To Abu Dhabi and Her Highness of Qatar’s Visit to Japan


I arrived in Abu Dhabi on April 20th to take part in the Board Members’ meeting and graduation ceremony at Khalifa University. There are 350 students graduating this year. This university specializes in science and technology and is attracting many bright students.

The graduation ceremony took place at the Emirates Palace. The President of Khalifa University, Tod Laursen has held his position for four years and will see his first cohort of students graduate. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi was also present at the ceremony. Each student was handed the graduation certificate individually, signifying the significance and thought that went into the graduation.

I departed Dubai late that evening, or rather the next morning, at 3am and landed in Kansai Airport. Her Highness Moza of Qatar was visiting Japan and I joined the Qatar Foundation that day. The next day, I visited Kyoto University and joined Her Highness Moza’s tour of Shinya Yamanaka’s iPS Research Center. The next day, I joined their visit to Riken in Kobe and met with Chairman Noyori and went to the signing ceremony.

Japan’s relations with Abu Dhabi and Qatar have been centered on oil and gas but in these past ten years, mainly through the field of scientific research, efforts have been made for greater cooperation in human resources training. At the beginning of this year, there were several events held at Tokyo University between the main heads of the universities in Abu Dhabi and Japanese universities. In March, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi made a visit to Japan. During his stay, he visited the Tokai University Korin campus and spoke with Vice President Yasuhiro Yamashita regarding more interaction through judo as well as the joint development of solar cars.

Encouraging greater cooperation with the Middle East regarding human resource development is a wonderful thing for Japanese government and businesses, which tend to think of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates only in terms of business relations.

It is a challenge for not only Japan, but for all countries to develop individuals who can understand and reach out across the world.

Japanese universities should also build on their own unique strengths and have greater interaction and cooperation with the world.

A Bright and Energetic Next Generation


Last week, Ken Endo of SONY CSL, the breeding ground of crazy and eccentric individuals, stopped by my office along with Mr. Dai Tamesue and Mr. Sugahara of RDS. He came to announce that he has started a venture business in order to continue the research he had been conducting at MIT on prosthetics.

I have known him since he was studying for a PhD at MIT. I have supported him at See-D (in Japanese) and others.

While he has been active in promoting events that support people in poverty who use prosthetics due to accidents or land mines, he has also working with Paralympic athletes to further push forward the possibilities of humankind. One of his professors at MIT is Hugh Herr, who gave an astounding presentation on prosthetics at this year’s TED talk. With this technology, it may be possible for Paralympic athletes to surpass the record set by Olympic athletes. This was recently the case in the match between a computer and professional Japanese chess player (in Japanese).

Mr. Sugie of WHILL also came to visit, the first time since he moved his base to Silicon Valley. WHILL is a venture business that was set up by young engineers from four major Japanese companies. They introduced me to Mr. Hasegawa of WINGLE (in Japanese), which supports children who have unique talents that are less compatible with conventional educational methods.

Also, Mr. Matsuda of Teach for Japan, who I introduced on this site just recently was featured in the Globe section of the Asahi Shimbun (in Japanese).

There are many amazing individuals who are active in a wide spectrum of areas.

Congratulations! Shigeru Ban is Awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize


Shigeru Ban. An architect known all over the world, he has also demonstrated his compassion and philanthropy by helping create cost-effective temporary housing and great buildings for disaster affected regions. He is indeed, a great man.

Congratulations on being awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

I am privileged to have a friendship with Mr. Ban that goes back almost a decade, not to mention that we are both alumni of Seikei Gakuen (in Japanese). In addition, he is the architect behind the critically acclaimed design of the library at Seikei Gakuen (in Japanese).

I met him for the first time in 2012 at the World Economic Forum in New York City. I remember because of the location. Although the WEF is always held in Davos, 2012 was the only time that another city was hosting the event, in commemoration of the tragedy of the September 11th attacks. This was also where I attended a memorable session where leaders of both academic and science community and religious grops came together over lunch and had a very interesting discussion.

Mr. Ban has also appeared on TEDxTokyo in 2013. He manages to convey the essence of what he does in this presentation, and it is worth a watch.

I remember one time, when I tried to arrange a meeting several months in advance, and I asked him about his availability. I was startled by his reply, which was that ‘I don’t plan more than a month in advance. Who knows what kinds of tragic events might happen thusu where I might be’.

Leading groups of young people, he has travelled all over the world, quickly to regions affected by disaster, like L’Aquila, Christchurch, Haiti and Tohoku. There, he has helped in the rebuilding process by creating functional and beautiful buildings out of paper.

But one of the most awe-inspiring creations of Mr Ban to me was the ‘Nomadic Museum’ (in Japanese), not to mention the ‘Ashes and Snow’ collection within it. Another building of note is the NG Hayek Center in Ginza, Tokyo, which also houses the flagship store of Swatch. A unique project, it is elegant and refined, making it a joy to visit.

I am very pleased and happy to be able to appreciate the work of Shigeru Ban, truly a worldwide presence.

A New Academic Year Brings New Leaders at ‘Teach For Japan’


Teach For Japan (in Japanese) is a program that allows highly motivated young individuals to teach and help students who are from less privileged social community. And through this groundbreaking program, these young teachers are able to impact society in a new way, to nurture young individuals and develop themselves into new leaders. Indeed, this program is able to accomplish so much from those who have gone through. Indeed, graduates fresh out of Ivy League colleges like Harvard and Yale are increasingly making the U.S version of this program their top choice.

Don’t you think that this is great? Mr. Yusuke Matsuda has been working hard to bring this program to Japan, as I have introduced here in my blog a number of times (1, 2).

In the face of problems and adversity over last years, an unexpected 15 students fresh out of graduate school or undergraduate programs, as well as people who previously had ordinary jobs, started working as members of TFJ in places like Tokyo, Nara, and Osaka. They would be teaching at elementary and junior high level schools in localities where there is a need to overcome the obstacles posed by an underprivileged social standing.

This evening, I was participating in the send-off party for these new participants. The strongest impression I had was that both those being sent off and the ones doing the sending off are very passionate and highly motivated.

In the short speeches each of the new teachers made, there was talk of various backgrounds, of  motivations for joining the TFJ program, of the trials faced in the three-week preparatory course, and of the fervent wish to help the children who needed their services.

It was a very moving and inspiring two hours. Among the participants, there were people who, after working in Tohoku in disaster relief operations as well as in NGOs, felt that education was the way forward and therefore had decided to step up to the challenge of the TFJ program. There was also a student who started thinking about the problems facing Japanese society after witnessing the social problems of South Korea during time spent studying there, as well as people who, after working for a few years, recognised problems that they felt needed to be addressed.

I strongly believe that it is the continued efforts of young people like these that will fundamentally change Japanese society, and although still in its nascent stages, it will act as a nucleus for bigger things to come.

I would really like to ask each one of you , my readers, to do whatever you can in order to help.

January This Year


It has been quite a while since I have last written, not since the New Year.

On January 10th, I travelled to Boston to attend a conference on the future of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). As there are many people on the board who are in Boston and New York, it was the most appropriate location. Mr. Hunt from the UK was also in attendance. The US east coast was covered with heavy snowfalls until the previous day but it calmed down from the 10th.

I stayed in Boston for two nights and then departed for Okinawa. I attended “The 1st International Symposium on Open Energy Systems,” held by OIST, where experiments and demonstrations were shown.

The future of energy policy will move forward to become more diverse, it will use local renewable energy sources and smart grids and increase ‘visualization’ with new App (applications) of energy use. Through this diversification, the awareness of the users of electricity will change, as happened with the rapid change of the internet (http- www- iPhone- iPad) in the 21st century, with an increase in accessibility due to the regulatory reforms, technological innovations and development of new software. Whether it is in the energy sector, politics, or companies, it is imperative that the leader provides a clear direction for the future of the global world affairs.

On the 18th, the Health and Global Policy Institute held its annual Health Summit. Many people participated along with the panelists and the organizers and had a very lively and enjoyable time.

Lots of things happened in the week of the 20th and I went to Sendai. I had the honor of reading the eulogy at the funeral of a friend who was long at Tohoku University. I met with his family, whom I had not seen for some time. The previous evening, I contacted Tohoku University and had a nice dinner with four female scientists representing the university.

On the 27th, I had afternoon tea with three British officials, Anthony Cheetham, the Vice-Chair of the Royal Society, Ambassador Hitchins, and Ms. Elizabeth Hogben, the Head of Science and Innovation at the British Embassy in Tokyo. I enjoyed the elegant afternoon.

On the 30th, the Health and Global Policy Institute had its first breakfast meeting of the year and I gave my annual seminar along with my greetings for the New Year.

This past month has flown by quickly.

Two Days of Back to Work


We enjoyed a long new year’s holiday before starting work in 2014. There must be many had to be back to work early in the year.

On the 6th, I attended several New Year’s gatherings.

On the 7th, I had a crazy schedule. At 8 am I had a seminar with thirty students from the Harvard Business School, who were brought by Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi. It was very fun and engaging. The main topic was the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) and we had discussions regarding its political and international significance and the status of the governance of Japan.

The afternoon was filled with various meetings. One was with an individual who is aiming to become a professional bilingual (Japanese and English) journalist. Another was an interview with a graduate student from the Harvard Kennedy School for her dissertation, introduced to me by her professor. Another was with an individual who is developing a new education program. This was followed by meetings regarding my keynote lecture for the Science Council of Asia, to be held in June in Kuala Lumpur.

In the evening, I had two engagements, and the last was with Dr. Graham Fleming, the Vice Chancellor for Research at UC Berkeley as well as a few other people. I was out until past 11 pm.

On the 9th, I head to Boston.

December: Many Meetings and Busy Days


Following the seminar by Dr. Garrett on December 2nd, the Global Conference on Universal Health Coverage, organized by the World Bank and the Japanese government (1), was held on the 5th and 6th.

President Jim Yong Kim gave an excellent key note speech, and I had the opportunity to speak with him. At the time when President Kim worked at the World Health Organization (WHO), I was the WHO Commissioner, so we knew each other indirectly.

On the afternoon of the 6th, I went to Tokai University where I was Dean of Medical School (1996-2002) for the first time in in last few years and gave a special seminar. On the 7th, there was a conference at the University of Tokyo, hosted by the Graduate School of Public Policy, with the Global Public Policy Network (GPPN) Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident. The moderator was Mr. Nobuo Tanaka, a leading figure in international energy policy.

On the 9th, I had lunch at the French Embassy with Ambassador Philippe Meunier, who is the ambassador in charge of measures against AIDS and Communicable Diseases.

On the 11th, there was a meeting hosted by the Health and Global Policy Institute and held at the international conference center in the Parliament, which welcomed Governor Patrick of Massachusetts of the United States. Professor John Hamalka of Harvard University also participated via Skype. This turned out to be an outstanding conference and the governor seemed very satisfied. In the evening, there was a reception at the US Embassy, hosted by Ambassador Kennedy, there were many people there and it was a bit hectic.

On the 12th and 13th, I attended the Asian Innovation Forum with Mr. Idei, which I have already written about.

On the 14th, I headed to Abu Dhabi. There was a board members meeting of Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KUSTAR) in Abu Dhabi, there I had spent a few days just three weeks ago.

In the afternoon of  the 15th after a break upon arrival, the President of KUSTAR gave a presentation to the three international board members, and the next day, 16th, the board members meeting had a good discussion and future planning.

After lunch, I enjoyed playing some golf at the wonderful Yas Links course, and then headed to the airport.

I returned Tokyo on 17th. After arriving home, I rested a bit and then in the evening had dinner with Erik Solheim at the Embassy of Norway. Mr. Solheim aimed to be a politician since his youth, has been a minister, and has contributed significant work as a Cabinet member of the Government and the world in peace keeping mission of Sri Lanka.

It has been very busy month, but I have been able to enjoy meeting many incredible people.

Seminar by Laurie Garrett


Dr. Laurie Garrett is an incredible individual who is currently a Senior Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations. We had the opportunity of having her come to GRIPS during her one week stay in Japan. She has an amazing career, starting out as a researcher in biology and going on to win the Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

She expresses and writes on Global Health that are based on her work in the field, and I first started to work with her after her 2007 Foreign Affairs paper. As you can see in the photograph in this blog post, she highly respects Nelson Mandela, who passed away recently, and she even has a life size replica of Nelson Mandela in her room.

She kindly agreed to be a jury member to select the winner of Noguchi Hideyo Africa Prize in 2008 (and in 2013) when I was the Chairman. I was grateful to have her on the committee as her opinions are based on observations from the field and deep judgment.

This made me remember something that happened when I was at the Davos World Economic Forum. When I introduced Ms. Sadako Ogata to her, she started to shed tears. I asked what happened and she replied that she respects Dr Ogata so much that she could not help but be moved to tears.

Around fifty people were at her seminar at GRIPS and it was very well received. Afterwards, many people sent emails to me expressing their thanks.

The seminar was based on the her recent article “Biology’s Brave New World: The Promise and Perils of the Synbio Revolution”.

There are also the following her interviews/articles on the Council on Foreign Relations

1) Staying Safe in a Biology Revolution

2) Making the New Revolutions in Biology Safe

3) H5N1; A Case Study for Dual-Use Search

It is difficult to predict where biotech will go from here. However, what can be said is that ICT, nano, bio will keep moving forward and that humankind will move towards Singularity1).

One wonders what kind of world we will be in the future.

Asian Innovation Forum: The Youth of the World Come Together


The Asian Innovation Forum (AIF) (1) was started by Mr. Idei, former CEO of Sony, and I have had the privilege of helping out over the years.

This year, it was held on December 12th and 13th at GRIPS. I had the opportunity to give a lecture and serve on a panel. The second day was the competition for the Young Entrepreneur Award, by the bright, young people, which was really something. I had the privilege of giving another lecture.

Both the judges and the presentations by the young people were impressive, as they had been chosen from all over the world. There were people from Madras in India, London, Hong Kong and Dhaka, and from Japan, there were students from Keio and Waseda Universities.

Mr. Timothy Draper (1) also gave a lecture and shared fun and interesting stories based on his own experiences. It seems that it is a strength of the United States that there are such unique, out-of-the-box people. I was sitting in the front and had the opportunity to speak with him. He also wrote about the events of this day on his blog.

I also met Mr. Maheen, the Bangladesh partner of Mr. Saisho of “Dragon Sakura,” whom I have introduced on this column from time to time.

This was a gathering of diverse young people, who gave presentations and had discussions, and the entrepreneurs who support them. It is very promising.

Abroad in November -4: Taipei, Discussing the Education of Doctors


This past spring, I received an invitation from the Society of Internal Medicine in Taiwan to give a lecture. Following this, people involved in nuclear power also invited me to Taiwan. The dates were spaced out by about three or four days, so I was able to make some adjustments and attend both this time.

On the 22nd, I returned from Abu Dhabi and spent one night at home. The next day, I flew to Taipei. Two years ago, I attended the Society of Internal Medicine in Taiwan, and this time I was joined by Dr. Thomas Cooney, the Oregon Chapter Governor of the American College of Physicians. He is very passionate about education.

As the topic was the medical education and training, I commented on the movie, ‘The Doctor’, which is modeled on Dr. Edward Rosenbaum. His family carried on the trait of talented medical doctors, with his son, a distinguished scholar working at the School of Medicine at the Oregon Health and Science University, where Dr Cooney works, and his granddaughter, Dr. Liza Rosenbaum at the University of Pennsylvania as well as a renowned columnist for the New Yorker. What a coincidence! It is worth bringing up many topics as it leads to discussing and listening to interesting stories and things.

We all gave lectures and everyone had great insights into education and research that they have put it into practice.

The next day, I gave a talk to people in the nuclear power sector in Taiwan and some colleagues who had worked on the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission also accompanied me.

The series of six installments of The Simplest Explanation of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission received great acclaim. One person commented, “Some words appeared in Kanji (Chinese) characters so it was easy to read and follow the English narratios.”

It is imperative to share the lessons of a major accident like Fukushima Nuclear.