Foundation Gives Japanese a Better Understanding of U.S. Philanthropy

The Times' Dec. 28 article, "Japanese Firms Learning the Art of Image Polishing," refers to the reaction to Hitachi Ltd.'s forming a foundation in 1985. The article presents one side of the story; there is another, and I wish to comment on it from the perspective of the Hitachi Foundation.

The foundation's board of directors is essentially American. Katsushige Mita, president and chairman of Hitachi Ltd., agreed to serve as honorary chairman, underscoring the importance Hitachi attaches to its foundation. American leaders in public service, business, education and the arts have joined Mita on the board. Hitachi Ltd. has not sought to influence foundation actions nor have its business concerns been taken into consideration in the awarding of grants.

In its first year, the foundation awarded 39 grants totaling $1.3 million. The serious and considered character of the foundation's program is demonstrated by several examples: a grant to MIT to train mid-career American engineers and scientists in technical Japanese to enable them to read Japanese technical literature; a grant to the Urban Institute to completely evaluate partnerships between businesses and schools to improve the quality of math and science teaching in elementary and secondary schools; a grant to California State University, Stanislaus, to introduce five non-traditional foreign languages in grades 7-12 in schools in six primarily rural California counties, and the establishment of the Hitachi Loan Fund for the provision of small loans to promising graduates, primarily the urban unemployed, of the San Francisco Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center.

The foundation is one of a handful of American foundations to establish a matching funds program, designed to involve Hitachi employees, Japanese and American, directly in making community project funding decisions. This program will enable greater Japanese understanding of American philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. As citizens of a changing world, we in the United States would do well to encourage the Japanese to become more responsive to the major social and educational concerns of our country. Funds for good causes are extremely limited and any new source should be welcomed.



Hitachi Foundation


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