Qatar Friendship Fund Newsletter
1) New Qatar Sports Park Shirakawa hosts Shirakawa Ekiden race
The Qatar Friendship Fund (QFF) supported the ”Qatar Sports Park Shirakawa” project with the city of Shirakawa. The project was designed for people who are concerned about their health problems following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear accident in Fukushima. It aims to improve their physical and mental condition and prevent the consequences of a lack of exercise. Part of this project, “the 20th Shirakawa Ekiden”, a prestigious long-distance relay race, was held on September 19 (Saturday) and 20 (Sunday), 2015 at “Qatar Sports Park Shirakawa”, which opened in February 2015 with financial support from QFF.
The relay race is a preliminary competition for high-school students training for the annual national high school Ekiden, which was held in Kyoto on December 20, 2015. High school teams from all over Japan compete each year in the event and Shirakawa was the host of the regional qualifier..
A total of 179 teams entered the competition, with girls (who run 21km) and boys (who run 42km) participating from a range of age groups and locations in Eastern Japan. The runners were cheered-on by crowds of local supporters as they raced from the main athletics track in the new Sports Park into the city of Shirakawa. The race continued along streets lined up with spectators, against a striking backdrop of rice paddies and mountains.
In the end, new records were set by both the winning teams. Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School (A) team won a clear victory in the girls’ division with a time of 1:11:31, while the (B) team from Gakko Houjin Ishikawa High School, a local Fukushima prefecture school, won the boys’ division, finishing in 2:09:59.
The Qatar Sports Park Shirakawa, which costed $5.8 million to build, was officially opened by Qatar’s Forreign Minister, H.E. Dr. Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, last February. Many of the spectators had heard of Qatar’s support to the local community and were keen to express their gratitude.
“I’m a local, and I knew about the Qatar Friendship Fund”, said Mr. Tanaka from Fukushima. “I really appreciate their support from the bottom of my heart. These great facilities are still very new, and I hope we can make the most of them. I think we [those affected by the disaster], owe a debt to QFF and should try to know more about Qatar, rather than just receiving this assistance. I would like to know more about Qatar and QFF, deepen my understanding and create opportunities for cultural exchange.”
“I know about QFF; they are doing wonderful work”, said Mr. Kobayashi from Gunma. “I would like to see some international exchange happening here with the people of Qatar, since we have made this connection. I look forward to having teams of visitors coming from overseas.”
“I didn’t know about QFF”, said Mr. Sato from Miyagi. “I am astonished that they provided as much as 100 million dollars in assistance to Japan. I hope we can make use of the sports park and increase awareness that we received such a great amount in support. If we can exchange messages expressing our gratitude, it might improve our friendship even further.”
This runner from Ishikawa High school in Fukushima happily finished in first place
Runners were off and running on the newly refurbished Qatar Sports Park Shirakawa track
Many people from the surrounding prefectures gathered to cheer on the runners
Local people set up booths to boost Ekiden attendance
2) QFF fish-processing facility kick-starts regeneration in Onagawa
The reconstruction of the fishing industry in Tohoku is a major priority for the Qatar Friendship Fund (QFF) to create job opportunities, rebuild the local economy and lay the foundations for a sustainable future. One fish-processing plant built in 2012 by QFF in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, has successfully kick-started redevelopment in the local area.
Three years ago, when the MASKAR multi-functional fish-processing facility was built using a $24.3 million donation from QFF, Onagawa was still profoundly damaged. There were no other buildings along Onagawa’s coast except for MASKAR, to the extent that visiting missions would use the plant as a landmark for driving direction from far away.
However, when QFF representatives recently visited MASKAR for the second time since its inauguration, they couldn’t even find it among the cluster of new industrial buildings. Today, MASKAR is surrounded by 10 other new fish-processing plants and their accompanying buildings. More than 7,500 fishing industry workers now use MASKAR to select, freeze and store their catch every day.
The effectiveness of MASKAR has played an important role in the value of the fishermen’s catches. The plant saw a record 8.3 billion Japanese yen in transactions between April and December 2014, which has already exceeded the 7.7 billion yen benchmark of 2010, before the disaster.
The town of Onagawa is also being rebuilt. The railway station reopened in March 2015, and is surrounded by new buildings, including a promenade, a community centre supporting local entrepreneurs and a fisheries educational facility. Plans are being implemented to attract new residents, visitors and businesses. The town’s determination to succeed is shown in the banners lining the streets, which read: “Onagawa was not washed away. Onagawa is being reborn.”
Local residents told the visiting QFF representatives that the “successful reconstruction of Onagawa started with MASKAR”.
This shows Onagawa City immediately after the disaster
The vitality of the fishery harbour has returned thanks to the new fish-processing plant “MASKAR”
Big smiling face thanks to a bumper catch
3) Qatar-Tohoku Science Camp held at Qatar Science Campus, Tohoku University
Qatar Friendship Fund (QFF) supported the development of “Qatar Science Campus” project with Tohoku University’s School of Engineering in order to encourage children to become more interested in science, engineering and manufacturing.
A delegation of Qatari high school students and their teachers attended the first inaugural Qatar-Tohoku Science Camp in November 2015, as part of an educational exchange programme between Qatar and Japan.
The six-day science camp, which took place at a Tohoku University campus funded by the QFF, was held to introduce the 15 Qatari students to Japanese technology and manufacturing techniques.
The school group attended monozukuri workshops at Tohoku University’s School of Engineering, where they were shown examples of Japan’s highly-specialised design and production methods, as well as tours of laboratories and factories.
“I wanted to experience cultural exchange with Japanese students”, said one Qatari pupil. “The robot workshop was also a really great experience, and I learned how to programme next-generation robots. I want to develop robot applications in the future”.
Another student explained, “I am learning about Japanese culture in Qatar. Japan is well known around the world, and in Qatar is especially so for its cars. But the number of people who have actually visited Japan is quite low, so I plan to tell as many people as I can about my experience here when I return to Qatar. In the future I want to become an engineer, and working in Japan is an option I’m considering.”
A Japanese junior high school student who joined in with the Qatari pupils in the robot workshop said: “This was the first time I ever talked to someone from abroad. At first I was a little worried we wouldn’t be able to communicate because of the language barrier, but we managed to understand each other and it was really fun. I want to work in the space exploration industry in the future, so an opportunity to communicate with people from a country different to my own was a truly great experience for me”.
The Qatar Science Campus at Tohoku University was built by QFF in 2014 to nurture the next generation of engineers. It provides schoolchildren in Miyagi prefecture with opportunities to experience science experiments that cannot be conducted at their schools, along with cutting edge research. The aim is to inspire future engineers and scientists to create new technology and to promote an understanding of local industries, which will in turn support the revitalisation of Tohoku.
Qatari students interact with Japanese students through programming
The latest technology impressed Qatari students during their laboratory visits at Tohoku University
Students enjoying communication through sports
4) INTILAQ Tohoku Innovation Centre to open in February 2016 [SA1]
A key part of the revitalisation of Tohoku is to address the challenge of building a new economy by supporting the creation of start-up businesses. The Qatar Friendship Fund (QFF) and Impact Foundation Japan supported building the Tohoku Innovators’ Hub in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture. The facility that was opened to the public on the 1st of February 2016, which will help local residents become entrepreneurs.
INTILAQ will assist entrepreneurs and start-up companies ranging from young community members to large corporations – anybody who wishes to create a new business will qualify. These self-starters are called okosu hito (the wakers) by INTILAQ and are supported throughout their projects. Their training includes the development of a positive mind-set towards creating new business models, encouragement to challenge the status quo, explore new ideas and business opportunities, and assistance with regards to acces to financing and effective networking.
INTILAQ will use the network built up by IMPACT Japan Foundation within the entrepreneurial community to offer candidates mentoring from renowned global entrepreneurs, as well as start-up programmes and support tools. QFF will provide more than $16.5 million to this project, and has more than 118,000 participants lined up to work with over the next five years.
INTILAQ Tohoku Innovation Centre, the base for INTILAQ activities, was completed in December 2015, and opened on 1st February 2016[SA2] . The new subway station on the Tozai Line also opened in December in Oroshimachi, in the Wakabayashiku area in east Sendai where the INTILAQ Tohoku Innovation Centre is located. This up-and-coming area is a newly built district, supported by excellent infrastructure, nurturing a lively mix of people and culture. .
At the opening event on January 29, they organized a panel discussion with six panelists who are playing an active role in various industries in the Tohoku region. These innovative entrepreneurs talked about their enthusiasm for launching their own businesses with unique ideas and resources in Tohoku region, the catalyst for starting their own company, and how they have overcome various challenges. These inspiring stories gave the audience who wish to be entrepreneurs even more passion and motivation to try and achieve their dreams.
Members are invited to registration for this centre. Please find details at the following URL:
The INTILAQ Tohoku Innovation Center opened in Oroshimachi, where a new subway line has also been launched
Shouldn’t this be replaced with details of the actual opening which took place last week?
[SA2]See comment above.