Message from the Chairman
At the outset of this new year, let me extend my warmest greetings to everyone. In welcoming 2017, I am reminded how the Japanese since ancient times have celebrated New Year as the harbinger of spring. This sentiment is manifested in the Japanese word medetai, an auspicious term whose etymology is thought to express gratitude for the earth’s verdant awakening following the cold of winter.
Looking back on the previous year, a youthful vitality was similarly on display at such events as the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As you are all aware, the Japanese team had an excellent Olympics, bringing home a record 41 medals. The Paralympic team also made a grand showing, besting their performance at the 2012 London Games with 24 medals. I feel the wonderful success of the Rio Games bolstered the hopes and expectations of the Japanese people ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Japan faces the stark reality of an aging population and low birthrate, but the image of young Olympic hopefuls striving to reach their full potential will weave an eloquent tale to inspire and motivate people as they tackle these social challenges.
Turning abroad, there is a palpable sense of uncertainty growing around the world. The outcome of Britain’s referendum on leaving the European Union and the surprising result of the US presidential election represent a startling shift toward greater isolationism around the world and away from the free movement of people, capital, and information that has fueled global economic growth in the postwar period. A major driving force of this trend has been the widening gap between the beneficiaries of globalization and the multitude of laborers, middle-aged and older workers, and elderly who feel excluded. Going forward, countries must address numerous challenges to realize an inclusive society where social and economic benefits are shared broadly across all age groups and income levels. This burden, of course, will fall heaviest on future generations , and it is vital that society as a whole be engaged in educating its younger members and providing them with an expansive vision of the future.
Since becoming chairman of the Toyota Foundation, I have taken a keen interest in a number of projects and have been deeply impressed by the strong ambition and devoted actions of young men and women in Japan to address the broad spectrum of issues facing society. Indeed, I feel it is the vigor of youth that will enable not only Japan but societies around the world to forge a brighter future for all.
It is my earnest desire that the Toyota Foundation stands as a platform to draw together society’s high-minded young people. Similar to the wishes for a vibrant spring that I alluded to above, I would like the foundation’s grant activities to bring out and cultivate the nascent energy of society’s ardent youth and, by striving together, build a future full of hope.
As we begin a new year, I reconfirm my own resolve and also kindly request the continued support and advice of all our partners.
The Toyota Foundation (Public Interest Incorporated Foundation)
Message of April 2016 When New Fiscal Year Opens
Let me begin by extending my warm greetings at the start of the new fiscal year.
Fifteen years have already passed since we ushered in a new century. This is a short period of time, but in those 15 years a surge of major changes has affected Japan and the rest of the international community, giving one the sense that we have entered a new era quite unlike the previous period.
One of the biggest changes has been the spread of the Internet. This technology has greatly increased the speed and quantity of information traveling around the world. As a result, events in even the most remote corners of the world are disseminated around the globe, reaching us in the course of our daily lives through our PCs and smartphones. In other words, the spread of the Internet is consistent with the principle of breaking down the walls that impede the free global movement of people and information, which has been a historical trend following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.
At the same time, however, the passage of time has unveiled negative aspects of the Internet’s spread. For instance, terrorist organizations like the so-called “Islamic State” have made use of the Internet to spread their propaganda and manipulate information to gain recruits and procure funds. The advanced information and communication technologies that foster the free movement of people and information ended up helping foster a savage organization that seems to have stepped out of the Middle Ages. Moreover, this terrorist group moved into Syria, triggering a civil war that has resulted in refugees fleeing to Lebanon, Turkey, and other neighboring countries, with a huge number of them then heading to EU countries. Ironically, this flow of refugees, as is well known, has led to calls for the construction of walls between the EU and outside countries or even within the EU, and also led to similar calls in the United States. In this way, the frequency of indiscriminate terrorist attacks and the refugee problem have become serious issues facing humanity in the twenty-first century.
Meanwhile, even though Japan has yet to be directly impacted by this huge historical wave that has swept the world, the country is weighed down by its own burden of a falling birthrate and graying population. This demographic trend has increased social security expenditures, leading to a massive national debt. On top of this, regional areas are in decline, childhood poverty is on the rise, and the gap between rich and poor is spreading. The weight of these various problems has naturally given birth to a sense of stagnation among Japanese people.
It is precisely in such a period, when the future is unclear, that the founding philosophy of the Toyota Foundation, which aims to contribute to the realization of a human-oriented society for the sake of greater human happiness, takes on even greater meaning. In an age where public assistance is reaching its limit, expectations are growing for the Toyota Foundation to increasingly display its latent capabilities. Generally speaking, it is the responsibility of government to address problems arising from major social change. But when it is difficult for government to respond promptly for systematic or financial reasons, private foundations can nimbly utilize their networks to uncover budding solutions along the frontline of issues and then take the lead in sharing that information with stakeholders. I think that this activity is at the heart of the Toyota Foundation’s mission.
For fiscal 2016, the Toyota Foundation will again be providing grants in three main areas, namely: research that explores new values for society, activities aimed at solving regional issues in Japan, and international joint learning to address common issues in Asia. In addition to these three areas, starting in May we will be teaming up with Toyota Motor Corporation to offer an ongoing lecture course titled “Toyota NPO Kaiketsu ‘Solution’ College” that will provide a broad array of NPOs with an opportunity to acquire problem-solving techniques from Toyota’s organizational management. More specifically, this will involve learning about the problem-solving philosophy and techniques that the Toyota Motor Corporation has built up over many years. This know-how is relevant not only to production sites but also to a variety of organizations and undertakings and we believe that the lectures will provide useful hints to the NPO representatives and other participants. We were pleased to welcome so many participants to the trial lecture that was held in early March. I hope that these various initiatives will help bring into view hints on how to bring about a better society that can then be shared with others.
In fiscal 2016, we at the Toyota Foundation will steadfastly carry out our activities, while remaining focused on the needs of the current era. I look forward to the continued warm advice and guidance of all our partners in the year ahead.
April 1, 2016
The Toyota Foundation (Public Interest Incorporated Foundation)