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.