Saionji-juku at Ritsumeikan University


I was invited to give a 4-hour class at Ritsumeikan University’s Saionji-juku (in Japanese) on Saturday the 28th, January.  The audience of around 40 people was made up largely of professionals around the age of 40, an important phase when people are at the peak of their careers.

I had asked them to prepare for this session by reading my book “Kisei no Toriko (Regulatory Capture)” beforehand, along with some other handouts that I provided in advance, and this they did with an admirable enthusiasm. I noticed that many in the audience had copious notes, most probably their responses to various points made in the book.

Although this marathon session only had one 15 minute break, it seems that the robust content and lively discussion more than made up for the physically demanding schedule. It was a bit disappointing however to see only one woman among the 40 participants.

I have lectured at Ritsumeikan University before, once at the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University campus in Oita Prefecture 10 years ago (talk summary in Japanese), and once at their Kyoto main campus.

The day before my talk, I was invited by people connected to the Saionji Family to join a group of around 20 to listen to the Reverend Raitei Arima (in Japanese) and to also converse with him about the various hurdles that Japan and the world face and will be facing in the coming years.

All in all, a very enjoyable learning experience!


6 Years of HLAB – Helping To Open Doorways to the Future, for the Future, By the Future


HLAB is an initiative that was set up and subsequently maintained by a youthful group of motivated people ( 1, 2, 3).

The founder, Mr. Kobayashi, had shown tremendous grit and determination to bring this organization to where it is now and his achievements over the past six years, particularly in inspiring young people, are note-worthy. And he is eyeing even more success.

This year, they received the Good Design Award (1). Congratulations!!

Although their ambitions are hampered to a degree by limited funds, they find themselves busy all the time.

This summer, for example, they organized a group of university students from around the globe to provide a splendid opportunity for 250 high school students to learn first-hand experiences, while also working on a project to build an experimental greenhouse in Tokyo that maintains a constant climate setting.

The HLAB website is well-designed, offering information in both Japanese and in English. I would like to urge my readers to visit their site and spread the word about their efforts and widen the net of support.

They are also savvy marketers, appealing to a global audience by inviting a group of journalist from abroad to record (scroll down for English) their views and insights into Japan, while also mentioning their activities.

I was also invited to contribute a piece about HLAB, given my involvement from the inception stages.

I firmly feel that is if by supporting such promising initiatives by young people that our generation and the new generation can contribute to changing Japanese society for the better.

I hope you are in, and I look forward to your support!


Supporting a New Generation of Medical Education by Investing in People


On the morning of 18th December, I gave a lecture at the Yayoi Auditorium located in Todai’s (University of Tokyo) campus for the Faculty of Agriculture. This talk commemorated the founding of the Japan Society for Clinical Epidemiology (in Japanese).

It’s good to see an academic society dealing with this kind of topic being formed. I believe it will be indispensable to the education of the future generations of doctors in Japan.

This society was set up by one of the foremost academics in this area, Dr. Shunichi Fukuhara (Kyoto University) (in Japanese) . He has long been involved through the field of epidemiology in mentoring a new generation of doctors.

I believe that Japan’s medical school community has fallen off the pace in recent years by as much as two decades, with its educational system, academic societies, specialist education, and certification processes unable to keep up with the dizzying pace of change that we see across the world today.

The reason why I think so is clear. If you look at my last lecture from 20 years ago at Todai (in Japanese, with summaries in English), or my Plenary lecture at annual convention of Japanese College of Physicians conf (in Japanese) and elsewhere , or my opinions about how the educational curriculum should be (in Japanese), it is a stark reality that nothing has changed.

To mark the launch of this society, I was invited to give a talk. I introduced the audience to some programs that are well-established in the US, from around the 80’s, but are not yet part of the conversation in Japan, along with some initiatives that I started with my fellow researchers.

Here are the slides that I used.


The Legacy of Dr. Bälz


This year was the 140th anniversary of the arrival of Dr. Bälz in Japan. He was a key medical doctor who helped usher in modern western medicine and laid the foundations for a medical education system in Japan, all those years ago.

And the 22nd of November, 1901, was the day a grand party was held to commemorate his 25th year in Japan.

Bälz makes reference to this special event in his diary (in Japanese), along with a poignant and important message (in Japanese) that is referenced even to this day.

Coincidentally, the Igakukai Shimbun, a weekly that is widely read by medical doctors and students in Japan, had an interesting article in its edition for the 21st of November (exactly 115th year of his speech). It was a conversation (in Japanesepdf version) between Dr Ryozo Nagai, President of Jichi Medical University and an expert on Dr. Bälz; Dr Moritz Bälz, the great-grandson of Bälz’s younger brother, and myself. I say coincidental, because the concept of this conversation had been thought of nearly a year ago, and things started falling in place around spring, making it difficult to gauge when we would actually be finished. This makes it all the more special that it just happened to be on this day.

I would really like people who are involved in medicine, whether it be clinical medicine, general practitioners, medical researchers, or people involved in the wider sense of the term like care-givers and of course, aspiring medical students, to read this article. I have put it up here so that people can read it and reach me with any comments. I await!

Life is truly filled with inexplicable coincidences, such as my meeting with Mr. Bälz, or the date of publication of this article.

Participating in the TICAD6 in Nairobi – 2


As I wrote in my earlier post, the symposium of the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize, where I am the chair, was held at the Nairobi Hilton on the morning of 26th August.

The symposium  was attended by three of the past four recipients of this award from the years 2008 (1st) and 2013 (2nd). Indeed, we relied heavily on the help of Dr. Miriam Were, who was one of the first recipients of this award, to get the cooperation of WHO-AFRO in organising this workshop.

Also, given the nature of the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize and its emphasis on public health of Africa, I made a special request Dr Were to invite young people who work in this area.

One of the defining features of the Noguchi Africa Prize is the emphasis on both public health and epidemiology and  in medical research relevant  in the African continent,. Thus,  past laureates include people like Dr. Were from Kenya and Dr. Coutinho from Uganda. These two in particular are wonderful role-models for aspiring young African people, and are held in high esteem. Another recipient of the award, Dr. Peter Piot, was unable to attend for personal reasons that are elaborated in the link to my address.

The venue could seat around 100 people, and was packed to the maximum with some people even standing. The energy in the air was palpable. My address was followed by a speech by a representative of the Health Minister of Kenya, a congratulatory speech by Mr. Shiozaki, the Japanese Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, and then by  a representative of the WHO-AFRO Director.

We also showed a 6-minute video about the Noguchi Hideyo Africa Prize that was in English but simultaneously translated into French, with Japanese subtitles. This was followed by a keynote presentation by Dr. Were, and then a special Karate performance by the young people of the UZIMA Foundation created and led by Dr Were.

After a brief break, we had two panel discussions moderated by Dr. Greenwood (a laureate of 2008) and Dr. Coutinho (a laureate of 2013, both who infused the discussions with their passion for their people’s health as their major  work, leading to a lively discussion.

The Workshop started at 8:30 in the morning, and began by one hour session with abut 20 young African hesalthcare leaders. At the end of engaging two panel debates, one each from the young health leaders wrapped up the talks by providing a concise overview. The abilities of these students shone through and wowed the audience.

The whole event was wrapped up by a speech by Ichiro Aizawa, Head of the Japan-Africa Parliamentary Representatives’ Association.

I was impressed by the evergreen enthusiasm and determination of the laureates that seemed to flow  freely for the benefit of everyone. Perhaps this passion is what is most important character which leads  to after many years,  world-changing work.

More will follow in part 3.

Welcoming the Chancellor of UCLA



Every June, the Chancellor of UCLA, Chancellor Block, makes his annual trip to Asia. He has many Japanese ex-post-doctoral fellows who worked with him before he came to UCLA and always looks forward to visiting Japan.

I also visited UCLA two weeks ago.

This year, we took this opportunity to host a UCLA alumni gathering to coincide with the Chancellor’s visit. Over these past couple of years, there have been more young Japanese alumni who have joined. It is heartening to see that in particular, there many who did their undergraduate studies at UCLA.

Each year, there are three students who study at the UCLA Laskin School of Public Policy, but last year there were around ten.

In 2019, UCLA will reach its 100th anniversary and there is a fundraising project underway to commemorate the anniversary. In Japan, there is the “Kashi (Oak) Forest Project” that is taking place between Tokyo and the city of Tsukuba. It is being planned to establish a UCLA Japan Center in one of the spaces. This has been made possible by Masaru Murai.

Around here, there are many research centers and there are many researchers who come from UCLA. This sort of commemorative event does not take place frequently and the Chancellor seemed to be quite happy.

I have been the Chairman of this alumni association for the past six years since 2010 and have been able to pass on the torch to Mr. Tohyama of TMI Associates from this year.

It makes me happy to see that more young members joining, as young people are the future of Japan.

Educational reforms at the University of Tokyo: Where are they headed? Dr. Inui’s Reflections


When compared with the rest of the world, it seems that the higher education reforms in Japan, including those in the world of medicine, have not made much progress.

From around 1980, there have been revolutionary reforms in the field of life science and American and European universities began to undergo major reforms. Some leading examples are the educational reforms at McMaster University and the New Pathway at Harvard University.

Universities in Japan do not seem to understand such changing and new situations but the government has taken some initiatives, conducted under the systematic name of “reforms”. In the 1990s, there was the introduction of graduate universities and the overall reforms of universities, as well as the shift to become independent organizations. However, can it really be said that the higher education has changed fundamentally?

I was at the University of Tokyo from 1983 to 1996 and tried proposing many different suggestions. However, as usual, although many agreed with the bigger picture, they did not agree with the details and finer points. The environment and factors pertaining to medicine has also been changing. I am referring to the “five M’s” that I touched upon in my final lecture of my tenure at University of Tokyo in 1996 and in my keynote speech at the Japanese Society of Internal Medicine (in Japanese).

One of the things I tried at the University of Tokyo was to discuss with Harvard University a way to let students experience the New Pathway. We began this a year before I moved from the University of Tokyo to Tokai University. I gathered the funding for three years. Eight Japanese students and six students and two faculty members from the Harvard School of Medicine came to the University of Tokyo at the end of spring for one week. Students from the University of Tokyo spent one week at Harvard in the autumn.

When I look back on the records and reports from that time, it is clear that the experience was a very positive one with high impact for both of the students, especially on the University of Tokyo students.

In 1996, the second year, the member of the faculty at Harvard who participated was Dr. Thomas Inui. Dr. Inui is a third generation Japanese American and is a pioneer in medical education reform in US.

Afterwards, there were some attempts for reform of medical education at the University of Tokyo. At one of those, Dr. Inui was invited for three months and very critically conducted inspections and interviews, based upon which he wrote the very substantial Inui Report. This was fifteen years ago.

Reflecting upon the time that has passed since then, it cannot be said that there has been effective use or implementation of the proposals. This June, Dr. Inui was invited to the University of Tokyo in order to speak about the “The University of Tokyo medical education after fifteen years.” And he gave a speech as well as served as a panelist. I was also invited to be a panelist.

As expected, there were few participants, only around 25. Unfortunately or as expectedly, professors were absent except for Dr. Hashimoto and Dr. Shibuya, who are in the field of public health and have earned their PhDs at the Harvard University School of Public Heath (which is quite a feat).

Dr. Inui’s speech is entitled “Curriculum Stagnation at Todai School of Medicine- A Sober Analysis.”

It was a passionate speech from the heart that pointed out the great effort that had been poured into creating the proposals, made possible by getting the cooperation of the dean of the University of Tokyo School of Medicine. However, most have not been implemented or developed further, while the world continues to change all around.

I share this criticism, particularly when I see the reality of the higher education in Japan and other universities around in the changing world, especially the many rising universities in Asia.

The Annual Meeting of the Japan Chapter of the American College of Physicians in Kyoto



As I have done for the past few years, I participated in the annual meeting of the Japan Chapter of the American College of Physicians (1, 2) .

It was another full and lively program this year (1). The Chairman of the American College of Physicians attends the meeting every year and this time, Dr. Weyne Riley also participated. We were both moderators of one of the sessions and saw eye to eye on many things. We enjoyed watching the presentations of the students and residents and giving of awards.

This year, there were young people led by Prof Shibagaki of the St. Marianna University School of Medicine, who actively participated in much of the program.

My old friend, Dr. Inui also came to the meeting. Afterwards, he was to give a lecture at the University of Tokyo Education Center, which I also plan on attending.

Dr. Inui is the person who has been very passionate leader for years about the future of medical education and I asked him to come to Tokai University School of Medicine, the day before I was to start my deanship at Tokai University on June 30th, 1996. Quite a long time ago, 20 years, a fond memory of our professional career.

Three Days at Sekei Gakuen


I am an alumnus of the Seikei junior high school and high school. Many people have good memories and feelings of nostalgia for this period of their lives.

I have been a board member of Sekei Gakuen for a while but from this year, I have become Special Advisor to the Chairman of the Board of Seikei Gakuen.

After giving much thought regarding the members, I asked Prof. Shigeru Miyagawa (in Japanese). They were both educated in Japan and the US, are bilingual in Japanese and English and are deeply passionate about education.

The three of us went to the Seikei campus and had an important meeting with the executive committee of the school. It took two to three months to arrange this meeting and coordinate everyone’s schedules. It was finally decided to be on the afternoon of Thursday May 26th.

We had meetings of an hour each with the Chancellor, the President of the University, the Principal of the junior and high school and the Principal of the elementary school. The library and elementary school were designed by Shigeru Ban (1), who is also an alumnus of Seikei.

I know that running a school can truly be challenging and I would like to give as much support as possible.

During the afternoon of the next day, I attended a board members meeting and councilors meeting in Tokyo.

The following Saturday, in continuation of last year, the International Education Division (in Japanese) hosted a seminar for junior and high school students, with the theme of “going abroad.” This year the title of the talk was, “My Study Abroad: A Discussion with Kiyoshi Kurokawa” (in Japanese) and included the OB/OGs Mr. Nagai and Miyazaki. They shared with us their own incredible stories. Afterwards, there was a panel on which I served as panelist, a presentation on American Field Service (AFS) and then a reception.

What can schools do for young people’s futures?

Many students attended with their parents attended and it was an enjoyable Saturday. It was all due to the efforts of Headmaster Kameshima, Principal Atobe and Director Kei of the International Education Division, the administrative office of the Junior and Senior High School, as well as Mr. Shimamura of the St. Paul’s School and Mr. Abe, who will be there in the autumn. In continuation from last year, I would like to express my thanks for this excellent event.

From Toronto to Doha


I left Toronto for Doha via Montreal to attend the Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum. I was a member of the selection committee at its inaugural meeting of the Forum.

At the Forum, I met with the representatives of the venture company Spiber, which utilizes genetic engineering to create spider webs, developed by Mr. Sekiyama. He is an alumnus of Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC) and his mentor is Professor Masaru Tomita. I took notice of Spiber in 2010, when it was presented at the SFC’s annual Open Research Forum when I was teaching at the SFC. I also had dinner with the Spider team and had the opportunity to exchange many ideas and opinions.

Watching the activities of passionate, young people always lifts my spirits and makes me want to offer my support if any. I am cheering for Spiber’s success.

Although the relations between governments are important in diplomacy, the trust that is built through people-to-people exchanges and friendship also plays a crucial role in international relations.