Davos -1


First Day (January 23): As I was coming down with a cold last week, I was planning on being absent from this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos like I had last year (I was busy with the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC)). However, it was decided that I would be a panelist on Saturday, and although I had been hesitating for these past two or three days, I decided to also serve on a panel Thursday morning. Booking a flight was the issue but I was lucky enough to find an opening on the Swiss Air direct from Narita to Zurich, on Wednesday morning and departed.

I arrived at Zurich Airport and met with Davos regulars such as Dr. Sadako Ogata and other people going to the forum. I arrived in Davos around six in the evening, went through the registration and to the hotel. I met with a few friends but mostly slept afterwards.

Second Day (January 24): I went to the forum from the morning. There are many to chose from, but I attended “Fostering Entrepreneurial Innovation” from nine. I wanted to study up on the subject and also wanted to see Clayton Christensen. These past three years, he has suffered from three major illnesses and but he looked well and had no trouble speaking. Afterwards, we talked about his illness and his book “How will you measure your life” (the Japanese translation is a bit strange- “Innovation of life”), which is an incredible read and which I recommend to young people. We discussed that he would like me to visit him, even if it’s just briefly, when I travel to Boston in February.

After that, I went to “Catastrophic Risks in the 21st Century”, of which I was a panelist. One of the panelists was Judith Rodin, who is the first woman to be the president of Ivy League university. I had wished to meet her for some time, and since Judith and I found several key mutual friends from when I was at the University of Pennsylvania, our conversation flowed even before the panel discussion started. I handed all of the panelists the English Executive Summary of the NAIIC report. I was not able to attend thewell-acclaimed speech by Prime Minister David Cameron then in the main auditorium, but I’m sure I will eventually see it online.

In the afternoon, I attended “Is Democracy Winning?” which was moderated by Nik Gawing and held in partnership with the BBC. It was a difficult topic but the four panelists <>, the questions from the audience and comments by scheduled audience were outstanding. I felt that it would be very hard to have such a discussion in Japan.

Tonight was the annual “Japan Night” and many people came. I left shortly after it started in order to attend the South Korea and Indonesia receptions. After meeting many people at the receptions, I returned to Japan Night and found that although the number of Japanese had decreased, the place was lively and still packed with many friends of Japan. Compared to the Korea and Indonesia receptions, the crowd was over twice as big and they were perhaps all about food and drink, though the other receptions also had entertainment. However, it can be problematic that some people see this and decide that Japan is just a“soft power.”

Please visit the Davos website <www.weforum.org> to see more.


Won’t you join the St. Gallen Symposium?


There is a conference hosted by students at the University of St. Gallen in the beautiful town of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

It is an excellent symposium in which many of the top people in the political and business world come together. I have attended the conference for some years (1, 2) (Japanese link only).

Next year, it will be held in the beginning of May. In previous years, it used to invite only undergraduate university students but starting from three years ago, it decided to focus on inviting graduate students, post-docs and young leaders under the age of thirty.

Won’t you please join? Regarding the application procedure and requirements, please see the St. Gallen Symposium website (1).

It is a wonderful opportunity and I also plan to attend next year.

See you in St. Gallen!


Late November, the Daily Events


Everyone who comes to read my column, thank you always for your support.

On a different note, in the last few weeks I had several opportunities to spend time with Ms. Yoko Ishikura. Each time we meet she would quickly report via her blog or twitter, but I am very late at doing this. Almost a month late.

So I shall inform you of the latest events in which I participated during this time.

On November 15, I returned home from Dubai. This is reported two weeks late in this blog. Since then I have been very busy from morning to night almost every day. Below are some of the main activities.

On the 16th (Fri), the board meeting of Impact Japan, the GEW (1) came to an end and I took part in “Venturing Overseas” (it was quite a fun session, a gathering only in the evening for about 3 hours).

17th (Sat): Once again, lots of business meetings and in the evening I departed to Singapore.

18th (Sun) to 20th (Tue): In Singapore I met various people and I visited Nanyan Technological University. It certainly was a very lively atmosphere, including the campus. The three day visit was quite a pleasure. I will write about it some other time.

21st (Wed): In the early morning I returned to Narita. From noon was the interview with BBC, and in the afternoon I attended the board of directors meeting of Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo (One time I was there as a ‘visiting professor’). The main subject of the meeting was the selection of the new director. From evening I had a session with Mr. Joi Ito from MIT Media Lab and the youth at FabCafe (Back in July, right after I submitted the report of NAIIC, I conversed here with Mr. Ito Joi, although I never reported this…). From there I went to the Swiss Embassy and attended the joint reception of WEF’s Global Shapers Community and St. Gallen Symposium (1) and I also gave a greeting.

On the 22nd (Thurs), I participated in ‘Japan Gender Parity Task Force’ organized by the WEF. 

I’ve been reporting this as a topic to focus on, and it is one of the biggest challenges Japan is facing. According to this year’s Gender Parity Report by the WEF, out of over 130 countries in the world, Japan ranks 102nd. A terrible result. How could this be? Please think it over. Individual action is important for the future.

Later I was visited by Mr. Grover from UN Human Rights and we debated specifically on the government responses to the victims and workers in Fukushima based on the report by NAIIC. He had done thorough research of the site and he asked a lot of tough questions. Mr. Grover’s report should be published in the near future. Apparently there was also a press conference.

After that, there was a meeting of Science Council of Japan concerning the standpoint of Science Council of Asia, and in the evening I hastened to the celebration party of former SONY Chairman Mr. Idei’s 75th birthday and then to a different dinner.

23rd (Fri) was a day off. After a long time, for the second time this year, I went golfing with my friends. It was slightly raining but by the afternoon the rain had stopped. Since there was no cart in the course, it was the first time in a while that we walked the entire course. Next day for some reason my ankles were sore.

25th (Sun), I went to the GAS reunion organized by Dr. Ishikura. I also attended the after party.

26th (Mon), In the morning was the board of directors meeting of Teach For Japan(in Japanese). Mr. Yusuke Matsuda is putting a lot of effort into it, but there is still a long way to go. I urge for everyone’s help, support and participation. Also there was an interview by the Tokyo American Club, a consultation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in the afternoon there was a visit by the Fukushima accident research committee of the National Academy of Sciences that was initiated by the US Congress and for the first 90 minutes I gave a report of NAIIC followed by Q & A.

I will also report this on a difference occasion, but from this visit alone, a lot of innovative ideas for Japan were clearly presented.

Now slightly up-to-date, but there’s still a lot more.


Foreign Policy: 100 Top Global Thinkers


Foreign Policy is a monthly journal on foreign policies that is widely read by experts in the field. There is also a magazine published once every month and read by a similar audience called Foreign Affairs. Both are publications which I enjoy reading.

Starting four years ago, Foreign Policy has chosen its "100 Top Global Thinkers" every year, announcing their list in December.

Amazingly, for 2012, I was chosen as one of the “100 Top Global Thinkers 2012” for my role as Chair of the Fukushima Nuclear Independent Investigation Commission by the National Diet of Japan. Some of the people chosen are in pairs, so it is not exactly one hundred people. There were many politicians, as they have a large influence on ideology. At the top of the list this year are Aung San Suu Kyi and Thein Sein of Myanmar as a pair. Also, another Japanese on the list is Haruki Murakami.

Last year’s top list for 2011 shows many people related to the Arab Spring. Among Japanese, there were Ms. Mizuho Fukushima and her husband. Also, there was Dr. Joi Ito, who was appointed to become the director of the MIT Media Lab, and Ms. Mari Kuraishi of Global Giving.

How was it in 2010? There were probably no Japanese people on the list. 

How about 2009? It is fun to search in this way. Please let me know if you find any.

Regarding the editorial quality, they are real pros, as the descriptions of each person on the list is very good.

The top two people of this year were awarded:

“For showing that change can happen anywhere, even in one of the world’s most repressive states.”

Mr. Murakami:

“For his vast imagination of a globalized world.”

And for me:

“For daring to tell a complacent country that groupthink can kill.”

NAIIC has been evaluated positively abroad, but within Japan it has not been the case… I wonder why.


To Dubai: Global Agenda Council of World Economic Forum




One night after returning from Taipei, I went back to Narita. This time I departed for Dubai.

The airplane I boarded at Narita was the same A380 aircraft that I rode the other day when I returned from Dubai, in "Taking a shower 12,000 meters up in the sky".

This time I flew in business class. Both business and first class were fully booked. Many of the people on board, like myself, are participating in the Global Agenda Council (GAC) of the World Economic Forum (WEF). There were many who I know well, including Dr Yoko Ishikura.

We arrived in the early morning and checked in Jumeira Al Qasr. This time, the WEF-GAC seems to have increased the number of participants by around 20 percent. With over 80 Councils, there are more than before and many new innovations were put into place to ensure everything was running smoothly. This increase signifies the growing number of issues which the world is facing.

There are separate Councils for around ten countries, one of which is Japan. I am chair of the Japan Council and the people on this council are mostly Japanese. Several meetings have already been held in Tokyo, so the issues on the table were relatively hashed out even before we started. However, in recent years, there seems to be few positive messages about Japan to communicate and consequently there were few visitors. Nevertheless, it is my role to greet the people who stop by, and therefore I spent much of my time at the Japan Council. Sadly, there weren’t many people who visited. It seems that the attention given to Japan and the expectations for the country are lacking and lukewarm.

However, the nuclear accident at Fukushima is a different story. Regarding the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), we received many questions, mostly on the individual level.

In these past two or three years, I have talked often with the chairs of the China Council and the Korea Council but as both councils had new chairs this time, it was a very important moment and we discussed and shared many things. Both were quite frank and highly aware of the need for greater exchange on multiple levels. We were able to have many fruitful discussions.

Just as I was thinking that it is a time of change for leaders in both China and South Korea, the news broke that the Japanese Lower House will be dissolved. It is quite a time.

As I was talking with the South Korean chair, Dr Guen Lee, it became clear that his father is someone whom I know well. Dr Guen Lee is the son of Professor Lee (Ho-Wang), the former chairman of the Korean Academy of Sciences (KAS). I have a photograph together with the father on this blog. It was meeting Professor Lee that brought me to Professor Ju and has fostered the continuing, inspiring advances in Japanese and Korean medical history (1, 2, 3) .

At the top is a photograph taken with Dr Guen Lee at the banquet on the 26th floor of the famous Burj Al Arab.

When I returned to Japan, I received an email from Dr Lee saying that his father was delighted. The coincidences that can occur in the network of people is a fascinating thing.


Launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) 2012, with the support of Ambassador Roos


It is now the fourth or fifth year since the start of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) (1). People from over 120 countries across the world have come together for the week of November 12-18th, to celebrate, support and network with individuals who are full of entrepreneurial spirit.

The Kauffman Foundation has played a central role in leading this event, which supports worldwide innovation and the spirit of entrepreneurship.

I have also been involved from the start (1, 2, 3) and this year my organization, Impact Japan, is the host for the event in Japan.

This year, the opening ceremony was held on November 8th, earlier than in past years in order to allow for more events and presentations. It was held in the Creative Lounge MOV in the “Hikarie” building in Shibuya. Many hard-working entrepreneurs and supporting organizations came, with perhaps sixty percent of them being Japanese.

I had the opportunity to talk at the opening ceremony and spend time with the enthusiastic young entrepreneurs.

As the event went into full swing and neared the end, Ambassador John V. Roos arrived. Taking time out of his busy schedule, he gave a speech, emphasizing the importance of “the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation” and provided many kind words of encouragement and support.

The next day, I departed for Taipei for a gathering at the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, which I had promised to attend.

I encourage you to please support the efforts and activities of the rising young entrepreneurs and Impact Japan.


From Nairobi -3: Returning to the Olympic School, where the foundations of diplomacy begin


Day three in Nairobi.  Today, as I took no part in the conference, I visited the Olympic School(1) accompanied by a member of UZIMA.  This is a public school for children of Kibera slum and located at an edge of the slum, which is known as the ‘largest slum in the world.’

When I was WHO Commissioner six years ago (June 2006), I visited this place and was extremely moved.  As one of the public elementary schools in Kenya (they have grades 1-8 and there are about 200 schools in total), it attained the highest grade in Kenya (actually the top in the country; although slightly dropping recently, still in the top 10), and this result enabled the students to progress to public high school.  The top ten percent of students with the highest grades can continue their studies in the public high school (4 academic years).

Over last 10 years, the number of students enrolled increased from about 1,700 to 3,000 and the twenty-six (26) teachers seem extremely busy.  With the class full of students, one textbook is shared among six to eight students (the textbooks cannot be brought back home, which is in the slum district) and they study together.  Some of the rooms are very dark as there are no lights, but they are still packed with students.  One class has approximately seventy to ninety students.

Lunchtime is about forty minutes and the lunch is boiled corn (maize).  I tried a bit myself, and could imagine how tough the situation was for the students and was amazed at how they coped with it.  To understand that this kind of world exists through experience is certainly important.

When I visited some of the classrooms I was greeted by all the students and their teachers.  I could notice that they were disciplined as well.

Since we could not immediately find visitor’s notebook in the principal’s office of 2006 when I visited six years ago, I wrote a similar message again on this occasion.  Whenever the young people I know go outside of Japan and to Africa and e-mail or tweet “Off to Nairobi…” I recommend them to visit this school.  A few of such young people I know read my entry of 2006.

What I wrote there was the following:

Most moving experience of my life

I saw the future of the nation

When you have the opportunity to go to Kenya, I suggest you to visit the Olympic School.

In the afternoon I visited the CEO of NCST (National Council of Science and Technology) of Kenya, Prof. Shaukat Abdulrazak (1).  The chairman of the board of directors, Prof. Vasey Mwaja, was also present, and we had a pleasant chat for about an hour. Both of them once studied and lived in Japan and one can feel their passion for Japan.  This is the process that is most valuable for international contribution.

GRIPS National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, one of the bases of my work, is a graduate school that encourages this process.

My stay in Nairobi is almost over. In a few hours I will be leaving the hotel and heading back home.

London and Onwards to Nairobi: The Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize


Photos in Nairobi by Mr O.T. Belarga of Osaka University Graduate School of Human Sciences.

My flight for London was
delayed in its departure from New York, and so I was informed beforehand that I
would not be reaching Heathrow in time for the connecting flight to Nairobi.
Luckily, I had some leeway in terms of my schedule in Nairobi, and so there
were no major problems. I booked a night at the Sofitel Hotel close to the
Heathrow airport.

I had dinner in London with
one of my friends and his family, as well as a Japanese student who interned at
NAIIC and is currently studying political science at Oxford. We went to a
Japanese restaurant and had a lively talk (photo).

I headed to Nairobi the
next day, reaching my destination at around 9 p.m where I was greeted by an
official of the foreign ministry of Japan and then escorted to my hotel. The 8th
International Conference on the MCH Booklet
would be held over a period of 4
days starting the next day  . This is a conference that is set up and run jointly by Professor
Yasuhide Nakamura of Osaka University and HANDS.

As you might know, the
Maternal and Child Health (MCH) booklet is one of the successes of the ODA of
Japan in the Asian region. The next region being targeted was Africa and elsewhere
this was the theme of the conference.

I’ve heard that the Kenyan
Government and Dr. Miriam Were, who was a recipient of the 1st Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize 4 years ago
were doing their utmost to make the conference a success. Not only were there
some international organizations, but also representatives from various African
and Asian countries as well as Palestinian countries. All in all, there were
participants from around 30 countries.

The session started early
the next day at the Multimedia University of Kenya. In Kenya, the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MPHS) and Ministry of Medical Services are separate entities, and I felt
that this was a very practical and logical approach.

I took part in the Opening
Plenary Panel with Dr. Were, the Minister of Public Health and Sanitation
Honorable Beth Mugo. The current Japanese Deputy Chief of Mission to Kenya H.E
Yoichiro Yamada used his own MCH booklet in his explanations, and this was very
persuasive. In this panel, I had a 25 minute talk titled “Japan Support
for Global Health and the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize”.

During the break, I was
able to mix with a lot of people from different nations, but I talked to many
young Japanese working Kenya and elsewhere overseas, the majority of whom were
women. I also met a nurse who was part of my team in Phayao, Thailand where I
was in charge of a project for prevention and control of AIDS. After that
project, she had gone to Africa where she was currently working. I thought it
wonderful that one could have reunions like this. The lively contribution of
young Japanese to the world gladdens me.

Tomorrow evening is the
session for the Hideyo Noguchi African Prize, 4th Anniversary. Since I am
acting as a chairperson, I participated, particularly as a run-up to the TICAD
5 conference.

It is a good opportunity to
meet new people and to understand Japan’s place in the
ever expanding world.


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.


Young People at AIESEC


I have reported several times on this web site that I support “AIESEC” , an organization working to promote university students’ internships at overseas.

When I participated in the AIESEC convention of last year, I was very much moved to hear the stories of Japanese university students who went to internships at India, Brazil, Philippine, and other countries, to overcome many obstacles and unexpected troubles.  This event of last year was postponed from the originally scheduled date due to the wake of the 3.11 disaster.  One of the speakers, a Chinese student, talked about her wonderful experience at a company in Sendai, a quake stricken area .  Her internship, she said, became a trigger for that particular company to consider expansion to China, and that she is now helping them make plans for the move. 

The AIESEC convention of this year (in Japanese) which took place this March was held at GRIPS, where I work.  More than 100 students and many supporters gathered again, and I was happy to be a part of them.  The program included a very energetic encouraging speech by Mr. Kan Suzuki, former vice minister of MEXT  as well as the presentations by the seven students who were selected from the participants of this year’s internships, describing their confusion, hardships, and sense of accomplishments which moved the audience very much.  After the speech was the announcement of the recipients of the “Global Internship of the Year” awards.

Then, we listened to the stories of the students who arranged the internship in Japan, trying to match foreign students with the Japanese companies, the difficulties they had to overcome, the growth and awakening which resulted from those experiences.  All the students in the venue, as well as the judges, representatives from the supporting companies, shared together this wonderful half day.  Awards were also presented to the students who worked to link the supporting enterprises with the potential interns, to express appreciation to the enterprises.

Next weekend, I went to an event which was held in part to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the AIESEC Asia-Pacific Chapter, spending a marvelous time with 250 or so young people from all parts of Asia Pacific.  In the closing speech of the second day, I commented that a true asset for them in the future, when they become the leaders of this rapidly changing, un-foreseeable world, is, for example, such experience as spending time together for a week in this camp.

I can tell you, Japanese youths are working to pave their ways, just like the youths in other nations.  I am truly proud of them and am looking forward to see the outcomes in the future.