Again and again from London


Once again I returned to London where I have been just last November (Ref. 11/14, 11/15)

As always, the flight was Air France departing from Narita at 21:55 arriving in Paris at 4:30.  It was at this Charles de Gaulle airport lounge at about 5:30 am that I listened to the historical victory speech of Barack Obama on television as he was elected the next president.

Dsc00487 Photo1: IPPF Panel

Dsc00483_4 Photo2: From Japan Embassy, Mr Miyagawa and Mr. Ishii , myself, IPPF Africa Regional Office Director Tewodros Melesse.

Although the topic I am raising today may not be so popular, it is an very important theme among today’s many social and health related issues.  I came here this time to give a keynote lecture at the annual meeting of nations and organizations supporting IPPF, a global NGO on family planning (Ministry of Foreign Affairs participated from Japan).  It is a great responsibility, considering that we are now in the midst of such economical crisis.  I worked on the draft of the speech till midnight, and read it.  I did this because I wanted to hand the manuscript of the speech.  Administrative works of Japan was done by JOICEF headed by Ms. Sumie Ishii, Secretary General of JOICEF (who represented NGO at last year’s Toyako Summit and has done a remarkable job).  Thanks to her.  My lecture seems to have been well received, to my relief.

Dsc00472_marmot Photo3: With Professor Michael Marmot

Dsc00478 Photo4: With Minister Nishigahiro, Minister Oka, Mr. Castleton, etc.

Right after arriving at London in the morning of the day before, the first thing I did was to have an interview with Dr. John Baddingotn, Scientific Advisor to Prime Minister Brown.  Then visited WHO Commission Chair Sir Michael Marmot at his office where I left for lunch at the official residence of Minister Nishigahiro with Minister Nishigahiro, Minister Oka in charge of economic affairs, vice president of Royal Society, and Dr.Lorna Castleton in charge of international affairs.  As there were so many topics to talk about, time passed before I knew.

Dsc00479 Photos 5, 6:London Tower


At night, was invited to a dinner with the executives of IPPF and speakers at a restaurant right beside the London Tower.

After giving lecture at IPPF, headed for Heathrow Airport in the afternoon to depart for Davos.  Arrival at the hotel was at about 10pm.  There seemed to be more snow here this year comparing to last two years.

Global health


One of the pillar activities of our NPO “Health Policy Institute” is “Global Health” and the word repeatedly appears in various ways in this site. Activities on Global Health are promoted with the collaboration of many people in the global world, such as the World Bank, Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, government and also governmental organizations.

These activities are so called “civil society” activities, and I think we were able to contribute to last year’s Global Health Summit, TICAD4, G8 Summit etc. through the promotion of this movement. Please “search” in this site as well. 

In the world, there are many people who are in unbelievable misery. I was able to take part in one of the projects about this. As I have reported, it is a film documentary series called “SURVIVAL” produced by Rockhopper with the cooperation of Imperial College, BBC and the Gates Foundation. The series is now completed and you can see them on the web in English, Japanese, German and French. I am also sending a message which is written in Japanese, but I am actually speaking in English. This is a bit strange.

National Vision, New Energy and Agricultural Policy


Since the start of New Year, I’ve been posting number of columns in my blog concerning national vision of Japan.

Starting from January 1st, they continue to 7th, 20th , and 21st.  In the posting of 13th , I also touched upon the policy of Obama administration.

Today, I would like to report to you that an article on my lecture which I delivered in December and January appeared in The Asahi Shinbun newspaper of January 22nd.  Judging from the fact that the articles commenting on those lectures are getting longer and longer, I feel that people are gradually getting the picture of my “Story” which I have been telling. 

I really appreciate those comments on articles and other media when I think of current dynamic change in global society, disastrous situation Japan is facing, beginning of the new administration led by president Obama, movement of Japan, United States, and the world.

Now, how do we move from here? What is the next step? Please join in and take actions.

Out from “Reasons for why something cannot be done”


The Asahi Shinbun newspaper evening edition has a column named “Mado (windw)” written by editorial committee members.

Mr. Murayama, an editorial member, who listened to my lecture of December wrote a piece of the column by the title of “Out from ‘Reasons for why something cannot be done’”.  I am delighted.  I also received many e-mails saying “I’m all for it!” or “You are right!” Thanks to each one of them.

The column goes as below.

■Japan will be an exporting country of food and clean energy by 2050.

■Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Professor of National Graduate Institute of Policy Studies (GRIPS) advised a year ago to the then Prime Minister Abe of setting up such objectives.  This was during the time when Dr. Kurokawa was the Science Advisor to the Cabinet.

■Responses from the related government offices to the Prime Minister’s office were solely negative – chorus of “No way!”

■Japanese food self-sufficiency is only 40%.  When it comes to energy, the rate even lowers to 4%.  It doesn’t take an government official at Kasumigaseki to see that achieving this goal is an extremely difficult task.

■“But listing up reasons why something can’t be done is no good”, says Dr. Kurokawa in a strong tone. Set a goal that has a strong impact, and communicate it in easy words to the public so that everybody can pose a question “what can I do?” to themselves.  Bringing about changes to the society through these kinds of actions is what politics is all about, according to Kurokawa.

■President elect Barack Obama is sending out a clear message of overcoming the recession through Green New Deal Policy.  Other countries responded to this and started to ask themselves the question of “What can we do to realize the low carbon society?”

■Japan today has no political leadership.  So the “Reasons why something cannot be done” has strong impacts and influences.

■These days, Dr. Kurokawa is preaching at variety of places and occasions -“We can achieve the goal of exporting food and clean energy even by 2030”

<Tomohiro Murayama>

(Source: The Asahi Newspaper evening edition of Monday, January 19th page2)

Thank you, Mr. Murayama.

Now, what do you think about it?

The National Vision of Japan-at the new year meeting of Japan Science and Technology Agency


Soon after returning back from Washington, on January 14th , I was at the new year meeting of JST (Japan Science and Technology Agency) where a large number of people from government, academia, and industry sectors related to science and technology gathered.  The venue was full to its capacity, as is always the case.

I was appointed to give the keynote lecture for this year, so I talked about my impression of the new administration of the United States as well as about my two lectures in December where I drew a picture of the national vision of Japan as I see it ( please refer to my posting of January 1st etc.).

20090114jst02dsc_04701Photo1: Myself lecturing

Content of my lecture is also summarized and posted on internet sites (in Japanese) by former journalists Mr. Koiwai and Mr. Deguchi, who were also present at the meeting.  Thanks to both of them for expanding my opinion.  I truly appreciate it.

From Washington-Part2: A new cooperation between scientists


I spent almost all three days in Washington inside the US National Academies.  I even asked some people to come see me here for meetings.

On January 8, I checked into my hotel room and first got some rest.  Then in the afternoon I attended a press briefing on a new report from the National Research Council.  Stanford University president John Hennessy and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft (Ref.1 ) are co-chairs of the study committee that produced the report.  Besides them, three others also appeared before reporters.  All are impressive people.  Study committees include not only Academy members but also experts necessary to deliberate specific topics.

I knew that Dr. John Gage and Dr. Norman Neureiter were also at the press conference as committee members.  But since I slipped out in the middle I was unable to see them.  But I was able to meet with Dr. John Gage the following day.

I saw him in the morning at a public lecture by Harvard professor Calestous Juma at the NAS.

Dsc00458_2 Dsc00459_2 2_2

Photo1-3: Prof. Juma during lecture; a girl with laptop from Negroponte’s One Laptop per Child, Dr. John Gage, Prof. Juma and myself

For the first two days, I locked myself up in the National Academies and met many people one after another. 

I held meetings separately with the heads of the three organizations of the National Academies; Dr. Harvey Fineberg from the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Charles Vest from the National Academy of Engineering, and Dr. Ralph Cicerone from the Academy of Sciences.  We discussed plans for cooperation between scientists of Japan and the US under the new administration. Most of the time I went around with Dr. John Boright, executive director of international affairs.

I also held various discussions with major figures from the World Bank and the Atlantic Council of the United States including Mr. Fred Kempe.

Dsc00467 Photo4: With Dr. Vest

Dsc00469 Photo5: STS Forum conference, (from left) myself, Dr. Rita Colwell, Dr. Yuan Tseh Lee (Ref.1)

On January 10th, I spent the day in heated discussions at a committee for the STS Forum that will be organized by Koji Omi, a member of Japan’s parliament.  I look forward to seeing a lot of friends and acquaintances there too.

I think I had three very, very fruitful days to start the New Year.

A lot of the people that I mentioned in this column are those I have already introduced on this blog in the past.  Please try to search for the articles.

From Washington-Part1: High hopes for Obama and his “outstanding” cabinet choices


I have spent New Year’s in Washington for the past three years.  But the atmosphere this year is completely different.  The wave of hope and expectations for the new president Barack Obama is growing even more in Washington as he has so far picked an extremely smart, top-notch team of cabinet members and advisors. 

He has assembled brilliant scientists to advise him on science policies.  Steve Chu, a Nobel prize-winning physicist and Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was chosen to be Secretary of EnergyLawrence Summers who is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University was named to head the National Economic Council.  Obama’s Science Advisors include Harvard physicist John Holdren, Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate who ran the NIH and is now President of Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and MIT genome professor Eric Lander.  The former president of the ICSU Jane Lubchencho will head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  The team is made up of top academics who have actively been speaking out about climate change and other environmental issues.  They are all highly respected and trusted people within scientific circles.  It’s a very impressive roster. 

Confirmation congressional hearings will begin one after another this week.  I have heard that contacting the nominees is strictly forbidden as it could be viewed as government post hunting.   

With these appointments the direction of the Obama administration’s energy and environmental policies seems pretty clear.  Meanwhile, in Japan the only top-notch or great thing (?) seems to be technology.  Nothing gets done in politics, finance, industry, government, media, and academia because of continual wrangling with vested interests or those resisting change.  All you hear about are reasons why something can’t be done.  If this continues, I am very worried that we will be left behind from the rest of the world.  I am waiting for a new and different trend to emerge in Japan too.      

Over the last couple of days Obama has announced parts of his economic policies.  A feeling of pride seems to be spreading among the American people over having chosen a great leader at this difficult time and turning point in the world’s history (At least that’s the sense I get from talking to the people around me.) .  They are gradually starting to feel confident that they can overcome problems together even though it will take time to realize the goals.  The challenges are enormous, but I can sense the will of the nation or the American mind that is striving to be the leader of the world.   

I wish a new trend like this would emerge in Japan.  Do you feel it coming?  It is so frustrating. 

However, once the Obama administration is inaugurated it does have a mountain of problems to climb.  The US economic woes, the war on terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the Gaza conflict etc.  Not only are they extremely complex problems, but they also demand urgency. 

Japan has its hands full with domestic problems. Maybe it is fortunate after all that it has less influence and faces lower expectations from the rest of the world?  I am not sure if that is really okay.

A surprise visit of President-Elect Barack Obama to U Street in Washington DC


During my three days in Washington DC last week (another report or two will be up soon), I visited U Street with my old friend who served Clinton administration.  That was Friday night.  This street used not to be a safe area, but over some recent years turned safer, lined up with small restaurants and cozy jazz places.  We walked around and spent time in one of such place.

The next day afternoon, while I was in a full-day meeting, President-elect Obama made an apparently surprise visit to the area with Mayor Fenty.  See a report with a few pictures.

A new national vision


On January 1st, I posted a column titled “National vision of Japan- in start of the New Year”.  There, I mentioned about my two lectures on December 8th and 11th, which touched upon a national vision which I would propose, from my own point of view, “to become an exporting country of food and clean energy by 2003”.

“The Nihon Butsuryu Shinbun (Japan Physical Distribution Newspaper)” January 1st edition, printed an abstract of my lecture on January 11th which appeared under the title of “Let’s become a net-exporting country of food and energy”.  (Since I haven’t read this draft prior to printing, I made some minor changes in particles and words.)

●“Introduction” Professor Kiyoshi Kurokawa at the National Graduate Institute of Policy Studies (GRIPS) gave a key note lecture on December 11th at “Eco products 2008” held in Tokyo (by the auspices of Japan Environmental Management Association of Industry, and Nikkei Newspaper).  He pointed out straightforwardly issues of Japan and energy problems to survive this global age.

■Monozukuri (item making) in Japan is vertical in structure from the beginning to the end.   The cell phone sales in the world is 3 million per day, and 40% of the share is taken by Nokia, followed by Motorola, Samsung (15% each), and Sony Ericsson of Japan (9%) finally appears at the 4th place.  But recently Sony is overtaken by LG of Korea, so the sales are not good at all even though Japan is standing as a Monozukuri country.  The good news however is that 65% of components are still made in Japan.  It’s because of the quality.  If we are to survive by making components, we must be like Intel.  Japan is patiently working to fill the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th contracts, but isn’t this because Japanese people do not know how to make stories, lack imagination, or world view?

●Countless useful technologies are at hand

■In energy problems also, the key is how to utilize the strength which Japan already have.  Water, forests, hot springs etc are natural resources that exist from the beginning.  Of course, we do have some weak points such as earthquakes… Why not use those natural resources as energy?  Take electricity for example ? is the current apportion of thermal power 65%, water power 10%, and atomic power 25% good enough?  Don’t we want to impress the world by coming up with some good idea?

■Atomic power might be good for the time being, but even in a huge country like America, they are having difficulty in getting the laws passed for disposal of the nuclear wastes.  People are so sensitive about those things.  Scientists say that with the technology today it is unthinkable that accidents will occur, but who can be so sure?  How about the possibility of terrorism?  (I added this.)  I would like to stress that Japan has so many technologies for not using nuclear power although we have ability to shift nuclear technologies to overseas.  For example, we already know that just 2% of the solar energy falling to the earth is enough to manage the energy needs of the whole world.

■I hear that some companies are fighting against the shift of current light to LED and other less power consuming devices, but I suspect that they are manufacturers who don’t produce LEDs and so on.  Similar problems exist also in aluminum sash industry, and I think Japan is the biggest consumer of aluminum sashes among the developed countries.  It is ridiculous to use aluminum for windows if you want to insulate heat because the material transmits heat so quickly.  Vinyl chloride or wood is much better.  Is it again just because of the opposition from the aluminum industry?  World is changing, so we’d better not make ourselves fall behind.

●“Let young people draw pictures for the future”

■I suggest that Japan set a goal to be a net-exporter of food and clean energy and this is possible, from my point of view, by 2030 if we really try.  Draft a 10 year plan, list missions for each 5 years and make a road map.  Have people evaluate the achievement constantly.  I don’t care who will work on the plans – government offices, think tanks, or whatever, but people over age 45 should stay out of this because it is a picture for the future. (people laugh)

■We have come to a year of turning point.  It is 150 years from the publication of “On the Origin of Species” by Darwin.  The most important message in this book is that in the long history of survival, it is not the strongest, not the wisest, but the one which has adapted most to the changes in environment of that age that has survived.  Today, environment has changed drastically.  Are we, the Japanese, going to keep on walking behind others?

Above are my points.  What do you think?

Ridiculous? Then, I suggest that you read the last 5 lines of my column of January 1st.

National vision of Japan – in start of the New Year


Last year was such a disastrous year.  How would America tackle the economic crises with its new president, I wonder?

Climate change is the major issue now for every country, and Japan must think seriously about its energy policy also.  At the time of Prime Minister Fukuda administration, a special meeting for this issue was set up with president Okuda of Toyota as the chairperson to prepare a draft for the Toyako summit. Current administration is too occupied with other things, so it seems, that even works on Kyoto Protokol is halting.  I understand that they cannot help it, but we must not take a wrong way.  This is in a sense an opportunity for Japan.

Below are the handouts I’ve submitted to the meetings. URLs are given below.  Here, I expressed part of my views on energy policy towards a low carbon society.  What do you think? (The papers are in Japanese only.)

 ・Handouts of the 2nd Meeting with Prime Minister (April 5th )
 ・Handouts of the 3rd Meeting with Prime Minister (April 22nd )
 ・Handouts of the Committee of Agriculture, Liberal Democratic Party (Chairperson, Koichi Kato)

Through those handouts, I hope you can see that the national vision of Japan as I think is “To become an exporting country of food and clean energy by 2030.”

Draft a 10-year plan, and the first and second 5-year plans to go with it.  Disregard the traditional system of policymaking, and write a cross-ministry/government first 5-year plan of “Mission, Strategic roadmap, Annual Objectives” with the participation and help of lots of people from academic, government, and industrial sectors.

By doing so, the Ministry of Finance would be able to set up more innovative budget plans and backup policies for the structural reforms.  Of course, it is important to inform people about the progress on regular basis, as well as to keep the process open and transparent.

Since this is a long-term future plan, the work is for people at age 45 or younger.  Of course, include non-Japanese as well as all sorts of hearings.

Those were my core message in my 50 minutes’ keynote lecture on December 8th (Mon.) on energy policy at a conference held under the auspices of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy as well as a meeting on eco-products hosted by Nikkei on December 11th (Thurs.).  Both were attended by nearly 1,000 motivated people.

Do you say it is impossible by 2030?  Then, who could tell a year ago, that Obama would become a president?

This national vision is a matter of politics and will of people.

“Yes, We Can”, it is.

Now, what do you think will be of Japan and the world in the year 2009?