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Message from the Chairman

Message from the Chairman

At the outset of this new year, let me extend my warmest greetings to everyone. In welcoming 2017, I am reminded how the Japanese since ancient times have celebrated New Year as the harbinger of spring. This sentiment is manifested in the Japanese word medetai, an auspicious term whose etymology is thought to express gratitude for the earth’s verdant awakening following the cold of winter.

Looking back on the previous year, a youthful vitality was similarly on display at such events as the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As you are all aware, the Japanese team had an excellent Olympics, bringing home a record 41 medals. The Paralympic team also made a grand showing, besting their performance at the 2012 London Games with 24 medals. I feel the wonderful success of the Rio Games bolstered the hopes and expectations of the Japanese people ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Japan faces the stark reality of an aging population and low birthrate, but the image of young Olympic hopefuls striving to reach their full potential will weave an eloquent tale to inspire and motivate people as they tackle these social challenges.

Turning abroad, there is a palpable sense of uncertainty growing around the world. The outcome of Britain’s referendum on leaving the European Union and the surprising result of the US presidential election  represent a startling shift toward greater isolationism around the world and away from the free movement of people, capital, and information that has fueled global economic growth in the postwar period. A major driving force of this trend has been the widening gap between the beneficiaries of globalization and the multitude of laborers, middle-aged and older workers, and elderly who feel excluded. Going forward, countries must address numerous challenges to realize an inclusive society where social and economic benefits are shared broadly across all age groups and income levels. This burden, of course, will fall heaviest on future generations , and it is vital that society as a whole be engaged in educating its younger members and providing them with an expansive vision of the future.

Since becoming chairman of the Toyota Foundation, I have taken a keen interest in a number of projects and have been deeply impressed by the strong ambition and devoted actions of young men and women in Japan to address the broad spectrum of issues facing society. Indeed, I feel it is the vigor of youth that will enable not only Japan but societies around the world to forge a brighter future for all.

It is my earnest desire that the Toyota Foundation stands as a platform to draw together society’s high-minded young people.  Similar to the wishes for a vibrant spring that I alluded to above, I would like the foundation’s grant activities to bring out and cultivate the nascent energy of society’s ardent youth and, by striving together, build a future full of hope.

As we begin a new year, I reconfirm my own resolve and also kindly request the continued support and advice of all our partners.

January, 2017
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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