The Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research


The Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research

Message from the Chairman: The Tokyo Foundation's Work in 2009

January 20, 2009

Two years ago, the Tokyo Foundation undertook a sweeping overhaul of the structure and content of its programs. We conducted a bottom-up review of our fellows and programs in the areas of policy research and leadership development- -the foundation's twin missions- -from the standpoint of how best to contribute to Japan and the world in the twenty-first century. You might say we reconstituted the foundation from the ground up.
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In policy research, the first of the Tokyo Foundation's two major program divisions, we have moved forward under a number of broad content areas, including politics, economics, foreign and security policy, and Eurasian information networks.

In leadership development, our other division, our efforts have been focused first on management of the endowments we have established to fund fellowships (SYLFF) at 68 universities in 44 countries around world , along with the development of a global network to connect the fellowship recipients, now totaling more than 10,000, who have graduated from this program each year. In addition, we have built and maintained programs supporting Japanese-language education overseas and mid-career training for municipal administrators .

In view of the gravity of the situation caused by the May-12 earthquake in Sichuan, the Tokyo Foundation called for special aid activities. Two volunteer teams organized by Chinese SYLFF fellows were selected and given financial support. They visited local schools in the affected areas for moral and material support to surviving students.

Stressing Culture and Civilization in a Time of Upheaval

In both program divisions, the Tokyo Foundation's work has been guided by two basic principles. The first of these is to take factors of culture and civilization into account in any consideration of policy. Let's take a moment to examine the basis for this principle.

In 2008 the financial crisis triggered by subprime mortgage problems spread swiftly, pushing the world to the brink of another Great Depression. Certainly the immediate situation calls for palliative measures in the form of a bold economic stimulus. Beyond that, however, we are facing the task of reassessing some of the basic assumptions underlying capitalism, as we acknowledge (at the macro level) the absolute constraints imposed by the global environment and rethink (at the micro level) the nature and purpose of business activity, the criteria by which we judge such activity, and the rules of the marketplace. To accomplish such a task, a perspective grounded in culture and civilization is essential.

At the Tokyo Foundation we began conducting policy research from this perspective well before the current financial crisis because we realized that sooner or later the rapid advance of globalization made such an economic upheaval inevitable. We were convinced that any new framework developed to support our civilization in the wake of such an upheaval would require strong cultural underpinnings, and we have made this a guiding principle of our research. Put simply, we value policies formulated on the basis of sound philosophical principles and ideals.

A Neutral, Nonpartisan Approach to a World in Flux

Our other guiding policy involves our stance vis-à-vis partisan politics.

The Tokyo Foundation is a public interest corporation. Funding for the Tokyo Foundation's activities comes from our own independent management of an endowment established from the proceeds of motorboat racing, one of four "public sports" operated by local governments in Japan. What this means is that the foundation is both financially and politically independent. That is precisely why we have been free to formulate policies based on our own principles, while at the same time working to train the leaders of tomorrow. Through these activities we strive for change by working through the political system and by educating society as a whole via the media and other vehicles. In this way the Tokyo Foundation does much more than offer policy recommendations; it also fulfills the key conditions required to make our ideas a reality.

In the two years since our sweeping overhaul, the Tokyo Foundation's policy research program has steered clear of calls for superficial reforms or quick fixes. It has tackled issues from a grounded, long-range perspective-never succumbing to the whims of short-term trends or fashions-and sent forth into society a series of sound proposals oriented to building fundamental frameworks to support our society in the coming years. Examples are "Local Assembly Reform in the Age of Decentralization," a proposal aimed at creating new governing modalities for Japan's local administrative bodies in keeping with need to decentralize government power; "Fundamental Nature of Stock Companies and Hostile Takeovers," which calls for clarity in Japan's still-ambiguous hostile-takeover rules; and "Developing an Academic System for the Food Field: The Need for a 'Graduate School of Food Culture,'" recommending the development of a systematic academic discipline dealing with Japanese food culture as part of the university curriculum.

In 2009 the world may find itself at a historic turning point when it is forced, in the process of grappling with the global economic crisis, to rethink the assumptions that have defined our thinking on economic development since the 1980s. In Japan, meanwhile, the people will be going to the polls to vote in a general election. This time they will be choosing not only a new administration but a course for the nation to follow in the coming age.

To respond to the ever-changing conditions of such a turbulent era, we at the Tokyo Foundation will continue to adopt the long view in grappling with the problems before us, and will maintain a posture of nonpartisan neutrality as we work to make our policies a reality.

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    • President, Tokyo Foundation (2006-2012)
    • Hideki Kato
    • Hideki Kato

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