- SHlGEHARU MATSUMOTO is one of the small minority of Japanese who appreciated the necessity for Japan genuinely to accommodate her national aims to the realities of a larger world.
- Following the occupation of Manchuria by the Japanese military in 1931-1932 MATSUMOTO decided to become active in public affairs and pursue a career as an international journalist.
- In 1952 as the allied occupation ended, MATSUMOTO, with the encouragement of John D. Rockefeller 3rd, took the lead in organizing, and became the first managing director of Kokusai Bunka Kaikan, The International House of Japan.
- The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his building constructive relations between Japanese and others through shared knowledge of their diverse histories, needs and national aspirations.”
After Japan opened contact with the rest of the world following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, there were individuals who realized that merely borrowing from abroad forms of administrative modernization and technology was not enough. But they were often lonely thinkers.
Intellectual insularity and ignorance, even of Asian neighbors, helped prompt the Japanese military to seize political power at home and take aggressive action abroad. Even the traumatic military defeat which ended World War II and brought in the Allied Army of Occupation failed to shatter Japanese tendencies toward national elitism and isolation. An ethnically and linguistically homogenous people, they had never learned historically to absorb foreigners and their ideas.
SHlGEHARU MATSUMOTO is one of the small minority of Japanese who appreciated the necessity for Japan genuinely to accommodate her national aims to the realities of a larger world. MATSUMOTO was born in 1899 in Osaka, into a family of business executives. After graduating in law from Tokyo University, he went on to study at the universities of Wisconsin and Yale in the United States, and in Geneva and Vienna, before returning in 1927 to teach.
Following the occupation of Manchuria by the Japanese military in 1931-1932 MATSUMOTO decided to become active in public affairs and pursue a career as an international journalist. For six years he was the Domei News Agency Correspondent in Shanghai, meanwhile keeping his prime minister, Prince Konoye, informed on China at his request. Throughout the Pacific War he was Editor-in-Chief and then concurrently Managing Director of Domei. When Japan surrendered he joined with associates to publish a daily tabloid, Minpo (Peoples Daily), until he was purged by the Occupation late in 1946. Together with his mentor, Dr. Yasaka Takagi, and others MATSUMOTO then founded the Japanese Association for American Studies to help younger Japanese scholars and to enlighten the public through publication of a five-volume documentary history of the United States.
In 1952 as the allied occupation ended, MATSUMOTO, with the encouragement of John D. Rockefeller 3rd, took the lead in organizing, and became the first managing director of Kokusai Bunka Kaikan, The International House of Japan. Enlisting support in Japan to match contributions from abroad, he devoted himself to making this truly a center where all nationalities could meet and share experiences. The critical and constructive role of The International House of Japan and MATSUMOTO would have been recognized earlier by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation had not both institutions been beneficiaries of Rockefeller philanthropy. MATSUMOTO has been nominated for this Award seven times by distinguished countrymen and after 23 years his important contributions must be acknowledged.
By birth and association a member of the Japanese elite, MATSUMOTO thinks carefully, seeks out individuals and ideas that count, and helps open doors for their acceptance. Although he moved up to become Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1965, he has actively continued to guide this unique center of informal diplomacy, with its cultural and intellectual emphasis and excellent library. Much of the world view of modern and democratic Japan is a product of the friendly discussions held in this tasteful house set in a classical garden in the heart of bustling Tokyo. The insights that have been gained here reflect MATSUMOTO’s sustained, patient furtherance of informed reason, so necessary in an era of accelerating interdependence.
In electing SHIGEHARU MATSUMOTO to receive the 1980 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes his building constructive relations between Japanese and others through shared knowledge of their diverse histories, needs and national aspirations.
I am sorry that my father, SHIGEHARU MATSUMOTO, is not physically able to be here to receive in person the 1980 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding. However, I am highly honored to represent my father as his eldest son, now engaged in the work of international cooperation.
Mr. Chairman, with your kind permission, I will read the response of my father, SHIGEHARU MATSUMOTO.
Half a century ago, in 1929, the third conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR) was held in Kyoto, the culturally rich and old capital of Japan Assisting Professor Yasaka Takagi, the key member of the Japanese delegation, I served as a very junior staff member at that conference. There I met delegates from seven countries located in the Pacific basin. Among them was the late John D. Rockefeller 3rd, a junior member of the U.S. delegation, and Dr. and Mrs. Conrado Benitez from the Philippines. Attending the conference I was led to realize the existence of many worlds other than my own and this experience kindled a dream in my heart, the dream of devoting my life to building a base for international understanding somewhere in my own country. It took nearly 30 years before this dream came true in the form of a place called The International House of Japan.
During those 30 years my dream suffered a succession of failures. I spent six years as a journalist in Shanghai. Despite all I had done, war came in China, then in the Pacific; and it was brought home to me how powerless a single individual is against waves sweeping all of us to tragedy. However I never abandoned my belief in the value of individual human dignity, nor did I give up my belief in the human capacity to accommodate different views, ideas and faiths in the search for means of peaceful coexistence. I believe one of the most effective means for attaining such accommodation is creative, mutual borrowing that strengthens awareness of shared values.
In 1952, with support from many friends at home and abroad, including our mutual friend the late John D. Rockefeller 3rd, I managed to establish The International House of Japan. This nongovernmental institution was and is committed to cultural exchange and intellectual cooperation. More concretely, it is intended to help individuals of differing cultural background, religious affiliation, and political outlook develop closer understanding through personal contact in an atmosphere of openminded reflection and mutual respect. I recall a remark made by a close friend when I was launching The International House: “You’re a fool to try to dry up the Pacific Ocean with a tea cup, but I respect you for trying.” This comment convinced me that I’d rather be a fool than sit and do nothing.
Looking at what is actually happening in the world today, we should not be blind to the commonality of those human aspirations which have guided human destiny in the past and which will, I hope, continue to guide it in the future. Today I humbly accept this honor, not for the little I have done thus far, but to encourage the generations that follow us to carry on the unfinished task of one who cared for all peoples as individuals and believed in their dignity and personal freedom, the late Ramon Magsaysay.
SHIGEHARU MATSUMOTO was born into a prominent family of imperial Japan. His grandfather, Jutaro Matsumoto, was a financial magnate during the Meiji era, and his father was a senior business executive. The second child and only son of Matsuzo and Mitsuko Matsumoto, SHIGEHARU was born on October 2, 1899 in Osaka. He attended the Suwayama Elementary School in Kobe and Kobe First High School. Continuing his education in Tokyo he graduated from the First College in 1920 and from Tokyo Imperial University (Law Department) with a Bachelor of Law in March 1923. He enrolled in the Graduate School of Law at Tokyo University, but his studies were interrupted by the great earthquake which struck Tokyo in September 1923 and destroyed his family home, his library and the research facilities at the university.
He decided then to pursue his education in the United States and entered Yale University in February the following year. He spent two years in graduate school there, specializing in economics, and took summer courses at the University of Wisconsin. While at Yale MATSUMOTO followed his father’s advice to cultivate Chinese students as friends, and he “was impressed by their hard work, scholarship, and fine character. It seems odd,” he said later, “that my interest in Chinese affairs started on the campus at Yale.”
MATSUMOTO was greatly influenced by Professor Charles A. Beard under whom he studied American history. Beard’s thesis, “that the central problem in Japanese-American relations was a conflict of interest in the China market,” impressed MATSUMOTO and had an impact on his own thinking in later years. Beard, and later Yasaka Takagi, “the father of American studies in Japan,” were his mentors and were important influences on his academic and professional careers.
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