Salzburg Global Pays Tribute to Mikio Kato

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Aug 26, 2020
by Salzburg Global Seminar
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Salzburg Global Pays Tribute to Mikio Kato

Friend, Senior Fellow, and former Board Member passed away on July 24, 2020 In Memoriam - Mikio Kato

Salzburg Global Seminar pays tribute to Senior Fellow and former Board Member Mikio Kato who died last month.

Mr. Kato died at age 84 after working for more than half a century at the International House of Japan (I-House). He helped shape an institution renowned for connecting Japan to global issues and ideas, and for promoting the peaceful rise of Japan as a leading nation after the Second World War. 

He joined the organization in 1959 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Waseda University’s Department of Political Science and Economics. He served in the program department before pursuing graduate studies in 1961 as a Fulbright exchange student at Brandeis University, USA.

During his time in the U.S., Kato received on-the-job training at the Japan Society of America in New York City. In 1964, he returned to his former post at the International House of Japan and continued to develop and hone his skills. In 1972, Mr. Kato received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Wittenberg University (Ohio, USA), and in 1993, the Foreign Minister’s Distinguished Service Award for International Understanding (Japan). By this point, he had served as the I-House’s executive director and a trustee for nearly 15 years.

Salzburg Seminar was delighted to welcome Mr. Kato to its Board of Directors in July 1996 and benefitted from his skills and experience in shaping programs and nominating faculty and fellows to attend Salzburg Seminar programs. He was elected to a second four-year term in 2002. During his second board term, Mr. Kato received the Japan Foundation Special Prize for his “impressive achievement” and contributions “to cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and other countries.”

Mr. Kato worked closely as a friend and an official advisor to several non-profit institutions in Asia, Europe, and the United States. In addition to the Salzburg Seminar, he was a special advisor and executive director of the Aspen Institute Japan, plus a councilor and director of the English Language Education Council. He was a primary force behind the Salzburg Seminar’s initiatives in Asia.

In 2012, he authored a book titled, “The First Fifty-five Years of the International House of Japan: Genesis, Evolution, Challenges, and Renewal.” More recently, he published a book called “The Rockefellers and Japan.”

Stephen Salyer, president and chief executive officer of Salzburg Global Seminar, first met Mr. Kato in 1996 when he was working in American public broadcasting and visited Tokyo as a Japan Society US-Japan Leadership Fellow and stayed with his family at I-House. “Kato-san welcomed my family to Japan and to the rich programs offered at I-House," said Salyer. "More than any other individual, he built I-House into an institution respected in Japan and across the world.”

Through his two terms on Salzburg Seminar’s Board, Kato encouraged ties that endure to the present day. Salyer recalls fondly many years of cooperation between I-House and Salzburg Global Seminar. “When we joined with The Nippon Foundation in 2013 to celebrate 25 years of program cooperation, it was I-House we chose for our commemorative program. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Kato-san for laying the foundation for our strong, continuing relationship with Japanese people and institutions."