This Year’s Nobel Prize


Two Japanese scientists have won the Nobel Prize again this year. It is very happy news.

I was very glad to hear that Dr. Omura won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, as I know him and his work very well. The selection of Dr. Campbell, with whom he won the prize, as well as a Chinese medical scientist who discovered a drug for malaria, was timely and appropriate. The awarding of the Nobel Prize to these three scientists shows they have made a major contribution to resolving the world’s problems.

On the evening of the announcement of the winners, I was in Kyoto but was interviewed over the telephone. One was with the Asahi Shimbun, who interviewed me along with Shinya Yamanaka and Shinichi Fukuoka (1).

Another was by Kyodo Press, which was featured in the Kyoto Shimbun, and I read both the articles in the morning papers the following day.

The night the announcement was made, I called Dr. Omura a few times to give him my congratulations but of course, his line was busy. The next day, I was able to reach him around noon and gave him my congratulations and we had a pleasant, quick chat.

Then, later that evening, it was announced that Dr. Kajita had won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his impressive research on the neutrino. As he stated, his research was conducted with his mentors, Dr. Koshiba and with Dr. Totsuka. — Dr Totsuka unfortunately passed away early. Dr. Totsuka was an incredible nice person and I had the opportunity to give a lecture with him in Washington D.C. some ten+ years ago.

It is wonderful that they won the Nobel Prize. Please take a moment to go through my comments on the Nobel Prize on this blog. Recently, I wrote about the Nobel Prize in the magazine, Oyou Buturi (Applied Physics), which can be read here (in Japanese). Some parts may sound impolite but please don’t take offence. I have written it to send my message to the youth.

Cambridge Pembroke Players Tour


Pembroke College is the third oldest college at the University of Cambridge, which was established over 800 years ago. On the first Sunday of autumn, I attended a play by the Cambridge Pembroke Players, a student theatrical society, which visited my old high school, Seikei-Gakuin.

Seikei-Gakuin holds an annual “Shakespeare Week” at this time of year and students from Pembroke College have visited the school as part of the international student cultural exchange since 2007.

This year, they performed “The Comedy of Errors” (1). The auditorium was packed with a nearly full audience.

The students said they practice three times a week. Their Japan tour will last for three weeks and their next stop is Meiji University.

It is great to see such students’ activities and I encourage Japanese universities to embark on similar projects.

Discussions with Junior High and High School Students of Seikei-Gakuen


→Here is the web site of Seikei-Gakuen (in Japanese)

On July 22nd, the Nikkei Shimbun ran an article focusing on the topic of how to encourage junior high and high school students to develop the strength to live in the world, featuring a discussion between Principal Atobe of Seikei-Gakuen and myself, moderated by Director Ikegami. It was posted on this website on the news page on August 6th with the article linked here.

In the discussion, we also talked about Choate Rosemary Hall. Mr. Takashi Murata, who has been a supporter of such initiatives, spoke with me in a seminar on studying abroad, held for junior high and high school students and their families.

Mr. Murata is an alumnus of Choate Rosemary Hall and went on to study and graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, where I also spent time as a researcher. He was also concerned with the small number of Japanese students studying at Choate Rosemary Hall. With our discussion moderated by Principal Atobe, we exchanged our views on why students should study abroad.

Although there are several study abroad programs offered at Seikei-Gakuen, we wish to further expand them.

After the seminar, we had a reception for about an hour to speak with the students and their families and had a pleasant time. We have high hopes regarding their choices and futures.

On the previous day, I had also participated in the reception for the U.S. College Fair at the American Embassy.

Meeting at Sendai with Young Entrepreneurs Active in Tohoku Reconstruction Efforts


On the afternoon of March 14th, I headed to Sendai. I gave the closing presentation in the event, “The Role of Entrepreneurs in Disaster Recovery.” This was the public forum for the International Disaster Prevention Conference, hosted by Sendai City.

The keynote speech was by Professor Michi Fukushima of Tohoku University, followed by excellent presentations by five young people filled with entrepreneurial spirit (1).

These young people who chose to work in northeastern Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake have diverse backgrounds, including those who lost their families during the earthquake, those who found their homes gone and were in shock, and those who left their jobs in other parts of Japan or abroad to go to destroyed towns and some return to their hometowns to become involved in reconstruction efforts.

This includes Mr. Masatsura Takahashi of Iwakitakahashi, Mr. Mitsuhiro Sato of Shimatsuji-kojiten, Ms. Ruriko Mitarai of Kesennuma Knitting, Ms. Megumi Hikichi of Walatis, Mr. Hiroki Iwasa of General Reconstruction Association (GRA) and others.

They are all truly incredible, amazing young individuals. They all have made use of the unique tradition, culture, and environment as well gotten people involved in the creation of a new social value (this is my definition of innovation), overcoming obstacles with their hopes and devotion. People who supported this process started to appear and join, forming a new organization and creating a raison d’être that they had in common.

It is the third time this year that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with Ms. Mitarai, who has a global perspective and is able to widen the framework of the work that she is doing.

Finally, I gave my talk, focusing on projects which are helping to foster young people who are active in such reconstruction efforts in the Tohoku area. I spoke about the activities by IMPACT Japan, Qatar and the Intilaq project, “Tohoku Innovators Hub.”

I had a wonderful time sharing such experiences with impressive young people.

I also got to see five MBA students from the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business who I had just met two days ago.

The Japanese-American Delegation’s visit to Japan and Students of the Dartmouth Tuck School


On March 12th, I attended a lunch organized by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership on “Japanese American Leaders and Japan-US Relations.” The organizer was Irene Hirano Inouye, the wife of the late Senator Daniel Inouye. This time, as the main event held in Hiroshima was on the topic of “Ageing Society and Dementia” (in Japanese), I was able to meet with Professor Morimoto among others and had a very productive and pleasant time.

I spoke on the topics of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) (1), and my recent activities as a council member of the G8 World Dementia Council (1), established by the initiative of the UK government.

It was a beautiful day at the Meiji Kinenkan and I enjoyed meeting with many incredible people. I will update you when the details of the rest of the “Japanese American leaders” visit are uploaded on the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership website.

In the afternoon, I led a seminar at GRIPS with students from the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College. The title of my talk was my usual “Uncertain Times.” I started my talk by speaking about Kanichi Asakawa. He is an important historical figure as he is the first Japanese graduate of Dartmouth College and the first Japanese professor at Yale University (as well as the first Japanese professor at any university abroad in a developed country at the time). I wrote about him in my Chairman’s message at the start of the NAIIC report. I also mentioned that Jim Kim, the current President of the World Bank, was selected for the post when he was serving as the President of Dartmouth College.

The professor who led the students told me that it had been an excellent two hours and asked if I would visit Dartmouth, to which I answered, of course.

It was a truly enjoyable day.

The Japan Start-up Prize (Nippon Venture Prize); ‘New Business’ Conference and CONNECT !


On the 22nd of January, the ‘Japan Start-up Prize/Nippon Venture Prize; ‘New Business’ Conference and Connect’ (in Japanese) was organized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

The morning session started with a presentation by Tom Kelley (of IDEO fame) and Christian Bason. It was followed by a discussion between the two presenters, with Naohiro Nishiguchi moderating.

In the afternoon, we had a section that was organized by Hal Morimoto of Astoria Consulting and me. Focusing on corporate venture capital (CVC), this 140 min. section detailed how the scene has been dramatically changing over the past couple of years (Japanese).

Part 1 was titled ‘To seek return on investment, or to seek strategic profits? The way of CVC’ along with ‘CVC best practices’, with an expert panel composed of Erik Vermeulen, Hiroki Saito (in Japanese), Akimichi Degawa, Tomotaka Torin (in Japanese), and moderated by Moriyoshi Matsumoto.

Part 2 was titled ‘The CVC Market and Ecosystem’ with Jessica Archibald, Alastair Breward, Chris Erickson, and George Arnold, with Kari Andersen as moderator. Between these experts, they presented the audience with numerous, practicable, pragmatic and sensible advice. I felt that it is really important to heed the advice of these people. Building up trust, perseverance, creating a presence on a global stage, showcasing the technical skills of Japan were some of such points raised.

I was only able to be there for part 2, delayed because of an important matter that had suddenly cropped up. I was very impressed by the discussion, and as the panel wrapped up, I made my way onto the stage and thanked the participants for their insights. During the discussion, the prevalence of ‘groupthink’ as a characteristic of many Japanese corporations was mentioned, and I took the opportunity to elaborate on this a little further. All in all, the response to this event was very positive.

Finally, the awards for the first ‘Japan Start-up Prize’ / Nippon Venture Prize were handed out by Prime Minister Abe, who had just come back from the Middle East. Awardees included Mitsuru Izumo for Euglena, Yoshiyuki Sankai for Cyberdyne, Takeo Higuchi (CEO of Daiwa House), Naoko Samata for Coiney, Kazuhide Sekiyama for Spiber, and Koichiro Yoshida for Crowdworks. It was a night where young entrepreneurs stood out. Well done!

It was an event that energized and delighted.

Create a “Portfolio of Friends”- Reduce Risks in Life through Diversified Investments


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.

Two visits to JFK in September


I have not posted very often in September and October. It is not that there was nothing to report, but I had many engagements that took up my time, such as lectures and conferences both in Japan and abroad.

On September 15th, I flew to JFK. From there, I headed to Philadelphia where I had a dinner. The next day I sat on a panel at a conference. After staying one more night, I left early in the morning to catch a flight back from JFK.

In the two days after this trip, I attended a couple of very important conferences in Tokyo and was able to finish them successfully. After spending the weekend at home, I headed to JFK once more on Monday, the 22nd.

This time, I went to NYC. I attended an educational session for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and a conference by the New York Academy of Sciences. This was held last year in San Francisco where I attended the conference as part of the Prime Minister of Malaysia’s advisory group. As this session was held during the United Nations General Assembly, the security in Manhattan was very tight and it was hard to get around.

On the evening of the 22nd, SONY CSL held its special annual event at MoMA for the first time. As I had some time, I attended the dinner. This big jump to MoMA must have required lots of practice from the participants. It is a wonderful idea.

The next evening, on the 23rd, I had dinner with Japanese doctors (1) who are conducting clinical residency training, which has become almost customary for my visits to NYC. There were also two medical students from Jichi Medical University who were there for two weeks of clinical clerkship. I enjoyed the dinner very much.

It is nice to be in New York in the autumn.

Teach For Japan: Celebrating 4 Years


It has been already four years since the sweltering summer when Yusuke Matsuda was rushing around to get the Teach for Japan project off the ground. We had a small gathering to commemorate this occasion.

I have been a big fan and supporter of Mr Matsuda ever since I found him on Twitter and have always been championing his cause (newspaper article in Japanese).

The venue was not very big nor fancy, and was packed with people, people and more people, all of whom seemed to exude passion. Needless to say, I had been invited, and even made a congratulatory speech. My message, in short, was to explain that it is not the knowledge that is crammed inside your head that is important in life, but instead the intuitive understanding that is born only out of hands-on real experience. I also remarked that maturing as a human being meant that one needed the decisiveness that is required for decision-making.

And Matsuda’s life embodies these principles. After all, what is life but a development of the experiences we had in our childhood, as our curiosity-fueled hunger for information led to serendipitous revelations and firm commitments? It is useless to only think or ponder on this thought. I believe that everything essentially boils down to a mix of real-life experience, serendipitous meetings and bold decisions.

There was also some talk from the Fellow teachers, who related their own experiences at Teach For Japan program, of making the deliberate choice to act, and I can only applaud them. It brought tears to my eyes, as I was overcome with waves of emotion. Professor Seichiro Yonekura, who was sitting beside me, a great champion of innovation and was also a fervent supporter, was also struggling to contain his tears. After all, we human beings cannot stop these spontaneous tears of an outpouring of emotion.

I really wanted people all over Japan to hear them speak. We had three Fellows speaking, one of whom talked about his activities over the past year-and-half. As they talked, their passion was conveyed to us in their words, in the reality that lie behind their stories, and just as they inspired their students who are unfortunate in being made to live in less-privileged conditions, we too were inspired all evening long.

To these wonderful young people, I can only offer my thanks, and share their vision of a brighter future for Japan.

I also thank the school teachers who accepted and have been supporting these Fellows as they work to bring about a change.

Thank you, Mr. Matsuda, and I thank your friends.

And my dear readers, I ask you for your continued support of Teach For Japan!

Lectures with High School Students and Reception at PEAK


Since entering October, I have had two opportunities to speak to high school students. The message of my talks was the same as always, “the world is changing and it is your choice.”

The first was a lecture to high school students aiming to enter the University of Tokyo, organized by an elite cram school. Around one hundred students attended, under the unfortunate circumstances of a typhoon approaching. Most were students in their first and second years of high school. After a lecture of about ninety minutes, the students got into groups and discussed their goals for the next ten years and what they would need to be doing in two years time in order to achieve these long-term goals. They summarized and presented their discussions and then evaluated other groups’ presentations.

The next session was at the Komaba campus of the University of Tokyo, where the “Special Friday Seminar for High School Students” is held twice a month. It was the three hundredth seminar and I was invited to be the speaker at this milestone event. Around eighty students participated as well as many of their families and people from the general public. My speech at last year’s entrance ceremony at the University of Tokyo was distributed to the audience.

Lately, I have been showing a brief scene from the movie, ‘The Matrix’, at such lectures. My message there is to question authority, to question norms.

Many of the students who participated stated that this seminar was different from all of the past seminars at the University of Tokyo. Many commented that their thoughts towards society changed and that although the same Matrix clip was shown at the beginning and the end of my speech, one student wrote he perceived different message. This gave me the impression that these young people were somehow deprived of something.

It is very fun to interact with young people, for in the future they will be the Japanese who will live and pursue their carer in this rapidly changing world.

After the lecture, a group of foreign undergraduate students to Tokyo University’s PEAK program came together and there was a small reception. The foreign professors also came and we had a good time together. This was made possible thanks to Prof Ryoichi Matsuda, who is in charge of PEAK.

PEAK has many challenges ahead of it but I sincerely hope that it will be able to respond to the needs of the fereign students and continue to develop and grow and impact true internationalization of the education of the University of Tokyo.