JPRI Occasional Paper No. 3 (May 1995)
Fund-Raising in Japan: A Sasakawa Saga
by Hans H. Baerwald

Preface: Memories can play tricks--some are vivid, others dim, and there are those which are better forgotten. This reminiscence has been aided by written reports that I submitted shortly after trips to or meetings in Tokyo and UCLA. They were based on my own perspective, and probably differed from the viewpoints of others who were involved--Rashomon.

My motivation in writing this "Occasional Paper" now is to provide a largely chronological and simplified overview of what happened. It is not a 'how-to' manual, as will quickly become apparent. Whether this particular episode contributes to the on-going debate about Japanese donations to American universities is for others to determine.

PHASE 1: It all began innocently enough, or so I thought, despite having some knowledge (all too little, in retrospect) that money-matters are rarely untainted. UCLA had been interested in building a new International Student Center (ISC). A small group was working on raising funds for the project. In February of 1982 they invited me to an early breakfast meeting at the Faculty Center on the campus because they were thinking of approaching possible donors in Japan. One off-campus committee member, while visiting Japan on other business, had met a friend who had suggested that Mr. Ryoichi Sasakawa might be approached because he already had other irons in the fire in Los Angeles. I was scheduled, within a couple of weeks, to participate in a conference in Tokyo. Would I have time to undertake some further explorations?

I was then the director of the "Japan Exchange Program" at UCLA and had been involved in other Japan-related projects for most of the previous decade as a member of the campus's "Japan Liaison Committee." The latter's principal function was to be a forum for the exchange of information about proliferating fund-raising ventures in Japan that unrelated segments of the campus had attempted. Leaders of UCLA's Japan Alumni Association in Tokyo had been frustrated in their efforts to be of assistance. All too frequently, various UCLA administrators and/or faculty members, in pursuing their own particular aspirations, had approached the same funding source--Keidanren (the Federation of Economic Organizations). Its officials were bewildered and contacted our Japanese alumni for clarification. The liaison committee was able to reduce, but never eliminate, the problem. Individual entrepreneurship on campus was thriving. Moreover, in the 1970s, Japan was still "exotic" to non-specialists, who were convinced that only they had found the key to unlocking its then ever-increasing riches.

When Mr. Sasakawa's name was mentioned, I expressed some surprise that he should be considered. However, even my mild demurral elicited a sharp response from the chair of the ISC's fund-raising committee, a business executive whose sole interest was gathering the necessary funds. "Let us worry about what's an appropriate source, Hans," or something equally condescending, was his comment. So, off I went to attend my conference in Tokyo and to embark on an exploration of the availability of funding for the ISC's new building.

Everything seemed simpler and more straightforward once I was on familiar ground in Tokyo (March 24, 1982). Mr. Hideo Masuko, Director of UCLA's Tokyo Liaison Office, had arranged a luncheon with a Japanese journalist friend of one of the members of the ISC fund-raising committee. We discussed various possible donors, but he convinced me that Mr. Sasakawa was the only one who could afford to contribute $1-5 million in a lump sum, and on short notice. The money would not come from him, but from his organization the Nihon Sempaku Shinkokai that, for unexplained reasons, was officially--but incorrectly--translated as the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation, instead of the Shipbuilding Promotion Association. This organization received a percentage of all proceeds (admissions, concession sales, and gambling) from the speed-boat racing empire of which Mr. Sasakawa was Kaicho (Chairman). It had also made the Kaicho (the title that everyone used in addressing or talking about him) one of the wealthiest men in the world, or so I was told. Technically, the Shinkokai amassed the wealth, but the Kaicho was said to control its disbursement--incompletely, as it turned out.

My Tokyo visit was to end on April 3rd, and my audience with the Kaicho was finally scheduled for April 2nd. This suited me fine, as it would give me time to learn a bit more about some of the Japanese rules (informal, but generally accepted) that governed fund-raising. By far the most important was that Japanese intermediaries (such as the journalist) who provided crucial introductions or other assistance were supposed to receive finders' fees of between 3.5 and 4.5 per cent of the sum granted. This expectation on the part of some crucial helpers--entirely legitimate, at least according to local cultural norms--ultimately became one of the biggest headaches of the entire project.

Japanese friends of long standing, whom I approached confidentially, provided me with their impressions of the Kaicho. (Members of the ISC fund-raising committee might not be interested, but I was.) Why was he so disliked in Japan? First, I was told, because he had not really worked for all the wealth he had amassed or controlled. Second, because he loved being in the limelight--his TV advertisements, in which he personally appeared, came in for especially strong opprobrium. On the other hand, his pre-war and wartime support for fascism and militarism tended to be dismissed ("it was another time and different context"), as were his alleged links to the criminal underworld ("he's not the only one"). Should I cancel my appointment? "If you were a Japanese professor at a Japanese university, your career would be finished if it became known that you were looking for a donation from the Shinkokai," I was told. "However, you are a foreigner, and the donation to UCLA that you might obtain--do not expect it to be easy--will be spent in your country. Those circumstances make it acceptable." These and similar comments somewhat dispelled my doubts about actually meeting the Kaicho.

A crack-of-dawn telephone call from Los Angeles on April 1st almost made me change my mind. Professor Yasuo Sakata (hereafter, Sakata-san), my long-time Japan Program associate and good friend, told me that another group at UCLA was in the process of submitting an application to the Shinkokai. Few details were available other than its focus on kidney disease research. Nonetheless, the Chancellor's Office had decided that I should mention both UCLA applications during my audience with the Kaicho the following day. My sense of dismay is still palpable some thirteen years later, but there was no time to argue with a specific order or to ignore it, despite my knowledge that mentioning both projects would damage both.

Masuko-san of the UCLA Liaison Office and the journalist go-between accompanied me. As fate would have it, the three of us and the Kaicho arrived simultaneously at the office where the meeting was to occur. We rode up in the elevator together but studiously ignored each other: after all, we had not been formally introduced.

The Kaicho strode on, while the three of us waited for a few moments before being ushered into the inner sanctum. Almost before the introductions had been completed (the Kaicho was always in a hurry) he began to question me about my involvement with Japan. It was obvious that someone had briefed him thoroughly and that he wanted to test my knowledge of Japanese. My responses elicited much longer comments by him about himself--including, to my surprise, reminiscences about his years in Sugamo Prison as a Class A War Criminal.

"I've long admired General MacArthur and all the good things he accomplished in and for Japan," he also said, astonishing me still further. (Only later did it become apparent that he had a set of well-worn sentences for use when meeting an American.) All too little time was available for me to mention the two UCLA applications for funding. He was impatient, wanted to hear no details and barely glanced at the ISC materials (all in English; a big mistake). Others could handle that. Instead, or so it seemed to me, his sole purpose was to size me up and to determine whether he and I had anything in common and could, perhaps, become better acquainted.

The Kaicho left after less than an hour. Mr. Tsubouchi, Managing Director of a large construction company in whose office the meeting had occurred, and Masuko-san commented favorably on my performance. Only the journalist was profoundly upset. He had set up the extremely difficult-to-obtain appointment on the understanding that UCLA wanted to submit one application (for the ISC), and one application only. For me to have so much as mentioned the kidney disease application--most especially since I had absolutely no details--was a major error. "You cannot run after two rabbits at the same time," he told me.

On the other hand, Mr. Tsubouchi invited Masuko-san and me to return late in the afternoon, ostensibly to receive some memorabilia from the Kaicho. When we did so, we were introduced to Mr. Mori, a prominent architect, and the four of us enjoyed a sumptuous feast at our host's invitation. Masuko-san later speculated that UCLA should be prepared to consider hiring Mr. Mori as the architect for the planned ISC building as a requirement for receiving the hoped-for Shinkokai donation. Although he did not mention that we might also be required to use Mr. Tsubouchi's construction company, he cautioned us to be on the alert for conditions that might be attached to the Kaicho's posssible grant.

Still later that night, Sakata-san telephoned me from Los Angeles with newly available details about the kidney disease application. I transmitted them via telephone to Mr. Tsubouchi, who mentioned that he might be able to visit UCLA in the near future. He also reported that the Kaicho was very pleased to have met me. We exchanged warm farewells with the expectation of seeing each other in Los Angeles.

PHASE 2: Shortly after returning to UCLA, it gradually--as in molto adagio--dawned on me that my role in this fund-raising enterprise had ended. A particular source of funding had been explored, according to instructions. Moreover, an on-campus telephone call made it clear that the sooner I made my exit, the better. Dr. Bricker, the UCLA Medical School's leader of the kidney disease project, told me that he and his colleagues wanted me to stop my interference at once. His project antedated the ISC effort and had been cleared with the campus Development Office; he had the support of then-mayor Tom Bradley, whom he described as a 'close friend' of the Kaicho; his project had higher priority, it being academic, whereas the ISC's was not; and if the ISC project was not withdrawn he would personally appeal to Chancellor Young and submit his resignation. I got the point.

I made my oral and written reports to Professor James S. Coleman, Chairman of the Council of International and Comparative Studies, of which the Japan Program was a component, and to Vice Chancellor for Institutional Relations Elwin Svenson, who was a member of the ISC committee and my link to the Chancellor's office. Svenson had also served as chairman of the Japan Liaison Committee and was well aware of the damage that could be wrought by multiple applications to the same funding source. My stated wish to withdraw from further involvement was not granted, however. Instead, I was persuaded that only I had the necessary experience and knowledge to help straighten out the mess.

Thus it came to pass that Sakata-san and I found ourselves at Los Angeles International Airport a couple of weeks later to meet two of the Kaicho's representatives--a Mr. Kashima and a Mr. Shigemoto, who were replacing Mr. Tsubouchi, whose high blood pressure had forced him to cancel his trip.

Our Japanese visitors' first appointment was at the UCLA Medical School, where an impressive group had been assembled. It included the Associate Dean, Dr. Bricker, and his Japanese colleague Dr. Kurokawa, who ably performed some of the interpreting chores that I could not have handled, even in English. Most of the discussion, however, involved questions of strategy with the Shinkokai, rather than the substance of the kidney disease project. Our visitors re-emphasized the importance of submitting a Japanese translation of all written materials and suggested that Dr. Bricker should visit the Shinkokai on his way to or from China later that spring. After the meeting, the visitors received a guided tour of the Medical School's major--and impressive--facilities.

Mr. Kashima's and Mr. Shigemoto's second meeting was in Vice Chancellor Svenson's office. International Student Affairs Dean Epstein, who would be the direct beneficiary of the ISC building project, joined the gathering. Our visitors' major concerns revolved around UCLA's priorities. The Vice Chancellor explained the University's many missions, and that both ISC and the kidney disease projects were of equal importance. Moreover, UCLA was eager to receive Mr. Sasakawa's advice about the relative merits of both projects because of his broad spectrum of experience. Mr. Sasakawa and Mr. Tsubouchi would be warmly welcomed, they were told, whenever a visit to UCLA could be fitted into their busy schedules.

Both meetings, while full of mutual good will, were inconclusive. UCLA's contending forces--each with its own application for funding--remained locked in competition with each other. It was obvious to everyone, including the Japanese visitors, that the Kaicho would have to make the fateful choice.

A scant couple of weeks later, in early May, Masuko-san of the Tokyo Liaison Office, telephoned. Mr. Kashima and Mr. Shigemoto had made their report at a meeting in Tokyo. Mr. Tsubouchi, as the Kaicho's surrogate, had chaired the gathering, which also included one Alan Rious--an American, later identified as an "interpreter" on the Shinkokai's staff. The by now well-worn litany concerning UCLA's need to choose between the two projects and to translate all materials into Japanese was reiterated.

Certain rumors had also been discussed in Tokyo: UCLA had submitted a separate application to the U.S.-Japan Foundation (also funded by the Kaicho) in New York, which had rejected it; Drs. Bricker and Kurokawa, as well as Vice Chancellor Svenson would be coming to Tokyo; the Kaicho had not been favorably impressed by either the ISC or the kidney disease projects but would be willing to come to UCLA if presented with an honorary doctorate and if the Chancellor would write him a personal letter of invitation, to be hand-delivered by 'Hans.' These rumors had placed Masuko-san in an untenable position because of a lack of information from UCLA. What multiple lines of communication existed between UCLA and Tokyo? Masuko-san reiterated the foregoing in a long telex message that Sakata-san translated into English.

PHASE 3: After numerous meetings at UCLA concerning the existing fund-raising applications to the Shinkokai, Vice Chancellor Svenson asked me to prepare still a third, "umbrella" proposal. I reluctantly agreed and decided to emphasize Japanese Studies, but also to include the two prior contending applications, and to incorporate all past as well as on-going campus interactions with Japan. All would be eligible to receive financial support from the "Sasakawa Fund" that would be endowed by the Kaicho and the Sempaku Shinkokai. Above all else, my draft proposal sought to be all-encompassing, so as to overcome UCLA's submission of competing applications, and was to be signed by the Chancellor. Amazingly, it was approved in only two or three days, and Sakata-san translated both the new "umbrella" proposal and covering letter into elegant Japanese, written in his beautifully-rendered calligraphy (our word-processor as yet being limited to the Roman alphabet). UCLA's Publication Service printed the English originals and Japanese translations on parchment paper and prepared subdued, very shibui, folders; packaging was important! By this time I had completely succumbed to the siren song of panning for gold--albeit not among the Rhine maidens.

Vice Chancellor Svenson and I met in Tokyo in early June in order to transmit several copies of this new proposal and accompanying letter signed by Chancellor Young to the Kaicho at his Memorial Hall. A pleasant lunch with the Kaicho (the formality, or tatemae) was followed by a brass tacks (honne) meeting with three of his associates: Shinkokai Directors Mr. Usuki and Dr. Hinohara, and the mysterious "interpreter" Alan Rious. Over and over, our interrogators asked why UCLA had originally submitted two proposals--and now a third one. Who made decisions and what institutional arrangements governed the campus? Some of the Japanese language was crude and rude. Mr. Tsubouchi, who had not attended, later told me that the Shinkokai was pleased to have received the new proposal. Well, maybe. If UCLA's decision-making was not exactly transparent, the Shinkokai's was proving to be even more opaque and unpredictable.

PHASE 4: I arrived in Tokyo to begin my four months of sabbatical leave, under auspices of the Japan Foundation, on September 3, 1982. Masuko-san had arranged for me to meet the Kaicho and Mr. Tsubouchi at 8 a.m. on the following day in order to inform them that I would be in Tokyo until the year's end. The Kaicho mentioned his pleasure at having seen the UCLA campus in July (a brief walking tour and an even shorter courtesy call on the Executive Vice Chancellor, the only senior administrator who was not on vacation). Mr. Tsubouchi predicted that the Shinkokai would make its decision on UCLA's new "umbrella" application by the middle of October, a comment that turned out to be more reflective of his optimism than his intimate knowledge of the Shinkokai's cumbersome decision-making machinery.

As the weeks passed, Masuko-san arranged for me to meet a variety of individuals who wanted to look me over, or to provide their own analysis of what--if anything--might be happening inside the Shinkokai. These interlocutors ranged across a fairly wide spectrum, from a professor of Japanese history at a provincial university to a Transportation Ministry official. I also periodically met with the journalist go-between and Mr. Tsubouchi, as well as with his presumed surrogate, Mr. Shigemoto. Most of these meetings took place over lunch and were thus preliminary. Not until we met again in the evening, after working hours, could some semblance of mutual trust be established.

On one occasion, I visited--by invitation--the Shinkokai's office near Toranomon. It consisted of a large room that spanned the building's entire floor, with many desks, all of them laden with large piles of paper. The "international division," which had responsibility for foreign applications, occupied four or five desks at one end. It came as no surprise, therefore, when I later learned that the "umbrella" application had been misplaced, or had ended up on the bottom of one of the many piles of paper that I saw. Whatever the case, the ostensible vetting process had been stymied for weeks, if not months. Only the insistent intervention of some of my gradually expanding network of friends resulted in the application's miraculous resurfacing.

The Kaicho's repeated personal statements of his interest in UCLA and friendship for me obviously were not shared by the Shinkokai's bureaucrats. It was not at all unusual (I learned) for the Kaicho, in handling the many supplicants who sought his financial support, to make grandiose promises that his staff would subsequently lose or shred. Often, obscure regulations or rules--possibly imposed by the Ministry of Transportation, which intermittently asserted its control over the Shinkokai's proposed disbursements--would be cited. One chilling example was Mr. Tsubouchi's crestfallen admission, late in my stay, that the Shinkokai was prohibited from making donations to universities! However, exceptions were always possible, although he could not specify circumstances or who (the Kaicho?) had the authority to decide. The whole experience was akin to walking on large bags of marshmallows or tubs of tofu, with no solid ground in sight.

Although I was busy with my own research, my ambivalence toward UCLA's "umbrella" application and the Shinkokai grew almost daily. News from UCLA was also distressing. The business executive who chaired the ISC group wrote a letter to the Chancellor demanding that 40% of the presumably pending Shinkokai donation should be earmarked for the International Center's new building. In a similar vein, UCLA's Medical School Dean wrote a letter to the Chancellor detailing his own information from Tokyo: that the "umbrella" application would be turned down but that Mr. Sasakawa might very well contribute "up to 15 million dollars" [!!!] to the kidney disease research program. To the best of my knowledge, Chancellor Young never responded, at least in writing, to either communication.

Far worse, however, was what happened during the Kaicho's second visit to UCLA at the end of October, 1982, while I was still in Tokyo. He was accompanied by Mr. Tsubouchi, "the interpreter" Rious, and two other Shinkokai staffers. Rious took it upon himself to inform Vice Chancellor Svenson and Sakata-san, during a private meeting, that both the "umbrella" and kidney disease applications would be axed because they remained in competition with each other. Papers were being shuffled back and forth [and being lost?]. Both projects had their supporters in and outside the Shinkokai, and the Kaicho was unwilling to make a choice between them. In their stead, UCLA should consider establishing a large-scale academic extension program--or even a separate campus--in Tokyo. He added that the Kaicho would be excited by such a project and would underwrite it privately--i.e., not through the Shinkokai.

Rious, upon his return to Tokyo a few days later, informed me of the foregoing, and that the vice chancellor, after some initial reservations, had evinced "serious interest" in exploring the new, fourth alternative--namely, a "UCLA-in-Tokyo" campus. If so, I said, it would be without my participation. In parting, not entirely amiably, Rious suggested that I should think about it and "discuss it with Svenson." This I did during the course of a long telephone call initiated by the vice chancellor. He added a few details and suggested that some of the proceeds from "UCLA-in-Tokyo" would accrue to the Japan Program of which I was still the director. After repeatedly expressing my strong reservations--I thought it was a pipe dream and a transparently diversionary tactic by Rious--I reiterated my complete lack of willingness to cooperate.

Mr. Tsubouchi invited me, on the following day, to meet with him and the Kaicho to review their visit to UCLA. The Kaicho was ebullient about his reception on campus. It had included a practice session of the basketball team--a rare honor. He then quickly switched to a long lecture about Japanese domestic politics and his high expectations for soon-to-be Prime Minister Nakasone. Then he hurried away, in high good spirits.

Mr. Tsubouchi re-emphasized the visit's success. A dinner hosted by Los Angeles Consul General Tanaka had been particularly significant because discussion had centered around the interrelated importance of California, Los Angeles, and UCLA, and--within that context--the campus's Japan Program. It was, therefore, essential for the two of us to build on the Kaicho's "positive attitude" in order to have the Shinkokai approve funding for the Japan Program's "umbrella" application. Tsubouchi was, however, strongly displeased by the long conversation between the vice chancellor and Rious, whose motives were highly suspect. We agreed to rely on each other as the only reliable channel of communication.

About a month later (December 11), Vice Chancellor Svenson arrived at Narita Airport, in transit from Beijing to Pusan. Masuko-san and I met him, in accordance with his instructions. After reviewing developments since the Kaicho's visit to Los Angeles (none, to speak of), the vice chancellor gave me my marching orders: I must obtain some kind of official written response from the Shinkokai, and I must obtain some promised copies of photos that the Kaicho's photographer had taken at the basketball practice. We agreed that I should be tougher and more insistent. "You have nothing to lose, Hans," was the vice chancellor's avuncular advice.

Inasmuch as my departure from Japan was approaching, I began to arrange my farewells. Mr. Hajime Morita, a member of the House of Representatives and son-in-law of the late Prime Minister Ohira, invited newly-appointed Los Angeles Consul General Matsuda and me for lunch. Afterwards, the Consul General and I had time for a long chat. I poured out my tribulations with the Shinkokai and UCLA to him, having learned that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had some--maybe considerable--influence over the Kaicho's foreign donations. Mr. Matsuda promised to look into the matter, prior to his new posting, and to help me. His intervention, in all likelihood, was the crucial turning point.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tsubouchi had arranged for Masuko-san and me to make one final appeal to the Shinkokai. Per my orders, I talked tough and impolitely demanded some kind of written response to the "umbrella" application as well as copies of the precious basketball pictures. To my surprise, my interlocutor--Mr. Takeju Ogata, Deputy Director of the Shinkokai's International Division--was apologetic. "Regulations prohibit donations to universities and, anyway, the Shinkokai has no money," (presumably for the 1983-84 fiscal year).

On the last official work-day of 1982, I paid my respects to Mr. Tsubouchi and thanked him for all his help. I also went, for a few moments, to the Shinkokai. Mr. Ogata gave a letter from Director Usuki to Chancellor Young as well as large glossy copies of the basketball pictures. The letter was noncommittal, but it did not contain the feared "N" word. On the way out, I ran into Rious, who greeted me with a big smile. "I didn't think you could do it," was his parting shot. I left for Los Angeles as 1983 began.

Almost exactly a year later, in mid-January 1984, word reached me that the Shinkokai would be making a $1 million donation to UCLA to fund the "umbrella" application and to support Japanese Studies and Japan-related programs. The Kaicho, later that spring, came for another campus visit bearing an outsized replica of the check that had been transmitted. He gave a lecture to my class, mostly about his decision--while in Sugamo Prison--to dedicate himself to the promotion of world peace and democracy. Vice Chancellor Svenson presided over a lunch in the Faculty Center, officially thanked the Kaicho on behalf of UCLA, and presented him with a scroll inscribed in elegant calligraphy.

POSTSCRIPT: UCLA established the $1 million "Sasakawa Fund" as an endowment, thus insuring that only accrued interest would be utilized in funding three broad categories of financial support: 1) dissertations in Japanese studies; 2) faculty research grants in Japanese studies; and 3) interactive research programs, mostly outside the realm of traditional Japanese studies, between UCLA faculty members and their chosen Japanese collaborators, including attendance at bi-national conferences.

No one even remotely associated with the Shinkokai ever tried to influence UCLA's disbursements from the "Sasakawa Fund," which have been vetted by an academic advisory committee; and no conditions or strings were attached to the donation. Sakata-san prepared yearly reports of the Fund's expenditures for the Shinkokai's accountants. This information was not required, but was appreciated nonetheless, and heightened UCLA's standing inside the Shinkokai.

UCLA never accepted the Japanese "finder's fee" concept. None of the numerous intermediaries between UCLA and the Shinkokai ever received any compensation. As a public institution, UCLA had its rules and regulations, and no exceptions were possible. Nonetheless, strenuous efforts were made to inform everyone involved in the effort of UCLA's (and my) undying gratitude. Only one participant--the journalist who made the original appointment with Mr. Tsubouchi and the Kaichowas not mollified. He and I had some unpleasant encounters.

UCLA also had a regulation specifying that 5% of any donation to the University had to be made into the Chancellor's discretionary fund that supported "development" costs. Its imposition delayed the implementation of the Sasakawa Fund coming into operation by the period required for the necessary interest to accrue.

There was some grumbling on campus about the source of the Sasakawa Fund. Most of it was the result of stories in the print media or of television programs detailing one or another aspect of the Kaicho's colorful and dubious past and present. Only one faculty member, whose research interests marginally involved Japan, expressed his negative feelings in a specific fashion. He let it be known that he would never serve on any committee of which I was also a member. As they say in Japan, Shikata ga nai.

HANS H. BAERWALD was born in Tokyo and grew up there through the end of junior high school. He served in the Allied Occupation of Japan, and after obtaining his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley, was a professor of political science at UCLA from 1962 until 1991. He is the author of Party Politics in Japan (Allen & Unwin, 1986) and many other books and articles, particularly about Japanese parliamentary politics. He currently lives on a ranch on the outskirts of the Napa Valley in northern California, where he promotes the growth of oak trees and grows a few vines of mostly table grapes. He is a member of the JPRI Board of Advisers.

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