Conferring with the WDC at the WHO HQ in Geneva


I left Haneda on the 15th of March. Headed for Geneva via Helsinki, where the World Dementia Council and the Ministerial Council were to convene at the headquarters of the WHO on the 16th and the 17th. Due to some restrictions from the requirements of the National Assembly, the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare from Japan was unable to attend, but a delegation headed by Hara Katsunori (Vice-Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare) and including people like Dr. Toba, President of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, attended.

The conference on the following day was aided by the wonderful weather as the participants successfully created an atmosphere conducive to understanding the problems at hand, and sharing the urgency reminiscent of the UK government in August 2013 regarding the issue of dementia.

The discussion at WHO centered around the initiatives being taken in middle- and low-income countries. There were also many positive reviews of the event that had been organized in Japan Legacy Event in November, and many of the participating countries showed their appreciation referring to ‘Japan, Japan’. This left a strong impression on me as the first day drew to a close.

At the conference hall, the WDC distributed copies of the report that summarized their activities.

On the first night, we attended a reception organized by the British Embassy. Jeremy Hunt, the British Secretary of State for Health, was also attending. As I greeted him, he remarked that he had heard that there were over 4 million ‘Dementia Friends’ in Japan. I conveyed to him that the actual number was closer to 5.6 million, which was almost 5% of the total population of Japan.

The next day the director-general of WHO, Margaret Chan greeted the congregation, followed by Minister Hunt, representing the UK which was spearheading this initiative. He mentioned tin his speech the figure that I had mentioned to him yesterday, saying that ‘In Japan, we have nearly 5% of the population participating as Dementia Friends…’. Even discounting the fact that Katsunori Hara had presented earlier in the day, the initiatives taken by Japan were repeatedly highlighted, and the delegation from Japan were excited about the interest that they had garnered.

After the conference had concluded, we paid a visit to the headquarters of the Japanese Mission in Geneva, meeting with Ambassador Otabe and Ambassador Kaji (in Japanese), before returning to WHO to meet with Dr. Nakatani, who had been shouldering the responsibility of Assistant Director General for almost 8 years. We listened to him talking about the various activities and the administrative challenges. We go back a long way since his time at the MHLW.

Later, the 10 members of the Japanese delegation got together and discussed the achievements of the past two days over dinner.

My flight the next day was in the afternoon, and so I spent my time at St. Pierre Cathedral, which is famous as the adopted church of John Calvin, the famous theologian involved in the Protestant Reformation. I was able to see some very interesting historical documents and testimonies.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to refer to incunabula in my talks, and the displayed information about the printing of the Gutenberg Bible and the ensuing reformation in Christianity held a special interest for me.

Meeting at Sendai with Young Entrepreneurs Active in Tohoku Reconstruction Efforts


On the afternoon of March 14th, I headed to Sendai. I gave the closing presentation in the event, “The Role of Entrepreneurs in Disaster Recovery.” This was the public forum for the International Disaster Prevention Conference, hosted by Sendai City.

The keynote speech was by Professor Michi Fukushima of Tohoku University, followed by excellent presentations by five young people filled with entrepreneurial spirit (1).

These young people who chose to work in northeastern Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake have diverse backgrounds, including those who lost their families during the earthquake, those who found their homes gone and were in shock, and those who left their jobs in other parts of Japan or abroad to go to destroyed towns and some return to their hometowns to become involved in reconstruction efforts.

This includes Mr. Masatsura Takahashi of Iwakitakahashi, Mr. Mitsuhiro Sato of Shimatsuji-kojiten, Ms. Ruriko Mitarai of Kesennuma Knitting, Ms. Megumi Hikichi of Walatis, Mr. Hiroki Iwasa of General Reconstruction Association (GRA) and others.

They are all truly incredible, amazing young individuals. They all have made use of the unique tradition, culture, and environment as well gotten people involved in the creation of a new social value (this is my definition of innovation), overcoming obstacles with their hopes and devotion. People who supported this process started to appear and join, forming a new organization and creating a raison d’être that they had in common.

It is the third time this year that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Mitarai, who has a global perspective and is able to widen the framework of the work that she is doing.

Finally, I gave my talk, focusing on projects which are helping to foster young people who are active in such reconstruction efforts in the Tohoku area. I spoke about the activities by IMPACT Japan, Qatar and the Intilaq project, “Tohoku Innovators Hub.”

I had a wonderful time sharing such experiences with impressive young people.

I also got to see five MBA students from the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business who I had just met two days ago.

The Japanese-American Delegation’s visit to Japan and Students of the Dartmouth Tuck School


On March 12th, I attended a lunch organized by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership on “Japanese American Leaders and Japan-US Relations.” The organizer was Irene Hirano Inouye, the wife of the late Senator Daniel Inouye. This time, as the main event held in Hiroshima was on the topic of “Ageing Society and Dementia” (in Japanese), I was able to meet with Professor Morimoto among others and had a very productive and pleasant time.

I spoke on the topics of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) (1), and my recent activities as a council member of the G8 World Dementia Council (1), established by the initiative of the UK government.

It was a beautiful day at the Meiji Kinenkan and I enjoyed meeting with many incredible people. I will update you when the details of the rest of the “Japanese American leaders” visit are uploaded on the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership website.

In the afternoon, I led a seminar at GRIPS with students from the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College. The title of my talk was my usual “Uncertain Times.” I started my talk by speaking about Kanichi Asakawa. He is an important historical figure as he is the first Japanese graduate of Dartmouth College and the first Japanese professor at Yale University (as well as the first Japanese professor at any university abroad in a developed country at the time). I wrote about him in my Chairman’s message at the start of the NAIIC report. I also mentioned that Jim Kim, the current President of the World Bank, was selected for the post when he was serving as the President of Dartmouth College.

The professor who led the students told me that it had been an excellent two hours and asked if I would visit Dartmouth, to which I answered, of course.

It was a truly enjoyable day.