March 16, 2021
JICA HQ, Tokyo, Japan
(1) Welcoming JICA scholarship program participants into the JICA family
Good afternoon, or good morning, or good evening, everyone. I'm glad to meet you, though this is online, not in person.
You have all started your studies in the fall of 2020 during a challenging time.
I would like to welcome you and express my gratitude for choosing Japan as the destination for your studies. Studying abroad is a very precious opportunity, possibly once in your lifetime, and we are happy to receive you as part of the "JICA family."
Since last November, Japan has been experiencing the "third wave" of COVID-19, and I am sure that many of you began your studies with some feelings of anxiety. In addition to an unfamiliar environment, you may have experienced an inconvenient student life.
Some of you are taking classes remotely in your home countries. Your hard work is highly commended, as I know it is difficult to study across time zones and with limited internet access. As we coordinate with the Government of Japan, we are working to have you arrive to Japan as soon as possible. In the meantime, I hope you will remain motivated and continue working diligently on your studies.
(2) The importance of learning abroad (from the case of the Iwakura Mission) and the significance of learning in Japan
I would like to talk to you about the importance of studying abroad.
Soon after the Meiji Revolution around 150 years ago, Japan organized a big mission of prominent politicians and scholars to the United States and European countries. They stayed abroad for more than one year and 9 months. It is known as the "Iwakura Mission." The Mission contributed to adapting the knowledge of western countries, ideas to build a foundation of a free and prosperous Japan, while also ensuring to preserve Japan's traditions.
One of the keystones of this mission is that they brought many young boys and girls to study abroad. One of them was a seven-year-old girl, named TSUDA Umeko. After completing her study in the United States, she returned to Japan and established the first English Language School for Women, later renamed to TSUDA University, which still remains as one of the best women's colleges in Japan.
In addition to TSUDA, KANEKO Kentaro, another student who took part in the Iwakura Mission, went to study in Harvard University and met with future President Theodore Roosevelt. Many years later, in 1904, Japan went into a war with Russia. KANEKO went to the United States to meet with then President Roosevelt to discuss the war. Through their friendship, Roosevelt then decided to intervene into the war between Japan and Russia. He successfully made a good peace, and later became the first American citizen to win the Novel Peace Prize. As these stories show, studying abroad, particularly in different cultural settings from your own, can have long-lasting impacts on your life.
Japan is the first and best example that has modernized from non-Western background and establish a free, democratic, prosperous, and peace-loving nation, founded on the rule of law. Throughout this process, Japan did not lose its traditions and identity.
Given this background, I believe that there are many aspects of Japan's experience, including its failures, which can serve as valuable lessons for developing countries today. This is why we promote our "JICA Scholarship program." We are confident that those who study in Japan will learn invaluable knowledge and wisdom that will support the development of their own countries.
(3) JICA's COVID 19 challenges
Today, I would like to focus on JICA's efforts to address COVID-19 and to improve our operations in a post-COVID world.
Our mission is to promote human security and quality growth. Human security is a concept based on the idea that everyone has the right to live in dignity, and the international community has to support those people. Quality growth means sustainable, resilient, and inclusive growth which will not leave anyone behind. Under our commitment to achieve human security and quality growth, JICA aims to both create societies in which everyone can live with dignity, as I told you, as well as societies where no one is left behind.
To do so, JICA provides concessional loans to support partner countries and provides grant aid for constructing basic infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and water and sewage facilities. JICA also enhances human resource development and provides public policy advice for the governments of partner countries so that they can provide better administrative services to the people.
Among these activities, an important pillar is the "JICA Scholarship program," or the "JICA Development Studies Program", which invites future leaders from partner countries to Japan and offers them opportunities to learn about Japan's modernization experience and also Japan's experience of recovery from the war.
Now, the COVID-19 pandemic will change our world drastically. It is such an enormous challenge that we can refer to it as one of the very important, one of the most impactful events since the 20th century, equivalent to the two world wars and also the Great Depression started in 1929.
To respond to this challenge and achieve strong recovery, JICA has launched the Initiative for Global Health and Medicine, which is based on the pillars of "prevention," "precaution," and "treatment." To provide people with a peace of mind and ensure everyone can access to reliable health and medical services, JICA will help strengthen the healthcare systems of partner countries by building a core hospital and online medical services that are connected to Japanese medical institutions.
I look forward to joining forces with you as we overcome this crisis.
(4) Acknowledging the anxiety caused by COVID-19
Although these unsettling times will likely continue, JICA remains committed to doing everything we can to help protect your health and wellbeing.
While I am sure you are already closely in contact with your university and with JICA staff, please do not hesitate to contact any of us, including myself, if you have any concerns.
JICA, with its vision of "leading the world with trust," strongly believes that the bonds between us are most needed at this unprecedented time. I believe that you are the link between your home countries and Japan, as well as the bridge to our future.
In this sense, I hope that you will continue to be a part of the JICA family and play an active role in collaborating with us, even after you return to your home countries.
While I am sure that you will face many difficulties because of COVID-19, I hope that you will continue to learn not only by yourselves, but also from each other, and help lead us in a better future.
Thank you very much.