"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Grand Opening Ceremony for Special Events in Commemoration of the 20th Marine Day

[Date] July 20, 2015
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

I appreciate you coming together on this memorable day on which we commemorate the twentieth anniversary of enacting "Marine Day" as a national holiday.

It was 140 years ago today that Emperor Meiji returned safely to the port of Yokohama from a visit to Tohoku and Hokkaido. This is the origin of "Marine Day." The ship on which Emperor Meiji sailed was the Meiji Maru, the most highly advanced patrol vessel of its time.

The Meiji Maru patrolled the seas surrounding Japan and in 1875 it hastened to be the first to reach the Ogasawara Islands. It succeeded in reaching the islands no more than two days ahead of Britain. This margin of a mere two days determined Japan's sovereignty over the Islands. Were it not for this ship, the Ogasawara Islands, brimming with abundant marine resources, might have become part of Britain.

Japan controls a vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ)—the sixth-largest in scale in the world—and approximately 30 per cent of that is waters with the Ogasawara Islands as their points of origin. Fishing boats throughout Japan set out for these waters. It is no exaggeration to say that the Ogasawara Islands provide the ocean's abundant bounty to Japan's dinner tables. Japan may well be the only nation anywhere in the world with a fishing village roughly every 5 kilometers all along its shorelines.

I imagine there are some who believe that Japan's fishing villages are on a path of steady decline. But this is not the case by any means. In the town of Oarai in Ibaraki Prefecture, there is a tremendously successful restaurant called "Kaachan no Mise"—roughly, "Mom's place"—run by the wife of one of the fishermen. There is a long line of people looking to enjoy the fresh catch of the local area. The business is mostly run by women, who are boldly engaged in "senary," or sixth-order, industry [in which an agricultural, forestry, or fishery operation integrates production, processing and sales and promotes the use of local resources]. I understand that despite the heavy damage sustained during the Great East Japan Earthquake, the restaurant reopened 81 days after the disaster and it now has even more customers than before the disaster struck. Fishing villages will continue to be central points for people's lives and livelihoods, and have a bright future. They are more than just sources of fishery resources. More than 99 per cent of Japan's import and export freight and approximately 40 per cent of Japan's domestic transport of goods relies on marine transport. The sea is so familiar to Japanese that we cannot even imagine living our lives without it.

From ancient times, freedom on the high seas and the free flow of trade have been the cornerstones of the development and prosperity of humankind. In various international fora, I have repeatedly appealed for all disputes to be settled peacefully based on international law rather than the use of force or coercion. We must never allow the mightier to mistreat the weaker on the free seas. Everyone has a common interest in maintaining the sea as a "public good" governed by the rule of law, which is indispensable for the peace and prosperity of the international community.

"The seas are for all humankind to use." Even today, these words of Grotius, the "father of international law," from 400 years ago still ring true. We must hand these magnificent seas down to the next generation. The existence of pirates who threaten sea lanes around the world is a matter of critical importance not only to Japan but also to all other countries engaged in maritime trade. Japan must demonstrate leadership in securing free and peaceful seas, transitioning from "a country protected by the sea" to "a country that protects the sea."

In Asia, the twenty contracting Parties to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), which was concluded at the initiative of Japan, are keeping a watchful eye out, from their center in Singapore. Off the coast of Somalia, the Japan Self-Defense Forces' naval destroyers and patrol aircraft are protecting private vessels navigating there in cooperation with Japan Coast Guard officers. As a result of such efforts, carried out through cooperation with the international community, have brought the number of piracy incidents off the coast of Somalia has decreased dramatically, from over 200 annually to zero in the first half of 2015.

In 1896, the Meiji Maru was retired from active service to become a highly revered venue for seamanship training for young mercantile marine college students. For 50 years until 1945, some 5,000 young seafarers polished the deck with coconuts every morning and climbed the masts to unfurl the sails. It was precisely because they had passed through this harsh training that the graduates loved the Meiji Maru as their spiritual "hometown" and felt a sense of pride in making their careers out on the sea.

However, unfortunately, the number of marine-related university departments is currently decreasing. When I was young, many young people longed to have jobs connected with the ocean, brimming with the romantic notion of roaming the Seven Seas. I would like the young people of the present day also to find their futures in the sea. For Japan, the sea will continue to be a key source of blessings into the future. For example, in recent years we discovered that methane hydrate and a variety of other resources lie latent beneath the waters surrounding Japan. In the sea we find both resources and jobs. I very much wish for the next generation of young people to boldly take on the challenges of marine resource development.

In order to do that, we will need a modern equivalent of the Meiji Maru to foster young people and serve as a spiritual foundation. In order to push forward with cultivating engineers to develop marine resources as an "all Japan" effort, we will institute a "Project to Cultivate Marine Pioneers of the Future," a consortium made by government, industry, and academia. Through this consortium, at universities, instructors dispatched by companies will develop practical classes, and practical training provided by the companies will also be held at places where projects are actually underway.

I will aim to raise the number of engineers in Japan engaged in marine resource development, which currently stands at roughly 2,000, by a factor of five by 2030 to roughly 10,000. I look forward to the human resources produced by this consortium leading the way in developing our marine resources and obtaining new blessings from the sea.

Of course, these efforts to cultivate marine-related human resources will not be limited only to Japanese. "The seas are all interconnected. In light of this, I learned just how important it is for us to go beyond our own countries and forge cooperative relationships and foster a shared awareness." These are the words of an Indonesian trainee who had studied in Japan. Japan's mission is to share our information and experience with like-minded people connected with us by the sea, for the peace and prosperity of the entire international community.

At the very forefront has been Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, who joins us here today. The Nippon Foundation has sent a total of 1,075 people from 129 countries to various nations around the world to study and then sends the graduates out into the world as "Sasakawa Fellows." Armed with the knowledge of leading maritime nations, they play an active role at the front lines of maritime administration in each country. In recognition of his great contributions, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) awarded Mr. Sasakawa the International Maritime Prize. I would like to express once again my respect for the achievements of both Mr. Sasakawa and the Nippon Foundation over the years.

It would not do for the government to fall behind the Foundation's many efforts. This autumn, the first master's program in maritime safety and security policy anywhere in the world will be inaugurated at a Japanese graduate school and this program will accept naval officer candidates from all around Asia. The goal is not simply the acquisition of knowledge. Rather, it is also to overcome large "waves" and have people all around Asia come to hold their thinking in common. That is the kind of education I wish to aim for.

It was Ito Hirobumi, the Minister for Public Works of the day, who gave this beautiful vessel made in Britain the name "Meiji Maru" and infused life into it. Ito Hirobumi, as one of the "Choshu Five," resolutely crossed the ocean with four other like-minded young people. The result was Ito becoming a force that strongly drove Japan's modernization. The sea is overflowing with limitless potential. I look forward to young people carving out the future by diving into the sea without any fear of the rough waves that will confront them.

I wish to conclude my message on this 20th commemoration of Marine Day by expressing appreciation for the benefits the ocean provides us, along with my wish for the prosperity of Japan, a maritime state, and by declaring my wish for world peace and prosperity fostered by the seas.

Thank you for your kind attention.