Take Me Out to the Ball Game


Now, it is the baseball season.  The Opening series of the Major League Baseball began here today with Boston Red Sox, the 2007 World Champion, and Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome.  After opening ceremonies with music and national anthums of US and Japan, "Dice-K" Matsuzaka was the starting pitcher for Red Sox.

I got tickets and went to the game.  Dice-K was a bit of disappointment, retiring at the end of 5th inning (95 pitches).  Okajima was the winning pitcher throwing 9th with Papelbon as closer for 10th innings.  Many Americans showed up to the game.  It was fun.  Quickies at; http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/extras/extra_bases/.

Cherry blossom began suddenly to almost bloom in one warm day today and will be the peak perhaps this weekend.

Redsox038Photo1 Major League Opening Game at Tokyo Dome

Redsox042Photo2  Dice-K pitches

Lost in translation? Not really


In a recent panel I participated ?perhaps about 20 panelists — 6:4 for Japanese and non-Japanese, heated discussion went on how to combat climate change.  Several Japanese corporate and policy leaders claimed that Japanese energy technology is most efficient and they worked very hard with ‘Samurai spirit’ to improve energy efficiency after ‘oil crisis’ of 1973 Middle East War and insisted that innovative technology is the key to reduce carbon emission.

But others, both Japanese and non-Japanese, argue that this is not enough and insisted that rules and regulations including ‘carbon cap and trade’ must be implemented.  Japanese side insists ‘sector approach’ leaving best practice in the world for each sector to pursue.

It seems EU and even US seem moving toward ‘carbon cap and trade’ in addition to various mandatory policies in addition to innovative technology.  Unless Japan takes it own initiative, she becomes just a follower of new world rules and could be singled out from this kind of business.

On video-screen, the translation appeared as ‘Samurai Worrier,’ which should have been ‘Samurai Warrior.’  An American noticed this error, but said gently this may not be an error and rather sending a correct message.  Sometimes, translation may convey the true meaning of what is being said.

Meeting with Mr. Blair and participating in “Blair Project”


From March 14 to 16, “G20 meeting of ministers of energy and environment” was held in Makuhari, Chiba prefecture.

In the morning of 13th, I met with Prof. Sachs and discussed about the latest Global Health Summit, as well as the announcement made by president Bush during his visit to Africa, on additional support for Africa on neglected infectious diseases other than HIV, Malaria, and tuberculosis.  We also discussed about various types of ODAs, supports that can produce visible outcomes, and how we could best fund them.  From late afternoon, a meeting organized by Columbia University was held in Shanghai, to which I was invited, but unfortunately had to be excused.

I then rushed to the 3rd meeting of GIES, “GIES2008.”  “GIES2007” held in June 2007, and there my talk on “Innovation25,” is available on webcast.

In the morning of March 14, I had breakfast with Honorable Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State of Energy of the United Kingdom, who participated in the “G20” meeting.  In the late morning of March 15, I with several others met with Mr. Tony Blair, prime minister of England until last year (Photo 1).  Mr. Blair delivered a keynote lecture early in the morning at G20 meeting. We discussed primarily on climate change and its policy of upcoming G8 Summit, China policy, issues on developing countries, and other related issues.  Mr. Blair highlighted the topic of climate change for the first time at his Gleneagles G8 summit in 2005, and since then he is sincerely working hard to follow up the theme.  He works closely Davos meeting, and co-presided a lecture given by prime minister, Mr. Fukuda, this year’s Davos meeting.  Mr Blair has continued his effort through various mechanisms to work on thi and other major global issues.  I have been invited to join his team and am looking forward to participate in this honorable endeavor.  Mr. Blair will head to next destination, Beijing and New Delhi, and I have already starting to correspond with his staffs by e-mail.  No time to waste!


Photo1 With Mr. Tony Blair

March 16, lunch at “Global warming symposium” organized by Ministry of Environment, Tokyo, and Nikkei (photo 2), followed by keynote lecture by Mr. Blair, and a panel by Mr. Kamoshita, Ishihara, etc (photo 3).  Excerpts will hopefully appear in Nikkei Shinbun sometime soon.

Photo2 Lunch with Mr. Blair. From left, myself, President Nishizawa of Tokyo Metropolitan University, Mr. Namiki, vice Minister of Environment, Mr. Graham Fry, British Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Blair, Mr. Ishihara


Photo3  From left on the panel discussion, Mr. Kamoshita, Minister of Environment, Mr. Blair, Mr. Ishihara


Photo4 Before the lecture, myself with Mr Graham Fry, British Ambassador to Japan

L’Oreal – UNESCO 10th Award “For Women in Science” – from Paris


I flew from Narita to Paris in the evening of March 5th to attend a memorable 10th anniversary event of L’Oreal-UNESCO “For Women in Science” Award.  There was also the year 2008 Award presenting ceremony.  Laureates in the past 10 years count up to over 50 and if we include International Fellowship and National Fellowship, nearly 500 women scientists have been awarded and supported in the past 10 years.  This is a wonderful contribution to the society.  Almost 40 Laureates participated to celebrate the 10th anniversary event.

After arriving in the morning of 6th, I had some rest. In the afternoon, there was an event at UNESCO headquarters.  First, there was an introduction of L’Oreal-UNESCO Charter for “For Women in Science” and its 10 Commitments followed by signing of the 40 Laureates.  Please refer to this site for detail of the 10 commitments. This is with full of good intention.  I hope that my blog readers will also practice it.  I was invited to take part of the event since I served as a member of the jury for 2008.  It was a 1 week event, but I could only attend the award presenting ceremony.

After this introduction, there was the award presenting ceremony of this year’s Laureates. Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Directeur-General of UNESCO and Sir. Lindsay Owen-Jones, Chairman of L’Oreal and the L’Oreal Foundation both gave a welcome speech in fluent French.  Dr. Gunter Blobel of the Rockefeller University, who received the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, was the 2008 Chair of the L’Oreal-UNESCO Awards jury.  Laureates were introduced one by one.  To introduce each, a short, well edited movie of each of the Laureates was shown which was filmed by visiting them, and a very clear introduction by Dr. Blobel about their scientific achievements followed by a speech from the Laureate.  All of the 5 Laureates were introduced in this manner. Then Mr. Matsuura and Sir. Lindsay presented the award, it was quite an impressive stage.

Laureates representing the Asia Pacific region include Dr. Tsuneko Okazaki(2000), and Ms. Fumiko Yonezawa(2005-she was absent for this anniversary event and we missed her) from Japan. Also, Dr. Fang-Hua Li(2003) from China, Dr. Nancy Ip(2004) whom I’ve known very well from Hong Kong, China, and this year’s Laureate was Dr. Narry Kim from Korea.


Photo1 With Dr. Tsuneko Okazaki


Photo2 With Dr. Nancy Ip

In selecting the candidates, juries focus on the creativity and the quality of their achievements based primarily on their publications and professional achievements, but the most important factor is “whether it is an achievement as an independent scientist.” This year’s award winner, Dr. Kim is 37 years old, studying MicroRNA and is Assistant Professor at the Seoul National University.  With her outstanding achievements, all of the juries unanimously chose her out of many outstanding candidates from Asia Pacific. I wanted to know how she could have made such an eminent achievement as an independent researcher, so a week after the selection committee, I took advantage of scheduled visit to Seoul to meet her.


Photo3 With Dr. Blobel and Mr. Matsuura

She earned her master’s degree at the Seoul National University, PhD. at Oxford University and Post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.  When she returned to Korea as Assistant Professor at the Seoul National University, as she told me, her Professor strongly supported her providing her a part of his research budget for a few years until she became independent, allowed her to use whatever equipments necessary in his laboratory, and had 2-3 graduate students from his program to work with her.  But when coming to writing the research paper, the professor declined to be a co-author, saying that it was her own work.  She said that in that process, she was able to become independent in pursuing her research and was very grateful for the support she received from the professor.  This professor must have really wanted her to become an independent researcher to pursue her career; it is wonderful, but may not be ‘norm’ in Seoul National and I wonder why.  One day, I would like to meet this professor in person to ask this question.  In Japan, young people are not encouraged to become independently early, nor going through an open process of competing, so it is hard to see from the outside who are showing great potentials with creativity as a newly rising future stars. It is often the case, you have to become a professor to be able to compare as an individual scientist with peers to see a potentially promising scientist.  This is not a way of nurturing creativity. As we say, spare the rod and spoil the child.


Photo4 Ms. Narry Kim

Upon the award accepting speech, she said that she once considered giving up research career because she had to take care of two children.  She appealed that it is important for the society to support women scientists, particularly mothers, like the day-care center. I totally agree.  I met her child, too. I hope that in Japan too, we can expand the opportunity for younger talented people and women, and give them chance to enhance their ability to be independent in their field of study.  You don’t necessarily have to become a professor to be an independent researcher, becoming a professor must be just a result of academic achievements.  It is important for professors to support nurturing the younger generation’s talents and potentials and to give them opportunities to become independent early in their career to become someone different. Our future is indeed on the shoulders of the younger people.

The hotel was Sofitel, located near the Japanese Embassy, Concorde Plaza and St. Honore.  The location was magnificent, but too bad that I did not have much time to spare. In the afternoon of the following day, I had to return to Japan.  At the airport, a cinema screen size photo of each of the Laureates were exhibited everywhere; Nicely done.

Economist Conference: Japan’s Strength and Weakness


On March 5th, 8.00AM, I attended the first “Conference of global warming issues” at the Prime Minister’s Office.  It may be a little too late to kick off at this timing, but as we can see from the Prime Minister’s speech in Davos, he is beginning to take a step forward.  It’s a good thing.  But the Diet is facing full of issues such as the budget committee, funding for road, gasoline tax, nomination of BOJ governor etc.

The world’s most read economic media, “The Economist” featured “JAPAIN” (not “JAPAN”) in their recent edition.  It reports that despite Japan being the 2nd largest economic power in the world, there is little political leadership even under this critical situation.  Today there was a conference hosted by “The Economist” and I attended the afternoon panel.  I joined part of the session before lunch where Minister Yoshimi Watanabe and Matsui-san from Matsui Securities Co. Ltd., both known as polemists were talking about “Agony of socialist nation, Japan.”  In the afternoon, a Vice Minister (of course a politician) showed up.  Vice Minister is a role to support the Minister, but that Vice Minister, he seems a good man, was just reading a draft written by a bureaucrat.  This is strange.  It’s not consistent with democracy.  Is this a joke?  That’s why they are called “reader,” not “leader.”  More than half of the audience was not Japanese, thus this situation was a little awkward.  I understand that it is difficult to distinguish the “R” and “L” pronunciation for Japanese, but it is a little too ironic.  Anyway, the relationship between Japan’s bureaucrats and Ministers are completely incomprehensible for the world.

During lunch, there was a lecture from Tetsundo Iwakuni, member of DPJ. I took part in the first panel in the afternoon.  Please refer to Yoko Ishikura’s blog for details.  There were 4 panelists and each did a 10 minute presentation.  To wrap up, I talked about 4 things.  (1) First, I started by saying “We ‘eated’ lunch next room and enjoyed a lecture by Iwakuni-san.”  “We eated lunch” is grammatically wrong, but no one got on it nor anyone laughed at it.  It makes sense in English.  Of course it is correct to say that it’s not “We eated,” but “We ate,” but “eated” is enough to pass on the meaning.  It’s a good thing to pay attention to grammar, but I just want to point out that this is one example of “starting to talk in English.”  This is the common language “broken English” in this global era.

One of the panelists, an executive from Nokia delivered an interesting speech.  He said that everyday a million cell phones are sold worldwide.  So I said (2) the share of the global cell phone market is 38% by Nokia, 14% by Motorola, 12% by Samsung, 9% by SONY-Erickson and the 10 or so Japanese cell phone companies combined all together only have 5% of share.  Some may say that the service providers like DoCoMo is too dominant, and I agree to this point.  But the quality of Japanese made components are good and 65% of the world’s cell phone components are actually “made in Japan.”  We have to precisely understand Japan’s strength and weakness to do business in the global arena.  Next (3), I pointed out the problem of Japanese cell phone industry, engineers, management and the organization itself appealing to Apple that they want to handle iPhone.  What’s more important is to look at the customers “in the world.”  Remember, back in 1997 Apple’s cash flow was only durable for 5 weeks and was rumored to be bankrupt or be merged by some other company.  Do Japanese companies have to be put in a situation like this to understand?  It’s also a problem that Japanese companies tend to run in to the government officials for help.  I would say first “Mind your own business in marketplace.”

There are unbelievably childish scandals going on by the management among big companies, bureaucracy and well-established companies.  But come to think of why these incidents occur.  It is really disgraceful that the top management doesn’t take responsibility to resign, or in some cases resign from President but remain as a board member.  It is only natural of the cold response from the society and younger generation questioning “dignity of Hin-kaku in Japanese” of people in higher positions.  Everywhere in the society, the top are corrupted.  They should owe responsible to the society. What is economic growth in such a society?!

Lastly (4), I took out my iPod and explained that the design of this shiny back side of the gadget and prototype was made in Japan, production was done by a Taiwanese company, and its factory was in China and some of the components used inside are made in Japan.  But these are all component manufacturers.  Apple doesn’t do the actual manufacturing.  They just designed the whole system and created the concept but get 50% margin out of a product.  My message was that “manufacturing” is important but what is more important is why you make it, what you make and how you seize the customer’s heart.  The instruction manual for iPod is extremely simple.  You can see it on the internet.  Compared to that, the instruction manual for Japan’s cell phone and other electrical appliances are unimaginably difficult to understand.  I assume that the engineers are writing it, but it is simply not user friendly (interesting books are written to this by Dr. Koreo Kinoshita in Japanese).  One reference related to this is “iPhone shock” (Nikkei BP, 2007, in Japanese) written by Nobuyuki Hayashi.

Japan’s strength and weakness.  We have outstanding technical capabilities but lack imagination and energy to step out to the world.  After all, it’s the management that is weak.  It is unbelievable in this world of information that a President of a company says without hesitation that he will stay in realm for “2 years for 2 period” to follow their arbitrary internal rules.  This is the basics of corporate governance of market economy.  I can’t imagine that Nissan said to Mr. Ghosn about their internal rule of “2 years for 2 period” when inviting him as president.  Let’s face the world and stop being obsessed by Japan’s original common sense.

What we need in Japan right now is a “Mr. Morita at SONY” in the 60’s.  Some may argue that time has changed, or he was special, or other reasons that we can’t do.  Those are the ones who are not fit to be the leader of an organization.


From New Delhi part 2

My 2nd and 3rd day in New Delhi was mainly visiting Honda and local business leaders. First visit was Honda (Honda Siel Cars India). I met with President & CEO Mr. Takedagawa and Vice President & President of the Manufacturing Facility, Mr. Matsuzaki. Mr. Takedagawa shared his experience about the tough times, the current business situation and future plans. Mr. Matsuzaki established a manufacturing facility in America in 1982 and stayed in the U.S. for about 15 years. After America, he worked in various parts of Asia and set up this manufacturing facility in India. The facility was very clean and the employees were very polite. This must have been a painstaking effort.


Photo1 My visit to Honda Siel Cars


Photo2 In front of their entrance

After Honda, I visited the local office of Dentsu Inc. and the New Delhi campus of ITT. In the evening, we had dinner at the Japanese Embassy with Ambassador Domichi, Dr. Sunami of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and First Secretary, Mr. Seto. Ambassador Domichi was assigned this post from the Japanese Embassy of Iran and Mr. Seto is the person who helped organize the SCA (Science Council of Asia) 2 years ago in India.


Photo3 At the New Delhi campus of IIT


Photo4 At the Japanese Embassy from left: Dr. Sunami, Ambassador Domichi, myself and First Secretary Mr. Seto

The following day I visited the local office of Mitsui & Co, Ltd, Mr. Munjal of the Hero Group, Mr. V. Krishnamurthy, Chairman of National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council and one of the leaders of Indian business (Photo5), and the Confederation of Indian Industry (an organization similar to the Japan Business Federation?!). The main topic was about business. India is especially keen to have technological alliance with Japanese companies, but the Japanese way of business is slow and they insist on getting the majority share. No wonder the Koreans and Chinese outdo us. I also heard that the European and American businesses are becoming more active in the Indian market.


Photo5 With Dr. Sunami and Mr. Krishnamurthy

During the meeting with Mr. Munjal at the Hero Group, I was told that the JV negotiation with Daimler has been launched and that he just received a letter from the French President Mr. Sakrozy yesterday. In the past two years, I have met the Indian Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Minister of Technology and Science, they are all unique and intelligent in their field of business and science technology. Of course there maybe some “challenges” special to India, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to let it go. There are various ways to do business relevant to the local business tradition and strength. In that respect, Mr. Suzuki, Chairman & CEO of Suzuki Motor Corporation is admirable as a business leader. Suzuki has become somewhat a local brand. You have to be the first comer and work up a sweat to get the fruit. Understanding local customs and incentives to the local staff may also be important. All my best wishes for the people involved in business in India! I hope that our economy flourishes together with growth of India and Asia. I remind you all that Japan is the only OECD member country that has not grown their GDP in the past decade…Wonder why?

From New Delhi part 1

After successfully ending the 3-day Global Health Conference on February 17th, flew to New Delhi the following morning. Upon arrival at New Delhi Airport on time at 17:30, I went directly to the city of Noida in the suburbs. The objective of my visit was to attend the commendation ceremony of YES(Young Engineers and Scientists) by The Honda Foundation. This is to recognize the top 5 outstanding students atIndian Institute of Technology(IIT), now well known to the world as one of leading technology institutions. It is a wonderful project. That is Honda, or so to say the spirit of Mr. Soichiro Honda. There was one other guest aside from myself who just appeared at the last moment of the commendation ceremony, and that was Dr. R K Pachauri. I have known him very well through the SCA (Science Council of Asia) and other conferences that we have attended in the past few years. Even 3 years ago in Bangkok, we did the keynote speech together at the AGS-Global Alliance for Sustainability conference. Last year in 2007, as IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Mr. Al Gore, we can say that Dr. Pachauri became globally known as being the Chairman of IPCC. But he was already widely reputed as the leader of global warming issues among scientists.

Photo1 At the commendation ceremony. From left Mr. Takedagawa, President & CEO of Honda Siel Cars India Ltd., myself, Dr. Pachauri(**), Mr. Ban from The Honda Foundation


Photo2 From left Dr. Pachauri, one of the awarded students and myself

**Dr. R K Pachauri arrived from America the day before and is wearing a hat to cover his blotch on his head.

After the commendation ceremony, Dr. Pachauri and myself each gave 20 minutes’ speech to congratulate and encourage the award winning students. I touched upon Mr. Soichiro Honda’s sprit and wished the students to inherit his spirit to contribute and play an important role in the global agenda we all face. I will introduce my speech on another occasion. People from The Honda Foundation, executives and members from local Honda and the families of the award winners were also present and they all looked very happy. Also, Mr. Brijmohan Lall Munjal, the Chairman of Hero Honda Motors Ltd. was attending this ceremony. Hero Honda is a joint venture with Honda since 1982 doing production and sales of motorcycles. Mr. Lall’s son, Mr. Sunil Kant Munjal is leading the Hero Group and we both serve as a member of the President Council of the University of Tokyo.


Photo3 this is me giving speech


Photo4 With the award winners and staff (5th from left is Mr. Brijmohan Lall Munjal, Chairman of the Hero group

At night I had a drink with Dr. Sunami of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and Ban-san and Ishihara-san of The Honda Foundation. Meeting bright young people, it was a pleasant and wonderful evening.