Yale University had a Symposium on Patriotically-minded Historian Kan’ichi Asakawa.


This weekend, cherry blossoms will be in a full bloom in Tokyo, but unfortunately it will be raining.

The title of this blog: "Yale University had a Symposium on Patriotically-minded Historian Kan’ichi Asakawa. He is on spotlight again." is an article of Sankei Shimbun from March 29th. I know many people who visit my website know of Dr. Asakawa.

The small headings of Sankei Shimbun’s article were "He had foresight and indicated Japan’s course" and "Dr. Kan’ichi Asakawa said ‘Japan will lose the trust of the world’ and ‘the United States is a country of public opinion.’" This is the same purpose as mine which I always write about in this site. For the past 100 to 150 years, Japanese basic thought has been introverted, and Japanese can only see things panoramically and have closed-minds which are not good at thinking. Why have Japanese been like this? I think this is an interesting theme for us to think hard.

If Japan had only a small presence in the world, Japanese mind-set would only be a problem inside of Japan (although this is also not good!) and this would not a big problem to the world. However, Japan is the world’s second-largest economy. I think self-righteousness is not acceptable in this era of globalization and even dangerous. I am a little worried when I see the current state of the world, rapidly changing Asian situations and the direction in which Japan is seemingly heading to.

Was this symposium held because people feel same kind of anxiety as me? The answer is probably ‘No’. This symposium was held this March because hundred of years have passed since Dr. Asakawa had taught for the first time. The symposium theme was "Japan and the World: Domestic Politics and How the World Looks to Japan" and some noted individuals from Japan that you may recognize were in attendance. If you think of the present global landscape, this year is the historical hundredth year for Japan, too. This is such a coincidence!

Dr. Asakawa is the first Japanese professor in the United States. He is the first to become a professor at Yale University. The first Japanese who officially got in and graduated from Yale University was Dr. Yamakawa Kenjiro, who served as a sixth president of the University of Tokyo and in fact was a remaining survivor of the Aizu Clan’s Byakkotai. In 2005, when Dr. Richard Levin, current president of Yale University, came to Japan, he introduced to the audience Dr. Asakawa and Dr. Yamakawa in his lecture at Tokyo University.

Monthly Kogaku Shimbun is a website for international students living in Japan, which introduces 50 international Japanese in the series. This website is very interesting. Many people, including Dr. Asakawa and Dr. Yamakawa, that I spoken of on my website have been introduced in this series.

In the interview,"For the National Vision Using Science as Borderless Tools"(Iwanami Shoten, Publishers World),"life science and ethic" was discussed and Dr. Asakawa was introduced as well. Please read it.

"History repeats itself" is not acceptable anymore. My conclusion, "Have we become wiser?" was the heading of the lunch session, "World Knowledge Dialogue" held in Geneva.

Sending out “Innovation 25” interim report


I have been reading the comments in media and blog etc. about “Innovation 25” interim report which I mentioned in my column on February 28th. A discussion at Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy presented something similar to my thoughts which I expressed in my blog on March 12th. Finally university reform seems to be aiming at the same direction. However, expecting universities to carry out reforms spontaneously is difficult and it is not surprisingly so when you come to think about the history of their establishment. If you look at Mr.Deguchi’s DND , you will find lively discussions going on about this also. I appreciate it.

I am also sending out more messages. It is important to do so because it gives me an opportunity to listen to your thoughts and opinions. In the March 2007 edition of “JST News” I am talking about the “keyword” of innovation under the title of “A society that nurtures out of box talents, heterogeneity and nails that stick out”. It was broadcasted on cable television as part of government’s PR activities. I received calls saying “I saw you on TV”, but unfortunately I missed it because I am not a cable TV user.

In the column “economics classroom” of Nikkei newspaper March 27th edition, I touch upon the essence of innovation under the title “Social system reform is the essence”. The top headline is “Overcome environment and disparities; don’t fall behind in policy competition”, sub headlines are “A flat world that can not be turned back”, “Conquer the logic of suppliers and collaborate” and “Social entrepreneurs gaining importance”.

The executive summary of “Innovation 25” English version is now posted on the web site of Prime Minster of Japan and His Cabinet. A bit late, but isn’t it something unique for a Japanese policy? British Ambassador Sir Fry whom I met at a certain gathering gave me an immediate response to this and told me that he has read the report. I think it is important to send out this kind of messages and to get feedbacks.

Anyway, Japan is not so visible from the outside. Government, private sectors and academic societies do not even think of sending messages out to the public. What are they to do in this world of flat and global era with such a stance, I wonder.  Every now and then I write and say “open your eyes, heart and think”. The world is indeed broad.

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs and Millennium Village


In the year 2000, Millennium Development Goals(MDG) was announced by the United Nations and “MDG Report” was published in 2005 under the initiative of Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. It is pointing out the goals for each country towards 2025.   Very challenging goals, but I am sure that they are great steps towards the future of the world. I  feel that the leadership of Prof. Sachs who managed this is truely amazing.
Dr. Sachs and I have been working together for a year. As you see in my postings of 2006/2/5 and 2006/1/28 ; we have been friends since our first encounter in Davos forum in 2005.   Just taking a look at his HP is enough to convince you how extraordinarily a brilliant person he is. At the age of 29 he became a professor at Harvard University and is a worldwide famous economist who has contributed tremendously in working out plans for the restoration of economy of Latin America and Russia. Last year he published a book by the title of “The End of Poverty” which was also highly appreciated throughout the world.  Japanese version is also available.  Magnitude of his activities is just incredible.

He is always smiling and has a relaxed attitude, not a trace of arrogance. Even now he acts as an advisor to many countries and especially travels to various African countries as  Advisor to the Government.  In addition, he is taking up the honor of BBC “Reith Lecture” this year. From what I have heard, it has been already recorded once.

Dr. Sachs came to Tokyo from March 4th to 6th   from North Europe and Berlin. After Tokyo he will be visiting Seoul and Beijing. He requested me to arrange for various meetings in the available timeframe, which naturally summed up to a bulk of work for us. The purpose of the visit was to thank for the contribution of Japan and ask for further support for Africa. Do you know why? Because, he has started Millennium Village Project (MVP) to help achieve this difficult goal as much as possible through his own effort.   First, he started with a village in Ethiopia and Kenya.  The New York Academy of Sciences covers this story in a moving article "It Takes A Village" .

His wife is Dr. Sonia Ehrlich Sachs, a great granddaughter of Dr. Paul Ehrlich. As you know, Dr. Paul Ehrlich was the mentor of Sahachiro Hata.  Together, they discovered the first chemical compound Salvarsan (a specific remedy that works against spirochete causing syphilis) which is effective on infectious disease. He received a Nobel Prize in 1908. Dr. Sonia is a pediatrician but she has completed MPH (Master of Public Health) and is now working as superintendent of MVP.  Truely amazing! 

At the Millennium Summit of the United Nations held in September 2005, only Japanese government has offered to support MVP in 8 other places (Prime Minister Mr. Koizumi was there to participate). It’s a wonderful international contribution but the news was not much told in Japanese newspapers. Just before the general meeting of United Nations, I received an e-mail from the associates of Prof. Sachs saying "Really wonderful job and we are very much impressed”. Since then, I am telling about “MVP and contributions of Japan” in every occasion; domestic and international.

With the help of Japan, funds were raized for MVP of Prof. Sachs and currently 12 MVPs are conducted in Africa.

Though the stay of Prof. Sachs was short, we managed to have him visit Minister of Finance, Minister of Health, Vice-minister of Health(Mr. Takemi), Dr. Sadako Ogata, chairman of JICA, and foreign affairs dignitaries. I also arranged several interviews including  an interview with Mr. Yonekura, director of Sumitomo chemicals (covered in Nikkei, a major newspaper among the Japanese business establishment) which I served as a host. Dr. Sachs was very happy with those schedules of 3 days. Many thanks to all the people concerned for their great support. I think you will be finding  articles on this at various places. The photograph is of Prof. Sachs, NPO colleague Dr. James Kondo and me.

Through this, I am aiming to spread the wonderful contribution of Japan, especially in Africa, to all the citizens of the nation and to the world with Prof.Sachs.

By the way, Sumitomo Chemicals is a worldwide successful company, producing 10 million mosquito nets called “Bed Net (Olyset Nets)” per year. This innovative net, which prevents malaria, is supplied to Africa. It is also being used in MVPs. It reduces malaria and keep children healthy thereby improving their productivity. Education and food production is also increasing. Moreover, there are 2 manufacturing factories in Africa and 1 each in Vietnam and China. Employments are provided to these countries and the employees are also doing their work with pride of contributing this product to Africa. This story is introduced in the interview with Prof. Sachs which I will post soon. Please look forward to it.


Photo:Prof. Sachs at the center

No time to spare for university reform ? what to do with the classification of “science major and arts major”?


I assume that many of you have read the “Innovation 25” interim report. The key message is development of human resources. The message of “no time to spare for university reform” in this global era is defined in this report as one of the major policy issues of the time being.  The Innovation 25 site which is linked to “The Prime Minister’s Office- Cabinet Office” points out that the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy shares this view and their “Economic and Fiscal Reform” report touches upon “abolition of arts and sciences categorizations upon entrance”, “Discussion on entrance examination system reforms”, and so on. It is not my intention to bring up America in particular, but how much do other western countries think that they have general university entrance exams? About university education itself, issues to be considered may include “liberal arts v.s. disciplinary education” etc.

By coincidence, in our well known site of Mr.Deguchi’s DND, Ms.Harayama, Mr.Hashimoto, Mr.Shiozawa are all raising a controversial discussion at the same time over the topic “classification of arts and science” . They are inspired by one another ? wonderful!  I hope that they boost up this discussion. All matters should be decided by open discussion. A similar view is proposed from the economic society as well. Please refer to this year’s March policy proposal of Keizai Doyukai

Well, the entire Japan is looking at this direction, but what will be the reactions of the universities themselves? They are too used to the current system and when it comes to their self interest, what will be their response? Rather than saying “no, we can’t”, or spending years on defining the word “liberal arts” and looking for excuses, we should take a big step forward and start on what we can do. Universities are not for professors, but they exist for our future human resources. So this is where the university people should pour their wisdom. Their insight will be tested.

As I wrote in my blog on March 3rd, compared to the drastic message of the world’s leading universities, there is no time to spare for Japan’s university reform. I sincerely hope that the university people make a bold decision and proceed with the reform. Needless to say for private universities, but national universities that have become corporations also have a good amount of freedom now.

As you can see in the material of the meeting of Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy held on February 27th, the session of educational reform also shares the same awareness for university reform. I do look forward to the reform, but at the same time, is a bit concerned that it won’t be a significant one.  I advise Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to not leave everything up to the universities, but make substantial effort through innovative thinking. Basically, universities are and must be highly independent.  However, partly because of Japan’s historical background, they seem to be paying more attention to the government authorities. Well, it can’t be helped.

Hina Matsuri, the Doll Festival (Japanese Festival for the Girls)

People might say I am getting old, but I like Hina Matsuri. Great dolls for the Doll Festival are displayed at the prime minister’s office, too. As you may already know, last week I attended three meetings at the office of the prime minister: Innovation 25, the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy, and the Council for Science and Technology Policy. I think it is good that these meetings underlined the urgent need for university reform.

One of the recent headlines was that Harvard University has selected a female president for the first time in its nearly 400-year history. Four out of eight Ivy League universities now have female presidents; the others are Princeton, Pennsylvania, and Brown University. Other elite universities such as MIT and Cambridge also have women as presidents. I have written about women presidents and empowerment of women on this blog many times.

Meanwhile, in Japan, Dr. Setsuho Ikehata, the president of Tokyo University of Foreign Study ended her term (she is a great woman and we are always in agreement), so we now have only one female president of about eighty some national universities (I don’t mean that national universities are more important, but I am speaking to you from a historical context). Ms. Atsuko Tsuji, an editorial writer of the Asahi Shimbun in her recent column on first woman president of Harvard University rightly pointing out this fact of only one woman at the top of national universities in Japan. Only one woman president is sad. The whole world is watching Japan. I don’t think it is this number that is the real issue but I feel like this number reflects how Japanese society thinks of universities and the gender issue. In this era of globalization, what universities can communicate to the society and to the world is very important.

This is what I felt as the Doll Festival approached. Japan’s "Gender Development Index" is ranked number 8 in the world, but the "Gender Empowerment Index" is in the forties. This is a shame.