Why is someone like me, who has been in the investment business for the last twenty years, now setting up an international school? It is because through the experience of investing in businesses in Japan and throughout Asia, I realized that what matters the most at the end of the day is responsible leadership. What the world needs most is ambitious and competent leaders who can be catalysts for economic growth and political progress. I became convinced that our best hope for the emergence of this type of leader lies in providing young people with a challenging academic and experience-based education that will teach them about the world and what they can do to improve it. This conviction grew so strong that I could no longer ignore or resist it.
In Asia, there are many youngsters who have ambition and talent but who do not have the financial means to receive an education. As these youth have struggled with difficult circumstances, they have developed determination and resilience. Given the chance, they will be able to maximize and realize their potential and become society’s leaders.
Heang Chhor, for example, who is one of our advisors, went through enormous hardships during his childhood, despite having been born into a wealthy family. Because of a political revolution in Cambodia, he spent his childhood in hiding. He then escaped to France, where, as a refugee, his food, clothing, and other items were given to him by charity organizations. Food and clothing, of course, were necessities, but he remembers feeling most thankful for books. He went on to attend a university in France and to become the President of McKinsey Japan. Now, despite a busy schedule that affords him only four hours of sleep a night, he makes time for an annual visit to Cambodia to provide job training to the under-privileged.
The story of Mr. Chhor gives me hope that International School of Asia, Karuizawa will be able to benefit many young adults through education. If students from elsewhere in Asia are able to come to Japan through scholarships, they will be able to immerse themselves in and take great pleasure in education. I hope that they will eventually cultivate a sense of mission for the development of Asia, and develop strong connections with their counterparts from Japan and other countries in the region. One day when they have gone back to their home countries, they will become bridges between Japan and their countries.
Likewise, youth from Japan will benefit tremendously by living together with students from all over Asia. They will be stimulated and inspired in ways that they could not be in an ordinary Japanese school. They will develop the ability to approach issues from a global perspective, and cultivate the skills needed to succeed in any environment. Given the world’s growing economic inter-dependency, these experiences are likely to be strong assets for Japan’s next generation of leaders.
Having said all this, the success of the ISAK project depends on its leaders. When I met Lin Kobayashi, I was deeply moved and inspired by her strong sense of mission and her aspirations, not to mention her impressive track record. As we talked and shared our dreams and passions for education, I grew determined to start our dream school project with her. I truly believe that she is the person who can build a flagship school in Asia like no other.
About Mamoru Taniya
Mamoru Taniya is Chairman of Asuka Holdings Inc. He joined Salomon Brothers in 1987, where he became the youngest Managing Director responsible for the regional trading division for Asia. He founded Asuka Asset Management, which was one of the first independent hedge funds in Japan at that time. In addition, he founded the private equity fund Mercuria with DBJ. He also serves as Investment Committee member of East Ventures, Partner at D4V with IDEO, and Partner at Evolution in the U.S.
He is recognized as a pioneering angel investor in Japan, with direct involvement in the launch of the first online insurance company Lifenet Insurance, a robo-advisory company Money Design Inc., among others. He also serves as Chairman of Campfire, R.project, Studio yoggy, Campus for H Inc. and Discover Japan, Vice Chair Person of HRW Japan, Director of Asia Pacific Initiative, and a board member of Endeavor Japan.
He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in law from the University of Tokyo in 1987.