Japanese scientists have concluded many findings of great value in Vietnam. A particular one is the project on Bach Coc Village in Vu Ban District, Nam Dinh Province by Professor Yumio Sakurai (locally known as Bach Coc Elder) and his associates, which aroused the interest of the researchers both in and outside of Vietnam.
Prof. Yumio Sakurai, a leading Japanese expert in Vietnam studies.
The name of "Bach Coc" may not be familiar with many ordinary Vietnamese, but the same can not be said for Japanese researchers who are engaged in the field of Vietnam Studies. Bach Coc has become a symbol attached to their life as well as their scientific research considered a tough, but glorious job.
Ex-Vice President Nguyen Thi Binh presents the Vietnam Studies Prize to Prof. Yumio Sakurai
Prof. Yumio Sakurai (3rd from right) and Bach Coc villagers during his first visit to this village in 1994.
With Vietnamese volunteers to prepare for the Japanese Cherry Blossoms Festival 2009 held in Hanoi.
Bach Coc Project is a huge scientific project carried out by Japanese scientists aimed at doing research to construct a comprehensive picture of the political, social, economic and cultural life in Bach Coc, a small ancient village in the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam.
Results of the project will provide the most defined view of the village's structure – being the smallest administrative unit but having the most important role in the social life of the Viet people. The project lasted for 14 years, beginning in 1994 and attracted the participation from more than 300 Japanese researchers specialized in different areas.
Bach Coc not only makes the name of Professor Yumio Sakurai famous, but it really becomes his second homeland because this land and people left in him so many memories about Vietnam.
He spent time living with Bach Coc villagers that helped him understand more about Vietnam and its people. For this reason, Bach Coc villagers called him "Bach Coc Elder" with much respect and love.
Professor Yumio Sakurai began his studies and research about Vietnam in 1965 when the Vietnamese people's anti-US resistance war entered the fiercest period. He recalled, during his youth he was always haunted by a question: "Why did Vietnam overcome invasions of the big countries and powerful forces from the feudal to contemporary time?"
He was determined to follow his way of doing research on Vietnam to find the unknowns of that question. The journey that lasted over 44 years of tireless research of Vietnam has produced some reasonable conclusions.
It is national solidarity, close communal relationship and experiences accumulated through thousands of years in history – all helping Vietnam win in the fight for national construction and defence against the powerful forces. Before engaged in the Bach Coc Project, Prof. Yumio Sakurai successfully defended two scientific doctoral theses about Vietnam.
Commenting on Prof. Yumio Sakurai, Professor, Doctor of Science and Director of the Hanoi National University Vu Minh Giang, one of the most prestigious Vietnamese researchers on Vietnam Studies said: "Professor Yumio Sakurai has deserved credit not only for helping the world’s scientists approach new findings of the traditional Vietnamese communal structure, but also for bringing the Vietnamese researchers on Vietnam Studies experience and a researching method of extremely significant value."
With his untiring academic contributions over nearly half a century to Vietnam’s scientific research, plus his love for the country and its people, Prof. Yumio Sakurai was awarded the 2008 Vietnam Studies Prize of the Phan Chau Trinh Culture Foundation. (He is one of the first two foreign experts in Vietnam Studies awarded with this distinction. Another researcher is Dr. David G. Marr, Senior Fellow at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University and co-Director of the Indochina Resource Centre, Washington and Berkeley).
In addition to this prize, in 2003, Prof. Yumio Sakurai received an Honorary Doctorate title from the Hanoi National University for his research in the Bach Coc Project.
At the prize presentation ceremony held in March 2009 in Hanoi, witnessed by both Vietnamese and international scientific participants, Prof. Yumio Sakurai shared his emotions: “I love Vietnam and its people so much. When passing away, I wish to meet Old Ho Chi Minh in Heaven and will tell him that: I’m Japanese, but I have devoted all my life and my scientific research to the study of Vietnam.”
The emotional, sincere and meaningful words of the “Bach Coc Elder”, a respected Japanese professor touched the hearts of all participants in the hall with their seemingly endless applause.
Professor Yumio Sakurai was born in 1945 in the Japanese port city of Yokohama. He is President of the Vietnam Research Association in Japan; Professor and Honorary Doctor of the University of Tokyo (Japan).
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