Taking a shower 12,000 meters up in the sky


During the past two days, I have been in Abu Dhabi in order to participate in the meeting of the Board of Trustees of Khalifa University. The flight from Narita on Etihad Airways, was a direct flight of around eleven hours.

Things have started to fall in place as the number of students has started to rise and the faculty has been bolstered by the increased presence of professors from abroad.  Although the primary focus is on engineering courses, there are also students in master’s programs in nuclear engineering.  In light of the recent developments where power-producing nuclear plants are going to be built with the help of Korea, no stone is being left unturned in the education required to make it possible.

Korea is providing assistance mainly through an education program developed by KAIST(Ref.).  Indeed, the president of KAIST, Dr. Suh is also here.

After two days of meetings, it was time to head back.  Unfortunately, there was no direct flight to Narita operated by Etihad on the 25th (the day I was to return), so I headed to Dubai from where I boarded an Emirates flight to Narita late at night.  The aircraft was an A380, and I was in first class.  There were only about four passengers in first class, so I was able to try out the showers an hour before arrival.  Although there is hot water for only five minutes, I was able to take a leisurely shower.

After showering 12,000 meters up in the sky, I arrived in Narita feeling refreshed. 


Recognizing “Strengths” from “Weaknesses,” Can Japan Change?


A year and a half has passed since 3.11.

The world has seen people who have lost their families and their livelihoods, people who have suffered incredible damages, and the grace of such a people in having quietly helped each other through the sadness without any rioting or upheaval.

After the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant, I believe the world was moved by the dedication and self-sacrifice of the people at the plant, who were called the “Fukushima 50.”

Yet, after a year and a half, has Japan missed its chance to change?

On December 1, just before the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Investigation Commission began, I wrote an article with my colleague Hiromi Murakami in the Japan Times, titled, “Fukushima crisis fueling the third opening of Japan.”  It was just at the time when the TPP was big news.  The title of the entry in my blog is “Let the People Trigger ‘The Third Opening of Japan’ ?The Start of a New Movement.”  After 3.11, many young people started becoming active in rebuilding society anew, and this gave me hope that it would be a trigger for the “third opening”of Japan.  They are my hope, as the country as a whole is tangled up in the ties with special interest groups, leaving national policies on the TPP and relations with neighboring countries at a standstill, while the world around it proceeds to change.

Much of the world’s trust in Japan was lost after seeing that 3.11 was the terrible product of the leadership of the government-industry-bureaucracy triangle.

The title of the article, “The Third Opening of Japan,”gathered attention and was included in the ebook, Reconstructing 3.11 (amazon) as the essay “History: Japan’s third opening rises from black waters” (by Hiromi Murakami and Kiyoshi Kurokawa).

However, after a year and a half has passed since the disaster, what is being done for the recovery, especially at Fukushima?  Has the strong perseverance of the Japanese people been channeled into a large movement?  On the contrary, the sight of the people in Iwate and northern areas working silently everyday is heartbreaking, as politicians and the public administration seem to have taken advantage of the prevalent sense of resignation and passiveness.  Or perhaps, they view the situation a little too lightly, and this has resulted in the delay of implementing necessary policies.

At this time, a similar opinion appeared in the New York Times. In Japanese the article is called, “Japanese have started to change” but in English the article is titled, “In Fukushima, Surreal Serenity.”  The article is by Kumiko Makihara.

The solemn “anti-nuclear protests” which are held every Friday at six p.m. in front of the Prime Minister’s Office are different from the past and they seem to be conducted voluntarily.  These expressions of opinions in the face of power may be one visible sign that Japanese are changing.

However, as can be seen by watching the media coverage, the political world still continues its small power games, the direction the country is heading in is unclear and the situation does not appear to be improving.  Taking advantage of the government’s lack of power, the public offices of the bureaucracy have made no effort to change anything, silently continuing their “work” (or rather the preservation of vested interests).  The status quo’s tremendous resistance is an underlying factor of “Japan which cannot change” and “drifting Japan” in a transforming world.

Why is this so, and what should we do?

The answer may be found at the end of Ms. Makihara’s article: “The challenge this nation now faces is how to nurture healthy skepticism alongside such admirable perseverance.”


Schedule – October 2012

Yoko Makino Policy Series
"NAIIC Report on Fukushima: Lessons Learned & Next Steps Forward"
Date & Time:   Wednesday, October 17, 6 PM
Place:  Japan Society
                 333 East 47th Street  New York, NY 10017
Register online or send email to register@japansociety.org.
For information only, please contact the Corporate Program at 212-715-1208.


Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Commission
Date & Time:   Tuesday, October 16, 3:00pm – 4:30pm 
Venue: CSIS 1800 K St. NW
           Washington, D.C. 20006
           4th Floor Conference Room
Register online


GAVI-HGPI-UNICEF Collaborative Symposium
"Global Health and Corporate Strategy: Diverse, Innovative Partnership Models"
Date & Time: Thusday, October 11   15:00-18:00
Venue: Fujifilm Corporation / Midtown West Conference room (2F)
Contact Details: GAVI-HGPI-UNICEF Collaborative Symposium Japan Secretariat
                  Ms. Sugiyama, Ms. Yamaguchi
                  Health and Global Policy Institute
                  e-mail: symposium1011@hgpi.org
Register online

National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) -7: Reaction of the Media


When announcing the release of our report, I expected the media’s reaction to be if not entirely negative, not to be glowing praise.  That is just how the media works.

The media has particularly criticized that the first part of the simultaneously released Japanese “Overview” and the English “Executive Summary” are not the same.  Further, some media reports have criticized the English version for the “Japanese culture argument.”

Overseas, articles in The Guardian and the Financial Times criticized that blaming culture prevents charging anyone with responsibility.

However, it is necessary to keep in mind that although the Japanese “Overview” and the English “Executive Summary” are similar in length, they differ in content.

There have also been many positive evaluations of the report in the foreign media.

One example is the article by CNN




The article below offers a particularly good analysis.  Perhaps because Dr. Chacko knows me well.


Within the media, there is a wide spectrum of views.  The report has received wide coverage abroad.


National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) -5: An “Unexpected,” Encouraging Message Received at the Start of the Commission


As NAIIC is the first independent investigation commission established by the National Diet in the constitutional history of Japan, we faced many difficulties, especially in the beginning when we were getting the Commission on its feet.

The first Commission meeting was held in Fukushima on December 18th and 19th.  One can tell from the date of the second meeting, January 16th, held a month after the first, how much we were struggling to find the way forward.

It was this second meeting to which a journalist from the British publication, The Economist, came.  The journalist later wrote something rather unexpected in an article (although this actually had been one of NAIIC's aims).

The article has a compelling title: "Japan’s nuclear crisis; The Meltdown and the media".  It can be assumed from the initials that the journalist who wrote it is Mr. Ken Cukier, who came to the second Commission meeting.  Moreover, the date of the article matches that of the meeting, indicating the quick work of the writer.

As we in the Commission were well aware of the heavy criticism the Japan National "Press Club" has received in the world, we made sure that the Commission meetings were accessible to the everyone in the public, even providing simultaneous English translation. This comes from our strong hope that the world will also watch and follow our Commission.

I was very pleased that this article accurately and immediately brought attention to this point.

In my column, I have mentioned a number of times (1, 2, I believe there are more articles, please search within this website) that The Economist is a weekly publication that I am fond of.

The article’s focus on this issue attests to its quality.

Although it is a bit delayed, I would like to express my thanks to Ken.


From Bergen


After departing Oslo early in the morning, I flew to Bergen.

Upon arriving, I set out on a tour of the fjords by ship.  It was drizzling lightly but I was able to enjoy the scenery and relax for four hours.

The ship passed by massive rocks, beautiful, lush greenery, and occasionally some small villages.

One can see a glimpse of the intertwining of the tranquil, bountiful nature and the people’s livelihoods. The salmon farms seem to be thriving.

The winters must be harsh. The town’s streets and houses are beautiful and have deep sense of calmness about them.


From Oslo, Kavli -2


On the afternoon of the 4th, I attended the Kavli Award Ceremony, held at the Oslo Concert Hall.  The King of Norway was also present and it was a marvelous ceremony.  The moderators were the actor Alan Alda, who is well known in Japan and has been active in making science easier to understand, and the Norwegian artist and politician Ase Kleveland.  Furthermore, young artists of many genres were included and appeared throughout the ceremony.

This is also available for viewing online ( 1,2 ). The ceremony proceeded at a very upbeat tempo.  It made me wish to plan such a ceremony someday.

At times, the King and the artists who were on stage (in addition to singing to classic, jazz and rap there was dancing) were very close in proximity, a sense of closeness that would be unimaginable in Japan.

Overall, there was a strong spirit of encouraging young people, impressing upon me the feeling of something very special about this country.

At night was a banquet at the Oslo City Hall, hosted by the government of Norway.  The King also attended the banquet and sat at the main table with ease.  There were many performances and singing by the chorus, festive and enjoyable without putting on airs.

During these four days, I encountered a distinct country insistent with her own heritage yet full of wisdom, and at the same time connected and compassionate.

Tomorrow, I will leave for Bergen early in the morning. Having come this far, I will go one step further and visit Bergen.


To Oslo- The Kavli Prize and the Kavli Science Forum


On September 1st, I departed Narita for Oslo.  As I had been busy with the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), it is my second time being abroad this year, following my trip to Washington DC in May.

After the transit in Copenhagen, I arrived in the evening in Oslo to a beautiful, clear sky.  The purpose of this trip is to attend the Kavli Foundation’s Kavli Prize Ceremony and the Kavli Science Forum.

After arriving, I checked in at the Grand Hotel Oslo.  This is a historic hotel where it is a tradition for the Noble Peace Prize Laureates to stay and to greet the crowd from the second floor balcony, which faces the park.  I had a light, late dinner with Norway’s Ambassador to Japan, Mr. A. Walther, at a nearby restaurant close to the National Theater.

The next day, September 2nd, was also a bright, sunny day.  I was able to rest and relax for the first time in a while before attending the reception in the afternoon.  It was held at its penthouse suite on the top floor of the hotel as well as outside on the rooftop.  At night, I attended a dinner at the American Ambassador’s official residence.  This was another impressive, historic building.

On the 3rd, in the morning I went to the University of Oslo campus to listen to the lectures given by the seven laureates.  There are three laureates in Astrophysics, one in Nanoscience and three in Neuroscience.  Four of them are women and six are from the United States of America, of which three are from MIT.

The lectures were impressive and the leafy campus of University of Oslo, surrounded by grand trees, was very beautiful.

My ‘Global Health’ panel1), composed of four panelists in all, was held in the afternoon.  The Prime Minister of Norway came and gave an excellent opening address.  The panelists all know each other and my current job allows me to be involved with them on various occasions.  The program and panel moderator was Pallab Ghosh, who is well known as the science correspondent for BBC News. It is possible to see the entire forum webcast online.

At night, I went to the reception at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.  Prof. Hitoshi Murayama, the Director of the Kavli IPMU at the University of Tokyo also arrived.

Dr. Iijima who was awarded the first Kavli Prize in Nanoscience in 2008, Prof. Ooguri who is a Caltech Kavli Professor and Vice President Kasuga of the Science Council of Japan also took part in the reception.

Oslo is a serene, somehow insistent with her own heritage, sophisticated city.