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Message from the Chairman

Message from the Chairman

On the occasion of New Year 2020, I would like to offer my greetings and good wishes to all of you.  The long-awaited Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Games will kick off in July this year.  Top-class athletes and tourists from around the world will gather in Tokyo.  I imagine that Japan will be brimming over with a bright and festive atmosphere this summer.

Meanwhile, we are seeing a steady increase of foreigners, not as tourists, who live and work in Japan for an extended period of time.  The revision of the country’s immigration act in last April means that Japan has crossed the threshold in terms of opening its door wider to accept more foreign talents. Now, the question before us is no longer about whether Japan accepts them or not but it is about how best it can go about accepting them. In other words, this shift means that Japan now needs to consider specific steps to deal with this issue and put them into action.
While the Foundation has made grants in relation to this issue so far, it embarked on a new initiative, “specific subject” grant program focused solely on the issue of accepting foreign personnel, last year.  As of the end of June 2018, the number of foreign residents in Japan totaled nearly 2.83 million, accounting for 2.24 % of the country’s population.

Meanwhile, Japan’s population is expected to age further and continue to shrink over time with fewer children.  In light of such a situation, Japan is in dire need of having more foreign talents; they can play their active roles in a wide array of fields, including the ones that require highly professional skills, so as to ensure Japan’s social and economic vitality and achieve sustainable economic growth.  

Western countries have a long history of integrating foreign personnel into their societies. Even so, there still are differing views about this issue among people. Japan is expected to accept foreign talents in a full-fledged manner, going forward, and thus needs to learn from the experiences of Western countries so that it will be able to deal with various issues stemming from accepting more foreign residents.

Historically, Japan has often seen that the acceptance of foreign experts helped bring about innovations in its society and culture.  The late novelist Yasushi Inoue wrote a historical novel, “Roof Tile of Tenpyo (Tenpyo no Iraka),” which features a Chinese Buddhist monk Reverend Jianzhen (Ganjin in Japanese). In the Nara period (in the 8th century), Reverend Jianzhen was invited from the Tang dynasty of ancient China and dedicated his life to spreading Buddhism from Todaiji Temple and Toshodaiji Temple in the ancient capital of Nara.

Around the same time, Reverend Bodhisena (Bodaisenna in Japanese), a Buddhist monk from India, also played a key role at Todaiji Temple.  In those days, Japan was eager to bring in prominent foreign experts and scholars to introduce Buddhism, which was considered as the most sophisticated knowledge back then.

Later in the Edo period (1603 – 1867), when the Tokugawa Shogunate adopted the closed border policy, foreigners actually wielded a significant influence on Japan.  In the mid-17th century, Zen master Yinyuan (Ingen Zenji), a leading Chinese monk in the Ming dynasty, was invited to Japan and worked hard to spread the Obaku school of Zen across Japan.  Also, it was Dr. Philipp Franz von Siebold, a German physician serving at a Dutch trading post in Nagasaki, who introduced modern Western medical science to Japan in the early 19th century.  After the Meiji Restoration, the Meiji government invited many foreign experts and they made contributions in various fields.  Without these invaluable contributions by all these foreign experts, Japanese society and its culture as we know them today would not have been made possible.  Now, the question we need to ask is: “what needs to be done to enable foreign talents to demonstrate their abilities and skills to the fullest?” I believe this kind of future-oriented thinking will inspire the next phase of innovation, which will in turn help elevate Japan’s vitality to higher levels.

In 2020, through our grant-making activities, we at the Toyota Foundation are committed to making efforts to produce socially significant results that will help rejuvenate Japan and be truly ahead of the times.  

Lastly, I respectfully request continued support and encouragement from all of you.

January, 2020
Nobuyori Kodaira
The Toyota Foundation (Public Interest Incorporated Foundation)

Message from the New President

It is my utmost pleasure to assume the position of President of the Toyota Foundation, taking over the outgoing President, Hon. Atsuko Toyama, who achieved a lot of wonderful results in her many important positions.  As Hon. Toyama is a person of outstanding leadership and admirable character, I have a mixed feeling of honor and tenseness to be her successor.

While currently serving as Executive Director and Vice President of the University of Tokyo, I consider primarily myself as a historian.  My intellectual focus concerns the question of how we should frame, interpret, and describe the history of the world, keeping an eye on what the world would look like thirty years from now.  You might wonder if the historian’s job is to shed light on the past.  The theme of my academic inquiry is, however, the future outlook.  As human society transforms, so too does the knowledge of the past that people would like to know.  Thus, I would like to conceive the image of the history of the world that the inhabitants of the earth thirty years from now would demand, and let it be delivered and grown.  In other words, it is the study of the world history for next generation.

The Toyota Foundation’s Prospectus states, “It views events from a global perspective as it works to support activities that bring broad, long-term benefits to society, identifies issues in a wide range of areas in line with the needs of the times, and provides grants for research and projects that address these issues”.  Accordingly, since its inception in 1974, the Foundation has made characteristic grants, upholding its three principles of being international, civil, and, prescient.  Looking back, I firmly believe that its international grants targeting Southeast Asia, as well as its support for NPOs when they were still in their infancy, were highly proactive and relevant, staying ahead of the internationalization of Japanese society and the rise of its civil sector.  One could say that the activities of the Foundation to date have already realized my own academic effort, that is, to envision the future in a social practice.  In my new capacity as the President, I am determined to promote futuristic grant making for the sake of this globe and mankind thirty years from now.

I look forward to your firm support and cooperation.

July 1, 2019
Dr. HANEDA Masashi
The Toyota Foundation (Public Interest Incorporated Foundation)

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