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Campus Now

New Year Issue (Jan. 2014)

Message to the second century

Utilizing the strengths of university to approach healthcare for the elderly through a diverse partnership

Taking a broad view of the world based on solid self-understanding.
That’s the first step in becoming a global professional.

Takehiro Kagawa
Director-General for Global Issues (Ambassador)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

In rapidly-changing international society, Kagawa has served as a foreign diplomat and been involved in issues such as humanitarian support and environmental problems. We spoke with Kagawa on the same day that he returned from COP19. He discussed the path that led to his international work, the feelings which supported him as he strove to form his ideal career, and his image of professionals required in the global age.

Far from an ideal student while studying at university

――What kind of life did you spend at university?

Originally, I had aspired to become a journalist. I selected Waseda University because I was attracted by the school’s spirit of “anti-elitist philosophy.” Upon entering the school, I certainly was surrounded by highly-motivated students who sought to find their own way in life without relying on instructors. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly an ideal student while studying at university! In fact, I hardly ever attended class. Instead, I spent my days reading voraciously at the library and stayed up all night arguing about philosophy with my friends.

Everyone was quite dubious when I disclosed my intention to enter the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. I was not surprised. After all, at first glance, the profession of a foreign diplomat who works for the government seems to be at exact opposite with my original aspiration of journalist. However, I was not interested in becoming a government worker; instead, I was strongly attracted to the profession of foreign diplomat. Actually, I had the opportunity to speak with a foreign diplomat and was very impressed with how he took action to solve problems based on lofty ideals such realizing world peace and eliminating hunger. I felt the desire to test myself in a global environment.

“Devoting my life to the Middle East”--A vow made in Arab lands

――After entering the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, you were placed in charge of the Middle East. Would you please discuss the events leading to your assignment, as well as your work afterwards?

Actually, after entering the ministry, I was suddenly asked to acquire proficiency in the Arabic language. It was a completely different language system from English which I had studied at university. Also, I was unfamiliar with the Middle East region. At first, I was unsure of how to proceed.

However, in 1982, two years after I entered the ministry, I was assigned to Egypt as an overseas training base. This was a turning point in my career. I stayed in the home of a local family, eating meals together with them. My language skills began to naturally improve and I gradually deepened my understanding of politics, economics, religion, culture and other aspects of Arab society. Also, during my summer vacation, I visited my host family’s distant Palestinian relative who lived near Jerusalem. At that time, Palestine was occupied by Israel and I witnessed a tense atmosphere immediately after conflict between the Israeli army and Palestinian citizens. I also received a heart-felt welcome from Palestinians despite their oppressed situation. I feel that it was a truly valuable experience while I was at the impressionable age of my early 20s.

It was around that time that I started to develop special feelings towards the Middle East. I had heart-felt communication with local people and witnessed conflicts which seemed to have no end. As a result of these experiences, I vowed to devote my life to the Middle East. That vow remains unchanged even in my current work of addressing climate change. I now teach class at the Waseda University School of Law and spend a large portion of class time on themes related to the Middle East. By providing students with correct knowledge and judgment criteria, I hope that they will be able to select appropriate information from vast internet sources and form their own opinions on regional issues which have a major influence on world peace and stability.

In Iraq, fulfilling a promise to a friend who passed away

――What event has left the greatest impression on you in your career thus far?

At a polling place, Kagawa speaks with members of the local election committee during the Afghanistan presidential election.

After the end of the Iraq War in 2003, I was appointed as Director of the Samawah Office which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan opened inside a base of the Japan Self Defense Force. My first step onto Iraqi soil left me deeply moved. At that time, I felt that I had finally fulfilled my promise to Katsuhiko Oku, who had been shot and killed in Iraq by an unidentified assailant sometime in 2003. Oku also graduated from the Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics. During our time at university, we were members of the same study session called the “Foreign Diplomacy Council.” At the same time that Oku was working in Iraq, I was stationed in Saudi Arabia, another country where terrorist activities were rampant. Oku put great effort into humanitarian activities in Iraq. The sight of his hard work was like a message to me—”You need to come to Iraq.”

While in Iraq, I supported reconstruction activities by the Japan Self Defense Force. I also planned and implemented humanitarian support in Iraq including medical treatment, education and infrastructure. Unlike the JICA or NGOs, it is rare for a foreign diplomat to have the opportunity to perform such “onsite activities.” I found my work to be truly enjoyable and fulfilling. I felt as if I was carrying on the work of Oku, who had already made great accomplishments in Iraq.

――What are you conscious of in your role of foreign diplomat?

Foreign diplomacy is a complicated interweaving of intentions from each country. Often, it is impossible to progress without making high-level political decisions. There are very few cases in which situations change dramatically due to the ability of an individual. Even so, trust among diplomats working on the front line is essential for matters to proceed.

Therefore, no matter how much experience I acquire, I never forget the importance of working to refine my human character. In particular, I concentrate on listening attentively to the other party and understanding their position. Furthermore, the first step in establishing good relationships is to make every effort to be of use to the other party, no matter how small the work may be. Neither of these concepts is anything special. However, I believe that taking a diligent attitude will cultivate trust and sometimes lead to great accomplishments.

Waseda’s rivals are Asian countries.
Becoming a university which exerts a unique presence

――From the perspective of cultivating global professionals, please discuss your expectations for Waseda University and its students.

Waseda University is a top Japanese university in terms of the number of foreign students accepted and Japanese students sent overseas every year. As such, Waseda is a leader in globalization of educational institutions. However, other Asian countries such as China and Singapore are recently attracting attention from throughout the world as destinations for foreign study. I hope that Waseda University will exert a unique presence in order to remain competitive with universities of other countries. For that purpose, Waseda should enhance programs and support systems related to foreign study.

I have many chances to interact with students when teaching classes. I am very impressed by how students actively travel overseas and build a network of friends on a global scale. Still, my ideal for students would be to have a clearer objective and specific purpose when experiencing the world. Experience overseas will enable students to understand themselves, something which will be a great asset to them in the future. It is essential for students to always consider their position as a global citizen, to make decisions and to take action based on their own judgment. This is the first step to becoming a global professional.

Takehiro Kagawa
Director-General for Global Issues (Ambassador)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

Born in 1957. Foreign diplomat. In 1981, graduated from the Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics and entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Served various positions in the Middle East including Manager of the Middle East Section No. 1, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Counselor of the Middle East & Africa Office. Also contributed to stability in war-torn regions, serving as Director of supervisory groups during elections of local assemblies in Iraq in 2009 and the Afghanistan presidential election/prefectural assembly election. Afterwards, served as Deputy Director-General of the Economic Affairs Bureau, becoming involved in economic negotiations such as FTA and TPP. Assumed his current position in 2013 and oversaw events such as the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP). From 2010, has taught the course International Organizational Law (Regional Organizations) as a part-time lecturer at the Waseda University School of Law.