Judo NPO looks after COVID-19 and swift return to international trade

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[3.11 Earthquake: Rebuilding]    10 years later: Tohoku's recovery and resilience with the world

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Greetings, JAPAN Forward reader friends.

In Japan, my homeland, the cherry trees are starting to bloom, indicating that spring is fast approaching. And in Japan, spring is the season for new beginnings.

So far this year, we continue to experience lifestyle restrictions made necessary by the spread of the novel coronavirus. Still, I have no doubts that better days are at hand and I intend to spend this season with a positive attitude, while continuing to move forward into the future.

Let me introduce you to JUDOs, a non-profit organization that I lead.

Overcome Difficulties with the Spirit of Judo

We established the NPO in Japan in April 2019, with the main objectives of promoting diversity, encouraging healthy growth of young people and making international contributions through the sport of judo.

When I was actively competing as a judoka, I had the opportunity to visit various foreign countries and I have always been struck by the universal appeal of judo which transcends competition.

139 years ago, judo master Jigoro Kano created Kodokan judo.

Mr. Kano defined the ultimate goal of the discipline of judo as training to improve oneself as a human being, while making a positive contribution to society in return. He felt that this philosophy was supported and attracted people from all over the world.

I remember visiting Jerusalem in 2010 with a professor whom I respect enormously, Yasuhiro Yamashita, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee and vice-chancellor of the University of Tokai. We visited Israel and the Palestinian Authority and organized a children’s judo clinic in Jerusalem. This experience really made me understand the importance of international volunteering.

As you know, relations between Israel and Palestine have always been strained. But seeing the happy faces of children from both communities practicing judo confirmed my belief that judo has the power to overcome difficulties and nurture friendship.

Japanese judoka Yusuke Kumashiro, sent by Japanese NPO, with part of the US Naval Academy judo team at the clinic in 2016

Expressing gratitude through judo

On March 11, we marked the 10e anniversary of the great earthquake in eastern Japan.

Immediately after this devastating earthquake and the tsunami that followed, the US armed forces organized and implemented Operation Tomodachi, entering the devastated area to help the Japanese authorities to rescue and recover. This was proof by action of the Japanese-American friendship.

As an expression of our thanks for Operation Tomodachi, since September 2011 our group has sent judoka teams to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and we continue to engage in exchanges of judo with the academy.

I would like to note that this arrangement was established thanks to the help of one of my judo sempai, Sankei ShimbunWashington, DC associate correspondent Yoshihisa Komori.

I had the honor of visiting Annapolis in 2010, a year before the earthquake. It was this first visit that served as a catalyst for the Judo Exchange Project, which we created to express our gratitude for the assistance provided by the United States following the earthquake.

Unfortunately, this year’s annual visit had to be postponed due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. But let me take this opportunity to assure our friends at the US Naval Academy and elsewhere in the United States that we look forward to next year when we can resume our judo exchange activities.

Next month, the cherry trees lining the Potomac River will be in full bloom. Their beautiful flowers will certainly be a testament to the lasting friendship between Japan and the United States.

The website and further information on NPO JUDO can be found at this link.

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Author: Kosei Inoue, President, NPO JUDOs

(Read this article in Japanese at this link.)