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A Missionary for 'Civilian Diplomacy'

Part 4 of 5

From the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (unofficial translation)
By: Tsuyoshi Sunohara
Published: May 17, 2007


Nihon Keizai Shimbun 06/07After launching the Shimoda Conferences in 1967, Tadashi Yamamoto was working hard to promote civilian-led diplomacy that would create a bridge between the United States and Japan. He soon faced the biggest turning point of his life when he decided to part ways with Tokusaburo Kosaka, the mentor from whom he had been literally inseparable since he had returned to Japan.

In 1968, we started the US-Japan Parliamentary Exchange Program as a spin-off from the Shimoda Conferences. On the US side, we were fortunate enough to have Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield serve as the point person, and we had many influential members of Congress visit Japan. Among them was Representative Donald Rumsfeld, who served as secretary of defense in the current Bush administration.

In 1969, just as a series of projects was starting to get off the ground, Mr. Kosaka decided to enter politics and was elected to the Lower House. He said to me, "I would like you to stay with me and become my secretary." But I was unable to nod my head in agreement.

The projects that I was working on were all conceived of as ways to contribute to the future of Japan, not for personal gain. Although words could not express how indebted I was to Mr. Kosaka, if I accepted his offer, I felt that I would become nothing more than one Diet member’s secretary. I did not think that I could achieve my objectives if I did that.

Given that the next US Congressional delegation was scheduled to come to Japan in early 1970, there was a great deal of confusion. Mr. Kosaka insisted that the delegation be invited to Japan in his own name, as originally planned. But Professor Gerald Curtis of Columbia University and I agreed that it would be impossible to invite them in the name of a single Diet member. Finally, on New Year’s Eve, Gerry and I went to the telegraph office to send the message that the delegation’s visit had been cancelled.

At the start of the new year, I wrote three letters of resignation: to the Japan Council for International Understanding (JCIU) and to the Association of International Education, both of which Mr. Kosaka had chaired, and to Shin-Etsu Chemical Company. Realizing that he would not be able to change my mind, Kosaka in the end accepted my resignation.

Yamamoto formally left Kosaka and established the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE). He removed all of his personal belongings from the JCIU offices in Tokyo's Akasaka district and hung up the JCIE sign at a small apartment in the Aoyama 1-chome neighborhood. He started literally from scratch, with nothing more than the personal connections he had built up in Japan and the United States.

Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka addressing the Trilateral Commission
Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka
addressing the Trilateral Comm-
ission. Yamamoto at far left.

The name "JCIE" was something that my friends and I thought up while out drinking; it was not the result of careful deliberation. At the time, names like "international exchange" were not so popular, so I thought it was not a bad choice.

When we first started, like most organizations, we struggled to raise funds. At one point, the money we needed for an education project that had received a Ford Foundation grant did not come through in time because of a procedural problem, and I was in a panic. I think it was about ¥30 million at that time.

I was at my wits' end and so I went to talk to Mr. Ibuka of Sony. He took me to Fuji Bank to introduce me, and he arranged a short-term loan to JCIE as a special exception. Ibuka later laughingly told me, "I really got a good scolding from [Akio] Morita." [Note: Masaru Ibuka and his younger partner, Akio Morita, co-founded Sony.] But in fact, the reason JCIE is here today is because we really have received help from many, many people.

JCIE took over the US-Japan Parliamentary Exchange Program and other projects that had been conducted under Kosaka's JCIU. But at the time, Yamamoto still had a complex relationship with Kosaka.

Even though we talk about JCIU, other than the Shimoda Conferences and the Parliamentary Exchange Program, there really was nothing more to it. At the same time, it was honestly painful for me to take over the US-Japan Parliamentary Exchange Program that I had started with Mr. Kosaka. It was a natural feeling since he had tried many times to persuade me not to resign, but I refused and ran off. Even so, along with my independence, Mr. Kosaka offered a certain amount of financial support.

When JCIE held a ceremony to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Mr. Kosaka sent me a message from his sickbed. He wrote, "I want to convey to you my respect for your accomplishments over more than 20 years." Some time later, I was on a business trip to San Francisco when I heard the news that Mr. Kosaka had passed away. I remember even now that I surprised even myself by how much I cried at the news.

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