Is Todai Label Good Globally?


There is a young legislator by the name of Kotaro Tamura (in Japanese) (I think he is at Yale now).

I have seen him several times. Each time I see him I am impressed and charmed by his very sophisticated and direct character.  He has a website where he writes with unique aggression about his background, his beliefs and principles, his thoughts on fashion (which all seem to be fairly colorful), and more.

Of course, he writes blogs and posts on Twitter, too.  I recently found a a highly provocative article by Mr. Tamura called, ‘The Todai Label is Not Good in Global Settings: Nada High School’s Top Student Chose to Go to Yale University’  (in Japanese).  (This Nada Student, by the way, was accepted to Harvard as well, but he chose to go to Yale…)

Life at Yale University described in this article is admirable and  exciting.  I wonder how high school or college students, or the so called ‘leaders’ in Japanese universities, companies, government, and media think about this?

At any rate, read this article, and enjoy.  I intend to discuss this again in the not so distant future.

Recommend Taking a Leave of Absence From School: Support Youth Who Go Abroad!


Throughout 2010 I have recommended that people, especially students, take a leave of absence from school. Response from the youth is not bad.  I’ve gathered that this idea is spreading gradually so I sent an article to Asahi Shinbun and it appeared on the ‘My Point of View’ column in the Jan. 14th morning edition.

In a quite limited space, I argued as below, which I summarized in a list. The title of my article is the same as this posting.  Please forward this article to your friends in any way you please, like e-mails, blogs, or twitter. 

Japanese youth are by no means insular minded. Youth are reflection of the society of the time.

Governments, industries, and educational institutes should do better.  Mind you, youth is our only hope and resource for Japan tomorrow.

 “My Point of View

  • I have recommended taking a leave of absence for some time now.  It is because I sincerely wish that youth can broaden their horizons while they are still undergraduate students.
  • A broad human network is a strong tool for leaders to be, in whatever field.  As globalization continues, international friends you make through your travels who are not affiliated with any one particular organization are a huge asset. Sharing meals together, and experiencing the world together is so important.
  • You can take courses at universities, join NGO activities at the developing countries, or maybe experience internships at global enterprises.  What bothers me now is that currently we do not have any good, stable system to encourage youth who wish to go abroad.  From the emails and conversations I have with students, the most urgent problem to be addressed is the problem of tuition.
  • National universities waive the tuition during the period students are on leave, but private universities sometimes continue to charge tuition.  You get an impression that those universities are putting management before education.  What a disgraceful and sad thing to do.  Can’t they exempt tuition while students are on leave?  This, however, is not the problem of universities alone.  I believe that there are many things that government could do.
  • There are of course other problems beside tuition.  For instance, we need better system that will acknowledge the experience gained overseas; such as exchange of units or transfer of students for a certain period.  I would like to know the thoughts of the university administrations.
  • For Japanese youth, my advice is not to be insular minded, but to challenge, to go abroad.  I have an impression that both students and their parents, because they seek too much of a safe and stable life (especially after the economic bubble burst), tend to avoid the risk of international study.
  • Typically in Japan, students busy themselves with company interviews (shu-katsu, in Japanese) in their junior year at university.  The students think of nothing else but to get a job offer from as many companies as possible, as quickly as they can.  This is not a way to nurture global talents.  If we cannot educate the talents of the next generation, we cannot stop this nation’s decline.  Even now, existence of Japan is fading away in many international political, economical, and diplomatic scenes.  I am deeply concerned.
  • Youth in other nations are aggressively working their ways to the top universities of western countries. These are the locations where many of the world’s leaders emerged. These universities not only provide high quality education, but offer you settings to develop multi ethnic, multi national human networks.  The more you are exposed to friends from different histories or cultures, the clearer vision you will have for your future.  International education is not good only for the individuals, but will also play a significant role in the making of a nation because these global talents will become the central working force in any political, economical, or social organization of the country.
  • So, let us together encourage Japanese youth to go abroad for training.  Universities, industries, parents ? in short, the society as a whole, must share this vision.  By supporting youths who take leave of absence from schools to go abroad, we can nurture our ‘human assets’ and create hope for a brighter future for Japan.”

The Asahi Shinbun newspaper, January 14, 2011, page 19

Schedule – January 2012

MIT Media Lab @Tokyo 2012
「The Power of Open, Scaling the Eco System」

Date & Time:  Tuesday, January 17, 2012  10:00-18:30
                  Dr. Kurokawa's Session
                       → 11:15-12:45 Panel Discussion: "Japan on the Global Stage"
Place:  Dentsu Hall, Dentsu Inc.
                  1-8-1 Higashi-Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Ticket Purchase

A Recommendation to Take a Leave of Absence From School ? Are Japanese Youth Insular Minded?


Recently, I notice many articles and reports on insular mindset of Japanese youth in Japanese media.  Is this really so?
The other day, I attended a symposium, and here again, the topic was discussed.  I said that my view was a bit different.  The content of my lecture overlaps with my lecture at my Keio SFC class.  Mr. Koiwai at JST kindly summarized my speech well.  The title of my lecture is ‘Recommendation to Take a Leave of Absence from School ? What Are the Characteristics That Japan Seek in Its Human Resource?’  (in Japanese).

People have different views on this issue.  I am not surprised.  For instance, I agree with the view expressed in the article; “The Deceit in ‘Japanese Youth are Insular Minded’” (Ref.1, 2)(all in Japanese).

How are Japanese Universities  (Ref.1 both links in Japanese) (Ref.2, 3 in English) doing in this global age?

Are current employment systems in big industries (such as notifying students that they have been hired in the 3rd year in college) (cf. Pasona case)  good today?  It seems to me that too many institutions are unable to shift from conventional practice.

As I always say, I think the number of people who left Japan as an individual, free from institutions, is very limited amongst the generation of our current university students’ parents. The same, I suppose, can be said with the generation before them.  The majority of people who went abroad for business or for international study were, I assume, supported by their companies or government offices. 

It is so important to encourage and support youth to develop their career in global settings, to help them find things they truly want to do, and to assist in building human networks within this rapidly changing world.  It is our responsibility to help the young who have our future to see, feel, and think about the outside world.  They need to do this as independent individuals, even for just a short period of time.

As I have seen, I think ‘Recommendation to Take A Leave of Absence From School’   (Ref.1,2) might be the best advice.

Welcoming Mr. Akira Tsuchiya and Mr. Daisuke Kotegawa to My Keio SFC Class


I assume that you are aware that I have a class at the Keio SFC campus  (Ref.1, 2) during the autumn semester of 2010. 

Mr. Akira Tsuchiya is a graduate of Keio SFC.  He also studied at the graduate schools at Harvard, Columbia, and Georgetown, has been working for several years at the administrative offices of the World Economic Forum (popular as the Davos meeting), in Geneve and Japan.  I have known him for almost 10 years. We’ve worked together on various occasions.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend his lecture due to my trip to Doha, but later, he kindly let me know how it went.  The lecture was well received by the students, too.  I assumed this since Mr. Tsuchiya is their senior. He works at a global institution and he talked about his experience first hand.  I would have liked you to see his lecture on video but unfortunately it is only for access within campus because many of the Powerpoint slides used were not intended for public viewing.

The lecturer of the week after was Mr. Daisuke Kotegawa. He is a top-scale, unique, international leader. He is the current Director at IMF, recently having returned from Washington DC, and resigning from the ministry of finance. (I searched and hit many sites on him in Google, but could not find the link just right to introduce to you…) It is hard to find a person like him these days.  One might call him a kokushi, a Japanese term for a patriot who devote one’s life for the good of the nation.  On a side note, he is competent in many languages, and is currently learning Chinese from a private tutor.  I think he is polishing his skills.

The lecture by Mr. Kotegawa was on international finance and was given in English.  He talked about the bubble bursting in Japan 20 years ago, the fail of Lehman in 2008, lessons to be learned from these events, future perspective of Japan and the world, and so on.  It was truly a top-scale talk, just like him.  What he said had a huge impact and a sense of reality because everything was based on his actual experience. He was one of the people in charge of these problems at the ministry of finance at the time the bubble burst, and he was at IMF at the time of Lehman issue in 2008.

It was a good learning for me, too, since I am also one of the many outsiders, just like the students.  Thank you very, very much to these two invited speakers.

A Student Movement to Promote ‘Let’s Study Internationally’, ‘Let’s Experience the World’


Late last year I reported that the Japanese PhD’s who are actively working in the US and who have begun to grow impatient with their Japanese juniors have started to take action to encourage study abroad. 

Their activities were covered by Mainichi Shinbun, one of the major newspapers in Japan.  This is very encouraging.  After all, the most important thing is to let the most high school students, university students, their families, and the Japanese public know what is happening.  This is one of the very important and basic roles of media.

My message here is: ‘Youth, be ambitious!’.

Kim Haegwan, a ‘Pari Pari’ Worker; The Law of Success 2.0, and Vabel


Last June, a young student contacted me via e-mail requesting an interview.  He is a Korean born in Japan, and a very active young man who is now on leave from school to travel around the world.

He has been interviewing many famous people and is reporting about it on his web site The Law of Success 2.0.  I find it quite interesting.

More recently, he launched a Japanese blog site (where I learned the Chinese character for his name, Kim Haegwan) and an NPO Vabel.  I have been corresponding with him via e-mails ever since I saw him in London and my interview appears on his web site in English and Japanese.

I think it was in October last year that he asked me to participate in a conference hosted by Vabel in Tokyo.  I agreed, but hadn’t received a reply from him afterwards for some time. One day, I randomly went to Vabel’s web site and was quite surprised to find an announcement for the conference. It’s taking place in Tokyo on January 23rd.

I immediately sent him an inquiry about the details of the conference. I needed to know things like where it was and what the program looked like.  His plan didn’t seem to be able to gather enough people or pay expenses.  We talked over via e-mails, and also had thorough discussions about the project after he returned to Japan in December.  We wanted to be sure that the invited guests would be treated with due respect. I advised him on variety of things, especially since I felt accountable because my name appeared as one of the supporters.

The problem was that he was a very difficult person to convince, a tough character…

Then, after some time, I sent him an e-mail asking how things were going.  He wrote back that he was trying to gather his friends at Waseda University and the University of Tokyo.

Anyway, I am doing my best to satisfy the invited speakers and support Mr. Kim’s hard work with the spirit of; ‘pari pari’ (a Hangeul word for ‘hurry up’).

He is a person of action. He does not detour!  His attitude is not bad for a young person.  Setting high goal makes great dreams realized.

The Vabel conference will take place on January 23rd.  I invite you all to participate.  Registration is free and open.

Mr. Saisho’s New Year; From Dhaka


Thus far I’ve posted many reports on Mr. Saisho of Waseda University. He is doing a wonderful job in Bangladesh (Ref.1,2).    Recently I’ve also noticed that Japanese media is reporting on his activities. On January 3rd, an article appeared on the 2nd, ‘People’, page of the Asahi Shinbun Newspaper morning edition.  It kicked off reports on him for the New Year.

I received an e-mail from Mr. Saisho that morning, just as I was reading the article, saying, ‘I was told that an article about me appeared on the ‘People’ column of Asahi Shinbun morning issue although I can’t confirm it because I am in Dhaka now…’

So, I wrote the whole content of the article in e-mail and sent to him.

Mr. Saisho wrote back to me; ‘Thanks for the whole article!  I really appreciate it.  Will go to see Dr. Yunus today and I will report this to him!’

I replied; ‘My Hello to Yunus-san.
We may meet in Davos later this month’

All these correspondence took place in just about 30 minutes. What a small world!

Design Thinking ? A New Movement of the New Age


A Happy New Year!

I wish for a more active mood to emerge in Japan for the year of 2011. I strongly expect it to happen….

Over the past two to three years, I’ve noticed the phrase, ‘Design Thinking’ has spread gradually through the world.  How people interpret this word may differ according to each individual, but basically I think it stands for the essence of wisdom for how to address the very complicated issues of the world.

As I have mentioned several times in my blog, today, the word ‘Design’ is not confined to the dimension of objects or shapes only. It also refers to the act of presenting practical solutions to complex problems by taking into account various ideas from diverse viewpoints.  In other words, we should understand it as a process of ‘Design Thinking’.

I feel that this phenomenon is observed in many areas.  For instance; a scientific approach by the Open Systems Science of Dr. Mario Tokoro of Sony , Graduate School of Design at Harvard, the D School at Stanford, or the i.School  at the University of Tokyo

Design Thinking often uses the process of presenting figures to summarize and clarify issues.  The IdeasLab of the World Economic Forum may be one of such examples that are based on these concepts.  I recently had an opportunity to participate in meetings at WEF in Dubai; Global Redesign Summit (Ref.1) and Global Risk Response Network  (Ref.1). Nice visual demonstrations were prepared by Design, Innovation Council and the like, meant to clearly suggest the importance of showing and visualizing complex ideas and issues for better understanding.

Recently, designers have more opportunity to work in business sectors.  I think this is partly because of the trend I described above, combined with various technologies to present information in visual ways based on the rapid progress of digital technologies.  Examples of such designers would include Mr. Ken Okuyama (Ref.1 in Japanese), Mr. Issey Miyake (Ref.1 in Japanese), and Mr. Kashiwa Sato (Ref.1 in Japanese).
Because they are all international designers, always thinking about the essences of the human mind, they naturally acquire visions to respond to today’s need to create ‘Open and Demand-driven Innovation’.

We have been organizing the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) since 2009, and bearing in mind the trend described above, for 2010, we invited a group of youths to do a workshop under the theme ‘ Impact Japan : Design Thinking’ (Ref.1).  This triggered the foundation of our institution, Impact Japan.  Nikkei newspaper put an advertisement article on its December 29th morning issue about the Design Thinking activities that originated in GEW Japan.

I feel the wisdoms of the world working to adapt to the new age.  Now, how will Japan do this year?