Obituary: Ryoichi Sasakawa

There were some surprising omissions in your obituary of Ryoichi Sasakawa [by James Kirkup, 20 July], writes Dr Abraham Marcus. He contributed heavily to the fight against disease and made large donations to the WHO fund for the eradication of smallpox. The success of the campaign had been announced in May 1980 and brought him considerable kudos.

I met him at Berkeley Castle, in Gloucestershire, in May 1982, surrounded by a large entourage that had arrived in two helicopters. He had come to honour the memory of Edward Jenner, the discoverer of vaccination against smallpox in 1796, who had practised in Berkeley, and to mark his own generous gift to the Jenner Appeal to refurbish buildings associated with Jenner.

This aged but spry philanthropist, in traditional garb, addressed us in the castle's great hall in Japanese, translated by a beautiful young woman, telling us, among other things, that he still possessed all his faculties.

James Kirkup is totally out of order when comparing Ryoichi Sasakawa with Yukio Mishima, writes James Stevens. In Japan Sasakawa was generally regarded as a gangster not to be trifled with, whereas Mishimawas a man of burning integrity. Mishima exemplified the Japanese concept of omote and ure, the outward characteristics of a man in contrast to his inner, genuine, personality.

I had many dealings with Sasakawa which were amazingly amiable. He would always reply with a personally signed letter which is, to say the least, unusual in Japan, where the top dog never replies personally. I would be seeking sponsorship for CDs of my compositions in order to bypass the embargo placed on my work by the BBC. Sasakawa was constantly sympathetic but claimed priority for his Third World interests, where most of his financing went.

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