Report on IPF Visit to Japan (Aichi) in June 2005

The Belgian Economic Mission to Japan consisted of HRH Prince Philippe and members of his Cabinet, Federal Minister Marc Verwilghen and members of his cabinet and Ministers of the Flanders and Wallonia Regional Governments and the Brussels Region, the International Polar Foundation, and a delegation of business people wishing to make contacts with Japanese counterparts.

There were over 200 participants, including the Belgian Press.

A special flight was laid on by Lufthansa to cater for this increased number of travellers to Nagoya.

12th June: Arrival in Nagoya, Japan

On arrival in Nagoya, the delegation was welcomed by the Belgian Ambassador, H.E. Mr J.F. Branders, who briefed the participants on their activities in the days ahead.

The International Polar Foundation delegation immediately began preparations for the seminar on the 13th of June in the Nagoya Kanko Hotel.

13th June Seminar on Sustainable Development

Alain Hubert, Chairman of the Board of the International Polar Foundation, gave a seminar entitled "Managing Planet Earth: Do We Have a Blueprint?" to a group of Belgian and Japanese business people. The session on Industrial Ecology was chaired by Willy de Cook of the Brussels Capital Region, who closed the session by presenting the key topics of the various seminars to an audience which included Prince Philippe, the Federal and Regional Ministers and other invited dignitaries.

The IPF seminar was very well appreciated by the participants, of which it attracted a large number.

14th June World Expo, Aichi

The entire delegation accompanying Prince Philippe was invited to the Belgian National Day at the Aichi World Expo. The theme of the 2005 World Expo in Aichi is "Nature's Wisdom" and an a great deal of effort went towards reflecting sustainable development concerns. Large implantations of photovoltaic panels, were used to provide a portion of the energy, and driverless electric vehicles were available to ferry visitors around.

The Belgian National Day began with a special event in the Expo-Dome with performers and speakers paying hommage to the special relationship between Belgium and Japan. HRH Prince Hitachi, brother of the Emperor Akihito, accompanied Prince Philippe during the day's events which included a visit to the Belgian Pavilion, where the masterpieces of Breughel, Magritte, Delvaux, and Khnopff had been transmuted in a creative tableau that seemed to be alive and changing according to the vantage point.

Prince Philippe invited Mr Hubert to recount to HRH the Prince Hitachi his exploits in the Antarctic, and his projects for the future of the Foundation.

Guests were invited to sample the Belgian beers, and chocolates which have become the signature of this small but creative country. The visitors to the Expo were also treated to a display by the traditional stilt-walkers from Wemmel. The evening activities included a performance by the Pioneer Symphonic Orchestra.

The highlights of the day were the vist to the Japanese national Pavilion, which was specifically designed to respect sustainable development principles, and the visit to the Toyota Pavilion, in which Alain Hubert participated. The Toyota Company has become a World leader in new technologies related to the automobile industry, and the invited visitors were treated to a magnificient display of technological wizardry.

15th June

Prince Philippe, CEOs of leading Belgian companies, and IPF Chairman Alain Hubert, were invited to a special visit to meet the CEO of Toyota, and to visit the research facilities on the site of factory in Toyota City.

Toyota is a leading player in new hybrid technologies, and Alain Hubert was very impressed by the technological advance that the company has seized in this field. The pressing problems related to climate change and GHG emissions, as well as the post fossil fuel economy are matters of concern to the Foundation, which is seeking to promote these activities in the context of the Domus in Terra Centre for sustainable development, currently under preparation in Brussels.

Other members of the IPF delegation spent the day visiting manufacturers of the photovoltaic energy systems, to explore the territory for potential partnerships in the context of the Antarctic Base project. The companies visited were very welcoming, and were enthusiatic about assisting Belgium in preparing a truly ground breaking new station, which aims for maximum clean energy, and minimum environmental impact.

In the evening, the IPF delegation took the Shinkansen high speed train to Tokyo, and the New Otani Hotel.

16th June

The IPF delegation was met at the hotel by Professor Kazuyuki Shiraishi.

The IPF then accompanied Prof. Shiraishi to the National Institute of Polar Research, in Itabashi-Ku, Tokyo.

On arrival, the IPF met the acting Director of the NIPR Prof. Ejiri, Prof. Shiraishi, Prof. Fuji, and other members of the NIPR for an introductory meeting. This was followed by a presentation session, at which the former director, Prof. Okitsugu Watanabe, (who is a Honorary Member of the IPF), and the staff of the NIPR participated. Alain Hubert and Gigi Johnson-Amin presented the outcome of the 2004 Site Survey carried out by the Belgian Antarctic Research expedition to the Sor Rondane Mountains, Antarctica, assisted by three members of the NIPR (Prof Shiraishi, Kenji Ishizawa, and Shigeo Shiga). This was followed by a general presentation of the IPF and its activities.

The presentations were followed by a closed session, consisting of a de-briefing of the NIPR members who assited in the BELARE 2004, as regards the Asuka activities, which involved the reactivation of certain heavy vehicles. The NIPR intends to proceed to the evacuation of the tonnes of equipment that still remain at Asuka, from the Antarctic continent. BELARE will assist in this process, and may also re-use some of the equipment donated by the NIPR.

After the final meeting, the IPF delegation was invited to visit the NIPR exhibition which displays objects and machinery relating to the numerous Japanese Antarctic Expeditions, as well as scale models of the research stations Dome Fuji, Syowa, Mizuho, and Asuka.

Prof. Shiraishi and his colleagues invited the IPF to a traditional Japanese meal in a Ryotei, where the members of the IPF delegation were treated to numerous culinary specialities, which they greatly enjoyed.

17th June

H.R.H. Prince Philippe, Mr Marc Verwilghen, Mme Nicole Henry, Mr Alain Hubert, and Prof.s Ejiri and Shiraishi met with Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Mr Nariyaki Nakayama, at the offices of the Ministry (MEXT) in Tokyo. There, they assisted at the signing of the Statement of Intention between the Ministers, concerning collaboration between the National Institute of Polar Research and the Belgian Science Policy Office with regard to research activities in Antarctica, as well as with regard to the construction and operation of the new Belgian Antarctic Base in the Queen Maud Land region of East Antarctica.

The Japanese station of Syowa, and the disused station of Asuka at the Seal Nunatak are the closest facilities to the selected site of the new Belgian station at the Utsteinen Nunatak. The Japanese Antarctic Research community has close ties with the Belgian Polar community, and has been very supportive and encouraging of the new initiatives. The building of the new station will, no doubt, provide the ideal conditions for furthering cooperation.

Mr Alain Hubert was also able to discuss with Minister Nakayama on topics related to scientific education, and the work of the IPF towards bridging the science-society divide, in particular through the Polaris Climate Change Observatories.

In the evening the Belgian Delegation was invited the residence of the Belgian Ambassador to Tokyo, H.E. Mr J.F. Branders, for a reception, where the IPF representatives were able to meet members of the Japanese business community, and members of the NIPR.

The Mission to Japan proved to be very constructive for the IPF, and the members of the IPF delegation would like to thank the Brussels Capital Region for all the assistance that they provided, in particular Mr Dirk Vandervelde, Mr Shuichi Yamamoto in Tokyo, and Mr Willy de Cook. We would also like to thank the Belgium-Japan Association & Chamber of Commerce for their kind help.