Medical Team Goes to the Quake Stricken Zone, A Girl from Okinawa Takes Action to Repay Kindness


Many medical professionals are responding to the needs of the quake stricken zone.  Many find information source via internet much useful than the news coverage.

Medical institutions such as Japan Medical Association (JMA), universities, hospitals, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Red Cross, Hospital associations, Tokushukai group were quick to take actions after the disaster.  Because of the experience of the great Hanshin earthquake all organizations including organizations related to dialysis (where needs are highly emergent in moving and accepting patients) compiled their full capacity immediately.  University hospitals and other major medical centers like Red Cross that function as the center of medical care in the quake/tsunami hit area – in Iwate (at Sendai, Ichinoseki, Morioka), Miyagi, Fukushima prefectures were all working so hard together.
Aids from overseas arrived and among them were the Japanese doctors working at overseas who temporarily returned to join and help these natural disaster medical care network of the stricken area.

What comes first is the condition of the site.  We must be aware that, because of the tsunami, many hospitals and clinics vanished in seconds.  This is a very different situation compared to cases hit by the earthquake only.  I understand that Israel, for instance, sent a whole package of medical units just like at the wartime.  I also hear that the Japanese authorities were quick in giving permission to overseas doctors to provide medical care in Japan.  I would like to congratulate them all for their hard work.

The United States initiated the ‘Operation Tomodachi’, sending us much personnel and relief supplies.  They are being a great help.

Our team at HGPI and Impact Japan was busy for these several days in responding to the requests from the Disaster Relief NGO, Project Hope.  I am deeply thankful for the great help from everyone.
What we are doing now is seeing doctors who had just returned from Tohoku, trying to get the picture of what is going on at the site, gathering information.  Those actions are of course important, but the problem is that we can not find the ‘foothold for collecting information from the local area’.  In a sense this is understandable because this disaster has multiple adverse conditions such as damage, scale, access to the site, or weather.
At Fukushima they have another totally different problem caused by the nuclear breakdown.  Here, the need for medical care seems to be now shifting to the chronicle stage.  I think that, from hereafter, very important issues which involve social factors such as mental care of children (especially orphans) and elderly will gradually emerge to call people’s attention.

I would like to introduce to you one heartwarming story.  It is about Dr. Shimabukuro, a Critical Care Fellow at UCLA Pediatrics Department, whom I was introduced earlier by my friend at UCLA Pediatric Department.  She is originally from Okinawa and by a sheer coincidence happened to be in Okinawa when the quake came.  She took a quick action.  After finishing a lecture at an academic conference in Tokyo, she joined in a medical relief team and headed to Iwate.

I kept in touch with Dr. Shimabukuro, and arranged a meeting in the evening with her who just returned from Iwate and the three physicians who just arrived to Tokyo in the afternoon as the advance group of the American medical team.

The American medical team headed to Iwate early in the next morning, returned back to Tokyo at 2 am, and we had a briefing early in the morning after they took a few hours of sleep.  Then, we continued the discussion for 2 days, contacted relevant people via phones, e-mails, and other means to figure out the next possible actions.

Many people are working together in search for the best way to help and support.  I am truly grateful for their willingness to be of help.

By the way, Dr. Shimabukuro wrote reports about her experience at Iwate and managed to have it printed on the LA Times and Bruins, the newspaper of UCLA, in a very timely manner.

Los Angeles Times
UCLA Bruins

This series of actions by Dr. Shimabukuro apparently reflects her strong wish to pay kindness back to her mother country.  She is a native of Okinawa, spent her childhood in Okinawa and had high school education, went through college and medical school in the U.S., is currently working at UCLA as a medical doctor.


‘Japan Exposed Naked’, Cambridge Gazette, a Recent Letter from Harvard


I have introduced to you a few times in my column postings Jun Kurihara (Ref.1), a senior fellow at Harvard University Kennedy School.  Kurihara-san is an erudite person, who understands (and probably speaks) multiple language, reads books, materials, data – in short all information sources-, so extensively that I am very impressed with the width and depth of his knowledge.
He sends his friends regularly a monthly report called The Cambridge Gazette (in Japanese). It is always my pleasure to read the Gazettes because they reflect his high sensitivity and intellect. It is also my great pleasure to see him at every opportunity he could spare for during his return to Japan.

Everyone, in spite of their own sorrow, is doing their best after this East Japan Earthquake and the dreadful tsunami.   However, here and there, I see many problems due to human factors in terms of the nuclear plant breakdown.  I assume that many of you sense this – that something is wrong – even though you may not clearly see the background that lies behind.  ‘Web’ of internet, in this context, proved to be an amazingly powerful tool for gathering information or views, to compare and choose from.

Kurihara-san has an ability to sense the changes (or little changes) that took place in Japan during this decade or so because he has been studying and working outside Japan for many years as an independent individual.  And precisely for this reason, his views as expressed in the recent Cambridge Gazette are rather critical and harsh about the state of affairs in Japan.

The latest Cambridge Gazette (in Japanese) which I received yesterday introduces straight forward evaluations visibly clear from overseas on how the Japanese authorities handled this nuclear breakdown, their thoughts on the risk management, how they think about Japanese intellectuals or Japanese ‘leaders’ who has more responsibility in the society.  I very much agree with Kurihara-san in many aspects.

I ask each of you to think seriously about what you can or must do now.


TED-2: The Birth of a Word


One of the most inspiring stories that I heard at TED2011 was 'The Birth of a Word' by Deb Roy of MIT.

I was so impressed with the outstanding uniqueness of the idea, the tremendous size of its scale, the originality of analysis, and the breadth of possible development.  These are truly the characteristics of a scientist on the frontier, opening up a new field in science.

It is still only 3 weeks after the quakes, tsunami, and the nuclear power plant breakdown and we are all having a hard time.

I know you are busy, but would it be too much to ask you for 20 minutes?


What is Going on at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Breakdown? Commentary by Kenichi Ohmae


The quake and tsunami which hit eastern Japan on March 11th killed tens of thousands of people in a matter of seconds, and destroyed whole towns in an instant.  Images show the evidence of the huge destructive power of tsunamis, and the great power of nature.  None would need any further explanation to understand this.

However, it is moving to see people there helping each other, doing whatever they can, without complaining, without crying.
On the other hand, however, the manner the authorities are dealing with the nuclear plant crash is hard to understand, not to mention there seems to be missing information missing.  Most of us had no choice but to try to gather up bits of information from Mr. Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), television, or newspapers.

It seems to me that there are many flaws and blunders in the side of risk management.  Many problems are due to human factors.  On top of that, comments by specialists are obscure as far as what I’ve seen on television.

In this context I would like to introduce to you three U-tube broadcasts below by Kenichi Ohmae.  He sent out straightforward and clear comments on this video at  very early stages after the quake.  Dr. Ohmae is qualified to comment on nuclear power because he is originally a nuclear scientist and had participated in nuclear power plant projects in Japan in the past.

1. March 13th (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
2. March 19th
3. March 27th          (all are in Japanese)

Dr. Ohmae earned his Ph.D. degree at MIT, had worked for Hitachi nuclear power plants participating both in research and on-site jobs, and later was active at McKinsey.  Clearly, Dr. Ohmae has superb knowledge of nuclear power, both scientifically and technically.  Another impressive thing is that he keeps a very straightforward and frank style when he speaks, and do not worry about hurting the feelings of the authorities.  I recommend watching this video to you since this is a reliable, wonderful information source.  This is truly a good project. 
The huge number of access to this site indicates high attention from the public.  In this context it is clear that this hazard is comparable to the tragic situation Japan experienced 65 years ago, after the defeat in the World War II.  So, now is the time for us to join together in search for wisdom to overcome this national crisis, and take whatever actions necessary.

It is our duty, for the sake of the diseased victims, to turn this natural disaster into a chance for creating a new Japan.  For these 20 years, we have been repeatedly deploring the incapability of Japan to make changes.  Creating a new Japan for the new era is the most important task we should undertake for the loved ones we lost.

Thank you, Dr. Ohmae, for your work.  Please visit his blog (in Japanese) for more information.


To Overcome the Sorrow, a Gift of a Song from Korea


This huge disaster is so overwhelming that I do not know how to express it.  At the same time, during these two weeks, I sensed clearly the great power of the internet age.

Mr. Deguchi is a friend of mine who regularly posts very nice articles to his mail magazine (in Japanese).  Originally being a journalist and newspaper reporter, collecting information and writing the coverage in an article is what he does best.  I am always impressed with his highly professional writings.  Mr. Deguchi and I have also been working together for about 3 years on a project of learning the history of Korean modern medicine

While I was browsing through twitter, I noticed quite a number of comments that said songs would be a very useful tool to support people in a tragic circumstance like this.  I think it was partly because reports on television were too standardized, lacking different approaches.

I happened to find a beautiful song and video from Korea for this tragedy, so I sent them to Mr. Deguchi.  He needed to know the meaning of the words of the song, so I asked a Korean friend of mine who sent me the Japanese translation immediately.  There was also another video which had Japanese translation in it.    Here, I will introduce to you a part of them.  Attached to the song and video are moving comments by Mr. Deguchi.
They are here (in Japanese).

The song is introduced in the section of ‘Korean singer Cho Sommo moves people’s heart with his song.  This video makes people cry.’ (in Japanese)


Outrageous Disaster Hits Tohoku Kanto Coastline


More than 20 thousand people were killed in an instant, and many more people lost their loved ones because of the disaster that hit Tohoku on the 11th.  It is difficult even to imagine the deep sorrow they are experiencing now.  I would like to express my deep condolence to all people concerned.  It is such a huge sadness.

I have been unable to write any blog postings during these two weeks.  I didn’t feel like it.  Also, I was busy gathering information, having discussions and there was practically no time or energy to write anything.  I kept following Twitter rather than sending out messages.  What I did mostly was to retweet good or helpful tweets.

What we saw via media was a series of terribly frightening scenes. The overwhelming, destructive power of nature presented made the humans in contrast look so small! . I was awed and humbled before the power of nature.

It’s been two weeks since already.

At the time of the quake, I was having a meeting in my office.  Several minutes later, when the second shake came, we all moved outside the building.  Most of the students at our university are from overseas, and everybody was so frightened.  We could clearly see the upper part of the tall building nearby wobbling slowly.

Cell phones and telephones were no good (did not connect).  Internet was where we could get information the fastest.  How thankful we were for emails, websites, and twitters.  On the other hand, I sensed the fragility of conventional information infrastructures.

Because of the traffic problems, I walked home late at night for about an hour, thinking about what actions to take with my colleagues hereafter.
Information flowing out from newspapers and televisions were basically the same.  For the initial several days, I could not tell how much of their coverage was actually true or reliable.  Besides the internet, newspapers and televisions essentially copying the information distributed by the headquarters.  Day to day, I felt that had we no internet, we would have been in huge trouble.

I strongly realized the power of web.  The internet age has the potential to totally change the society as it is today.  The web which proved powerful at Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain turned out to be our important information source and our powerful tool in the face of this disaster.
This natural disaster pulled out the power of Japanese people.  And this power is witnessed with surprise and admiration by other nations.

On the other hand, the power plant breakdown and the process of its restoration reveal the ‘systematic problems’ existing within the Japanese society.
Large number of my friends sent me-mails from abroad.  Thank you.




I have been supporting TEDxTokyo (Ref.1,2,3) for two years. 

Now, I am here to participate in TED2011, the home program of the TEDxTokyo.  I flew Los Angeles, where I lived for almost 13 years, and drove for Long Beach.  The weather in late February is fine, but rather cold, and the temperature going down as far as below 50F at night. 

The day 2 is over now, and so far, I would say the program is quite full and nicely organized. It is my overall impression that I will enjoy most of them pretty much.

As I went on attending the various sessions, I must say that a good speech must have a good, moving story.  Furthermore, the host Curators were supporting the speakers in their good hands, and this contributed much in making the presentations so wonderful.  I admit wholeheartedly that there are so many fantastic, talented, powerful people in the world. 

My friends Partick Newell and William Saito whom I work with for TEDxTokyo are here with me.  Mario Tokoro and Kenichiro Mogi of Sony, Ken Okuyama, and about 10 other people from Japan are in the audience.

You can follow the events via Twitter(#TED、#TED2011). Photos are uploaded at this link.

We are now at the end of the day 2.


Health Summit -2


We held Health Summit (in Japanese) on Saturday February 26th、the day after Global Health Forum 2011. It was an event that was also held in the years 2008 and 2010.

The program for this year was slightly different from the past because it also introduced a collaborative work with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Unfortunately we had less participation of the members of the Diet than last year because many of the legislators of the Democratic Party of Japan (DJP, the ruling party) and other parties were back at their home constituencies for the nationwide local election.

Please refer to the HGPI website (in Japanese) for program and main speakers of this Summit.

A full report is in preparation, so I will let you know once it is available.

Now is the time to change the naming of ‘Medical Policy’ to ‘Health Policy’.