Vietnam Time

9/28/2018 6:03:57 PM

Prof. Tran Van Tho: Home is where the heart is

To Professor Tran Van Tho, each time he leaves Tokyo for Hanoi, he always says “I am coming back to Hanoi”, like he is going home. The same saying is applied for the other way round. “I am heading back to Tokyo”, because the capital city of Japan is where he has spent half a century to work, study and live.


Prof.Tran Van Tho. Photo: VNE

Study abroad, keep homeland in heart 

In August, Ambassador of Japan to Vietnam, Umeda Kunio chaired a ceremony to congratulate Prof.Tran Van Tho, who recently received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette in acknowledgment of his contribution to the development of economic ties between Japan and Vietnam as well as promoting Vietnamese’s understandings of Japan.

Prof. Tran Van Tho was born in a poor village in the Central region of Vietnam. Amidst difficulties brought about by war, very few rural students like him were able to complete the Diploma programme (equal to highschool level nowadays). But with a strong will and passion for learning, Tho had accomplished it, and go to Saigon to pursue his university degree. To afford for his study, at the same time, Tho had to take on a part-time job.

After three months staying in Saigon, Tho got informed of a golden opportunity: a scholarship for overseas students to study in Japan. That was how a new chapter was opened in his life, something which he had never even dare to dream of.

Arrived in Japan in 1968, initially Tho thought that after completing his university degree or fPhD, he would come back Vietnam. But the plan had changed, as the love for the second homeland was so strong. (Tho's wife, a Vietnamese woman, also shares the love for Japan with her husband. She loves Japanese literature and has translated various novels, fiction books by Japanese authors into Vietnamese).

According to Prof. Tho, when he was younger, living in Vietnam, due to the hectic life occupied by study and part-time work, his awareness of contributing to homeland was very limited. However, when the young man left Vietnam, suddenly Tho felt the nostalgia, and started thinking a lot of his homeland. Leaving homeland for Japan, he had brought along the soul of Vietnam, which are influenced by books on Vietnamese history, literature, music.

Warmly welcomed by two homelands 

Deep in his heart, Tho is always grateful for being able to travel back and forth between Vietnam and Japan frequently, thanks to the supports of relatives and friends. This blessing has motivated him to fully dedicate his efforts to the interests of both countries.

After getting his PhD in Economics at the University of Hitotsubashi (Tokyo), Tho started working for the Japan Center for Economic Research, and later became Associate Professor, and Professor at Obirin University (Tokyo). Most of the research he conducted was on Japan's experience in industrialization during post war period.

As an economic scholar, Prof. Tho has devoted tremendous effort to the development of Japan and the economic relations of Vietnam and Japan in the last fifty years. In Japan, as a specialized member of the Economic Council of Japanese Prime Minister in nearly ten years, he had given valuable proposal on Japan’s external economic affairs policies.

In 1991, he initiated the idea for the Hanoi-based Vietnam Asia-Pacific Economic Center (VAPEC) and raised funds in Japan to materialize this idea. In 1993, VAPEC was set up in Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City and later (1995) in Danang. A main founder of VAPEC, Professor Tran Van Tho is currently the Chairman of this institution, and since then has been making proactive step to push up the cooperation of the center with Japanese reseach bodies.

GS Trần Văn Thọ được Nhật Bản trao tặng Huân chương Thụy Bảo Tia Vàng - ảnh 1

Prof.Tran Van Tho (2nd, right) and other members of PM's Economic Advisory Board. Source: VGP

Prof. Tho is also founder of the Vietnam Research Institute under the University of Waseda. As the Head of the Institute, he has conducted numerous projects related to South East Asia economic integration, the development of Mekong region and the Japan-Vietnam human resource development.

Prof.Tho is currently teaching in both English and Japanese, as well as instructing students to write their thesis in Waseda University. His students are not only Japanese, but also from other country of Asia-Pacific, including Vietnam.

Prof.Tho served as Advisory Group on Economic and Administrative Reforms of Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet (1993-1997) and collaborating with the Policy Research Group of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai (1997-2006) and now continue to work in the Economic Advisory Board of PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

The story of his life and career is filled with love for both countries. Although spending 50 years in Japan, he still keeps his Vietnamese nationality./.

  ( Translated by Phi Yen )
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