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.

Tallberg Forum 2013


On the morning of the 12th of June, I left Narita for Stockholm, passing through Copenhagen. I had been invited to attend the opening session of the Tallberg Forum.

I was to spend the morning in Stockholm at the headquarters of Vattenfall(1), the largest public sector energy company in Sweden. There, I would be talking to the directors of the company, as well as giving a talk about the NAIIC to the employees. Of course, I happily obliged.

Afterwards, I was interviewed by the Swedish national public broadcaster, and it was aired on the news(*1). Incidentally, my interviewer had been in Japan for 3 years 20 years ago, and had been working at NHK.

Afterwards, I joined up with my friends Anders Wijkman and Sundaram Tagore(*2) and together we headed for Tallberg, reaching our destination after a 3 hour drive.

After a panel discussion in the evening, there was a reception dinner for the King of Sweden, to which I was invited. I had already had the privilege of meeting the King 2 or 3 times in Japan, and over here, he was surrounded by the delegates. I also talked with the officials escorting the King.

The dinner was attended by around 40 people, but I was lucky enough to sit next to the table shared by the founder of the Forum, Bo Eckman and the King, Carl Gustaf the 16th, and I was able to go over to their table and talk with the king. We talked about topics such as the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize and his Highness’s visit to Japan and meeting with the Emperor of Japan to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus.

For the inaugural panel on the first day, the talk by Robert Corell on climate change was wonderful. On the second day, I was invited by Eckman to a panel discussion with two other participants to exchange ideas on what the agenda for the world should be.

The discussion revolved around how the globalizing world was influencing decisions about the places people decide to go, and what the right thing to do is, and a lot of varied opinions were voiced in the pursuit of an elusive answer. There was uncertainty all around, and the more seriously one thought, the more perilous the next step seemed, and this led to a general sense of frustration.

The location was a wonderful place, and even the sudden bursts of rain could do little to dampen the charm. A sense of living in harmony with a harsh natural surrounding and at the same time caring for it pervaded this area, speaking of the  wisdom of ages past. There was a harmonious blend of modern day convenience and the protection of nature, as exemplified by the train stations at appropriate intervals.

Last year, I wrote about my speech at Oslo, where I said that the natural environment of any country reflected the national spirit of that nation, as a sign of wisdom in practice. Maybe its only natural for human beings to feel this way, to somehow be get the feeling that one is at home when surrounged by nature.

On the last day of the conference, the 15th, I left Tallberg at noon and got onto a plane headed for London.

*1: In this interview, particular attention was paid to my comments about how ‘Groupthink’ is the critical weakness of Japan, because it led to, among other failings, a disregard for ‘obligation to dissent’. These structural deficiencies have led to the fragility of the so-called elites in Japan.
This was also a view apparently shared by the editor of the piece.

*2: My first words upon meeting him were,”are you related to that Tagore?”it turns out that he is  Rabindranath’s great-grandson. It should have been obvious, but it was only a matter of my not knowing. He is a wonderful person, famous as an artist and for his films.  Tagore the great grandfather was  Asia’s first Nobel Prize laureate, and a contemporary of Tenshin Okakura, with whom he had friendly ties. Okakura realized on going to India for the first time that all of Asia was one, and he stayed on for more than a year, later going on to forge ties between Japan and the U.S. There were many visionaries like him in this era, and they were the true elite, a breed that is sadly hard to come across today.

Distinguished Achievement Award by the Tokyo American Club


I had the honor of receiving the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Tokyo American Club (TAC). It is an award that started in 1995 -see the list of awardees.

I was on the cover story of the January issue of “iTOUCH” magazine and as this was in the lounge of Narita Airport, I received emails about it from some friends. The title of piece of my interview was “The Protuding Nail” (pp. 23-27). There are some small, old pictures of myself and colleagues during my University of California days, which made me think fondly of those times.

If you read the article, it will be clear who recommended me. I would like to express my sincere thanks.

The day after returning from Boston, on February 18, I attended the celebratory event by the TAC. Minoru Makihara, the executive consultant of Mitsubishi Corporation, the wife of Ambassador Roos, and former Ambassador and Mrs Fujisaki, who had been the Japanese Ambassador to the Unites States until last year (although the Ambassador had to leave early), as well as many friends including those from GRIPS, HGPI and IMPACTJapan were kind enough to attend.

The awards ceremony began with my introduction, followed by my short speech, and a friendly discussion for forty minutes.

In my speech, I touched upon being a “decent” Japanese, as well as various individuals who were bridges between Japan and the United States, especially Beate Sirota Gordon, who passed away at the end of last year. I would be pleased if you would read a little about her.

Many happy things have continued for me.


University Reforms are Urgent, the Nikkei Series


University reforms are proceeding at a snail’s pace. Regarding the autumn graduation at the University of Tokyo, steps are being taken forward and the media is paying much attention to it, but the media has called it a mere receiving tray for society, focusing more on the details and reasons why it cannot be done.

The top universities of today will lose relevance if they do not make both their education and research open to diversity and the global.

Lately, the morning edition of the Nikkei has been running a series on university reforms as well as a corresponding online series.

I have been interviewed for this series and it can be summarized in the key phrase “the O-sumo-nization of universities”(1) (in Japanese, you can access many other articles from the Nikkei series from here), which I have been advocating from the time of Prime Minister Koizumi. If you search “university reform” and “O-sumo-nization” on this website, you will find many articles.

As usual, this is an “intellectually closed country” (1, 2).

The Japanese public must be truly concerned about university education in Japan. However, they judge people based on their universities, rather than evaluating the students themselves. They were both irresponsible. After all, it is because both were contained within the framework of the past.

A country’s core is the development of the people. What kind of people will the leaders of each field foster, and what direction do they want to take Japan in this world where the future is unforeseeable?

We cannot lay the blame on the young people. For “children are mirrors of society.”

It is the students’ choice what they want to do, including taking a leave of absence from university (1) and taking a gap year.


My Thoughts in the Japan Times and the University of Tokyo School of Medicine Alumni Newsletter, “The Iron Gate Newsletter”


Even in the New Year, I have had many interviews regarding the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). Abroad, not only has the report been well received, but also elements of the process, including public disclosure, transparency, high awareness of the global audience, and efforts to communicate in layman’s English have been evaluated highly.

This may also include feelings of hope for Japan to change, the Abe Cabinet, and the significance of NAIIC.

In February, I will be traveling to many places for NAIIC related panels, awards, and speeches: San Fransisco- Stanford University, Paris (OECD) - Boston (AAAS), Rio de Janeiro (InterAcademy Panel). I will be very busy, but I think of it as being good publicity for Japan.

Recently there has been an article in the Japan Times, “What Japan Needs to Do”, which features interviews with five people including myself, as well as the article, “Making Democracy Truly Work” (in Japanese) in the University of Tokyo School of Medicine Alumni Newsletter, “The Iron Gate Newsletter.”

In this way, the word is getting out.


Awarded the Tokyo American Club: Distinguished Achievement Award


Last December I was notified that I would be receiving the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Tokyo American Club (TAC). I was interviewed by the TAC’s monthly magazine, “iNTOUCH,” for their article introducing me.

I have visited and given talks at the TAC a number of times and was happy to receive the award.

The January issue of “iNTOUCH” is out now. If you have visited TAC, you will have seen many copies of “iNTOUCH” with my picture on the cover and the article with the title “The Protruding Nail.” (PDF)

The interview (PDF) tells my story, highlighting the impact that the first words of my professor in the United States had on me, and covering my subsequent career and lifestyle, my work after returning to Japan, and the recent Fukushima nuclear accident. I would be happy if you read it.

It is true that I have quite an unusual career. Some old pictures of fond memories are included in the article.


A New Year’s Conversation and an Invitation to Two Events


I would like to wish all my readers a Happy New Year, although we are already deep into the new year, but please bear with me.

Parliamentary power lies with the Abe administration for a second time. Many committees have been newly set up, and each Government Ministry is surely running at full steam, oblivious to the New Year’s holidays in order to come up with supplementary and revised budgets.

As for myself, I too have kept myself somewhat busy.

I have added here a link to my ‘New Year’s Conversation’ with Chief Representative of the Komeito, Mr. Yamaguchi. This conversation was carried on the New Year’s issue of the Komei Newspaper, and although short, I think it is familiar to those who have been visiting my blog after the ‘Fukushima Commission’.

I would also like to invite my readers to participate in two events.

1) First is an event organized by AGOS in Shibuya, Tokyo on the 14th of January that starts at 2p.m where I have been invited to talk. AGOS is a company that supports students who want to study abroad. I will try my best to adopt a discussion approach, so feel free to drop by!

AGOS is an organization supporting studies abroad and is headed by Mr. Yokoyama, who is an alumni of UCLA. Having studied there as an undergraduate, he went on to become the head manager for the college basketball team, a post made famous by the legend John Wooden. His post was a first for any Asian, let alone any Japanese person. Apart from his activities at AGOS, he is also a generous supporter of the H-LAB program, which as you may know makes frequent appearances on this blog.

2) On the 29th of January, starting from 7pm, this time held in Marunouchi, Tokyo, we will begin a series of seminars in the run-up to the TICAD 5 event that will be held in June at Yokohama. The first of the series is ‘Keys to Economic Growth in Africa: Global Health’, and the panel is moderated by Ken Shibusawa of JCIE , with two panelists Mr Sato of Africa Business Partner (in Japanese) and me from the Health and Global Policy Institute(HGPI). I would like to call upon those who are interested in African Development, and even those who are just curious, to take part. Incidentally, I myself have been to Nairobi (1,2) recently, in October.

Today in the morning, the HGPI held a special breakfast meeting to listen to Mr. Jay Singh’s talk. It will be heartening to see the cooperation of Japanese companies and ODA of USA in the near future.

Turns out to have been a busy start to the year.


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.

My Perspective on the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC): Making the Democratic System Work


I have given my views on the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) numerous times on this blog and in many other media.

If Japan does not learn from the lessons of Fukushima nor change the many systematic problems of Japanese society, I believe that it is inevitable for this country to sink. My views on this can be found in the article, “Japan will Sink if it Does not Change Now” (English translation) which was run on October 11 in the Sankei Shinbun newspaper.

My opinion is also in the recent article “Self-Approved Personnel and the Return of Rule by the Nuclear Village” (English translation) which was run in the Tokyo Shinbun newspaper (and the Chunichi Shinbun) on November 8.

Post-Fukushima, it is difficult to tell what will be the future of Japan’s accident response, the direction of the energy policy and nuclear power, the new nuclear power regulatory committee, the processing of spent fuel rods, and other such discussions and policies regarding nuclear power.

However, it is clear that adequate time must be given to discuss these issues, and that the whole debate has become narrowed into the two camps of “denuclearization” and “embracing nuclear power.”

Further, it seems that the nuclear power issues are being dealt with in a cloud of opaqueness and ambiguity. As usual, the ideas are short sighted and there is low transparency.

What are your views on this matter?

The main message of our NAIIC report is that regarding these nuclear issues, the Diet, which is the legislative branch, must keep the executive branch in check.

The separation of power into the three branches is the foundation of a democratic system. Yet, in Japan, the ministries of the executive branch both make and implement policies. There is something wrong here. The functions of governance are not working.

Recently, courts have ruled that the malapportionment of electorates when the ratio of the most populous to least populous district is 1:5, is unconstitutional. Yet, lawmakers have not done anything in response. Both the public and the legislative body had accepted the ratio of 1:3 and 1:4. The judiciary has been weak and the legislative body has not dealt with it in a responsible manner. Please think about why this is so.

My hope is that you would consider my comments and take action to push lawmakers, who you have elected into office, to implement the recommendations by NAIIC.

Such awareness and behavior is one of the key fundamentals necessary to make Japan’s democratic system work (in Japanese).

My Comments on Dr. Yamanaka’s Nobel Prize


It is wonderful that Shinya Yamanaka was recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. In October, I met Dr. Yamanaka when he attended the STS Forum in Kyoto. I have touched upon this briefly in a previous blog post.

It is an amazing achievement with a very significant impact and the world had been waiting with high expectations. The first report was published only in 2006, so it goes to show how large an impact Dr. Yamanaka’s findings on the iPS had. I am truly overjoyed.

Regarding the Nobel Prize, I have written about it many times on this site, and this time I was asked by many newspapers to give my comments. I continue to hold the same view as I have in the past(in Japanese).

My opinion focuses on the issue that faces Japanese universities and society at large, and is thought to be the norm in Japan- the “vertical society.”

I have explained my views in the following articles:

1.  “The University of Tokyo and the Nobel Prize” (in Japanese)

2.  “Why it is Difficult for the University of Tokyo to Create Nobel Laureates” (in Japanese)

3.  “The Noble Prize and the Academy Awards” (in Japanese)

4.  “Cultivation of the Future Generation is Fundamental to the Nation” (in Japanese)

5.  “Celebrating the 100th Year of the Nobel Prize” (in Japanese)

6.  “Japan’s Challenges for Training Future Scientists” (in Japanese)

7.  “Cultivating the ‘Nail that Sticks Out’ through World Exchange” (in Japanese)

The impact of the research conducted by Dr. Yamanaka and others like him is not merely something that can be measured by the “impact factor.” Rather, it has IMPACT on the whole world.

This kind of research is often born out of the rebellious spirit that comes not from the mainstream way of thinking, but from the "crazy ones."(1)

At this time in the twenty-first century, there have been eleven Japanese who have been awarded the Nobel Prize. Out of these eleven, Dr Nanbu (Noble Prize in Physics), Dr. Shimomura (Chemistry), and Dr. Negishi (Chemistry) have built their careers abroad, in the United States. Dr Tonegawa is also a similar case, having worked in San Diego and in Basel.

You must not be afraid to be “the nail that sticks out” or one of the “crazy ones.” For it is the nail that sticks out that changes the world.