OBITUARY | Yoshiyuki Kasai, key figure in engineering the future of Japanese railways

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Japan Racing Association

Yoshiyuki Kasai, Chairman Emeritus of JR Central Japan (JR Tokai), a leading figure in Japan’s railway industry, died of interstitial pneumonia on the morning of May 25, JR Tokai announced on May 27. He was 81 years old.

The Tokyo native was part of the “Trio of Reformers” who helped orchestrate the breakup and privatization of the loss-making Japan National Railways (JNR) in the late 1980s. model transportation system.

Its influence, however, goes far beyond the railways. A strong supporter of the Japan-US alliance, he valued collaborations with Japan’s international partners and invested time in nurturing future generations of leaders.

“Not only was President Kasai a leader in the field of high-speed rail engineering, but he was also a longtime supporter of the U.S.-Japan alliance,” the ambassador to the United States said. Rahm Emanuel in a statement after hearing Kasai’s testimony. death. He added, “His legacy will live on through the strength of the Alliance and our cooperation in rail technology.”

Yoshiyuki Kasai, second from right, showing Japan’s bullet train.

Guiding the successful breakup of JR East

Kasai joined the JNR in 1963 after graduating from the University of Tokyo. He initially worked primarily in the areas of business planning and labor relations.

Alongside Masatake Matsuda, the late former chairman of JR East and Masataka Ide, former chairman of JR West, he played a leading role in implementing the privatization of JNR. The 1987 break-up resulted in the creation of six passenger railway companies and one freight railway line.

Kasai led the corporate planning division of JR Tokai, before becoming chairman in 1995 and finally chairman in 2004. He was named chairman emeritus in 2014.

JR Tokai operates the lucrative Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train link between Tokyo and Osaka. Kasai used it effectively to mark the speed and efficiency of the Japanese railway system and as he worked to establish a stable operational base for the company.

At the same time, he promoted the adoption of cutting-edge ultra-fast linear maglev train technology.

RELATED: Tokyo to Osaka in One Hour: Fastest Future Bullet Train to Create Mega-Economy Region and Anticipation Buildings as Linear Chuo Shinkansen Features New Comforts and Design

Establishing JR Shinagawa Station as a terminal station for the Chuo Shinkansen was one of the many accomplishments he was responsible for during his years in JR leadership roles.

Strong supporter of international trade

Apart from his entrepreneurial activities, Kasai has been a prominent government adviser. He was considered a member of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s political brain trust, including serving as a member of the Abe-sponsored Education Reconstruction Council. Kasai eventually became well known as a commentator on education issues.

Along with various government appointments and advisory positions, he served as vice-chairman of the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies (JFSS), where he brought together important voices in all areas of national security for discussions and debates on the future of the nation. He attributed a source of his driving energy to the formative experience of a Japanese student studying abroad in the American Midwest. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Alumni Relations Association interviewed him in 2015, quoting him as he explained:

“You are going to a country you don’t know anything about, and you have to speak in a language you don’t know how to communicate very well, […] Somehow I was still able to achieve what I was supposed to do and that gave me a source of confidence.

Later, the same interview reveals how the impact continues today. JR Central sponsored internships for students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, respecting “the importance of fostering good relations and mutual understanding between the United States and Japan.”

Beyond the JR Central internships, Kasai’s contribution to a strong network of University of Wisconsin alumni across Japan and around the world has benefited many institutions in Japan. Professor Jason Morgan of Reitaku University is one such alumnus. He sees himself as “a beneficiary of the pioneering overseas work of Kasai and his generation of Japanese study abroad students”. Morgan, also a contributor to this post, added that he is “proud to be part of the organization, JAPAN Forward, which Kasai has done so much to promote.”

Receive the Seiron Grand Prize.

Fervent supporter of JAPAN

Sharing his opinions in forums big and small, Mr. Kasai was a member of a guest team writing for the Seiron (Point of view) column in The Sankei Shimbun. Recognized for his work of excellence in opinion pieces, he received the Seiron Fujisankei Communications Group Grand Prize in 2013.

When the Sankei supported the creation of JAPAN Striker ー this news and opinion site in English ー to convey information from Japan to the world, he endorsed the idea and served as director of the board that oversees its operations.

Upon hearing the news of Kasai’s death, Hideaki Ota, Representative Director of the Board of Directors of the JAPAN Striker association, Inc. said: “When I asked him to become director of our association five years ago, Mr. Kasai strongly supported the idea of ​​using English to better get our message across abroad. . The national interest always came first for him, and he was a strong supporter of JAPAN Striker.”

Author: The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Striker

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