From Okinawa -2


On Saturday, August 10th, I visited Okinawa again. I attended the ten-year anniversary of the Muribushi Clinical Training Program (in Japanese), which was started by Dr. Seishiro Miyagi and is a pioneering program for dealing with the future of medicine clerkship. I had the honor of giving a speech at the celebration, as I did ten years ago when this program was first established.

After training in this program, many OB/OG alumni from the time of the Okinawa Prefectural Chubu Hospital have gone on to receive further training in the United States, showing that this program is suited for a global Japan and world.

In these past ten years, the required skills of doctors have changed in response to what is happening in the field. There are many outstanding clinicians who are active and appreciated on the global scale, as can be seen in the establishment of the ACP (American College of Physicians) Japan Chapter (1, 2) and the OB/OG of the New York Beth Israel hospital clinical training program.

In my speech, I mentioned the virtuous cycle that is created when people who have received clinical training in such programs pass on their expertise and wisdom to their juniors. It just happened that Dr. Harry Ward, who was a fellow at my time at UCLA, was visiting Okinawa, and I introduced him to everyone, thus creating another virtuous cycle.

On the afternoon of the 11th, Mr. Ichida of BirdLife International showed me around northern Okinawa. He took me to a secret place where butterflies can be observed and to see the Okinawa rail or ‘Yanbaru Kuina’ On this day, twenty-eight Okinawa rails were killed due crashes with cars on roads this year. I was told the number used to be only around ten per year….

On the 12th, I took part in a gathering at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in order to discuss plans for the future of this new research-based graduate university. We spent the entire day discussing many different issues.

I hope that this will aid the reform of research in Japan.

To Okinawa, Twice in One Week -1


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I visited Okinawa twice in the week of August 4th.

On Monday August 5th, I took a day trip to Okinawa. I attended the program Asian Youth Development Program in Okinawa (AYDPO) that I have reported about in past postings. It is a program held in Okinawa in which some fifty students, between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, spend three weeks together. Around 10-15 university students also participated, as well as a few OB/OG.

The program started when I was special advisor to Prime Minister Abe as a project planned by the Cabinet in 2007. This will be the sixth time it has been held. Everyone is connected via Facebook and they are very active during this time of year. I recently met with an OB from Indonesia, who taught as a university student tutor in the first and second years of the program. We discussed his current project, which he is conducting in his home country.

I have been a part of this program since the very first year. This year, I gave a speech at the opening ceremony. I had many discussions with the youth, who will lead the future of Asia, and the session was very interesting and stimulating.

Among the Japanese youth, the ratio of female to male students has always been around 2:1 since the start of the program, but this year all of the participants from Okinawa were female. I encourage more male students to participate. Everyone had an enjoyable time and there were some OB/OGs joined this year’s program. The students from Asia had a female to male ration of 1:1, as recommended by their home countries.

I hope that this kind of program will start in many regions of Japan, in local schools, villages, through homestay programs, for example,  no matter how small it is in the beginning.

The future of Japan depends on the youth.

Two Panels; In support of Women Empowerment


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One of the problems with Japan, well recognized in the world, is the situation where there is less opportunity for women to shine when compared with other countries. The need for gender empowerment and gender equality is sorely needed, and is a major social issue.

I have long been advocating gender equality, and have mentioned this topic numerous times (a quick search of my blog will tell you just how much) and thus have been invited to participate in panel discussions about this topic.

On the 4th of August, I attended an event organized by Ms. Sasaki (CEO of ewoman), the 18th International Conference for Women In Business, where I was on a dialogue with Ms.Yuri Okina (link in Japanese). The last time I met Ms. Okina was for the Keizai Doyukai Panel a few years ago. I shared this very stage two years ago with Ms. Yoko Ishikura (link in Japanese).

There were a lot of young women in the audience, and the program for the whole event was packed with interesting events. Started off by an opening speech by the organizer Ms. Sasaki, the event included talks by Kathy Matsui, two women Ministers, both are lawyers and children, Ms. Mori and Ms. Inada, a stirring address by the mayor of Yokohama city, Ms. Hayashi. These were followed by my dialogue with Ms. Okina. And there was more to come in the afternoon sessions as well.

Worth special mention is the talk by Japan’s fencing silver medalist at the Olympic Games, Mr. Ota (link to blog in Japanese). His points of view and his perceptions are truly world-class.

At the event, I sold around 50 copies of my book co-authored with Ms. Ishikura, ‘How to Build a World-Class Career’. What I was really happy though, was to see a visitor who had brought along their own copy of this book and asked for my autograph.

On the 8th of August, I went to Tohoku University in Sendai. This was to attend a symposium (link in Japanese) held as part of a series of events (link in Japanese) to commemorate the first ever female students accepted into then Imperial University, which happened here over 100 years ago; three women were accepted here.

Everyone on the program were very happy to join this event, particularly the two visitors from the U.S and the U.K, respectively, Dr. Colwell and Dr. Haynigen, but also Ms. Kubo, Ms. Tsujimura, Ms. Mukai, Ms. Kotani, the two Ms. Takahashis, Ms. Motomura, the two Ms. Kurodas, Ms. Harayama,  and Ms. Ueki, all were inspiring.
Additional information may be found on the Tohoku University page, because the event was organized by the efficient Ms. Noriko Osumi (link to her blog in Japanese).

Finally, there was a speech by the President of Tohoku University not exactly promising anything but providing hope that change is close by. The key issue is when the promises will be made into reality.

I was with Rita Colwell for the fourth time this year, and I was also with Ms. Motomura, with whom I had shared a panel discussion the previous day for the Nature Cafe.

I have been pretty busy this hot summer days, but it has been rewarding as well.

Nature Café: Can Japan Change?


As I have mentioned before, the well-known scientific journal ‘Nature’ organizes an annual ‘Nature Café’ (Japanese).

This was the 12th such event, and was organized in collaboration with Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). The panel for the Japan session was mainly composed of the ‘Crazy Ones’, scientists who are willing to think different. The title for the discussion session was ‘Will Japan Change? Universities and Research Facilities Faced with Change’.

The venue for the session was SONY CSL, the small research laboratory where geniuses and other ‘crazy’ people have been rcruited.

The panel was composed of the director of SONY CSL, Mr. Hiroaki Kitano (1); the leader of the initiative to bring about a new collaboration between the astronomy and the mathematics department of Tokyo University, Hitoshi Murayama (there are a lot of videos with him as well); a professor at OIST, Yoko Sugiyama Yazaki; and me. The moderator for the event was Yukiko Motomura (Japanese), from the Mainichi Shimbun.

I liked that the audience was composed mainly of students. Each of the panelists gave a brief but energetic 10 minute ‘talk with a twist’ before entering a panel discussion. We had a surprise during this discussion as Joi Ito (1), the head of MIT Media Lab, joined in.

For the details of the ‘Nature Café’, please check the OIST web site.

It was a  wonderful evening and the young people in the audience enjoyed it immensely.

I am glad it was a very stimulating session.