Kazuo Asakai '67 (right) receiving his
honorary degree, May 22, 2005.
Photo by Robert Tobey
2005 Honorary Degree Recipients
Kazuo Asakai ’67
Doctor of Laws
A 1967 graduate of Amherst College, Kazuo Asakai has confronted some of the most important and difficult problems of modern diplomacy during a long and distinguished career with the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
He served as lead negotiator in Japan’s difficult economic discussions with the United States during the Reagan Administration, and later served as his country’s top negotiator at the Uruguay Round of the GATT talks on multilateral trade. He has had a profound influence on human rights issues: As ambassador to Myanmar, he was instrumental in securing the release of democratic activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu-kyi after many years of confinement. But his greatest professional achievement may have been around environmental issues: Against great odds, he successfully led Japan’s efforts to conclude the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, a multilateral agreement on world climate change.
Since 2002, Asakai has served in Brussels as Japan’s ambassador to the European Union, leading his nation’s efforts to develop a broad, consistent strategy for managing relationships with what is perhaps its most important trade and investment partner. This important appointment reflects his country’s great confidence in his ability.
Asakai’s colleagues praise his gentle diplomacy and his patient but persistent style. Shinzo Abe, Secretary General of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, says, “His judgment is much respected, and his personality much loved.”
Asakai has also been an important link in the long chain that connects Amherst and Japan. A distinguished successor to Toshikaze Kase ’27, who in 1925 became the first Amherst man admitted to Japan’s Foreign Ministry, Asakai is a senior member among some 30 Amherst men and women now working in that office. He is also a proud Amherst parent; his daughter, Nobuko, graduated from Amherst in 2000.