"Meeting Mr Yohei Sasakawa, 6 May 2009 in London" by Lin Li - May 2009 

The meeting was scheduled over a month ago and today took place at Crowne Plaza in London. The weather report of today was not promising but it turned out to be a lovely day with much sunshine. We departed in a minibus at nine this morning from the front of SIRC. The delegation led by Dr. Nick Bailey consisted of fourteen SIRC-Nippon fellows. The director at SIRC professor Helen Sampson was unable to meet Mr. Sasakawa this time because she has been doing her research on board a ship sailing in the Mediterranean Sea.

We were about an hour ahead of the arranged meeting time when the driver pulled over his minibus in front of the hotel of Crowne Plaza. This period of free time actually allowed us to have a glimpse of the streets around the hotel in London. Some fellows changed their minds as they walked away from a main street and embarked on a short street full of people and stalls selling various goods and most importantly food. Those fellows decided to leave their lunch boxes untouched in their rucksacks by buying and eating lunch at some eateries in that short street. I was not among them and went with other few fellows to a small garden opposite this energetic bazaar after crossing a traffic road. When we returned to Crowne Plaza we were joined at its foyer by a few more fellows who came to London by different means of transport. There was no delay before we met a lady who works for the Nippon Foundation and last year joined others to fly over from Japan to interview all Nippon fellows at SIRC. 

A few minutes later we found ourselves in a rectangular meeting room passing through its anteroom in the wing of the hotel. We were ushered to our seats according to a sitting plan. Mr. Sasakawa appeared from the entrance when everybody has settled at the table. He smiled and was very humble when the Nippon fellows gave him a standing ovation. Waving his hands to re-sit us he opened the meeting with his apologies for the inconvenience caused on us who came over for the meeting in the light of the tight schedule in the UK of Mr. Sasakawa and his acolytes. In fact, they flew back to Japan after the meeting that afternoon. His short introduction entailed the self briefing by every Nippon fellow in a row. There was an amusing moment during the fellows’ briefing. Mr. Sasakawa interrupted after several fellows have completed their individual briefings because many sincere thanks were given to him and the foundation by those well mannered fellows. Mr. Sasakawa told us that the Nippon Foundation should thank the Nippon fellows for doing research because the fellows are helping the foundation realise its goal of building an international network of social scientists specialising in the human element of maritime industry. As such, the next fellow started his briefing by saying he did not thank the foundation, which entailed a round of smiles and laughs from everybody. On top of that, Mr. Sasakawa broke the flow of briefing a few times by commenting on several fellows’ talks which drew his interests. The atmosphere was amicable and relaxing. Dr. Bailey, at the end of briefing, explicitly and concisely described to Mr. Sasakawa what Nippon fellows have achieved, what research SIRC is currently involved in, and his own experiences of supervising Nippon fellows.

Mr. Sasakawa took charge when we have all finished our briefings. He addressed the plight of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somali coasts. He especially focused on the dire situations of a few hundred Philippine seafarer hostages who have been being through the trials and tribulations of desertion for months. He also asked one fellow from the Philippines of how he reflected on the issue. Further, the safety of Malacca strait was the major concern of the foundation according to Mr. Sasakawa. The Nippon Foundation has been undertaking comprehensive work towards trying to impose a tax scheme on relevant shipping partners in order to collect and accumulate adequate fund to keep the strait safe and clean. In relation to the postgraduate programme at SIRC, Mr. Sasakawa did not only give his unabated support but also guaranteed the Nippon fellows the foundation’s future support in terms of network building after the fellows’ graduation. To the end of the meeting, he was very keen to listen to the fellows who commented and reflected on many safety issues experienced by them working in maritime industry. The formal meeting was finished with Mohab presenting an Egyptian brass vessel as a gift to Mr. Sasakawa on behalf of all SIRC-Nippon fellows.

After the meeting, a group picture was taken. In addition, every fellow went to have a photo taken with Mr. Sasakawa who was very patient and friendly. I wish the foundation, SIRC, and the fellows all the best for the future.


  "First Impressions of Cardiff, and Meeting Mr Sasakawa" by Symantak Bhattacharya - 17 December 2004  

I arrived at the Cardiff City Centre bus station the night before the registration at the University, hired a taxi and headed for the University accommodation at Cartwright Court. From the time I was selected, the Director of SIRC Dr Sampson, and the International Office worked very hard to find me this family accommodation. What's more, when we had difficulty in getting one, my would-be supervisor Dr Bailey even offered for me to share his residence until the time something more suitable could be sorted out.  Accommodation, particularly the family type, is a bit of problem if you do not start planning well in advance. It gets particularly bad in late September when some 22,000 students pour into the city's prestigious University.

It was a great change for my wife and I shifting from Singapore to Cardiff. Negotiating a displacement of 50 degrees in latitude and 100 degrees in longitude wasn't that simple. Everything from weather to the British accent was so different! What was even more demanding was the shift from a professional lifestyle to an academic one. I was returning to classroom lectures after nearly a decade and I enjoyed it.

On 12th of October, the Nippon Foundation delegates visited the University and we, five of the Nippon Foundation funded students, had the fantastic opportunity to meet with the Nippon Foundation guests including Mr Sasakawa. There were presentations, photograph sessions and coffee where we got to meet many of those from the Nippon Foundation, and other important guests. It was a great moment for all five of us, which made us very proud and inspired us further to make the coming years at Cardiff extremely productive.


  "Lunch with the Nippon President" by Victor Gekara – 18 November 2004 

Meeting with the Nippon Foundation President on the 12th of October was both humbling and overwhelming for good reasons; it is not very often that such a distinguished figure makes a trip from Tokyo to my door step for the specific reason of meeting with me. The event therefore gave all of us, students, a strong sense of achievement for having been chosen, out of many, for the Nippon Scholarship Award. At the same time it brought to fore and reminded all of us of the task ahead. We were reminded, without the necessity for words, that we shouldered the heavy responsibility to make true a noble dream that had been hatched by those who care for the maritime industry and the wellbeing of seafarers.

Being the first batch in this programme, all concerned eyes will be on our progress and achievement and we represent the hopes of not only the initiators but of all the seamen who stand to benefit directly as well as the wider industry. We have the duty to set a concrete foundation for all those coming after us to build upon and we have the duty to pacify the hearts of all those who applied but were never chosen to show that the right choices were made and that we represent their ambitions.

I followed the proceedings and listened to the speeches with a growing mixture of feelings; the growing sense of achievement and pride as well as the slightly unnerving sense of duty and responsibility. But as we approached nearer the end I knew that deep within our hearts, we were all warming up to the challenge. It was a great experience!

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