japanese studies
The Japanese retail giant is funding several initiative to promote Japanese studies at UCLA. Source: Shutterstock

Founder and CEO of Japanese retail giant Uniqlo Tadash Yanai recently donated US$25 million to UCLA’s Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalising Japanese Humanities to further their efforts in promoting the study of Japanese literature, language and culture.

According to a statement by UCLA Newsroom, the gift is the largest donation ever received from an individual donor in the history of UCLA’s humanities division.

Funds will go towards establishing an endowed chair in Japanese literature and will be used for conferences, public lectures, faculty research, cultural performances, community outreach, fellowships and undergraduate awards.

Yanai, who is also the president of Uniqlo, said: “It has been inspiring to see all of the creative, innovative programming — both academic and cultural — that this project has realised over the past five years.

“Now that we are making it permanent, I’m excited to see how it will continue to transform the Japanese humanities in a global context. At the same time, I hope this gift will give others a chance to remember how crucial the humanities are, and, in their own way, to recommit.”

In 2014, the Yanai initiative was created via a collaboration between UCLA and Waseda University, one of Japan’s most prestigious universities, funded by a previous donation of US $2.5 million from Yanai. This latest donation will ensure the initiative can continue its efforts well into the future.

The programme supports academic and cultural programming and enables student and faculty exchanges between the two universities. Hosting these exchanges is the Department of Asian Languages & Cultures, which is part of the Humanities Division within UCLA College and directed by Professor Michael Emmerich.

Some examples of activities previously carried out under the Yanai initiative include a range of cultural programmes such as a five-day series of events featuring actor Nomura Mansaku, a designated “living national treasure” by the Japanese government, a retrospective of films by Palme d’Or recipient Hirokazu Kore-eda and a film screening of “The Art of the Benshi”.

UCLA chancellor Gene Block said: “Mr Yanai’s extraordinary gifts are a testament to UCLA’s longstanding commitment to educate global citizens who can thrive in careers – and cultures – anywhere in the world.”

Professor Michael Emmerich said: “We’ve been able to organise major cultural events across Los Angeles, drawing thousands of participants. I never imagined I would be able to say that all this was only the beginning. I can’t express how grateful we all are to Mr Yanai for his generosity, his incisive advice and his commitment.”

Tadashi Yanai is a self-made Japanese businessman and the founder of Fast Retailing, of which Uniqlo is a subsidiary. Last year, he was ranked by Forbes as the richest man in Japan, with an estimated net worth of US$24.9 billion.

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