The Nippon Foundation – University of Tokyo Ocean Debris ProjectAgreement for new project signed on May 14

Bringing together The Nippon Foundation’s project implementation capabilities and the University of Tokyo’s research capabilities, a signing ceremony was held on May 14 at the Ito International Research Center at the University of Tokyo to mark the launch of The Nippon Foundation – University of Tokyo Ocean Debris Project to tackle the continuously increasing amount of ocean debris.

Standing together at the podium (from left to right): Teruo Fujii, executive vice president, University of Tokyo, Makoto Gonokami, president, University of Tokyo, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman, The Nippon Foundation, Mitsuyuki Unno, Executive Director, The Nippon Foundation

The project will last for three years and has a budget of ¥354 million. It will seek to bolster scientific knowledge and provide advice for addressing issues, focusing on three main themes: (1) Identifying the scope of microplastic debris in the ocean; (2) Evaluating the effect of microplastics on  living organisms; and (3) Clarifying how plastic debris is created and studying ways to reduce and manage that flow. Specifically, the project will work to establish a platform for researchers in Japan and hold international roundtables that include members of the general public, and based on this input, propose measures to reduce and manage plastic waste. Upon conclusion, the project is expected to provide scientific knowledge that can be used internationally, and based on this knowledge, to evaluate policy options and offer advice on measures to reduce and manage plastic waste. The project will also provide an opportunity for international coordination and networking in related research fields.

The ceremony began with welcoming remarks from Makoto Gonokami, president of the University of Tokyo, and Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation. Mr. Gonokami commented, “Plastic ocean debris is an extremely serious international issue that needs to be addressed urgently. I hope to use this research assistance to contribute to its resolution.”

Mr. Sasakawa recalled the successes of a previous ocean alliance between the Foundation and the University of Tokyo, which lasted for roughly 10 years and through which The Nippon Foundation provided ¥1.7 billion of research funding, and also introduced the Foundation’s other projects to address ocean issues. He noted, “Human beings cannot exist without the ocean. Today, however, we need to realize that the ocean is quietly crying out for help. Climate change and the accompanying acidification of the ocean, and ocean pollution, are issues that urgently need to be resolved. The problem of microplastics in particular needs to be understood scientifically, and to protect the ocean, Japan will need to change its ways. As we create a nationwide citizens’ movement, it is important that our activities are based on scientific knowledge. With the University of Tokyo, we have a very strong partner in this endeavor.”

Mitsuyuki Unno explains the project with the University of Tokyo


Communications Department
The Nippon Foundation