To Norway: the Territory on the 78th Parallel North


After the dinner with DUJAT (Dutch & Japanese Trade Federation), I departed from Schiphol Airport, landed in Oslo 90 minutes later and stayed for one night. The next morning, I boarded a charter flight with about 140 people, which flew north for three hours and landed in Longyearbyen. It is located on the 78th parallel north.

This small village is the center of the Svalbard Islands and is located on Spitzberg Island. Due to the historical background, the governance is conducted collectively by Norway, Russia and the United States. In recent years, how to tackle the issues in the arctic has become one of the world’s challenges.

The Aurora Borealis Foundation (1) hosted this gathering. It was organised mainly by Bo Ekman of the Tallberg Foundation.

I attended a conference by Tallberg in 2013 when I visited Stockholm for a conference by invitation of Vattenfall power company due to my position as the Chairman of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission.

This time, another Japanese participants was my good friend Prof Mario Tokoro of Sony, which made me feel a bit relieved. The conference was co-hosted by Christopher Chuang, who has a career in media in Taiwan, and Mr. Ekman, so there was a large group of participants from China. However, I had the impression that much of the program, lectures and remarks were rather liberal. The brainstorming sessions that took place in small groups were also very good.

Through the brainstorming session, I met Dr. Eric Rasmussen, who is a leader in the field of global health and has a very unique career path. We share some similarities and had a very productive discussion.

On the third day, there were a several optional activities and I went to Barentsburg via a boat ride that was approximately two hours one-way. I enjoyed the outing there.

There was one man from the group from China who was wearing a very peculiar hat and had a unique appearance. I got the feeling that I had seen him somewhere before and it turned out that he was thinking the same thing.

He is a renowned designer and we had seen each other numerous times at the venue and hotel of the Nobel Prize award ceremony, which took place last December. It turned out that he was the stylist of Youyou Tu, who was awarded the Nobel Prize together with Dr. Omura. He brought his apprentice on the trip as well. I look forward to running into him again someday.

On the way back, I stopped by the Global Seed Vault. It seems that there are many people who stay at Oslo and the charter flight was delayed. From Oslo Airport, I made it just in time for my connecting flight in Paris and made it to Haneda.

My luggage was left at Oslo but it arrived three days later in Tokyo.

A Week of Conferences on Global Health


In April, there were many conferences that focused on issues related to the G7 Summit agenda in anticipation of the Summit in May. The first G7 (originally G6) Summit was held in 1975. When Japan was the host country in 1979, the word “health” appeared for the first time on the G7 agenda.

Following this, Japan proposed the concept of a “Global Fund” at the 2000 Okinawa Summit; at the 2008 Toyoko Summit Japan presented the idea that human security can be guaranteed by strengthening health policy.

In this age of globalization, Japan has been a pioneer in recognizing that “global health” is becoming an important keyword on the agenda.

On April 18th, there was a conference on the issue of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), co-hosted by the Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C. and HGPI, of which I serve as Chairman. There should soon be a report of the conference on the CSIS website. This conference was very substantial in content, with rigorous discussions that were to the point and highly evaluated by the audience.

On Tuesday the 19th, I attended the garden party at the British Embassy celebrating the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. Ambassador Hitchens gave an excellent speech in his usual manner, which was well received by the crowd. I had the opportunity to discuss with the first secretary who is in charge of the issue of dementia and items on the G7 Summit agenda.

On Wednesday the 20th, I had dinner with the head of a British think tank. We discussed the situation in the East China Sea and I had the chance to hear things that are rarely openly disclosed. We discussed that since the UK and Germany are currently facing major issues within their countries, it was difficult to conduct agenda setting for the G7 Summit in Japan. Since the G7 countries make up less than 50 percent of the world’s overall GDP in today’s world, the more concerning item on the world agenda is China, this year’s host of the G20.

On Thursday the 21st, I participated in a bipartisan breakfast meeting on the topic of Japan’s contribution to the Global Fund. The Liberal Democratic Party was represented by MP Ichiro Aisawa and the Democratic Party was represented by MP Motohisa Furukawa. Mr. Tsuruoka, who has been appointed to be the next Japanese Ambassador to the UK, was also at the meeting. He gave rather critical remarks, as he often does. I am grateful to him for his support during the 2008 G8 Summit when I was Science Advisor to the Prime Minister Fukuda.

On Friday the 22nd, I participated in the Nikkei Asian Conference on Communicable Diseases (1) (in Japanese). This was the third consecutive year that this conference has been held. In the first conference, I gave the keynote speech, and last year and this year I gave the closing remarks. This year, I also appeared in the FT and GAVI Fireside Chat with the CEO of GAVI, Seth Berkeley, moderated by Mr. Andrew Ward, the pharmaceuticals correspondent of the Financial Times.

Regarding Japan’s contribution to GAVI, I proposed that the Japanese national bonds could also be included in the mix. Approximately 20 percent of GAVI’s funding comes from the national bonds of nine countries, including the UK and Norway.

This year, Japan, the G7 Summit and the issue of AMR were topics on the agenda. Some exceptional technologies developed by Japanese companies were also presented. However, from a global business perspective, it is a pity that the mindset still seemed to remain inward-looking.

Yet, I was glad that during this two-day conference, many people from Japan and abroad commented on the GHIT Fund. The GHIT Fund is built on a Public-Private-Partnership model, one that is completely new and has instilled the support of the Gates Foundation. I am glad that there is increased attention from both within Japan and from the international community.

Saturday the 23rd, was the second day of this conference. Member of the House of Councillors, Keizo Takemi, gave an eloquent speech, followed by panel discussions. The day ended with my closing remarks.

In this way, this week was filled with events related to the G7 Summit and global health. Last November, I gave a lecture at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, where there are research groups focused on the G8 and the G20. This year’s publication by the G7 Research Group, which will be distributed at the G7 Summit, includes my commentary on global health.

It was indeed a busy week with many events.

From Abu Dhabi


It has been a while since I have updated my blog.

On February 20th, I took an Etihad flight from Narita for Abu Dhabi.

Over these past three years, there has been a continuous, mutual exchange between universities in Abu Dhabi and Tokyo University and other Japanese universities and, Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics and several Japanese companies.

This time, we made visits to the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research and the Petroleum Institute.

Under the UAE-Japan Strategic R&D and Higher Education Partnership, Masdar also has links with the University of Tokyo and student exchanges, presentations and research unit observation trips. When I arrived at Masdar, there was a group of students who contacted me. They were a group of around twenty graduate students from the University of Tokyo. They had come to observe the research at Masdar, which is a good thing. I suggested that they come to see a presentation at the lecture hall if they had time. They did not come in the end but it made me glad that there were such students visiting.

Ambassador Fujiki also made an appearance during our visit and gave his greetings. The Ambassador is from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and as a background in biochemistry. I have high hopes for the mutual exchanges.

At KUSTAR, I had a meeting with President of Khalifa University, Dr. Tod A. Laursen. Last year, we had a half-day seminar at KUSTAR. However, with the recent fall in oil prices, the budget has become very tight. I wonder how many years this will continue.

At the Petroleum Institute, there was much interest in the development of solar cars with Tokai University. This team took second place at a race last year and made the news. Both the drivers and the preparations for the race are centered on the students here so they were especially happy here. The explanation by the leader was also very powerful.

This Institute of Energy Economics was ranked as number one in the world by the think tank ranking in the 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (p. 83) . It is very encouraging. There are talks of joint development.

The Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) , of which I serve as the Chairman, was also ranked in 6th place in the category of “global health” (p. 92). In the category of “top domestic health policy think tanks” it was ranked in 15th place (p. 90).

It was just a two-day trip but this sort of academia-government-industry team visit was very welcomed. Although Japan’s business interests with Abu Dhabi are mostly limited to oil, their interests went beyond, instead focusing on human resources training and education and business related to sectors other than the oil industry.

Toshiba’s Issues are based on the Same Underlying Problems behind the Nuclear Accident, as pointed out by NAIIC


Toshiba is currently in crisis. As one of the top Japanese corporations, it has drawn much criticism and attention on both domestic and international levels.

The underlying problem of corporate governance in Toshiba may have reminded many people across the world of the Olympus scandal, which occurred four years ago. This is indeed very true.

In the media, this has been featured in an article in Newsphere [in Japanese] and a major article in the Financial Times (registration is necessary to read the article). Furthermore, the Financial Times article was followed by a piece by Leo Lewis, “Problem of culture: Ever fiercer profit target imposed,” in which he mentions the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), of which I served as Chairman. He describes the problem underlying the Toshiba scandal as being similar to issue behind the nuclear accident, as pointed out in the NAIIC report.

The description is eerily similar to that used in the independent report on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which blamed Japan’s “reflective obedience” and “reluctance to question authority” for contributing the poor handling of the disaster.

Trust is built on the principles of transparency, openness and independence, especially in a world that is connected through the internet. Currently, trust in Japanese corporate governance is wavering. One wonders, even if companies appoint external directors or board members, is it just for the sake of appearance? How is the actual governance being conducted? These questions must be asked.

The book by Mr. Uda (Project Manager of NAIIC), “Obligation to Dissent: Why Organizations Fail,” which I featured on this blog from September 22nd to October 27th last year, examines this issue and focuses on the importance of organizational governance.

Changing the mindset and accepted cultural norms in Japan is a major challenge. It is difficult to regain trust once it is lost.

The Japan Start-up Prize (Nippon Venture Prize); ‘New Business’ Conference and CONNECT !


On the 22nd of January, the ‘Japan Start-up Prize/Nippon Venture Prize; ‘New Business’ Conference and Connect’ (in Japanese) was organized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

The morning session started with a presentation by Tom Kelley (of IDEO fame) and Christian Bason. It was followed by a discussion between the two presenters, with Naohiro Nishiguchi moderating.

In the afternoon, we had a section that was organized by Hal Morimoto of Astoria Consulting and me. Focusing on corporate venture capital (CVC), this 140 min. section detailed how the scene has been dramatically changing over the past couple of years (Japanese).

Part 1 was titled ‘To seek return on investment, or to seek strategic profits? The way of CVC’ along with ‘CVC best practices’, with an expert panel composed of Erik Vermeulen, Hiroki Saito (in Japanese), Akimichi Degawa, Tomotaka Torin (in Japanese), and moderated by Moriyoshi Matsumoto.

Part 2 was titled ‘The CVC Market and Ecosystem’ with Jessica Archibald, Alastair Breward, Chris Erickson, and George Arnold, with Kari Andersen as moderator. Between these experts, they presented the audience with numerous, practicable, pragmatic and sensible advice. I felt that it is really important to heed the advice of these people. Building up trust, perseverance, creating a presence on a global stage, showcasing the technical skills of Japan were some of such points raised.

I was only able to be there for part 2, delayed because of an important matter that had suddenly cropped up. I was very impressed by the discussion, and as the panel wrapped up, I made my way onto the stage and thanked the participants for their insights. During the discussion, the prevalence of ‘groupthink’ as a characteristic of many Japanese corporations was mentioned, and I took the opportunity to elaborate on this a little further. All in all, the response to this event was very positive.

Finally, the awards for the first ‘Japan Start-up Prize’ / Nippon Venture Prize were handed out by Prime Minister Abe, who had just come back from the Middle East. Awardees included Mitsuru Izumo for Euglena, Yoshiyuki Sankai for Cyberdyne, Takeo Higuchi (CEO of Daiwa House), Naoko Samata for Coiney, Kazuhide Sekiyama for Spiber, and Koichiro Yoshida for Crowdworks. It was a night where young entrepreneurs stood out. Well done!

It was an event that energized and delighted.

Davos World Economic Forum Meeting – My Message


The annual World Economic Forum Meeting at Davos will begin tomorrow. I am not attending the meeting again this year and you can read my views in a recent article in the Japan Times.

Other interviewees are here.

The Japan Night is likely to be festive again. Anything could happen anywhere tomorrow but one thing that is certain is there is much to discuss regarding the fragile state of the world.

Two visits to JFK in September


I have not posted very often in September and October. It is not that there was nothing to report, but I had many engagements that took up my time, such as lectures and conferences both in Japan and abroad.

On September 15th, I flew to JFK. From there, I headed to Philadelphia where I had a dinner. The next day I sat on a panel at a conference. After staying one more night, I left early in the morning to catch a flight back from JFK.

In the two days after this trip, I attended a couple of very important conferences in Tokyo and was able to finish them successfully. After spending the weekend at home, I headed to JFK once more on Monday, the 22nd.

This time, I went to NYC. I attended an educational session for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and a conference by the New York Academy of Sciences. This was held last year in San Francisco where I attended the conference as part of the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s advisory group. As this session was held during the United Nations General Assembly, the security in Manhattan was very tight and it was hard to get around.

On the evening of the 22nd, SONY CSL held its special annual event at MoMA for the first time. As I had some time, I attended the dinner. This big jump to MoMA must have required lots of practice from the participants. It is a wonderful idea.

The next evening, on the 23rd, I had dinner with Japanese doctors (1) who are conducting clinical residency training, which has become almost customary for my visits to NYC. There were also two medical students from Jichi Medical University who were there for two weeks of clinical clerkship. I enjoyed the dinner very much.

It is nice to be in New York in the autumn.

TEDxTokyo, The ACP Japan Chapter, and WEF Japan; Heralding the Change for Tomorrow


TEDxTokyo, which started in 2009, is now into its 6th year. Although TEDx has collaborated with many institutions over the past few years in the world, it all started here in Tokyo. From a conversation with my friends Patrick Newell and Todd Porter, this project has developed over the years in to the IMPACT Japan Project.

This year too, we had many interesting speakers at the TEDxTokyo, making for and enjoyable evening. You can catch the proceedings on the website.

Excusing myself from the reception held later in the evening, I headed for Kyoto, where a conference was being held, the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians Japan Chapter (ACPJC) (1). This congress was set up with the expressed purpose of nurturing world class talent in the clinical medicine by a group of dedicated young physicians who had received clinical training primarily in the US. Although this conference had started on the 31st, I was attending the TEDxTokyo, so I was able to participate only on the Day 2, 1st June.

I arrived in Kyoto just in time to join my friends for a second round of drinks, in a small bar that was quintessential Kyoto. I had a rousing conversation with my friends from my days as a clinical.

The next day, the second day of the conference, was attended by more than 600 physicians and interns (in Japanese) as the interesting sessions continued. The immediate past President of the ACP, Dr. Molly Cooke, was also in attendance.

I returned to Tokyo that evening to attend the World Economic Forum Japan to be held the next day. Here too, I caught up with many people, and we also had many stimulating discussions.

These 3 days were spent grasping the extent of the new generation of young people who were making their presence felt. This is a very heartening trend.

December: Many Meetings and Busy Days


Following the seminar by Dr. Garrett on December 2nd, the Global Conference on Universal Health Coverage, organized by the World Bank and the Japanese government (1), was held on the 5th and 6th.

President Jim Yong Kim gave an excellent key note speech, and I had the opportunity to speak with him. At the time when President Kim worked at the World Health Organization (WHO), I was the WHO Commissioner, so we knew each other indirectly.

On the afternoon of the 6th, I went to Tokai University where I was Dean of Medical School (1996-2002) for the first time in in last few years and gave a special seminar. On the 7th, there was a conference at the University of Tokyo, hosted by the Graduate School of Public Policy, with the Global Public Policy Network (GPPN) Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident. The moderator was Mr. Nobuo Tanaka, a leading figure in international energy policy.

On the 9th, I had lunch at the French Embassy with Ambassador Philippe Meunier, who is the ambassador in charge of measures against AIDS and Communicable Diseases.

On the 11th, there was a meeting hosted by the Health and Global Policy Institute and held at the international conference center in the Parliament, which welcomed Governor Patrick of Massachusetts of the United States. Professor John Hamalka of Harvard University also participated via Skype. This turned out to be an outstanding conference and the governor seemed very satisfied. In the evening, there was a reception at the US Embassy, hosted by Ambassador Kennedy, there were many people there and it was a bit hectic.

On the 12th and 13th, I attended the Asian Innovation Forum with Mr. Idei, which I have already written about.

On the 14th, I headed to Abu Dhabi. There was a board members meeting of Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KUSTAR) in Abu Dhabi, there I had spent a few days just three weeks ago.

In the afternoon of  the 15th after a break upon arrival, the President of KUSTAR gave a presentation to the three international board members, and the next day, 16th, the board members meeting had a good discussion and future planning.

After lunch, I enjoyed playing some golf at the wonderful Yas Links course, and then headed to the airport.

I returned Tokyo on 17th. After arriving home, I rested a bit and then in the evening had dinner with Erik Solheim at the Embassy of Norway. Mr. Solheim aimed to be a politician since his youth, has been a minister, and has contributed significant work as a Cabinet member of the Government and the world in peace keeping mission of Sri Lanka.

It has been very busy month, but I have been able to enjoy meeting many incredible people.

Seminar by Laurie Garrett


Dr. Laurie Garrett is an incredible individual who is currently a Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations. We had the opportunity of having her come to GRIPS during her one week stay in Japan. She has an amazing career, starting out as a researcher in biology and going on to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

She expresses and writes on Global Health that are based on her work in the field, and I first started to work with her after her 2007 Foreign Affairs paper. As you can see in the photograph in this blog post, she highly respects Nelson Mandela, who passed away recently, and she even has a life size replica of Nelson Mandela in her room.

She kindly agreed to be a jury member to select the winner of Noguchi Hideyo Africa Prize in 2008 (and in 2013) when I was the Chairman. I was grateful to have her on the committee as her opinions are based on observations from the field and deep judgment.

This made me remember something that happened when I was at the Davos World Economic Forum. When I introduced Ms. Sadako Ogata to her, she started to shed tears. I asked what happened and she replied that she respects Dr Ogata so much that she could not help but be moved to tears.

Around fifty people were at her seminar at GRIPS and it was very well received. Afterwards, many people sent emails to me expressing their thanks.

The seminar was based on the her recent article “Biology’s Brave New World: The Promise and Perils of the Synbio Revolution”.

There are also the following her interviews/articles on the Council on Foreign Relations

1) Staying Safe in a Biology Revolution

2) Making the New Revolutions in Biology Safe

3) H5N1; A Case Study for Dual-Use Search

It is difficult to predict where biotech will go from here. However, what can be said is that ICT, nano, bio will keep moving forward and that humankind will move towards Singularity1).

One wonders what kind of world we will be in the future.