Hisashi Kobayashi’s Blog posted on January 10th, 2010
“Concerns about the insularity of Japan’s universities, poor performance of Japanese students, and weakening competitiveness of Japanese industry”
Hisashi Kobayashi’s Blog posted on January 10th, 2010
“Concerns about the insularity of Japan’s universities, poor performance of Japanese students, and weakening competitiveness of Japanese industry”
I have always followed the work and activities of Ms. Yoko Ishikura.
As those of you who have visited my blog may know, Ms. Ishikura and I co-wrote the book, How to Build a World Class Career (in Japanese).
I have worked with Ms. Ishikura at the World Economic Forum as well as the “Global Agenda Seminar”, which she directs. I have had the chance to participate in it a few times (1, 2) and have learned much every time.
Many of you who have visited my blog may have seen Ms. Ishikura’s activities and messages on her blog and twitter <@yokoishikura>.
Recently, Ms. Ishikura has written a column titled, Create a “Portfolio of Friends”- Reduce Risks in Life through Diversified Investments (in Japanese).
In her column, she mentioned me as one of the friends in her portfolio. I was a bit embarrassed as the other people she introduced are all super-incredible individuals but I write about it here in hopes of drawing more people’s attention to her message and philosophy.
I believe Ms. Ishikura’s message will be helpful in establishing a framework for thinking in this uncertain and ever changing world.
‘rikejo’ is a shortened form of Rikei joshi which in Japanese means ‘women in science’.
One of the biggest companies in the cosmetic industry today, L’Oreal has a highly successful awards program called ‘For Women in Science’ which it has been running for the past 12 years. There has even been Nobel Prize winners among the recipients of this prize.
As a judge on the panel of this prize(1), I have had the opportunity to play an active part on its here in Japan. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in this year’s award ceremony held in Paris because I was busy with my work at the NAIIC.
However, I was able to attend the special awards ceremony held here in Japan and meet the young Rikejo who were in attendance. Ms Miki Ando, world figure skate champion, received a special prize this year; Ms Meisa Kuroki, one of top TV/movie stars, was the recipient a year earlier, and this I think is proves that L’Oreal does things in style. Interestingly, it was at the ceremony last year (unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to introduce this in my blog) that the word Rikejo started gaining currency, and this has developed into the award ceremony that it is today.
Held on the day of the General Election for the Lower House of Representatives, there was a contest where around 50 students from universities and high schools participated. Called ‘Team Match-Up:What If…You Could Create Your Own Cosmetics!’, the participants were divided into 8 teams and asked to dream up of new cosmetics. The well-practiced participants were able to come up with novel ideas within 45 minutes despite being put into random groups and then make their case in a 2-3 minute presentation. I got into the action by tweeting my thoughts as well.
There were three prizes in all, two presented by the panelists and one by the participants. Amazingly, the verdicts were the same. The products had daring and innovative names, and all the presentations were delivered with confidence and convincing. Just as I said, you’d better watch out for the awesome Rikejo!.
Product name: Pheromone Eyeliners to Woo the Opposite Sex!
? Baseliner equipped multifunctional eyeliner.
? Different eyeliners for each sex (differentiate on basis of fragrance and packaging)
? Introduce as the world’s first fragrant eyeliner!
? Encourage the spread of cosmetics in Japanese men a la Korean men.
Panelist Special Prize
Product name: Butterfly
? Combine lip cream and lipstick for a beautiful color.
? Make it possible to customize the product through the use of stackable and interchangeable parts.
? Make it possible to use each of the parts on its own.
? Allow for decoration of the exterior of the product.
? Attach a removable mirror.
Best Cosmetic Award ( chosen by the votes of the rikejo)
Product name： ‘雌’ girl lip stain (「雌」is Chinese character for female)
? The must-have product for that all-important Christmas date (Makes him fall in love, but doesn’t fall off!)
? Target girls and women in the range of 15 to 20+ years of age.
? Combine the innocence of a young girl with a hint of mysterious allure. For women who want it all.
? Make it an affordable luxury at a price of 1800 yen.
What do you think? L’Oreal is certainly going about its business with panache!
The “Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety” is being held this weekend December 15 to 17th in Koriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture, hosted by the Japanese government and co-hosted by the IAEA.
It will be at the same time as the Lower House election.
The list of participating countries is extensive, and shows that they are trying to learn from the Fukushima nuclear accident.
In October, I was notified about the conference by some knowledgeable people abroad. They asked me, “You will take part in the conference right?” but I considered the position of the Japanese government and just nodded, “Hmmm.”
A month ago, a certain Diet member had asked a government official, “Aren’t you going to ask Dr. Kurokawa to participate in the conference?” and an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited me. The official seemed to be slightly uncomfortable, but after talking for a while it became clear that the government (meaning, the administrative branch of the government) had decided (did not think about it most likely or pressured somehow?) that “there was no reason for me to participate,”there was nothing for me to contribute to the program, and they did not consider me in the list of participants. There is no need for me to force anything, so I told the visitor 'Not to worry, I will not participate).
Actually, during these past two days, delegations from three countries have visited me separately. They praised the NAIIC report and wanted to learn and discuss more. They said they were able to deepen their understanding of each other, as well have a meaningful discussion regarding Japan’s role and future challenges.
In my previous entry, I pointed out that a comparison of the response of the U.S. and U.K. to the NAIIC report with Japan’s response indicates Japan’s delay in “true globalization” and the differences in ways of thinking.
Tomorrow is election day. Please vote no matter what. There are many parties and you may be unsure of who to choose, but you must carefully assess the qualities of each candidate. Your vote will move the democratic system, although it may not change right away.
Especially the young people, starting from this election, you must change your awareness and vote. For you are the ones who will build the future.
It will take time to make the democratic system work.
It has been one year since the establishment of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission and five months since the report was published.
The U.S. Congress gave a mandate to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to establish an independent Fukushima accident investigation commission (the list of Commission members is here) and started their activities this past July. It is possible to see this on the website.
The third series of meetings was held in Japan and was on the progress of the inspections at Tokyo and Fukushima. As this is an independent commission by the legislative branch, the U.S. decided that the Japanese administrative branch of the Government should basically not be involved.
The first day of the meetings in Tokyo was at the National Institute for Graduate Studies (GRIPS). The three days of the meetings began with my presentation and discussions and went on to have hearings. The commission members had each read the NAIIC report closely and their evaluation of the NAIIC was very high.
It was mostly open to the public, but the questions were limited to the commission members. There was a brief report on it in the Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese).
On a different day, I gave the keynote speech at the Daiwa Capital Markets Conference “Global Agenda in Post-Fukushima.” Since over half of the audience and participants are not Japanese, it seemed that English was the language used. I introduced NAIIC as“the first independent investigation commission mandated by the Diet, the legislative branch, in the constitutional history of Japan” and began my speech.
After my speech, a member of the audience came and told me, “I worked as a civil servant at the British Treasury for ten years and afterwards at a private company. It is unbelievable that this the first independent investigation commission by the legislative branch…there are two such commissions in the UK right now…”
Compared to how the report has been assessed abroad, the Japanese response seems to be weak (in Japanese), but this may be due to the public awareness, Diet members and public servants’ lack of understanding about the functions of the democratic system (in Japanese). I also pointed this out in my blog on August 16.
On another day, I went to give a talk at Nagasaki University (in Japanese). There were many young people who participated. There was also a considerable number of high school students and they gave excellent feedback to the university organizing office.
These young people understood that the process of NAIIC is one part of strengthening the functions of the legislative branch.
This is was it means to participate in an election, although the country will not change immediately. It will take time for the democratic system to be built.
Especially for this reason, young people must think hard, participate in the election process and vote, for Japan’s future and for your future.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Anand Grover, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and his team visited Japan. They came as part of an investigation into the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident and the conditions of the damage.
They had well researched the conditions of the victims of Fukushima and the nuclear plant workers and we had an hour-long discussion on many topics. Also, they had read the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) report quite thoroughly.
The press releases by the Japanese government regarding the north eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami, and especially the governmental response to the victims of the Fukushima nuclear accident have been suppressive and the Special Rapporteur accurately pointed out both the positive aspects and the inadequacies.
It is possible to read this press statement in both Japanese and English. It is not very long, please take a look at it when you have time. The links for the sites are below.
The international community is highly aware and has been trying to learn from Japan’s response to the accident from many angles.
This is an issue that is directly connected with trust in the government.
One year ago, on December 8, the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) was officially established.
Today, exactly one year since then, many from the NAIIC team reunited to spend three hours together in the afternoon. During the highly intense six months, which at times seemed to have no exit, we overcame major obstacles together and developed a camaraderie. We shared this team spirit and spent the afternoon talking about about many topics.
I presented everyone with a commemorative gift that I had prepared to express my feelings of gratitude.
As I have mentioned on this site (1), NAIIC has been evaluated highly by the world.
Then, how has the response been within Japan?
Most of the people on the NAIIC team did not know each other one year ago. To share such an experience for several months as a working professional must have been a significant experience and a source of further self-confidence for the future. I have heard many people expressing such feelings.
I remember back to my opening remarks (in Japanese) and closing words (in Japanese) of my address to the Diet one year ago on this day. That day was the seventieth anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The amazing aspect of the information age in which we live today is that anyone, including me, can access this speech online and listen to it anytime. When I reflect back, even now, I believe that my feelings regarding undertaking NAIIC are expressed straightforwardly in this speech.
During this past year, so many things have changed irrevocably in the world and in Japan.
However, what is the current situation of Fukushima? Yesterday evening, there was a considerable earthquake in north eastern Japan and although it was small, a tsunami occurred. What did you think about this?
Japan, true to form, will soon have an election again. But it is difficult to have much hope… what is the cause of this?
It is now a time when each person should think and change, as I have written in the Preface of the NAIIC report.
Everyone who comes to read my column, thank you always for your support.
On a different note, in the last few weeks I had several opportunities to spend time with Ms. Yoko Ishikura. Each time we meet she would quickly report via her blog or twitter, but I am very late at doing this. Almost a month late.
So I shall inform you of the latest events in which I participated during this time.
On November 15, I returned home from Dubai. This is reported two weeks late in this blog. Since then I have been very busy from morning to night almost every day. Below are some of the main activities.
On the 16th (Fri), the board meeting of Impact Japan, the GEW (1) came to an end and I took part in “Venturing Overseas” (it was quite a fun session, a gathering only in the evening for about 3 hours).
17th (Sat): Once again, lots of business meetings and in the evening I departed to Singapore.
18th (Sun) to 20th (Tue): In Singapore I met various people and I visited Nanyan Technological University. It certainly was a very lively atmosphere, including the campus. The three day visit was quite a pleasure. I will write about it some other time.
21st (Wed): In the early morning I returned to Narita. From noon was the interview with BBC, and in the afternoon I attended the board of directors meeting of Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo (One time I was there as a ‘visiting professor’). The main subject of the meeting was the selection of the new director. From evening I had a session with Mr. Joi Ito from MIT Media Lab and the youth at FabCafe (Back in July, right after I submitted the report of NAIIC, I conversed here with Mr. Ito Joi, although I never reported this…). From there I went to the Swiss Embassy and attended the joint reception of WEF’s Global Shapers Community and St. Gallen Symposium (1) and I also gave a greeting.
On the 22nd (Thurs), I participated in ‘Japan Gender Parity Task Force’ organized by the WEF.
I’ve been reporting this as a topic to focus on, and it is one of the biggest challenges Japan is facing. According to this year’s Gender Parity Report by the WEF, out of over 130 countries in the world, Japan ranks 102nd. A terrible result. How could this be? Please think it over. Individual action is important for the future.
Later I was visited by Mr. Grover from UN Human Rights and we debated specifically on the government responses to the victims and workers in Fukushima based on the report by NAIIC. He had done thorough research of the site and he asked a lot of tough questions. Mr. Grover’s report should be published in the near future. Apparently there was also a press conference.
After that, there was a meeting of Science Council of Japan concerning the standpoint of Science Council of Asia, and in the evening I hastened to the celebration party of former SONY Chairman Mr. Idei’s 75th birthday and then to a different dinner.
23rd (Fri) was a day off. After a long time, for the second time this year, I went golfing with my friends. It was slightly raining but by the afternoon the rain had stopped. Since there was no cart in the course, it was the first time in a while that we walked the entire course. Next day for some reason my ankles were sore.
25th (Sun), I went to the GAS reunion organized by Dr. Ishikura. I also attended the after party.
26th (Mon), In the morning was the board of directors meeting of Teach For Japan(in Japanese). Mr. Yusuke Matsuda is putting a lot of effort into it, but there is still a long way to go. I urge for everyone’s help, support and participation. Also there was an interview by the Tokyo American Club, a consultation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in the afternoon there was a visit by the Fukushima accident research committee of the National Academy of Sciences that was initiated by the US Congress and for the first 90 minutes I gave a report of NAIIC followed by Q & A.
I will also report this on a difference occasion, but from this visit alone, a lot of innovative ideas for Japan were clearly presented.
Now slightly up-to-date, but there’s still a lot more.
Perhaps you have all noticed already from the evening paper of Nikkei released on November 17 (Saturday) in the section “Senior Reporter’s Kokoro Page” (published every Saturday in the evening paper), an article posted by Editor Masami Shimizu interviewing me, entitled
“Japan must not repeat its foolishness, interview with Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa”. I have known Mr. Shimizu since the time he was an editorial staff of science and technology, and he has often written perceptive editorials.
The main headline of the article is “Develop Difference and Change Society” and the subheading is “To the Youth: Be ‘the Nail that Sticks Out’” which are the main messages I have repeatedly advocated whenever there was an opportunity, including this column. Here again, I am emphasizing the importance of ‘difference, disagreement and dissidence.’
Ms. Yoko Ishikura also mentions this article in her own column and states that she is “flabbergasted, or rather shocked” by the fact that while the world is changing so much, Japan has not changed at all since the time she wrote ‘The Management of Difference’ in her work with Mr. Kenichi Omae and Mr. Hirotaka Takeuchi 20 years ago.
Overcoming the weaknesses of Japan which became apparent on 3.11, constructing and advancing the future of Japan depend on the young people. Observing Japan since 3.11, I feel the danger that the industry, the government, the academia, the media and other existing powers will go back to the previous state; despite the fact that the world is going through unstable and unpredictable current of changes that we have never experienced before.
I would be happy if you could take a look at my interview-based article. I have received some positive reactions from number of people.
A week later in the November 24 (Saturday) edition of the same paper, there is an interview article of Mr. Toshio Arima and on the left side below there is a small column titled ‘From Kokoro Editing Room.’
There you find the public response to the article from the 17th in which “Professor of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Dr. Kurokawa Kiyoshi Recommends ‘to the Youth: Be the ‘Nail that Sticks Out.’” A mother with two children apparently clipped out the article hoping that her sons will be that way. It also states that “building a society which tolerates difference, disagreement and dissidence is our duty for the next generation (Sachi).”
This made me a bit happy. Thank you, Mr. Shimizu.
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.