Saionji-juku at Ritsumeikan University


I was invited to give a 4-hour class at Ritsumeikan University’s Saionji-juku (in Japanese) on Saturday the 28th, January.  The audience of around 40 people was made up largely of professionals around the age of 40, an important phase when people are at the peak of their careers.

I had asked them to prepare for this session by reading my book “Kisei no Toriko (Regulatory Capture)” beforehand, along with some other handouts that I provided in advance, and this they did with an admirable enthusiasm. I noticed that many in the audience had copious notes, most probably their responses to various points made in the book.

Although this marathon session only had one 15 minute break, it seems that the robust content and lively discussion more than made up for the physically demanding schedule. It was a bit disappointing however to see only one woman among the 40 participants.

I have lectured at Ritsumeikan University before, once at the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University campus in Oita Prefecture 10 years ago (talk summary in Japanese), and once at their Kyoto main campus.

The day before my talk, I was invited by people connected to the Saionji Family to join a group of around 20 to listen to the Reverend Raitei Arima (in Japanese) and to also converse with him about the various hurdles that Japan and the world face and will be facing in the coming years.

All in all, a very enjoyable learning experience!


Addressing a Corporate Research Division

→ Japanese

Panasonic Healthcare Holdings (U.S website) is a company based in Matsuyama on Shikoku Island, where I gave a talk nearly a decade ago.

Since then, they have parted ways with the parent company Panasonic after investment firm KKR bought an 80% stake, and have bought part of Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd, inviting an outsider, Hidehito Kotani, to take the helm of the company. Recently, Mitsui Co. Ltd has bought 20% of KKR’s stake.

It was to this entirely different company’s Gunma office (in Japanese) that I was invited to give another talk at.

There was a turnout of nearly 500 people, with researchers and engineers from 2 other R&D facilities joining to make a rousing affair.

The questions came thick and fast, and the enthusiasm of the young employees was evident. At the same time, the audience was overwhelmingly male, and there were very few foreigners, one from China asked a question – good thing. I think this is problematic, and indeed can be considered to be a significant weakness.

The gist of my speech? That the company’s departure from the norms and traditions of the company, and the willingness to pioneer changes such as foreign ownership and new governance structures has also trickled down to the employees, creating a vibrancy rarely seen elsewhere. I went on to say that I think it is this ability to depart from familiarity that spurs innovation, and then explained what I meant by ‘innovation,’ before finishing with some observations about the coming years.

It was a rare opportunity to speak at a company’s gathering so I felt good and very excited. To the employees I talked to: please strive to be the best! I am counting on you.


Participating in the TICAD6 in Nairobi – 2


As I wrote in my earlier post, the symposium of the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize, where I am the chair, was held at the Nairobi Hilton on the morning of 26th August.

The symposium  was attended by three of the past four recipients of this award from the years 2008 (1st) and 2013 (2nd). Indeed, we relied heavily on the help of Dr. Miriam Were, who was one of the first recipients of this award, to get the cooperation of WHO-AFRO in organising this workshop.

Also, given the nature of the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize and its emphasis on public health of Africa, I made a special request Dr Were to invite young people who work in this area.

One of the defining features of the Noguchi Africa Prize is the emphasis on both public health and epidemiology and  in medical research relevant  in the African continent,. Thus,  past laureates include people like Dr. Were from Kenya and Dr. Coutinho from Uganda. These two in particular are wonderful role-models for aspiring young African people, and are held in high esteem. Another recipient of the award, Dr. Peter Piot, was unable to attend for personal reasons that are elaborated in the link to my address.

The venue could seat around 100 people, and was packed to the maximum with some people even standing. The energy in the air was palpable. My address was followed by a speech by a representative of the Health Minister of Kenya, a congratulatory speech by Mr. Shiozaki, the Japanese Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, and then by  a representative of the WHO-AFRO Director.

We also showed a 6-minute video about the Noguchi Hideyo Africa Prize that was in English but simultaneously translated into French, with Japanese subtitles. This was followed by a keynote presentation by Dr. Were, and then a special Karate performance by the young people of the UZIMA Foundation created and led by Dr Were.

After a brief break, we had two panel discussions moderated by Dr. Greenwood (a laureate of 2008) and Dr. Coutinho (a laureate of 2013, both who infused the discussions with their passion for their people’s health as their major  work, leading to a lively discussion.

The Workshop started at 8:30 in the morning, and began by one hour session with abut 20 young African hesalthcare leaders. At the end of engaging two panel debates, one each from the young health leaders wrapped up the talks by providing a concise overview. The abilities of these students shone through and wowed the audience.

The whole event was wrapped up by a speech by Ichiro Aizawa, Head of the Japan-Africa Parliamentary Representatives’ Association.

I was impressed by the evergreen enthusiasm and determination of the laureates that seemed to flow  freely for the benefit of everyone. Perhaps this passion is what is most important character which leads  to after many years,  world-changing work.

More will follow in part 3.

Various Gatherings and New Friends


These days, I have had a lot of opportunities to participate in gatherings organised by inspiring women and young people.

The first of these events was one that I had not planned to go to, but I was thankful to be able to attend. It was organised by a group of researchers based in Washington, and headed by enormously successful women like Dr. Sachiko Kuno and Dr. Hiromi Murakami, who is an adjunct fellow at CSIS and also a board member of HGPI.

Last year, I had been able to support this admirable group by participating in the inaugural panel discussiony. The focus of this year’s workshop was on providing young female entrepreneurs. Speakers included Dr. Kuno and Ari Horie, who has proved to be a force to be reckoned with in Silicon Valley. I can tell you that their enthusiasm was infectious, and the program was very lively!

Another event that I attended where talented women were in the spotlight was the annual awards ceremony of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science. As with previous years, it was held on the premises of the French Embassy. Three inspiring young female scientists, Miho Kitamura, Reina Tanaka, and Hiromi Tanji were recognized for their contributions to science (link in Japanese).  All three recipients are from Tokyo University. The reception afterwards was very classy and enjoyable.

Talking of beautiful settings, I attended a small gathering at a stylish café in Daikanyama on Saturday evening, where we had a farewell party for some young students who will be starting at UCLA this fall. And amid all this hectic activity, I still had time for a meeting with a woman who had a daringly ambitious project that at the same time was a very thoughtful  one.

The next meeting I was invited to was not a gathering of young people, but rather a meeting of the Dutch and Japanese Trade Federation (DUJAT) at the Dutch Embassy, where I was able to learn of the latest developments. Unsurprisingly, Brexit was the word on everyone’s lips. I met an old friend of mine, Gaku Yamamoto, with whom I spent my early schooldays. Interestingly, the current Managing Director of DUJAT, Radboud Molijn, first started working in Japan thanks to his connections with Yamamoto Gaku san, a well known actor.

Another memorable get-together was a small dinner gathering to celebrate a close friend’s birthday at a certain place in Tokyo. I almost lost track of time as I fell under the spell of the glorious wines on offer.

Welcoming the Chancellor of UCLA



Every June, the Chancellor of UCLA, Chancellor Block, makes his annual trip to Asia. He has many Japanese ex-post-doctoral fellows who worked with him before he came to UCLA and always looks forward to visiting Japan.

I also visited UCLA two weeks ago.

This year, we took this opportunity to host a UCLA alumni gathering to coincide with the Chancellor’s visit. Over these past couple of years, there have been more young Japanese alumni who have joined. It is heartening to see that in particular, there many who did their undergraduate studies at UCLA.

Each year, there are three students who study at the UCLA Laskin School of Public Policy, but last year there were around ten.

In 2019, UCLA will reach its 100th anniversary and there is a fundraising project underway to commemorate the anniversary. In Japan, there is the “Kashi (Oak) Forest Project” that is taking place between Tokyo and the city of Tsukuba. It is being planned to establish a UCLA Japan Center in one of the spaces. This has been made possible by Masaru Murai.

Around here, there are many research centers and there are many researchers who come from UCLA. This sort of commemorative event does not take place frequently and the Chancellor seemed to be quite happy.

I have been the Chairman of this alumni association for the past six years since 2010 and have been able to pass on the torch to Mr. Tohyama of TMI Associates from this year.

It makes me happy to see that more young members joining, as young people are the future of Japan.

Educational reforms at the University of Tokyo: Where are they headed? Dr. Inui’s Reflections


When compared with the rest of the world, it seems that the higher education reforms in Japan, including those in the world of medicine, have not made much progress.

From around 1980, there have been revolutionary reforms in the field of life science and American and European universities began to undergo major reforms. Some leading examples are the educational reforms at McMaster University and the New Pathway at Harvard University.

Universities in Japan do not seem to understand such changing and new situations but the government has taken some initiatives, conducted under the systematic name of “reforms”. In the 1990s, there was the introduction of graduate universities and the overall reforms of universities, as well as the shift to become independent organizations. However, can it really be said that the higher education has changed fundamentally?

I was at the University of Tokyo from 1983 to 1996 and tried proposing many different suggestions. However, as usual, although many agreed with the bigger picture, they did not agree with the details and finer points. The environment and factors pertaining to medicine has also been changing. I am referring to the “five M’s” that I touched upon in my final lecture of my tenure at University of Tokyo in 1996 and in my keynote speech at the Japanese Society of Internal Medicine (in Japanese).

One of the things I tried at the University of Tokyo was to discuss with Harvard University a way to let students experience the New Pathway. We began this a year before I moved from the University of Tokyo to Tokai University. I gathered the funding for three years. Eight Japanese students and six students and two faculty members from the Harvard School of Medicine came to the University of Tokyo at the end of spring for one week. Students from the University of Tokyo spent one week at Harvard in the autumn.

When I look back on the records and reports from that time, it is clear that the experience was a very positive one with high impact for both of the students, especially on the University of Tokyo students.

In 1996, the second year, the member of the faculty at Harvard who participated was Dr. Thomas Inui. Dr. Inui is a third generation Japanese American and is a pioneer in medical education reform in US.

Afterwards, there were some attempts for reform of medical education at the University of Tokyo. At one of those, Dr. Inui was invited for three months and very critically conducted inspections and interviews, based upon which he wrote the very substantial Inui Report. This was fifteen years ago.

Reflecting upon the time that has passed since then, it cannot be said that there has been effective use or implementation of the proposals. This June, Dr. Inui was invited to the University of Tokyo in order to speak about the “The University of Tokyo medical education after fifteen years.” And he gave a speech as well as served as a panelist. I was also invited to be a panelist.

As expected, there were few participants, only around 25. Unfortunately or as expectedly, professors were absent except for Dr. Hashimoto and Dr. Shibuya, who are in the field of public health and have earned their PhDs at the Harvard University School of Public Heath (which is quite a feat).

Dr. Inui’s speech is entitled “Curriculum Stagnation at Todai School of Medicine- A Sober Analysis.”

It was a passionate speech from the heart that pointed out the great effort that had been poured into creating the proposals, made possible by getting the cooperation of the dean of the University of Tokyo School of Medicine. However, most have not been implemented or developed further, while the world continues to change all around.

I share this criticism, particularly when I see the reality of the higher education in Japan and other universities around in the changing world, especially the many rising universities in Asia.

The Annual Meeting of the Japan Chapter of the American College of Physicians in Kyoto



As I have done for the past few years, I participated in the annual meeting of the Japan Chapter of the American College of Physicians (1, 2) .

It was another full and lively program this year (1). The Chairman of the American College of Physicians attends the meeting every year and this time, Dr. Weyne Riley also participated. We were both moderators of one of the sessions and saw eye to eye on many things. We enjoyed watching the presentations of the students and residents and giving of awards.

This year, there were young people led by Prof Shibagaki of the St. Marianna University School of Medicine, who actively participated in much of the program.

My old friend, Dr. Inui also came to the meeting. Afterwards, he was to give a lecture at the University of Tokyo Education Center, which I also plan on attending.

Dr. Inui is the person who has been very passionate leader for years about the future of medical education and I asked him to come to Tokai University School of Medicine, the day before I was to start my deanship at Tokai University on June 30th, 1996. Quite a long time ago, 20 years, a fond memory of our professional career.

Three Days at Sekei Gakuen


I am an alumnus of the Seikei junior high school and high school. Many people have good memories and feelings of nostalgia for this period of their lives.

I have been a board member of Sekei Gakuen for a while but from this year, I have become Special Advisor to the Chairman of the Board of Seikei Gakuen.

After giving much thought regarding the members, I asked Prof. Shigeru Miyagawa (in Japanese). They were both educated in Japan and the US, are bilingual in Japanese and English and are deeply passionate about education.

The three of us went to the Seikei campus and had an important meeting with the executive committee of the school. It took two to three months to arrange this meeting and coordinate everyone’s schedules. It was finally decided to be on the afternoon of Thursday May 26th.

We had meetings of an hour each with the Chancellor, the President of the University, the Principal of the junior and high school and the Principal of the elementary school. The library and elementary school were designed by Shigeru Ban (1), who is also an alumnus of Seikei.

I know that running a school can truly be challenging and I would like to give as much support as possible.

During the afternoon of the next day, I attended a board members meeting and councilors meeting in Tokyo.

The following Saturday, in continuation of last year, the International Education Division (in Japanese) hosted a seminar for junior and high school students, with the theme of “going abroad.” This year the title of the talk was, “My Study Abroad: A Discussion with Kiyoshi Kurokawa” (in Japanese) and included the OB/OGs Mr. Nagai and Miyazaki. They shared with us their own incredible stories. Afterwards, there was a panel on which I served as panelist, a presentation on American Field Service (AFS) and then a reception.

What can schools do for young people’s futures?

Many students attended with their parents attended and it was an enjoyable Saturday. It was all due to the efforts of Headmaster Kameshima, Principal Atobe and Director Kei of the International Education Division, the administrative office of the Junior and Senior High School, as well as Mr. Shimamura of the St. Paul’s School and Mr. Abe, who will be there in the autumn. In continuation from last year, I would like to express my thanks for this excellent event.

From Toronto to Doha


I left Toronto for Doha via Montreal to attend the Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum. I was a member of the selection committee at its inaugural meeting of the Forum.

At the Forum, I met with the representatives of the venture company Spiber, which utilizes genetic engineering to create spider webs, developed by Mr. Sekiyama. He is an alumnus of Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC) and his mentor is Professor Masaru Tomita. I took notice of Spiber in 2010, when it was presented at the SFC’s annual Open Research Forum when I was teaching at the SFC. I also had dinner with the Spider team and had the opportunity to exchange many ideas and opinions.

Watching the activities of passionate, young people always lifts my spirits and makes me want to offer my support if any. I am cheering for Spiber’s success.

Although the relations between governments are important in diplomacy, the trust that is built through people-to-people exchanges and friendship also plays a crucial role in international relations.

March 11; Five Years from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident; My New Book, “Regulatory Capture”; At Cornell University in Ithaca


Five years have passed since the terrible tragedy of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident. How much progress has really been made in the reconstruction efforts? It is a difficult issue.

A few nuclear power plants have been restarted in Japan but it seems that accidents and problems are occurring rather frequently.

Dealing with the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident will likely take many more decades. We are faced with many major challenges and obstacles now and in the future, with no idea of how long we must cope with them.

Having served as the Chairman of the first independent investigative commission under the National Diet in Japan, the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), I decided to publish my book, “Regulatory Capture: When Groupthink Can Kill” at this time. It can be found in bookstores or ordered online on Amazon. It is my sincere hope that many people will read it. If Japan remains in its current situation, the future does not look promising.

As part of the book launch, I held press conferences at the Japan National Press Club and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. The conferences can be viewed on YouTube.

This was my fifth time speaking at the Japan National Press Club regarding the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident. Each time, my message has been fundamentally the same: the world is changing but will Japan change?

Right after the press conference, I traveled to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, directed by Professor Hirokazu Miyazaki, invited me to speak at the roundtable discussion, “Nuclear Power Roundtable: Five Years after Fukushima.”

The panelists were Professor Charles Perrow of Princeton University and Professor Sonja Schmid of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. I always enjoy taking part in such discussions. After the roundtable, we attended the reception and dinner.

The next day, I had breakfast with professors and students from Japan. In the evening, I invited two post-docs from Japan and China to join me for dinner and we chatted about various topics.

The subject of conversation that came up often during my visit was how few Japanese students and professors there were over here.

The world is filled with possibilities and I encourage young people to challenge themselves more. The world is waiting for you.