Ryoichi Sasakawa

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Ryoichi Sasakawa

In 1984, at the age of seventy-one, Norman Borlaug "was drawn out of retirement by Ryoichi Sasakawa, who with Jimmy Carter was working to get African agriculture moving. Carter was campaigning in favor of fertilizer aid to Africa, as he still does today. The former President had fallen in with Sasakawa, who during the Second World War had founded the National Essence Mass Party, a Japanese fascist group, but who in later life developed a conscience. Today the Sasakawa Peace Foundation is a leading supporter of disarmament initiatives; Carter and Sasakawa often made joint appearances for worthy causes." [1]


Critical Background

According to Karoline Postel-Vinay with Mark Selden:

"Sasakawa Ryōichi was a man of action and only in the later part of his life did he set about to create a cohesive self-portrait that would serve as the basis of the grand narrative his kin, and the foundations he financed, are now in the process of establishing. In 1981, Sasakawa’s old friend, the media and publishing baron, Robert Maxwell, commissioned a book that celebrated his life describing him as a “warrior for peace” and a “global philanthropist”...
"It is reported that the journalist Kaga Kōei received death threats in relation to his research on the Sasakawa empire (cf. Bertil Lintner, Blood Brothers, Crows Nest, Allen & Unwin, 2002)...
"The file on Sasakawa produced by Mac Arthur’s team after thorough screening by the International Prosecution Section (IPS) in October 1947 reads as follows: “Subject is clearly one of the worst offenders, outside the military in developing in Japan a policy of totalitarianism and aggression...
"Sasakawa’s political affinities are demonstrated by his long-lasting friendship with Kodama Yoshio and his later association with Reverend Moon Sun Myung, both of which constitute a continuum linking his pre-war to his post-war identity. This identity has survived Sasakawa in different ways, which are manifest both in the people and the actions of the Sasakawa network. Looking back at his political affinities, it seems more déjà vu than surprising that, for example, the Nippon Foundation provided support to Alberto Fujimori in November 2000, when the disgraced former president had fled Peru, accused by the Lima authorities of corruption and human rights abuses. The following month, the then chairwoman of the Nippon Foundation, the novelist Sono Ayako, organized a press conference at the headquarters of the foundation, to announce that she had invited Fujimori to stay in her house, where he was leading the “life of a stoic”, and where he eventually spent a year. Sono Ayako took over the chairmanship of the Nippon Foundation after Sasakawa Ryoichi’s death and, along with the administrative responsibility, that she held until July 2005, she kept alive a core feature of the founder’s political identity, his “unapologetically nationalistic stance”." [1]


"This was also the axiom by which certain Americans in the early 1980s, after considerable soul-searching, decided to establish the United States-Japan Foundation with a capital grant of about $45 million from the right-wing mogul Ryoichi Sasakawa--money derived from legalized speedboat racing, cleared by the Diet, and closely watched in program expenditure by the Foreign Ministry.

"This foundation, juridically an American organization with a joint U.S.-Japanese advisory board, has concentrated on the public (as opposed to academic) education of Americans on Japan, and has funded some innovative projects, including journalist fellowships and a highly successful exchange of Tokyo and New York City officials and urban troubleshooters. By 1987-88 its capital base had grown to over $80 million, two to three times that of the U.S. government's Friendship Commission. At the outset quite a few Japanese friends of the U.S. were in doubt as to the wisdom of the American side in taking this money--Sasakawa, with his open support of right-wing causes and groups, and his well-researched and substantiated ties to Japanese gangsters, still remains beyond the pale for most Japanese intellectuals and political liberals. But the Americans convinced themselves, with their usual insouciance, that--like the Ford Foundation's or the Rockefeller Foundation's largesse--this was sufficiently 'laundered' money to make it acceptable. By 1986, however, the redoubtable Ryoichi Sasakawa (still active today at the age of 95), had himself decided that his previous donation was too well-disguised; hence he created back in Japan and more effectively under his personal control the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, capitalized at one half billion dollars (at 1994 yen-to-dollar exchange rates) for charitable activities world-wide." 1994


Critical Resources

  • David Kaplan and Alec Dubro, Yakuza. Japan’s Criminal Underworld, Berkeley (University of California Press, 2003) - "In the preface to the new edition of their famous book, David Kaplan and Alec Dubro tell how, at the request of Sasakawa Ryōichi, Robert Maxwell ordered the shredding of the whole inventory of the English edition, and along with it the portrait of Sasakawa as a war criminal with ties to the underworld and the ultranationalist movement."
  • Richard Samuels, Machiavelli’s Children. Leaders and their Legacies in Italy and Japan (Cornell University Press, 2003).
  • Eiko Maruko Siniawer, Ruffians, Yakuza, Nationalists: The Violent Politics of Modern Japan, 1860-1960 (Cornell University Press, 2008).

Uncritical Biographies

External links

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Karoline Postel-Vinay with Mark Selden, "History on Trial: French Nippon Foundation Sues Scholar for Libel to Protect the Honor of Sasakawa Ryōichi", Asia-Pacific Journal, Undated.