Toshiaki Ogasawara, honorary chairman and former publisher of The Japan Times, died of heart failure at a hospital in Newport Beach, California, last Wednesday. He was 85.

Ogasawara, who had been undergoing medical treatment in the United States, is also the founder of Nifco Inc., which is Japan’s premier manufacturer of plastic parts and components for automobile and home electronic appliance makers. Nifco is the parent company of The Japan Times.

After becoming a major investor in the company, Ogasawara became the newspaper’s president in 1983 and its chairman in 1985, leading Japan’s only independent English newspaper to expand its readership both in Japan and abroad and to fulfill its mission to promote international understanding. He remained in this role until becoming honorary chairman earlier this year.

Ogasawara’s funeral, which took place in the U.S. last week, was attended by close family members. Ogasawara is survived by his son, Mitsutaka, and his daughter, Yukiko. The timing of his memorial service, to be held in Tokyo early next year, will be announced at a later date.

Born in Tokyo on March 30, 1931, Ogasawara grew up during turbulent times when Japan was at war and even the teaching of English was banned. In postwar Japan, under U.S. Occupation forces, he was inspired by the West and studied English in order to become an internationally active businessman.

Not long after studying at Keio University, Ogasawara established Nichiei Bussan Co. in 1953 at the age 22. The company became the exclusive Japan agent of Steel Brothers and Co., a British company that was involved in the milling and shipping of rice, teak and hardwood extraction.

After graduating from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in 1966, he co-founded Japan Industry Fastener Inc. with Chicago-based Illinois Tool Works in 1967. The company was renamed Nifco Inc. in 1970, and Ogasawara served as the manufacturer’s president until he was elected chairman in 2001.

He also became the chairman of Simmons Co., which is the Asian franchisee of Simmons USA, in 1996.

The same year, in the wake of 1995’s Great Hanshin Earthquake, he was instrumental in the launch of the foreign-language radio station InterFM. (The station is currently owned and operated by a different company.)

In addition to serving on a number of government committees, Ogasawara played key roles in Japanese business organizations such as the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) and the Japan Association of Corporate Executives (Keizai Doyukai). He was also active in supporting international organizations such as the Asia Pacific Association of Japan, Youth for Understanding, United World Colleges, the Japan Center for International Exchange and others.

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