Science and Technology Policies in the Mid East: Lecture at The Middle East Research Institute of Japan


There is a membership organization by the name of The Middle East Research Institute of Japan (MEIJ).  The Chair is Mr. Mikio Sasaki, former chairman of the board of Mitsubishi Corporation, and the President is HE Tatsuo Arima  (in Japanese), former Special Representative of the Government of Japan who had done a significant job for many years.

I was invited to give a lecture at its breakfast meeting on current status of higher education and science and technology policy in the Middle East.

MEIJ supported the Japan Arab Economic Forum held in Tunis last December, and I was invited there also.

Most of the members are from business sector, so I thought that my contribution on this theme would be somewhat limited, but I tried to speak as open mindedly and straightforwardly as possible based on my personal experience.

I assume that you already know from my postings on this web site about my activities in the Mid East/Islam such as Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or Qatar (please search within this site by these key words..)  I focused my lecture on those activities, their relations with Japan, the revolution that took place one week after my departure from Tunis, and issues between the Mid East and Japan in coming years, particularly after the revolution.

I always appreciate such opportunities, since I learn a lot from exchanging open and straightforward views with people that are in very different areas than myself.

I would be more than happy if I could have other such opportunities.


More and More Dynamic Actions to Expand Links to the World


East Japan Disaster and the actions of Japan to respond to this is a huge challenge which will determine the future of this nation.  The 'strength' and 'weakness' of Japan have been clearly seen not only in Japan but by the people of the world.  I don’t know how well Japanese people understand the background and the basis for those ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’ of Japan, but I do suspect that everyone thinks that ‘something is wrong’.  It goes without saying that ‘transparency’ is the basis of trust in this flattening, interconnected global world.  However, it seems that ‘Japan Inc’ is not disclosing the first hand information nor original data to the public and the stakeholders at press briefings or press conferences.  Subsequently the reactions of the stakeholders will be late, which will trigger damaging their trust to the government, eventually leading to a vicious circle.

For democracy to function, it is indispensable that broad range of information be distributed widely to the citizens, so that they have options to choose from in making decisions.

In this context, I would like to share with you my experience at two unique gatherings.

One is a dinner meeting with Mr. Robert Thompson, the Editor in Chief of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Mr. Jacob Schlesinger, the Japan Editor in Chief, their co-workers, and 7 or so of the ‘global minded leaders’ invited from Japanese government, businesses, or academics.  The discussion was heated from the beginning.  Naturally so, because they have been, for a long time, concerned and working to solve the problem of Japan’s so-to-say ‘mal adaptation syndrome’ to the globalization.  Since all discussions are ‘off-the ?record’, I have to have their names remain undisclosed.

By the way, participants from WSJ other than the Editor in Chief and Japan Editor in Chief, were several core staffs who all happened to be females.  These staffs had a very nice impression on us.  ‘This’, again, shows what we need to revitalize Japan.

Another one.  Foreigners working in Japan organized a joint networking event with CCJ- Chamber of Commerce of Japan (I serve this year as the ambassador of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan …) in support of several NGOs of disaster relief.  The gathering was named ‘Giving Back to Japan’ and many Chambers of Commerce in Japan of the world participated.

I was given the honor of being invited to deliver a Keynote speech, and so chose the title of ‘Re-inventing Japan’.  This disaster is a ‘crisis’, and we must make it an ‘opportunity’ for not only putting into action many ideas to ‘reform’ Japan that were raised but remained undone, but also for ‘opening up Japan’ to the world.  This is the best way to honor the diseased.  It is crucial that we focus on nurturing ‘Global citizens’  (Ref.1,2)in the process of helping youths build their future career.  I introduced the activities of ‘Impact Japan’ which we founded for such goals.  I was, in return, introduced to people working for the children in disaster hit areas such as KnK Children Without Boarders or PA International .

The reception was very successful.  Another such gathering is scheduled to be held 6 months from now.

Let us cooperate with the people of the world and expand the links of networks – for ourselves and for the sake of youths, who will build the future of Japan.


Starting With Whatever ‘Energy Saving’ Possible by Yourself; Invitation to a New Movement


It goes without saying that energy issue is a top priority to society as a whole.   This was made perfectly clear after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster and the following electricity supply shortage as well as the planned electric outage.  It is more important to save energy than building more nuclear power plants.

After the disaster, people are sending out all sorts of information, ideas, people’s wisdoms, or suggestions from engineers not only through the conventional media or publications, but also through new means such as Facebook or blogs.  The point is that the society which traditionally used to operate according to the supplier’s reasoning (electricity is apparently part of this), had, along with the challenges of CO2 and climate change issues or the skyrocketing oil price, transformed into a society more based on the flat, open, consumer driven demands and choices.  This is where we need to think hard about.

There are many, simple, practical ideas that are useful at current situation and can be done by yourself.  I found one of such good ideas being introduced in Seichiro Yonekur’s FB.  It is an idea of Hidefumi Nishiga.
 “At your house, if your current electricity contract is over 30A, the first step to energy saving is having it reset to 30A.  This will limit your highest electricity consumption to 30A.  Check the switchboard of your house, and if it is 40A, 50A, or 60A, call the electric company and ask them to have it changed to 30A.

Let us all together start 30A contract innovation!

Background and expected effects;   30A is enough to supply electricity to a household with one air conditioner installed at the living room (our house).  If a household that uses more than 40A at the peak time switches to max. 30A, they will try not to let the breakers go off.  If one million households had their electricity reduced by 10A or 1kW, they will save energy equivalent to one nuclear power plant.”

Having the switching done, then we could go on to figure out ways to use electricity efficiently.

It is important to take actions however small they may seem.  As you know, we have universal proverbs which we share in all nations, such as “Many a little makes a mickle”, “Perseverance brings success”.

Energy Saving is a global issue, so good ideas or options may be applied anywhere in the world.  I think we should post or search for good ideas in English (at least half of them).  Actually, there are many good ideas already being applied in many countries, cities, or societies.  It is also good to learn about the energy saving policies already being put into practice.  Today, it is possible for each of us to connect to the world to exchange ideas.  Such networks have potentials to move our society or even the world.  We might even create App in Japanese or English.

Changes taking place in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, or Libya for these 4 months is a good chance for changing Japan.  We must not miss this opportunity.
Start with checking your electricity switchboard of your house.

Encounter at San Diego and An Unexpected Reunion



I posted the other day on a meeting in San Diego in early April.

In one of the panels at the meeting, I talked about Project Hope, a Disaster Relief Project for the East Japan Disaster.  One of the participants came to me after the panel to ask about the details, and we had some discussion over what we have been doing with Project Hope.   The person was Dr Raymond Basri from New York.  He had a strong interest in disaster relief, and had participated in many disaster relief activities in the past including Afghan Wars and Hurricane Katrina.  Dr. Basri is also known for taking leadership at the ditching of an airbus at the Hudson River, New York City.

Dr. Basri and I have been exchanging e-mails several times, and then, I suddenly received an e-mail from him saying that “I plan to come to Japan 4 days from now, and hope to bring my daughter (an undergraduate) and son (a high school student) with me to visit the stricken area.  My daughter accompanied me at the Katrina time, but my son has no experience yet of being at the disaster area…”

I have been involved for these 3 weeks in the collaboration with Project Hope, ie, 3 doctors in the team 2, for 3 times to the stricken area.  We had meetings before and after each visit for briefing and de-briefing of their reports and following discussions.

With this background, I was fortunate enough to have help from many related people, and managed to have Dr Basri and his children arrive today at Narita, in the afternoon of Saturday, 4 days after receiving his e-mail.  They then transited to Haneda (it was at this point that I finally succeeded in getting in touch with them by e-mail and cell phone - truly at the very last minute…) where I met the three (photo above) before getting on board the flight to Akita.  I had 30 minutes for briefing and handing the local maps.  They will be picked up by a car from Akita to Miyako-city.  All of the arrangements were completed just a day before their arrival, very risky, but we somehow managed.  The family was to arrive at Miyako-city at midnight.

On Sunday, the next day, Dr Basri and his family visited a number of places, and we asked the people at the site to distribute the supplies he brought.

After staying two nights at the area on Saturday and Sunday, they will be leaving for New York from Narita in the late afternoon of Monday.

I thank all who kindly helped me for the arrangement despite such a very short notice.

A Speech in Expectation of Empowering Women


I arrived at Haneda from San Diego early in the morning.  This day, I ended up corresponding all day for the Project Hope.

Supporting system for disaster relief in Tohoku seems to be gradually getting into order, and more aids, although far from enough, are coming in to the stricken areas.  Needs for medical care is changing rapidly.  Now, there are more needs for handling of chronic disorder rather than acute illnesses.  Equally becoming important are mental supports for the children and elderly.

Project Hope decided in the end to go to the stricken areas as well as the Fukushima area.  Everyone is working very hard to contact relevant sections and offices in order to arrange the trip.

Dr. Shimabukuro decided to come back to Japan from UCLA again, and is busy getting into touch with people.  In between, she even wrote an article to USA Today.  Dr Shiabukuro is such a hard worker!

As for myself, I had to give a lecture next day at the luncheon hosted by the ‘Women’s Committee’ of the Tokyo American Club (TAC) on ‘Women Empowerment in Japan’, so to my regret missed the opportunity to go the disaster hit area with our Project Hope team. 

At the TAC luncheon, I was seated next to Mrs Roos, wife of the U.S. Ambassador to Japan.  I had the privilege of talking much about the quake and Fukushima issues with her.  The activities of the Ambassador can be followed via twitter and you will easily see how much he is dedicated.  By the way, all of the participants at this luncheon were women except for myself and Mr Lee, the President of TAC.

I opened my lecture by saying “Thank you for inviting me to TAC luncheon seminar to discuss ‘Gender Empowerment here in Japan.’ But, I must say that I am disappointed because today my audience consists of only women except for me and TAC president and what I speak to you today must be addressed rather mainly to men and you women know well many issues I will be talking about”.  I also distributed a list of references.

I said that the challenge is how to shift from ‘society of men’ to ‘society of gender equality’ and ‘gender empowerment.’.  In fact, Kathy Matsui of Goldman Sachs have written how her analysis show that if the Japanese society succeeded in encouraging women to take good part in workforce, the Japanese economy is expected to grow by 15%.  For details, please refer to ‘Womenomics’ which I included in the reference list.
As you may notice, I am raising this issue again and again in this website.

‘Sunrise 2011’ Drue Kataoka


Much supports, aids, donations are coming from all over the world for the East Japan Natural Disaster ‘3.11’.

Drue Kataoka is a spirited artist known world wide by her works on philosophy and traditional Japanese Sumi-e (an Indian ink picture).  She participated in TEDxTokyo in 2009.  She was also invited to the Davos meeting for this year.  Her father is a Japanese.

Ms. Kataoka set up ‘Sunrise 2011’ for this great disaster.  I received a request from her by e-mail to send her a photo of my face with the sun as the background.

I sent her the photo, of course, but since she wants to collect as many photos as possible for ‘Sunrise 2011’, I will transfer her message to you, too.

Let us collaborate with the people of the world, and together create the new Japan!

TED -4; Great Technologies Used in Google Car and Other New Devices


I knew that Google succeeded in creating a driverless safe car.  The story of its development was presented at this year’s TED (4 minutes).  The car ran between San Francisco – Los Angeles, so it seems.

It happens that two of those cars were demonstrated at the TED venue.  Of course, I signed up for the test ride.  The car ran with the high speed of 50-60 Km/h around the narrow course set up at the venue.  Here are the video of the test run (Ref.1). Both of the cars were Toyota Prius by the way.

Another speech was about a graffiti artist affected by ALS and his friends.  ALS is a disease that causes muscle weakness and degeneration of functions – known also as the disease which Lou Gehrig, the famous American Major League Baseball first baseman had.  It was a story about a project which, by combining cheap mechanical components, created a system that made possible for the artist to continue his work.

Stories of amazing application of technologies..

At San Diego ? Gathering With the Youths


On the day before the last day of San Diego, I had a small get-together party from 9 pm with young Japanese who study at UCSD and work at other places. 

Among those who came, 5 people were undergraduates at UCSD, 7 were students at the graduate school, and the rest were those working at venture businesses.  Several of them were the same people as those who came in February when I was here (Ref.1), but for those who were not able to make it then, it was a good opportunity for us all.  We had so much to talk about that time just flew to midnight..
Students came from various backgrounds.  For example, the 4 out of 5  undergraduate school were exchange students from Keio, Gakusyu-in, and ICU, and the remaining one student came to U.S. after high school..  All students were wonderfully energetic.  By the way, 4 of five were female.
On the other hand, most of the graduate students were enrolled in the Master’s course.  They were originally from the Japanese government and public offices.  A few ‘independent’ PhD course students joined us, too. One whom I know for some time was an American from CONNECT, also joined our last gathering of February.

So, we used as the common language ‘broken English’, but actually all spoke pretty  good English (many of them lived some time overseas in their childhood ? it would be hard to get along with all the classes without a reasonable command of English).  Everybody had lots to say.  Half of the students were female.  They were all very energetic.

For your information, Maki-kun posted a report about this gathering with a photo attached on his blog (in Japanese).  Thanks.

The topic naturally included the recent quake and tsunami disaster, including the ways how the Japanese government and TEPCO responded on Fukushima nuclear power plants.  I noticed that the students had many points of views which only “independent observers from ‘outside’” will have.  This is no wonder, since they are all living away from Japan as an ‘individual’
As I have been pointing out repeatedly in this blog and elsewhere, the best way to have eyes and senses to see and feel Japan objectively in the global context is to go ‘out’ as an ‘individual’, and better while you are young.  It is very important to do so if you wish to develop good sense of ‘global citizen’ and own career.

That being said, however, the largest concerns of the undergraduate students were the anticipated handicaps they risk for ‘job hunting in Japan’. This doesn’t make any sense.  I have to say that they are being mind controlled.  Isn’t this awful?  Tomorrow’s world is a world where the values are very different from the values of today and the past.  In a ‘flat’ world (and the world is inevitably going to increase the speed of ‘flattening’), ‘uniqueness’ or ‘being different/distinct’ is a positive value, that would be considered as the strength of each individual.  There is no sense in limiting ‘field of work/actions’ to Japan only.  Such were the points I made.

Then we had various discussions on how to build careers, and I think we succeeded in sharing some specific images.

I carried several copies with me of my book with Yoko Ishikura, ‘How to Build a Global Career’ to distribute.  Also, I informed them that her new book ‘Global Career ? How to Find a Unique You’  (published in Japanese only) will be coming soon, but actually, the book was published precisely on that same day.

I look forward to seeing how the future of youths such as they will be.  These people are truly the big asset of Japan.


American College of Physicians: From San Diego


Here I am in San Diego to attend the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians (ACP).  Last year it was in Toronto.  This is my 3rd visit to Southern California (Ref.1) this year.

Since we founded ACP Japan Chapter 8 years ago, I have served as the Governor for two terms, which was an exceptional arrangement.  I am relieved that I am leaving this position of the Governor this year without any problems. 

During these 8 years, the Japan Chapter grew to have more than 1,000 members, with significant increase in Student Members and Associate Members.  Some of our activities focus on education, on female doctors, and on volunteerism, some of which led to ACP awards which I take as the manifestation of recognition by ACP of the Japan Chapter.  I thank all members and leadership of Japan Chapter for their dedications.

Because of the East Japan Disaster, the annual meeting of The Japanese Society of Internal Medicine was cancelled.  Subsequently the ACP Japan Chapter meeting which is annually held during the same period welcoming the President of the ACP was postponed at present..

Consequently, not as many Japanese members were able to join the meeting in San Diego this year.  However, at the Convocation of new Fellows, 5 physicians from Japan (among them was Dr. Gremillion, a leader of the medical education at Kameda Hospital, who organizes annually a highly stimulating session named ‘Clear at a Glance (Ichimoku Ryozen)’ at the Japan Chapter meeting) were present. As they stood in response to the announcement of the name of Chapter ‘Japan’, I was touched by a long and warm applause that arose from the entire audience filling this large auditorium…

I participated in 3 panels; a student from Yokohama City University who was selected for the poster session joined,. as well as Drs. Ishiyama and Kato whom I saw last year were also present.  Drs. Ishiyama and Kato are currently working as ‘hospitalists’ (in Japanese) in medical centers in St. Louis.  They both happen to work at the same city but did not know each other until I introduced them to each other last year at Toronto.  I was happy with the reunion.

The reception of the Japan Chapter turned out to be a very nice gathering thanks to the attendance of many friends of the Japan Chapter, including former and current Presidents of the ACP; their presence are customary every year to our Japan Chapter annual meetings since our inauguration eight years ago.

However, like others, I could not get my mind off from what was going on in Japan, so I kept myself pretty busy getting in touch and talking on phone with people at American Academies, Japan Embassy in Washington DC, or other related contacts.

I had an impression that although everyone was concerned with the damages done by the tsunami, in terms of the nuclear problems, they were worrying more about the ways of Japanese authorities and leadership.

Getting to know people across national borders, making friends with them and building trusts between each other is an asset that I would never exchange for anything.


TED- 3: Virtual Choir and the Words of the Poet


I posted several columns on speeches at TED.  Here are some more.  Virtual Choir and the Words of the Poet ? these were also the speeches which people liked.

How the speech was evaluated is very easily known by the percentage of the audience for Standing Ovation.  It is quite clear.

One of such good speeches was ‘Virtual Choir’. Enthusiasm gradually heated up as the speech went on and in the end there was the feeling of ‘What is this!?’ or ‘Wow!’.  It was a wonderful collaboration only made possible by today’s technology.

It is very nice and I am sure that you will enjoy it.

The second one I would like to introduce to you is a poem by a young poet, Sarah Key. Her second poem was titled “Hiroshima”.  I was slightly surprised.  At the reception, I asked and learned that she was a half Japanese.  Ms Key is a very charming poet.