The Annual Meeting of the Japan Chapter of the American College of Physicians; Nurturing World-Class Citizens


The Annual Meeting of the Japan Chapter of the American College of Physicians (1, 2) was held this year in Kyoto University Clock Tower Centennial Hall and was organized by Professor Shunichi Fukuhara (link available only in Japanese).

The topics this year included clinical education, clinical conference and clinical research, and thanks to the dedicated planning of Professor Fukuhara backed up by the strong support of the current Chapter governor Dr. Kobayashi, was a two-day event, the first of its kind. The participants were mostly aspiring medical students and young doctors.  I feel that this was because many of the speakers are dedicated to their field of clinical education and also because some of the speakers had had clinical training in the USA. All in all, there were around 600 participants, a number I am happy about.

On the first day, every venue was packed with eager participants and their passion came across. In particular, the young people in the crowd seemed to be hungering for this wonderful opportunity to learn more about clinical education and training. Indeed, during the reception, the talk centered around the issues raised in each session. Although I was personally unable to attend all the sessions, I am sure that Drs. Tokuda, Sudo, Takasugi, Kishimoto, Shibagaki, Nagahama and their colleagues livened up the event.

This time round, we were lucky to have Virginia Hood (currently at University of Vermont, she is a specialist in nephrology like me, and I was able to meet her in the autumn of 2011 in Taipei) who was unable to attend the same event in 2011 when she was the President of the ACP because it was held just after the Tohoku disasters. We also had Mitchell Feldman (Chief Editor, Journal of General Internal Medicine, Univ. Calif San Francisco), and they both had sessions with Japanese and English, although I am afraid that we did not have simultaneous interpreting due to financial constraints.

The first day’s last talk sessions were by Dr. Feldman (UCSF) and Dr. Ishiyama (St. Louis), as well as Professor Fukuhara. This was followed by a memorial service held in the memory of Dr. Kazuo Endo (1, both links available only in Japanese) of Okinawa Chubu Hospital, whose contributions to the study of infectious diseases as well as in other fields have been remarkable.The final special session was one commemorating my selection as one of the ‘100 Top Global Leaders 2012’ (Foreign Policy) and my award from the AAAS, bringing a close to the exciting first day.

The Japan chapter of the ACP was finally set up ten years ago in order to meet the need for internists and physicians who would be at home in a rapidly globalizing world. This was also the first Chapter of the ACP outside of the North and South Americas.

As we head steadily for a globalized society, we are finding it increasingly difficult to change the pre-existing Japanese form of organization because of its history and the individuals associated with it. Yet such initiatives which can dovetail harmoniously with the existing frameworks while being different are, I feel, one way of nurturing future global citizens.

The passion that I felt emanating from the young people at the Japan Chapter of the ACP have left me thinking that the best is yet to come, and I found myself praying for the future success of this initiative. After all, developing human resources is a long process.

It was with feelings of regret that I was unable to attend the second day because of prior engagements.




The breeding ground of some of Japan’s craziest and most eccentric people, the SONY CSL marks its 25th anniversary this year. I attended its annual Open House and other special events at its headquarters.. Started by Mario Tokoro, this laboratory  is truly special.

The event started with a speech by Chief Manager Hiroaki Kitano. The suit and tie not being his every-day attire, he looked ill at ease. He talked about how important it is for people to ‘Act Beyond Borders’, to surpass the frontiers of whatever they choose to do, and to be second to none in enjoying that very process by harnessing their own creativity.

Each of the presentations that were made were interesting, and the visitors were fascinated. The first section of speakers included the likes of Junichi Rekimoto, Alexis Andre, Shigeru Owada, and Ken Endo.

The second section boasted the likes of Hiroaki Kitano, Masato Funabashi, Natalia Polouliakh, Yuji Yamamoto, and Takahiro Sasaki.

Each of their presentations was interesting and inspiring, and I felt the fact that they are not receiving orders from others, while making things complicated, allows them the freedom to do the awesome.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion featuring Mario Tokoro, Mr. Kitano and Mr. Rekimoto on the topic of ‘Toward The Next 25 Years’ and a play by Luc Steels, a member of the French division of SONY CSL. Titled ‘AI- Artificial Intelligence-Opera, Casparo’ , the play showcased Luc’s genius as well as the refined style and depth that we associate with European tradition. Unfortunately, I was forced to leave mid-way through because of prior commitments.

Mr. Kitano is one of those rare people who is a visionary in varied fields, who is able to understand the patterns and trends and to act accordingly, making him capable of getting results without any regard to time or place. He is indeed, one of the ‘Crazy Ones’.

I was lucky to be able to dine with him a few days earlier, and needless to say, this man is something!

Being with people like him is sure to make one feel excited and hungry to explore.

TEDxTokyo 2013


Already into its 5th year, this year’s TEDxTokyo was held in Hikarie building of Shibuya. I have been involved in this initiative from the beginning, and I have watched as this event has steadily garnered more and more attention. The number of young volunteers has been increasing year by year, and so has the number of sponsors, making for a invigorating day.

As with every other year, Patrick was the host, and he livened up the day with his nimble and witty talk.

Each talk or presentation was interesting and informative, and they added up to a wonderful program which can be viewed online. On a personal note, I believe that the audience was greatly inspired by the talk of Shigeru Ban (1– in Japanese -, 23), an architect with whom I go back a long way and whose dynamism and energy still commands my respect. Each speakers shared their own life ‘story’, and I think this is what made the event a profoundly moving one.

And in a manner reminiscent of the TED talks held at Long Beach (home to TED since 2008), the end of each talk was met with a hearty applause from the crowd, and the standing ovations in particular speaks volumes about the response to each of the speeches.

With evening came the rain. As the TED event wrapped up, I excused myself and headed for Juntendo University in order to pay a visit to Professor Tomino at the reception for the Japanese Society for Nephrology, an event he organized as chairman. I was also able to meet David Harris after a long time. I remember him from Sydney in 1997 as a capable Secretary-General who helped organize a successful World Congress of Nephrology. It was a chance to catch up with old friends from my original field of expertise after a long time.


Wiston House, West Sussex


I left St. Gallen in the afternoon, and arrived at Heathrow. A 90 minute-ride past verdant fields towards the south took me to West Sussex.

I was on my way to attend the UK-Japan 21st Century Group, a conference started by Prime Minister Nakasone and Thatcher of two nations, already into its 30th year. I was to participate a day late. The chairpersons were Honorable Lord Howard and Honorable Yasuhisa Shiozaki, both members of their respective parliaments.

The venue for the conference was the quintessentially English Wiston House. I was relieved to be on time for the dinner on the first night.

The second day, the 4th of May, started off with a talk on "4. Climate Change and Energy Policy" by me and Robin Grimes, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK. The talk was followed by a lively discussion, with opinions from the floor. It was very enjoyable.

The other themes discussed this day were "5. Geopolitical and Security Challenges in East Asia and the Middle East," "6. The UK and Japan: Future Prospects for Trade and Investment," "7. Corporate Governance and 21st Century Capitalism and finally, Common Concerns." The variety and depth of the discussions carried out was truly stimulating and satisfying.

For the evening dinner, we moved to Amberley Castle. Whether it be Wiston House or Amberley Castle, old buildings are in a class of their own. The huge stones used and the absence of any strong earthquakes ensures that these buildings last a millennium.

The themes for the 3rd day were "8. International Development and Cooperation," "9. The UK and Japan, Progress in Developing UK-Japan Bilateral Cooperation and Prospects for the Future," and these were finished by noon.

Incidentally, the themes for the first day were "1. Latest Developments in Japan: The Political Situation and Economic Prospects," "2. Latest Developments in the UK: The Political Situation and Economic Prospects," "3. Retrenchment or Stagnation: Lessons from Japan’s ‘Lost Decades’."

A recurring theme for the past couple of years, be it at Davos or at St. Gallen, is the political situation and economic stagnation in the developed nations. This trend shows just how much the world is changing these days.

The attending English politicians were very intellectual, and did not abhor controversy which arose as a result of their wide-ranging perspectives and reasoning. This spoke volumes about their venerable tradition, and left me feeling that I have a lot to learn from them.

Both England and Japan are island nations, off the coast of large continents and with scarcely any raw materials. They also have their respective strengths and weaknesses, which I feel are very complementary. I feel that this partnership would be a very good one in the global context. Do you agree?

In the evening, I was at Heathrow, on my way home. I had spent two days at both St. Gallen and at West Sussex.


Return to St. Gallen Symposium


Once again, I attended the St. Gallen Symposium. This year’s theme is “Rewarding Courage.”  This theme shows the significance of the input of the students who are hosting the symposium. On May 1, I flew from Narita Airport.

I did not attend last year because of my duties at the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, but this year will be the fourth time I have attended since 2007.

Both of the two days had wonderful plenary sessions and everyone seemed satisfied.

The last general panel of the first day was called “Leaders of Tomorrow: Essay Competition” and was moderated by Professor Yoko Ishikura, whose dynamic and ad lib style allowed for an engaging and lively discussion. Out of over one thousand essays written by young people around the world, three were chosen. The discussion among the twelve young people on the panel was very inspiring.

The interactions with young people are always fun and older generations have important roles.

On the second day, I talked at the workshop entitled “Global Agenda in Post-Fukushima” and Prof. Ishikura was the moderator. As the flow of this session shifted toward focusing specifically on the Fukushima nuclear accident and NAIIC, it deviated slightly from the subject mentioned in the title. However, I believe this was because there were many individuals from Switzerland and Germany, who were very highly interested in the Fukushima accident. This indicates the impact of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the world and high awareness of people across the world. This is a lesson should such accidents happen and I will try to focus more on the subject of Post Fukushima next time.

The symposium at St. Gallen started in 1971 and this is the forty-third year. It was started by students in St. Gallen and students continue to choose the theme and organize the program today. The night I arrived, at the reception I was seated with six St. Gallen alumni who had been involved in the symposium thirty, twenty and ten years ago. It made me reflect on the virtuous cycle that exists in the relations between older and younger generations. As young students at St. Gallen, these alumni must have met many leaders of society as well as faced many obstacles in planning the symposium. These experiences are valuable and are rewarding later on as alumni. I admired and was moved by the senior- junior relationship over years that is fostered through the symposium

On the second day, I checked out of the hotel immediately after my workshop and went to the airport to depart for Heathrow in the UK.