Seminar Series in Preparation for the Conference on African Development, Article on Japanese ODA


In June of this year, the Japanese government will hold the TICAD5 (Tokyo International Conference on Africa 5) (in Japanese). At the TICAD4 five years ago, the Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) was able to develop many ties (1, 2).

These past ten years, I have had many opportunities to be involved with Africa. Many pages will come up if you search “Africa” on this website.

As one of the activities in preparation for the TICAD5, the Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI), in partnership with the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE) (1) will hold a series of five seminars on Africa. The theme is how Japan should work with Africa, which has many problems but is developing.

The first seminar (in Japanese) was a discussion moderated by the new Chairman of JCIE Mr. Ken Shibusawa, with myself, as the representative of HGPI, and Shigemi Sato, who connects Japan and Africa through businessmen.

Many young people came and we had a pleasant and meaningful time.

It is important that this kind of series will make more people think about the perspective of “Africa and Japan in a global world,” and also raise awareness of what Japan can offer to the world.

Since 1960 onwards, Japan has given much development assistance to many developing countries in Asia. Dr. Murakami of HGPI recently wrote a review of the Japanese ODA policy in the Harvard Asia Quarterly. Such research is important when considering the future of Japan’s international policy.

Following these past twenty years of the global era, it is important to think broadly with everyone about what kind of policies we should implement. There should be more opportunities for diverse business in the future.

In the twenty-first century, the world is changing in an unpredictable way, moving into a precarious era. We must learn from the past, watch the world carefully, as well as have a sense of how Japan is viewed from the world.


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 <> to see more.


A Wake-up Call To Those Who Want To Make a Difference: TEDxKeioSFC and H-LAB


I was up early on the 22nd of December; I was on my way to the Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC) of Keio University to participate in the TEDxKeioSFC.

This is an event that has its origins in the course 'Global Science and Innovation', a course that I taught in the academic years 2010 and 2011 during the fall term. Through conversations with the students where I heard their requests, it so happened that I invited Todd Porter, who was involved when we launched the TEDxTokyo event, as a guest to one of my lectures.

There was no looking back since that class. Backed by my TA, Mr Nojima and the Dean, Mr. Murai, the students teamed up and poured in their efforts to make the TEDx event a possibility.

On a cold, rainy, winter day, Theta (θ) Auditorium of the SFC campus far from the Tokyo city center, was packed with 500+ students and guests. The theme this time round the team of students picked was 'Think Like a Child'. Everybody was tensed up, but still managed to produce sterling performances. The passion of the speakers was infectious, and soon the air was charged with the shared excitement. I was also happy to meet Atsuyoshi Saisho after a year and half. He bowled the audience over with his superb presentation about his work which takes him to places like Bangladesh and Palestine.

I really feel that the students gathered in SFC were excellent. Those who were in charge of the whole event must have felt very tired, and this sentiment was echoed in the email that I received later.

It must have been an unforgettable experience for them; this working together in a team to achieve a goal within a limited amount of time. This hands-on experience is something that will stand them in good stead in the years to come, and will also boost their self-confidence, enabling them to become game-changers in the years to come. Well done, everybody. As for me, I had to leave for Tokyo right after my talk in the last session. Sorry guys!

I had a good reason, though. I was going to attend an end-of-the-year party organized by some highly motivated undergraduates. They were part of a group that I had lent my support to 2 years ago, and already this group was producing astounding and unexpected results. This group is known as H-LAB (1, 2), or Harvard College Liberal Arts Without Borders.

As a result of these activities and perhaps because of the networks it created, many young participants (high school students) went on to enter prestigious institutes of higher learning like Harvard, Yale, Ivy League and other colleges. It is very heartening to hear that more and more young people in junior high and high schools opting to study abroad in and around UK and the USA.

Yes, its good to know that young people are not being bound by adults who say that they are increasingly reticent. They are taking advantage of new opportunities. And yes, this is the point (1) that I am always trying to get across (1) … Increasingly, young people are able to see opportunities where their parents could not simply because they did not have any role-models close by.

I feel that what we as adults can do is to fully support the activities of these youngsters who have realized that they can change the world for the better.

Impact Japan is one such organization which we created in order to support the 'nails that stand out'. These outliers need all the support that they can get and we try to provide it.

Please do visit our site!


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.


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.