From Davos -3



What’s happening in Davos is reported on its web site   (for videos, see here).  Take a look and enjoy!

Today, the Prime Minister Kan will deliver a speech at 11am.  I imagine staff are busy in preparation.

I started the day with the ‘IdeasLab’ of Harvard University. The speakers were Dr David Ellwood of the Kennedy School, Dr Mohsen Mostafavi of the Graduate School of Design, two Deans (the Business School Dean, Dr Nohria was unable to make it), Dr David Bloom, GAC’s Ageing Council Chair, and it was hosted by Annie Koh of Singapore Management University.  The theme was ‘Breaking Education’s Boundaries’.  It was a very exciting session.  I enjoyed making comments, too.

The speech of the PM Kan started at 11:30.  However, much of the audience left the venue before the speech since the panel before was ‘The Global Economic Outlook’ hosted by Martin Wolf  of the Financial Times. But who can complain?

I thought that the prime minister’s speech was quite good. Starting with the recent disturbance of Egypt, he spoke well, and the way he handled the Q&As was also good.  You can view this On-line (both in English and Japanese ). Now, the question is, when, how, and to what extent can the Kan administration carry out their plans as described in the speech.  It’s time that the strategies and decisions of the government be tested.

On the other hand, I see quite a few problems on how PM Kan’s speech was reported in Japanese media.  I urge you to read and compare how the newspapers reported it.  Today, unlike the old days, you are able to see and listen directly to the original speech.  This is the power of the internet.  How do you evaluate the speech of Mr. Kan or the quality of the reports by the Japanese media?

Immediately after the speech, a lunch meeting was held with Mr. Kan, and hosted by Mr. Carlos Ghosn.  I think Mr. Ghosn managed the Q&A’s well, too.

After lunch, there was a panel titled ‘Re-inventing Japan’ (everybody knows that there have been many panels with similar titles and yet nothing has changed…).  The Prime Minister opened the event with his message, followed by Minister Kaieda, Dr. Sadako Ogata, Mr. Kojima, Chairman of the Mitsubishi Corporation, Mr. Charles Lake of Aflac.  The host was Mr. Kristof, former head of the NY Times Japan office.  Since Mr. Kristof was well aware of the problems in Japanese media (such as the one about ‘Kisha club’, the reporters’ club), it seemed there was incompatibility amongst some of the comments in the beginning.  Of course we know Mr. Kristof is not responsible for this…..

I enjoyed participating in several sessions, listening to many new ideas, meeting wonderful people, having lively conversation, and making new friends in new fields.  You never know what happens in the future.  I saw many interesting new developments in the fields such as Design, Arts and technology, the Scientific frontier, etc. in the effort to address global issues.

The evening soiree, ‘Inclusive India!’, presented a show full of actions. The venue was packed with people, so I left rather early.

At any rate, in this Davos meeting, I noticed gaps existing between the roles played by government and industry in their handling of international finance and other issues.  Things appear to be calming down at this moment, but in reality, there is a high possibility that some big change could actually occur within several years’ time.  The notion of this was not spoken openly, but at a level of very private conversation.  I had this sort of conversation with a very famous economic journalist who told me there was a concern that EU may be like Japan, like it was for these 20 years.

Today, there exists a number of situations that could trigger crisis on global scale.  Tunisia and Egypt may be just the beginnings.


From Davos -2



The 2nd day in Davos was another beautiful day.  I attended the Japan breakfast meeting of GAC (Global Agenda Council).  About 20 people were there including the YGL (Young Global Leaders), and since all were Japanese, our discussion was naturally in Japanese. I was the chairman of this breakfast session, and so seeing that some people were new to the Davos meeting, I first talked in English and pointed out that this Council was the only council in which the participants all spoke Japanese (the majority were Japanese and the rest were American who live in Japan).  Perhaps I surprised them.  But afterwards, I was told how they liked my comments because it served as an ice breaker.  Of course, the main topic at this session was the visit of the Prime Minister on the 29th.

In the afternoon, after several sessions, I went to hear the speeches given by President Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Sarkozy of France.  Recently, Indonesia is experiencing an 8% economic growth under a democratically elected administration.  The current president and his administration are promoting the decentralization of the government, appointing talents in drastic style.  The ASEAN host of this year, President Yudhoyono delivered a wonderful speech.    Great speeches by great leaders always moves our heart.

I participate in the Governors meeting of big chemical industries annually as a guest and this year it was held in the afternoon.  The discussion is always good here, and it was again stimulating with participants like Mr. Kobayashi of Mitsubishi Chemicals, Mr. Ohyagi of Teijin.  I had the honor of making comments on Shale Oil, ‘Global to Local’ and such.  I learned a lot from talking with the top executives of these industries.
In the evening, I browsed through the Japan Night, Korea Night, and Indonesia Night.  The Indonesia Night had the best venue, but to my disappointment, there were not many people present, since it was after 10pm. Japan Night had the largest number of participants.  This was good.

However, I understand that the news of the  S&P reducing Japan’s ratings from AA to AA- caused some stir in Japan.  I commented on this topic a year ago in my blog.  Japanese media did not cover the news much when the S&P declined last time, but I wonder how they will behave this time.  I noticed a short comment by the PM being reported…

I went to bed feeling it difficult to fall asleep.

From Davos -1



On the morning of the 25th I departed Narita for Zurich via Frankfurt, arriving at Davos late at night.

On the 26th, I participated in the early morning sessions. The IdeasLab is always interesting and thought-provocative, so I participated in the session of ‘Design for the New Reality’.  Here, Dr. Yoko Ishikura, Dr. Kohei Nishiyama (he was the discussion leader of the ‘Product Design’ panel), and Professor Toshiko Mori of Harvard University (at ‘Scarcity-driven design’) were the participants from Japan.  As for myself, I joined the discussion with Adam Bly because it seemed interesting and I have had discussions with him on ‘Innovation’ for several years at GAC. Dr. Bly is apparently developing quite an interesting new domain.  It is both stimulating and enjoyable to join in a panel based on presentations with higher perspectives.

Please visit Dr. Ishikura’s blog also.

I participated in several sessions, as well as the closing event of the day, the GAC dinner.  The majority of the people had participated in recent Dubai meeting so we had good conversation.  Lawrence Summers and Amy Chua were the two super special guests.  Please refer to Wikipedia for their backgrounds.  I assume you all know Mr. Lawrence Summers.  He is currently a professor at Yale University.  Ms. Amy Chua published a book early this year that has become a trendy, if not controversial topic.  These two guests made our discussion so interesting.  It was a privilege to be able to exchange a few words personally with Ms. Chua after the dinner.
The title of her book is: ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’.  She writes about raising her two daughters as a Chinese mother. Her opinions and actions triggered quite a discussion among her readers.

Ms. Chua writes about the rules that children are ‘not supposed to, not allowed to’ do.
? attend a sleepover
? have a playdate
? be in a school play
? complain about not being in a school play
? watch TV or play computer games
? choose their own extracurricular activities
? get any grade less than an A
? not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
? play any instrument other than the piano or violin
? not play the piano or violin
There are more important rules.  I haven’t read the book yet, but she said, ‘In a sense, it’s like a Jewish mother of 20 years ago’.  She is quite a personality.

No wonder people have a lot to say about her rules.


Vabel Conference, Mr. Kim, a Pari Pari Worker


Sunday afternoon, the Vabel Conference was held at GRIPS. The organizer was Mr. Kim, an energetic young man whom I wrote about in my recent blog posting. 

The audience was mostly students.  The speakers, Mr. Nanjo, Dr. Ishikura, Ms. Hayashi, Dr. Saito, myself, and Dr. Mogi were all experienced speakers.  Since most of the participants were young, everything they talked was full of energy and very moving.  Dr. Yoko Ishikura explains this in detail in her blog, so please take a look.

Presentations and Q&As – everything was in English.  Somebody wrote on twitter:(#vabel ) ‘I felt it strange at first that they spoke English in spite of almost all of the participants being Japanese, but eventually I got used to it.’  Yes, getting used to it, and acquiring the right atmosphere is important.

There were some twists and turns, some mishaps, as Mr. Kim was creating this idea and working on it all by himself.  However, at any rate, we all did it.  Ustream, however, did not work properly as I anticipated, which was a pity.  Since I belong to GRIPS, I was helping him as the host to develop programs, coordinate with the speakers, give advice, and arrange for the venue.  So it was a great relief to me that all the guests and audience seemed to enjoy the conference.

I would like to thank several staff members at GRIPS for their great support in making this conference a success. It was a very lively afternoon.

Regardning the word Pari Pari:  it’s meaning is explained in this article.  Enjoy!

Keio SFC Class; The Last Lecture, The Best Panel


The last class of this semester at my Keio SFC class ended.

What we did in the last two classes was peer-reviewed the essays which students submitted at the end of last year, announced the result of the evaluation, and had a panel discussion.

The theme of the essays was: “How I want to be in 10 years, and what I will be doing in 2 years from now to make this happen”.

The top 6 students who gained the highest scores in the peer review participated in the panel.  They were truly the cream of the crop.  Dr. William Saito, who gave a lecture at our 2nd class, hosted the panel.  I am grateful that this class was supported by many guests who so much inspired the students by speaking about their own walks of life.  So, it seemed to me, that this panel was the most interesting class in our whole course as it reflected on the effects of the lectures given.  The class and panel consisted of a mix of all classes ? from freshman to senior.  Despite their age, don’t you think that they did great?

In the last two sessions, Mr. Shikano (in Japanese) participated also.  He is a student at the graduate school of Tokyo Institute of Technology, had spent about 2 years at MIT, which turned out be a very exciting experience, and came back just recently.  He volunteered to steer twitter during this class, and thanks to him the twitter was very active. Mr. Shikano had been participating in my class since he was in Boston.

He kindly took photos of the class, too.

Thanks to Mr. Miyairi and Ms. Endo for helping us as TA and SA.  Last but not the least, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of the guest speakers for sparing their valuable time for us.

It was a great semester.  I enjoyed it so much.


ACCJ 2010 Person of the Year, Why Me?


ACCJ stands for ‘American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’.  It is natural that this kind of institution exists in various countries.  There are many bilateral exchanges going on in many areas, but those in business and/or industry sector constitute the basis of economy for both nation.  I was invited by the ACCJ to give several lectures in the past.

Announcing various policy recommendations is one of the important functions of ACCJ.  Recommendations on strategies for economic growth and healthcare policies in Japan are some examples of recent announcements.

I am not a business person, so it came to me as a surprise when I learned that I was selected as the Person of the Year for 2010. However, I think they probably judged highly of my activities and opinions to open Japan to the world, to prepare youth to face the global issues of the changing world.  But since I am in the field of education, it is a matter of course that I work for those causes and so, though I am honored, it is not a big deal for me.

My interview is on the journal of ACCJ (Ref.1), if you are interested.  Many of you may think that I criticize too much, but I have been saying the same thing ever since I returned to Japan in the mid 1980s, after living in the US for15 years.  I speak as an individual, a medical doctor, not attached to any Japanese organization.  The same view is expressed also in this blog, my books, and essays.

I do know that you have many different views, but please understand that my words are not personal, rather, the idea and the concern is the same as what I always say about Japan.

I would like to express my deep appreciation to ACCJ for evaluating my activities.  I take this honor not personally, but as a duty bestowed upon me, to connect Japan to the world as much as to the United States.  I will continue to participate in ACCJ activities to support and help them in whatever way possible.  For instance, besides my work at the university, I could enhance the activities of our Think Tank,  or Impact Japan,  an organization which we founded just recently.

Several people congratulated me via e-mails about this ‘event’, and Dr. Yoko Ishikura introduced this topic in her blog.

It makes me feel like taking a new responsibility with ACCJ, and I am thrilled about the prospect.

A Debate on Education at The 2nd anniversary of The Commons 30 Fund Created by Mr. Shibusawa and His Friends


Late in the afternoon, on January 19th, after giving a lecture at my Keio SFC course (which I intend to write about later), I joined a panel (in Japanese) at the 2nd anniversary of the Commons 30 Fund (in Japanese) founded by my friend, Mr. Ken Shibusawa.

The panel was hosted by Mr. Shibusawa and I was supposed to have a dialogue with Mr. Kenichi Fukuhara, the CFO of Benesse and the head office manager of Corporate Communication (I knew this much beforehand….)   Then, I discovered that the theme was education.  Just the right topic for me!

Mr. Fukuhara showed slides titled ‘Escape from Galapagos Island’.  His intention was to deliver a strong message that Japanese education was also changing to a Galapagos.  Quite shocking!  Then, the topic shifted to ‘the insular mindset of Japanese youth’, which is popular these days.

Given his message, I responded by saying ‘it is not the youth which has problems, but the generation of their parents, and the older’ (Ref.1, 2) (Ref.3, 4 in Japanese). 

I have been focusing on this message for 1-2 months.

This provoking panel is uploaded on UStream.  I feel a bit embarrassed to show this to you, but the future of the youth comes first.

The key, always, is to see the essence within the big picture.

P.S.  I already found some blogs (Ref.1,2 all sites are in Japanese) reporting on this event.  、 、Their comments made me happy.


Are Japanese Youth Insular Minded? Are Adults Not, Then?


I notice various discussions going on in media recently about the insular mindset of Japanese youth.

Are they sure?  I said ‘no’ in my posting of January 12.  And I found an article (in Japanese) that shares my view.

As I wrote on January 12,  parents of our youth existed in a certain social climate.  The same can be said of the generation before.  Rarely did they go abroad at their own risk, by their own decision (especially men).

During the period of economic growth, 1960-90 and even afterwards, most of the international studies were based on support by or command from companies or government offices.  Typically, they came back to Japan in several years.  They went overseas not by their own will.  Therefore, it was basically a ‘business trip’, regardless of the length of their stay.

Mr. Kurihara of the Harvard Kennedy School expresses the same opinion and observation in his latest Cambridge Gazette (Since this edition of the Cambridge Gazette is rather long, it might be a good idea to start reading from the editor’s postscript. ) There are so many people who are concerned.

Adults don’t reflect on their own behavior even though they have tons of words to say about our youth.  I have an impression that youth instinctively doubt what adults say.  The same observation is expressed in the writings by Mr. Jiro Shirasu.

It is our responsibility as adults to encourage and support youth.

Why Not Go to the OIST Symposium and Challenge?


OIST (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology) is located in the scenic Onna-son village of Okinawa. It was established as a new science and research institute. Now, it is steering its way to become a graduate school.

Construction is steadily in progress, and beautiful buildings are gradually starting to emerge, implying the overall picture of the campus.  At the conference hall by the sea, many Symposiums are being held, gathering top level scientists of the world.

Why don’t you join?

This is an invitation to one of such opportunities.  It takes place during your spring vacation, March 14th to 18th.  To come all you have to do is submit an essay of 500 words in English by January 31st. Essays should be submitted online.

This is an English essay contest for undergraduate and graduate (master’s course) students. The applicants must be residing in Japan, majoring in science and technology. The title given for the essay is: “A multidisciplinary approach to solving complicated problems in science and technology today: How effective is it?”  The winners will be invited to a workshop in March.  For details please see: 
The deadline is rather close, but don’t worry.  Focus, think, organize your ideas, and most importantly, start writing.

OIST has its door wide open for youth with strong motivation.  This is the time for a challenge!

Try to Participate in the St. Gallen Symposium


There is a beautiful town in Swiss called St. Gallen where the students at St. Gallen Universty organize the annual St. Gallen Symposium.  This year’s schedule is from May 12 to 13. The Symposium is a wonderful opportunity to listen to worldwide leaders and to speak with them in person.  In such a beautiful setting with such opportunity,  I am sure many friends will be made with students of the world.
I participated twice (in Japanese)(Ref.1 in English) and still continue to support them.  This program has been around for 40 years and is quite enjoyable.

This year again, they will organize the event.  As usual, the application involves writing an English essay.

Dr. Yoko Ishikura also writes about this in her blog (in Japanese) (Ref.1 in English), so please take a look.
Nothing can be achieved unless you try.  Focus, think, and write!  The detail for application is given here.  The deadline is close (Feb.1) but do not worry.
I urge you all to put your best effort in and give it a try!