St. Petersburg, Mr. Deguchi and Don Quixote


This is the first time visiting Russia for me. I have not gotten used to it yet, for the sun did not set nor did it get dark, even at 11pm.

I am here in St. Petersburg to attend "The IBM Business Leadership Forum" a conference hosted by IBM. The chairperson of the event is Samual Palmisano, IBM Chairman and CEO, who chaired the "Innovate America" published in 2006. The event has been held annually for four years. Hirotaka Takeuchi, Dean of the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Hitotsubashi University appears to be among the regular attendees of this event. He is one of the best panelists in such international conferences from Japan. Expected noted attendees include Fujio Cho, Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation whom I met in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Information of St. Petersburg is available through the website; In brief, St. Petersburg is a city located in the delta of the Neva River flowing to the Baltic Sea. The city was founded by Tsar Peter the Great as a "window to Europe” in early 18th century. As is always the case, the lack of historical recognition does not allow us to fully relish how interesting this historic city is. St. Petersburg was the capital of Russia until the government moved to Moscow due to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The scenery of the city is evocative of great luxury in the 18th to 19th centuries. St. Petersburg is also the birthplace of the Russian revolution of 1917.

How wonderful the scenery is! Beautiful green, large parks, and lots of trees. It is really cold here, though people enjoy it in their own way. I am going to stay here for a few days. I would highly recommend St. Petersburg as a great place to visit.

I stayed at Hotel Astoria, which is located in a very convenient location. Unfortunately, today is June 4th, Monday, and the Hermitage Museum was closed. Instead, I strolled around here for three hours. The city was crowded with a lot of people, especially the young, even though it was Monday. I was wondering why so many people were around on such a weekday. Was it summer vacation? I did not see so many cars but did frequently see old buildings around here. This led me to imagine that economic growth was yet to come.

First of all, I visited the State Russian Museum, which was founded by Nicholas II, the last Russian emperor, at the end of the 19th century. It has the largest collection of Russian traditional arts. Next to the museum, there is a church located on the place where Alexander II was assassinated in 1881.



The highlight is the Winter Palace Hermitage (See photos 3-5), which was built by Empress Elizabeth in the 18th century, daughter of Peter the Great. The Winter Place had served as the winter formal royal residence of Russian Tsars until the Russian Revolution in 1919. The museum is the biggest in terms of area in the world and also one of the world’s four greatest museums (the other three being the Metropolitan, NYC, USA, British Museum, London, UK, and Musee de Louvre, Paris, France). The museum has many European collections, which tells what a superpower Russia was in those days. I have it in mind to visit the Winter Palace sometime tomorrow.



By the way, in some columns here, I have mentioned the website "Digital New Deal" hosted by Shunichi Deguchi, Digital New Deal, DND Director, Visiting Professor Professional Graduate School, Management of Technology, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. In fact, Mr. Deguchi has given valuable support to the cabinet-run project "Innovation 25”, which I chaired. The website includes archives of email newsletters, titled the "DND email newsletters", which Mr. Deguchi delivers. Please check his website. There are several articles on his visit to Russia in the issues: April 25th, May 9th, May 16th and May 23rd. It was just a month ago. It is a really great read. How good his writing is and what a variety of topics he covers! He is an ex-newspaper reporter.

Especially in the May 16th, 2007 issue, he describes St. Petersburg beautifully and vividly. So I’d better stop writing on St. Petersburg. For there is no doubt that Mr. Deguchi is better at putting his own experiences into writing than me.

The issue: May 16, 2007 mentioned Mstislav Rostropovich, a great Russian cellist, who died on April 27th, 2007. Another issue: May 23, 2007 discussed Don Quixote, including the communication between us and his review on a Japanese book "INOBEISYON-NO-SAHOU (How to make innovation)" written by Ikujiro Nonaka, whom I respect. Please check Mr. Deguchi’s writing on Russia. Why Don Quixote? Don Quixote-ship is really important for innovation.

Please let me call it a day with some photos of today’s visit.

Photo 6 : Peter and Paul Fortress across Neva River Neva


Photos 7 and 8 : St. Isaac Cathedral across the Hotel Hotel and Field of Mars in front.