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Message from the Chairman

Message from the Chairman

As we usher in the year 2019, please allow me to extend my New Year’s greetings to all of you.

This year will mark a major milestone for Japan as the current Emperor will abdicate and His Imperial Highness Crown Prince will ascend the throne. The current Emperor ascended the throne in 1989, a year in which Japan was at the height of the so-called bubble economy. As symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War came to an end that year, too.

Some thirty years have passed since then. Japan and the wider world have seen a sea change during that period. In his book “The End of History and the Last Man,” American political scientist Francis Fukuyama argues that democracy and free market economy will prevail, which in turn will enable liberal democracy as the final form of a social system to ensure peace, freedom, and stability of society. However, such a hypothesis has yet to be materialized in the world today. On the contrary, we are witnessing deepening social divides and rising populism in the U.S., European countries and elsewhere. This suggests that a weakness inherent in democracy is coming to the fore.

In Japan, a number of measures have been taken to address the fallout from the bursting of the bubble in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, the country still faces myriad challenges; it continues to suffer a falling birth rate and a ballooning aging population, and acute labor shortages are putting further strains on Japan’s regional economies and communities. If such trends are to continue, in the long run, we will likely see a decline in the overall economy, failure in various social systems and mechanisms, and deterioration in disaster preparedness. All these could threaten to undermine the very foundations of our country.

While such major changes are sweeping around the world including Japan, we are also seeing that rapid advances in technological innovation, such as digital revolution, are paving the way for a new era or what is collectively referred to as “the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Cutting-edge technologies -- artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, robotics, to name but a few -- are already used widely in economy, society, and many aspects of people’s day-to-day life. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is expected not only to offer solutions to a variety of social and structural problems facing the world but also to create new values so as to realize a human-centric, richer society for all. But at the same time, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is advancing technologies of entirely new dimensions at an unprecedented pace like we, as humans, have never experienced before. This is posing yet another challenge for us as to how to deal appropriately with such a rapid transformation, including a response to a changing social structure.

To gather wisdom and respond proactively to such issues, the Toyota Foundation has created a new Special Subject program “Co-Creating New Society with Advanced Technologies” We plan to announce this spring those projects that have received the grant.

As I described earlier, Japan is facing a number of challenges. We, the Toyota Foundation, are committed to identifying issues promptly as much as possible and promoting our activities, with a future-oriented mindset for creating “a better tomorrow.” To make use of our limited resources, we will focus on projects with our criterion of “genuine social significance” in mind. We would like to work closely with all of our stakeholders on an as-needed basis, and strive to make success of any given projects. I respectfully request your continued support and advice from now on, too.

Lastly, I would like to wish you happiness and prosperity in the coming year. Thank you.

January, 2019
Nobuyori Kodaira
The Toyota Foundation (Public Interest Incorporated Foundation)

Message of April 2017 When New Fiscal Year Opens

At the start of fiscal 2017, allow me to express my sincere gratitude for your understanding and support for the Toyota Foundation and its activities.

Fiscal 2016 was an eventful year. There were momentous choices made by the British and American electorates, signaling a change of eras. But what about Japan? As I reflect on the Japanese way of life and its cultural history, one of the nation's virtues comes to mind, namely, its inclusive tolerance. Consider Japan's history, From the Asuka period through the Nara period, Buddhism was introduced throughout Japan, and in a complicated process of assimilation, Japan adapted its thinking to combine Buddhism with traditional Shintoism. In the Edo period as well, Japanese classicism, Confucianism, and Dutch studies each had their own religious basis and world view and existed as competing schools of thought. And yet even as these three belief systems competed, Japan never experienced the kind of intense conflict witnessed among the religions and ideologies of Europe. It was this native good sense that helped prevent open conflicts within our island nation and preserve distinctive traditions developed over so many centuries.

And there lies an important contrast to this recent wave of change, which appears tinged with exclusivity and intolerance. It is a worrying prospect that this exclusivity and intolerance is spreading over the United States and Europe, once considered bastions of diversity and tolerance. It will be important to monitor the effects of these recent trends in countries neighboring Japan. One thing is sure: the global situation will become increasingly uncertain. It will be vital for Japan to exert its good sense and engage with issues around the world. In this way, Japan can continue to respond to the expectations of international society and live up to its trust. The Toyota Foundation remains eager to play a role in these initiatives in line with its capabilities.

The Toyota Foundation will continue its three core grant programs in fiscal 2017. The Research Grant Program is dedicated to creating new value for society through scholarly endeavors. The International Grant Program seeks to solve Pan-Asian issues through regional exchanges and cooperation. The Grant Program for Community Activities in Japan, meanwhile, supports the creation of sustainable communities in regions in Japan through industry-oriented activities. All of these are vitally important themes for the foundation. The foundation’s program officers will work hand-on-hand with grant recipients in support of their on-site research and other activities to create exemplary models and cases.

Another key initiative is the Toyota NPO Kaiketsu "Solution" College, held with the support of Toyota Motor Corporation. Since fiscal 2016, this program has been sharing Toyota Motor Corporation's problem-solving methodologies with NPOs. The program represents an important model for spreading the know-how accumulated at Toyota Motor Corporation among NPOs, and we look forward to continuing this program in fiscal 2017. In this way, the foundation is striving to transcend its traditional scope of grant activities with new initiatives.

Cheng Tang, a ruler during China's ancient Shang dynasty, was said to have had a proverb carved into his wash basin that translated as "If you renew yourself for one day, you can renew yourself daily, and continue to do so."We can interpret this to mean that thinking about new things every day prevents our lives from falling into old routines. Here at the foundation, we too will approach our mission with a fresh spirit, facing the trends of social change to enhance human happiness and support the development of societies.

Thank you for your warm guidance and enduring support.

April 1, 2017
Atsuko Toyama
The Toyota Foundation (Public Interest Incorporated Foundation)

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