Nippon Foundation

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This article is about a non-governmental organisation. For the unrelated, semi-governmental organisation, see Japan Foundation.
The Nippon Foundation
Logo (Type A) of the Nippon Foundation.png
Founded 1 October 1962 (1962-10-01)[1]
Focus Education, healthcare, maritime industry
Area served
Method Donations and Grants
Key people
Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman
Takeju Ogata, President
30,938,893,000JPY (FY2012)[2]
94 (2012)[3]
Nippon Foundation headquarters in Akasaka, Tokyo

The Nippon Foundation (日本財団 Nipponzaidan?) of Tokyo, Japan, is a private, non-profit grant-making organization. It was established in 1962 by Ryoichi Sasakawa, the late statesman and businessman. The foundation's mission is to direct Japanese motorboat racing revenue into philanthropic activities, and it uses these monies to pursue global maritime development and assistance for humanitarian work, both at home and abroad. In the humanitarian field, it focuses on such fields as social welfare, public health, and education.

The current chairman is Yohei Sasakawa, World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar, and the son of the foundation's founder, Ryoichi Sasakawa.



Examples of major initiatives[edit]

Kyotei boat race

In 1962, The Nippon Foundation was established under the auspices of the Japanese Motorboat Racing Law. The law and the foundation were initiatives of Ryoichi Sasakawa who, as chair, used them to both help rebuild the Japanese shipbuilding sector, and to conduct philanthropic activities around the world. This system of using gambling revenue to provide aid to needy sectors was a novel one in Japan at that time, and came under intense scrutiny. In response, the foundation strove for transparency[4] in conducting its activities, making its records publicly accessible from its earliest days.

Initiatives pursued in this period include research for the development of super tankers and their engines, direct support for the shipbuilding industry, and the protection of safety in the Strait of Malacca—vital to Japan’s national security, due to the fact that more than 80 percent of her oil passes this way.

In the field of public welfare, the foundation pursued such youth-oriented initiatives as the building of sports facilities, the building of day care centers and the promotion of traffic safety education. In addition, it began donating mobile clinics and blood-mobiles, as well as constructing blood banks around the country.

Vehicle with wheelchair slope

In the 1970s, the foundation continued to pursue its efforts to improve social services through such measures as the distribution of ambulances, training in the use of fire fighting equipment, the development of preventative measures for earthquakes and PR for the fire-fighting sector. It also donated medical ships to provide medical aid for people living on remote islands in Japan’s inland sea.

In 1971, it began its overseas work, and in 1974 established the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation[5] for the purpose of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem—an effort that has resulted in its elimination in all but 1 of the 122 countries where the disease was initially prevalent.[6]


Support for the maritime world remained an important focus in the 1980s, building on the work of the previous decade. Examples of projects include "Swift Wings", which was a sail system designed for modern cargo ships, and research toward a "Techno Superliner", a 1,000-ton cargo vessel that could attain speeds of up to 50 knots.

On the international cooperative support front, the foundation involved itself heavily in disaster relief, sending aid to help the victims of major disasters in countries around the world, and establishing the United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Relief.[7]

Health initiatives that began in this decade include the establishment of the WHO Sasakawa Health prize and a massive project to aid the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear power disaster, under which the foundation spent a total of more than US$50 million over ten years, screening over 200,000 children for thyroid cancer.[8]

Up until 1988, the foundation went by the name the Japanese Shipbuilding Industry Foundation (JSIF), and even donated some supposedly $500,000 worth of fireworks to the Los Angeles 1984 Organizing Committee for use in those Olympics. It was much more than the LA Organizing Committee wanted to use, and they were forced to come up with a 25-minute fireworks show to accommodate the gift and NOT slight the Foundation. Sometime around 1988–1989, the foundation dropped that moniker and went by several other names including the all-inclusive "Nippon" Foundation.

In response to the Ethiopian famine of the mid-1980s, the foundation began a program of agricultural education throughout sub-Saharan Africa that eventually reached 14 countries, improving farmers’ yields by up to six times in some places.

Finally, as a part of its human resources development program, the foundation created the Sasakawa Young Leaders’ Fellowship Fund,[9] a program that would eventually establish million-dollar funds at a total of 68 major universities around the world.


In the 1990s, on the home front, the Nippon Foundation invested heavily in the elderly of Japan, pushing for the improvement of retirement homes, building model retirement homes, and helping the nation to develop its hospice system nearly from the ground up. Related to this field, the foundation also began donating specially equipped vehicles[10] to social welfare facilities and groups, enabling them to provide mobility services to the elderly and those with disability.

The decade also saw one of Japan’s worst earthquakes of the 20th century, and the disorganization of volunteer groups in the wake of the quake lead the foundation to put special attention on bringing these many groups together under one umbrella—the volunteer support center—a central body that coordinated volunteer effort in the event of a major disaster.

In the maritime development field, the foundation began to turn its eye to the disparity in the level of training received by maritime experts in various countries. As a result, it provided funding for a scholarship for people from developing countries to attend the World Maritime University, in Malmö, Sweden. In perhaps an even broader effort, it created the International Association of Maritime Universities, uniting 50 institutions around the world, in an effort to standardize both the level of education and the materials used.


The past years have seen the foundation continue to build on its work of the first four decades, working in the maritime, welfare and international cooperation fields.

Since its origins, the foundation has been interested in aiding the nation’s shipbuilding and maritime efforts, leading it to support both a display of a North Korean spy vessel that had been sunk by the Japanese Self Defense Forces, and a survey of Okitori Island—one of[11] the many Asian islands whose territoriality is under dispute.

In addition, the foundation is providing support toward the establishment of a user-pays system to help the nations surrounding the Strait of Malacca in their efforts to both police the waters and maintain their environmental integrity.

In international affairs, the foundation has most recently built more than 100 elementary schools in Myanmar and 100 in Cambodia. It has established a novel program to provide Mongolian nomadic families with boxes full of traditional medicines that can be replenished, at the cost only of those medicines used, a few times a year, when they come to market.

Current priorities[edit]

Today, the foundation continues to support programs in the maritime, domestic social welfare, and international cooperative support fields.

From its website, it is most interested in supporting projects that fall under one of the following categories:

International Cooperative Support

  • Improvement of Basic Human Needs

Initiatives to assist people throughout the world to meet their basic human needs, and to contribute to the improvement of human welfare through programs in such areas as healthcare, support of disabled persons and those who are socially vulnerable, agricultural development, population issues, community development, refugee aid, and disaster relief. In recent years, the foundation has been devoting a large amount of effort to the elimination of leprosy in both the medical and social (stigma-related) fields. Projects comprising novel ideas, approaches, and technology, as well as those that involve multilateral undertakings, such as south-south cooperation, will receive higher priority.

  • Human Resources Development

Initiatives to foster a new generation of professionals, scholars, and students with a strong potential for future leadership. We support training and educational programs designed and executed by non-profit organizations and institutions of higher education. Our intention is to promote the formulation of an international network of professional people with shared goals and concerns.

  • Promotion of International Collaborative Undertakings

Initiatives to foster cooperative approaches that meet the changing needs of the global community. We support cultural, social, and intellectual exchanges and collaborative undertakings which contribute to the development of greater mutual understanding and cooperative mindset in order to bring about social changes.[12]

  • Maritime Work
  1. Projects that contribute to the formation of a new international order of the seas, by promoting mutual understanding and multilateral cooperation on ocean issues, and carrying out pioneering initiatives.
  2. International capacity and network building projects that promote cooperation among ocean experts, as well as with experts in other fields, in order to foster a more comprehensive understanding of the ocean, and facilitate discovery/sharing of effective new technologies and knowledge.
  3. Projects that foster sustainable regional development through multilateral cooperation, employing a comprehensive developmental approach that improves regional productivity while preserving the surrounding environment, including the coasts and ocean.
  4. Projects that promote public understanding and appreciation of the ocean through international activities in the fields of social welfare, culture, and sports, with the cooperation/participation of ocean experts and professionals.
  5. Other original and innovative international projects related to the ocean.[13]

University of British Columbia[edit]

In 2010, it was announced that the foundation launched a $13-million, nine-year research program called the Nereus Program with University of British Columbia researchers to study the future of the world’s oceans and to monitor the impact of human activities on seafood resources. The program is partnered with University of Cambridge, Duke University, Princeton University, Stockholm University, United Nations Environmental Program-World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Utrecht University. The program has three objectives: to conduct collaborative ocean research across the natural and social sciences, to develop an interdisciplinary network of experts that can engage in discussion of complex and multifaceted questions of ocean sustainability, and to transfer these ideas to practical solutions in global policy forums.[14]


Despite its funding of many public health and welfare programs, the foundation has been criticized, primarily by scholars and journalists on the left, as an organization with right-wing, nationalist motives.[15]

The Foundation has stated its principal commitment is "to support international humanitarian initiatives aimed at improving the social, cultural, and economic well-being of developing countries, and combating poverty worldwide." In addition, however, it has engaged in politically motivated activities such as spending millions to help support Japan's claim that Okinotorishima is an island, by building a lighthouse there and investing in a project to "grow" the island through micro-organism breeding.[11]

The grants that The Nippon Foundation makes are overseen and coordinated by the Japanese government. While no official connection exists, one article claims that the foundation’s philanthropic work constitutes an important part of the official Japanese lobbying effort to foster and maintain a favourable image of Japan - known by the euphemism "improving mutual understanding." The article states that although many Japanese institutions refrain from seeking a grant from The Nippon Foundation, the combination of reduced US funding for Japanese studies and the efforts of the Japan Lobby for many years have virtually deprived the US and other countries of an independent capability for research and teaching on Japan. Further, it contends that The Nippon Foundation has also had considerable success in reducing the range of opinion and advice on which US government policy is based.[16]

The Nippon Foundation, alongside the United Nations, USAID, and other international aid agencies,[17] supported a massive family planning campaign in Peru, known as Voluntary Surgical Contraception. It was later revealed that under the campaign, undertaken by Alberto Fujimori's administration in Peru from 1996 to 2000, nearly 300,000, mostly indigenous, women were forcibly sterilized.[18][19][20]

Organizations established[edit]

The Sasakawa Peace Foundation


  1. ^ The Nippon Foundation Library, accessed 2013-03-14
  2. ^ "Nippon Foundation financial statements ,"
  3. ^ Nippon Foundation - Careers (Japanese), accessed 2013-03-14
  4. ^ "Nippon Foundation financial statements (Japanese),"
  5. ^ "Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation"
  6. ^ "Eliminating Leprosy, the Nippon Foundation"
  7. ^ "United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Relief,"
  8. ^ Chernobyl: Message for the 21st Century, p xvii.
  9. ^ "Sasakawa Young Leaders’ Fellowship Fund"
  10. ^ "The Nippon Foundation's mobility services program"
  11. ^ a b "Japan and China Dispute a Pacific Islet," New York Times, 10 July 2005.
  12. ^ "The Nippon Foundation's International Application Page"
  13. ^ "The Nippon Foundation's International Application Page"
  14. ^ "UBC and The Nippon Foundation launch $13-million research program to predict the future of oceans". Nereus. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  15. ^ Who Is Sasakawa and What Is His Foundation?
  16. ^ "The Japan Lobby: An Introduction" by Robert Angel
  17. ^ Insight News TV | Peru: Fujimori's Forced Sterilization Campaign
  18. ^ Catholic World News Enough Evidence to Extradite? 27 September 2001
  19. ^ Peru Plans a Hot Line to Battle Forced-Sterilizations ZENET LIMA, Peru, 2 September 2001[dead link]
  20. ^ "Mass sterilization scandal shocks Peru". BBC News. 2002-07-24. Retrieved 2006-04-30. 
  21. ^

External links[edit]