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Number 1 Shimbun

From the Archives: Sadako Ogata, Humanist Extraordinaire


 No1-2016-03ARchive Sadako Ogata, two years after becoming U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), voiced her opinions at the Club on June 23, 1992, while FCCJ President David Powers (BBC), in the foreground, and Clayton Jones (Christian Science Monitor) listen attentively. She was to appear again at the FCCJ as a guest speaker in 1999.


adako Ogata’s life story is extraordinary. Born in 1927, she came from an illustrious family, with a former prime minister, Tsuyoshi Inukai – assassinated in 1932 by Japanese Navy officers – as her great-grandfather and a former foreign minister, Kenkichi Yoshizawa, as her grandfather.

Dedicating her early life to an academic career, Ogata followed up on her BA from Sacred Heart in Tokyo with graduate study in the U.S., earning an MA in international relations from Georgetown in 1953 and a doctorate in political science from the University of California in 1963. Returning to Japan, she lectured at Sacred Heart and the International Christian University, becoming an Associate Professor of Diplomatic History and International Relations there in 1974. In 1980, following a move to Sophia University, she became a professor, then Director of the Institute of International Relations, and in 1989 the Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Studies.

Ogata’s scholarly work led to stints from 1968 onward with Japan’s U.N. mission, and in 1978 she became envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary. During this time she also served as Chairman of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Board, and from 1982 to 1985 she was Japan’s Representative on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. She assumed leadership of UNHCR in January of 1991, which she held until she retired in 2012.

Ogata contributed greatly to making this a better world, including writing books addressing refugee problems. She also raised a family, a son and a daughter, with husband Shijuro Ogata, a senior official of the Bank of Japan and a key person in opening the Japanese bureaucracy to the foreign press.

Sadako Ogata has been a dedicated tennis player since her student days and still plays at age 88, as attested to by Kazuo Abiko. A former president of the FCCJ and retired AP stalwart, Kaz recently partnered with her to win a doubles match at the Tokyo Lawn Tennis Club.


— Charles Pomeroy


Published in: March 2016

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