On December 2nd, 2020, the Centre for the Study of Global Japan welcomed Michael J. Green (Senior Vice President for Asia and Japan Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies), Richard Samuels (Ford International Professor of Political Science, MIT), and Tadokoro Masayuki (Professor of International relations, Faculty of Law, Keio University), to discuss new directions in Japanese foreign policy. Deanna Horton (Senior Fellow, Munk School) moderated the event. The Japan NOW event honoured the legacy of Okamoto Yukio, a dear friend of our Centre. Okamoto was a leading thinker and practitioner of Japanese foreign policymaking, who tragically passed away in April 2020 due to complications arising from COVID-19.

The panel entitled “New Directions in Japanese Foreign Policy: A Memorial Event Honouring Okamoto Yukio,” examined Japan’s current place in Asia and the international order. Opening remarks were given by Phillip Lipscy (Director, Centre for the Study of Global Japan) and Sasayama Takuya (Consul-General of Japan in Toronto). The speakers presented on a wide range of Japanese foreign policy issues, including the challenges arising as Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide takes over leadership of the country, the impacts of unsettled trade wars initiated by the outgoing Trump administration, a more authoritarian and assertive China, and an emboldened North Korea capable of striking North America with nuclear weapons. They also discussed Japan’s partnership with Canada in defending the liberal international order and pushing forward with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) despite US withdrawal.

During their presentations, the speakers reflected on Okamoto’s legacy and shared thoughtful anecdotes on his impact on their lives and careers. The presentations concluded with a Q&A session followed by a lively debate on how Japan can build on its proactive diplomacy over the past decade in confronting current regional and global challenges. Daniel Sneider and Elisabeth Rubinfien were among the many audience members who knew Okamoto personally, and they shared their fond memories with the group.

The Centre would like to thank Michael J. Green, Richard Samuels, and Tadokoro Masayuki for delivering insightful presentations, Deanna Horton for moderating the discussion, and the Consulate-General of Japan in Toronto and the Toronto Star for their collaboration on this event. We would also like to thank the nearly one hundred audience members from all over the globe for their engaged participation in helping us to honour Okamoto Yukio’s legacy.

To watch the full presentation, click HERE

About Okamoto Yukio:
Okamoto Yukio, a former Special Advisor to two Prime Ministers of Japan, was the President of Okamoto Associates and a Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow at MIT. From 1968 to 1991, Mr. Okamoto was a career diplomat in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His overseas postings were in Paris, Cairo and Washington. He retired from the Ministry in 1991. Post-retirement, Mr. Okamoto served in a number of critical advisory positions. From 1996 to 1998, he was a Special Advisor to Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro. From 2001 to 2004, he was again a Special Advisor to Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro, also serving as the Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Foreign Relations. Mr. Okamoto was also a visiting professor of international relations at Ritsumeikan University and sat on the Board of several Japanese multinational companies. He was the Director of the Signal of Hope Fund, an initiative he established to assist the Tohoku fisheries industry recover from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Remembering Okamoto Yukio: