D-Lab of MIT – A Thrilling Day With Young Leaders Who Sought Careers Abroad


Early in the morning of 20th (Sat.), after arriving at Narita from Singapore, I rushed to my home, had a shower, refreshed, and went off to GRIPS, my base office.

Today at GRIPS, we, our ‘Innovation Team’ at GRIPS, host a day of D-Lab of MIT under the theme of “ ‘Universities’ X ‘Technologies’ X ‘BOP’” (in Japanese) .  D-Lab is, as I introduced several time in this web site, a new and exciting program for undergraduate students, preparing them for this global age.  The day’s event was organized by Tsuchiya-kunEndo-kun (Ref.1), and Riku-san , all involved in D-Lab at MIT.  Just 3 days ago in the evening, I saw Professor Miyagawa of MIT (Ref.1)  and talked about this event at GRIPS.  He was very pleased to hear our plan.

Quite a number of people signed-up online and our auditorium at GRIPS was nicely filled with participants.  Speakers and panels were all very good and there were lots of questions and answers, so I think the participants were quite satisfied with the event.  I wrapped up the session with focus on the meaning and impact of the ‘D-Lab’.

The reception continued for 3 hours, probably reflecting the high satisfaction and enthusiasm among the participants.  Everyone was quite excited.

You may find a site of D-Lab team in Japan(in Japanese) and a hot posting by Mr. Matsushita interesting.   Through a day session, I felt that many young people sensed the global age, opened their eyes to great goals, unlimited possibilities.  I thought that someone uploaded a live video-record on the web…. Trying to check it out…

I would say that the main driving force of the success of this event was the three young men and woman who organized this (in Japanese); Endo-kun (in Japanese)  and Tsuchiya-kun (in Japanese) earned their Master’s degree in Japan and now for Ph. D. degree at MIT/Harvard, Riku-san  studied undergraduate at MIT after graduating from the Japanese high school.  They apparently have been involved with D-Lab projects in various ways.  Now many young people in Japan saw and met these three mission and action-oriented three youth trying to reach out and speak their minds and hearts.

These three teach us clearly how ‘going for what you want to do’ is so important, how the experience make you see wider pictures and grasp opportunities.  I recommend that you too, by all means, make up your mind and why not try to see the wide world to find what you really want to do and what you can do to make the world a better place.

Water System and Business of Singapore


Singapore is a small island.  Historically, it has relied most part of its water supply to Malaysia, specifically from Johor Bahar.  Singapore bears all costs for building and maintenance of water plants there.  This was arranged by negotiation, and Singapore is on dependent side, so in the long term this dependence may turn out to become severe weakness to this small island nation.

In Japan, too, the rivers and the sea were contaminated by not-well-treated household waste or even industrial wastes until 1960s.  Minamata disease, mercury poisoing, is one example of the results of such industry pollutions.  ‘Silent Spring’ by Rachael Carson published in1962 was, as you know well, a warning to the modern society destructing natural environment through mass production and mass consumption of our modern industrial economy.  Until some decades ago, household wastewater and garbage were being thrown into the rivers in Singapore, too.

Aware of the situation, Singapore government launched a major water policy including its secured water supply plan  as one of her long-term national plans.

On March 19th , we visited Marina Barrage  (Ref.1) after the annual A*STAR Board meeting (Ref.1).  Not only the entire complex was grand and public-friendly, but its history, plans, processes, relations with other water industries, visions, strategies, project plans, and so on were very admirable, so I felt that this national project is good and strong as a whole.

Singapore organized Water EXPO in 2009 and displayed a package of water businesses that attracted people’s attentions.  On the other hand, exhibition of Japan appeared to be a gathering of good ‘components, parts’, a difference pointed out in the report of NHK television broadcast also.  This difference could be fatal in international competition because Japanese companies fail to present a ‘total package’ of the big system.

Singapore crafted and presented Singapore International Water Week  very actively this June, apparently working very hard to appeal to new developing countries its water supply and management total system.

Japan was known for its good water management technologies, and until very recently the world used to regard Japan as ‘the nation that has most reliable water supply technologies’ but where did this good reputation go, I wonder?  In truth, Japan is only competing over the quality and ability of parts products of less than 5% of the total water supply system such as salt water filter treatment.

Are we going to be ‘Galapagosnized parts manufacturer’ (Ref.1) in water business as we have been in cellular phones, nuclear plants, or solar panels?  Will we serve as subcontracts in this field also?

President Faust, First Female President of Harvard University, visits Japan


As I have been introducing to you many times in this website (Ref.1,2,3) and elsewhere (Ref.3 is Science Editorial. Other links are in Japanese), many leading universities of the world have invited women as the president and indeed they are doing very well.  Today, Cambridge, MIT, and four out of eight Ivy League Universities are having woman presidents.  Many of them were invited from outside the University.  This was hard to imagine in the past, but maybe one of the earliest example among top universities would be University of Pennsylvania of Ivy League which invited Professor Judith Rodin as their President in 1994.

President Faust of Harvard University visited Japan recently.  I was invited to the reception dinner on March 16th.  Professor Yoko Ishikura has posted a column in her blog  about her impression of this reception and of Dr. Faust which I also share.  I have had the honor of seeing and having a short conversation with her at Davos in January, also.

She talked about how Harvard responded to the economic crisis in 2008, what kind of students they are trying to enroll, what sort of courses they are creating to meet the emerging challenges, etc. – the topics were all relevant to us and therefore very interesting.  Also, how she answered questions was wonderful.  I could clearly see her admirable personality and great ability just by listening to her thoughts or the process of how she executes plans or the way she handled questions and comments from the participants.

President Faust repeatedly talked about her concerns about a very, very low number of Japanese students at Harvard (I hear that there are only five undergraduates now.  This is not at all a desireble situation).  Currently Japan comes after Canada and the United Kingdom in the total number of alumni of Harvard University including Graduate Schools.  But it seems that this apparently will decrease very quickly.  It is another aspect of ‘Japan as a secular country’, a theme which I write about so often.

Dr. Faust said that she is aiming to benefit from every opportunity to talk to students, especially female high school students, because her uniqueness as first female Harvard President would be by itself aspiration to them.  This time also, she had such an opportunity and told us how wonderfully students responded.  I was impressed by her deep understanding of her position and special roll she has in this global society.

From Accra, Ghana – 3


March 10th started with a visit to Achimota Hospital (Photo) located at the suburb of Accra.  The hospital stands within the site of Achimota School the most prestigious school of Ghana established in 1927.  The school is known for producing a large number of talents through its high ideals as manifested in its school emblem; that (starting in the context of school life), black and white, male and female, should integrate and combine synergistically for the good of all.  This idea was revolutionary, especially in the 1920s when the school was established.  Achimota hospital used to serve to this school.  Many African leaders including three presidents of Ghana after independence are alumni of this school.  Achimota school reminds us that nurturing human resource through a long-term vision is always, in any time of history and any nation, the highest priority.

By the way, it is so a ‘British’ style that they have a Golf Course here.  It is the distinguished Achimota Golf Club.Top schools in Britain and U.S. often have golf courses within their school premises.

At the hospital, many nurses are working together with the director and doctors (there are four Doctors).  They have one computer for the whole clinic.  Patients are moved to larger hospitals in the city if surgical operations are needed.  About 200 pregnant mothers visit the clinic every day.  While we were there a baby was newly born. We were with Drs Greenwood and Were and all hospital people, nurse and patients, were happy to see Dr. Were being so popular.  She is truly the heroine of Africa.

We then moved on to ‘Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research’ established by the government of Japan. (Photos are included in the slide show above).  The Institute is located within the huge premise of University of Ghana (Ref.1, 2) at Legon, the suburb of Accra.  Scientists from University of Tokyo and Medical and Dental University are participating in researches on HIV/AIDS, H1N1, and so on.  It is very encouraging to see the progress of research projects moving.  I fully enjoyed the tour of the institute as well as active discussion with the scientists.

At lunch time, I looked up at the sky and incidently saw the ‘Circle Rainbow: Halo, (Photo on top) a rainbow around the sun just above us.  It was a nice surprise.

Leaving the Institute, we headed to next destination, the laboratory used by Hideyo Noguchi 82 years ago.  HIH Crown Prince has been here just a day before.  The lab is part of the University Hospital of University of Ghana in Accra city, separate from the Legon campus.  I noticed the signatures of HIH Prince and Princess Takamado in the guest book dated 1993.   What was it like to be here 80 years ago, I wonder.  Among the exhibition was a telegram sent from Hideyo to his wife in New York City.  The telegram was sent by
‘Western Union’ a telegram and communication service company which I wrote about in the context of ‘Japan as a closed country’.   Of course, I saw ‘Western Union’ offices here and there in Ghana and Botswana as I traveled.   The service is operated throughout the world except 5 countries including Japan.  This is truly a strange situation for a country like Japan.

In the evening, I was invited by HE Ambassador Katagami to a dinner at the Embassy of Japan.  The embassy was beautiful with a large garden.  This day the weather was not too hot which was a treat for us.  ‘Takai’, a specialty of Ghana was served as digestif.   The taste was somewhat like Tia Maria, very nice, and I had to control myself from asking for too much.

By the way, Ghana is known for produce of cocoa.   It is the nation’s major industry.  Also, oil was discovered at Off Shore recently.  ‘Ghana’ chocolate is very popular in Japan, but here the chocolate will not melt even at this high temperature.  I was told that its taste does not match Japanese or many people, thus may not have commercial value..

Late in the evening, I left to Accra airport heading for Narita via London.  I have traveled 18 days since February 23th and thia last leg is for two nights on the plane.

Now this trip is coming to an end.

From Accra, Ghana – 2: Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize Symposium


‘Hideyo Noguchi Afriza Prize Symposium’ was  held for one full day on March 9th.  The venue of the Symposium is also within this hotel. http://www.gbhghana.net/la-palm/meeting-facilities

I am here as the Chair of ‘Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize http://www.kiyoshikurokawa.com/en/2008/05/hideyo-noguchi.html http://www.cao.go.jp/noguchisho/index-e.html Symposium’.  Hideyo Noguchi Prize, as I have reported several times in this web site, was inaugurated two years ago as the first and only prize under the auspices of the government of Japan.  We had the honor of the presence of HIH Crown Prince of Japan at the symposium.  I understand that this is his first visit to Sub-Sahara.  The winners of the inaugural Award, Drs Greenwood and Were also joined with us.

The program opened with my welcome speech, and speech by the Vice President of Ghana, Mr. John Mahama and HIH Crown Prince of Japan.  After the speeches Drs. Greenwood and Were gave lectures.  HIH Crown Prince and the Vice President left the venue at the end of these speeches and lectures.

In the afternoon we had a nice lively panel which closed with a presentation by two young people from UZNA foundation (founded by Dr.Were) of a “picture-story show of ‘Story of Hideyo Noguchi’” and recitation of a poem. The performance was quite moving. I asked Dr. Were to video-record this last session by all means and post it on the website of UZMA.  I will post its URL once it appears on the web.

In the afternoon speakers and panelists were presented to HIH Crown Prince who has returned for this occasion.  A reception followed as is reported (in Japanese) in the March 9th posting in the blog http://blog.canpan.info/sasakawa of Mr. Sasagawa, President of Nippon Foundation, one of the panelists.

HIH Crown Prince is following a very tight schedule, I understand.  I sincerely hope that the Crown Prince will be spared from excessive fatigue during the rest of his travel.

In Ghana, Japan, and elsewhere, televisions, newspapers, on-line medias are covering the event.  I assume that there are many more but here are some examples.
Ghana news coverage;

<Japan Times Online>
<Royal Family News (in Japanese)> http://worldtimes.co.jp/today/photonews/100310/100310-1.html
< Daily Sports (in Japanese)>
< Sanin- Chuo newspaper (in Japanese)>
<47 News (in Japanese)> http://www.47news.jp/CN/201003/CN2010030901000989.html

From Accra, Ghana – 1


On March 7th, I left Paris, flew via London to land Accra, the capital city of Ghana, at 10pm.  Accra is located at ‘Latitude 4゜33’00’’ North, Longitude 0゜12’00’’ West’ , an equatorial position, almost ‘0, 0’.  The instant I was out of the aircraft, I felt a very, very, ‘hot, sultry’ air.  ‘La Palm Royal Beach Hotel’ that stands besides the coastline, is the venue of the meeting and also our accommodation.

This visit is to serve as the Chair of ‘Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize Symposium’.  The Prize was inaugurated two years ago as the first and only prize under the auspices of the government of Japan.  We had the honor of the presence of HIH Crown Prince of Japan at the symposium.  I understand that this is his first visit to Sub-Sahara.  The winners of the inaugural Award, Drs Greenwood and Were also participated.

Mr. Yohei Sasagawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation who is hopping all over the world tirelessly and Professor Kiyoshi Kita of University of Tokyo also joined with us.  It’s been a long time since I saw Dr Kita last time – a nice and encouraging reunion.

On 8th, I had discussion with NIH Fogerty Program, Japanese delegates of Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Health, JICA, etc., Professor Nobuo Oota of Tokyo Medical and Dental University with other Japanese scientists working at Noguchi Institute, some of African experts participating this Symposium and so on to discuss and draft possible inputs to the agenda on ‘Global Health’ of the G8 Summit which will be held in Canada this year.

At the Davos meeting of January this year, Prime Minister Harper stated that ‘Maternal and Child Health’  be an agenda of his G8 Summit.  Japan has been making a great contribution in this area (‘Global Health’) since it set the foundation of Global Fund at the 2000 Okinawa Kyusyu G8 Summit as the host, and again its follow ups at the 2008 Toyako Summit.  Especially when we take into account the fact that this year’s Summit may be the last ‘G8 Summit’ along with the poor progress of MDGs, I am but concerned how ‘Global Health’ will develop after the ‘G8 Summit’….

In the evening, a reception was held welcoming the two Laureates, participants from Africa, Ghana, Japanese delegates from Cabinet Administration Office (Naikakufu), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, JICA, etc.   Anyway, the hot, soggy climate here is overwhelming.  I sweated all the time.

From Paris – 2


After the evening of L’Oreal Award, I visited American Hospital of Paris (AHP) next morning to see Madam Christiane Guerlain (famous perfume), a member of the Hospital's Board of Governors since 1977, with other members of the Board, Mr John Crowford, Drs Bloch, the head of the Hospital, Drs Kyhayat, and other staff Drs Bard, Matsushita, Mimura and so on.  After listening to them, I was guided to a tour to its major facilities including the new Dialysis Center.   Dr Mimura, a newly appointed Japanese Doctor at AHP from last autumn to lead its Japanese section, is apparently earning good reputation and I was happy to feel the welcoming mood among his colleagues and staffs.

In the afternoon, I had a 2 hours’ teleconference on Global Health with 10 people or so from Canada and other countries, then from 4 pm, joined two executives in charge of technology from Schlumberger Paris head office (I understand that one of them, Mr Ashok Belani from India is the youngest of all board members).  We had quite a stimulating conversation/discussions over interesting topics including possible international collaboration with Japan on global issues.  Schlumberger has placed a branch office in Japan  30 years ago and has been active in many areas ever since.

In the evening, Drs Jean-Louis Armand and Yves Mieux who used to work at the Embassy of France to Japan, Drs Mimura (husband and wife) and I went out to have dinner at KGB ‘Kitchen Galeise Bis’ (Ref.1), a nice restaurant that is quite popular recently (reservations are full 3 to 4 weeks ahead, I was told).  Menu was original and interesting, and everything was so delicious.  The reputation did not betray us.  So, naturally we enjoyed conversation with high spirits.

The next day was Sunday.  HE Ambassador Hattori of OECD invited me for lunch at his residence which was a very relaxing experience.  I have had the honor of knowing him since he was the Ambassador of Japan to Vietnam when he supported us in many ways at Science Council of Asia which we held at Hanoi.  It’s been a very long time since then, and I thank him so much for his unchanging kindness

After leaving his residence, I spent time at Musee Bourdelle  (Ref.1) enjoying the exhibition of ‘Isadora Duncun’.  Musee Bourdelle is a compact but beautiful art museum.  Ms Duncan is a highly unconventional dancer born in San Francisco having performed mainly in Europe and Russia.  I assume people may describe her today as ‘a scandalous, eccentric woman’.

Duncan socialized with Rodin, sculptor, and his close friend Carrier, painter so the exhibition included sculpture of Isadora by Rodin as well as sketches by Carriere and Bourdelle.  The fact that Rodin and Carriere were very close friends is well known and I have mentioned it in my keynote lecture on ‘Molecular Imaging’.  I also summarized the lecture in a essay.  
Next noon I took a flight from Charles de Gaulle CDG airport heading to Accra, Ghana via Heathrow, London.

Paris is always beautiful.  There are so many interesting places to visit.  It is such an attractive city.

I have traveled for more than two weeks, visited two African countries, worked in Paris, and had some private time in Bourgogn to enjoy (which I haven’t have had for a long time).

L’Oreal – UNESCO Women in Science Award Ceremony



Leaving Beaune, I headed to Paris by TVG.  The purpose of my visit is to participate in 2010 L’Oreal-UNESCO ‘Women in Science’ award ceremony.   The five Laureates, one from five regions of the world, were equally wonderful.  Drs. Elizabeth Blackburn and Ada Yonath, the winner of 2008 in biology and life sciences, were Nobel Laureates of 2009, and  naturally everyone associated with L’Oreal UNESCO award was happy about the good news.No matter how many times I return here, Paris always show her great charm.  The weather was a bit cold but clear.  After being interviewed as the member of the jury I went out to enjoy light lunch with Mr. Watanabe and Mr. Sakashita of UNESCO at ‘il Vino ? Enrico Bernardo’.

The awarding ceremony at UNESCO is always in style.  The event opened with the welcome speeches by Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO who assumed the office after Mr. Matsuura, and by Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, Chairman of L’Oreal (top photo) followed by introduction of 15 international fellows.  Ms Christine Ockrent (top photo, center), a journalist well known in France and US again hosted the ceremony in her own lively rhythm.  She is married to current Foreign Minister of French Government and also a co-founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Dr Bernard Kouchner .

Dr Cruz

Photo1: Dr. Cruz (to her right is Professor Gunter Blobel, Chair of the jury)

The laureate of this year from Asia is Dr. Cruz of the Philippines (photo 1).  She succeeded in isolating conotoxin, quite a neurotoxin, from local shellfish known to be poisonous.  The process somewhat reminds us of the isolation of tetrodotoxin from blowfish or ‘Fugu”.  I am delighted to see such scientist being selected for the prize.

Acceptance speech by each winner, thought short, was filled with moving stories of their career and family. 

Below is a snap shot of 4 Japanese women working at UNESCO and myself during the reception in UNESCO.

March2010 BurgundyLOrealParis 049

Photo2: With four Japanese women working at UNESCO

Learn from Korea? Why not?


As I have mentioned in my previous posting, Nikkei newspaper published an editorial urging Japanese to learn from Korea.  Good idea.  Nuclear plants, Samsung, Hyundai, Vancouver Olympic… Korea has been giving us blows on our nose in rows these days. 

By the way, JBPress or other web news in Japan which I comment on every now and then – they are pretty ‘cool’ actually.  Just recently too I found on JBPress an article by Mr. Toru Noguchi featuring Samsung titled ‘Vancouver Olympic, the true winner was Samsung; another long term strategy on project development here, its not just about semiconductor or LCD’ (in Japanese)

How are Japanese newspapers reporting on these issues, I wonder?  The direction the world is headed is clear enough.  What can I say if Japanese newspaper publishing houses still keep on competing over the volume of circulation and stick on ‘Kisha club (Japan National Press Club) or Members Only’ policy.

On the other hand, Korean media also reports on learning from Korea.

JoongAng Daily posted an article "Japan is now learning from ‘Korea express’ " on its Japanese web site, commenting on Nikkei editorial and also commenting to the special feature of Nikkei Business which I have touched upon in my previous posting on my web site.  They also included my comments, through an interview over telephone to me in Paris.

‘Japan as Developing Country in Environment Business’; The Truth Revealed at Last?


Have you read ‘The special’ in March 1st issue of Nikkei Business Magazine?  (Why is it that you are charged fee to read this on Internet and how long?)

The opening article of this issue is ‘This week’s focus’ featuring President Masamitsu Sakurai of Rikoh and Chairman of Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives).  He has been sending out keen critical messages on a insular mind-set of business sector. Thus, I sense the editor’s will in combining this article with ‘The Special’ of this issue.  It’s a good choice.

‘The Special’ features from page 22 to 39, with a title, exactly – ‘Japan As Developing Country In Environment’.  Japan’s business sector has been for long, too inwardly and technology focused, thus trapped in ‘excessive belief in its technologies’ that it has not  effectively captured the market in the world flying with global clean energy movements..  Especially mega corporations are too much obsessed with the logic of itself that they are neglecting the world trend – does not have ‘first hand experience’ of how the global world is moving ahead to siege the opportunities.  When they discuss issues, what they mention is only ‘reasons for difficulties; why things cannot be done’.

For a long time, Japan was regarded as the leader in Environment Technology.  Energy efficiency, water treatment, battery etc…. But how are they performing in global marketplace?

Although we may have many advanced technologies, we can’t think in a  'global, vertical, way' nor do we have ‘know-hows’ to develop vertically to capture growing global market.  Japanese manufacturing sectors, particularly electronics industry, have been ironically called as ‘Galapago-nized’ (Ref.1) thus, developing most advanced manufacruting precision and technology, but failed to lead the global marketplace effectively with profit-making business models.  Most Japanese have poor connections to people of the world, and many executives do not have reasonable command of spoken English.  Large number of big corporations are led by executives and leaders who are rising within their own hierarchial organization structure with ‘Sakoku (national isolation)’ mind-set, clinging to the memory of past ‘success’.  All these are the result of being content with domestic business, and being aversive of taking any (even calculated) risks going abroad I would say.  What lies in 10-20 years ahead of young people who strive to be hired by those companies?  Maybe it is reflected in the middle manger level ‘human resource’ of these companies.
Many examples exist of not being able to see ‘things’ in a big picture, cannot conceive and  tell ‘stories’  (in Japanese). Technologies are of little use if not used as a part of attractive stories.

It is obvious that it was not just electrics industry that had these problems, but the problems strangely seem to be prevailing in many established large companies, often hanged on to the business as usual, missing the chance of big change.

We do see some good signs though, but they are too small and lack speed, the fact pointed out repeatedly in my blog postings.  The traditional career path in Japan of ‘single track’ is the barrier of change.

What is important is to send messages to Japanese citizens firmly and repeatedly. This is the mission of media so that the necessary policies’ could be implemented with wider public support.  We must realize that ‘Kurofune’ (blackships led by Commodore Perry to open up Japan some 150 years ago) will not come any more’ (Ref.1).

I have posted several reports on nuclear power plant project won by Korea. Further, rapid growth of Korean companies such as Sumsung, LG, Hyundai, Posco, as well as more recent outstanding performance of Korean athletes in Vancouver Olympic are also impressive.  At this timing, came the Toyota problem.

Oh, Japan, cheer up and do your best! Japanese business leaders, buckle up!  The same goes for university leaders, too.

The basis of a nation is nurturing/education of human resource and human capital.  What kind of education?  This is another story for preparation of ever flattening global world..

Recently, there are reports and some sense among many Japanese establishments to learn lessons from Korea as well as China which I am happy to see.  “Always to be a humble learner’ is a wisdom from ancient time.