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Special Issue

Interview: Tadao Ando of Momo Kaki Orphans fund

Have a “human quality” to create one’s own path for the future, in any circumstances…
Tadao Ando
Born in Osaka, Japan.
A self-taught architect, established his own studio Tadao Ando Architect & Associates in 1969.
His major works include Church of Light, Chichu Art Museum, Omote Sando Hills etc.
He also has received numerous awards such as Architectural Institute of Japan Annual Prize, Alvar Aalto Medal, Pritzker Architecture Prize, UIA Gold Medal and many others.
In 2005, he received Legion of Honour (Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur) from France and Order of Culture from Japan.
Emeritus Professor at University of Tokyo.
Publication includes “Successive Defeats,” “an Architect, Tadao Ando,” and “Tadao Ando _ Creating jobs,” etc.
Ability to Survive on the International Stage 

The main theme in education circle of Japan is how to grow a talent of which would be possible to do well in international stage. How does Tadao Ando, an architect well know world-wide, think about the education of children who will be carrying on the next generation.
We asked what kinds of abilities are essential to flourish in the international stages.

“Japan is a country with very limited natural resources, energy, or food. The only resource would be us humans. The city of Edo held very high cultural standard where most of the peasants were able to read and write. Many skilled intelligent people came out of Meiji Restoration time because all 300 clans in Japan had their own original distinctive education to their people.”

Mr. Tadao Ando, who became a world known architect with his own creative style, criticize the Japanese uniformed education which would not allow kids who are talented to skip further.

“The changes these days are very large, and nothing can be predicted in the world today, and there are no good models to be aimed. The big subject is how to educate human resources with responsibility and independency to create their own path in any circumstances. In this kind of time and ages, the education where packing in and memorizing things just for the exams are meaningless.”

And how does Mr. Ando, who works with overseas clients and construction companies, think that the talent and ability needed to do well in today’s society globally.

“In overseas, your Japanese education background or career background is almost meaningless. The communication skill, of course, is very important but if they truly have a talent, a job will come to them even if the language communication skill may be somewhat inferior. The most important thing is human quality which contains the spirit to challenge unknown, creative mind to produce new value in the world you never knew.”

Mr. Ando’s actual debut project, “Row House in Sumiyoshi,” was not the most comfortable house with the unprecedented structure where you have to go outside to go from one room to another. The house portrays Mr. Ando’s life philosophy which states that “for a human being to live is essentially not easy.”

“The happiness of life is found when overcoming the obstacles. The creativity will be exerted for the first time under the tense restricted condition. Our life today became very comfortable and convenient, children have no place to demonstrate or even grow their competitive spirit and creativity. Children must play more in the nature, and experience having arguments with friends etc. And the young people should actively go out to see the foreign countries more. If they go to the other countries, they will notice how complacent they were living in Japan. It is important to smell the air of those places you visit and feel it with all your senses rather than just looking it up on the internet in a few seconds.

Mr. Ando, from his own experience, says it is very good to traveling world alone to build one’s sensibility.

“In my twenties, I traveled Europe alone and saw many architectures starting from Parthenon in Greece, and this experience became my fundamentals as an architect. On my way back, I crossed from Africa to India by ship, and when I saw 360 degrees wide of stars on the sea, it made me realized that the world is all connected and there is only one earth. From then on, the way I see things have gotten broader.”

Today, this experience made Mr. Ando to work beyond border and also be active in projects which goes beyond as an architect such as regenerating of nature, education aid to the children of North East coast Japan.

Have a pride and recapitulate the Japanese virtue for challenging the world for the bigger stage 

While the globalization progresses, a competitiveness and international status of Japan keeps on falling. The inward oriented young people of today are a big concern as well. How would today’s Japan look from world-renown architect like Mr. Tadao Ando. We asked his thoughts on how Japan should face the world from now on for the future.

“Asia countries now are developing with incredible speed, but Japan is totally left behind from that movement. Why did Japan be stagnated this badly? Even the Chinese and Indian people are bit worried about it. If the tendency to go introverted for young people continues, this country will surely sink to the bottom.”

Mr. Ando, now engaged with over 20 projects in China, feels strongly that way every time he engage with spirited Asian people of different country.

“They say very clearly about things they think is right, and they make fast decision and move fast. When they visited to my office for observation, all their eyes look avariciously trying to absorb something. Unfortunately, I cannot feel the same kind of enthusiasm and spirit or the vibe from young Japanese. It is just impossible for those Japanese to compete with all the spirited Asian people.”

With the future of Japan in mind, for those young introverted Japanese, Mr. Ando sends his young new employees to the oversea business trips as much as he can.

“The oversea jobs do not go smoothly if they do as they always do in Japan, because the culture, lifestyle, laws, and the craftsmen’s and workers characters are all different. In the foreign country with environment where most of the things do not go as you would like it to be, being wildered, finding the solution somehow in their own way will make young people grow tremendously.”

If you look back at the history, Japanese people were not always this introverted.

“Japan overcame the major reconstruction of “Meiji Restoration” and “world war II,” which can be considered as miracles, twice. The leader for Meiji Restoration, Shouin Yoshida, wanted to see the world so he risked his life to secretly planed to go overseas, and Yukichi Fukazawa and his group studied western literatures without any sleep. After WWII, Soichiro Honda and Akio Morita established world renown Honda and Sony. For Japan in the future, we must raise people with ambition who can think and move in international scale.”

Shanghai Poly Theater designed by Tadao Ando

Mr. Ando thinks after the disaster in North-East coast of Japan, this country needs another miracle again for the 3rd time. In order to have this desperately needed miracle, how should Japan face the world for the future?

“chasing the western culture and became economically wealthy, but this country and people sat aside the very important factor of our lives, such as nature, local community, and family. Now is the time we all should look back and reconsider our virtue as Japanese which we fostered through beautiful nature in four seasons, sophisticated senses, warm compassion, and perseverance. Have a pride in own country, and go jump into the international stage. It is also important to have the perspective to contribute to the world as a member of Asian. If we introduce our superior technologies on energy saving, and recycling, we are still capable of taking leadership in this world.”

The tools to compete and contribute to the world are in your hands

MOMO-KAKI ORPHANS FUND - Great East Japan Earthquake

Ando himself and many other special people created this foundation to support education for children who have lost their parents in the Great Eastern Earthquake. Its aim is to collect 3.8bilion yen in donations in 10years through continuing support from annual donation of 10,000yen or more in increment of 10,000yen, from each groups and individual donors.The founding member includes conductor, Seiji Ozawa, Novel Prize winner Masatoshi Koshiba, also Ryoji Noyori, and the chairman of Fast Retailing (UniQlo), Tadashi Yanai.

For Details : momokaki.org