Tadashi Yanai, CEO of the Japanese retail holding company Fast Retailing and its main subsidiary Uniqlo, recently made a $25 million donation to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The announcement marked the largest individual donation in the history of the university’s Humanities department.
The funds will go towards cementing the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities, a program meant to strengthen UCLA’s study of Japanese literature, language, and culture. Yanai, who is the richest man in Japan with a net worth of $28 billion, first endowed the initiative with a $2.4 million donation in 2014. Since then, it has served as a basis of collaboration between UCLA and Yanai’s alma mater, Waseda University in Tokyo, to enable programs like student and faculty exchanges between the schools.
The recent gift was facilitated through a designated donations program by the Japan Foundation, an institution established in 1972 by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cultivate friendship and ties between Japan and the world. The size of the donation paves the way for new improvements such as funding an endowed chair in Japanese literature, conferences, graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, and much more. Yanai hopes that the gift will, “..give others a chance to remember how crucial the humanities are, and, in their own way, to recommit.”
Yanai’s donation also illustrates a larger pattern of financial and cultural investment from Japan going into the state of California. With 98 sister-city relationships with Japanese cities, 4,700 Japanese International Students, and over $194 million in Japanese student spending, Japan continues to be an essential partner in California culture and education.
Tenzin Chomphel is a participant in the East-West Center Washington’s Young Professionals Program. He is also a graduate student studying international economics at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, specializing in the China-Pacific region.