Ottawa, on Global Health, and Toronto, on Innovation


Canada will host G8 Summit next year (could be the last G8 and first G20). Naturally, as part of effort to make Global Health as a major agenda for the Summit, various efforts, negotiation, processes must have been taking place among various sectors of Canada.

CCGHR hosted one of such meetings (October 25th). The meeting is more research oriented, with about 150 member attendance with 25% being members abroad and I was invited to give a keynote. It was full of enthusiasm and I joined a couple of workshops, its board meeting as a guest, and a private session for Canadian perspective for G8 agenda setting. It was a very interesting and learning day getting to know many new friends and colleagues.

Ottawa in late October is reasonably cold, but weather was nice. I met a Japanese scholar, a woman, well educated undergraduate at McMaster and at MS and PhD in Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health at McGill; she lived only several years when she was very young, now studies as a post-doctoral fellow in South Africa participating a joint project with UK on Mental Health and Poverty Project in Africa. A challenging mission!

Next day, I flew to Toronto as my re-visit (Ref.1)  to join a few activities. Munk Center of the University of Toronto was kind to host a dinner in honor of me at Massey College. Next day, a panel was held at Munk Center on ‘Innovation, Globalization and the University’; after my brief keynote, the panel session was quite lively and constructive. It seems everyone agree that leading universities must become an open ground to nurture, connect, and prepare future leaders in more and more interconnected world. We must realize that problems of the developing and underdeveloped countries and the regions are not theirs, but ours as well in interconnected global world. There, I met another women medical doctor radiologist from Tokyo Woman’s Medical College, just began her study on Medical Education Research as resident junior fellow at Massey College. Such is a valuable opportunity to widen her vision and scope for her career.  University of Toronto is a great institution which is characterized by heterogeneity, diversity and a wide spectrum of programs and courses.

Two Executive Sessions; Thoughts on Leadership, Innovation and Women Power


Recently, I have experienced two executive sessions, one in London for top Global company of one major business sector on its global strategy; the company just underwent successfully a merger acquisition.

The member was extraordinary in that of its total 10 members from 10 countries (one woman), many have held very high positions for the government or administrative arms, eg, Minister, Supreme Court judge, Congress member, of their country and the region (eg, EU). They include, for example, Pat Cox, Chair of our panel, President of the EU Parliament (2002-04), and Chuck Hagel, Republican Senator for 12 years until this January. After some conversation with Mr Hagel, I firmly felt he is a very thoughtful and good politician gentleman. He is well known as the most outspoken critic of President Bush’s policy to Iran. I knew he assumed Chairman of the Atlantic Council, a powerful ‘Think-tank’ based in Washington DC, as I reported earlier this year. He told me that he was just invited by President Obama to Co-Chair the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, a very good news, indeed.

Pat Cox’s chairmanship of our session was outstanding, being very smooth and affirmative, and managing the entire meeting session with presentations by the corporate leadership followed by various questions and suggestions, taking notes even on seating and each members and corporate officers. I always feel privileged when I get to know peoples with such distinguished career through discussions and private conversation. I cold learn so much from them. Incidentally, a half of the corporate representation was women including its chair.

Upon return to Tokyo, I was in another executive session for one of global brand company of Japan whose sales in Japan accounts for about 25% of total annual revenue. The team headed by its CEO worked hard and developed issues for us to discuss. I enjoy the session very much with unusually lively questions and debates. This is because our members are pretty much out-of-box type individuals, for example, Natsuno-san (Ret.1) who invented iMode. It is amazing to see only one woman among total of about 15 members from the corporate side, not to mention none in its executive level.

The ideas of this company, in my view, are somehow derived from and targeted to men-thinking. Thus, one of my questions has been the fact that daily and major decisions for purchases are made by women as described in ‘The Real Emerging Market’ of my blog posting with a photo of the cover of Newsweek and in a more recent special report in Time (US version), Oct 26th, 2009, ‘What Women Want Now’ (Ref.1).  Mind you, the products may be targeted primarily to men, but the decisions to buy are made by women more often than one may imagine.

This gender issue is everywhere of Japanese society which needs a fix fast, which could serve as ‘Change Agent‘ of Japanese society and economy as I repeatedly insist in this website and recently in my interview in Japan Times.

Another thought occurred to me in these two sessions was the impression that somehow these high ranking officials in both companies may not have much of sense of what may be happening in this rapidly flattening world, ie, ‘Open and Demand-driven Innovation.’ This is becoming a very important core perception of every business sector in the global world.

How Japan can regain its vitality


My interview ‘How Japan can regain its vitality’ (URL, PDF file) recently appeared in its October 18th, 2009 issue of Japan Times. The core messages are consistent with what I constantly preach which you find in many postings of this website, eg, change in leading political party, globalization, Japanese strength and weakness, innovation, university reform and lagging gender empowerment.

Media like Japan Times is another important means to reach out and share my view with many non-Japanese friends of Japan. Afterall, Japan seems still need of ‘Gai-atsu’ or ‘Black ships’ led by Commodore Perry for Change.

I hope you enjoy this interview.

Efforts to understand ‘Japan as seen from outside’


                                                                 Recently, I have posted two columns (Ref.1, 2) on ‘Japan as seen from outside’ which I have written in rather a straightforward style.  Via internet, I could see a number of people agreed and approved of my views.
                                                                          So what can we do about it?  I suggested a small example.  It appears as an interview article (English translation of article written in Japanese) in a monthly magazine‘GOETHE’ .

We all know that CNN and BBC are not the only global television networks, and we understand that The Economist (about 440,000 circulations) has a large number of subscribers, but I believe that we should utilize Internet more.
                                                                           An interview article of Mr. Kensuke Watanabe (Ken Watanabe) (English translation of article written in Japanese) appears on the left part of the page of my article, so I uploaded the whole two pages for your interest.  Just taking a look at his biography will convince you how wonderful his background is, but his activities are also impressive.  He published a charming problem solving book for children ‘Sekai ichi yasashii mondaikaiketsu no jyugyo – jibun de kangae kodoh suru chikara ga mini tsuku’ (The easiest course on problem solving in the world ? lessons on how to think and act by yourself) (Translations in English and other languages are available ) and not only that – he is actually practicing what he writes in his book.  Mr. Watanabe is a good example of those wonderful young people that I meet once in a while and try to support as much as I could as appropriate.  Dr. Yohei Sasagawa also introduces a moving story on Mr. Watanabe in his blog (in Japanese).  Mr. Sasagawa himself is working very hard in the field of Global Health.
                                                                          Sometimes, you find truly wonderful young people in Japan who will be making the future of this nation.


Concerns about ‘Japan as seen from outside’


As frequent visitors to my blog will already have noticed I am one of those who have had concerns about the future of Japan for some time.  Until just several years ago, an odd optimism on economy of Japan that sounds somewhat like an ‘excuse’ was spreading widely in Japanese society along with expression such as ‘upwards economy since Izanagi Keiki’ (Izanagi keiki refers to an economic boom that lasted from 1966 to 1970).  I was sending out warnings then, too.  For instance, please see my interview in Toyo Keizai January, 2008  issue. 

I assume that there are many those who do not want to or will not buy my opinion, but just recall, at the time of ‘Lehman’ shock, there was an atmosphere in Japan of ‘Japan will be all right’ at least in the beginning.  However, generally speaking, I think basically Japanese enterprises- especially managements – are weak.  Of course new industries emerge but I hear many instances of major companies obstracting the growth of new businesses by entrepreneurs while they are still young and small.  Big enterprises are naturally slow in adjusting to changes, which is a common story.  Also, I feel that a large number of Japanese people are not good at intuitively sensing the value of ‘Diversities and Differences’ that exists in this global world simply because they do not have much first hand experience.

This truly is the crucial stage for Japanese politics, economy, industries, and universities in the face of, as correctly put by Asia Innovation Forum;The Earth’s limits, Asia’s growth.  The ‘leaders’, unable to catch the essence of global age having climbed up the ladder in many decades-old system, think that situation in Japan is ‘so-so’ and tend to lie back in their comfortable chair failing to take any drastic actions.  Some people compare them to ‘frogs in lukewarm water’.  Oh, but Japan has so many ‘strength’ that it can utilize and I would urge all of you to take advantage of this strength.  ‘Entrepreneurial spirit’ is the key word.  We must recognize our ‘weakness’, focus not only to domestics but broaden our views to international affairs and collaborate with partners around the world in taking actions.  Speed matters.

Japanese who have long worked abroad as an independent ‘individual’ understand and feel intuitively what I have just said.  I call this an ability to ‘see Japan from ‘outside’’.  What they see is very different from ‘Japan in the world’ as seen by most Japanese because most Japanese have been used basically to‘see world from Japan.’.
In the past two weeks, I had a visit from two Japanese scholars/researchers.  One is Professor Hisashi Kobayashi of Princeton University.  I assume you all have heard of him.  He was so concerned abut the too-domestic-focused ideas and actions of Japan that he decided to come to see me. I shared his view 100% so we discussed very much on what to do or what could be done.  I believe that readers of my blog would understand how I am making efforts to make changes, but even universities, the ‘campus of intellects’ that should be standing highly by itself, are seeing things in a narrow inward way.  Especially at the ‘leading’ universities, the young students naturally would think that the standard there is ‘first class’, and this general perception in Japan is causing significant damages.misleading students.

The second guest wasDr. Ryo Kubota. He has been working in the field of biomedical research in USA for 10 years and founded a Biotech Venture. Dr. Kubota stopped by at my office during his stay at Tokyo to express his deep concern about how Japanese research and venture businesses were being conducted.  He was apparently alarmed by what was happening in Japan.

I think that the concerns of these two people represent‘Patriotism’.  Experience such as theirs’ will hardly nurture narrowly-minded ‘Nationalism’.

In addition to these two Japanese guests from abroad, I had opportunities to welcome visitors from the top managements of SITRA (Ref.1), a public investment fund of Finland and two biotechnology related investment funds of US in sequence.  Everybody had same topics, concerns and points.

It is so important to have more people, in their young age as much as possible (because you can afford to make mistakes…. You can learn from the mistakes and become wiser…) to go abroad to the wide world and to know what is happening there, to see Japan from ‘outside’, to have first hand experience and to become more capable of sensing instuitively how Japan would look like from ‘outside’.  ‘A frog in a well does not know the great sea’ – just as the proverb goes. ‘Knowing’ the great sea through actual experience is crucial to everybody especially in this global era.  The two Japanese visitors from overseas were so worried about the current status, thus the future of Japan precisely because they have had this actual experiences.

Well, even so, Japan holds yet the 2nd or 3rd place in the world economically.  In addition, we have so many strength that others would envy.  I urge you all to go out and fly.  Don’t become secluded.

Dr. William Saito (Ref.1) is a Japanese American that I have been working with for these two years and he also shares the same view with me.  His evaluation is actually very severe, clearly recognizing the systematic weakness of Japan perhaps partly because of his experiences and success in a venture business in the United States.  We are struggling to bring about some changes…  sowing seeds, crafting exciting mechanisms…

STS Forum, Science and Technology Ministers’ Meeting, Session with Young Scientists


STS Forum (Science and Technology in Society Forum) was held in Kyoto.  I have been involved in this Forum since its start.  It is a daring attempt to bring together people in politics, business, science and other fields from all over the world to discuss about issues we all share in common.

My role was to give a keynote lecture at the Science and Technology Ministers’ Meeting (Photos 1-4) with Dr. Philip Campbell, Chief Editor of ‘Nature’.  Ministers from 24 countries (9 from Africa) participated  The meeting was chaired by  Mr. Keisuke Tsumura, Science and Technology Vice-Minister and a young and bright legislator iand one of future leaders of the Democratic Party of Japan.  After our keynote lectures, ministers at the audience talked actively about the policies and issues of their home countries.

Dsc_0093_2 1Dsc_0102 2

Dsc_0197 3Dsc_0198 4

Photos 1-4 With participants

On the 2nd day, I co-chaired the session of ‘Proposals from Young Scientists’with my old friend Prof ohamed Hassan, Executive Director of TWAS and other places.  It was a long session of 2 hours or so, where 8 young scientists introduced themselves and split to 4 tables of 8-10 guests and had 1 hour discussion.  In the end, each table presented summary and recommendations based on what they discussed.  The summary of the session is available, too.  Some people teased me and said that I belonged to the young people.


Photo 5: With Young Scientists at the Forum.  Front row, at the center is myself, Mr. Ono of  JSPS, the sponsor institution of this Forum, and Professor Hassan.

Mr. Ellis Rubinstein, President and CEO of NYAS told me that he would participate at some point of the meeting, but he was unable to make it because of some other responsibility.  For NYAS, I serve as an advisory council member of ‘Scientists Without Borders’ .

Communication with students, a new friend through blogs, an encounter from the past


It is always a pleasure to see and talk with students.  The day after my return from Paris, October 4th, I went to Osaka.                                                                                                                                               

Professor Kurachi,  an old friend of mine and director of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at Osaka University, took initiatives in organizing annual forum for students from 5 universities in Osaka and invited me as a speaker this year.  Core message of my talk was almost the same as what I write in my blog, and I enjoyed greatly talking with the students at the reception afterwards.
It is always my impression, as I point out in every occasion, that female students are more lively and active. (Ref.1, 2) Male students standing around wouldn't easily respond even if I urged them to come and join in the conversation.  There was one very outgoing male student however, and he apparently had a concrete vision on what he want to do.  Why?  Answer to this question is again the ‘3 speeches’, especially the ‘Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch and in this case not the speech by Steve Jobs.
                                                                                                                                                                          I also had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Inoue at the reception.  She had written in her blog that she was looking forward to coming to my lecture.  This kind of unexpected encounter is another example of the power of sending out messages in this ‘flattening’world.  You experience connecting to people in an unimaginable way.
                                                                                 On 5th, I went to a session of STS Forum in Kyoto with ‘Young Scientists’.  This was also something very nice.  I will post a separate column on this later.
                                                                          On 9th, I went to Mie University to give a lecture at its 60th anniversary.  My message was focused mainly to the students, but the President and professors seem to have enjoyed it as well.  There were also guests from Thai and Spain to congratulate the occasion.  Students entertained audience by their brass band performance (I learned that this band is well known as a topclass among Japan college bands), chorus, and dance.  Some students came up to me with my book in their hand and asked for my autograph.  This made me very happy.
                                                                                                                                                                                     I met a lady in the eaudience who once had visited my house in Los Angeles when she was an elementary school student.   I vaguely remembered her, but a memory came up more clearly after some time.  Time flies so quickly.

                                                                                                                                                                          I sincerely wish that each student grasp their bright future.  ‘Go out and see the world, make lots of friends in this wide world ? this is the way things should be in this global age’; this was my core message. My message remains the same anywhere, anytime.  Universities must open up their doors to the world.  They should also mind their great responsibility in educating and nurturing young students because our future is in their hands.  I made several suggestions on what they can do.

Now, a year later, what will be happening here?  I will be expecting a lot from every and each one of you!

D-Lab of MIT, starting businesses with students


In my recent posting I wrote about D-Lab of MIT.  Mr. Endo, a student at this Lab, came to visit me upon his travel to Japan.  I asked Dr. William Saito who is helping me with research on innovations and educational activities to join and we all had nice conversations.  Mr. Endo is currently enrolled in PhD course at MIT, working hard on his research while participating also in D-Lab. He had his undergraduate and master’s education at Keio University.

The theme that Mr. Endo and his group is working on at D-Lab is prosthetics (artificial legs, arms, etc.) ? to provide affordable and good prosthetics to people in need at developing countries.   There are many people who suffer loss of their limbs through traffic accidents, wars, or land mines.  Prosthetics made in developing countries are often not so useful because of low qualities, poor fitting, tendency to break easily, etc.  Such weaknesses are understandable if you think about the infrastructures or technologies they have at hand in these countries.  So Mr. Endo came up with this great plan of developing good prosthetics and providing them to people in need to help them become more independent ? financially and physically.  It is a wonderful project.

Img_1889_top_2 Photo: From left Dr. Saito, Mr. Endo, and myself.

Many of these projects expand into social activities or businesses but then quite a number of them will fail and disappear, which is very understandable.  However, those listed here  are still continuing meaning 26% of projects that deveoped into businesses are still alive.  Dr. William Saito responded immediately saying “This is an astonishingly good rate!”  I totally agree with him.  Dr. Saito himself launched a business when he was a student at U.S. and made it a great success. 

I understand that Mr. Endo is also involved in development of high quality prosthetic legs that have potentials for enabling the atheletes to break world records. Apparently he has high goals and broad views.  Mr. Endo also said that he has an experience of having worked with Dr. Hiroaki Kitano in the project on AIBO at Sony Computer Science Laboratories Ltd. when he was studying at Keio University.

Paris, UNESCO-L’Oreal Award, and “Soft Power”



Photo 1: In front of Saint-Germain-des-Pres Church

Paris in autumn is lovely.  I was there on September 28th .  L’Oreal Award selection committee is scheduled to meet on 29th to select and honor female scientists that performed wonderful achievements.  I have written on this several times in my blog (Ref.1) before.

In the evening of 28th, the day of my arrival, I had dinner with Dr. Mimura and his wife.  Dr. Mimura finished his clerkship in America and has recently assumed a position at American Hospital of Paris.  I have been corresponding with this hospital for more than 10 years now.  By the way, Dr. Mimura and I are friends but so are our families.  Especially my family and I have a long history of friendship with Dr. Mimura’s wife Nacchan (who is also a medical doctor) and her family.

After dinner, the three of us went for a walk to St Germain de Pres near my hotel.  The photo at the top is Saint-Germain-des-Pres Church (Vicor Hugo was active in the restoration of this church, I hear.)  Paris in autumn is beautiful.

Dsc00642_2_2 Photo 2: With Drs. Mimura at a Cafe in St German de Pres

At the selection committee of 29th , we selected 5 wonderful winners.  Although the discussion was heated during selection, in the end we came to unanimous decision.  I will write on this again after the winners are announced officially.  Activities such as this L’Oreal Award have a great IR impact that appeals to the world. This is a true soft power.

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Photos 3, 4: Snap shots from the selection committe

In the evening, like 2 years before, L’Oreal invited us to a concert. (Photo 5).  Last time I had to leave for the airport during intermission, but this time I was able to listen to the end.  I came across Mr. Akiba of UNESCO embassy at the concert.  We had a cocktail together at intermission, went for dinner in the concert hall after the program, and departed some time after 12pm.

The artists of that evening were; Piano、Daniel Barenboim, Conductor, Christoph Eschenbach, with Orchestre de Paris.  Several Japanese were playing also.

The program was: 
Berlioz; Benvenuto Cellini, ouverture, op. 23; Carnaval romain, ouverture, op 9
Chopin ; Concerto pour piano n. 2 en fa minerur, op. 21 ;  n. 1 en mi mineur, op. 11

Barenboim was wonderful.  I felt his character being reflected in his music.

Dsc00665_5_2 Photo 5; Barenboim (center) and Eshenbach (left end)

It was an evening full of lovely, rich experience.  I think what I experienced that night was truly what we call a “soft power”.  Tradition and sophistication were there, and yet the building of the concert hall was not overwhelmingly magnificent. In comparison, I thought about a system of a country somewhere, that in the name of “soft power” builds a ‘box’ for animations, big ‘National’ or ‘Local’ ‘boxes’ of art museums and theaters of various names just to increase debt on its people. But then, we do not have enough “softs” to fill in.  So, we invite famous artists from overseas and charge senselessly high fees.  I tell you, I heard from a specialist of European music that reputation among musicians of performing in Japan is “lucrative".

Let’s expect our new administration to stop carrying out such weird policies (we had enough of them), and start a “change” to policies that fit our time.  Several shady stories are coming into light already, like relations between airport and special account, strange tricks hidden in dam constructions and other civil engineering.  We have so many stories that make us ashamed, in fact, too many.
On a television broadcast of a press conference, I noticed that the newly appointed ministers were answering to the questions of correspondents in their own words, not holding on to memos prepared by bureaucrats.  You may not have noticed it, but I think many people felt this as a fresh scene. I have told you my thoughts on this issue before (in the 2nd paragraph….)  What do you think?

Hanoi and Yangon


It’s been a long time since I was at Hanoi last time.  Now I am here again for two reasons: to move for YES (Young Engineers and Scientists) Award (Ref.1, 2) of Honda foundation 
and to have an informal talk with the officials of government of Vietnam on its Science and Technology policies.

As I always say in every opportunity, it is my deep conviction that the most fundamental goal of education in Japan is to produce human asset that is ready to cope with this speeding global age and it should be done through promotion of active multi layered international exchanges.  I am sure that those of you who are frequent visitors of my blog know this… 

For this purpose I am helping the Honda foundation on its YES program  that is supporting young generation of Vietnam, India, and other ASEAN countries.

While I was waiting for my colleagues to join me from Cambodia, Drs. Thang and Ann (photo1) came to see me at the hotel.  I have known them for more than 10 years, ever since I was councilor, and later President, of the International Society of Nephrology.  Now, they are leading figures in this field in Vietnam.  Dr. Ann has experience of spending 3 months at Tokai University by invitation.  I recall that it was 17 or 18 years ago when I first visited Hanoi and saw hospitals operating in unbelievably bad conditions.

Img_1878 Photo 1: From left, Dr. Thang and Dr. Ann.

Dr. Ca, whom I believe is the “number 2” in Science and Technology Department, organized my meeting with the government officials including two former ministers and we enjoyed heated discussions.  Dr. Ca and I are familiar with each other because we both participated in the Conference of the Science Council of Asia for these 7, 8 years.  Every time I see him, he is promoted to higher responsibilities.  I am happy to see this.

Img_1885_2 Photo 2: With Dr. Ca. From left, Dr. Ishihara of Honda foundation, Dr. Ca, myself, Dr. Sunami of GRIPS, local officer.

Img_1886 Photo 3: Electric wires in the town. So crowded!

In the evening, by chance, I was able to stop by at the wedding party of Dr. Thang’s daughter for 10 minutes before going to the airport.  So many guests were there.

I spent one night at Bangkok and left for Yangon, Myanmar. At Yangon, I visited the Yangon Technological University (Ref.1) located in a beautiful simple scene to exchange views with the professors and President on what the best possible YES program of Honda foundation would be.  After this, went to pay a visit to H.E. Nogawa at the Embassy of Japan, to JICA office, and Myanmar Association of Japan Alumni (MAJA) (approximately 800 alumni including short stays).

The President of MAJA, Dr. Kyaw was about the same generation as I.  He studied as research student at Department of Neurosurgery at School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo and earned his degree under the supervision of Professors Shimizu and Sano.  Good old memories!  This sort of relationship is even more necessary for tomorrow’s Japan, and I want even more young people go study abroad, to mix and compete with others, but even at this global age, the number of students studying abroad is decreasing in Japan for some reason.  In other words, “inward looking, secluding” mentality is spreading – a strange phenomenon.  I think this problem is more prominent in boys.

I also want more energy in professors.  If professors are “inward looking”, nothing much can be done about it, but at least they should put young students at the top priority because they are going to handle this nation in the future.  This is really a problem.  Same problems exist in companies, too.

I left Yangon in the evening for Japan.  It was a busy trip, but there were lots to see and hear, and many nice people to meet.

I arrived at Narita next morning, spent some time at GRIPS, and in the evening went to the recording of “Prime News”, a television program of BS Fuji channel.  The topic of that night was “Davos meeting, the world, and Japan”.  The guests were Mr. Motohisa Furukara, “secretary-genral” of National Strategy Bureau of Cabinet headed by Deputy Prime Minister Kan and Ms. Kumi Fujisawa of Sofia Bank, and myself.  By any chance have you seen it?