Washington DC: A Solid 30 Hours Visit and Sense of Fulfillment


I left for Washington DC on May 9th (Mon), right after the ‘Golden Week’ holidays.  Arrived at 2pm on the same date, checked in to the hotel, took a brief rest, and headed to the Carnegie Institution of Science to see Dr Richard Meserve (Ref.1), a long time friend. Dr. Meserve is also one of the key persons of the nuclear power plant policies of the United States, so I came to see him to discuss issues related to the Fukushima nuclear plant.  I understand that Mr Fujita (in Japanese), member of the House of Councillors, visited him just recently, too.

After the visit which was for about 40minutes, I went on to CSIS.  Here, my purpose was to discuss with them the progress of the project with our HGPI  (Ref.1),  which I have reported to you earlier, (click here for the video), as well as to discuss how we could collaborate on the “Japan’s Recovery Plan After ‘3.11’”  by CSIS announced on April 20th.

After having a discussion for about an hour, I went to the National Academies of Sciences. Here, my focus was to exchange views with experts of the Science Academies on nuclear power/radiation and international relations; Drs Michael Clegg (Foreign Secretary), John Boright (Executive Director, International Affairs), Kevin Crowley (Senior Board Director, Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board), Richard Bissell (Executive Director, Policy and Global Affairs Division) joined.  I have been in touch with both Michael Clegg and John Boright for about a decade or so, from the time when the scientists started to be active in presenting policy recommendation for the global age, when I was serving as the vice president and later the president of the Science Council of Japan; and of course in the last two months on Fukushima.

They had understood well about the purpose of my visit, and it helped much in having a very constructive discussion.  It is very important, especially at time of crises, that you have such good personal relationship with mutual trust with experts of the world.

I do understand that there are many hurdles, but we must be aware that the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant issue is not only in itself a great issue to the world, but how Japan handles this and all of the other problems that stem from it – such as risk management policies and their deployments, the effects of radiation on health, environment, agricultural or industrial products, or emission of radiology to the ocean – the entire response of Japan as a whole is being watched by the world.  When unpredictable crisis issues arise, the way the nation reacts and handles is a test and determines, like it or not, the most fundamental credibility of that nation.

In such circumstance, setting an independent commission consisting of international experts is a crucial, very important political process in securing the credibility of a nation today.

Look, for instance, at the BSE problem in Great Britain that started in the 1980s.  It took nearly 20 years for them to regain trust, even after they referred and acted to the independent EU committee and waited for their conclusions.

As the world goes global, international credibility/mutual trusts of nations is becoming increasingly important, and in this context how Japanese government reacts to the nuclear power plant issues, how it keeps the process of treatments/decision makings open, transparent, subjective is evermore crucial.  However, I regret to say that the government, companies, media, and the scientific community of Japan failed to recognize this at all. Therefore, it seems to me that they are unable to make any trustworthy, speedy actions or decisions and focusing instead on domestic circumstance, making policies that are too nearsighted.  The world at large recognizes somehow not-so-appropriate responses of Japanese leadership, which underlies, in my view, a quick decline of the reputation of Japan and spreading of unfavorable rumors or misinformation that harm the Japanese products and industries.

Next morning from 7am, I had a breakfast with Ambassador Fujisaki, and then spent the rest of the day having discussion with 10 or so of experts of an Aging Society Think Tank.  At lunch time I enjoyed a short but nice conversation with Dr John Howe, President of Project Hope, who just arrived at Dulles Airport from Johannesburg, and Drs Darrel Porr and Frederic Gerber (Dr. Gerber also came directly from Johannesburg) who was with us in Japan just last week, thanks to the thoughtful arrangement of HE Fujisaki.

After the lunch, I returned to continue discussion and made my presentation, then at 5pm, just before the closing, left for the Dulles Airport to fly to Zurich via London where I will head for St Gallen.

My visit to Washington DC was only for about 30 hours, tightly packed schedule, but it turned out to be an extraordinarily fulfilling stay.  I thank Ambassador Fujisaki and his staff at the Japan Embassy in Washington DC, and many others for their kind and wonderful support.

I hope this trip will be of some help to the current situation of Japan…..


‘SSR’ and the Responses of the Scientists/Engineers to the Great Disasters of Japan


After the great disaster in Northern Japan, we – scientists and engineers – had to face numerous problems of all sorts, just like others.  Various experts made comments on the TV and other media.  What did their peer experts think of those comments?  Did they think that those comments made sense and science-based?

I think most people would agree that the press briefings of the government, TEPCO or Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency (NISA) were so clumsy and incomprehensible detached from the public. It could be that the situation was too complicated that it was difficult even for the scientists or experts to make comments  in depths.

General impression was that, since the authorities presented only their own conclusions/results of their own interpretations without any data, analysis, nor basis of judgments, we felt or became suspicious there had to be some reasons for such conducts.  I believe this is true.  Many people responsible appeared to be simply trying to get away with excuses such as ‘not sure’ or ‘have not been confirmed yet’…

In this connected information age, however, if actual data releaved later, credibility of the authority and/or any organization will rapidly deteriorate.

I notice recently that major Japanese media, seemingly repenting on their poor initial behavior, started to publish special issues focusing on the future. (They were all the same and looked terrible in the beginning, though).  The Nikkei Newspaper launched this week a series; ‘A New Start from The Crises’ Part 1 ‘Towards the New Japan’.  It looks pretty good.

In Part two, “A Technology Nation ‘In the Well’” (in Japanese), they quote my comments.  The concept of ‘Intellectually Closed Nation’ (Ref.1)(2005, in Japanese), (Ref.2)(2005, in Japanese), (Ref.3)(2006)(Ref.4)(2006, in Japanese), (Ref.5)(2009), (Ref.6)(2009),(Ref.7)(2010) which I repeatedly touch upon in this blog and elsewhere, is introduced, also.

I expect all Japanese scientists and engineers to understand that their value (their responsibility is not limited to research only) is evaluated by the peers and the public of the wide world not only by how they behave in Japan but in the world.

I don’t want to sound self-seeking, but ‘Japan Perspective’, a report by the Science Counsel of Japan in 2005, under the supervision of President Yoshikawa and I served as Chair of the committee, points out clearly the basics of the issues on how Japanese scientists should connect with the society, not from vertical ‘silo’ points of views, but from a horizontal perspective.

It is crucial for all scientists and engineers to recognize their strength and weakness, to see the changes and needs of the society of our age, and to have a strong vision on how to address the issues of the society and put those visions into actions.

This, in short, is the SSR ‘Scientists’ -as a community- Social Responsibility’ in this global world, I strongly believe.


Starting With Whatever ‘Energy Saving’ Possible by Yourself; Invitation to a New Movement


It goes without saying that energy issue is a top priority to society as a whole.   This was made perfectly clear after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster and the following electricity supply shortage as well as the planned electric outage.  It is more important to save energy than building more nuclear power plants.

After the disaster, people are sending out all sorts of information, ideas, people’s wisdoms, or suggestions from engineers not only through the conventional media or publications, but also through new means such as Facebook or blogs.  The point is that the society which traditionally used to operate according to the supplier’s reasoning (electricity is apparently part of this), had, along with the challenges of CO2 and climate change issues or the skyrocketing oil price, transformed into a society more based on the flat, open, consumer driven demands and choices.  This is where we need to think hard about.

There are many, simple, practical ideas that are useful at current situation and can be done by yourself.  I found one of such good ideas being introduced in Seichiro Yonekur’s FB.  It is an idea of Hidefumi Nishiga.
 “At your house, if your current electricity contract is over 30A, the first step to energy saving is having it reset to 30A.  This will limit your highest electricity consumption to 30A.  Check the switchboard of your house, and if it is 40A, 50A, or 60A, call the electric company and ask them to have it changed to 30A.

Let us all together start 30A contract innovation!

Background and expected effects;   30A is enough to supply electricity to a household with one air conditioner installed at the living room (our house).  If a household that uses more than 40A at the peak time switches to max. 30A, they will try not to let the breakers go off.  If one million households had their electricity reduced by 10A or 1kW, they will save energy equivalent to one nuclear power plant.”

Having the switching done, then we could go on to figure out ways to use electricity efficiently.

It is important to take actions however small they may seem.  As you know, we have universal proverbs which we share in all nations, such as “Many a little makes a mickle”, “Perseverance brings success”.

Energy Saving is a global issue, so good ideas or options may be applied anywhere in the world.  I think we should post or search for good ideas in English (at least half of them).  Actually, there are many good ideas already being applied in many countries, cities, or societies.  It is also good to learn about the energy saving policies already being put into practice.  Today, it is possible for each of us to connect to the world to exchange ideas.  Such networks have potentials to move our society or even the world.  We might even create App in Japanese or English.

Changes taking place in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, or Libya for these 4 months is a good chance for changing Japan.  We must not miss this opportunity.
Start with checking your electricity switchboard of your house.

TED -4; Great Technologies Used in Google Car and Other New Devices


I knew that Google succeeded in creating a driverless safe car.  The story of its development was presented at this year’s TED (4 minutes).  The car ran between San Francisco – Los Angeles, so it seems.

It happens that two of those cars were demonstrated at the TED venue.  Of course, I signed up for the test ride.  The car ran with the high speed of 50-60 Km/h around the narrow course set up at the venue.  Here are the video of the test run (Ref.1). Both of the cars were Toyota Prius by the way.

Another speech was about a graffiti artist affected by ALS and his friends.  ALS is a disease that causes muscle weakness and degeneration of functions – known also as the disease which Lou Gehrig, the famous American Major League Baseball first baseman had.  It was a story about a project which, by combining cheap mechanical components, created a system that made possible for the artist to continue his work.

Stories of amazing application of technologies..

What is Going on at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Breakdown? Commentary by Kenichi Ohmae


The quake and tsunami which hit eastern Japan on March 11th killed tens of thousands of people in a matter of seconds, and destroyed whole towns in an instant.  Images show the evidence of the huge destructive power of tsunamis, and the great power of nature.  None would need any further explanation to understand this.

However, it is moving to see people there helping each other, doing whatever they can, without complaining, without crying.
On the other hand, however, the manner the authorities are dealing with the nuclear plant crash is hard to understand, not to mention there seems to be missing information missing.  Most of us had no choice but to try to gather up bits of information from Mr. Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company), television, or newspapers.

It seems to me that there are many flaws and blunders in the side of risk management.  Many problems are due to human factors.  On top of that, comments by specialists are obscure as far as what I’ve seen on television.

In this context I would like to introduce to you three U-tube broadcasts below by Kenichi Ohmae.  He sent out straightforward and clear comments on this video at  very early stages after the quake.  Dr. Ohmae is qualified to comment on nuclear power because he is originally a nuclear scientist and had participated in nuclear power plant projects in Japan in the past.

1. March 13th (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
2. March 19th
3. March 27th          (all are in Japanese)

Dr. Ohmae earned his Ph.D. degree at MIT, had worked for Hitachi nuclear power plants participating both in research and on-site jobs, and later was active at McKinsey.  Clearly, Dr. Ohmae has superb knowledge of nuclear power, both scientifically and technically.  Another impressive thing is that he keeps a very straightforward and frank style when he speaks, and do not worry about hurting the feelings of the authorities.  I recommend watching this video to you since this is a reliable, wonderful information source.  This is truly a good project. 
The huge number of access to this site indicates high attention from the public.  In this context it is clear that this hazard is comparable to the tragic situation Japan experienced 65 years ago, after the defeat in the World War II.  So, now is the time for us to join together in search for wisdom to overcome this national crisis, and take whatever actions necessary.

It is our duty, for the sake of the diseased victims, to turn this natural disaster into a chance for creating a new Japan.  For these 20 years, we have been repeatedly deploring the incapability of Japan to make changes.  Creating a new Japan for the new era is the most important task we should undertake for the loved ones we lost.

Thank you, Dr. Ohmae, for your work.  Please visit his blog (in Japanese) for more information.


From Davos -1



On the morning of the 25th I departed Narita for Zurich via Frankfurt, arriving at Davos late at night.

On the 26th, I participated in the early morning sessions. The IdeasLab is always interesting and thought-provocative, so I participated in the session of ‘Design for the New Reality’.  Here, Dr. Yoko Ishikura, Dr. Kohei Nishiyama (he was the discussion leader of the ‘Product Design’ panel), and Professor Toshiko Mori of Harvard University (at ‘Scarcity-driven design’) were the participants from Japan.  As for myself, I joined the discussion with Adam Bly because it seemed interesting and I have had discussions with him on ‘Innovation’ for several years at GAC. Dr. Bly is apparently developing quite an interesting new domain.  It is both stimulating and enjoyable to join in a panel based on presentations with higher perspectives.

Please visit Dr. Ishikura’s blog also.

I participated in several sessions, as well as the closing event of the day, the GAC dinner.  The majority of the people had participated in recent Dubai meeting so we had good conversation.  Lawrence Summers and Amy Chua were the two super special guests.  Please refer to Wikipedia for their backgrounds.  I assume you all know Mr. Lawrence Summers.  He is currently a professor at Yale University.  Ms. Amy Chua published a book early this year that has become a trendy, if not controversial topic.  These two guests made our discussion so interesting.  It was a privilege to be able to exchange a few words personally with Ms. Chua after the dinner.
The title of her book is: ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’.  She writes about raising her two daughters as a Chinese mother. Her opinions and actions triggered quite a discussion among her readers.

Ms. Chua writes about the rules that children are ‘not supposed to, not allowed to’ do.
? attend a sleepover
? have a playdate
? be in a school play
? complain about not being in a school play
? watch TV or play computer games
? choose their own extracurricular activities
? get any grade less than an A
? not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
? play any instrument other than the piano or violin
? not play the piano or violin
There are more important rules.  I haven’t read the book yet, but she said, ‘In a sense, it’s like a Jewish mother of 20 years ago’.  She is quite a personality.

No wonder people have a lot to say about her rules.


A Table for Two’s Holiday Season Charity


Have you ever heard of Table for Two (TFT) ?

It originated in Japan.  This idea was developed to make this world a better place.  It links the hunger people in the poor developing parts of the world with the overweight people of developed countries.  TFT is now spreading through the world and the name is gradually gaining recognition.

I have been supporting this project as one of its advisers since its inception.

TFT threw a Charity Party in Aoyama, Tokyo the evening of December 25th.  For many years, I was unable to attend this party but this year I did.  I thought it also a good opportunity to have a reunion with Dr. Kogure, the director.

Dr. Kogure seemed to be in good shape, but he of course has his shares of worries.  The party was packed with lively youth, a very different generation from mine.  Presentations, quiz game that competed between groups (I was in the Rwanda group), and other activities followed one after another to keep the guests entertained.

The party closed with the song ‘We are the World’ (Ref.1) First, a professional singer started, and then we all followed. 

The power of this song is truly amazing.


From Dubai: Global Agenda Council



On November 27th I headed for Dubai to participate in the Global Agenda Council (Ref.1,2) of the World Economic Forum.  Though a majority of the participants were in other Councils, about 20 people came from Japan including Drs. Heizo, Takenaka, Akihiko Tanaka, and Yoko Ishikura .  The program spanned 4 days, with 3 of those days having tightly packed schedules. Unlike past forums this was arranged with precise detail. The reason for this was because the objective was to recommend how to create networks for Global Risk Response for all kinds of anticipated risks in the world.

Since I was the Chair of the Japan Council, my schedule was packed.  Chairs were asked to arrive one day earlier to be present at the overall briefing.  There was no free time. I had to understand how everything worked, how to move the system, attend Briefing sessions, participate in other important Councils, etc.  My role was very demanding in a way.

The forum occurred at the same time that North Korea emerged as an issue. Because of this we had to be more sensitive about things, which made me feel more tired than usual.

However, this situation was also a good opportunity.  Particularly, being able to exchange views with Councils of China and Korea on political issues, economic climate, growth of China was a rewarding experience.  The Chinese Council Chair was Mr. He Yafei, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Korean Council Chair was Dr. Moon Chung-In (Ref.1), Professor of Politics at Yonsei University whom I have known for long time.  Having discussion not only with the Council members, but also with those two Chairs and hearing suggestive words and genuine thoughts and feelings was truly something I appreciated.

The reception in the evening of the second day was held at the terrace of Burj Khalifa Tower, the tallest building in the world.  Gazing at the soaring tower, seeing the view, meeting people…was quite a nice experience.

The third day of the meeting was BBC World News Debate, a wonderful 70 minutes discussion hosted by Mr. Nik Gowing, the well known anchor person of BBC.  I think you will have an opportunity to see this on television sometime in the future.  The participants included Mr. Kevin Rudd, former prime minister of Australia and minister of foreign affairs of current administration, Ambassador He of China, Ms. Malini Mehra, Ms. Louise Arbour of International Crisis Group, and Mr. James Cameron of Climate Change Capital.  I was particularly impressed with Mr. Rudd’s 20 seconds spontaneous speech to people behind the television camera.  Ability to take such flexible actions is one of the qualities required of good politicians.

One of the lessons I learned during these 3 days is the importance of making visual as possible the problems we are discussing.  At the Design Council, I had a glimpse of the wonderful works of Professor Toshiko Mori of Harvard University Design School.  I understand that Design Council and Innovation Council members helped problem solving processes of other Councils, and the results were fantastic.

Now, we all have lots of homework to do and issues to be addressed for the coming year.

It was a full, packed 4 days with lots of learning.  I left Dubai and arrived safely at Narita on the evening of December 2nd.

The See-D and D-lab Activities Continue


Previously, I introduced the event called ‘Technologies Appropriate to Local Needs Will Save the World’ . It was held in July by the students’ initiatives of D-Lab at MIT and Kopernik, (in Japanese).

Their activities later developed into sending students to East Timor in order for them to see the place firsthand -  to feel the situation, identify the issues, search for solutions, and craft plans for possible projects.  The results of their observations and analyses were displayed and presented at GRIPS, my home institution, on October 22nd.

Participants commonly reacted with surprise to experiences in East Timor.  Much of this reaction was reflected in their work. They described the proposed projects with strong emotion ? with a passionate drive to introduce solutions to the issues they observed.

To have a discussion about their plans was part of their objectives and was also included in this event. Together, with the participation of commentators and Professor Yonekura of Hitotsubashi University (Ref.1), an avid supporter of this sort of activity, triggered not only great excitement, but also materialized great learning opportunities to all who participated.

A review  of this gathering is available at Kopernik, and ‘here’ (in Japanese) and ‘here’ (in Japanese)

Like the lively discussion that took place at this conference, I advocate for analyzing ideas in a serious but positive manner. Where there is room for support or opinion do so cautiously. Give constructive criticism that encourages the students to further think about the problems and tasks at hand. Refrain from merely providing the solution, especially since you don’t know if different sorts of creative solutions will emerge from those students, youth, or young professionals.  Provide support, but without too much meddling.  And most importantly, never discourage the youth. If you do so, the only service you will provide is to chill their passion. Encourage youth by helping them see for themselves the world around them. Be silent but strong for them, and remember that our future lies in their hands.

As for the young individuals you gathered in the conference room to discuss East Timor, each and every one filled to the rim with passion for what they spoke about. We need this sort of energy to be felt more.


Hayman Island, ADC Leadership Retreat -2


Please click here for the photos.

The 2nd day at Hayman Island was beautiful.  We should be outdoors in such day.

However, the program was quite packed.  I was scheduled to be at the ‘Kailis Oration’ (Session 6) (cf. the program).  This opening session of Day 2 was again hosted by Nik Gowing.  It was an exciting session starting with questions raised by Bjorn Stigson, the photos linked above which I appear are of this panel (also included are the 2 photos of Nick Stern (facing backwards), myself, and Bjorn Stigson after the panel).

Clyde Prestowitz, whom I met in Tokyo a few weeks ago, is also participating in various discussions starting today.

For lunch session, I joined session 9.5, a panel surrounded by beautiful greens.  Somehow the discussion focused on the issues of Australia.  My colleague William Saito was also on the panel with me.  Chris Selth said that there were few targets for VC, was quite critical in that sense pointing out how dependent Australia was on its rich natural resources for its economic growth…. Then followed the plenary lecture by Richard Wilkinson  (right after session11).  I think that producing such type of academics as Dr. Wilkinson represents one of the strengths of British academic community.
Another session was ‘Cybersecurity’ (session 12.2) hosted by Nik Gowing.  William Saito did a very good job here.

On the 3rd day, 29th, I was especially impressed, among many, by Stephan Bungay in session 16.3, and Bror Saxberg of Kaplan (I felt that the power of the US lies in the fact of having quite a volume of extraordinary, brilliant and ‘crazy’ people like him) in session 17.3 ‘Education futures’ whom I have introduced to you in my last report , and my old friend Jeff West (another brilliant and ‘crazy’) in session 20.3.   These sessions were all very moving and thought provoking.

There were of course many other sessions that I would have liked to join, but as you see from the program, doing so was not easy.

My last appearance in the afternoon was with William Saito at ‘Japan -Perspectives on Change’ (session 19.3).  Australia, the host country, has just gone through the federal election which ended in an unexpected result and people here were talking about it excitedly.  On the other hand our story is; ‘Japan?  Well, we had 5 prime ministers in these 4 years.  Maybe the 6th is coming soon?’ ? isn’t this a bit sad?  I tried to include many comparisons and metaphors to make my points of Japan clearly understandable to non-Japanese intellects; perhaps, I somewhat succeeded since after the session I was told by several people that my discussion was ‘very persuasive, clear, and easy to understand’.  I do think that the current (and even the last 50 years') situation of Japan is difficult to understand if we do not present them in a sound logical manner, focusing to the basic issues and from outside perspective.
The closing ceremony ended by a very moving speech by Michael Roux, the host.

We enjoyed a nice dinner reception in the evening.

I would say that this 3 days’ retreat was a very nice event of a good size which made it possible to share much more intimate time, even more than the World Economic Forum in Davos (which I posted for many years), with truly wonderful participants to exchange different and common views and share new ideas. I was able to see my old friends, make new friends, see ‘great’ people such as those whom I have introduced to you in my report postings ‘1, 2’ and Gita Wirjawan  (Ref.1) of Indonesia.  I learned a lot from each of them.  Also, I was lucky enough to be asked to join in many good sessions in earlier phase (opening panels of day 1 and day 2) so many new friends noticed me from early of this three days Retreat  I sincerely thank Michael Roux for his invitation and thoughtsfullness.