To Toronto Again


I returned to Japan from Cornell University via Toronto but I went back to Toronto just three days later.

I took part in a conference in Toronto, which focused on innovation in Canada and Japan and the areas where the two countries could increase their cooperation. Throughout the discussion, many people from both the Canadian and Japanese sides brought up how little attention each country paid to each other. The keynote speech was given by the co-founder of BlackBerry, Jim Balsillie. We were seated next to each other at the main table and had the chance to talk about many things.

I mentioned to Mr. Balsillie that I once moderated a key note speech of the other co-founder of BlackBerry, Mike Lazaridis, in Kyoto in 2007. I told him that I immediately started to use the BlackBerry when it became finally available in Japan for retail sale in 2008. Throughout his keynote speech, Mr. Balsillie emphasized the phrase, “Freedom to Operate,” and so we discussed many topics in our conversation. The Ambassador Monji was also present at this gathering.

The host organization of this conference was the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), which is a relatively new think tank. The Balsillie School of International Affairs. And both organizations are created by Mr Balsillie.

I have many exchanges with people in Canada and feel that it is a country of moderation and excellence. Although Canada shares a similar history with Australia of being a former British colony and a resource-rich country, there are some major differences. The environment and cold climate may be an influencing factor.

In my talk, I spoke about the potential for Japan and Canada to work together and to create new possibilities by combining their strengths and offsetting their weaknesses. Japan has four times the population of Canada but the two countries share the similarity of being geographically located next to countries with ten times their own populations. I raised these points and took a global and long-term perspective in my talk.

The conference concluded with a speech by the Minister of Trade, Chrystia Freeland. Her skill in the question and answer session attest to her brilliant career as a journalist.

In Japan, it is rare to find people like Mr. Balsillie and Minister Freeland in Japan. The existence of such individuals is a strength of Canada.