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
forJapan 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 youngerJapanese 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
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.