National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) -12: New York City, Speech at the Japan Society, and the Challenging Yourself in the World


Photo credit to Mr. Ken Levinson for 3 photos at Japan Society Lecture, and to Dr. Y. Kuwama for 6 photos at its private reception.

After spending two days in Washington D.C., I traveled to New York City, where I gave a speech at the Japan Society.

As there has been high global awareness of the Fukushima nuclear plant and NAIIC, many Japanese and Americans alike came to the speech.

My speech was a part of the “Yoko Makino Policy Series,” with Daniel Bases of Thomson Reuters as the moderator.  I talked for half an hour about the significance of NAIIC for the world, our activities, the report and the recommendations. Afterwards, Mr. Bases and I had a discussion on two or three topics and then had a question and answer session with the audience.

You can view its video at Adobe Flash Player) in my ‘Japanese’ English(see this article).

It was a very energetic and lively session and the time spent with the audience was very fulfilling. Just a week ago, William Saito, my colleague or “representative”, had also given a speech here and had pointed out the same problems that I did about Japanese society.  It seems that the audience was very energized and stimulated.  I give my thanks to President Sakurai of the Japan Society and to Ms. Yoko Makino.

Among people who came to the speech were young doctors from Japan who are training in hospitals in New York in a clinical training program launched by Mr. Nishimoto (though it was only for a while, I was also involved in the program).  Dr. Kuwama, who is a clinician in New York and was a student at the University of Tokyo when I taught there, also came to the talk.  I was invited as the guest of honor to the Japan Society reception, as well as the Private Reception, which was held in a condo on the fortieth floor of the Trump Tower that overlooks Manhattan.

The next day was a beautiful, clear day and I enjoyed walking through New York in the autumn weather.  I had lunch with the Consul General Hiroki and Mr. Kaneko of the Public Relations Center and enjoyed conversing about many topics.

In the afternoon, I went to the Harvard Club where I met with Ms. Yoko Makino and local young doctors, and then off to see the Broadway musical Chicago with Ms. Makino and her three friends.  It was an amazing piece of work by incredible professionals.

This past summer, Ryoko Yonekura (1, 2) played the role of Roxie in Chicago.  She had trained intensively for a year before taking on the role. It is no mean feat, for the performance is on the world stage among fierce competition.  She plays opposite Amra-Faye Wright (1).

Taking on this challenge must have been a breakthrough experience and an enormous step forward for Ms. Yonekura.  To perform on the world stage at this top level must be an incredible experience that will lead to confidence that is unattainable by many, as it is won by competing with the world.

I wish that more young Japanese would go out into the world and challenge themselves at the top level, in any area or field.  You may face many hardships and may not succeed right away, but this experience is priceless and irreplaceable.  It will lead to greater confidence in yourself in the future, and will provide a good chance to examine the path you are taking in life.

There is no denying that more Japanese can play an active role in the world.  So let’s try and challenge ourselves- there is much more to gain than to lose.  The world is becoming more global.


Why not begin your global career by studying at OIST, it is already part of Global World


I have introduced several times on OIST in this blog posting site.  OIST is now open for graduate students for 2013.  Read the attached brochure, visit its website, think of applying, contact the office, think of visiting OIST.  OIST is completely different from any other graduate university of Japan, beginning of your global career, it is already a leading Graduate University of Global World.

OIST Brochure English (PDF)

Call for applications: PhD Program
The deadline for applicants living in Japan is December 31, 2012.
The deadline for international applicants is November 15, 2012.*

*The earlier international deadline is to allow time for visa processing.

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University is now accepting applications for admission to the PhD program for the September 2013 intake.  We are looking across the globe for students who will flourish in an atmosphere of encouragement for discovery and innovation.  With over half of OIST students and faculty coming from outside Japan, OIST offers the highest level of graduate education while embedded in a truly international environment.  About 50 cutting-edge laboratories conducting research in a range of fields form the hub of the OIST Graduate University.  Based on a firm foundation in the basic sciences, we promote education that is highly interdisciplinary.  The graduate program features interactive teaching with tutorial-style courses providing preparation for thesis research.  Course design is customised to the unique needs of individual students.  From the beginning, students work side by side with world-class faculty and researchers in well-equipped laboratories.

We are currently selecting our next class of graduate students and we would like the opportunities for PhD study at OIST to be as widely known as possible.  Our intake is limited to about 20 students per year, and we aim to recruit excellent students.  All students receive an internationally competitive support package, health insurance, and subsidized on-campus housing.

More information about the program and how to apply on-line is available at:
Students who are interested in applying but have difficulty meeting the deadline should contact us for assistance at:

Jeff Wickens
Dean, OIST Graduate School


Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) and the Science and Technology Society (STS) Forum in Kyoto


The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) is a completely new research graduate school in Japan, and out of many students who have received the support of the world, thirty-four students have matriculated.  I have supported this project from the beginning.  It is a graduate school very different from those in the past in Japan, as over half of the professors, research staff and students have come from abroad.  Of course, the official language is English.

The buildings are also designed with this new spirit and there is also a four o’clock tea that is held once a week and creates time for everyone to come together.

I left for Okinawa the next day after my talk at the Harvard Club of Japan.  I came to take part in the OIST board members meeting.  At the board meeting, there was a reporting of activities and discussion of several topics.  Later, I visited some research rooms and met with the new students.

Nice research rooms, offices, lecture halls, dormitories and the beautiful weather and the blue sea are all here.  All of this and many excellent programs welcome young people who wish to embark on a research path.

After staying for two nights, I took the last flight back to Tokyo.  The next morning, I went to Kyoto, where I took part in the Science and Technology Society (STS) Form (1).  I was reunited with many friends and have attended every year, as it is also a good place to meet new people.

Time flies and this is now the ninth year that I have attended the STS Forum.


National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission(NAIIC) -10: Talk at the Harvard Club of Japan


The Harvard Club of Japan invited me to give a talk about the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC).  Approximately sixty people came, with about seventy to eighty percent being Japanese.  Many of the Japanese people studied at the graduate school of Harvard, but there were also some who studied at the undergraduate college.

To my surprise, Professor Mike Yoshino, who is an Emeritus Professor at the Harvard Business School also came and gave a wonderful introduction for me.  It was a very pleasant surprise.  I have known Professor Yoshino for five or six years since we were together at the President Council at University of Tokyo and later at the meetings abroad in New York and Geneva.

After my talk, there was a lively question and answer session, which I enjoyed very much.  Even after this, many people asked me questions and offered suggestions as well.

Later on, as the lively mood continued, I enjoyed drinks with Professor Yoshino and two of NAIIC’s Angels (as in Charlie’s Angels), and the four of us had a wonderful time.

After the next day, I received the following emails, (1) indirectly and (2)-(4) directly.

1) Thank you for arranging the presentation and introducing me to Kurokawa sensei. It was a great chance to hear his anecdotes and get a sense of his mission and perception of the issues.  I was impressed with his compassion, integrity and sense of hope that things can change in Japan for the benefit of not the few but for the many.  I hope he can continue, despite his age, to speak out and energize Japanese to get more involved in their affairs of the country.

2) Your presentation was titled Independent Commission on Fukushima, but its message was more broad.  I believe you have some important transformational ideas as well as a healthy appreciation for the need to change.  I hope the recommendation for an annual ( 3/11 ) event to measure progress will both cause action and help keep public engaged and knowledgeable.

3) I wish to take this opportunity for your most stimulating and thoughtful provoking presentation yesterday evening.  Although I have read what is already available on the analysis and recommendations your commission has made, it is quite a different matter to directly hear your thoughts, commitment and above all your passion to the work of the Commission.  It is indeed one of the blackest chapter in the history of Japan, but your presentation has clearly pointed out the opportunity to seize on the accident to change Japan.

Throughout the discussion period after your presentation, I have heard numerous comments from the audience that they found your presentation the best they have heard or read on this Fukushima accident.

I am also very encouraged that not only do you have further plans to publish your results in English but, you are going around the world to share your report to the interested and concerned audience.

4) I apologize for the lateness of this e-mail, but I just wanted to thank you and your team again for last week’s event.

Your insightful comments, presentation of the thinking and process that went into this report, and your far-reaching conclusions gave us all much to think about.

Having lived in Japan for much of the lost decade(s), I have heard the call “for change” many times from different quarters.

I personally think it is up to all of us who live and work here to do what we can in our own ways to build the foundations and environment for a new era in the society and history of Japan. Promoting connected-ness between individuals of like minds both domestically and overseas, sharing of information and an awareness and curiosity about new ideas and ways of doing things, and a spirit encouraging challenges to the status quo by those who have new ideas and new outlooks ? these are the traits that I think will help to bring renewed vigor and power to the people, society, and culture of Japan.

I believe I was able to successfully communicate and share the purpose of NAIIC.

I am quite busy everyday but every minute of today was fulfilling and enjoyable.


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.


Taking a shower 12,000 meters up in the sky


During the past two days, I have been in Abu Dhabi in order to participate in the meeting of the Board of Trustees of Khalifa University. The flight from Narita on Etihad Airways, was a direct flight of around eleven hours.

Things have started to fall in place as the number of students has started to rise and the faculty has been bolstered by the increased presence of professors from abroad.  Although the primary focus is on engineering courses, there are also students in master’s programs in nuclear engineering.  In light of the recent developments where power-producing nuclear plants are going to be built with the help of Korea, no stone is being left unturned in the education required to make it possible.

Korea is providing assistance mainly through an education program developed by KAIST(Ref.).  Indeed, the president of KAIST, Dr. Suh is also here.

After two days of meetings, it was time to head back.  Unfortunately, there was no direct flight to Narita operated by Etihad on the 25th (the day I was to return), so I headed to Dubai from where I boarded an Emirates flight to Narita late at night.  The aircraft was an A380, and I was in first class.  There were only about four passengers in first class, so I was able to try out the showers an hour before arrival.  Although there is hot water for only five minutes, I was able to take a leisurely shower.

After showering 12,000 meters up in the sky, I arrived in Narita feeling refreshed. 


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.


From Bergen


After departing Oslo early in the morning, I flew to Bergen.

Upon arriving, I set out on a tour of the fjords by ship.  It was drizzling lightly but I was able to enjoy the scenery and relax for four hours.

The ship passed by massive rocks, beautiful, lush greenery, and occasionally some small villages.

One can see a glimpse of the intertwining of the tranquil, bountiful nature and the people’s livelihoods. The salmon farms seem to be thriving.

The winters must be harsh. The town’s streets and houses are beautiful and have deep sense of calmness about them.