San Diego to San Francisco


This is my third time (1) visiting San Francisco this year.

I wish I could say that this time, I was here to see the America’s Cup, but it is not so. The reason for my visit was to attend Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia’s GSCIA (12) at the Fairmont Hotel. I was able to see many people in and around the hotel from the America’s Cup and people involved in Oracle.

The first and second days were the last round of the America’s Cup, in which the champion would be decided. The race was the Emirates Team New Zealand vs. the Defending Champion Oracle Team USA, with the score being 8:5, and the challenger being one race away from winning. The rooms at the Fairmont Hotel were priced steeply and there were very few vacancies.

The first day was the reception and the morning of the second day were three panels on the High Level Forum Green Future, of which I was on the first panel. All three were very interesting.

At lunch, Prime Minister Najib gave a speech and there were four MOU ceremonies. I participated in the signing of Japan’s cooperation. This was because the Prime Minister’s chief scientific advisor is my old friend, Mr. Zakri. Future relations should involve not only governments but also the private sector, with multiple levels of cooperation among many people.

At night, there was a banquet with people of the local businesses, as well as a speech by the Prime Minister and interviews. As this was an official public banquet, wine and other alcohols were not served and I felt a bit wistful but there is no use being remorseful.

Especially for people like myself who are in the academic world, the trust that is developed between us is free from special interests and forms a basis that is different from the relationships formed between governments and companies. This allows the advantage that new projects can be started on such occasions.

Oracle won the America’s Cup, but I had to return to Japan before the final results.

On the day after I departed for Japan, Oracle Team USA did not back down and there was a major reversal in the outcome.

San Diego


I came to Coronado, the city next to San Diego. The first reason was to attend the Cell Society meeting. This is the third of the meeting in the past but was unable to join last year because I was in the middle of my duties with the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). It is not my area of specialization but I have come to participate in its first meeting. There have been many results in the clinical cases of adipose stem cell that are interesting from a medical point of view.

In the field of stem cell research, the breakthrough finding of “iPS” by Nobel Laureate Dr. Yamanaka is also a promising area. Although the approach differs from that of modern medicine and some of the findings of the molecular and genetic analysis cannot be accounted for by logical explanations, it is very safe and there are no other effective methods of treatment but we can get results through this approach.

In the West, where modern science was established, until roughly one hundred years ago, there were forms of treatment, such as blood transfusions and phlebotomy that would be unthinkable today. It was also around one hundred years ago that the blood types of ABO were discovered. In research, it is often times the case that new discoveries are made through such experiences.

I made some time to meet with approximately twenty young Japanaese people from Japan who were in San Diego for study abroad programs, research and business. There were many students in undergraduate and graduate programs at the University of California San Diego this gathering was organized around Dr. Maki (PhD) (in Japanese). They are all very bright and seem to be feeling the changes in their awareness that come with living abroad and are in the process of contemplating their future careers. Japan is not the only place where they can become successful and the fact that they are Japanese will not change. I look forward to their next career choices and achievements.

The following day, I gave a seminar at UCSD. It was organized by the UCSD School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IPRS) and the Rady School of Management. IPRS Professor of Japanese Business, Professor Ulrike Schaede (until last year, Professor Hoshi had been in charge) moderated the seminar. As the topic of the seminar was the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, it was not only students who were in attendance, but also professors and some Japanese who have been living in this area for a long time. Since two and a half years have passed since the accident and the recent situation has been reported widely throughout the world and there was a lively question and answer session.

In addition to students, there were many people from Japan as well as people from CONNECT (1). After the seminar, there was a reception on the terrace, where we could see a lovely sunset, typical of southern Californian. Afterwards, we had dinner at the local favorite, Sushi Ota, and I had some delicacies such as the sea urchin.

It is very important for young people to gain more experiences abroad and to expand their career choices.

Newspaper Article in the Netherlands


The problem of leakage of contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is still ongoing and has become widely known throughout the world. The media abroad has been reporting frequently on this fragile situation.

I served as the chairman of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), the first independent investigation commission in the constitutional history of Japan, and the Commission’s report has been highly evaluated by the world. As a result, I have been interviewed many times by the foreign press. This is a major issue facing Japan and I feel it is my duty to speak out in the media.

Recently, I was interviewed by Trouw, the major newspaper in the Netherlands. Through this website, I received an email from Ms. Nishimoto, who read this article and kindly translated it into Japanese. This is possible in the age of the internet. I made some edits and it can be read here in Japanese version. Its English version was translated by Mr. Wouter van Cleef, who wrote the original article in Dutch.

“Japan Needs Independent and ‘Against the Grain’ Thinkers.” (Trouw, 2013/9/16)
in English
in Japanese

I would like to send my thanks to Ms. Nishimoto.

My message in the article is quite the same as you see often in my blog posts, eg, most recent one, my speech at GRIPS Commencement.

My Commencement Speech at the Autumn Graduation Ceremony at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)


The autumn graduation ceremony at GRIPS is made up of mostly foreign students (seventy percent of the students are foreign students who come from over sixty different countries). The diversity and uniqueness of each country shines through and is awe-inspiring and is a rare sight in Japan. The ambassadors and staff members from embassies of the students’ countries often are present at the ceremony.

This year, the graduation ceremony was held on September 17th. The program includes the conferment of diplomas, the Dean’s award, the President’s address, and the valedictory speech.

I was chosen to give the Commencement speech. I am grateful for this opportunity. It is my third time this year to give a commencement speech. In April, I gave the speech at the entrance ceremony at the University of Tokyo (although it is not the graduation ceremony, I believe it has the same significance as graduation ceremonies in universities abroad), and in July have the speech at the graduation ceremony at the United Nations University (1).

In recent years at GRIPS, one person has been chosen to give the commencement speech. Last year, it was given by the executive director of ASEAN, Surin Pitsuwan (the speech can be viewed here).

The speech for the 2010 graduation ceremony was given by Haruhiko Kuroda, who has been paid much attention recently by the world on ‘Abenomic’ as head of Bank of Japan and he was the President of the Asian Development Bank at the time.

It is my hope that my wishes and congratulations that I have poured into the commencement speech (video is here) will reach outgoing student hearts.

I am always filled with a feeling of awe at graduation ceremonies, from which young people take off and carry the future on their shoulders.

This is a privilege that comes with being involved in education.

Philadelphia-2: Fireside Chat With Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa


The main objective of this trip was to attend the two day conference of the Japan America Society of Philadelphia “Health Sciences Dialogue,” which I had been invited to for several times in the past but had not been able to attend. As an organization that connects Japanese pharmaceutical companies and various bio-venture companies, it has received high acclaim.

A breakfast meeting in Japanese was arranged from seven a.m. primarily for around ten people for Japan and we had a lively and interesting discussion.

The session began at nine a.m. Mr. Ai, the Director of the Public Information Center of the Consulate General of Japan in New York, gave his greetings.

The session and panelists covered the topics of biotech venture and venture capital, focusing on the pharmaceutical sector in the United States and Japan. After lunch was my turn to speak at the eighty minute session entitled, “Fireside Chat with Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa: How Can Japan Better Foster Innovation?” I took questions from David Flores (Co-Founder of BioCentury Publications) and Howard Brooks (Partner, Americas Life Sciences Sector Leader, Ernst and Young: I was also able to talk with Glen Giovannetti, who specializes in the same area), and the rest was a question and answer dialogue session with the audience.

Philadelphia is a place to which I have many strong ties. The University of Philadelphia was the first place I lived abroad, and it was in the two years that I spent there that I changed my career from being based in Japan to the world. It was also here that Umeko Tsuda, for whom I have the utmost respect, studied abroad (please search on this site, “Umeko Tsuda”), as well as where Hideyo Noguchi, whom I have touched upon through my work with the Noguchi Hideyo Africa Prize (1) began his global career. It is a place of many fond memories for me.

I was able to spend a fulfilling day here at the session.

The next day, I departed at seven a.m. and after a three-hour drive by car, reached JFK and boarded my flight.

My stay in Philadelphia was a quick but nostalgic, meaningful trip.

Philadelphia-1: Visit to Swarthmore College


Philadelphia was the first place that I lived in the United States (and my first time abroad). I was a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania for two years. It is over forty years ago. It was there that I had the inspirational encounter with Professor Howard Rasumussen, my boss at the time, who had a major influence on my future.

I departed from Haneda Airport on September 9th and arrived in JFK in New York City and took a three hour drive by car towards Philadelphia. I checked in at the Union League (1) which was built with the goal of supporting President Lincoln 150 years ago and is affiliated with the Republican Party. There are portraits of past presidents from the Republican Party.

After resting briefly, I headed towards Swarthmore College, where I met with President Rebecca Chopp. It has been three years since our last meeting.

Swarthmore College is a prestigious and top ranking Liberal Arts College in the US and is nearby Bryn Mawr College (where Umeko Tsuda (1 in Japanese, 2 in Japanese, 3) studied), and Haverford College (where Akira Irie, a well known professor of history at Harvard University and is an alumni of my high school, studied), together with which it comprises the Tri-College Consortium. There is a bus that runs between the three colleges.

I met with President Chopp, three Japanese women on the faculty, Kozue Tsunoda, Yoshiko Shiro, and Atsuko Suda (I have the impression that among the Japanese who have active careers abroad, many are women, thus I felt it was again the case this time). I also met with Dr. William Gardner, who teaches Japanese Studies (he has lived in Japan on the JET Program). We talked of many things for about an hour.

There are just under 400 students each year at this university. In their freshman year, all students live in on-campus dormitories and afterwards about ninety percent of students live in dormitories. There is no graduate school. As the students here are very talented and study hard, and the education level is very high, graduate schools welcome them with open arms.

This university is only a few kilometers away from where I used to live, so I went around the area, but everything had changed, with little remnants of the past. Only the train tracks remained the same.

It was a beautiful university campus and a nostalgic place for me. Time flies by quickly.

Scientific Journal ‘Nature’ Voices Concerns over Fukushima Disaster; What Must We Do?


It may be hard to believe that the situation at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant is getting any better. This is a fact that is  clear to anyone.

The briefings on the situation by TEPCO are undecipherable (they are completely lacking any effort of being understood by the Japanese public as well as the international community, making statements that suggest that they think it is someone else’s problem) . And so too the information from the central government, as well as plans for the response to the crisis. With an overwhelming lack of transparency, there is no explanation as to the reasons behind the plan of action, leading to a loss of trust from the whole world as well as here at home.

Curiously, the Japanese media has also lost its courage, with less and less critical coverage, leaving the people of the nation without a voice. Even if one has information of critical importance, it is rarely divulged for fear of endangering one’s job or position. All this deception is counter-productive, and will only lead to a loss of faith from the international community.

The respected scientific journal ‘Nature’ has also lost patience with the situation, and has put forth a strong stance (Japanese version). The internet is buzzing with opinions being passed back and forth. Twitter too, has many examples of such activity.

A disaster on such a scale with dire implications on an international level as the one at Fukushima disaster would do well to pay heed to the lessons learnt through the British government’s response (1) to the outbreak of BSE.

Costly mistakes were made in the early stages, from the discovery of the first cases and the initial response, resulting in the disease spreading to humans. This was followed by  countermeasures based on the recommendations of the EU’s Scientific Steering Committee, and the struggle to regain consumer confidence in the scientific advances of the age. In the end it took more than two decades before British beef could be exported after the discovery of BSE ( it is interesting to note that here too, the Japanese government made a mess of the situation).

What we need is an independent international committee, committed to scientific principles and transparency to come up with solutions to the problem and make proposals to the government, which in turn will make decisions and execute these solutions. We need a plan of action that deals with the mid and long-term plans of the Fukushima Disaster, and we need it to be shared with the world.

Independence, transparency, public disclosure, adherence to scientific principles and an international approach are a must as a first step towards recovery of trust in this globalized day and age. It is because of these factors that the NAIIC was so highly rated and respected, earning the trust of the global community, and there is an urgent need for the public to understand this.

Visitors to my blog here, what do you think? The State Government that loses the trust of the nation will a long take time to regain it.

It’s already two-and-a-half years since the Fukushima nuclear accident.

My Support for the “Audacious Young Lady” and the Publication of The Vulnerable Evacuees



It has been thirty months since the Fukushima nuclear accident, and fourteen months have passed since the NAIIC’s report was submitted to the Diet.

How will Japan and the world go change in the future?

It has been decided that the 2020 Olympics will be held in Tokyo. This is good news.

There are people who have gone through a dramatic change in their careers after participating in work at the NAIIC. One of them is Mr. Tsuyoshi Shiina, who became a Diet member and another is Mr. Satoshi Ishibashi, who launched a project called “The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission in Plain Language” to name a few.

Ms. Yurina Aikawa is one of them. One day she contacted us to join the work of the NAIIC. She had been working at one of the major newspapers for two years during which she participated in research on the Fukushima nuclear accident. This past August 30th, her book was published. The book is named Hinanjakusha [The Vulnerable Evacuees: What Occurred at the Elderly Care Facilities near the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant on that Day], which was written based on the research conducted by herself.

I paid tribute to her book by offering some words at the end of the book. Her compelling document simply moved me. I’d like to share excerpts of my comments with you.

First of all, the excerpt shown on the outer flap is as follows:

“A variety of cases emerged through her scrupulous interviews which connect readers directly to the scenes. The interviews illustrated the anguishes and hard decisions of many people by shedding light on the vulnerable people whose fates are out of their control. The people who support the vulnerable have experienced unfathomable distress. Her interview gave insight into each individual’s way of life on the ground. She reported the sufferings, heartfelt stories, and numerous tragedies.

What can we learn from Ms. Aikawa’s reports? Her reports are based on the interviews, which she conducted continuously on the ground. How should we deal with such a reality? This is a question that this book asks every one of us.”

About Ms. Aikawa:

After the Commission dissolved, I talked to Ms. Aikawa, who had resigned her job at a newspaper in order to join the work at the NAIIC, saying, “Thank you for all your work here. What are you going to do from now on?” Then she answered,

“I’m going to continue this research on my own because I must find more about those people and document them.” However reckless she might appear, there exist some young people who are audacious enough to make such bold decisions. We were surprised by her decision to join the NAIIC, but I was even more astonished with this decision. Then I felt a deep feeling coming over me.

Her lone battle began. However, people started to offer cooperation and support for her project. This is the book in which this audacious young lady’s research was documented … I’m delighted and deeply acknowledge all the credit the author deserves. I want to congratulate her with my personal support for this book.”

If you find her book in a bookstore, please take a look. And if you like it, please buy it. Of course, the book is also available at Amazon.

The wonderful video which brought the NAIIC report to life was created by young people on their own initiative as I have introduced it at the last column (1).

With young people who have such independent spirit and mind, doesn’t it make you sense a bit of hope for our future?