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Ousted Myanmar Leader Suu Kyi’s Japanese Sword Restored, Ready to be Returned [2021年11月26日(Fri)]
A group of craftspeople in the western Japanese prefecture of Okayama has finished restoring a Japanese sword owned by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was taken into custody when Myanmar’s military seized power from her civilian government on February 1.

The Nippon Foundation, which entrusted the group with the task on her behalf, will keep the sword until it becomes possible to return it to her.

Before the takeover, Ms. Suu Kyi approached Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama, asking for help in getting the badly rusted sword refurbished. The envoy then asked The Nippon Foundation to help.

Responding to Ms. Suu Kyi’s request, the foundation consulted the city government of Setouchi in Okayama Prefecture, an area famed for its sword craftsmanship, and arranged for a workshop in the Bizen Osafune Sword Museum in the city to handle the restoration work.

The blade was created by Mr. Sadatsugu Takahashi (1902-1968), a master swordsmith of Okayama Prefecture, who was designated by the Japanese government as a holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property known as a “Living National Treasure.”

In 1942, during World War II, it was donated by a major Japanese national daily, the Asahi Shimbun, to Imperial Japanese Army Lieutenant General Shojiro Iida, who had been appointed commander of Japanese forces that occupied the country then known as Burma.

The sword subsequently changed hands to General Aung San, who was a hero of the country’s independence movement−first against British rule and later Japanese occupation. He was Ms. Suu Kyi’s father.

Before he was assassinated in 1947, the general told his daughter it was “a gift from a Japanese officer.” The sword was believed ever since to have been in Ms. Suu Kyi’s possession as a treasure from Japan. Over the years, however, the sword’s condition had deteriorated considerably, probably due to the conditions under which it was stored.

It took the Okayama craftsmen about a year to finish repairing the sword and they did an excellent job. Now that it has been handed it back to the foundation, I made it known at a press conference in Yangon on November 18 during a private visit to Myanmar that we will keep the sword for the time being, ready to return it to Ms. Suu Kyi whenever it becomes possible.

An artisan who worked on the project said he wished the sword will “serve as a bridge between Japan and Myanmar.” I sincerely hope that peace returns to the Southeast Asian country at an early date so we can give the sword back to Ms. Suu Kyi.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:46 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
More Than Half of Working Japanese Youths Were Not Aware of COVID-19 Financial Aid Program [2021年11月22日(Mon)]
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Has your interest in politics and social issues increased or decreased compared with before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic?


The novel coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected people from all walks of life in Japan, regardless of gender and age. Especially for young people, their school life has been dramatically altered by online classes, while the COVID-19-hit economy makes it harder to find jobs and plan for a career.

Against this background, The Nippon Foundation conducted a survey on the “Coronavirus and Social Participation” for six days from September 16, covering 1,000 Japanese aged between 17 and 19 across the country.

The online poll found that since the first coronavirus case was reported in Japan in January 2020, respondents reduced their indoor wining and dining with three people or more (69.1%), participated in fewer community activities and events (58.2%), and used public transportation less (53.4%).

Of all the respondents, those who were working when the poll was taken accounted for 32.5%, while 7.6% said they were not working then, but have worked at least once since January 2020.

Of those who were working at the time of the poll, about one in five (20.6%) said their income declined due to the pandemic, while more than 40% (41.9%) said they felt job openings had decreased.

COVID-19 has also made young Japanese more interested in politics and social issues. Compared to before the outbreak of the pandemic, they have an increased sense that (multiple answers accepted) politics and elections affect their life (33.9%), they have ideas and think about politics, elections and social issues (27.9%), talk with people around them about those issues (25.9%), and proactively obtain information on such issues (24.4%).

For me, what was unexpected in the findings was that of those who were working or who have worked during the pandemic, more than half (52.6%) were not aware that part-time workers were eligible for the government’s financial aid program for people whose income declined.

Surprisingly, only about one in ten (9.2%) of those who have worked during the pandemic had applied and received such aid from the government. The rest did not apply even though they met the criteria (7.5%), or because they did not meet the criteria (11.2%), or because they did not know what the criteria were (19.5%).

Initially, companies and store owners were supposed to apply to the government for financial aid for their employees whose income declined due to the pandemic. However, owners of many small and medium-sized companies and stores were reluctant to apply on behalf of their employees due mainly to what they see as cumbersome and complicated procedures.

This has prompted the government to allow individual workers to apply on their own. But it doesn’t make any sense if people are not aware that they are eligible.

Japan has made progress in mitigating the effects of the coronavirus so far. But there are still many uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and where things go from here, sometimes forcing policy-makers into confusion. I strongly hope the government will do all it can to keep people well informed on how its COVID-19 responses work, and how they help them and the nation’s economy.


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How has the pandemic affected your job hunting and career?
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:05 | A FUTURE FOR YOUTH | URL | comment(0)
My Dream to Standardize Textbooks, Educational Philosophy for Cultivating Maritime Professionals Worldwide  [2021年11月17日(Wed)]
About 90% of goods traded internationally are transported by ship. Container ships and other freighters have grown bigger and bigger as the economic rationale for them increases. In particular, trade in LNG (liquefied natural gas) and other hazardous materials is rising rapidly, so we need to keep in mind the statistic that human errors account for about 70% of marine accidents.

The education of maritime professionals−including the curriculum and methods used−has largely developed independently in each country. However, the shared work domain of seafarers is the ocean, a common heritage of humankind.

For years, my dream has been to establish an environment where they can study using standardized textbooks based on a uniform philosophy.

That is why The Nippon Foundation founded the International Association of Maritime Universities (IAMU) in November 1999. At the time, it consisted of seven universities, representing the five continents of the world, with a shared recognition of the significance of maritime education and training amid the rapid globalization of the international shipping.

Since then, IAMU, headquartered in Japan, has significantly expanded its membership. Including The Nippon Foundation, it now boasts 69 members.

Thanks to enthusiastic efforts by Mr. Takeshi Nakazawa, executive director of the secretariat, who used to be a professor at the World Maritime University (WMU) in Sweden, IAMU has now gained a voice in the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of maritime and atmospheric pollution by ships.

On October 26, 2021, I sent a video message to IAMU’s 21st annual assembly in my capacity as its honorary chair. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was held in Alexandria, Egypt, in a hybrid format, combining in-person encounters meeting with online participation. This enabled experts and scholars from around the globe to meet and for the assembly to disseminate the latest advances in the field of maritime education, training, research, and development. (In 2020, an annual conference was canceled for the first time in 20 years because of the pandemic.)

I told the 2021 session that I made a proposal at the general meeting held two years ago in Tokyo for the establishment of programs for students and faculty of member universities to nurturing maritime human resources who embody the basic concept of the Global Maritime Professionals (GMP).

“I am pleased to see that the pilot program for undergraduate students has started in September this year, and that the program for faculty members is well on its way to becoming a reality,” I added.

I strongly hope that IAMU will continue to exercise leadership in enhancing the educational programs of maritime professionals around the world.

My vide message to IAMU’s 21st annual meeting is available at The Nippon Foundation YouTube.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 16:10 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
Congratulations to 31 Sasakawa Fellows on Their Graduation from World Maritime University in Sweden [2021年11月12日(Fri)]
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Addressing remotely from Tokyo the annual Awards Ceremony for World Maritime University Sasakawa Fellows held in Malmö, Sweden, on October 18, 2021.


As you may be aware, The Nippon Foundation provides a wide variety of scholarships to students around the world. In the ocean and maritime fields alone, we have supported more than 1,500 fellows from 150 countries to date who have studied at World Maritime University (WMU) of Sweden and other international maritime and ocean-related institutions across the globe.

On October 18, WMU held its annual Sasakawa Fellows Awards Ceremony for students in the class of 2021 whose fellowships are funded by the foundation. With a record number of 31 graduates this year, the total number of Sasakawa fellows from WMU now stands at 730 from 81 countries since we started the fellowship program in 1987. The class of 2022 includes an additional 31 students.

The 2021 fellows are from the following 25 countries−Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Japan, India, Indonesia, Fiji, Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda, Tunisia, Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Argentina, Iran, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, and Ukraine.

Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, I joined the ceremony remotely from Japan along with members of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) that administers the fellowship program, including Mr. Eisuke Kudo, advisor for SPF and WMU governor. The students, together with faculty and staff, gathered in the WMU Sasakawa Auditorium in Malmö in southern Sweden.

Addressing the gathering, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, WMU President, thanked The Nippon Foundation for its continued support to the university. She noted the growing, worldwide influence of the Sasakawa fellows network, composed of maritime and ocean leaders that she described as a “global engine of sustainable development.” She also highlighted the strong connections WMU students make with people from a broad range of backgrounds and with a variety of perspectives.

In my message, I congratulated the graduates and welcomed them as members of The Nippon Foundation family under the “One World One Family” philosophy that aims to build a better world through mutual cooperation cutting across politics, ideology, region, race and national borders.

“I would also like you to keep in touch and cooperate with each other and to exchange information with the Sasakawa fellows through the network and the ‘Friends of WMU’ for a common goal of realizing a wonderful and peaceful world,” I said, adding: “For that, we will spare no effort to cooperate with you.”

After graduation, they become members of “Friends of WMU,” whose secretariat is in the Ocean Policy Research Institute of SPF. Friends of WMU is designed to build a global network to help the fellows exchange ideas and information, work together as they support their countries in addressing maritime and ocean policy challenges, and promote international cooperation.

I also promised that their study tour to Japan, which had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, will definitely be rescheduled for when we are all free from the pandemic.

The event also provided the opportunity for the graduating fellows to introduce themselves and express their appreciation to me and The Nippon Foundation.

The meeting concluded with remarks by Ms. Maria Mercedes Arevalo Aranaga from Venezuela on behalf of the graduating fellows, who said: “By funding our studies, you have invested in social innovation in our countries to build a sustainable world. Now we are agents of change to strengthen institutions, innovate and build maritime capacity.”

The text of my message can be seen here.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:29 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
Seabed 2030 Project Joined by Five New Partners to Map World’s Entire Ocean Floor (2) [2021年11月09日(Tue)]
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), based in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the United States, is a private, non-profit institution dedicated to advancing knowledge of the ocean and its connection with the Earth system through a sustained commitment to excellence in science, engineering, and education, and to the application of this knowledge to problems facing society.

WHOI scientists and engineers are committed to understanding all facets of the ocean as well as its complex connections with the Earth’s atmosphere, land, ice, seafloor, and life−including humanity.

Mr. Jamie McMichael-Phillips, Seabed 2030 Project Director, said: “WHOI’s commitment to researching and understanding the ocean matches Seabed 2030’s sustainability goals, and we are confident that our collaborative work will bring us closer to achieving our aims and ultimately allow for a fairer, more sustainable world.”

Mr. Peter B. de Menocal, WHOI President and Director said: “WHOI is uniquely qualified to provide expertise in exploration of the ocean floor, which is crucial for understanding our global climate puzzle.”

ARGANS, based in Plymouth, England, specializes in satellite-based Earth observation, remote-sensing applications and services, and geographical information systems used to map and monitor the marine, atmospheric and terrestrial environments. It offers satellite mission solutions across a range of services, including development of ground segment algorithms and applications, data quality assessment and validation while keeping a strong scientific expertise in remote sensing science.

“As a company that is dedicated to environmental operations which foster a sustainable future and lead to improvements in the communities with which we work, ARGANS is proud to support the Seabed 2030 Project with its aim of producing a complete map of the seafloor,” commented Mr.  Francois-Regis Martin-Lauzer, the firm’s CEO and Chairman.

Mr. McMichael-Phillips, said: “ARGANS has a wealth of experience working on key subjects, including coastal erosion, marine litter, and coastal mapping, all of which will no doubt greatly support the work we do.”

Understanding the bathymetry of the world’s oceans is imperative for improving maritime navigation, and also for enhancing our ability to predict climate change and monitor marine biodiversity and resources. A comprehensive map of the seafloor will assist global efforts to combat pollution, aid marine conservation, forecast tsunami, and better understand tides, wave action and sediment transport.

When The Nippon Foundation launched the Seabed 2030 project with GEBCO at the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017, only 6% of the world’s seabed had been mapped to modern standards. GEBCO, which stands for General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, is the only intergovernmental organization with a mandate to map the entire ocean floor.

All data collected and shared with the Seabed 2030 Project is included in the GEBCO global grid, which is free and publicly available. The effort complements the goals of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The latest GEBCO grid figure, announced by the Seabed 2030 project in June this year, showed that 20.6% of the world’s entire seabed has now been mapped.

So, we remain humbly aware that almost 80% of the world’s seabed still needs to be mapped.

But working with all the stakeholders of the international ocean community, including the five new partners, we are determined to do everything we can to achieve the goal of mapping the entire seabed by the end of this decade.

(End)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
Seabed 2030 Project Joined by Five New Partners to Map World’s Entire Ocean Floor (1) [2021年11月08日(Mon)]
I was heartened that The Nippon Foundation-GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project has recently signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) with five new partners to work together to complete the mapping of the entire ocean floor by the end of this decade.

This has brought to 166 the total number of official partners, contributors and supporters that have officially signed on to Seabed 2030 from across government, industry, philanthropy and academia in more than 50 countries.

The five new partners are the New Zealand government, ARGANS of the United Kingdom, EOMAP of Germany, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) of the United States and Kongsberg Maritime of Norway.

Under the MOU signed in July, New Zealand became the first government to sign up to the project. The agreement calls for Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand, a government department, to work together with National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd. (NIWA) and GNS Science to jointly govern data assembly and coordination in the region surrounding the South Pacific country.

“New Zealand is proud to be leading the way with this work. Mapping the seabed floor is critical to our knowledge about climate and weather patterns, tides, wave action, sediment transport, tsunami wave propagation and underwater geo-hazards,” said Ms. Gaye Searancke, chief executive of Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand.

Mr. Jamie McMichael-Phillips, Seabed 2030 Project Director, said: “The New Zealand signing is significant for Seabed 2030 as it’s the first full MOU between a Government and the Project. As a host of one of our regional centers, New Zealand has provided steadfast support to Seabed 2030 from the outset and we look forward to building on our collaboration in the race towards achieving our mission.”

The country hosts one of the four regional centers at NIWA under the Seabed 2030 project. The centers are responsible for championing mapping activities, assembling and compiling bathymetric information and collaborating with existing mapping initiatives within their regions.

“We call upon other countries to join us in our goal of a complete map of the ocean floor―an apparatus which will help us better understand planet Earth,” said Mr. McMichael-Phillip.

Kongsberg Maritime, headquartered in Kongsberg, Norway, provides solutions for safe, efficient and sustainable maritime operations. The solutions are suitable for offshore energies, seaborne transportation, hydrography, science, navy, coastal marine, aquaculture, training services and more.

Mr. McMichael-Phillips commented: “KONGSBERG’s prominent capabilities in providing sustainable maritime operations closely align with our ethos and aim here at Seabed 2030.”

Bjørn Jalving, Kongsberg Maritime Senior Vice President Technology, said: “We envisage our systems for surveying, positioning and navigation to contribute rewardingly to this imperative global effort. We will specifically develop freely available functions for Kongsberg Maritime multibeam echo sounders, single beam echosounders and AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) that ease the process of contributing bathymetric data to the Seabed 2030 data centers.” The development will be made collaboratively with the University of New Hampshire and Stockholm University, also Seabed 2030 partners.

EOMAP, a Munich-based global service provider of satellite-derived aquatic information in maritime and inland waters, develops and generates tools and data to map and monitor shallow waters and aquatic ecosystems with satellite data analytics. Its mission is to develop and apply high quality satellite-derived methods and data to precisely map and monitor the aquatic environment and thus contribute to the effect management and understanding of this crucial environment.

“Mapping the coastal zones of our oceans can be very complex, and so we’re delighted to welcome the expertise and support of EOMAP,” said Mr. McMichael-Phillips.

Dr. Knut Hartmann, COO of EOMAP, said: “We have joined the ambitious Seabed 2030 project to contribute with bathymetric data, which are hard or impossible to access otherwise. Our contribution will be−in cooperation with our clients and stakeholders−to fill data gaps in coastal shallow waters and to encourage others to join in.”

Coastal zones are not only critical for biodiversity, coastal protection, navigation and other aspects, they are also subject to constant change. Nevertheless, many are not sufficiently understood. Using satellite data and smart analytics these aquatic environments can be mapped and monitored in space, in time and on various scales.

(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
Crewless Cargo Ship to Make World’s First Test Run in Congested Waters with The Nippon Foundation’s Support [2021年11月01日(Mon)]
Backed by The Nippon Foundation, a consortium of 30 Japanese companies, led by Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), the nation’s largest shipping firm, plans to have a container ship pilot itself from Tokyo Bay to Ise, a coastal city in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, in February 2022.

The 380-kilometer voyage will be the world’s first test of an autonomous ship in waters with heavy marine traffic.

Under the project, dubbed DFFAS (Designing the Future of Full Autonomous Ship), The Nippon Foundation and the NYK group aim to put unmanned ships into commercial service by 2025.

As an important step in preparation for the test voyage, the consortium completed the construction of a fleet operation center (FOC) in mid-September in Makuhari, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, which will provide onshore support for crewless ships by collecting information and monitoring and analyzing the operational status of vessels, using satellite technology, onboard sensors, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In the case of an emergency, the ships can be steered remotely from this base.

The background to this ambitious project is the current state of Japan’s domestic coastal shipping industry, which 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 these circumstances, autonomous ships are expected to go a long way in reducing workloads and trimming operating costs, including insurance premiums. Besides, crewless sailing can also address safety issues by reducing human errors, which account for about 80% of marine accidents.

“With the issue of Japan’s shrinking workforce in mind, there’s a growing need for these technologies to uphold safety,” said Satoru Kuwahara, a general manager at NYK subsidiary Japan Marine Science Inc.

“The NYK Group will make full use of the technology and experience so far cultivated in the technological development of maritime autonomous surface ships. The DFFAS project will work toward the standardization of technology and the establishment of systems and infrastructure through open collaboration,” he added.

The NYK group is one of the five consortia of Japanese companies The Nippon Foundation has decided to provide with a total of 3.44 billion yen (about $30.3 million) for their participation in the Joint Technological Development Program for the Demonstration of Unmanned Ships.

The five groups have brought together a total of about 50 Japanese companies, comprising the country’s leading shipping and shipbuilding as well as equipment manufacturing, communications, IT, insurance and other firms, for what they claim to be an “All Japan” team. They are undertaking projects that involve a mix of autonomous container ships (large and small), car ferries, as well as tourist boats, in a bid to maximize their application to commercial shipping.

Under the program “MEGURI 2040” initiative, The Nippon Foundation now aims to see unmanned ships make up 50% of Japan’s local fleet by 2040. If we achieve this goal, the foundation estimates the economic impact of unmanned shipping will be as much as one trillion yen (about $8.8 billion) a year.

I believe 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.

For now, it is my strong wish that the NYK group will conduct the first successful demonstration of an autonomous ship in congested waters in February, paving the way for the four other consortia and the rest of the world to make headway toward the commercialization of crewless shipping.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 17:56 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)