National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission(NAIIC) -9: Continuation of our Activities, the Swedish Delegation and Interview Articles


The opinion that the NAIIC report has been shelved is often heard in the media.

Considering the recent reshuffling and party election, Diet members have plenty to deal with, and considering the conflicts with neighboring countries on the issues of Takeshima and Senkaku Islands, it must not be easy for the government at this time.  Regardless of what is happening inside Japan, the world is constantly changing.

Political leadership of the government has been weak for some time lacking a clear vision of the future; bureaucrats should have a sense of responsibility and preparedness, but much of the public may feel that this is not the case.

In contrast, our NAIIC report has been released and published in bookstores, even available on Amazon On-line. We hope that it will be continue to be read widely (it is quite alright if you do not read the entire report).

In order to raise wider awareness of the Commission’s objectives and the main points of the Report, the members of the Commission and research team have been giving talks and engage in interviews for television and newspapers as often as possible, though there are some limitations.

Iwanami Shoten Publishers ran an article in the magazine “Kagaku (in English ‘Science),” of my interview about my opinion on the democratic system of NAIIC’s role (in Japanese).  I would be delighted if you read it.

I have previously written about my talk at the Association of Cooperative Executives (Keizai-Do-Yukai) and Nihonmatsu City Auditorium in Fukushima.  By going to “Articles List” on this site, it is possible to see some such articles (many are in Japanese and other articles may not be available here because only paying members of the websites can access them). Since my blog posting on August 16, there have been many talks and interviews, about which I have written on this blog.

Recent talks and interviews include the Embassy of Sweden’s Kamedo Delegation (the picture at the
top of the page is of the meeting
), another talk in Fukushima and a number of interviews (in Japanese).

Through thinking about the role of NAIIC as well as what each individual person can do, I hope that we can bring about change in Japan.


Recognizing “Strengths” from “Weaknesses,” Can Japan Change?


A year and a half has passed since 3.11.

The world has seen people who have lost their families and their livelihoods, people who have suffered incredible damages, and the grace of such a people in having quietly helped each other through the sadness without any rioting or upheaval.

After the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant, I believe the world was moved by the dedication and self-sacrifice of the people at the plant, who were called the “Fukushima 50.”

Yet, after a year and a half, has Japan missed its chance to change?

On December 1, just before the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Investigation Commission began, I wrote an article with my colleague Hiromi Murakami in the Japan Times, titled, “Fukushima crisis fueling the third opening of Japan.”  It was just at the time when the TPP was big news.  The title of the entry in my blog is “Let the People Trigger ‘The Third Opening of Japan’ ?The Start of a New Movement.”  After 3.11, many young people started becoming active in rebuilding society anew, and this gave me hope that it would be a trigger for the “third opening”of Japan.  They are my hope, as the country as a whole is tangled up in the ties with special interest groups, leaving national policies on the TPP and relations with neighboring countries at a standstill, while the world around it proceeds to change.

Much of the world’s trust in Japan was lost after seeing that 3.11 was the terrible product of the leadership of the government-industry-bureaucracy triangle.

The title of the article, “The Third Opening of Japan,”gathered attention and was included in the ebook, Reconstructing 3.11 (amazon) as the essay “History: Japan’s third opening rises from black waters” (by Hiromi Murakami and Kiyoshi Kurokawa).

However, after a year and a half has passed since the disaster, what is being done for the recovery, especially at Fukushima?  Has the strong perseverance of the Japanese people been channeled into a large movement?  On the contrary, the sight of the people in Iwate and northern areas working silently everyday is heartbreaking, as politicians and the public administration seem to have taken advantage of the prevalent sense of resignation and passiveness.  Or perhaps, they view the situation a little too lightly, and this has resulted in the delay of implementing necessary policies.

At this time, a similar opinion appeared in the New York Times. In Japanese the article is called, “Japanese have started to change” but in English the article is titled, “In Fukushima, Surreal Serenity.”  The article is by Kumiko Makihara.

The solemn “anti-nuclear protests” which are held every Friday at six p.m. in front of the Prime Minister’s Office are different from the past and they seem to be conducted voluntarily.  These expressions of opinions in the face of power may be one visible sign that Japanese are changing.

However, as can be seen by watching the media coverage, the political world still continues its small power games, the direction the country is heading in is unclear and the situation does not appear to be improving.  Taking advantage of the government’s lack of power, the public offices of the bureaucracy have made no effort to change anything, silently continuing their “work” (or rather the preservation of vested interests).  The status quo’s tremendous resistance is an underlying factor of “Japan which cannot change” and “drifting Japan” in a transforming world.

Why is this so, and what should we do?

The answer may be found at the end of Ms. Makihara’s article: “The challenge this nation now faces is how to nurture healthy skepticism alongside such admirable perseverance.”


National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) -7: Reaction of the Media


When announcing the release of our report, I expected the media’s reaction to be if not entirely negative, not to be glowing praise.  That is just how the media works.

The media has particularly criticized that the first part of the simultaneously released Japanese “Overview” and the English “Executive Summary” are not the same.  Further, some media reports have criticized the English version for the “Japanese culture argument.”

Overseas, articles in The Guardian and the Financial Times criticized that blaming culture prevents charging anyone with responsibility.

However, it is necessary to keep in mind that although the Japanese “Overview” and the English “Executive Summary” are similar in length, they differ in content.

There have also been many positive evaluations of the report in the foreign media.

One example is the article by CNN

The article below offers a particularly good analysis.  Perhaps because Dr. Chacko knows me well.

Within the media, there is a wide spectrum of views.  The report has received wide coverage abroad.


National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) -5: An “Unexpected,” Encouraging Message Received at the Start of the Commission


As NAIIC is the first independent investigation commission established by the National Diet in the constitutional history of Japan, we faced many difficulties, especially in the beginning when we were getting the Commission on its feet.

The first Commission meeting was held in Fukushima on December 18th and 19th.  One can tell from the date of the second meeting, January 16th, held a month after the first, how much we were struggling to find the way forward.

It was this second meeting to which a journalist from the British publication, The Economist, came.  The journalist later wrote something rather unexpected in an article (although this actually had been one of NAIIC's aims).

The article has a compelling title: "Japan’s nuclear crisis; The Meltdown and the media".  It can be assumed from the initials that the journalist who wrote it is Mr. Ken Cukier, who came to the second Commission meeting.  Moreover, the date of the article matches that of the meeting, indicating the quick work of the writer.

As we in the Commission were well aware of the heavy criticism the Japan National "Press Club" has received in the world, we made sure that the Commission meetings were accessible to the everyone in the public, even providing simultaneous English translation. This comes from our strong hope that the world will also watch and follow our Commission.

I was very pleased that this article accurately and immediately brought attention to this point.

In my column, I have mentioned a number of times (1, 2, I believe there are more articles, please search within this website) that The Economist is a weekly publication that I am fond of.

The article’s focus on this issue attests to its quality.

Although it is a bit delayed, I would like to express my thanks to Ken.


Report from the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission -1


As you know, I have been refraining from posting my views on this blog or sending out message via twitter since the beginning of this year.

It is because I was assigned as the Chairman of the National Diet of Japan
Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC
) launched on December 8th last year, as I have explained in my postings of January 1st , 2nd , and 3rd. I did not wish to evoke any unnecessary misunderstandings by expressing my private views on blogs or twitter, regardless of the relevance (to the commission) of the topics I choose.

NAIIC submitted the report to both the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the House of Councilors on July 5th, approximately 6 months after the launch of the Committee. My appointment at the Chairman officially ended on the day after the completion and submission of the report.

You will find media coverage in various forms by searching on the web by the key word “NAIIC”. I made comments in several television broadcasts and other media in the evening of the very day we submitted the report, and also in the next morning. Now that this frenzy is soothing down a bit, I think it is time for us to start making steady efforts in sharing this report with all the committee members of the Diet and the citizens of Japan, in various settings and places.

How the Diet reads and responds to our recommendations is surveyed and reported in many ways by the media, and we all know that their reactions are inevitably affected by the political climate which is very turbulent these days. At any rate, I do not hesitate to say that we, as a committee, did our very best to fulfill our responsibilities, in a given very limited timeframe, starting from the setting up of our team from zero.

The report is constructed from “7 recommendations” to the Diet of Japan. It is quite important that we share this “7 recommendations” with the people of Japan, and ask them to support the members of the Diet they choose in taking actions. Doing so is one of the processes of empowering the functions of legislative body under the trias politica principle of democracy.

I have written my rough idea in an article; “Common Sense and Responsibilities of Democratic Nation: What Did the Kokkai Jikocyo Aim At?” (in Japanese under the title; "Minsyusyugi Kokka no Jyoshiki to Sekinin: Kokkai Jikocyo wa Nani wo Mezashitaknoka") which I contributed to the "Sekai" magazine published from Iwanami Shoten.

Recently, I spend my time visiting the heads of the towns and villages of Fukushima, of which the residents evacuated because of the nuclear power plant accident. It is shocking to learn how much difficulties the people are facing every day.


Media Lab in Tokyo -2


I reported to you in my posting of the other day about the MIT media Lab in Tokyo.  I hope you were able to have a glimpse of how it went by browsing through the links I have included in the text.

My friends and I are exploring the possibilities of launching something that would offer young people in Japan to experience, even for just a short period, the free and lively atmosphere which MIT Media Lab possess.

By the way, the Asahi Newspaper (Ref.1) (in Japanese) covered this event of MIT Media Lab in Tokyo in its digital newspaper of March 3.

As you see in this article, I commented that the drive force of changes in all times are the  “Crazy Ones”. They are, for example, Galileo or Darwin, the founders of modern science, and other change makers of each age.  In our time, we have Steve Jobs, the change maker of the 20th century.

It has been a broadly shared assumption until last year or so, that young people in Japan are “too inward oriented and isolationalist”, or “in low spirit”, but this seems doubtful to me.   From my point of view, it is more likely that there were not much “role models” broadly recognized in our society whom young people could look up to as their goals.

The drive force for change in any time is the “misfits of the time”, “out of the box talents”.  To name just a few from Japan of 40-50 years ago, are Mr. Ibuka and Mr. Morita of SONY, Mr. Soichiro Honda of Honda, or Mr. Ogura of Black Cat (Kuroneko Yamato).  I am certain that all of those people were labeld as misfits of the society back then.

In recent years follow Mr. Yanai of UniQlo, Mr. Mikitani of Rakuten, Mr. Son of Soft Bank, Mr. Niinami of Lawson, and so on.   They were also categorized as the “misfits” until just recetly.  Mr. Joi Ito, the Director of MIT Media Lab, is clearly one of them, too.

These people responded to the great quake and tsunami that hit Japan with great speed and drastic measures.

Yes, there is a lot to see in this world.  I urge you to go and grasp every bit of chance to expose yourself to things that might become your great goal, or things that you will find truely exciting, things that are worth persuing with all of your passion.  For university students, as I write in my blog postings every now and then, it would be a good option to follow my advice and “Take Leave of Absence from School”.

It is my hope and wish that “3.11” will become an big opportunity for young people to take leadership in realizing the “Third Opening of Japan”


The Committee of Parliament to Investigate the Accident at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants -3


I have posted two columns under this title since the New Year’s day.  Reports about this committee also appears in the English version of Japanese medias, so I received a number of messages and e-mails from my friends living abroad as well.

English reports appear on Yomiuri and Kyodo, for example.  I believe there are more, if you search for them….

I also intend to express my thoughts in English as much as possible.

Dr. Sunil Chako, a good friend of mine, recently contributed an article to the Huffingtonpost, a well known On-line English media.  I was very happy to read his article.

Your support is a great encouragement to us.


Let the People Trigger “The Third Opening of Japan” ? The Start of a New Movement


I think many people feel that the credibility of Japan has fallen sharply after the event of “3.11 Fukushima”.  I also regret to say that we do not see any signs yet of trust in Japan recovering.  Why is this so?  The recent issues of TPP or Olympus could be examples of reasons for such mistrust.

On the other hand, we witnessed how the people at the “3.11” stricken area have manifested their wonderful energy.  The whole world saw the fundamental strength embedded in the genes of the Japanese people.  But this is only one side of the coin, and if seen from the other side, we might also see the weakness of the Japanese people in being rather too quiet or obedient.

However, the local victims of the 3.11 Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami are now taking actions towards recovery.  While the government sector is doing nothing much than reciting the mantra of “the third opening of Japan”, the series of concrete actions taken by the civilian section may, in the end, pave the way in the real word towards the true “third opening of Japan”

Recently my colleague and I wrote an opinion in  Japan Times.  Hope you will take a look at it.





Liberal Arts Summer Course for High School Students Held by College Students from Harvard and Japan – 2


I gave the Keynote Speech on the first day of this Course.  I spoke on a number of points including how the world has changed dramatically in the past 100 years, how globalization has brought about incredibly rapid change in the past 20 years and how it is difficult to predict what is in store for us in the future in light of current worldwide situation.  I then, based on these thoughts, talked about why the Liberal Arts are so important.

Since this Summer Course was launched by a Harvard student, I also touched upon President Charles Eliot who, 100 years ago, transformed Harvard into the university it is today.  I fielded a number of questions and greatly enjoyed the interaction.

The next day, a reception was held in the evening at GRIPS with the Harvard Alumni Association also invited.  I also was able to attend and discovered that the talk by Tadashi Yanai of UniQlo that afternoon was a huge hit.  Listening to a number of the high school students in attendance, I found that everyone had been invigorated by their experiences of just two days and that they felt that their thoughts on their future had changed and they were now really grappling with what they wanted to do in the future.  That is a good thing.  Their lives have just begun and it is good to have an abundance of choices.

A video message has been posted from the main mover behind this Course, Ryosuke Kobayashi of Harvard and his comrades, and an article about the Course was also published in the Japan Times.

The events of the Course are scheduled to be posted on the web and our activities were also covered by a number of media outlets.  It should be fun to see what transpires.

Joi Ito and Hiroshi Ishii, the Two Japanese of the MIT Media Lab


MIT Media Lab is an internationally known research center.  Founded in 1985, many Japanese companies collaborated with this Lab in research projects so perhaps this might have made the Lab even more known in Japan.

A Big Bright News is that Joi Ito was recently appointed as the director of this Lab.  I had an opportunity to have dinner with Joi and Dr. Hiroshi Ishi, associate director of the Media Lab several days ago.  Dr. Ishi also participated in this year’s TEDxTokyo as our guest, and he gave a wonderfully enthusiastic speech for us.

At the dinner, our topic covered broad range, but basically the discussion was about how to encourage Japanese youths mix with the world.  In addition, since Joi is actively measuring the radiation around the Fukushima area after the “3.11”, we exchanged views on this issue, too.

This year, Dr. Ishii was introduced in the “Portrait of Modern Age Leader (Gendai no Shozo, 現代の肖像)”, in the April 25 issue of the AERA magazine. Joi Ito also appeared as the “Cover Person” in the August 8, 2001 issue together with the article titled “The Future of ‘The Places to Make Future of the World’ (‘Sekai no Mirai Wo Tsukuru Basho’ no Mirai, 「世界の未来を作る場所」の未来)”.

Joi has been well recognized in the world as one of the alpha-bloggers for more than 10 years and Dr. Ishi is very active as you see in twitter (@ishii_mit).  These two are forever hot.