Briton wins top award as Estonia, US and Japan also take prizes
Accepting his prize at a reception held at the Hotel New Otani on 8 January, Michael Sullivan fought off competition from a record 216 entrants to take the top award in the 2012 Essay Competition on the theme of “Strategies for a Depopulating Japan” conducted by the Japan Foreign Trade Council Inc. (JFTC).
Since 2005, the JFTC has sponsored an annual essay competition to encourage students, young researchers and business people to express their opinions on matters of national and international importance.
Marking its eighth year, the prestigious competition attracted submissions from entrants, between the ages of 14 and 95, in 50 countries around the world.
Sullivan, 30, an admissions officer at King’s College London, took the Grand Prize of ¥1mn for his essay, “Strategies for a Depopulating Japan: A British Model and a Japanese Legacy”.
Kadri Metspalu, 27, from Estonia, was awarded one of three Prizes for Excellence worth ¥200,000 for her essay, “Strategies for a Depopulating Japan: Towards a More Inclusive and Happier Japan”. She believes the country should create a more tolerant society with an increased flexible hierarchy and a stable system for workers.
Anil Nirody, a 69-year-old retired engineer, from the US, gave a detailed solution to the issue in his essay, “Japan’s Declining Population: A Comprehensive Approach to Reversing the Trend”. Japanese national Takashi Asano, 44, in his essay, “Building a New Social Structure: Work and Employment Model of ‘Covering and Sharing’”, proposed the introduction of a work sharing policy and job description system in labour markets to cope with the variety of needs.
In his speech on behalf of all the award winners, Sullivan said: “I am absolutely delighted and honoured to have won the Grand Prize.
“It is clear from the essays that there is an intense interest in how Japan will cope with depopulation, as well as a variety of possible answers to this problem”, he added. “However, from my essay and others, one of the key themes seems to be ‘change’.
“No matter how much we admire Japan, in order to tackle depopulation, change is needed”, he said. “However, this can only be realised from within Japan.
“I sincerely hope that some of the ideas we have proposed can gain recognition and inspire action”.
Sullivan, who is from Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, was inspired by similarities in the population situation between Japan and the UK. “Besides both being islands, both countries are proud of their cultures.
“I believe there is a lot that we can learn from each other and, while the UK has successfully exported its culture and reaped the benefits, it is now time for Japan to capitalise on the hugely successful export of their culture”.
This could be done by importing it back in the form of increasing numbers of young foreign students and workers being able to settle in Japan, alongside initiatives to encourage young Japanese couples to have more children.
Shoei Utsuda, chairman of the JFTC, congratulated the winners and all those who had taken part in the competition. “It is an honour to hear so many ideas and opinions on how Japan should combat the problems derived from depopulation”, Utsuda said.
“The problems were examined from a wide perspective and suggestions were made for a future society that can maintain sustainable growth, together with improved lifestyles, work and employment styles and the education system.
“As a country facing depopulation and the rapid ageing of society ahead of other countries, I believe that, if we succeed in establishing a social model that allows us to resolve the problems derived from depopulation, our success will be helpful to emerging countries, such as China.
“I sincerely hope these insightful suggestions and ideas will be applied to our society in the form of concrete measures”.
The entries were judged by the selection committee for the award, headed by committee chairman Dr Iwao Nakatani, director of research at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co., Ltd., and chairman of Fushiki-an, as well as vice-chairs Professor Yoko Wake, Faculty of Business and Commerce at Keio University, and Kazuo Mori, NIKKEI Inc’s senior staff writer.
Dr Nakatani described Sullivan’s suggestions as “inspiring”, adding that a majority of the judging panel had identified the submission as the best.
Sullivan, who was paying his sixth visit to Japan to collect the award, intends to invest his winnings in further Japanese classes and hopes one day to be able to move to Japan to work.
Award-winning essays, summaries, and remarks by the committee chairman can be found on the JFTC website.
Japan Foreign Trade Council, Inc.
Public Relations Group