Moral and Ethics of Scientists: The Obokata Incident Opens Up a Pandora’s Box


Although this burning issue at Riken seems to have passed its peak now, there are still many controversies involving scientists that have been left unaddressed.

The issue that I am referring here is the infamous ‘Obokata Incident’ coming out of Riken, followed by the shocking revelation of prominent professors, some from Todai, working hand in glove with big pharmaceutical companies. These sensational topics cause a brief uproar in the media, before fading out, followed by another scandal to take its place.

Such moral indiscretions are not limited to Japan by any means, but the follow-up to such scandals, which should include learning from and not repeating such mistakes, has not been recognized as a fundamental problem by scientists and society as a whole. These problems, I believe, stem from a basic lack of the will to be autonomous.

And these problems which are deeply ingrained in the structure of Japanese society are the very problems that I pointed out in the NAIIC report, supported by ‘mind-set’ prevails among most Japanese.

On the 19th of May 2014, I had pointed out in my blogpost ‘The Spirit of Science in Japan’ (in Japanese) that a visible manifestation of this shortcoming is the ‘Iemoto’ or ‘feudal’ system prevalent even in scientific research in Japan, a system of legitimization by virtue of belonging to one ‘faction’ headed by a professor.

Recently, Professor Ichikawa, a scientist who spent many years in USA as an independent medical researcher was called upon to serve as a member of the committee conducting the external audit on the Riken problem. His thought-provoking summary is aptly titled ‘Obokata Incident Opened the Japanese Pandora’s Box’ (in Japanese).

I encourage you to read it. His insights are incisive in their accuracy. I believe that ‘inconvenient truths’ such as these must not be swept under the rug but instead be dealt with responsibly by those who are in a position to do something about it.

Either we are not concentrating enough on teaching our future scientists, or we are teaching them the wrong things.

HPAIR 2014: Harvard Project for Asia and International Relations


On Sunday August 24, the day after HLAB 2014 ended, I visited Keio University in Mita.

This was to attend HPAIR 2014, an event also planned by the Harvard University students.

The panel on this day addressed the innovative topic, “What are the ways in which Asia addressed its aging population and widening disparities in socioeconomic status?” as part of the panel on “Health and Public Policy”. Some of the students who planned the event knew about HLAB.

There were many world-renowned speakers who gave lectures at the event.

I was also a panelist of the closing day, of the Academic Plenary, “Risk Management in Asia” of the International Forum on Tuesday, August 26th (see photo). I felt very energized by the large audience of around five hundred students who participated. After the panel, many students asked questions and we had a good time discussing and taking pictures together.

The last time that this event was held in Japan was HPAIR 2005 and I had the opportunity to give a lecture at that time as well. Mr. Tsuchiya, who had been at HPAIR 2005 representing Harvard University and later went on to work at The World Economic Forum and has been active in developing stronger ties with Japan, was at the event this year and I was able to catch up with him. Time flies by very quickly.

During the five days from August 22 to 26th, through the HLAB 2014, AYDPO 2014 and HPAIR 2014 programs, I enjoyed spending time with young people who will lead the future of the world. It was great to have the chance to talk with them and be moved by them.

I send my support and encouragement to young people who will take off in the world.

To Okinawa again, the closing ceremony of Asian Youth Development Program in Okinawa (AYDPO)


AYDPO 2014 marks the seventh year that this program has been running.

I have reported on this program (1, 2, 3, 4) a few times on this blog. It is a program in which young people from Japan and other Asian countries, aged fourteen to sixteen spend three weeks together in Okinawa.

Each year, I have participated in either the opening or closing ceremony. This year, I gave a speech at the closing ceremony. The students who participated this year proposed making a “GIA Green International Academy” on the Kerama Islands and gave a presentation on this. As in past years, the former Governor of Okinawa, Mr. Inamine also was in attendance. Dr. Iwama, the new President of Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology and one of the new leaders of Okinawa, also made his way to the ceremony.

The young people who participated all spoke in English, their common language and they were very good. The closing ceremony was a special time and as it happens every year, all of the students all cried, including the university students, sad to say goodbye to their new friends, with whom they formed very close bonds and became like sisters and brothers.

This program actually began at the time of the first Abe government, when I was a special advisor and assisted with AYDPO (formery AYEPO) establishment. Continuing and spreading programs such as these, and developing young people who are active in the changing world and share memorable experiences with friends across borders is vital to our world.

Through Facebook, the students who participated in this program remain connected with the university students who became like their older sister and brother mentors. I also continue to stay in touch with a young person who was a university student when this program began and is now in Indonesia.

Being connected in this day and age of the internet is important and very useful in stay in touch.

HLAB 2014


The season of HLAB (1) has come. HLAB started in 2011 in the summer after the Great Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and this is the fourth year that the program has been running. This year it started on August 15th, which also marks the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II.

University students who have participated in HLAB in the past, including those who were enrolled in the program as high school students, were in charge of planning the program. It must have been challenging as some of them conducted the planning from universities abroad but the project took off successfully.

The opening day was held at GRIPS, as it had been last year. From there, the HLAB program kicked off for nine days and eight nights. This year, I was chosen to speak at the opening ceremony. The theme for the students was “the future of the world and your choices” but I imagined that many of the high school students were quite nervous, so I tried to cheer them on by noting the fact that forty percent of the high school students who were enrolled in this program in past years applied to and were accepted by universities abroad and that I looked forward to seeing how the students this year will be at the end of the nine-day program.

This year, Minoru Ben Makihara of Mitsubishi Corporation, who attended Harvard University as an undergraduate and has supported HLAB from the very beginning, gave a remarkable speech on his time as a student studying abroad sixty-five years ago.

I looked forward to the rest of the program and enjoyed the “Reflection” at the lodge where the students and I had discussions until 11pm.

This year, we had a special guest, Tatekawa Shinoharu (in Japanese), who is an alumnus of Yale University and gave a performance of “English rakugo” at GRIPS on the 12th. It was an amazing and enjoyable performance.

On the last day, Saturday the 23rd, we returned to GRIPS once more. Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi of Harvard University also joined us. At the closing ceremony, everyone cried and it was a very memorable and moving experience.

In my speech at the closing ceremony, I had the privilege of pointing out that it is experiences such as these that are the moments we remember throughout our lives and are the truly important things in life.

The spirit of education is giving back or ‘virtuous cycle, a sense of each own’s gratitude’ (in Japanese) and this was exemplified through the HLAB alumni who returned as university students to eagerly support the next generation of high school students.

The founder of HLAB, Mr. Kobayashi, graduated from Harvard University and has returned to lead HLAB 2014 in Tokushima, which took place at the same time as the one in Tokyo. It is quite an impressive feat to have come this far.

To Aizu-Wakamatsu


On August 6th, I visited Aizu-Wakamatsu for the “Platinum Future Leaders Seminar at Aizu” (in Japanese) for junior high school students, in their first to third years (7-9th graders in US). It is one of the projects chaired by Hiroshi Komiyama, former President of Tokyo University.

During the car ride from Koriyama station to Aizu, I visited the areas where I was evacuated during the war in my childhood. The places included the area south of Sekito station on the Ban-etsu West line, with Kaneda-kanemagari to the side and Tenjin-hama, where I used to play when I was little. Next, I visited the house near Inawashiro where Noguchi Hideo (in Japanese) was born.

The venue of the Seminar was the university campus, where I had visited a few times. Most of the students who participated were born after 1999, as they are currently junior high school students. Many changes in the world have been taking place since they have reached this age.

I was able to hear only the latter half of Ms Tamako Mitarai‘s lecture, which was right before mine, but I felt that she had many points that we had in common (please forgive me if I am wrong). We had an energetic audience and everyone asked lots of questions.

After our talks, the students came on the stage and we all took pictures, shook hands and then took a group picture together. We had a very good time.

Afterwards, I visited the famous Nisshinkan of the Aizu-han (1) (in Japanese). Visiting hours had already ended but they were kind enough to guide me this old school. There is a statue of Kenjiro Yamakawa (1) (in Japanese) (built in 2004), whom I respect deeply. The Nisshinkan looks similar to Yushima Seido and also has a statue of Confucius. Even when seen today, it is an amazing school.

Later, I met with Ms Hachisuka, who was a Commissioner at the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission. She still resides in temporary housing.

Many people evacuated to Aizu-wakamatsu from Okuma village, the site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The Okuma town headquarter is still here at Aizu-Wakamatsu since immediately after the accident, many evacuees from Okuma village stayed in a business hotel in Aizu. Ms Hachisuka and I had dinner at the restaurant above this hotel, where we met the owner of the hotel, had sashimi and tempura and spent some time talking.

My heart goes out to the evacuees of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident.

July, Gone in a Flash


I have not posted a new entry since the end of June. I apologize for the delay, I became busy with many things.

From the end of June to the beginning of July, I gave seminars for four days in a row, including over the weekend. I spoke at Mr. Takejiro Sueyoshi’s CSO Seminar, Ms Yoko Ishikura’s Global Agenda Seminar, and the Global Leadership Studies Seminar at International Christian University(ICU). Including the Q&A sessions, the longer seminars lasted over three hours. It was great to see many energetic, young people.

I also took part in the MIT Media Lab @ Tokyo 2014 at Toranomon Hills. I also attended the award ceremony of the 2014 L’Oreal – UNESCO For Women in Science Japan Award (1) at the official residence of the French Ambassador, among others.

At the end of July, I visited Paris for a meeting with the OECD. It was part of the World Dementia Council, which I reported on in April and began in London. I had half a day off so I went to see the Orangerie Museum.

As many unexpected things happened, the summer has become quite busy.

TEDxTokyo, The ACP Japan Chapter, and WEF Japan; Heralding the Change for Tomorrow


TEDxTokyo, which started in 2009, is now into its 6th year. Although TEDx has collaborated with many institutions over the past few years in the world, it all started here in Tokyo. From a conversation with my friends Patrick Newell and Todd Porter, this project has developed over the years in to the IMPACT Japan Project.

This year too, we had many interesting speakers at the TEDxTokyo, making for and enjoyable evening. You can catch the proceedings on the website.

Excusing myself from the reception held later in the evening, I headed for Kyoto, where a conference was being held, the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians Japan Chapter (ACPJC) (1). This congress was set up with the expressed purpose of nurturing world class talent in the clinical medicine by a group of dedicated young physicians who had received clinical training primarily in the US. Although this conference had started on the 31st, I was attending the TEDxTokyo, so I was able to participate only on the Day 2, 1st June.

I arrived in Kyoto just in time to join my friends for a second round of drinks, in a small bar that was quintessential Kyoto. I had a rousing conversation with my friends from my days as a clinical.

The next day, the second day of the conference, was attended by more than 600 physicians and interns (in Japanese) as the interesting sessions continued. The immediate past President of the ACP, Dr. Molly Cooke, was also in attendance.

I returned to Tokyo that evening to attend the World Economic Forum Japan to be held the next day. Here too, I caught up with many people, and we also had many stimulating discussions.

These 3 days were spent grasping the extent of the new generation of young people who were making their presence felt. This is a very heartening trend.

Okinawa OIST, followed by Asian Pacific Congress of Nephrology


I was on a flight to Okinawa via Narita from Los Angeles. Reached Naha Airport at around half past ten at night, from where an hour’s taxi ride took me to my hotel in Onna village.

The next day, I attended the meeting of the board members at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), an institute that is a rare entity in Japan, completely open to the world.

I was also able to attend the opening of the very interesting and wonderful ‘Sketches of Sciences’ display presented by the Nobel Museum.

This display was a work by Volker Steger, and we got an intimate look into his creative insights. Of the 50 people Steger had worked with, one was Tim Hunt, and he was right there in the room with us as he is a member of the board of OIST. This added a new dimension to the already engaging display.

The Nobel Museum started the ‘Cultures of Creativity’ series in 2001 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize. Incidentally, the first travelling exhibition was held in Tokyo and was opened in the presence of Princess Takamado. I also remember having been involved in the capacity of vice-president of the Science Council of Japan, helping them to host a commemorative symposium in the Yasuda Hall of Tokyo University (an in-depth special program was made by NHK featuring this event).

I had a pleasant conversation with the current director, Olov Amelin. We reminisced about past events, and also talked about Dr. Lindqvist (in Japanese), the previous curator of the museum.

The next day, after finishing off some business in the morning, I headed for Tokyo. I was very anxious when I heard that that the flight would be delayed, but I was able to make it on time to deliver my keynote speech at the Asian Pacific Congress of Nephrology. Here, I met up with old friends from all across Asia. Time flew by as we spent a time that was tinged with nostalgia.

During the three days of this congress, I was able to take part in various ‘extra-curricular’ activities and spent a lot of time dining out with our guests from abroad, including some friends from Taiwan.

Revisiting UCLA


Returning to Tokyo on the 3rd of May after spending a few days in London, I spent the rest of Golden Week relaxing, before going to Los Angeles on the 8th. Unfortunately, I was unable to go to St. Gallen this time round.

Thankfully, the weather in L.A. was as sunny, if not more so, than it was in Tokyo. I headed for the UCLA campus for some meetings straightaway. In the evening, I attended a screening of a documentary filmed around the year 1984 called ‘Issei’, a documentary recording the experiences of ‘nikkei’ (Japanese American) people in and around San Francisco towards the end of the 1900s. It was filmed and produced on a tight budget and within a short timespan.

This screening was part of an initiative by the Paul Terasaki Center, an organisation set up by Prof. Paul Terasaki, an old friend I have had the pleasure of introducing here.

The next day, I participated in a forum on the theme of the Japanese diaspora. Starting off in the morning, it was full of interesting and thought-provoking research, insights and ideas. I learnt a lot, and had a great time. In my closing comments, I highlighted the fact that in our rapidly globalizing world, more and more people are actively choosing to cross cultural and national boundaries in order to create value for their talent. These pioneers creating value for themselves, become valuable ‘dots’ within a sea of homogeneity. And as these proactive pioneers often marry people from other cultures, a tremendous amount of cultural exchange takes place leading to the creation of a brand-new culture, which also unfortunately includes the gradual decline of any feelings of attachment to a particular country. This process of progressive change has been documented and represented through various data.

I had dinner at the glitzy Montage Hotel located right in the centre of Beverly Hills. The UCLA chancellor Block and Ms. Irene Hirano also joined us.

The next day, I attended a meeting hosted by the Terasaki Center at Montage Hotel, where Dr Terasaki was also present.

With cloudless azure skies, beautiful South Californian vistas, and the stunning UCLA campus, who could ask for more?

The next day, I was off, this time heading to Okinawa via Narita. What, Okinawa!?

To London -1


Last December, the UK government set up the ‘G8 Dementia Summit.’ Considering the increasing ageing population in many countries, dementia is a world wide problem. Many people must have experienced this personally through their families. Japan is one of the most ‘advanced’ countries in the world regarding this issue.

I suddenly received a message from the British Embassy regarding the Dementia Summit. It was a request that I serve as a Council member on the Global Action Against Dementia, an organization independent from the UK government and central in leading the Dementia Summit on behalf of UK Government. They stated that they could not yet make public the identities of the other members but the first conference would be held on April 30th in London.

I had just returned from a trip to Abu Dhabi and the Kansai region of Japan but as it was possible to book a flight with Virgin Atlantic and a hotel via the Japanese Embassy in London, I departed Narita Airport on April 29th.

I arrived at the hotel around 5 P.M. When I went to check in, I was told, “your reservation was made for next week.” There must have been some mistake. After an hour, I was able to get a hold of someone at the Japanese Embassy and reach a solution. I would be able to stay at this hotel for one night and at a different hotel for the remaining two nights. What an ordeal. It had been a chaotic time at the Embassy due to Prime Minister Abe’s visit to London.

The following day, I had a meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is the largest governmental building in British Government and is called the FCO (in Japanese). Upon my entering the building, I almost ran into the person exiting. Looking up, we recognized each other. It was Sir David King. What a coincidence! I had just received an invitation for dinner a few week ago to see David King during his visit to the UK Embassy in Tokyo on May 8th but unfortunately had to decline due to my schedule. He is currently the ‘Special Envoy for Climate Change’ of the UK Government. I was genuinely surprised that such coincidences really occur.

The conference lasted around five hours. I had looked over many documents before coming to the meeting and it seemed that the main topic of discussion were the goals for 2025 and what we want to achieve this year. This should be posted on their website shortly.

Afterwards, I went to a meeting, was shown around in the Parliament, Big Ben, and then had a meeting with the Minister for Health, Jeremy Hunt for around half an hour.

The inside of the building exuded a sense of the long tradition of the British parliamentary system. Some elements of the structure reminded me of the Japanese Diet but it the made me feel the heavy weight of British history.

After returning to the hotel, I met with Dr. Sahara, who previously worked at the Health and Global Policy Institute. We walked around nearby Queensway and stopped by a pub and restaurant, where I listened to him talk about his current studies at a fine arts school in London (it is a four year program) and enjoyed the sunny afternoon in London.

It was a very fulfilling day.