Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi


From Washington DC I took a flight to Dubai.  I was on the same flight 6 weeks ago, and flew to Dubai 3 weeks ago as well.  In total I flew to Dubai airport 3 times, once to visit Dubai and  twice to visit Abu Dhabi in the past 6 weeks.  Two of the return flights were from Dubai to Kansai Airport and another was to Singapore.

The purpose of visit is the same as my some previous ones; to support Khalifa UniversityDr. Elias Zerhouni, the former director of the National Institutes of Health joined our team starting from this meeting and his participation stimulated the discussion.  Dr. Zerhouni, originally from Algeria, moved to the United States after graduating from Medical School, worked at Johns Hopkins Univesity, then was appointed to the Directorship of NIH, the most distinguished and responsible position in medical research of US government.  I have had the privilege of knowing him for these years (in Japanese) and am quite impressed by his wonderful personality.

Khalifa University, which I have been helping, is one of important Projects of the government of Abu Dhabi. I have contacted Dr Zerhouni for his support since I thought that advice from a person at higher position, a person with distinguished and international reputation, who understands Arabic civilization and culture personally, would be very helpful.  It was a great joy when I received his immediate affirmative answer.

The meeting itself took place for only one day, but the discussion was very active and fruitful.  I firmly believe that participation of someone who is familiar with both Western values and Arabic values, who knows how to communicate with both sides is so very important and necessary for this kind of project.

Photo; At the lobby of the Emirate Palace, with Dr Zerhouni. 

Recently, The U.S. Department of State announced the appointment of Science Envoy for Middle East, and Dr Zerhouni was among the three, with Dr. Bruce Alberts, Editor-in-Chief of ‘Science’ and Dr. Zuweil, a Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry, originally from Egypt.  This is another significant step forward of US Science Diplomacy.

Such rich variety of human resource (Ref.1) without doubt serves as one of the strong core assets of a nation in this global era.  I met Dr. Zuweil several times in the past, and deepened relationship with Dr. Alberts during these 10 years, since he was the President of the National Academy of Science of USA, through many international scientific community works or events, often related to SCJ (Science Council of Japan).

Toyota Cup (FIFA Club World Cup 2009) was being held at Abu Dhabi during my visit.  As I watched in TV later in Tokyo, it was again Lionel Messi (Ref.1) that brought triumph to his team, as you all may know.

Nobel Peace Prize Speech by President Obama, My concerns about Japan


The whole world was watching and paying attention to President Obama’s speech on his Nobel Peace Award ceremony ? what he will say.  After all, there were great controversies about awarding him the Nobel, and USA has just decided to send troops of 30,000 to Afghanistan.

Unlike the days when television was the only live visual media, now we have tools to see the lecture on our computer screen (Ref.1), repeat it as we like, read the text, examine how it is treated on variety of major newspapers of the world, or editorials.

Although the awarding committee’s decision was controversial, and the timing of the award speech was very challenging, I think that the script was very good, very much effort was put in.  I can well imagine the difficulty and effort the President and his staffs made for this.  Especially, President Obama has been pressed particularly hard with issues such as sending additional troops to Afghanistan, its poor economy with high unemployment rates, handling of financial institutions, healthcare policy reform, etc…so challenging that the polls were indicating declines in the support of the President.  In such circumstance, the words of the Leader matters so much.

I happened to be in Washington DC at the occasion. In the Washington Post in its December 11th issue, the President speech in Oslo was well received (Ref.1, 2), as the ‘President of America in wartime’ and the role of USA in these several decades, in accord with the philosophy and ways of thinking of President Obama.  In our age, many people express their opinions through new tools such as blogs, but the weight of the words of the leader of a nation is incomparably heavy.

Articles on the New York Times (Ref.1) can be taken also as good references.

Comments before the ceremony by ‘experts’ on what they thought President Obama should say at Oslo just was also an interesting collection. 

By the way, I found another interesting article on the same day’s Washington Post titled ‘Does Japan still matter?’ .  The message was to ask readers not to forget Japan, a country which is forgotten now.  It ends by saying ‘So far, Japan’s new government has not defined policies that could restore economic growth and lift the country out of its funk. But America should be hoping that it can. And if it wants to regain some confidence, it makes sense to treat Japan as though it matters. Because it does.’

On the other hand, the New York Times of the same day has a column with a title  ‘Obama’s Japan Headache

I am sad – no, worried about a series of unsteady messages from the leaders of Japanese government.  They continue to be insular minded and lack enthusiasm or energy to send out messages to the outside world. However, the fact is that the words of Prime minister or ministers even in many seemingly insignificant occasions are followed and read by the rest of the world, even when they are addressed to domestic audience.  But the problem is that many abroad (or even in Japan) cannot see what Japanese policy makers are actually thinking.  It is dangerous to under-evaluate the impact of the spoken words of the leaders.  You cannot take back what you have said.

The problem lies not only in government.  The other day, a team of guests from a well known ‘Think tank’ in Washington DC visited me and during our discussion they asked me, “Why did Keidanren close their Washington office early this year?”  Does everyone in Japan know this?  I imagine so.  I knew it, too, but was so embarrassed in answering.

Anyway, the age of Internet is convenient but also provides you risks.  Your ability, words, actions, or thoughts will be known to the world often in seconds, and be mindful it is hard to convince people abroad with reasons that work just for Japanese people.  The leaders of this global age, admitting that each has their own situations and problems to face, carry very, very heavy responsibilities.

Conference at the World Bank ? and ‘Let’s work at the World Bank’


On December 10th and to 11th, I joined a conference organized by the World Bank in Washington DC, ‘2009 Global Forum: Building Science, Technology and Innovation Partnership for Building Capacity’

I have been helping plan this meeting since last year (Ref.1)through this year. Dr Peter McPherson (we met this April ) and we wrapped up the session with several recommendations about the role of World Bank in the future.

From Japan, senior councilor Mr Iwasaki of the cabinet administration office and Dr. Ko Ito at JICA gave nice presentations.

The outline of my recommendation was: 1) As is clear from the presentations of two days, each developing country that receives support embrace different priorities (not only poverty, but conditions like primary education, etc), and from variety of stake holders that work on variety of activities for developments, many new model activities to be models could be discussed as emerging successes; Science Academies, Universities, or research centers are implementing their networks, collaborations with embracing developing countries; in the face of the world that is increasingly becoming flat (for instance, cell phones), consider  how to take advantage of this new advances; and the importance of taking into consideration the differences and overlapping of ODA policies of each recipient and donor countries. 2) The great advantage of the World Bank is that it has routes of direct communication to every government thus is able to make mid-long term and focused recommendations. 3) These new kinds of successes presented at the conference may not fit neatly to such public institution as a Bank, but Bank could consider it as its policy to spread this sort of projects. 4) Bank could invite people who carried out these successful projects, or its leaders, to serve as 'World Bank Science Envoys or Ambassadors’. 5) Introduce innovative activities, recognize them as World Bank 'Flag-ship’ model projects, post them on web sites, search for possibilities of applying them at local communities.  By doing so encourage local communities to adapt policies that are practical so as to, in the end, enhance the possibilities of national policies being put into action..

Comments by the participants of this meeting are posted on YouTube for your reference.  I will inform you once reports or websites are ready.

During my stay in Washington DC, I had opportunities to see people such as Ms Izumi Kobayashi, the Executive Vice President at MIGA of World Bank Groups、one of the shining Japanese women (she is hopping all over the world)、His Excellency Fujisaki, Ambassador to the United States of America, and science attache of the embassy, Dr. Inutsuka, Dr. Hitoshi Murayama who is active at University of California at Berkeley and University of Tokyo,Dr. Calestous Juma (Ref.1) of Harvard University, Dr. Ohde of Hitachi Washington DC, and some of senior executives and officials of the National Academy, senior scientists of National Cancer Institute.

Thus, I have been invited for dinner three nights each in DC, by these friends with their friends, thus plenty of time for lively discussions.

The President of the World Bank Dr. Zoelick recently visited Japan.  World Bank wants to hire more Japanese staffs and senior staffs.  I think even working there just as a transfer for a few years provides you a great chance of learning of developing and widening human network.  Also many nice things can happen such as understanding the world movement or advancing your own career and vision for future business opportunities.  If you are interested in research careers, World Bank has a history of nurturing so many experts; Dr. Stieglitz of Nobel Prize on Economic or Dr. Nicholaz Stern of the ’Stern Report’- to name just a few.  How about thinking big, drawing a larger picture about yourself, your company or even your country?  I think this is a very good opportunity.

Thank you so much to everyone who were so kind to me during my stay in Washington DC.

‘Cartels of the Mind’ part 2


By the way, why is it that I did not notice this book ‘Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop’ and its Japanese translation until recently?  This concerns me a bit because I have been repeatedly pointing this (closed system of Japan) out to public in my writings, lecturings, and in this blog postings for quite a long time.

Number of people working for universities expressed support for my opinion or at least showed concerns about the problem I have pointed out, but of course I assume that there were also many of those who thought that I was a ‘big mouth’ that annoy them.  I know that quite a number of officials at the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) were also aware of my discussion.

Perhaps there were very few book reviews and no ads were on the newspapers on this book translated in Japanese.  Mainichi Shinbun, the publisher, might have issued some advertisement on their newspapers, though (I am not a subscriber to it).  It could be that since this book also clearly criticizes the closed system of Japanese journalism, the Japanese newspapers did not have much willingness for book review or advertisement of this book to public.  Does anyone know what really happened?  Well, it could be that I merely overlooked those book reviews or ads.

It seems that Professor Kobayashi at Princeton University was also concerned about this.  He sent me 5 book reviews from USA as below, but said that he could not find any in Japanese.

a. Japan Interview of Ivan Hall by Victor Fic, January 26,

b. “Apartheid Japan-Style,” Reviewer: J. Marshall Unger, Professor of
Japanese, University of Maryland, in THE (Times Higher Education), July
17. 1998.

c. “The ‘Keep Out’ Signs on Japan’s Professions,” Reviewer: Robert Neff,
Nov. 20, 1997, Business Week.

d.Review by Raymond Lamont-Brown in Contemporary Review. Oct, 1998.

e. Review by J. Mark Ramseyer (Harvard University) , Journal of Japanese
Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Summer, 1999), pp. 365-368

‘Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop’ is without doubt another book that I strongly recommend to you.

Do we still need ‘Kurofune’ to open up our nation to the outside world?  The chances are that ‘Kurofune will not come any more’ ……  It’s so sad.

‘Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop’ and ‘Jigyo Shiwake (sorting out operations)’ related to Science Research


‘Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop’, 1997, provides critical insights into the insular mind-set of intellectual establishments of Japanese society. The book was written by Dr. Ivan Hall, an American scholar widely considered as one of the leading ‘expert on Japan’ who studied about Japan (B.A. and M.A. at Princeton University, and Ph.D. at Harvard University) and have stayed in Japan for more than 20 years under various titles, including Professor (as well as correspondent, cultural diplomat, professor at Gakusyuin University and a few other universities).  Its Japanese translation (1998) carries a short and straight title, ‘Chi No Sakoku’ or ‘Closed Mind of the Intellectuals’.

The content of this book is as follows:

Introduction: “NORMAL COUNTRY” –Foreign Intellectuals Need Not Apply
1. LEGAL LANDING –The Attorney’s Narrow Beachhead
2. SEGREGATED SCRIBES –The Foreign Correspondents
3. ACADEMIC APARTHEID –The Peripheral Professoriategr
4. PASSING PRESENCES –Scientific Researchers and Foreign Students
5. MANIPULATED DIALOGUE –Cowing the Critics
Conclusion: WAKE-UP CALL –Let the Daylight In

Each fact explained in this book is true, and I concur and support his sharp-eyed points.  Please refer to an article of interview with Dr. Hall, or book reviews (Ref.1(, in Japanese),  2 (,    He also gave a lecture in Japan three yeas ago.(Ref.1 )

The opinion of Dr. Hall is essentially the same as what I have been pointing out repeatedly (Ref. 1, 2, 3 in Japanese) (Ref.4, 5 in English) in this blog posting and elsewhere for a long time. The people with ‘high intellectual levels’ in Japan, university professors are ‘Sakoku (‘closed shop’) (Ref.1 in Japanese, 2 in English ) So naturally universities become deprived of stimuli, thus drawing a wrong vision of future to the students in whose hands our future relies.  A society embracing so many graduates from such universities will suffer from the enhanced spread of ‘Sakoku mind’.  Is this what we want for the future of Japan?  I urge professors of the Japanese universities to be alert and do something about this.

The message of this book resonates with the analysis and opinion of Karel Von Wolfren, a journalist and another ‘expert on Japan’, as expressed in a series of his books such as ‘The Enigma of Japanese Power’ or ‘A False Realities of a Politicized Society (Japanese title: ‘Japan-a system that do not make people happy) ’.

DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) that took over the administration recently went through ‘Jigyo Shiwake (sorting out programs)’, a very open and simple process of cutting budget off from variety of projects and this became a hot topic.  Doesn’t this remind us of ‘Cultural Revolution’ of China sometime ago?  Nobel laureates, Presidents of the universities, etc. from academia expressed deep concern and criticism about it, but people at large seemed to have evaluated this process positively as providing transparency in understanding the process of policy decision process.  There are, on the other hand, criticisms such as objectives not being clear enough, or the decisions being made in too short a time.  Regarding science and technology programs, there were also discussions about how the large-scale research, the Supercomputer project being a typical example, should be conducted.  What do you think?

I think that in a large-scale research we should include foreign specialists in the discussion right from the start of planning and open our large scale facilities to scientists of the world as part of the strategic collaboration of nurturing human resource (Ref.1) (both in Japanese). In many cases, I hear shallow excuses of secondary importance such as large scale facility projects that affect Japanese industry foundation must be run by Japanese only, or including foreigners is a risk to patent safety.

We need to consider more seriously about how the ideas that change the world (Ref.1) emerge and come into shape or who comes up with those great ideas.  In other words, we should do better on the ways we use our policy planning and funding by the public money.  In this context it was good that the new government made policy making process more open to the public.

Again and as always, I must say that scientific community is as ‘Sakoku minded’ as any other Japanese professional community.

‘Medicine and Art’ Exhibition Opens


An exhibition‘Medicine and Art’ opened at Mori Art Museum. It is the fruit of nearly 2 years of planning, collaborating with Wellcome Trust  and will be exhibited until the end of next February.  Since I knew that Wellcome Trust is the largest foundation in the United Kingdom supporting medical research but is also making efforts to promote arts related to medicine, I was very happy to support this project – although there was not much that I could do to contribute.

Mr. and Mrs. Mori, the owner of Mori Art Museum, Mr. Nanjo, the Director of the Museum, and the museum staffs, His Excellency Warren, the Ambassador of UK to Japan, Mr. Kan Suzuki, Vice Minister of MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology), (in Japanese) attended the opening ceremony and reception.  I also gave a speech to congratulate the opening.

Among the exhibitions were several valuable drawings of anatomy by Da Vinci.  The words were written in ‘mirror writing’.  Also at display was a sketch by Michelangelo – a rare piece from the collection of The Royal Collection.  Since Michelangelo was a sculptor, he had a habit of burning sketches away one after another so only about 200 pieces are left, the fact which is unbelievable.  The paintings at the ceiling and the Last Judgment of Sistine Chapel in Vatican, are widely known as his masterpiece.  I remember having an opportunity of seeing some 90 of the sketches by Michelangelo in an exhibition 3 years ago (in Japanese).

A variety of special programs including lectures are offered at ‘Medicine and Art’.  I recommend you to visit this special exhibit.

Mentor Award of ‘Nature’: The Crazy Ones


Nature is, of course, the premier science magazine that anyone in this field knows.

The magazine founded‘Mentor Award’ 4 years ago.  I fully agree and support the concept of Dr. Philip Campbell,the Editor-in-Chief.

I am sure you are able to find the same messages as this award in many of my columns (Here are some examples from this year) (Ref.1).  Repeatedly, I have pointed out that in Japan where the society is ‘vertically hierarchial’ structured it is often hard for individuals to go out to the wide world spontaneously therefore making it difficult for new human resource or new ‘buds’ of ‘somebody’ to emerge.  The essence is the importance for the mentors to encourage young students and fellows to get out to a wide world and compete and try to becoming independent even when young..

It appears to me that in general, the importance of ‘Mentors’ is not widely recognized in nurturing next generation of scientists, and the achievements of scientists (and in a vertical society this often means the boss of the organization) are valued based on their scientific achievements.  I am not blaming this though ? it is wonderful as it is.

For senior scientists it is extremely important to encourage their graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and young scientists to become independent standing on their own feet and to pursue new frontiers.  How much the research advisors succeed in these things of nurturing is as important as succeeding in their own research.

This year’s Mentor Award was given to two Japanese scientists in two categories; ‘Lifetime Achievement’ and ‘Mid Career Achievement’.  The awarding ceremony took place at the British Embassy in Tokyo on December 1st that opened with speeches by Ambassador Warren and Dr. Philip Campbell, Editor in Chief of ‘Nature’ who came to Japan for this occasion.  It was a very nice gathering and participants were handed lovely pamphlets.

I would like to congratulate from the bottom of my heart Dr. Fumio Osawa, the winner of ‘Lifetime Achievement’ andDr. Hiroaki Kitano, the winner of ‘ Mid Career Achievement’ (Sony Computer Science Laboratories Ltd. ); Many of their former students and fellows also gathered to celebrate and we all enjoyed a wonderful time.

About 60 candidates were nominated for this award and each of them was highly qualified.  It was my great honor to be invited to join the jury committee of 6 members chaired by Dr. Akiyoshi Wada.

The biggest surprise was the results of this jury committee.  It was almost a wonder that there was scarcely any difference in the evaluation result of those 6 judges in scoring of the top candidates.  When the discussion began, I realized how each jury read carefully through the application materials and shared common values about the meaning of ‘Mentors’.

Toast to these ‘out of box ‘Mentors’’ who draw out ‘extraordinary possibilities’ from the young scientists of next generation!  I think this element is manifested in the philosophy described by these two award winners (Ref.1), too.(in Japanese)

By the way, I found in the nomination form of Dr Kitano, the following ‘famous phrases’ among some people, as his motto..  This is apparently his core philosophy.

‘The Crazy Ones’ ;  Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Dr. Kitano says though that he is not ‘crazy enough’ yet!

Actually, just recently, I tried to include an one minute video of ‘The Crazy Ones’ in my keynote lecture ‘Entrepreneur = Change Agent’ which I wrote about in my column ‘GEW-1’, but the conditions of the stage, lighting, and other factors were not good enough for this and I had to give up the idea.

Schedule – December 2009

Global Forum Program 
STI Capacity Building Partnerships for Sustainable Development

Dates: 10-11 December, 2009 
Location:  The World Bank "H" Building
 Eugene Black Auditorium
 600 19th Street , NW 
     Washington , DC 20433

*Dr. Kurokawa’s Session:  2:30pm-3:45pm, 11 December, 2009 
 Session 5 Towards an Action Plan for STI Capacity Building Partnerships 
   Peter Mc Pherson, President, Association of Public and Land Grant Universities 
   Kiyoshi Kurokawa, Science Adviser to the Prime Minister(former), Japan 
   Graeme Wheler, Managing Director, The World Bank

  *By Invitation Only