A pioneer in the promotion of private-sector international exchanges in Japan since the 1960s, Tadashi Yamamoto has left many around the world mourning his recent death and remembering his legacy in enhancing Japan-U.S. relations.
“He always upheld his integrity while working with corporations and governments, and his unwavering attitude won many people’s trust,” said Hideko Katsumata, 66, executive director and chief operating officer of the Japan Center for International Exchange. “He was always positive and forward-looking.”
Yamamoto died April 15 of gallbladder cancer in a Tokyo hospital at the age of 76.
Katsumata worked with Yamamoto, who founded the JCIE in 1970, for more than 40 years. The JCIE is a foundation, now based in Tokyo and New York, that promotes policy research, dialogue and civil society as well as exchange programs.
After completing his undergraduate degree and an MBA in the U.S., Yamamoto joined Shin-Etsu Chemical Co., a producer of industrial resin and chemical products, in 1962. He began to engage there in international exchange activities as the foreign relations secretary for then company President Tokusauro Kosaka, who later entered the Diet.
In 1967 he helped launch what became known as the Shimoda Conference, a forum for high-level but unofficial policy discussions among intellectuals and politicians from Japan and the United States.
Yamamoto was in his mid-30s when he established the JCIE. He made every effort to initiate exchanges among young lawmakers from Japan and the United States. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld introduced Yamamoto at that time to President Gerald Ford as the young Japanese who was contributing the most to bilateral relations.
Yamamoto, who was born into a Catholic family, was always ready to serve others and often instructed his staff to “go the extra mile” for other people.