【1969 – 1978】
On March 22, 1968, the Caucus of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (consisting of 280 members of the House of Representatives and 139 members of the House of Councilors) decided that all party members of the Diet should contribute a predetermined amount of their annual salaries to aid the orphans, mothers and children who suffered during the Vietnam War. Using it as the financial base, our Foundation was founded on December 12, 1969.
In October, 1971 we changed our name from ““the Foundation for the Welfare and Education of the Vietnamese Orphans” to “the Foundation for the Welfare and Education for the Asian Orphans” in order to expand our relief efforts to all countries of Asia. In addition, the project to assist social welfare facilities in Asian countries began as a new project in July 1977 and since October 1978 we have had a further initiative whereby we invite those involved in these countries to Japan.
▲ Late Seisuke Okuno, former Honorary Chairman of our Foundation, visiting wartime South Vietnam to deliver medical supplies from Japan. He also attended a lecture given by Colonel Les Bang Tan, Mayor of Hue, about the condition of refugees and the general situation of the city of Hue, which was greatly damaged by the Teto offensive during the spring of 1968.
▲ The refugee temporary camp in Tai Ninh, north-west of Saigon (present Ho Chi Minh City), near the Cambodian border. Four refugee families, hurt both mentally and physically by long war damage, live in these tents with only the barest necessities. (June 17, 1970)
▲ The grand opening ceremony of the vocational training center for orphans in Bien Hoa, with many Japanese-side officials participating. One can see Mr. Takechiyo Matsuda, our Foundation’s President at the time. (September 1, 1973)
▲ The social welfare delegation from Thailand, visiting Japan for the first time under the FWEAP Invitation Program. (October, 1978)
The end of the Vietnam War gave rise to the number of refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The Japanese Government decided to allow the settlement of those people who wished to do so in Japan. It entrusted the settlement work to our Foundation, and we started the Refugee Assistance Program. In October 1979, our Foundation changed its name to “The Foundation for the Welfare and Education of the Asian People,” which it retains today. In January, 1982, we held the “Festival to Encourage the settled Indochinese Refugees” and in May, 1985, our long-awaited headquarters building was completed.
▲ The decision is made on October 8, 1979 to establish the Refugee Assistance Headquarters (RHQ) within the Foundation. Its aim is to promote the settlement of Indochinese refugees, to study refugee assistance projects (from both domestic and foreign perspectives) and to implement other necessary programs. The opening ceremony of the RHQ is held less than a month later, on November 2, 1979.
▲ Our Foundation’s Headquarters were completed in April, 1985, at 5-1-27 Minami-Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Here, the completion ceremony is held in a newly furnished office on May 16, 1985. Among the distinguished guests in attendance are the Vice-Minister of Home Affairs, the Deputy Director-General for the United Nations Bureau of Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Japan. The steel-reinforced concrete Headquarters has a total floor area of 1,270.65 square meters with 4 floors and 1 level underground. The site’s total area is 437.95 square meters. It is a contemporary facility at a convenient location and within a suitable environment, making it suitable to use as a base to enforce the Foundation’s work.
▲ The International Refugee Assistance Center opens to provide an immediate response to the rapid increase and prolongation of Indochinese refugees staying in Japan. The Center provides accommodation for those who wish to settle in Japan, and assists their adaptation to the Japanese society. Assistance includes Japanese language education, lifestyle guidance and employment referrals. The authorized capacity of the Center is 500 people (with the maximum possible capacity at 720 people). (April 21, 1983)
▲ The month of Employment Promotion for the Indochinese Refugees begins. Many events take place nationwide with a slogan, “Give Indochinese refugees a job, a place to live, and a helping hand.” Our Foundation’s president, Mr. Seisuke Okuno, also takes part, appealing to passers-by for their understanding and support. A well-known Sumo wrestler, Mr. Terao, and other figures also contributed their time and support. (October 1, 1985)
▲ On December 12, 1989, a commemorative ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Foundation and the 10th anniversary of the Refugee Assistance Headquarters (RHQ) takes place.
Initially, the invitation program started with around 10 visitors annually. But with positive response from invited countries, in 1996 the Foundation expanded the program to 3 times a year, inviting 5-visitor delegations from 4 countries at each time, bringing the total of annual visitors to 60.
As the sole organization entrusted by the Japanese Government for refugee assistance operation, the Refugee Assistance Headquarters (RHQ) will work to contribute in new directions by taking into account socio-political changes in the Asian Region.
▲ On January 1, 1991, Ms. Sadako Ogata, former Professor of Sophia University and former Envoy to Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations becomes the 8th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. On January 28 of the same year, she pays a courtesy visit to our Foundation where she meets the then President Mr. Seisuke Okuno.
▲ Mr. Seisuke Okuno pays a visit to H.E. Minister Ramoovarier of Social Justice and Empowerment of India on January 15, 1998. Throughout the month he visits Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India, meeting with Cabinet Ministers to learn their countries’ histories and observe the turbulent Asian economy. He expresses gratitude to the Ministers of the Social Welfare for their goodwill toward the Foundation’s invitation program.
▲ Mr. Seisuke Okuno talks to Mr. B. Chuluudorji, the President of the Mongolia National University of the Humanities, in the President’s office after the Foundation’s donation of Japanese language teaching materials and a complete collection of Japanese Literature. To the right of President Okuno is H.E. Mr. Marohito Hanada, Japanese Ambassador to Mongolia. (August 16th, 2001)
In addition to those countries we had been inviting, we newly started inviting three Indochinese countries (i.e., Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) and Mongolia in 2003, Bhutan in 2007, and Myanmar in 2013. At present, our invitation program is implemented three times a year, and altogether sixty people (five people from four countries each time) who are in the social welfare field participate annually. To May 2017, we implemented this program 112 times and a cumulative total of 1,849 people have visited Japan.
In the refugee relief program, settlement support for Convention refugees started following Cabinet approval in 2002, and from 2003, the Refugee Assistance Headquarters (RHQ) began supporting them in the same way as Indochinese refugees. However, the acceptance of Indochinese refugees was concluded by the end of the 2005 fiscal year and the “International Relief Center” was closed on March 31, 2006.
In April 2006 we set up the “RHQ Support Center” in Tokyo as a new facility to provide Japanese language education course, guidance for life in Japan, job placements, settlement support projects and other services for Convention refugees. We are providing financial aid for those applying for refugee status. In addition, in 2003 the Foundation’s RHQ established an emergency accommodation facility for those who needed it and also to those who had difficulty in securing lodging places called "ESFRA (Emergency Shelter For Refugee Applicants)."
Also, in response to the request from UNHCR to the Japanese government, the RHQ has been implementing assistance for the acceptance of resettled refugees in Japan, from the countries of their first asylum, at the “RHQ support center” since the fall of 2010.
▲ Workshop scene of the invitation program at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, where attendees learn about Japanese social welfare administration.
▲ Following the closure of the International Refugee Assistance Center after 23 years of service, a dogwood tree is planted at a memorial ceremony at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Minato-gaoka Pier Park by volunteers who completed the program. (October 6, 2006).
▲ Our president, Mr. Fujiwara, greets the completion ceremony of the settlement support program at the RHQ support center. He says that he would like to continue his efforts to support our activities so that “everyone will become familiar with Japanese society and believe that s/he is glad to have settled in Japan.”
▲ Asian welfare officials on invitation program keenly observing the manufacturing site of Japanese prosthetic limbs.