To Oslo- The Kavli Prize and the Kavli Science Forum


On September 1st, I departed Narita for Oslo.  As I had been busy with the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), it is my second time being abroad this year, following my trip to Washington DC in May.

After the transit in Copenhagen, I arrived in the evening in Oslo to a beautiful, clear sky.  The purpose of this trip is to attend the Kavli Foundation’s Kavli Prize Ceremony and the Kavli Science Forum.

After arriving, I checked in at the Grand Hotel Oslo.  This is a historic hotel where it is a tradition for the Noble Peace Prize Laureates to stay and to greet the crowd from the second floor balcony, which faces the park.  I had a light, late dinner with Norway’s Ambassador to Japan, Mr. A. Walther, at a nearby restaurant close to the National Theater.

The next day, September 2nd, was also a bright, sunny day.  I was able to rest and relax for the first time in a while before attending the reception in the afternoon.  It was held at its penthouse suite on the top floor of the hotel as well as outside on the rooftop.  At night, I attended a dinner at the American Ambassador’s official residence.  This was another impressive, historic building.

On the 3rd, in the morning I went to the University of Oslo campus to listen to the lectures given by the seven laureates.  There are three laureates in Astrophysics, one in Nanoscience and three in Neuroscience.  Four of them are women and six are from the United States of America, of which three are from MIT.

The lectures were impressive and the leafy campus of University of Oslo, surrounded by grand trees, was very beautiful.

My ‘Global Health’ panel1), composed of four panelists in all, was held in the afternoon.  The Prime Minister of Norway came and gave an excellent opening address.  The panelists all know each other and my current job allows me to be involved with them on various occasions.  The program and panel moderator was Pallab Ghosh, who is well known as the science correspondent for BBC News. It is possible to see the entire forum webcast online.

At night, I went to the reception at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.  Prof. Hitoshi Murayama, the Director of the Kavli IPMU at the University of Tokyo also arrived.

Dr. Iijima who was awarded the first Kavli Prize in Nanoscience in 2008, Prof. Ooguri who is a Caltech Kavli Professor and Vice President Kasuga of the Science Council of Japan also took part in the reception.

Oslo is a serene, somehow insistent with her own heritage, sophisticated city.


National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) -4: The Report to be Sold at Bookstore


We have submitted our NAIIC report to the Chairpersons of both houses of Diet, and also uploaded it on our website simultaneously.

However, because of its huge volume, I have a feeling that having the content read and understood by broad population would be quite difficult, if not unrealistic.

But now, I have a good news for you.

NAIIC report will be published as a book (in Japanese) from Tokuma Shoten.

The book will be sold at many bookstores from September 11th, a year and a half from the Accident.  They are also available on-line from Amazon, etc.  The price is 1680 yen including tax.  Reference documents including commission meeting reports are attached as CD-Rom.

I urge and ask you to read this report by all means – the contents based on what has actually happened, and think about what you can do to support our “7 Recommendations to Legislators” which we offered as the outcomes of our investigations.

This is our another step forward.


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.


MIT Media Lab in Tokyo


MIT Media Lab is well known throughout the world and in Japan as a quite “obstinate” existence in that it aims to “Build the Future”.  The existence of this Lab is well recognized by the world for this unique character.

It was last year that Mr. Joi Ito (Ref.1), a Japanese, but rather more popular as a “global citizen”, was appointed to be the director of the Media Lab, and this attracted people’s attentions in Japan through the coverage by various medias.

I, too, introduced this topic on my web site.  

On January 17th, the “MIT Media Lab@Tokyo 2012” was held in Tokyo.  Dr. Negroponte, the founder of the Media Lab in 1985, also joined in this event to tell us the history of how the Japanese companies supported Media Lab.  Dr. Negroponte is also well known for the project “One Laptop Per Child” (Ref.1), an aid to Africa, and this time he showed me a new “Tablet” .

A prestigious university working on “outrageous, unprecedented” projects.  Such universities are, I think, the drive force for developing human capital that will transform the world.  Those universities are the producers of the “Out of the Box” talent, the “Change Makers”.

Dr. Ishii, the associate director, also joined with us in this event

All speakers very passionately delivered their speech and presented their demonstrations.  I participated in the dialogue with Joi.  Then, I went back to my work at the Congressional Investigation Committee on Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident, and returned again in the evening to join in the reception of the Media Lab which I enjoyed very much.

This whole event is uploaded on Ustream (Ref.1). 

The video starts with the Opening by Joi (the approximate time in the Ustream is “00:00:00–”), followed by the presentations of Dr. Hilgado “00:23:20–” Dr. Ishii “00:45:55–”, dialogue of Joi and myself “01:00:50–”, panel of Joi with “Out of the Box” people in major Japanese corporations “01:22:45–” and so on.  Take a look and enjoy.

Why don’t you go to the Media Lab?  Something inside you might change.  I also urge all Japanese companies to support this extraordinary Lab.

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.


The Committee of Parliament to Investigate the Accident at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants -2


As I reported on the New Year’s day, the “Committee of Parliament to Investigate the Accident at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants” (click here for videos) was launched officially on December 8th last year.  On this day, the nine committee members and I received the official notice of appointment at the Parliament from the Presidents of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors. This ceremony was followed by a session where the ten committee members made comments and representatives from all political parties expressed their thoughts and expectations towards this committee.

This whole event was broadcasted live from the Parliament and now the audiovisual record of all the comments of the committee members as well as all the requests from the members of the congress are uploaded at the  "Shugiin TV"  for public viewing.  My comments as the chair of this committee appears at the start of this session, and also in the end after all representatives from every political party have presented their “requests” to our committee.  By the way, it happens that 70 years ago on this day, the 8th of December, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor to join in the World War II.   It was truly the beginning of the great tragedy of our nation.  I could not help touching upon this historical coincidence when I talked about the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident.

Mr. Yasuhisa Shiozaki, a representative of the Liberal Democratic Party who served as the Chief Cabinet Secretary, and one of the key persons to set up this committee, writes about this issue in his blog several times.  Mr. Shiozaki also wrote a record of the whole process of the making of this committee and published it as a book in mid December titled “ ‘The Committee of Parliament to Investigate the Accident of the Nuclear Power Plants’ – A Challenge From the Legislature (「国会原発事故調査委員会」立法府からの挑戦状)” (this book is published in Japanese only).

At any rate, we are now at the start of a very challenging year.


The Year 2012 Starts With a New Big Challenge


A Happy New Year.

During the past month, i.e. since December 6th of last year, I have not written any new columns nor did send any messages via twitter.

The reason is, as you may already know, that I was suddenly appointed to chair the “Committee to investigate the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants”.  The relevant laws for creating a committee that is independent from the government and the parliament passed the Diet, as is described in media by words such as “organized by the Diet, totally independent”, or “the very first in the 60 some years’ history of our constitutional government”.  On December 8th, the nine committee members and I received the official notice of appointment at the Parliament from the Presidents of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors.

If you search my name on the “news” sites in the web, you will find various reports (Ref.1) (both links are in Japanese) on this  issue.

What a big unexpected challenge I was appointed to!  I used to be one of the members of the “nongovernment Fukushima nuclear plant accident investigating committee”(in Japanese) chaired by Dr. Koichi Kitazawa (in Japanese), former Director of JST, but I resigned from this position for this new responsibility.

I will gradually explain to you, from time to time, the various challenges this committee face, but I think the most important and great challenge is how we – the nine members and I – share the mission of this committee and perform our investigations and analysis.  Every member is extremely busy with their own work, and on top of that, we have to recruit all of the administrative staffs and create rules on how to conduct this investigation as a whole.  So, I had to withhold from making any comments in public until the basic rules were defined within our own committee.  I hope you will understand the situation I had been in.

The “gravity of ‘the very first in the history of Japan’s constitutional government’” is not just about the historical impact to the system of our democracy, but it also refers to the countless difficult issues derived from the fact that this sort of investigation has “never taken place before”.  Therefore, I must say, the operation of this committee is by itself a huge challenge to all of us.

After the official launching of our committee, we traveled right away on December 18th (Sunday) to the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident (covering ourselves with heavy protective equipments…), Okuma town located near the nuclear power plant which now looked like a deserted ghost town, and places where decontamination was in progress. On the next day, the 19 th (Monday), we visited the temporary housings of the evacuees and another decontamination site.  (Ref.1) (both links are in Japanese)

The year of 2011 ended with an unexpected big surprise for me, and now the new year of 2012 started.


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.





A Trip to Taipei, Many Events in Japan


A week after Seoul and Okinawa, I flew to Taipei.  I was invited to give a plenary lecture at the Society of Internal Medicine in Taiwan.  Another invited speaker was Dr. Virginina Hood , the president of the American College of Physicians whom, by the way, I happened to see in San Diego this April.

In the Sunday afternoon, I made an excursion to Jiufen (Ref.1),   a village located about 40 minutes by car from Taipei. This village is well known as the site where the movie “A City for Sadness” was filmed, and also the model of the unique architectures and shopping street that appear in “Spirited Away”, an animated fantasy-adventure film  by Hayao Miyazaki.    It was very amusing to stroll around and listen to those interesting stories about the village.  I recommend that you visit here some time.  The only thing was that since it was a sunny Sunday, the busy traffic and crowded tourists was somewhat overwhelming…

Taipei seemed to be less energetic than the time I was here before.  They might be experiencing economic recessions, too.

Other events scheduled around this weekend were; my annual general health check up, UCLA alumni gathering, hearing session of the Canon foundation research grants, and “The Entrenpreneur Awards Japan 2011, Second Annual Awards Ceremony” at the U.S. Embassy. This event is very strongly supported by Ambassador Roos and I have participated in the first ceremony, also.

Each day is passing quickly and busily.  It is not a very pleasing situation, I have to say.

Inauguration Ceremony of Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST)


I have introduced OIST (Ref.1)  to you several time in this site.  Now, OIST is officially approved as a graduate university starting from November 1st, since the government has given permission.

In Japan, as well as in other countries, we have been discussing much about the reform of universities or researches to address today’s needs.  However, at least from my perspectives, nothing has changed much.  I have been pointing this out  every now and then in my web site whenever appropriate.

On November 18th, the first board meeting as a university was held at OIST.  I have been supporting this project from the start, so I attended and joined in the seminar in the morning of 19th where four researchers gave presentations.  The presenters introduced to the audience new type of researches which were not only interdisciplinary, but also had great scale of scopes.  The researchers from the world who were at the seminar were apparently very impressed.  It is our earnest hope that we promote such unique researches open to the world that will contribute to the solution of global issues, as well as to nurture young researchers of the next generation equipping them with both the mind set and power to take action for such solutions.

In the afternoon, the inauguration ceremony was held.  Mr. Tatsuo Kawabata, current Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, Mr. Koji Omi, the first person who came up with the idea of this project, and Ms. Yuriko Koike, the Minister prior to Mr. Kawabata were among the guests.  From Okinawa, Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, Mr. Keiichi Inamine, the former Governor were present.  Many more from in and out of Japan attended the ceremony.  The list of main participants should be available for your reference at the website of OIST.

There were four speeches at the ceremony.  Among them, the one I particularly liked was the speech given by Dr Charles Vest, President of the National Academy of Engineering, who served for 14 years as the President of MIT, as a message addressed to this new Graduate University, titled “On Universities of the 21st Century.”  I understand that those speeches will be uploaded on the website of OIST soon.

It was a pity that the weather was a bit rainy this day, that the ceremony had to move its place from the wonderful courtyard to the auditorium.  However, we had a small intermission of the rainfall in the afternoon, and we enjoyed for about 20 minutes dance performance and such at the courtyard.