A Wake-up Call To Those Who Want To Make a Difference: TEDxKeioSFC and H-LAB


I was up early on the 22nd of December; I was on my way to the Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC) of Keio University to participate in the TEDxKeioSFC.

This is an event that has its origins in the course 'Global Science and Innovation', a course that I taught in the academic years 2010 and 2011 during the fall term. Through conversations with the students where I heard their requests, it so happened that I invited Todd Porter, who was involved when we launched the TEDxTokyo event, as a guest to one of my lectures.

There was no looking back since that class. Backed by my TA, Mr Nojima and the Dean, Mr. Murai, the students teamed up and poured in their efforts to make the TEDx event a possibility.

On a cold, rainy, winter day, Theta (θ) Auditorium of the SFC campus far from the Tokyo city center, was packed with 500+ students and guests. The theme this time round the team of students picked was 'Think Like a Child'. Everybody was tensed up, but still managed to produce sterling performances. The passion of the speakers was infectious, and soon the air was charged with the shared excitement. I was also happy to meet Atsuyoshi Saisho after a year and half. He bowled the audience over with his superb presentation about his work which takes him to places like Bangladesh and Palestine.

I really feel that the students gathered in SFC were excellent. Those who were in charge of the whole event must have felt very tired, and this sentiment was echoed in the email that I received later.

It must have been an unforgettable experience for them; this working together in a team to achieve a goal within a limited amount of time. This hands-on experience is something that will stand them in good stead in the years to come, and will also boost their self-confidence, enabling them to become game-changers in the years to come. Well done, everybody. As for me, I had to leave for Tokyo right after my talk in the last session. Sorry guys!

I had a good reason, though. I was going to attend an end-of-the-year party organized by some highly motivated undergraduates. They were part of a group that I had lent my support to 2 years ago, and already this group was producing astounding and unexpected results. This group is known as H-LAB (1, 2), or Harvard College Liberal Arts Without Borders.

As a result of these activities and perhaps because of the networks it created, many young participants (high school students) went on to enter prestigious institutes of higher learning like Harvard, Yale, Ivy League and other colleges. It is very heartening to hear that more and more young people in junior high and high schools opting to study abroad in and around UK and the USA.

Yes, its good to know that young people are not being bound by adults who say that they are increasingly reticent. They are taking advantage of new opportunities. And yes, this is the point (1) that I am always trying to get across (1) … Increasingly, young people are able to see opportunities where their parents could not simply because they did not have any role-models close by.

I feel that what we as adults can do is to fully support the activities of these youngsters who have realized that they can change the world for the better.

Impact Japan is one such organization which we created in order to support the 'nails that stand out'. These outliers need all the support that they can get and we try to provide it.

Please do visit our site!


Interacting with Young ‘rikejo’


‘rikejo’ is a shortened form of Rikei joshi which in Japanese means ‘women in science’.

One of the biggest companies in the cosmetic industry today, L’Oreal has a highly successful awards program called ‘For Women in Science’ which it has been running for the past 12 years. There has even been Nobel Prize winners among the recipients of this prize.

As a judge on the panel of this prize(1), I have had the opportunity to play an active part on its here in Japan. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in this year’s award ceremony held in Paris because I was busy with my work at the NAIIC.

However, I was able to attend the special awards ceremony held here in Japan and meet the young Rikejo who were in attendance. Ms Miki Ando, world figure skate champion, received a special prize this year; Ms Meisa Kuroki, one of top TV/movie stars, was the recipient a year earlier, and this I think is proves that L’Oreal does things in style. Interestingly, it was at the ceremony last year (unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to introduce this in my blog) that the word Rikejo started gaining currency, and this has developed into the award ceremony that it is today.

Held on the day of the General Election for the Lower House of Representatives, there was a contest where around 50 students from universities and high schools participated. Called ‘Team Match-Up:What If…You Could Create Your Own Cosmetics!’, the participants were divided into 8 teams and asked to dream up of new cosmetics. The well-practiced participants were able to come up with novel ideas within 45 minutes despite being put into random groups and then make their case in a 2-3 minute presentation. I got into the action by tweeting my thoughts as well.

There were three prizes in all, two presented by the panelists and one by the participants. Amazingly, the verdicts were the same. The products had daring and innovative names, and all the presentations were delivered with confidence and convincing. Just as I said, you’d better watch out for the awesome Rikejo!.

First Prize
Product name: Pheromone Eyeliners to Woo the Opposite Sex!
? Baseliner equipped multifunctional eyeliner.
? Different eyeliners for each sex (differentiate on basis of fragrance and packaging)
? Introduce as the world’s first fragrant eyeliner!
? Encourage the spread of cosmetics in Japanese men a la Korean men.

Panelist Special Prize
Product name: Butterfly
? Combine lip cream and lipstick for a beautiful color.
? Make it possible to customize the product through the use of stackable and interchangeable parts.
? Make it possible to use each of the parts on its own.
? Allow for decoration of the exterior of the product.
? Attach a removable mirror.

Best Cosmetic Award ( chosen by the votes of the rikejo)
Product name: ‘雌’ girl lip stain (「雌」is Chinese character for female)
? The must-have product for that all-important Christmas date (Makes him fall in love, but doesn’t fall off!)
? Target girls and women in the range of 15 to 20+ years of age.
? Combine the innocence of a young girl with a hint of mysterious allure. For women who want it all.
? Make it  an affordable luxury at a price of 1800 yen.

What do you think? L’Oreal is certainly going about its business with panache!


The Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, Visits from Foreign Delegates


The “Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety” is being held this weekend December 15 to 17th in Koriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture, hosted by the Japanese government and co-hosted by the IAEA.

It will be at the same time as the Lower House election.

The list of participating countries is extensive, and shows that they are trying to learn from the Fukushima nuclear accident.

In October, I was notified about the conference by some knowledgeable people abroad. They asked me, “You will take part in the conference right?” but I considered the position of the Japanese government and just nodded, “Hmmm.”

A month ago, a certain Diet member had asked a government official, “Aren’t you going to ask Dr. Kurokawa to participate in the conference?” and an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited me. The official seemed to be slightly uncomfortable, but after talking for a while it became clear that the government (meaning, the administrative branch of the government) had decided (did not think about it most likely or pressured somehow?) that “there was no reason for me to participate,”there was nothing for me to contribute to the program, and they did not consider me in the list of participants. There is no need for me to force anything, so I told the visitor 'Not to worry, I will not participate).

Actually, during these past two days, delegations from three countries have visited me separately. They praised the NAIIC report and wanted to learn and discuss more. They said they were able to deepen their understanding of each other, as well have a meaningful discussion regarding Japan’s role and future challenges.

In my previous entry, I pointed out that a comparison of the response of the U.S. and U.K. to the NAIIC report with Japan’s response indicates Japan’s delay in “true globalization” and the differences in ways of thinking.

Tomorrow is election day. Please vote no matter what. There are many parties and you may be unsure of who to choose, but you must carefully assess the qualities of each candidate. Your vote will move the democratic system, although it may not change right away.

Especially the young people, starting from this election, you must change your awareness and vote. For you are the ones who will build the future.

It will take time to make the democratic system work.


The Significance of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), the National Diet or Legislative Branch, and the Election


The National Diet is the legislative branch in Japan and is considered the “highest organ of state power.” But do you really feel this way?

There has recently been some sharp comments regarding NAIIC and the function of the Diet.

It is the article by Nikkei Business Online, “How to heighten the abilities of the Diet members and incorporate the private sector’s wisdom in policies? The appalling reality of the activities of the ‘highest organ of state power.’” (December 14, 2012) (in Japanese).

The Diet is the legislative branch of the three branches of power, which form the foundation of democratic system. However, it is not functioning the way it should be. Whether it will work or not depends on what you demand of the politicians you choose in the election. It will take a long time, but it will determine the future, especially for young people. 

Particularly for young people, from this election onwards, you must change your awareness and vote in elections. From now on, you will build the future of Japan.

It will take time to make the democratic institutions work.

Open your eyes, carefully assess the qualities of the candidates according to your own judgment, and vote.

The first step is to vote in the election.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) Fukushima Investigation Commission, Nagasaki University, and Elections and a Functioning Democratic System


It has been one year since the establishment of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission and five months since the report was published.

The U.S. Congress gave a mandate to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to establish an independent Fukushima accident investigation commission (the list of Commission members is here) and started their activities this past July. It is possible to see this on the website.

The third series of meetings was held in Japan and was on the progress of the inspections at Tokyo and Fukushima. As this is an independent commission by the legislative branch, the U.S. decided that the Japanese administrative branch of the Government should basically not be involved.

The first day of the meetings in Tokyo was at the National Institute for Graduate Studies (GRIPS). The three days of the meetings began with my presentation and discussions and went on to have hearings. The commission members had each read the NAIIC report closely and their evaluation of the NAIIC was very high.

It was mostly open to the public, but the questions were limited to the commission members. There was a brief report on it in the Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese).

On a different day, I gave the keynote speech at the Daiwa Capital Markets Conference “Global Agenda in Post-Fukushima.” Since over half of the audience and participants are not Japanese, it seemed that English was the language used. I introduced NAIIC as“the first independent investigation commission mandated by the Diet, the legislative branch, in the constitutional history of Japan” and began my speech.

After my speech, a member of the audience came and told me, “I worked as a civil servant at the British Treasury for ten years and afterwards at a private company. It is unbelievable that this the first independent investigation commission by the legislative branch…there are two such commissions in the UK right now…”

Compared to how the report has been assessed abroad, the Japanese response seems to be weak (in Japanese), but this may be due to the public awareness, Diet members and public servants’ lack of understanding about the functions of the democratic system (in Japanese). I also pointed this out in my blog on August 16.

On another day, I went to give a talk at Nagasaki University (in Japanese). There were many young people who participated. There was also a considerable number of high school students and they gave excellent feedback to the university organizing office.

These young people understood that the process of NAIIC is one part of strengthening the functions of the legislative branch.

This is was it means to participate in an election, although the country will not change immediately. It will take time for the democratic system to be built.

Especially for this reason, young people must think hard, participate in the election process and vote, for Japan’s future and for your future.


Invitation to MIT Media Lab @Tokyo


MIT Media Lab @Tokyo 2013 will be held in January of next year.

Won’t you come and join this “workshop for creating the future”?

Last year, many people participated in this inspiring gathering.

Year 2013, it will again offer an inspiring program and will be a gathering of incredible people who are the ‘nail that sticks out.’

Please visit this website for more information.


High Sales of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) report, and will the Democratic System in Japan Move Forward?


I was pleased upon reading a recent article that the NAIIC report is selling well. This achievement is due to the efforts of the NAIIC team.

How would you evaluate the report? The response abroad has been an unbelievably high assessment (1) of the report.

During election times and also on the everyday level, please question the members of the Diet, who were chosen by the Japanese public, that is each of YOU, whether they are making efforts to implement the report’s recommendations.

When this practice sinks in and becomes established between the public and the Diet members, it will push the democratic systems and the legislative branch to work better.

Even if it is gradual, your future and Japan will change through the process of elections.

Elections are an important way for each individual citizen to be involved in national politics.


Visit from the United Nations Human Rights Council


Two weeks ago, Mr. Anand Grover, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and his team visited Japan. They came as part of an investigation into the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident and the conditions of the damage.

They had well researched the conditions of the victims of Fukushima and the nuclear plant workers and we had an hour-long discussion on many topics. Also, they had read the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) report quite thoroughly.

The press releases by the Japanese government regarding the north eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami, and especially the governmental response to the victims of the Fukushima nuclear accident have been suppressive and the Special Rapporteur accurately pointed out both the positive aspects and the inadequacies.

It is possible to read this press statement in both Japanese and English. It is not very long, please take a look at it when you have time. The links for the sites are below.

Japanese: http://unic.or.jp/unic/press_release/2869/

English: http://unic.or.jp/unic/press_release/2869/#entry-english

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ET2dVWgOmC4&feature=plcp

The international community is highly aware and has been trying to learn from Japan’s response to the accident from many angles.

This is an issue that is directly connected with trust in the government.


First Anniversary of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC)


One year ago, on December 8, the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) was officially established.

Today, exactly one year since then, many from the NAIIC team reunited to spend three hours together in the afternoon. During the highly intense six months, which at times seemed to have no exit, we overcame major obstacles together and developed a camaraderie. We shared this team spirit and spent the afternoon talking about about many topics.

I presented everyone with a commemorative gift that I had prepared to express my feelings of gratitude.

As I have mentioned on this site (1), NAIIC has been evaluated highly by the world.

Then, how has the response been within Japan?

Most of the people on the NAIIC team did not know each other one year ago. To share such an experience for several months as a working professional must have been a significant experience and a source of further self-confidence for the future. I have heard many people expressing such feelings.

I remember back to my opening remarks (in Japanese) and closing words (in Japanese) of my address to the Diet one year ago on this day. That day was the seventieth anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The amazing aspect of the information age in which we live today is that anyone, including me, can access this speech online and listen to it anytime. When I reflect back, even now, I believe that my feelings regarding undertaking NAIIC are expressed straightforwardly in this speech.

During this past year, so many things have changed irrevocably in the world and in Japan.

However, what is the current situation of Fukushima? Yesterday evening, there was a considerable earthquake in north eastern Japan and although it was small, a tsunami occurred. What did you think about this?

Japan, true to form, will soon have an election again. But it is difficult to have much hope… what is the cause of this?

It is now a time when each person should think and change, as I have written in the Preface of the NAIIC report.


Schedule – January 2013

Earth System Governance Tokyo Conference
Plenary ー Nuclear Governance
Date & Time: Thursday, January 31, 9:00-10:30
                (Keynote Lecture and Panel Discussion)
Venue: Elizabeth Rose Conference Hall, United Nations University 5th Floor
        5?53?70 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Contact Details: TokyoESG2013@ias.unu.edu  

Register online


MIT Media Lab @Tokyo 2013 
Date & Time: Saturday, January 18, 18:00-  *2 days Event(January 18-19)
     18:00-18:30 Panel Discussion
Venue: Digital Garage
      Daikanyama DG Bldg., 3-5-7 Ebisu Minami, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0022, Japan
Contact Details:  team-mljapan@media.mit.edu   (General)
                press-mljapan@media.mit.edu (Press)
Register online


Internationa Symposium on Sustainability Science:
Towards a Mature & Sustainable Society
Date & Time: Monday, January 7, 2013 14:45-15:15 (Lecture)
                                                          17:00-17:45 (Panel Discussion)
                 * 12:30 Open  13:00 Start
Venue: U Thant International Conference Hall (United Nations University)
Lecture Title: "Uncertain Times: Changing Principals"
Contact Details: Prime International Co., Ltd.
                       TEL.+81-3-6277-0117 FAX.+81-3-6277-0118
register online