Okinawa ‘AYDPO’ Connects Youths of Asia



The “Asian Youth Exchange Program in Okinawa” (Ref.1,2) was launched 3 years ago in Okinawa.   It is a “Summer Camp” designed for youths of 15 years old or so of Japan and other Asian countries to spend time together in Okinawa for about 3 weeks.  The participants truly share a great time together.

This year is the 4th year of this program.  The title was modified to “Asia Youth Development Program in Okinawa (AYDPO) ” as Okinawa has become the organizer to serve as the host of the program,.  All the participants of the last 3 years of 2008-2010 and the university students who joined as the Tutors have been stayed connected through FaceBook and other networks, their passion and friendships remain vividly alive.

As always, I went to Okinawa to join in the closing ceremony.  This year the students continued to work on water problem.  Each presentation was unique and creative in its own ways.  We all shared a very moving time.

The programs, diary, photos, works, and the songs they made this year are uploaded on this site.  Here, you can feel the happy time those youths had together. Their shared experience will be of great value for their future.

I encourage all of you to expand such activities spontaneously in anyway possible, whether in schools, communities, or any sort of units as you think fit.

It is so important for Japan, Asian youths, and the future of the world to provide youths much opportunities and places to meet each other so that they can create networks of friends beyond the national borders.  I firmly believe that this is a great issue.

Besides giving a speech at the closing ceremony of AYEPO, I took advantage of this opportunity to visit the Ryukyu University in the morning to join in the lecture and chat with people who are actively engaged in “MOT” (but unfortunately we ran short of time.  Sorry about this.)  In the evening I had a dinner with President Dorfan (Ref.1) of  Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) (Dr. Dorfan will be officially appointed as the president of this institution after it is accredited a graduate school), his wife,  and Dr. Baughman, the Vice President and Executive Director.

Actions to “Open” Japan to the world are in progress in Okinawa.  I ask you all for your warm support.

Liberal Arts Summer Course for High School Students Held by College Students from Harvard and Japan – 2


I gave the Keynote Speech on the first day of this Course.  I spoke on a number of points including how the world has changed dramatically in the past 100 years, how globalization has brought about incredibly rapid change in the past 20 years and how it is difficult to predict what is in store for us in the future in light of current worldwide situation.  I then, based on these thoughts, talked about why the Liberal Arts are so important.

Since this Summer Course was launched by a Harvard student, I also touched upon President Charles Eliot who, 100 years ago, transformed Harvard into the university it is today.  I fielded a number of questions and greatly enjoyed the interaction.

The next day, a reception was held in the evening at GRIPS with the Harvard Alumni Association also invited.  I also was able to attend and discovered that the talk by Tadashi Yanai of UniQlo that afternoon was a huge hit.  Listening to a number of the high school students in attendance, I found that everyone had been invigorated by their experiences of just two days and that they felt that their thoughts on their future had changed and they were now really grappling with what they wanted to do in the future.  That is a good thing.  Their lives have just begun and it is good to have an abundance of choices.

A video message has been posted from the main mover behind this Course, Ryosuke Kobayashi of Harvard and his comrades, and an article about the Course was also published in the Japan Times.

The events of the Course are scheduled to be posted on the web and our activities were also covered by a number of media outlets.  It should be fun to see what transpires.

Liberal Arts Summer Course for High School Students Held by Students from Harvard and Japan


The Summer Course 2011 scheduled for 8 days from August 20th to August 27th has begun.  This Summer Course is the work of the Harvard College Japan Initiative ? Liberal Arts beyond Borders (HCJI-LAB).

Ryosuke Kobayashi, a junior at Harvard, came up with the idea for this Course about a year ago.  Over the past several years, I have been getting together and interacting with many friends who are undergraduates (actually only a few), graduate students and post-docs whom are working in various capacities at Harvard and MIT.  About a year ago, I watched Kobayashi’s video on the web where he talked about how he came to the realization that a liberal arts education was extremely important and he wondered why he was not aware of this fact when he was a high school student in Japan.  I immediately got into contact with him, began to work on a concrete plan and started full scale preparations in Japan from May of this year. 

Japanese university students worked together with Kobayashi to make this plan a reality by coming up with a plan, pooling their intellectual resources, meeting with many individuals, while overcoming many problems.  In truth, you cannot imagine all the problems and issues that they had to deal with.  They had to get permission from and coordinated with the involved organizations, come up with funding, secure locations, worry if they could actually get the Harvard students to come and whether they could enrol their target number of 80 Japanese high school students.  They overcame all this and more with an incredible amount of support and cooperation.  GRIPS and Impact Japan did what it could to provide support for Impact Japan and the afternoon meetings where held primarily at GRIPS in the Roppongi area.  Approximately 120 youths in total stayed at a ryokan in Hongo and participated in many group seminars in the evening.  The program was extremely intensive.

Yet even though Kobayashi had all this support, I am sure it was a real challenge for him, because he alone was overseeing both sides.  I took him to meet various individuals and many were extremely generous in providing assistance.  I would like to take this opportunity to offer my thanks to all.

On the Harvard side, a lot of support was received from Hirotaka Takeuchi who has been working over the past 10 years on the establishment of the Hitotsubashi Business School and returned to Harvard Business School last year to take up a teaching post.

Thus the students embarked on an educational program backed by admirable objectives and broad-based support. A great lineup of participants was assembled with 20 students from Harvard, 20 students from Japan and 80 Japanese high school students selected from 250 candidates.  Each day was marked by special guests including Hirotaka Takeuchi from Harvard, Tadashi Yanai from UNIQLO, Seiichiro Yonekura from Hitosubashi University, Takeshi Niinami from Lawson and myself.  The students from Harvard also served as instructors.

The three-month preparation was extremely taxing.  Finally the opening date of the 20th was upon us, and I gave the Keynote Speech to open the program.  I will report back on this at a later date and I am sure it launched a fruitful 8 days.

A festive reception was held on the evening of the next day which was attended by about 120 students and the Harvard Alumni Association at GRIPS, and the students were bubbling with excitement even after just two days and I got hit with a barrage of questions related to what steps they should take in the future.

I will also report on this separately, but it is really important to provide youth with a glimpse into the possibilities of the future and let them get up close and personal with some real life experiences.  That is the essence of education!





Joi Ito and Hiroshi Ishii, the Two Japanese of the MIT Media Lab


MIT Media Lab is an internationally known research center.  Founded in 1985, many Japanese companies collaborated with this Lab in research projects so perhaps this might have made the Lab even more known in Japan.

A Big Bright News is that Joi Ito was recently appointed as the director of this Lab.  I had an opportunity to have dinner with Joi and Dr. Hiroshi Ishi, associate director of the Media Lab several days ago.  Dr. Ishi also participated in this year’s TEDxTokyo as our guest, and he gave a wonderfully enthusiastic speech for us.

At the dinner, our topic covered broad range, but basically the discussion was about how to encourage Japanese youths mix with the world.  In addition, since Joi is actively measuring the radiation around the Fukushima area after the “3.11”, we exchanged views on this issue, too.

This year, Dr. Ishii was introduced in the “Portrait of Modern Age Leader (Gendai no Shozo, 現代の肖像)”, in the April 25 issue of the AERA magazine. Joi Ito also appeared as the “Cover Person” in the August 8, 2001 issue together with the article titled “The Future of ‘The Places to Make Future of the World’ (‘Sekai no Mirai Wo Tsukuru Basho’ no Mirai, 「世界の未来を作る場所」の未来)”.

Joi has been well recognized in the world as one of the alpha-bloggers for more than 10 years and Dr. Ishi is very active as you see in twitter (@ishii_mit).  These two are forever hot.

Again On “2010 ACCJ Person of the Year”


I was elected as the 2010 ACCJ Person of the Year in the end of 2010, and gave an acceptance speech this February at The Tokyo American Club luncheon.  The text of the speech is uploaded on my web site for your reference.

Recently, someone told me that Mr. Richard Smart posted an article about me, which, I think, was based on my speech at the luncheon, on the Tokyo Weekender titled “Kiyoshi Kurokawa, The Maverick”

Well, it is true that I speak my mind outspokenly although it may irritate some people, so it is quite natural for Mr. Smart to think that way.  However, I have never doubted that I might be wrong.  My point is that the Japanese society is a too insular minded, closed “Vertical Society.”

I know that many people will have hard feelings when truths are spoken and I don’t think we can do much about it.   However, it is very important that we speak what we truly feel.

You all know how the Japanese media coverage took the side of the government, trying to make things look better in their news coverage after the events of 3.11.  I think the credibility of Japanese journalism has fallen down sharply by their behavior of currying favor with power.  And now it is clear to the whole world that this attitude of flattering to power is not limited to the Japanese government, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), or Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).
Where is Japan headed to?  I am a bit worried.

Again To Doha, Qatar


The Hamad Medical Corporation of Qatar launched the vision of Academic Health System and I was invited to attend its unveiling.  The outdoor temperature in Doha was approximately 45℃ (115 F), very hot, and in addition to the heat, the city was in the midst of the Ramadan.

I made use of this opportunity to visit the Qatar Foundation (Ref.1, 2) again.  From here, I extended my visit to Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Texas A&M University in Qatar, and Qatar Science Technology Park.

These Universities use the same curriculum and same texts as in the United States and the faculty members are recruited according to the same qualification criteria as in the States, so the students graduating from these universities receive degrees equivalent to the home Universities.  The students of medical schools, after graduation, are matched for residency and the list includes first class hospitals in the United States such as Johns Hopkins and Cleveland Clinics.  Just take a look at the web site of the Qatar Foundation and you will find much information about variety of special programs they run with many universities.

Famous Think-Tanks such as Brookings and RAND are also opening their branch offices in Doha recently.

These places of education and research not only have cutting edge utilities, but are very open and international. I think it would be nice if we developed programs with Japanese researchers or enhanced exchange programs for students, graduate students, and research fellows.

Hamad Medical Corporation is now building a number of new hospitals as well as reinforcing their research laboratories.  While expanding hospitals that are about a quarter of a century old, they also manage to keep providing health care very actively.  Emergency medicine, especially traumatic wound is a huge department here.  They have a large number of patients from traffic accidents and construction accidents.

Many staffs and Doctors are from overseas but they are working very aggressively.

I think the Academic Health System is a nice ambitious program, too.  It has a strong vision for structuring a “Healthy Community” and is determined to “Expand Globally”.

Although the Middle East today has a number of unsteady elements after the Tunisian resistance and revolution, Qatar is by far more peaceful.  Why not have more exchanges with them?

August 6th: Hiroshima, Fukushima and Global Health Summer Course



August 6th is the date of the A-Bombing of Hiroshima.

The ceremony in Hiroshima took place, as always, in the stifling heat of summer, and I have to wonder how the words offered up by Prime Minister Kan were heard by the people of Hiroshima, the people of Fukushima and the Tohoku victims.

What kind of country will Japan become?  I feel like we have been trapped in a 5-month-long nightmare.  The situation surrounding the Fukushima cleanup and its ultimate disposition is still murky.  In addition, nothing has been clarified for Tohoku in terms of how to handle the current situation on the ground, plans for the future and what will be the ultimate role of the state.  Moreover, attention seems to be more focused on what are essentially tempests in a teapot with resistance being exhibited by the old guard, generic scandals and Ministry of Trade, Economics and Industry personnel matters.  There is a growing sense that Japan is becoming a pitiful excuse for a country.

A feeling of gloom and doom is hanging over everyone because the world at large may again be on the edge of an economic collapse. Just what exactly should Japan do under such ominous circumstances?

Many people attribute the current political state of affairs to the (Japanese) public at large, but it is actually more of a push back to the tyranny of the “Cartels of the Mind.” Universities and the media (which seems to just cast ‘talent shows’ and ‘dining spots’) also bear a heavy burden.  I have repeatedly made the point in this blog, that we in Japan have been almost exclusively focused on economic growth with industries being unable to function in the globalized world of the past 20 years. I recently wrote about some of these same points in the official journals of the New Komeito and Liberal Democratic Party.

A couple of days ago, I introduced the “Global Health Human Resource Training Seminar — Global Health Summer Program 2011” (Ref. 1).

The morning of Saturday August 6th marked the end of the two-week course.  Four different teams gave presentations on the topic for this year which was policy proposals aimed at the eradication of polio throughout the world in the expansive Fukutake Lecture Hall at the University of Tokyo Hongo campus. Everyone presented well-thought-out and unique proposals and it was extremely difficult to score the presentations. A combination of the various proposals present by each of the four groups might actually make for a good project in the future.

I actually took to my bed during this two-day period, because I had an absolutely awful cold, but I woke in the morning and finally felt able to put in an appearance.

It was definitely well worth the effort, because the participants have given a lot of thought to the wheres and whys of the task at hand.  Many of them commented that they had never really given any thought to such problems before and this activity allows them to greatly expand their horizons and way of thinking.

I went to lunch with the students and many individuals who supported their activities.  Many commented that they were starting to think about their next career path from a different perspective.  It is always a pleasure to interact with those individuals who will be responsible for leading us into the future.

This event marked the gathering of a group of approximately 20 passionate and driven students, some of whom have studied in the United States and France while others have gotten real life experience in places like Africa.  I really enjoyed interacting and getting to know such students who are looking to build a global career.

I left early to get home, pack my bags, and head off to Narita to depart for Qatar.  I will be participating in the unveiling of the Academic Health System Initiative.  This undertaking is quite something particularly in the heat of the summer and at the beginning of Ramadan.

I will report back later on how things go in Qatar.

Jiro Asada’s Novel; The Last Years of the Qing Dynasty


I think Jiro Asada, a Japanese writer, has quite a lot of fans.  I am one of his fans, too, although I have not read all of his works.
The 4 series’ novel about China in the end of the Qing Dynasty “The Firmament of the Pleiades (Soukyuu no Subaru, 蒼穹の昴), “Imperial Consort Zhen’ s Well (Chinbi no Ido, 珍妃の井戸)”, “Chugen Rainbow (Chugen no Niji, 中原の虹)”, and “Manchurian Report (Manchurian Report,マンチュリアン・リポート)” (published last year) is one of my favorites.  What attracts me is the structure, analysis, and the viewpoint in each “Story (monogatari, ものがたり)”.  Once I start reading, the story is so fascinating that I am completely caught by it and can not stop until I get to the end.
Last year NHK broadcasted a drama series that was produced in collaboration with China titled “The Firmament of the Pleiades”.  It is a story about Empress Dowager, Chunru (春児, チュンル), and the people close to them, in the last phase of the Qing Dynasty. Yuko Tanaka, a Japanese actress, played the part of Empress Dowager which I thought was done nicely.  After this novel came the “Imperial Consort Zhen’ s Well”.  I don’t think I have to remind you that the Imperial Consort Zhen also appeared in “The Firmament of the Pleiades”.

I had an opportunity to visit Beijing (北京) several years ago, and since I had a bit of spare time I decided to go to the Forbidden City (紫禁城).  The guide asked me where I wanted to see, so I requested him to take me to “The Chinbi’s Well (珍妃の井戸)” because I didn’t have enough time to see all.  So, as I recall, we went directly to the well and saw nothing else.  I do not regret this though, because each of Asada’s storis is so fascinating that you feel as if you were living it.  My impression of “The Chinbi’s Well”?  Well, I would rather hear your impression after you have seen it.

The 3rd book of this series is “The Chugen Rainbow”.  This is a story about Zhang Zuolin (Cyo Sakurinn, 張作霖); the son of a refugee, later the leader of the mounted bandit in Manchuria area (bazoku, 馬賊), Puyi (Xuantong Emperor, Fugi, 溥儀); the last emperor whom Zhang Zuolin is to encounter at Chugen, and Yuan Shikai (En Seigai, 袁世凱).  The Western nations and the Kwantung Army (Kanto-gun, 関東軍) are also involved in the complicated development of the story.  This piece is also quite exciting.

The last book; ‘Manchurian Report’ was published last fall.  It has a wonderful structure and excellent style of story telling of the process that leads to the death of Zhang Zualin by the bomb explosion which Kwantung Army planned and executed near the Fengtian (Hoten, 奉天) Station of the Manchuria Railroad.

I truly admire the extensive research ability and high quality of writing by the professional writers.

While there are a variety of books dealing with the history of Japan and its relations with the neighbors – Korean Peninsula, China, or Manchuria – from end of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th Century, I find books such as Asada’s that tell stories of individual characters quite amusing, not to mention that they are “non-fictions” which are intended for entertainment.  Besides the books by Asada, I would recommend a story of Hajime Satomi the “King of Opium” (by Shinichi Sano), or in this connection, “The Back Side History of Manchuria; What Masahiko Amakasu and Shinsuke Kishi Bore” (by Naoki Ohta), or many other stories concerning “Japan-Korea Relations”.  There are many things to be learned from these books regarding the life of people or how history is created, among others.

“Historic novels” has nothing to do with strange nationalisms; it is a good way to understand the movement of the world or nations from the multi-standpoint of those who lived in that time, the effects those movements had on the everyday life of the people.  Such perspective is especially important at times when you have to deal with the issues that arise in this rapidly globalizing world.

Below are some of the examples of the insights of Mr. Asada expressed as the words of the “story tellers” in this 4 series’ books;
“Neither (Japanese) government nor army is capable of thinking in a big scope because they are too nearsighted, merely focusing on immediate, short-term tiny profits….”
“Japanese thinking is too small scaled, just like the size of their homeland…”
“’Manchuria is the lifeline of Japan’, the words slipped out (at the Far East Meeting), but this comment was practically equivalent to saying ‘we are determined to invade our neighbors for the profit of our nation’….”

 “Wise men learn from history, fools learn from experience” is a well known saying.  Likewise I think “If people do not study the long history, they are just a bunch of idiots” is a good quote, although it is anonymous.


Youth Connecting Beyond Borders and Creating a Beautiful Resume


I have stated repeatedly in this blog that while the youth of today in Japan are often accused of being too inward-oriented and isolationist, it is really Japanese society itself that has long been inward looking and isolationist. 

This attitude has become widely known since the events of 3.11.  The international intelligentsia is also knowledgeable and aware of this.  However, the weakness of this isolationist society was laid bared by the events of 3.11.

An extremely important theme for Japan, as we head into the future, is the education and nurturing of our youth and the greater empowerment of women as I previously talked about in my blog entry on the “L’Oreal Women in Science Fellowship, Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki Wins Special Award.”

I previously talked about the International Conference for Women in Business and after participating in a discussion on Connecting Beyond Borders at this International Conference, I joined in on a gathering held by the students of the Global Agenda Seminar (GAS) (in Japanese) (Ref. 1, 2) of Professor Yoko Ishikura with whom I have worked together.

Then five of the participants presented their projects and project status (in English, of course).  They all did a good job, particularly in light of the fact that they were not speaking in their native language.  The whole experience at GAS truly changed the participants.  Many of them seemed to be reconsidering their current employment and their careers.

Professor Ishikura overwhelmed everyone during her recap at the end of this get-together with rejuvenated energy, imagination and spirit that came after the trials and tribulations associated with her new job at Keio University in this past April.  Changing your surroundings can be a real slog, but such moves can also open one up to new developments and possibilities.  I myself have experienced the process of adapting to new surroundings and circumstances and overcoming challenges because in the course of my own career working between the United States and Japan, the longest I have been in one place is eight years.  Individuals who have not gone through such an experience cannot really understand its magnitude.

After the session was over, an afterparty was arranged for everyone.  I also attended and listened to the experience of others who had travelled the path of changing jobs.

I was scheduled to talk in the upcoming week at the Global Health Human Resource Training Seminar.  The seminar was attended by approximately 20 very energetic and passionate individuals with many of them also interested in carving out a career in international issues.  All in all, a very enjoyable time.

What I really want for the future is for these young people to get real life experiences in the real world, get up close and personal with what is going on on the ground and grapple with the difficulties inherent in real challenges and in the course of all these activities, expand their options and exhibit real growth.  Such individuals will be able to take their place in the world at large. 

The youth will be creating the Japan of the future in the global world.  Many of these youth are now working on writing a “beautiful resume.”