A Busy Start to 2017

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A slightly late Happy New Year to everyone!

The new year began with holidays until the 3rd, followed by three days (4th~6th)of courtesy calls to all the people I have had the opportunity to work with, and again the weekend from the 7th to the 9th.

Whenever I have such extended periods of rest, I read a lot to pass the time in a meaningful way, but I also ended up becoming a bit tired of resting.

While I was unwinding over the long weekend, the HGPI team was very busy with the pressured stages of drafting a policy proposal to the Government and to further the World Dementia Council Global Team. Inviting guest speakers, greeting colleagues and fellow organizers, constant updating and correspondence regarding progress. One of the team members at HGPI even travelled over the New Year’s holidays, to London and back, in 3 days.

Then, my first seminar of the new year at the HGPI, which has by now become something of an established tradition. I would also like to thank everyone who attended.

Followed by a farewell reception for His Excellency Bruce Miller, the Australian ambassador, and a New Year’s reception at the Canadian Embassy. I was also very fortunate to get tickets to the January Grand Sumo Tournament in between, so fortunate that I went two times!

And then, New Year’s Celebrations at SafeCast. This organization is a peerless example of Citizen Science, a movement that is not only limited to Fukushima, or to Japan, but is spreading across the world at a rapid pace, as people seek more trustworthy sources of information. Even the IAEA is a fan.

I also received a lot of young people who wanted to talk with me to discuss their plans to start something new, and nothing pleases me more than providing the impetus for something ambitious.

And all the while, I wondered what sort of year 2017 will be. A bit worrisome, if the inauguration ceremony of Mr. Trump in the U.S and the rise of ‘post-truth’ is anything to go by.

I am also doing my best recently to be active on Facebook.

So dear friends and readers, I would like to wish you all the best for the year to come and do keep in touch!

 

Several Invitations, Talks and Discussions

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These days, I have been lucky to be invited to attend several unique parties, receptions and dinners. Barring a few, most were public events, and some were organized by embassies.

Just to give you a general idea, I attended the following events:

Birdlife International’s annual fundraising gala, (the honorary president, Princess Takamado, was unable to attend owing to the mourning for Prince Mikasa’s passing), the commemoration of the creation of the Pasteur Japan Foundation through the collaboration of Institut Pasteur, Tokyo University and Kyoto University, The official unveiling ceremony of the Intilaq Tohoku Innovation Center (in Japanese) by the Qatar Friendship Fund, The Norwegian embassy’s reception for the visit of Norway’s foreign minister, and other events organized by the French embassy, the Swiss embassy, the Dutch embassy, and the British embassy.

At one embassy, I was invited to a small lunch that would be attended by ‘around 10 people’. Turned out that I was the only Japanese invitee, the rest being Minister and the entourage of 5, and the ambassador and his  staff. After some small talk, the conversation turned to the current situation in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster, as the Minister sought to learn more. Ever since I headed the NAIIC, I have found myself in similar situations more than few times.

Indeed, I recall that I was once specifically asked for by a visiting foreign dignitary, who was tired of receiving incomprehensible and non-committal replies when he had asked government officials and representatives of Japan about the kind of response Japan was planning in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster. Even taking into account the fact that there may be some errors arising due to translation, the policies of the Japanese government post-Fukushima requires some truly mind-bending and convoluted logic. It is really difficult to explain it in simple terms, probably because there is dissonance between the observations and conclusions. No wonder the hapless government officials were unable to provide reasonable answers. It is disturbing that, although the Fukushima Daiichi disaster ranks right up there as one of the worst nuclear disasters the world has seen, the response cannot be explained to a global audience.

I have written extensively about this worrying issue in the book ‘Regulatory Capture’ (in Japanese), released in March this year. It is not a trifling matter; for it deals with the trust that lies at the heart of national governance.

The Brilliance of Masayoshi Son, and the 5th Year of His Initiative for Renewable Energy

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In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Masayoshi Son laid out a new energy plan for the future, setting up a foundation to conduct research into renewables, and at the same time expanding the boundaries of his corporation to the global scale.

It is hard to find anyone in business circles in Japan, and indeed in the world, who are as capable of generating a buzz and garnering interest as Mr. Son. It is easy to criticize and be a naysayer, but I wonder how those same critics will fare in the face of similarly fierce put-downs.

Son-san has not taken long in acting to make his new energy plan, a response to the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Accident, a reality.

On 9th September, I was invited to take part in a panel discussion as part of a conference organized by his foundation. You can view the panel discussion through this link to the foundation’s website, as well as comment or ask questions.

The speeches of Kåberger, Dr. Lovins (at around 14 min) and Son (at around 43 min, as well as from the beginning in the second video) were all wonderful, inspring and informative. I was particularly impressed by the comprehensiveness of Son’s vision, his thoughts and views, and his ability to translate thought into action, as well as the structure of his talk. His answers to questions were also very good.

If you see his video, you will be able to understand the precarious position that Japan is in, as it is left behind in the wake of of world-movers like the US and China who change the world that we live in through their decisions and the policies that they make.

It really saddens me that the people who are in charge of energy policy in Japan, and are therefore responsible for the future of Japan, are too small-minded to participate in global debates, content instead with just looking as the rest of the world seeks change.

There is a lot of potential for new enrgineering and technologies within Japan, but so long as they are not utilized and, they will remain as they are, only potential dreams.

The Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Disaster is an accident of proportions that will remain for centuries, yet there appears to be little desire to learn from it, no major movement or indication that a definitive master-plan will be in sight.

It seems we will only be getting more of opportunistic politicians and media belonging to the ‘ruling elites and establishments’, and the researchers who support on-going agenda. Perhaps this is all part of the mindset of a ‘remote and isolated Japan’ ?

It appears that Japan’s energy policy will remain under Regulatory Capture for the foreseeable future. I had requested my publishers to prepare some copies of my book ‘Regulatory Capture’ to sell here just in front  of  the cofenerce hall, but the demand was beyond expectations and the book copies were sold out very quickly (in Japanese) thanks to an eager audience.

Meeting about Dementia at Todai, and Heading to Nairobi the Same Night

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During the afternoon of the 23rd of August, I attended a meeting announcing that Japan would be joining the ‘A4’, a clinical research programme spearheaded by the US,aimed at operationalising the use of diagnostic imaging for the early detection of Alzheimer’s and then monitoring for a further four years. This announcement was made by Dr. Iwatsubo of  Tokyo University’s Graduate School Faculty of Medicine, at the Ito Memorial Hall in Todai.

I made the keynote speech about my participation in the World Dementia Council. The Ito Memorial Hall where I gave my talk was packed to its capacity of 200 people, and my talk seemed to rivet the audience’s attention.

I presented about the founding and subsequent developments of the WDC, also touching upon public-private partnership initiatives such as the EU’s EPAD and the GAP Foundation from the US. The main message that I emphasised a lot was that such platforms with a global outlook are something that we desperately need in Japan. I also tried to describe what the implications of such a platform would be.

It will be a big challenge to replicate in Japan the successes of the multi-stakeholder platforms I mentioned in the talk, but at the same time, I feel enthusiastic about meeting this challenge head-on.

A few days later, I received an email from the consul of the British embassy thanking me for the succinct explanation of the UK’s initiative in setting up of the WDC during the 2013 G8 Summit.

To Amsterdam for a Conference on Dementia

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After the end of splendid Golden Week with beautiful weather, I left for Amsterdam.

This year, the EU Presidency is held by the Netherlands. This conference was hosted by the Netherlands in order to showcase and share the measures taken for dementia by the Dutch. Since being appointed as a member of the World Dementia Council (WDC) , which was formed at the G8 Summit hosted by the UK in 2013, I have participated in many such activities and have written about them on this blog.

Three months ago, at the conference in London, the WDC was reformed to become independent from the UK government and to become a truly global council. I participated in this conference and continue to be a member.

The Chair of this newly reformed council is Yves Joanette and the Vice-Chair is Raj Long. The last time I saw them was at the WDC meeting three months ago. The transition to the new, global Council has been smooth and is making progress, especially due to the enthusiastic efforts and support of the secretariat, temporarily transferred from the UK Department of Health.

The British government regards dementia as one of the most significant problems in the world and raised the issue at the G8 Summit, pouring in roughly 100 million US dollars in funding and raising another 100 million US$ from other relevant organizations. I am always amazed by the dynamism that is an important part of the fabric of British politics and governance, its foreign policy as well as universities and scientific research, in spite of its problems with the EU and national politics.

The last time I visited the Netherlands was last year in June, when I attended the conference at the Hague. In the meantime, I’ve met with the Dutch State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport, Martin van Rijn at a seminar held at the Dutch Embassy, during his visit to Tokyo.

The conference venue was the Europe Building. The venue was characteristically Dutch, in the sense that the venue was not particularly flashy but the program content was well thought out and was moderated effectively. The conference kicked off with a speech by Martin van Rijn and the panels were moderated by Member of Parliament, Marijke Vos (donning a red dress in the photograph above). These two days have been very informative.

Japan will host the G7 Summit in Ise-Shima in May and I often get asked many questions about how dementia will be approached in the Summit. There will be many activities by organizations dealing with dementia.

Tulips are currently in full bloom in The Netherlands. I had the chance to visit the nearby National Maritime Museum. It is worth making a visit.

In the afternoon of the second day, the people of DUJAT (Dutch & Japanese Trade Federation) invited me to dinner. It turned out that the Managing Director of DUJAT and a medical doctor who was also as guest at the dinner had mutual friends of me from a long time ago and that the doctor joined my teaching sessions before. It was a very fun dinner.

After my stay of three days and two nights, I returned to Schiphol Airport. I came across this very moving photograph of a whale and people, which won first place in a contest, and I share this image with you here.

My next stop: Oslo.

A Week of Conferences on Global Health

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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.

To Toronto Again

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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.

Health Policy Summit 2016

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The annual summit of the Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) took place on February 27th from midday at the Meguro Gajoen. Apart from conferences, this venue is used mostly for weddings and has opulent decor. On top of this, the day of the summit had nice, sunny weather.

HGPI was ranked as being in sixth place in the 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report in the category of “global health policy think tanks” (p.92) and was ranked in fifteenth place in the category of “top domestic health policy think tanks” (p.90). As a small, independent think tank, this is quite an achievement. It is due to the tremendous efforts of the staff at HGPI.

I had just returned from London the day before but everyone who participated, the speakers on the three panels, as well as the excellent moderators, made for a lively and interesting afternoon.

The first panel, “Sustainability in Health Care” had the following panelists: Hirotaka Unami, the Senior Director for Social Security Budget, Ministry of Finance; Toshihiko Takeda, Director-General for Policy Planning and Evaluation, Social Security, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare; and Robert Alan Feldman, the Managing Director, Chief Economist, Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities Co., Ltd. The moderator was the Mariko Oyamada, the Manager, Health and Global Policy Institute.

This panel focused on the issue of whether the public healthcare system in Japan, which the country takes great pride in, is sustainable in the face of a tight budget and an aging society. It was a very frank and open discussion and a nice opening for the whole summit.

The second panel, “Global Health- G7 Summit and Beyond,” had the following panelists: Kenji Shibuya, Professor, at the University of Tokyo who is internationally minded; Yasuhiro Suzuki, Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare who is also internationally minded; and Yoshiharu Yoneyama of JICA. The moderator was Anne Smith of HGPI.

We discussed a wide range of topics, including Japan’s contributions to global health so far; the agenda of the G7 Summit that will be held in May; and the potential for developments of partnerships which extend beyond Japan, in particular PPPs (public-private-partnerships) such as GHIT.

Japan’s contributions to the G7/G8 Summits in the area of global heath has been remarkable and the next challenge is how to further develop them to the next stage. The issues of poverty and health and diseases are some of the underlying causes of the instability that we feel in this world.

The third panel, “The Future of Health Care” had the following panelists, who come from different backgrounds: Seigo Izumo, who recently moved to Takeda Pharmaceutical Company; Tomiko Tawaragi, the Chief Safety Officer at the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA); and Shinsuke Muto who is very energetic. The panel was moderated by Ryoji Noritake of HGPI.

Both Dr. Izumo and Dr. Muto have unique careers amongst Japanese medical doctors- they are movers and shakers on a global scale and have interesting experiences to share, so their views have a major impact. Mr. Tawagi has built his career at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and had a clear message.

We received many comments from people with global perspectives and it seemed that there was a major push for Japan to end its “isolation” and become a more open country.

I felt that this was a very fruitful day where we had a meaningful discussion, including with our members and the audience.

I would like to express my gratitude towards all of the people who continue to support HGPI.

Furthermore, I would like to thank the team members of HGPI, the OB/OG, as well as the interns and students for their hard work.

The report on this summit is summarized here.

Visit to London, the next Step for the World Dementia Council

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The World Dementia Council (WDC), was established in December 2013 at the G8 Dementia Summit held in the UK by the initiative of the British government. I have written a few entries on the WDC on this blog.

Since then, two years have already passed and the British government alone cannot continue to provide funding and leadership of the Council interminably. Yet, dementia remains one of the most pressing issues, so this year, it reformed its organizational structure to become an independent, truly global organization, with the strong support of the UK.

This conference was held in London and I participated as a Commissioner and traveled from Abu Dhabi to London. A few new Council members joined the Council and I was happy to learn that we have a few mutual friends.

It is a critical time for Prime Minister Cameron, who will preside over the referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU in June.

Dementia could be an item on the agenda for the G7 Summit to be held in May in Japan, and supporting UK initiative would be an important issue for Japan- UK relations.

On the 24th, a conference was held by the CEO Initiative (CEOi), comprised mostly of private sector companies. Many companies and foundations participated and it was a productive conference. In particular, there are many promising efforts on the topic of big data to keep an eye on. Recently in Japan, IBM has been especially active in the area of big data and its partnership with IBM Watson has been in the news.

Vancouver

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Last year, I meant to share with you my trip to Vancouver in between my trips to Seattle on December 1st and Toronto on December 6th but it seemed to have slipped my mind.

My apologies for the delay to Consulate General Okada and many others who looked after me during my stay in Vancouver. Below is the report of my trip.

On the evening of November 11th, I arrived at Vancouver from Seattle. This was my third visit to Vancouver but the last time was already around ten years ago.

From here, I will be traveling to Toronto and Ottawa. This lecture series was planned over two years by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada which invited me as a speaker. The topic of my talk is Japan’s role in facing issues of global health.

On the next day, the weather was heavy rain and a stark contrast to that of Seattle.

I arrived at the campus of the prestigious University of British Columbia. I gave a lecture at the Irving Barber Learning Center for approximately 90 minutes. Consul General Okada kindly moderated my talk.

Consul General Okada is a great speaker and he was deeply involved in the planning of TICAD4 (1),  that was held in Yokohama in 2008 under Prime Minister Fukuda. At that time, I was the chairman of the first Noguchi Hideo Africa Prize and the award ceremony was held at TICAD4.

I met with Professor Shigenori Matsui who has been teaching here for the past ten years, as well as a medical doctor who was trained in Japan. She is currently studying here.

From the afternoon, I attended a dinner at the Consulate General. The Consulate General building is one of the oldest historical buildings in the area and is very beautiful. Consul General Okada did not have experience in Africa prior to organizing the 2008 TICAD but he asked to work at the Japanese Embassy in Kenya following TICAD. We discussed issues in Africa and were able to exchange many opinions.

Both of the two days during my stay were rainy, sadly, but they were very fruitful.

On November 13th, I left for Toronto.