KYOCERA FOUNDER, WHO ALSO ENDOWED THE KYOTO PRIZE, SPEAKS ON INSPIRATION, ISSUES FACING THE WORLD, TECHNOLOGY
Kazuo Inamori, founder of Kyocera, was in San Diego for the Kyoto Awards Gala Tuesday. — John GastaldoTo Americans, “Respect the Divine and Love People” might be a strange motto for a $15 billion global corporation. But Kyocera is unusual, as is its founder.
Kyocera, whose U.S. headquarters is in San Diego, was founded by Kazuo Inamori, now 81, a ceramics expert who led the company’s development into computer chips, solar cells and telecommunications, and who also happens to be a Buddhist priest.
Inamori flew over this week on Japan Airlines, a company he turned around in 2010 (which is one reason why there are direct flights from San Diego to Tokyo) to host the 12th annual Kyoto Prize Symposium in San Diego, a three-day affair that ended Thursday.
In 1984, Inamori endowed the Kyoto Prize, Japan’s Nobel, to award global thought leaders in the sciences, arts and advanced technology. Today the assets of the Inamori foundation are about $700 million.
Inamori spoke through his translator to the U-T a few hours before the Kyoto Prize Symposium and gala at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront on his thoughts about leadership and life.
Q: What makes a great leader?
A: That is a very difficult question, and I cannot give you a simple answer. But if someone is to become a great leader, it is important for him or her to dedicate themselves to their work while they are young, and to build the strong self.
Q: Where do technological breakthroughs come from?
A: If one works very hard in a certain area, struggling day after day after day continuously, then it so happens that such a person may experience some kind of a serendipity, if you will. I have personally experienced that and reached a breakthrough after a long and hard struggle. I felt as if God gave me a hint. Somewhere in this universe there is a treasure house of wisdom where this kind of awakening or serendipity is provided.
Q: Who are the people who have most inspired you in life?
A: Two people, both wonderful scholars who represent Eastern philosophy, Tempu Nakamura and Masahiro Yasuoka. Nakamura has been called the guru or sage of yoga. Yasuoka is known for his expertise in Chinese classics.
Q: What would your most gratifying moments be?
A: While I experienced hardships and struggles in my life, from time to time I was able to experience joy as well. Yet, I cannot point to any life-altering or gratifying moments. There were small joys continuously. These were enough to erase the pain from the hardships. And that is why I think I was able to keep going until my current age of 81. But there was nothing that seemed to alter my life instantly overnight.
Q: What issues do you feel the United States, Japan and the world must begin to deal with?
A: The world economy will inevitably become more globalized. In order to have that development go in a positive direction, what is most important will be the complete liberalization of trade. By that I mean free trade that is not subject to any kind of tariff. Of course, it is inevitable that the national interests of different countries will bring the potential for international conflict. The important thing will be to figure out how to mitigate the selfish interests of the different countries.
Q: Given the tragedy of Fukushima, what is your position on nuclear power and other energies, especially the new natural gas discoveries, “fracking” in the U.S. and the development of the recently accessed and huge deposits of gas-hydrates off the coast of Japan?
A: In Japan, the U.S. and other advanced nations, people enjoy a very high standard of living. But to support that kind of lifestyle, an enormous amount of electric power is needed. To supply such power, nuclear power plants were built. But with the tragedy that happened at Fukushima, people have realized the potential danger of nuclear power. I came to recognize, also, that even after being spent, the high level of radioactivity from the nuclear wastes continues. The fact is that nobody in the world knows how to dispose of this waste safely. If we continue to use nuclear power generation, the wastes will only continue to increase, causing a huge issue for the environment of human beings. Dependence on nuclear power may need to be reviewed at the fundamental level. I think we are at that juncture.
Q: Perhaps you could tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to know?
A: My answer to that question may be different from what you are expecting to hear, but let me share this with you anyway. Looking back on my life, I honestly and truly feel that I have been blessed with so much good fortune. Something divine, God, gave me this guidance, and I was allowed to live this wonderful life owing to that, and I just feel that I have to live in such a way so that I deserve such divine guidance. Everyone can live a great life. If everyone has a good heart and mind, a positive attitude, then everyone should be able to live a wonderful life. That is what I strongly believe.
Steve Chapple’s Intellectual Capital covers game-changing people, ideas and perspectives. He can be reached at intellectual email@example.com