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Loss of an International Relations Leader

Harano Jōji [Profile]


Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko’s official visit to the United States at the end of April was a first for the head of a Democratic Party of Japan government. Furthermore, the summit marked the first time a top-level joint statement had been released since 2006. Although the result was a confirmation of the strong ties between the two nations, the six-year gap since the last joint statement, issued by Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichirō and President George W. Bush in 2006, is evidence of the strained relations that have existed recently.

Extraordinary Efforts for Bilateral Ties

Two weeks prior to this, Yamamoto Tadashi, who had contributed greatly to nongovernmental international relations and US-Japan policy dialogue in particular, passed away on April 15. Yamamoto devoted great efforts to relations between Japanese and US business leaders. He founded the Japan Center for International Exchange in 1970, serving as its president, and chaired the Japanese-American Assembly (the Shimoda Conference). He was also involved in various JCIE forums, such as the UK-Japan 21st Century Group and the Korea-Japan Forum, leaving a rich legacy behind him.

Funabashi Yōichi, former editor-in-chief of the Asahi Shimbun, wrote an obituary on April 17. In it he extoled Yamamoto as Asia’s Jean Monnet, regarded by many as a chief architect of European unity. In addition to his obvious role as a bridge between the United States and Japan, Yamamoto is highly praised for his pragmatic approach to building intellectual networks and converting vague visions into concrete plans, playing a similar role to that of Monnet.

All of us at the Nippon Communications Foundation express our heartfelt regrets that such an esteemed figure in the field of international relations has passed away. As an organization that publishes content for readers around the world, we believe that now more than ever the importance of the global ties for which Yamamoto worked must be kept firmly in mind.

The funeral, held at the St. Ignatius Church in Yotsuya, Tokyo, was attended by many politicians, business leaders, academics, intellectuals, and journalists. The depth and breadth of attendees truly demonstrated the long accumulation of Yamamoto’s efforts. Kobayashi Yōtarō, chief corporate advisor at Fuji Xerox, presented parting words at the ceremony; Columbia University professor Gerald Curtis also shared a message of condolence. It is impossible to fully tell of the magnitude of Yamamoto’s contributions at a single event like this, but those who came to pay their last respects reaffirmed the importance of making real progress toward mutual understanding and the resolution of problems between the United States and Japan.

Japan Echo Inc., predecessor to our current foundation, assisted with the Shimoda Conference and various other aspects of Yamamoto’s work. This was enormously educational for us. We hereby express our sincere gratitude to him and renew our determination to contribute toward international and cross-cultural relations.

  • [2012.05.25]

Journalist. Former president of Japan Echo Inc.; representative director of the Nippon Communications Foundation, 2011–16. Has been a political reporter, Paris correspondent, and assistant managing editor at Jiji Press, a television commentator for TBS, and a member of the Board of Councilors for the Japan Institute of International Affairs. Received the Order of the Star of Italy in 2008.

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