available to Seabed 2030 all the mapping data collected during her mission.

Piloting the submersible was Victor Vescovo, who has previously visited the deepest points of all five of the world’s oceans. Also supporting her from the mother ship were surveyors who are alumni of The Nippon Foundation/GEBCO Postgraduate Training Program.

I wanted to highly commend Ms. O’Brien’s great achievement in this blog, hoping to make it known to as many people as possible that her historic dive was conducted as part of Seabed 2030.

At the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017, I proposed launching Seabed 2030 as a collaborative project between The Nippon Foundation and the GEBCO Guiding Committee. Only 6% of the world’s ocean floor had been mapped to modern standards at that time.

But the GEBCO 2020 Grid, announced to coincide with World Hydrography Day on June 21, shows that coverage of the seabed has more than tripled during the past three years to 19%.

Joined by133 official partners, contributors and supporters from around the world, I feel Seabed 2030 has gathered a bigger than expected momentum with a growing number of people across the globe showing more interest in ocean issues.

A comprehensive map of the sea floor will assist global efforts to combat pollution, aid marine conservation, forecast tsunami, and better understand tides and wave action.

Working with internationally renowned figures such as Ms. O’Brien and Mr. Vescovo, it is my earnest hope that Seabed 2030 will gain further impetus in striving to map 100% of the world ocean floor by the end of the decade.

My blog on the June 21 GEBCO announcement can be seen HERE.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:56 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
First Anniversary of the Imphal Peace Museum Observed [2020年07月07日(Tue)]
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The first anniversary of the Imphal Peace Museum was observed at a ceremony held in Imphal, the capital of the northeast Indian state of Manipur, on June 22, 2020, that I attended online.


The first anniversary of the Imphal Peace Museum was observed in a ceremony held in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur on June 22. I joined the event from Tokyo via a digital platform due to the lockdown in India to prevent the spread of COVID-19.    

The museum was built a year ago to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal between the Japanese army and Allied forces, often regarded as one of the fiercest battles of World War II. Supported by The Nippon Foundation in collaboration with the Manipur Tourism Forum under the theme of “Peace and Reconciliation,” the museum is located at the foot of historic Red Hill, 20 kilometers south of downtown Imphal, the state capital.

The ceremony was held in a central hall of the museum, where some 20 local dignitaries, following social distancing guidelines, first observed a moment of silence to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers.

Dr. Thangjam Dhabali, founder president of the Tourism Forum, then told the event: “Our responsibility toward the Imphal Peace Museum will be to transform and maintain it as a cultural institution that will truly inspire, educate and nourish minds and make visits a pleasant and memorable experience. Even a short visit to a place like this can become moments of powerful inspiration. It is my hope and expectation that the Imphal Peace Museum will play an active and effective educational role.”

In his brief video speech that was webcast live during the event, Japanese ambassador to India Satoshi Suzuki said: “I truly believe that the museum will keep developing and playing its vital role of connecting the past, present, and future, in the years to come.”

The museum, which stands as a symbol of peace, has become a member of the International Network of Museums for Peace, according local media.

I learned that since its opening, more than 14,000 people have visited the museum as of March 26 this year. Of these, 143 came from Japan and 152 from other foreign countries. The museum has been closed since the end of March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In my remarks broadcast live at the event, I said that many Japanese people are familiar with the name of Imphal: adding: “It is my hope that further enhancement of the peace museum will attract many tourists from Japan to visit Manipur in the near future and your efforts will contribute to further enriching India-Japan relations.”

The two-hour event was also marked by an “international concert for peace,” featuring Mr. Kazuhiro Shiroma and Mr. Shimon Muramatsu from Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost island prefecture, who joined the famous Manipur traditional performing art unit, Laihui, headed by Mr. Mayanglambam Mangansana, for an online performance, including Okinawan folk songs, accompanied by traditional musical instruments such as the sanshin from Okinawa and the pena from Manipur.

The Battle of Imphal lasted for about four months from March to July 1944. Out of the 90,000 Japanese troops massed for the operation, more than 30,000 were killed, and an additional 40,000 were wounded.

The museum is a living memory of this tragic battle of World War II, exhibiting artillery shells and other items as well as valuable personal notes and photographs donated by those who fought and survived.

It is my sincere hope that when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, many people not only from India and Japan, but from other countries as well, will visit there to learn more about the history of this cruel battle and the value of the peace we now share today. 

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Musicians from Okinawa, southernmost Japan, and Manipur, northeastern India, collaborated online in an "international concert for peace" to celebrate the first anniversary of the Imphal Peace Museum.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:42 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)
How Can We Keep Opinion Polls Trustworthy? [2020年07月02日(Thu)]
There are all kinds of opinion polls on everything from the Cabinet’s approval rating to social issues. Just what is considered a poll can be argued about, but whatever the survey−and these include numerous consumer research and product research studies too−the findings are only valid if the data can be trusted.

So, I was shocked at the announcement by Fuji Television Network Inc. and Sankei Shimbun Co. that their joint opinion polls conducted over one year from May 2019 included data that had been fabricated by a subcontractor.

They said on June 19 that they have retracted all the TV programs and articles that included the results from the tainted surveys on the approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet, its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues.

The broadcaster and the national newspaper, both part of giant Fuji Media Holdings Inc., said they commissioned Adams Communications Co. in Tokyo to conduct telephone surveys on some 1,000 respondents for each poll, and then Adams subcontracted about half of the calls to Kyoto-based Nippon Telenet without permission from Fuji TV or Sankei.

But a person in charge at the subcontractor made up poll answers for 14 surveys without actually making the calls, because “it was difficult to secure phone operators,” said the two media companies.

Fuji TV said the company felt a strong sense of responsibility for not being able to check the falsified data and for broadcasting the bogus information. The Sankei Shimbun, meanwhile, commented, "We deeply apologize for delivering mistaken information in our reporting on opinion polls, which is an important role of news organizations." 

This revelation by the nation’s leading news conglomerate that it had utilized fabricated data for as long as one year might have undermined people’s trust in opinion polls taken by media and other organizations. One factor that might have been behind the subcontractor’s behavior is that people are now more reluctant to answer telephone surveys, given the growing number of warnings from the police against scam robocalls.

The Nippon Foundation has carried out an Awareness Survey of 18-Year-Olds since October 2018 to track the attitudes and awareness of young Japanese regarding politics, society, work, families, friends, and other issues. The polls, each covering 1,000 17- to 19-year-olds, have drawn keen interest from the public because they are carried out by private entity, and are reported on by newspapers and television networks on a regular basis. The foundation commissioned a private research firm to conduct the polls, which unlike the method used in the Fuji TV-Sankei surveys are carried out online and not via telephone.

Just to make sure, we checked the past results of our opinion polls, and found everything to be order. But if we find there are any lessons to be learned from the mistakes made by Fuji TV and Sankei, then we will apply them in order to upgrade the quality of our surveys so that they are truly trusted by the public. 
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:33 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)