Sasakawa USA is dedicated to deepening the understanding of and strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Japan within the Asia-Pacific context, placing emphasis on security and diplomacy, through exchanges, dialogue, analysis, and networking.
Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA is a 501c3 non-profit located in Washington, DC involved in U.S.-Japan relations, providing conferences and seminars, think tank analysis, people-to-people exchanges and coordination of high-level dialogue between the two countries through our in-house and collaborative programs.
Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA was established in 1990 through an endowment from Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo. Both Foundations get their names from Ryoichi Sasakawa, a Japanese philanthropist. Two years later, Sasakawa USA opened a public art gallery and Japanese library as a way to carry out the initial mission of the Foundation, to promote understanding between the United States and Japan.
In 1997, Sasakawa USA closed the art gallery and shifted its focus to programs and activities that would generate a greater awareness of the Asia Pacific region. Programs from this period, such as “Culture and Identity” and “Asian Voices” were among the first to explore topics of growing importance, such as ethnic coexistence and the Asian identity alongside other geopolitical issues.
The library remained open until 2013, acting as the Foundation’s liaison to local Japanese and interested public. A year later, Sasakawa USA welcomed its first American Chairman, refocused its mission and expanded its staff to provide timely research, outreach and analysis on key policy issues facing the United States and Japan.
A letter from Admiral Dennis C. Blair, Chairman and Distinguished Senior Fellow (Non-Resident) of Sasakawa USA:
My family and I first went to Japan in 1984, when I commanded a guided missile destroyer newly homeported in Yokosuka. The low point was the day the four of us arrived, tired and jet-lagged, at Narita airport, and rode in a minibus down to Yokosuka. We had been expecting to arrive and see nothing but castles, gardens, and kimonos — not the urban sprawl common throughout much of the Kanto Plain.
However, soon the beauty of Japan and the hospitality of the Japanese people captured our admiration and affection.
We used our free time to drive ourselves around the country, driving north to the spectacular groves of sugi — Japanese cedar trees — in Nikko; west to the entrancing gardens and ancient temples in Nara and Kyoto; and to many other fascinating destinations all around the country.
While serving on my ship, I came to know the spectacular coast of Japan, with its many headlands and bays, but it was on these family trips that the kindness of strangers was most apparent — which compensated for the lack of romaji on the road signs. Each of the many times we were lost was an adventure that ended happily. The Japanese people were always willing to offer assistance, making large cities feel like small towns.
Once, our daughter forgot to pick up her change from a purchase in a local stationary store. Ten days later, the sales woman recognized her on the sidewalk outside the store and gave her the 20 yen she had left on the counter.
Another time, on New Year’s Eve, our family decided to join in the pilgrimage to the Kawasaki Daishi Temple for the countdown to the New Year and hatsumode — the traditional first visit to a shrine or temple for the year. In the large crowd of more than a million people, my wife and I were separated from our kids. We searched and searched, but had no luck finding them in such a large sea of people. We went back to our home, worried sick, and thankfully found them safe and sound. They had found their way back with the help of some strangers who gave them directions to the train station.
Such acts of kindness abound in my memories of Japan, and in my children’s memories, who both returned to Japan years later on exchange visits.
Although Japanese and Americans are different in so many ways, through the years our people have formed unique personal bonds and a sincere appreciation for each other’s countries.
While I no longer explore the coast of Japan from a ship, I am now happy to be with Sasakawa USA as we pursue our mission of strengthening these interpersonal bonds through research, analysis, and education programs. I believe Japan and America have much to offer each other, strategically, economically, and culturally, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes next.
Ryoichi Sasakawa (1899-1995) and the Nippon Foundation
“The world is one family. All mankind are brothers and sisters.” – Ryoichi Sasakawa
Ryoichi Sasakawa was a remarkable figure in twentieth century Japan. He led an energetic, high-profile life that made him a controversial figure, both domestically and internationally. Born in 1895 in Minoo City to a wealthy sake brewer, Ryoichi Sasakawa quickly became a successful businessman in his own right. By age 30, he had amassed a fortune by trading in the rice market. Never holding a government position, Mr. Sasakawa actively participated in the turbulent politics during years the 1930s and World War II. Arrested at his own insistence as a suspected war criminal in 1945, after three years Sasakawa and 19 others were released without trial.
After World War II, Mr. Sasakawa became involved in business, post-war reconstruction and philanthropic pursuits. A powerboat racing enthusiast, Mr. Sasakawa worked with the Japanese government to reorganize the industry and use revenue from powerboat races to fund health, education and development projects throughout Japan, and later in Africa. By the 1970s, Mr. Sasakawa dedicated himself entirely to the foundation’s work and donated millions of dollars of his own wealth to increase the reach and impact of what is now called the Nippon Foundation.
The Nippon Foundation has funded numerous international programs, including at the United Nations and World Health Organization, as well as non-profits like the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and the United States-Japan Foundation. It is active throughout the world, funding a diverse series of projects, including on the elimination of leprosy, disaster relief, universal literacy, and maritime safety. Ryoichi Sasakawa’s son, Yohei Sasakawa currently chairs the Nippon Foundation.
Chairman of the Board and President, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA
Executive Director (Program), Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Japan
Executive Director, Nippon Foundation
Ret. Chief of Staff, Joint Staff, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force
Akinori Sugai, Treasurer
Executive Director (General Affairs), Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Japan
President, Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Japan
Chairman, Nippon Foundation