Yukika Sohma – Japan

Linked with the Ozaki Yukio Memorial Foundation, and with Association for Aid and Relief AAR.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She is also the President of the ‘Association for Aid and Relief’, in japanese, in english, and Elected Vice Chair of the Ozaki Yukio Memorial Foundation, in japanese, in english, both Japan.

Her code of conduct: Peace, Safety, International Contribution.

She says: “I found a gold mine in the hearts of the Japanese people”.

She says also: “The concept of social welfare and voluntary service is relatively new in a society where the welfare of each family member is the responsibility of the head of the family”.

Yukika Sohma - Japan.jpg

Yukika Sohma – Japan

She works for the Association for Aid and Relief AAR, for the The Republic of Korea Women’s Friendship Association (no english website found), and for the Ozaki Memorial Foundation.

Yukika Sohma, known for her power to mobilize the moral and spiritual strength of the citizens of Japan, founded the country’s first non-government relief organization to aid refugees. The daughter of Yukio Ozaki, the father of Japanese parliamentary democracy, Yukika called upon each citizen of Japan to give one yen to help Indochinese refugees in the late 1970s, thus beginning her life’s work.

Today called the Association for Aid and Relief, her organization was largely responsible for the Japanese government’s decision to sign the international treaty to ban landmines.

The Japanese are cold and uncaring. That was the reputation that her countrymen had gained in the late 1970s. But growing up, Yukika had watched her parents model behavior that was anything but cold. Her father, who served on the Japanese Parliament for 63 years (the world’s record for parliamentary service), spent a lifetime opposing war. As mayor of Tokyo, he presented Washington D.C. with its cherry trees as a gesture of gratitude to President Roosevelt, who had initiated the peace talks that ended the Russo-Japanese War. But at a time when refugees were pouring out of Cambodia, Yukika knew that her country was doing nothing to help.

Traveling through Europe as an interpreter after World War II, she became aware that Japan had become a pariah in the world community. Although she had always personally opposed her country’s military policies, as an international visitor she often publicly apologized for her country.

With faith that Japanese needed only to be asked to show that they had big hearts, she proposed: “If every Japanese gives one yen we will have 120 yen, over one million US dollars.” Money and checks poured in. The local post office hired extra staff to handle the 20,000 letters that arrived, many from children. In less than four months she had received 120 million yen. “We proved that Japanese have a heart,” Yukika said. In November 1979, with a new office and a host of volunteers, Yukika founded Japan’s first private refugee relief organization, the Association to Aid Indochinese Refugees. “I found a gold mine in the hearts of the Japanese people,” she said.

Yukika continued to ask, and her countrymen continued to give. When she found that Cambodian refugees needed housing, she launched a second appeal with the theme: “Don’t you want a second house in Cambodia?”

When a cold wave hit southeast Asia, she asked for a thousand tons of clothing.

She broadened the scope of the organization, changing its name in 1984 to Association for Aid and Relief. She ignited a spirit of altruism that resulted in worldwide efforts, particularly in Africa and Afghanistan. Her association has two thousand members who give regularly. They began scholarship aid and by the end of 1993 had helped more than a thousand young people.

In 1993 they sent 130,000 handmade bags containing gifts of pencils to school children in Cambodia from the children of Japan. They opened a center for disabled people in Phnom Penh that provides vocational training and repairs wheelchairs and donated 100 wheelchairs for adults and 30 for children. During crises or disasters, the association is quick to respond.

Volunteers build libraries, dig wells, and launch campaigns to buy blankets and send milk and water. In 1991, the fall of the Soviet Union created a new flow of refugees, and Yukika mobilized volunteers to work in Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia to give medical aid, mental care, artificial limbs, and wheelchairs.

Because of Yukika’s pioneering, the Japanese government has become highly involved in refugee assistance. When she began her work, Japan had less than five refugees. Today, it takes approximately 5,000 people every year. “The concept of social welfare and voluntary service is relatively new in a society where the welfare of each family member is the responsibility of the head of the family,” Yukika says, explaining why Japan’s spirit of altruism needed awakening.

In her 80s, Yukio’s current cause is for “clean” politics that are free of corruption, a cause that must be fought by every citizen, she says.

Today called the Association for Aid and Relief, her organization was largely responsible for the Japanese government’s decision to sign the international treaty to ban landmines.

The association published an anti-mine children’s picture book, titled “Not Mines, but Flowers,” which became a best seller. Proceeds from the sale of the books have cleared landmines in Cambodia in a space equivalent to 2000 tennis courts. (1000PeaceWomen).

Mrs. Sohma was honored by the Government of the Republic of Korea in 1984 for her contribution to goodwill and friendship between Japan and Korea. In 1984, the Japanese Government awarded her the Third Class Order of the Sacred Treasure. In 1999, the Government of Canada Awarded her its World Peace and Humanitarian Assistance Award. (full text).

But at a ceremony yesterday to plant a cherry tree near the Tidal Basin, where her father donated the first 3,000 such trees 95 years ago, Yukika Sohma wielded a pink-ribboned shovel of dirt with surprising strength. (full text).

I called on the Japanese people to establish an organization that would show their goodwill to the world. It was in the late 1970s when a massive wave of Indochinese refugees sought international assistance and Japan came under intense international criticism as ” a country which gives the cold shoulder to refugees”. The Association to Aid the Indochinese Refugees established then became the forerunner of the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan. (full text).

An honored special guest will be Mrs. Yukika Sohma, 95, daughter of the late Mayor Yukiko Ozaki of Tokyo who organized the original gift of 3,000 cherry trees to Washington, D.C. in 1912. (full text).

Mrs. Yukika Sohma, Vice-Chairman of the Foundation and Yoshiko Nomura were long-time friends who shared common vision and purpose, pursuing Japan’s role from a global perspective and promoting ways for it to contribute to world peace.
(full text).

Ms.Yukika Sohma was born in Tokyo in 1912. She became involved in the Moral Re-Armament (MRA) movement in 1939. Using as moral support the concept of “in order to change others, first I have to change,” she devoted herself to social movements after World War II. In 1977, Ms.Sohma established the Japan-Korea Women’s Friendship Association to deepen mutual understanding between Japan and Korea through civil exchange. In addition, in 1979, she established the Association for Aid and Relief Japan (AAR) to provide relief to the exodus of refugees from Indochina at the time. Since then, AAR’s target for relief has expanded to include various countries of Asia and Africa and its activities have extended from emergency relief to the operation of vocational training centers, medical assistance and rebuilding and construction of schools in the countries requiring assistance. Furthermore, in recent years, AAR has made great efforts in demining activities and through its many years of grassroots-level activities, it has greatly contributed to the realization of symbioses among diverse cultures. (full text).

links:

Japanese Women’s Delegation visits China;

Parliamentarians for Global Action;

Heritage News;

The National Endowment for Democracy NED.

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