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SHINYO Takahiro, Vice President, Kwansei Gakuin University; GM, International Strategy Office, KG; former Japanese Ambassador to Germany

Born in Kagawa Prefecture in 1950, Dr. Shinyo graduated from the School of Law, Osaka University, in 1972. Following graduation, he joined the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His first post overseas was at the Embassy of Japan in Germany, where he advanced to Deputy Director-General of the European Affairs Bureau and Manager of the International Cooperation Department. In 2006, he became a member of the permanent mission of Japan to the United Nations. Then, from 2008 to February 2012, he served as the Japanese Ambassador to Germany.
Since April 2012, he has served as a Vice President at Kwansei Gakuin University, the general manager of the KG International Strategy Office, and a professor at KG.

Supported by many in his university days

Dr. Shinyo entered Osaka University during an era of great turbulence on Japanese university campuses. As was the case at many other universities, Osaka University was in a state of uproar making it impossible for classes to be held for almost a year. Due to this unusual situation, Shinyo joined the English Speaking Society (ESS) to practice discussion and debating in English.

Enrolled in one of Professor Tamito YOSHIDA's sociology classes, Shinyo developed a strong interest in interpersonal relationships and concepts of community such as gemeinschaft and gesellschaft. These interests led him to join Professor Yoshio KAWASHIMA's international law seminar. Professor Kawashima had a great sense of humor and had himself been a member of ESS. The depth and breadth of Professor Kawashima's knowledge of foreign languages and culture made a lasting impression on Shinyo.

Indirectly, membership in ESS played a role in Shinyo's eventual landing of a job in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That is, one of the ESS members, YABUNAKA Mitoji (former Deputy Secretary, MOFA), two years his senior, passed the specialist employment exam at the ministry in Shinyo's third year and later the advanced level exam as well. Inspired by his upperclassman's achievement, Shinyo decided to take the same exams himself.

Nonetheless, with the job market expanding, Shinyo spread his net wide participated in job interviews at banks. One day at one such interview, he confessed that he was trying for a position with MOFA. Surprisingly, the interviewer smiled warmly, saying, "That's really difficult, but give it your best shot. Should you fail the exam, we would be prepared to give you some sort of position." Thanks to such encouragement, support from Professor Kawashima and many others, Shinyo persevered in pursuing his dream, eventually succeeding.

Tension in Europe during the Cold War era

ns58_ob02_02.jpgIn 1973, a year after joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and going overseas for the first time in his life, Shinyo was given the chance to study at the School of Law, the University of Göttingen (in Germany) at government expense. It was in the middle of the Cold War and Europe was divided in two. In fact, when he had flown to Germany, his plane from Japan had been routed over the North Pole, refueling in Alaska, because flying over the Soviet Union was impossible.

The University of Göttingen was not far from East Germany. The border between East and West Germany was marked with a wall of barbed wire and was strewn with land mines. He strongly felt the severity of living in a divided nation.

"I did my best to develop friendships with local citizens. Although I couldn't speak German correctly or well, I did what I could and did my best to be sincere. I deeply wanted to be a diplomat able to help others." Dr. Shinyo has continued to walk this path to this day.

In 1975, he began working at the embassy in Switzerland. In Switzerland information from both the East and the West was available and spies were active behind the scenes due to Switzerland's neutrality in the Cold War. Dr. Shinyo still remembers CSCE, a time of respite and relief from this constant Cold War tension, when the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) was held in Helsinki, Finland. Leaders of both the East and the West participated in the conference and adopted the Helsinki Accords, promoting economic cooperation and humanitarian exchange based on sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty, and the inviolability of frontiers. Moreover, they pledged to refrain from threats or the use of force. Fourteen years later, the Cold War era ended.

"As for the current international conflicts, we can learn many things from the history of Europe. For example, the current situation in East Asia is similar to the situation during the Cold War era. Despite the current conflicts and tension, we must not stop political, economic, and cultural exchange. Above all, we must never use force. I believe this is fundamental if we are to have peace."

A sense of mission to work for the world

ns58_ob02_03.jpgWhen he worked for the government office in Kasumigaseki around 1992, he was responsible for drafting the legal framework for participation in PKO, peace-keeping operations. The work was extremely demanding. He frequently prepared for Diet deliberations until 3 a.m. and the next morning he would go to the Diet in order to support ministers and bureau chiefs in the sessions. "I followed that through because I believed such work was best for Japan, the U.N., and the world."

During that time, many things happened. In 1993, NAKATA Atsuhito, a volunteer in The United Nations Transitional Authority for Cambodia (UNTAC) was killed in the line of duty while serving in Cambodia. UNTAC supported the country's first national elections. Mr. Nakata was a graduate of the School of Law, Osaka University, and had been in Professor Kawashima's class. Mr. Shinyo talked with Atsuhito's father and, in 1994, the NAKATA Atsuhito Commemorative Library housing about 450 books about peacekeeping and economic cooperation was established in Osaka University's Main Library. Currently about 700 books are available for students studying international cooperation and volunteering.

Go forward with confidence and pride

Dr. Shinyo taught at Osaka University from 1993 to 1996. Looking back on those years, he said, "There were many active students. In the aftermath of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, some students set up a relief support team. Looking at them, I found myself thinking, 'International contribution starts with service to people in one's immediate surroundings.'"

Currently, working at Kwansei Gakuin University, he often encourages students to have a "good" double standard -- to be friendly with others but not blindly follow the crowd. Do what is required at times, but decide for yourself at other times. "I hope students recognize their strong points. Effort will be rewarded and this will build confidence and pride. Current students have experienced only the era of low economic growth. That is one reason in particular why I want them to have pride in Japan."

Dr. Shinyo continues as an educator and citizen of the world.

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