A Week of Conferences on Global Health


In April, there were many conferences that focused on issues related to the G7 Summit agenda in anticipation of the Summit in May. The first G7 (originally G6) Summit was held in 1975. When Japan was the host country in 1979, the word “health” appeared for the first time on the G7 agenda.

Following this, Japan proposed the concept of a “Global Fund” at the 2000 Okinawa Summit; at the 2008 Toyoko Summit Japan presented the idea that human security can be guaranteed by strengthening health policy.

In this age of globalization, Japan has been a pioneer in recognizing that “global health” is becoming an important keyword on the agenda.

On April 18th, there was a conference on the issue of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), co-hosted by the Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C. and HGPI, of which I serve as Chairman. There should soon be a report of the conference on the CSIS website. This conference was very substantial in content, with rigorous discussions that were to the point and highly evaluated by the audience.

On Tuesday the 19th, I attended the garden party at the British Embassy celebrating the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. Ambassador Hitchens gave an excellent speech in his usual manner, which was well received by the crowd. I had the opportunity to discuss with the first secretary who is in charge of the issue of dementia and items on the G7 Summit agenda.

On Wednesday the 20th, I had dinner with the head of a British think tank. We discussed the situation in the East China Sea and I had the chance to hear things that are rarely openly disclosed. We discussed that since the UK and Germany are currently facing major issues within their countries, it was difficult to conduct agenda setting for the G7 Summit in Japan. Since the G7 countries make up less than 50 percent of the world’s overall GDP in today’s world, the more concerning item on the world agenda is China, this year’s host of the G20.

On Thursday the 21st, I participated in a bipartisan breakfast meeting on the topic of Japan’s contribution to the Global Fund. The Liberal Democratic Party was represented by MP Ichiro Aisawa and the Democratic Party was represented by MP Motohisa Furukawa. Mr. Tsuruoka, who has been appointed to be the next Japanese Ambassador to the UK, was also at the meeting. He gave rather critical remarks, as he often does. I am grateful to him for his support during the 2008 G8 Summit when I was Science Advisor to the Prime Minister Fukuda.

On Friday the 22nd, I participated in the Nikkei Asian Conference on Communicable Diseases (1) (in Japanese). This was the third consecutive year that this conference has been held. In the first conference, I gave the keynote speech, and last year and this year I gave the closing remarks. This year, I also appeared in the FT and GAVI Fireside Chat with the CEO of GAVI, Seth Berkeley, moderated by Mr. Andrew Ward, the pharmaceuticals correspondent of the Financial Times.

Regarding Japan’s contribution to GAVI, I proposed that the Japanese national bonds could also be included in the mix. Approximately 20 percent of GAVI’s funding comes from the national bonds of nine countries, including the UK and Norway.

This year, Japan, the G7 Summit and the issue of AMR were topics on the agenda. Some exceptional technologies developed by Japanese companies were also presented. However, from a global business perspective, it is a pity that the mindset still seemed to remain inward-looking.

Yet, I was glad that during this two-day conference, many people from Japan and abroad commented on the GHIT Fund. The GHIT Fund is built on a Public-Private-Partnership model, one that is completely new and has instilled the support of the Gates Foundation. I am glad that there is increased attention from both within Japan and from the international community.

Saturday the 23rd, was the second day of this conference. Member of the House of Councillors, Keizo Takemi, gave an eloquent speech, followed by panel discussions. The day ended with my closing remarks.

In this way, this week was filled with events related to the G7 Summit and global health. Last November, I gave a lecture at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, where there are research groups focused on the G8 and the G20. This year’s publication by the G7 Research Group, which will be distributed at the G7 Summit, includes my commentary on global health.

It was indeed a busy week with many events.

Health Policy Summit 2016


The annual summit of the Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) took place on February 27th from midday at the Meguro Gajoen. Apart from conferences, this venue is used mostly for weddings and has opulent decor. On top of this, the day of the summit had nice, sunny weather.

HGPI was ranked as being in sixth place in the 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report in the category of “global health policy think tanks” (p.92) and was ranked in fifteenth place in the category of “top domestic health policy think tanks” (p.90). As a small, independent think tank, this is quite an achievement. It is due to the tremendous efforts of the staff at HGPI.

I had just returned from London the day before but everyone who participated, the speakers on the three panels, as well as the excellent moderators, made for a lively and interesting afternoon.

The first panel, “Sustainability in Health Care” had the following panelists: Hirotaka Unami, the Senior Director for Social Security Budget, Ministry of Finance; Toshihiko Takeda, Director-General for Policy Planning and Evaluation, Social Security, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare; and Robert Alan Feldman, the Managing Director, Chief Economist, Morgan Stanley MUFG Securities Co., Ltd. The moderator was the Mariko Oyamada, the Manager, Health and Global Policy Institute.

This panel focused on the issue of whether the public healthcare system in Japan, which the country takes great pride in, is sustainable in the face of a tight budget and an aging society. It was a very frank and open discussion and a nice opening for the whole summit.

The second panel, “Global Health- G7 Summit and Beyond,” had the following panelists: Kenji Shibuya, Professor, at the University of Tokyo who is internationally minded; Yasuhiro Suzuki, Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare who is also internationally minded; and Yoshiharu Yoneyama of JICA. The moderator was Anne Smith of HGPI.

We discussed a wide range of topics, including Japan’s contributions to global health so far; the agenda of the G7 Summit that will be held in May; and the potential for developments of partnerships which extend beyond Japan, in particular PPPs (public-private-partnerships) such as GHIT.

Japan’s contributions to the G7/G8 Summits in the area of global heath has been remarkable and the next challenge is how to further develop them to the next stage. The issues of poverty and health and diseases are some of the underlying causes of the instability that we feel in this world.

The third panel, “The Future of Health Care” had the following panelists, who come from different backgrounds: Seigo Izumo, who recently moved to Takeda Pharmaceutical Company; Tomiko Tawaragi, the Chief Safety Officer at the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA); and Shinsuke Muto who is very energetic. The panel was moderated by Ryoji Noritake of HGPI.

Both Dr. Izumo and Dr. Muto have unique careers amongst Japanese medical doctors- they are movers and shakers on a global scale and have interesting experiences to share, so their views have a major impact. Mr. Tawagi has built his career at the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and had a clear message.

We received many comments from people with global perspectives and it seemed that there was a major push for Japan to end its “isolation” and become a more open country.

I felt that this was a very fruitful day where we had a meaningful discussion, including with our members and the audience.

I would like to express my gratitude towards all of the people who continue to support HGPI.

Furthermore, I would like to thank the team members of HGPI, the OB/OG, as well as the interns and students for their hard work.

The report on this summit is summarized here.

Visit to London, the next Step for the World Dementia Council


The World Dementia Council (WDC), was established in December 2013 at the G8 Dementia Summit held in the UK by the initiative of the British government. I have written a few entries on the WDC on this blog.

Since then, two years have already passed and the British government alone cannot continue to provide funding and leadership of the Council interminably. Yet, dementia remains one of the most pressing issues, so this year, it reformed its organizational structure to become an independent, truly global organization, with the strong support of the UK.

This conference was held in London and I participated as a Commissioner and traveled from Abu Dhabi to London. A few new Council members joined the Council and I was happy to learn that we have a few mutual friends.

It is a critical time for Prime Minister Cameron, who will preside over the referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU in June.

Dementia could be an item on the agenda for the G7 Summit to be held in May in Japan, and supporting UK initiative would be an important issue for Japan- UK relations.

On the 24th, a conference was held by the CEO Initiative (CEOi), comprised mostly of private sector companies. Many companies and foundations participated and it was a productive conference. In particular, there are many promising efforts on the topic of big data to keep an eye on. Recently in Japan, IBM has been especially active in the area of big data and its partnership with IBM Watson has been in the news.



Last year, I meant to share with you my trip to Vancouver in between my trips to Seattle on December 1st and Toronto on December 6th but it seemed to have slipped my mind.

My apologies for the delay to Consulate General Okada and many others who looked after me during my stay in Vancouver. Below is the report of my trip.

On the evening of November 11th, I arrived at Vancouver from Seattle. This was my third visit to Vancouver but the last time was already around ten years ago.

From here, I will be traveling to Toronto and Ottawa. This lecture series was planned over two years by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada which invited me as a speaker. The topic of my talk is Japan’s role in facing issues of global health.

On the next day, the weather was heavy rain and a stark contrast to that of Seattle.

I arrived at the campus of the prestigious University of British Columbia. I gave a lecture at the Irving Barber Learning Center for approximately 90 minutes. Consul General Okada kindly moderated my talk.

Consul General Okada is a great speaker and he was deeply involved in the planning of TICAD4 (1),  that was held in Yokohama in 2008 under Prime Minister Fukuda. At that time, I was the chairman of the first Noguchi Hideo Africa Prize and the award ceremony was held at TICAD4.

I met with Professor Shigenori Matsui who has been teaching here for the past ten years, as well as a medical doctor who was trained in Japan. She is currently studying here.

From the afternoon, I attended a dinner at the Consulate General. The Consulate General building is one of the oldest historical buildings in the area and is very beautiful. Consul General Okada did not have experience in Africa prior to organizing the 2008 TICAD but he asked to work at the Japanese Embassy in Kenya following TICAD. We discussed issues in Africa and were able to exchange many opinions.

Both of the two days during my stay were rainy, sadly, but they were very fruitful.

On November 13th, I left for Toronto.

The World and Society of Scientists, Conferences in Kyoto and Kobe


On October 4th to 6th, I attended the STS Forum (Science and Technology in Society Forum) in Kyoto, an annual conference of people involved in science and technology related policy-making.

On the evening of October 2nd, it was announced that Dr. Omura was selected for the Nobel Prize.

On the second day, I sat on the panel on education and capacity building in developing countries. The moderator was an old friend, Dr. Zakri (1) the Science Adviser of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. As always, I spoke about the importance of interaction between young people across national borders. There was widespread agreement on this issue and many of the speakers referred to my points. My paper calling for multi-layered international exchanges, “Multilayered Brain Circulation” was also distributed.

On the 6th, I traveled from Kyoto to Kobe to take part in the “Global Forum: Innovation for Ageing Populations” held at the WHO Center located in Kobe. An article by the host, Alex Ross, was published in the Japan Times. I was the moderator of the “High-level Policymaker Panel” held on the second day. The panelists were from Japan, the U.S., Europe, China and American think tanks and they each briefly gave their views, followed by questions from the audience. It was difficult to keep to the time limit of 60 minutes but somehow I was able to facilitate the conversation.

The recent reports by the WHO, U.S., Europe and WEF were also distributed.

I was glad to see a speaker from IDEO, whose engagement seems to be a sign of the times. The panel where Gretchen Addi was a speaker was mostly a chat between panelists who met for the first time but I look forward to following “The Powerful Now”, as well as the “White House Conference on Aging”.

This Year’s Nobel Prize


Two Japanese scientists have won the Nobel Prize again this year. It is very happy news.

I was very glad to hear that Dr. Omura won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, as I know him and his work very well. The selection of Dr. Campbell, with whom he won the prize, as well as a Chinese medical scientist who discovered a drug for malaria, was timely and appropriate. The awarding of the Nobel Prize to these three scientists shows they have made a major contribution to resolving the world’s problems.

On the evening of the announcement of the winners, I was in Kyoto but was interviewed over the telephone. One was with the Asahi Shimbun, who interviewed me along with Shinya Yamanaka and Shinichi Fukuoka (1).

Another was by Kyodo Press, which was featured in the Kyoto Shimbun, and I read both the articles in the morning papers the following day.

The night the announcement was made, I called Dr. Omura a few times to give him my congratulations but of course, his line was busy. The next day, I was able to reach him around noon and gave him my congratulations and we had a pleasant, quick chat.

Then, later that evening, it was announced that Dr. Kajita had won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his impressive research on the neutrino. As he stated, his research was conducted with his mentors, Dr. Koshiba and with Dr. Totsuka. — Dr Totsuka unfortunately passed away early. Dr. Totsuka was an incredible nice person and I had the opportunity to give a lecture with him in Washington D.C. some ten+ years ago.

It is wonderful that they won the Nobel Prize. Please take a moment to go through my comments on the Nobel Prize on this blog. Recently, I wrote about the Nobel Prize in the magazine, Oyou Buturi (Applied Physics), which can be read here (in Japanese). Some parts may sound impolite but please don’t take offence. I have written it to send my message to the youth.

Conferring with the WDC at the WHO HQ in Geneva


I left Haneda on the 15th of March. Headed for Geneva via Helsinki, where the World Dementia Council and the Ministerial Council were to convene at the headquarters of the WHO on the 16th and the 17th. Due to some restrictions from the requirements of the National Assembly, the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare from Japan was unable to attend, but a delegation headed by Hara Katsunori (Vice-Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare) and including people like Dr. Toba, President of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, attended.

The conference on the following day was aided by the wonderful weather as the participants successfully created an atmosphere conducive to understanding the problems at hand, and sharing the urgency reminiscent of the UK government in August 2013 regarding the issue of dementia.

The discussion at WHO centered around the initiatives being taken in middle- and low-income countries. There were also many positive reviews of the event that had been organized in Japan Legacy Event in November, and many of the participating countries showed their appreciation referring to ‘Japan, Japan’. This left a strong impression on me as the first day drew to a close.

At the conference hall, the WDC distributed copies of the report that summarized their activities.

On the first night, we attended a reception organized by the British Embassy. Jeremy Hunt, the British Secretary of State for Health, was also attending. As I greeted him, he remarked that he had heard that there were over 4 million ‘Dementia Friends’ in Japan. I conveyed to him that the actual number was closer to 5.6 million, which was almost 5% of the total population of Japan.

The next day the director-general of WHO, Margaret Chan greeted the congregation, followed by Minister Hunt, representing the UK which was spearheading this initiative. He mentioned tin his speech the figure that I had mentioned to him yesterday, saying that ‘In Japan, we have nearly 5% of the population participating as Dementia Friends…’. Even discounting the fact that Katsunori Hara had presented earlier in the day, the initiatives taken by Japan were repeatedly highlighted, and the delegation from Japan were excited about the interest that they had garnered.

After the conference had concluded, we paid a visit to the headquarters of the Japanese Mission in Geneva, meeting with Ambassador Otabe and Ambassador Kaji (in Japanese), before returning to WHO to meet with Dr. Nakatani, who had been shouldering the responsibility of Assistant Director General for almost 8 years. We listened to him talking about the various activities and the administrative challenges. We go back a long way since his time at the MHLW.

Later, the 10 members of the Japanese delegation got together and discussed the achievements of the past two days over dinner.

My flight the next day was in the afternoon, and so I spent my time at St. Pierre Cathedral, which is famous as the adopted church of John Calvin, the famous theologian involved in the Protestant Reformation. I was able to see some very interesting historical documents and testimonies.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to refer to incunabula in my talks, and the displayed information about the printing of the Gutenberg Bible and the ensuing reformation in Christianity held a special interest for me.

The Japanese-American Delegation’s visit to Japan and Students of the Dartmouth Tuck School


On March 12th, I attended a lunch organized by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership on “Japanese American Leaders and Japan-US Relations.” The organizer was Irene Hirano Inouye, the wife of the late Senator Daniel Inouye. This time, as the main event held in Hiroshima was on the topic of “Ageing Society and Dementia” (in Japanese), I was able to meet with Professor Morimoto among others and had a very productive and pleasant time.

I spoke on the topics of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) (1), and my recent activities as a council member of the G8 World Dementia Council (1), established by the initiative of the UK government.

It was a beautiful day at the Meiji Kinenkan and I enjoyed meeting with many incredible people. I will update you when the details of the rest of the “Japanese American leaders” visit are uploaded on the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership website.

In the afternoon, I led a seminar at GRIPS with students from the Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College. The title of my talk was my usual “Uncertain Times.” I started my talk by speaking about Kanichi Asakawa. He is an important historical figure as he is the first Japanese graduate of Dartmouth College and the first Japanese professor at Yale University (as well as the first Japanese professor at any university abroad in a developed country at the time). I wrote about him in my Chairman’s message at the start of the NAIIC report. I also mentioned that Jim Kim, the current President of the World Bank, was selected for the post when he was serving as the President of Dartmouth College.

The professor who led the students told me that it had been an excellent two hours and asked if I would visit Dartmouth, to which I answered, of course.

It was a truly enjoyable day.

From London to Washington


On Sunday February 8th, I flew from Haneda to London to speak as a panelist on the Opening Plenary Panel for the Chatham House conference, Ageing and Health.

I took the Heathrow Express for the first time and it was smooth and quite convenient. It was a beautiful Sunday and many people were outside enjoying the weather in Green Park and Hyde Park, near the Flemont Mayfair Hotel, where I stayed this time. After a stroll in the park, I met with some of the panelists in the hotel lobby to discuss the next day’s panel. In the evening I had dinner at Ye Grapes with a friend.

The next morning, I had breakfast at the office of British friends of mine. Afterwards, I went to Chatham House and waited for the conference to begin. It was quite a good conference. I spoke frankly, emphasizing the importance of taking measures against dementia and praised the UK leadership for taking serious action through the G8 Dementia Summit. I had the chance to meet many people and enjoyed the conference. During the lunch break, I had the pleasure of visiting Dr. Cheetham’s (1) flat for a bit, located just in front of St. James’s Square near Chatham House. He had also just arrived that morning, from the US. In the afternoon, there was a Royal Society-related meeting. Dinner was at Le Boudin Blanc, right next to Ye Grapes from the evening before.

The following day, I headed to Heathrow to fly to Washington D.C.. I landed at Dulles airport around 3pm in the afternoon but it was too late for my next appointment so I had to cancel over the phone. I went directly to my hotel in Bethesda.

The next day was full, starting at the National Institute of Health in the morning for the second day of the US version of the Legacy Event that was held in Japan last November and then followed by the fourth conference of the World Dementia Council (1, 2). A few people from the Ministry of Health and the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology participated from Japan. They gave a presentation on the “New Orange Plan.” In the afternoon, I returned to the hotel for the fourth conference of the World Dementia Council. There was also another meeting in the room next door for conference-related people. It was a long conference day but we were able to have a productive exchange of views and discuss the March conference in Geneva.

In the evening, I attended a dinner with young people from the Ministry of Health and the Japanese Embassy. The next day, I headed to the airport early, taking an indirect flight with one stop in Chicago and landed at Narita Airport in the afternoon of the 13th.

The past six days were packed with discussions on the issues of ageing society and dementia in Tokyo, London and D.C..