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Yohei Sasakawa
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【Yohei Sasakawa Around the World】 (5) Visit to Niger in 2008 [2020年10月30日(Fri)]

I would like to share with you a video taken during my visit to the Republic of Niger in August 2008 as chairman of The Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination.   

Niger, a landlocked western African country, is among the poorest nations in the world, according to the UNDP. Notwithstanding the many difficulties the country faces, it eliminated leprosy as a public health problem in 2003, reducing prevalence of the disease to below 1 case per 10,000 population.

During my four-day stay, I visited a local hospital and a community of persons affected by leprosy. They sang and danced, giving me a wonderful welcome. I was happy that these scenes were recorded by a TV crew as I believe such positive images go a long way to lessening the stigma and discrimination attached to the disease.

I met with the prime minister, health minister and population minister to encourage Niger to make further progress against leprosy and aim to make it the first country in Africa to eradicate the disease one day. The prime minster was surprised to see me dressed in traditional Niger attire and said it sent the message that “you are thinking about Niger’s problems with us.” He, along with the health minister, voiced support for wiping out leprosy from Niger completely, and promised to redouble efforts to that end.

In 2019, Niger detected 333 new cases of the disease, according to WHO.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:48 | AROUND THE WORLD | URL | comment(0)
More Japanese Youths Expect COVID-19 to Help Reduce Population Concentration in Big Cities [2020年10月27日(Tue)]
Finding: More than half of respondents want to live in an urban area in the future.
(n = 1,000)

How will the novel coronavirus pandemic affect the concentration of people in Tokyo and other big Japanese cities?  With this question in mind, The Nippon Foundation conducted the 29th installment of the Awareness Survey of 18-Year-Olds on the theme of “Regional Revitalization,” a theme last taken up in the 10th installment of the survey in January 2019.  

The online survey, covering 1,000 17- to 19-year-olds, found that one in four of the respondents expect COVID-19 will have an effect on reducing the population shift to big cities and that one in five expect young Japanese to become more inclined to live in rural areas.

This may be debatable, but I believe that the unprecedented pandemic has brought about a certain change in how Japanese young feel about living in urban areas.

On the question “Where do you want to live in the future?” more than half of the respondents (56.5%) said they want to live in an urban area, while the remaining 43.5%−an increase of 4.7 percentage points over the 2019 survey−said they preferred a rural district. It is noteworthy that those who were born and raised in rural areas are now more inclined to live in the countryside rather than big cities. 

Asked whether they took into account the spread of the coronavirus in answering where they want to live in the future, 56.2% responded “no,” and 43.8% said “yes.” The latter, though falling short of a majority, indicated that the pandemic has become a large factor for young Japanese when considering their future.

On the question “Do you believe the spread of the novel coronavirus will have an effect on reducing the population shift toward large cities?” about one third (34.8%) said “no” and roughly one fourth (26.5%) responded “yes.” But a still larger percentage (38.7%) said they do not know, reflecting uncertainty over the future as a result of the coronavirus. 

Among those who answered “no,” the top two reasons given (multiple answers allowed) were “As central government offices and major companies are concentrated in Tokyo, the coronavirus alone will not stem the population shift” and “Once COVID-19 is conquered, everything will go back to normal.”

The reasons given by those who said “yes,” included “There is more risk of the coronavirus spreading in big cities,” and “You do not have to commute to offices with many companies going remote.”

Regarding whether they expect young people in Japan to become more inclined to live in rural areas, 40.2% said “no,” 22.0% “yes” and 37.8% said they don’t know. As in the 2019 poll, reasons given for saying “no” were that big cities are more convenient (66.9%) and that more entertainment and recreational opportunities are available in urban areas (56.5%), while among reasons for “yes” included more tendency to work remotely (48.6%) and less risk of infection in rural areas (48.6%).

In a post-coronavirus era, we may see substantial changes in every aspect of society ranging from how the government and companies operate to the way people lead their daily lives. With the still-raging virus, there is so much uncertainty over when the pandemic will be over. 

As I noted at the outset, I sense signs of change in the attitude of young Japanese toward population shift to big cities. But as the survey also showed that they were divided on many of the questions asked, it may be more accurate to take the findings as reflecting their anxiety about the future because of COVID-19.

Q.: “Do you believe the spread of the novel coronavirus will have an effect on reducing the population shift toward large cities?”

Q.: “Do you expect young people to become more inclined to live in rural areas?”

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:16 | A FUTURE FOR YOUTH | URL | comment(0)
Asia’s First Academy Opens to Train Professionals in Offshore Wind Power Generation [2020年10月23日(Fri)]
The Nagasaki Ocean Academy plans to give its trainees tours of Japan’s first floating wind turbine called “Haenkaze,” off the coast of Nagasaki Prefecture.

Amid the signs of increasingly serious global warming, there has been an urgent call for developing renewable energy sources worldwide to slash carbon dioxide emissions. Japan, an island nation surrounded by oceans, places a high expectation on offshore wind power generation as the driving force for its efforts to help meet energy requirements for decades to come. 

What is essential now is to cope with a shortage of marine development engineers with practical experience and technical know-how who will engage in developing and installing offshore wind power turbines. 

To attain this goal, the Nagasaki Ocean Academy opened in Nagasaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan, on October 1, with the support of The Nippon Foundation and the Nagasaki Marine Industry Cluster Promotion Association, an NPO comprising of some 70 local construction, engineering and machine manufacturing companies in the prefecture, as well as the Nagasaki prefectural government, Nagasaki University and Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science. This is Asia’s first institution to cultivate professionals specializing in offshore wind power generation and other areas of ocean energy development.

According to the foundation’s estimate, Japan will need over 8,600 professionals for offshore wind power generation by 2030, as against 2,865 as of February this year. The new academy aims to train some 1,600 such engineers over the next five years. 

For now, it will give employees of private companies five courses, including offshore wind power project development (general theory and business development), site selection and offshore installation, construction management, and project certification, insurance and finance. In the future, the academy plans to have a curriculum for undergraduate students.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the courses are being offered online from October to December 2020 with in-person classes set to start in the new year.

Already, more than 10 companies have applied to send their employees to study at the academy. One course will include tours of Japan’s first floating wind turbine, called “Haenkaze,” which was built in 2013 off the coast of Goto, Nagasaki Prefecture.
The government’s basic energy plan calls for suspending or winding down coal-burning power plants over time to slash carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming, while increasing the ratio of renewables to overall energy needs from 17% in 2017 to 22-24% by 2030. As for wind power generation, Tokyo has announced a policy of switching from onshore turbines to more cost-competitive offshore farms. 

The Japan Wind Power Association, an industry group, for its part envisages Japan installing 10,000-megawatt wind power generation capacity by 2030, representing an increase of 150 times as much as the 2018 level. This is equivalent to the combined capacity of 10 nuclear power reactors, supplying enough electricity for 600,000 households (calculated at 30% utilization and annual consumption of 4,400kWh per household).

The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, in which a huge earthquake and tsunami badly damaged a coastal nuclear facility, forced Japan to suspend operation of its nuclear power plants and most reactors are still offline. As a result, renewable sources of energy, including offshore wind power, are set to have a growing role in Japan’s energy mix. There are two types of wind power generation, fixed-bottom and floating turbines, with the latter closely linked to Japan’s advanced shipbuilding technology.

As Mr. Mitsuyuki Unno, managing director of The Nippon Foundation, pointed out at the academy’s opening ceremony on September 30, Japan lags far behind other countries, especially Europe, in offshore wind power generation. 

In Demark, for instance, offshore wind power turbines harvested 18% of its total electric power needs in 2019, and when onshore and offshore wind farms are combined, wind power accounted for as much as 47% of the total. In the case of Japan, wind power generation met only 0.8% of its total power needs for the same year, according to the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP).

In 2016, we established The Nippon Foundation Ocean Innovation Consortium with cooperation from the Japanese government to train human resources in ocean development, including offshore renewable energy, as a platform bringing together universities, public institutions, and companies across the country. It has been promoting innovation in technological development, including an on-site project in Scotland as well as grant programs for technological development in cooperation with organizations in the United States.

We intend to support and strengthen the Nagasaki Ocean Academy by working closely with the consortium.

The Nagasaki Ocean Academy has classrooms and workspace on the campus of Nagasaki University.

The academy’s curriculum features state-of-the-art virtual reality programs.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:17 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
【Yohei Sasakawa Around the World】 (4) Visit to London to Launch Global Appeal 2008 [2020年10月20日(Tue)]

I would like to share with you a video taken during my visit to London in January 2008 as chairman of The Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination to launch the third Global Appeal to end stigma and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy.

At a ceremony held at the Royal Society of Medicine, representatives of nine major international human rights bodies, including Amnesty International, International Save the Children Alliance and Leonard Cheshire Disability, joined The Nippon Foundation in issuing the appeal. Two children from Tanzania who had been successfully treated and cured of leprosy read out the text of the appeal. 

I initiated the annual Global Appeal in 2006. Each year it is joined by influential individuals and organizations so as to involve a broad coalition of interests from both within and outside the leprosy world. The most recent appeal was launched from Tokyo on January 27 this year. The fifteenth in the series, it was endorsed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). 

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 15:34 | AROUND THE WORLD | URL | comment(0)
Looking Forward to Joining “Our Ocean Conference” to be Hosted by Palau [2020年10月15日(Thu)]
The Japan Times.jpg

My message to congratulate the Republic of Palau and its citizens on the occasion of their 26th Independence Day, carried by the October 1, 2020, issue of the Japan Times.

I sent a message to the government and the citizens of the Republic of Palau to congratulate them as they marked their 26th Independence Day on October 1. 

“Palau and Japan are like brothers,” I said, noting: “The moon and the sun that are symbolically depicted on each of our flags are indispensable on this planet, as are the relations of our two countries.”

The Pacific island nation is “now confronting serious threats such as ocean warming, acidification, pollution and the depletion of marine resources that are equally a threat to the very existence of humankind,” I said in the message carried by the October 1 issue of the Japan Times and sent in my capacity as chairman of The Nippon Foundation and an honorary citizen of Palau.

“The responsibility for this aggravated marine environment rests with every nation and the people who have reaped benefits from Mother Ocean,” I wrote. “However, while it is Palau and its neighboring island states that have always placed importance on coexistence with the ocean, they are the first to be negatively impacted.”

I went on to say how I continue to transmit the important message of passing on a healthy ocean to future generations for thousands of years to come, stressing: “We will continue to face this threat to mankind together with Palau as fellow brothers.”

Palau, under the leadership of President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., will host the seventh “Our Ocean Conference 2020” on December 7-8 which it said will “set a course towards a sustainable ocean economy that all of humanity will depend on, particularly in a post-pandemic world.” The conference, the first to be hosted by a small island developing state, has invited governments, civil society organizations and businesses to submit new commitments and updates on previous commitments.

I am deeply honored that The Nippon Foundation will be taking part in the conference, and am delighted to mention that we assisted with preparing the conference venue, called Ocean Village, which was handed over to the people of Palau at a ceremony on September 28.

I look forward to participating in the Our Ocean Conference and extend my best wishes for its success.

My video speech for the September 28 conference venue hand-over ceremony can be seen here. 

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:53 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
【Yohei Sasakawa Around the World】 (3) Visit to Indonesia in 2009 [2020年10月13日(Tue)]

I would like to share with you a video taken during my visit to Indonesia in June 2009 as chairman of The Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination.   

Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world in terms of population, eliminated leprosy as a public health problem at the national level in 2000, reducing the prevalence of the disease to less than one case per 10,000 people nine years after the WHO set the target in 1991. However, the situation had since remained static, with little change in either the prevalence rate or the new case detection rate. Similarly, there had been no reduction in the ratio of child cases.

During my three-day stay, I visited a leprosy colony in East Java, which had the highest incidence of the disease in the country, and an elementary school where I sat in on a lesson about leprosy being given by Mr. Ahmad Zainudin, a teacher who spoke from personal experience having himself been cured of leprosy. 

I had met him for the first time in 2007, after which I supported his efforts to set up PerMaTa, an organization of and for people affected by leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease. PerMaTa is dedicated to fighting for the rights of its members, raising awareness of leprosy and rooting out stigma, and is active in three of Indonesia’s 34 provinces.

Indonesia continues to tackle leprosy and as of 2019 ranks third after India and Brazil in terms of annual new cases of the disease. 
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:37 | AROUND THE WORLD | URL | comment(0)
Great Pleasure to Join Cosplayers, Minister Koizumi at Ocean Cleanup Campaign [2020年10月08日(Thu)]
Dressed as Monkey D. Luffy from the manga series “One Piece,” I am joined by Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi (left) at the Cosplay de UMIGOMI (ocean waste) Zero campaign in Tokyo on September 12, 2020.

Dressed once again as Monkey D. Luffy from the popular manga series “One Piece,” it was a great pleasure for me to join some 200 cosplayers and other friends at the Cosplay de UMIGOMI (ocean waste) Zero 2020 campaign at Tokyo Tower in central Tokyo on September 12. 

We were privileged to have Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi at the event, which kicked off a week-long nationwide ocean cleanup campaign that ran until World Cleanup Day on September 19.

Jointly sponsored by The Nippon Foundation and the Environment Ministry, the ocean cleanup campaign was designed to raise public awareness of the issue of ocean debris with a view to contributing to a reduction in trash inflows into the ocean. Altogether, an estimated 200,000 people participated in the cleanup rally at about 400 places in Japan during the week.

Minister Koizumi told the Tokyo event that the number of countries that now share the “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” aimed at reducing additional pollution by marine plastic litter to zero by 2050, has more than quadrupled to 86 since it was adopted at the G20 Osaka Summit in 2019. 

In Japan, he said, the government made it mandatory, effective July 1, for supermarkets, convenience stores, department stores and other retailers all over the country to charge for plastic shopping bags as part of its initiative to reduce plastic waste that is seriously affecting the oceanic ecosystem.

As a result, 70% to 80% of Japanese shoppers now use their own tote bags, he said, adding he wants to back up any moves to switch from plastic products to eco-friendly reusable goods. (Mr. Koizumi was reappointed environment minister in the Yoshihide Suga Cabinet installed on September 16.)

In the manga series, Monkey D. Luffy is on a quest to find the legendary treasure known as “One Piece” that will allow him to become the Pirate King. Speaking in character as I did at last year’s event, I asked the participants: “Why did we gather at Tokyo Tower, not on the seashore, to combat ocean debris? That is because roughly 80% of ocean debris flows into the ocean from cities and towns, meaning that reducing litter on land is essential to preventing ocean debris from accumulating.”

“But I see much trash as I sail the ocean. To cut back on ocean debris to zero, let’s make Japan become a model for the world. It’s you who will make the difference. Do your best together with Luffy.”

At the Tokyo event, participants braved occasional rain and collected 48 bags (30 liters) of trash in the area around Tokyo Tower.

A make-up artist transforms me into Monkey D. Luffy from the manga series “One Piece.”

3.jfif The Cosplay de UMIGOMI (ocean waste) Zero 2020 campaign held at Tokyo Tower on September 12 kicked off a week-long nationwide ocean cleanup campaign.

Appearing as Monkey D. Luffy−just as I did at last year’s event.

With Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi (right) addressing some 200 cosplayers and friends.

Many UMIGOMI (ocean waste) cleanup events are scheduled for 2020 all over Japan.

7.jfif Collecting trash in the area around Tokyo Tower.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:22 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
Receiving Seiron (Sound Opinion) Grand Prize, I Call for “Altering” Japan’s Constitution (2) [2020年10月06日(Tue)]
Addressing the award ceremony for the 35th Seiron (Sound Opinion) Grand Prize for 2019, which was rescheduled from February 28 to September 17 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In my remarks at the Seiron award ceremony, I also reiterated my position in favor of further strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance as the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

President Trump, espousing his “America First” agenda, has reportedly claimed the bilateral security treaty is one-sided and to the disadvantage of the United States, since the Japanese Self-Defense Forces have no obligation to come to the defense of the U.S. even when it comes under attack.

I stated that the bilateral alliance should undergo transformation with Japan becoming more active by providing logistical support for U.S. forces.  

With regard to a vision for building up the country in the post-COVID-19 era, I drew the audience’s attention to the findings of an online survey conducted last year by The Nippon Foundation, covering 1,000 17- to 19-year-olds in each of nine countries−China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.

It showed that young people in Japan ranked last behind their peers in the eight other countries in all areas. For instance, when asked whether they believed that their country will get better in the future, China topped the list at 96%, followed by India (76%) and Vietnam (69%), while the developed countries were far behind with the United States standing at 30%, Britain 25% and Japan a meager 9.6%.

On the other hand, 86% of young Japanese replied that they were happy to have been born in this country, the highest among the nine countries.

I then referred to another survey carried out by the BBC, covering 28,000 people in 25 countries, which found that Japan, along with Canada, was viewed most favorably among the nations of the world.

Just as in the case of the new gengo name, I firmly believe that we should take pride in Japan’s 2,000 years of history and tradition. Through my own experience of spending almost 40% of each year abroad engaged in fighting leprosy and other activities, I can say that people of every nation have pride in their own country.

Those poll results made me believe that it is our responsibility to share with young Japanese a vision of how to build a country that allows them to hope and dream.

I suggested that Japan can and should contribute to the world through its cultural power, which other countries will be hard-pressed to beat.

Just to give them a couple of examples, I pointed to the nation’s many cultural attractions that brought tens of millions of visitors from abroad, until the coronavirus put global tourism on hold; and the tens of thousands of companies that have been in business for more than a century on the strength of their traditional craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail.

Our problem is that young people in Japan do not know these wonderful cultural assets that have accumulated over the centuries and are theirs to inherit.

If Japan, already one of the most favorably viewed countries in the world, partially alters its constitution and becomes more respected as a cultural power, the future for Japanese youth will be bright.

▼Deepest Condolences on the Passing of Ex-Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui

The ceremony began with a moment of silence in memory of Taiwan’s former president Lee Teng-hui, who passed away on July 30 at the age of 97. He was named to receive a special Seiron Grand Prize and had been scheduled to come to Tokyo to attend the award ceremony in February.

I told the event that when I learned of his passing, I felt as if I had lost my own father. I said I had planned to meet with Mr. Lee on the occasion of my visit to Taiwan in March to congratulate President Tsai Ing-wen on her reelection in January, but to my great regret I could not do so as he had already been hospitalized.

Nicknamed "Mr. Democracy," Mr. Lee, a fluent Japanese speaker, studied at Japan's Kyoto Imperial University under a scholarship while Taiwan was a Japanese colony, and later became Taiwan’s first democratically elected president.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:32 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)
Receiving Seiron (Sound Opinion) Grand Prize, I Call for “Altering” Japan’s Constitution (1) [2020年10月02日(Fri)]
Receiving the bronze statue Hisho (Flight) for the 35th Seiron (Sound Opinion) Grand Prize for 2019 from President Hirohiko Iizuka (left) of the Sankei Shimbun at a ceremony at Hotel New Otani Tokyo on September 17, 2020.

I was extremely honored to receive the 35th Seiron (Sound Opinion) Grand Prize for 2019 from Fujisankei Communications Group, a Japanese media conglomerate.

At a ceremony at Hotel New Otani Tokyo on September 17, President Hirohiko Iizuka of the Sankei Shimbun, the group’s flagship national daily, presented me with the bronze statue Hisho (Flight) created by the sculptor Susumu Misho. The award is given to academics, journalists and opinion leaders who contribute to the development of the seiron philosophy of fighting for freedom and democracy, he said.

The ceremony had originally been set for February 28 with some 700 invited guests but was rescheduled and scaled back due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

At the event, I was also honored to receive a congratulatory message sent by Mr. Yoshihide Suga, who was elected the 99th prime minister of Japan by the Diet (Parliament) only the previous day. It was read out by the moderator.

President Iizuka told the audience that this prestigious prize had been conferred upon me for a total of 126 articles I contributed to the “Seiron” column of the Sankei Shimbun during the past 14 years, most notably the one in which I proposed that Japan should not stick with the tradition dating back almost 1,400 years of selecting the name of the imperial era, or gengo, from classical Chinese literature. More than 40 years of my life fighting against leprosy and engaging in other philanthropic activities were also taken into account, he added.

My article, carried in the January 3, 2019 issue of the paper, triggered a heated debate about the new gengo among the Japanese public. In the end, Reiwa was chosen as the new era name, the word taken for the first time from an ancient Japanese source−an anthology of poems called the Manyoshu−instead of old Chinese texts.

The Reiwa era, which can be translated as “beautiful harmony”, began on May 1, 2019 when Crown Prince Naruhito ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne after the historic abdication of his father, Emperor Akihito.

Speaking at the September 17 award ceremony, I began by offering to donate the prize money of one million yen (about 9,500 dollars) to the Akemi-chan Fund, which the Sankei Shimbun has operated since 1966 to help children who have congenital cardiac diseases but lack the wherewithal to undergo surgery.

I then spoke about some of the pressing issues Japan should deal with in a post-COVID-19 era. I first proposed that the country promptly “alter” its constitution to bring it more in line with its identity as a sovereign state with more than 2,000 years of history.

One essence of an independent state is to have armed forces. Of course, they are not necessarily designed only to go on the offensive, but more aimed at self-defense and protecting people from natural disasters.  Learning from the unhappy experience in World War II, I said there must be proper civilian controls in place on the use of force.

Article 9 of the constitution, which came into effect on May 3, 1947, renounces war and stipulates: “Land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” There is no mention of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in the constitution whatsoever although the government has interpreted it in a manner in which the SDF would not be unconstitutional.

The current constitution has been in place for more than seven decades. But I believe the constitution should be “altered” reflecting changes in society over time and that it is the people who should think this over and decide. For that, we need to have an intense, thorough and detailed debate involving as many people as possible.

The key is to make it more understandable and acceptable to the people by softening the tone of the messages and that is why I suggested we should use the word “alter” the constitution. The word “amend” may set off an almost allergic reaction in some quarters among those who see it as something akin to a “total remake” or “overturning a dining table in anger” as a Japanese saying goes, after 75 years of peaceful life.  

Some people are strongly against revising the constitution which they have viewed as sacred for more than seven decades. I believe this has resulted from the lack of efforts by political leaders to make the public understand the charter, which was drafted in just one week or 10 days following Japan’s defeat in the war.

(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:31 | OTHERS | URL | comment(0)