Isao Nishitani
2007winners contribution to society
Has supported students' motivation to learn by donating to a middle-school night course for 50 years
Isao Nishitani

Born: 1941; from: Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan

Award summary

In September 1957, Mr. Nishitani sent his first letter, enclosing 300 yen, to the night school program at Arakawa 9th Junior High School in Tokyo. He had learned about the existence of a night school at the junior high through a letter, written by a high school girl, published in the newspaper. In her letter, the girl explained how she had made several donations to the night school but was no longer able to continue, and issued a plea for someone to take over. At the time, Mr. Nishitani was 16 years old and enrolled in the night school program at his local high school while delivering milk and doing other jobs. Having lost his father to the war, he was brought up by his mother, who supported her family by carrying coal. This was a time when a box of cigarettes cost 40 yen.

Ever since then, Mr. Nishitani's monthly gift to the junior high night school program continued without a single lapse. This January marked his 604th donation. After graduating from high school, he joined Yahata Steel (now Nippon Steel). His donations gradually increased, to 500 yen, 1,000 yen, and now, 3,000 yen. His cash registered mail is always accompanied by a letter of encouragement. At the night school, Mr. Nishitani's letter is always read at the "evening assembly" before classes start, and his donations are used for such purposes as making temporary payments for the school excursion trip.

Arakawa 9th Junior High School's night school program was the model for the 1993 film "Gakko (School)" by film director Yoji Yamada. In November of last year, the school held a banquet to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding. Mr. Nishitani was invited to the event and gave a speech in which he expressed his intent to continue his monthly donation for as long as he lived.

Reasons for this award

Mr. Nishitani continued his donations for a half century, from his high school days to the present, without a single lapse. His motive of wanting to encourage the students is simply amazing, especially since he studied in a night school program himself, and he knew firsthand about the importance of learning. His stance is natural and unforced, in that he did not set out to make a donation every month but it "somehow turned out that way." In this age of e-mail and text messaging, his hand-written letters exude warmth.

Comments from the winner

I am the one who was encouraged by this relationship, and I really wonder if I deserve to receive this award. This would not have been possible if it hadn't been for the longstanding correspondence with the junior high school, and so I feel I am accepting this award on behalf of everyone who is studying.

It gratifies me to know that junior high night school programs will now receive some attention as a result of this award.