Global Health Conference in Bangkok


I flew to Bangkok on January 28th for the conference that is convened along with the Prince Mahidol Award (1) for Medicine and Public Health. One of the recipients this year was Dr. Akira Endo, whose research led to the development of statin drugs to treat high cholesterol. Dr. Endo has also been awarded the Japan Prize and Lasker Award. I had been unable to attend the award ceremony day and missed the opportunity to congratulate him.

The Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC2015) followed the award ceremony day and this year’s topic was “Global Health Post-2015, Accelerating Equity”.  Our Member of the House of Councilors, Keizo Takemi spoke on universal health coverage, very rich in content and powerful in delivery.

On the second day, I was a panelist on the last panel of the conference, Plenary Panel 3 “Global Health Financing- What Lies Ahead?” along with Tim Evans of the World Bank, Mai Oanh Global of Vietnam, Health Sciences Senior Fellow Dean Jamison of UCSF and Ariel Pablos-Mendes of the Rockefeller Foundation, who was the moderator.

The discussion at the conference tended to center on ODA, WHO, the UN and World Bank. I pointed out the fact that although “global” is the key word, the discussion was still focused on the nation as the unit and being international as the framework, in this time of great change around the ‘global’ world. Similarly, though “innovation” is on everyone’s lips, how it is to be defined remains unclear. I touched upon the Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) Fund, which is co-sponsored by Japanese companies, the Gates Foundation and the Japanese government and it was well received.

In the evening, I had dinner with the leading nephrologists in Thailand. Afterwards, I met with Dr. Sugimoto, Ms. Hayashi, with a few from JICA, was joined by people from JICA and later headed to the Red Sky rooftop bar at the Centara Grand Hotel, where the conference had been held.

I have visited Bangkok many times over the past twenty years, for the International Society of Nephrology and JICA related missions. Some things have changed in Bakgkok while others have remained the same, but all in all, it is full of vitality.

Visits to the UK in October and November – 2


more photos→ (1)(2

After returning from London, I gave a speech at the international conference for the Red Cross in Fukushima, met with Peter Piot, and participated in many lectures. It was November before I knew it.

I participated in the World Dementia Council’s Legacy Event Japan for the entire program on both November 5th and 6th. On the 7th, the OECD-HGPI held an event that focused on the activities of private sector companies and NGOs.

I have written in my previous entry up to this point.

On November 10th, I flew to London again. This time it was for a board meeting for the GHIT fund. It was held at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, of which Peter Piot is the President. It is a prestigious university with a long tradition. Dr Piot is from Belgium, this reflects the strength of the UK, where people in the top positions are recruited regardless of nationality.

Similarly, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England is Canadian. This has received much attention around the world and is likely to increase global trust in the institution.

On the evening of my arrival, we had dinner at Bocca Di Lupo. The Vice President of the Royal Society, and a friend of mine, Anthony Cheetman also attended the dinner.

The next day, after finishing the board meeting, I attended a public event by GHIT Fund hosted by the Embassy of Japan as well as a reception at the Embassy in the afternoon.

I gave the closing remarks. It required much thought, as it had to convey to the audience and hosts the main message of the event as well as the remarks of the panelists and speakers. I decided to focus on two past winners of the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize, the only award given by the Japanese government: Brian Greenwood (1), the keynote speaker of the event and first person to receive the award, and Peter Piot, who was the chairperson of the panel at the event and the second person to receive the award. Both of their partners also made an appearance afterwards and I was happy to see Mrs. Greenwood again after six years.

After this evening event at the Embassy, GHIT board members were invited to dinner at the Ambassador’s residence. I am grateful to Ambassador and Mrs Hayashi as well as the people of the Embassy for the entire evening events

The Poppy Installation at the Tower of London was on at the time and it was a shame that I was unable to go see it.

Visits to the UK in October and November – 1


Over these past two months, I have had the opportunity to be involved with the UK on several occasions.

At the beginning of October, I served as a panelist at a conference held by Chatham House and the Japan Foundation.

Chatham House is a world-renowned British think tank. I have visited and worked with them many times.

Last year, Chatham House launched a five-year seminar series in cooperation with the Japan Foundation. This year was the second conference, entitled, “The Role of the Nation State in Addressing Global Challenges: Japan-UK Perspectives.” I was invited to be a speaker on the “Fukushima” panel held on the second day. The panel chair was Sir David Warren, who was the British Ambassador to Japan at the time of the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami in 2011. I was also asked to write an essay for the conference and will introduce it here on my blog when it has been published.

In mid-October, I was in London, my last trip there having been in April. It was for the third meeting of the World Dementia Council (WDC) . Similar to the first meeting, it was held in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I briefly touched upon documents provided by the Japanese government in preparation for the WDC Legacy Event Japan, which will be held in Japan in November. However, since I am not the representative of Japan, I focused on participating in the discussion as an independent board member.

Also in London, I had the chance to meet up with a few young people, whom I have worked with in the past.

After returning to Japan, I met with the Senior Partner of BLP, Mr Paisner, who has participated in the IBA Tokyo twice. He was well received at the GRIPS Forum, with a turnout of around 200 students and faculty members.

Before I knew it, it was the end of October and I welcomed Professor Peter Piot, the Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (this is only comprised of a graduate school) to give a lecture at the GHIT.

Thirty-eight years ago, he discovered Ebola in the Congo and was awarded the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize (it is the only award given by the Japanese government and I am the Chairperson of the prize committee). It was very busy, with over seventy organizations at the press conference, countless questions asked on Ebola and many other lectures to give.

In my spare time, I had the opportunity to meet with people from British companies in London and in Tokyo.

Legacy Event Japan: Dementia Summit in Japan


The World Dementia Council (WDC) (1) was launched last year in the UK at the G8 Summit. Until now, the Council has met three times, in London, Paris and London, with the Legacy Event being held in London in June, in Ottawa in September and in Japan on November 5-7th.

As a Council member, I have had many roles, including giving a speech at the opening ceremony, as you can see from my website and my twitter, at the Lagacy Event Japan of November.

I was pleased that the first day was even more successful than I had anticipated, due to the strong will and leadersip of the UK government and the ongoing events that were held five times over the past six months in London, Paris and Ottawa, allowing members to share many experiences. The Japanese government and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, who were the hosts of the event this time around, were also very pleased.

On the second day, both Minister Shiozaki and Prime Minister Abe spoke at the event, pledging a strong, ministry-wide commitment to dealing with dementia. I had the pleasure of presenting Dennis Gillings, the WDC Special Envoy, who spoke via video message as he could not be present at the event. After opening remarks were given by Mark Walport, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Prime Minister and an old friend of mine, as well as by the World Health Organization (WHO), the panel commenced.

The first two-days of the event in Tokyo were comprised not only of presentations and panels by experts but also by people with dementia themselves; thus, it was evaluated very highly by people in the field from the participating countries.

On the third day, there were government-organized events held in Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto. In Tokyo, one of the events was a TED Talk-style presentation, led by my Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI), in cooperation with the OECD okyo office and ten private companies and NGOs that are independent from governments. The presentation included the topics of city planning and the potential use of robots. It was a huge success.

This kind of “social investment,” in which multi-talented people and stakeholders from different backgrounds actively come together, will play a key role for society in the decades to come.

The UK government has displayed a strong commitment to tackling this problem and the British Embassy held two other events in parallel to this Legacy Event, including a dementia workshop led by young people on the second day and a meeting of Japanese and British pharmaceutical companies and ventures on the third day, both of which I attended.

I am incredibly impressed by the will of the British government, as well as their imagination, strategy and implementation in dealing with dementia.

The International Red Cross Meeting on Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Preparedness



On October 27th, the Third Reference Group Meeting on Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Preparedness (Japanese) was held in Fukushima City.

It was the third meeting in this series but the first to be held in Japan. I was invited to give the keynote speech.

The main points of my speech were to explain the purpose and process of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), within the context of the rapidly changing world. I also showed the video of the Simplest Explanation of NAIIC and introduced ‘SafeCast’, a new system for documenting and sharing radiation readings, which is suitable for the global era. Lastly, I touched upon the significance of the role of the Red Cross, a brand name organization with an international network that is independent from governments and politics.

After my speech, a group of seven high school students gave a presentation on their activities, which they started after watching the Simplest Explanation of NAIIC video and thinking about what they could do as individuals. They gave an amazing presentation in English, despite the fact that none of them had lived abroad for a long period of time. They must have put in tremendous efforts and preparation into the presentation. I felt that the whole audience was very moved by their presentation.

After the conference, I expressed my wishes to the Red Cross to develop greater cross-border networks with such youth through the activities of the International Red Cross.

July, Gone in a Flash


I have not posted a new entry since the end of June. I apologize for the delay, I became busy with many things.

From the end of June to the beginning of July, I gave seminars for four days in a row, including over the weekend. I spoke at Mr. Takejiro Sueyoshi’s CSO Seminar, Ms Yoko Ishikura’s Global Agenda Seminar, and the Global Leadership Studies Seminar at International Christian University(ICU). Including the Q&A sessions, the longer seminars lasted over three hours. It was great to see many energetic, young people.

I also took part in the MIT Media Lab @ Tokyo 2014 at Toranomon Hills. I also attended the award ceremony of the 2014 L’Oreal – UNESCO For Women in Science Japan Award (1) at the official residence of the French Ambassador, among others.

At the end of July, I visited Paris for a meeting with the OECD. It was part of the World Dementia Council, which I reported on in April and began in London. I had half a day off so I went to see the Orangerie Museum.

As many unexpected things happened, the summer has become quite busy.

The One year anniversary of the GHIT


The GHIT is an acronym for the Global Health Innovation Technology Fund, the first of its kind where the public and the private sector join hands in order to tackle global health issues. It was started a year ago, on June 1st.

So, what’s so special about it? I believe it is the fact that this initiative provides a structure where it is possible to supplement the strengths of Japan by dealing with its weaknesses. The strengths I am referring to here are the core technologies and chemical compounds that Japanese pharmaceutical companies have to offer the world, but which are still ‘seeds’ requiring nurturing.

On the other hand, the internal obstacles which mire efforts to make these strengths viable and competitive on the world stage are the so-called weaknesses. These include the limiting of hiring to only people straight out of college, an organisational structure that arranges itself on the basis of seniority rather than ability. The failure to encourage a corporate culture that embraces opposing views and constructive criticism is another reason why Japanese firms are lagging behind on a global scale. Put simply, there is a problem with a certain mindset that the Japanese organisation has.

Another thing that makes GHIT unique is its funding structure. Five large pharmaceutical companies make an initial investment over a span of 5 years, the Gates Foundation matches this amount, and the Japanese government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare matches the total investment of these two, meaning that taxes paid by Japanese citizens also comes into play.

Although I had not been involved in the setting up of this unique schema I was asked to be the representative director and chair in the final stages. The reason why I was asked to do so, as any one who regularly visits my site may surmise, is the fact that the GHIT is international in nature. The board of trustees and the auditing body is composed half of Japanese and half of non-Japanese members, with representatives appointed by the Gates Foundation also included within the council members.

This setup, as keen readers may also have noticed, is slightly different from the more conventional Japanese approach of public-private-academic partnership, in the sense that the Gates Foundation is involved, lending the whole undertaking more open to the world.

The team put together under GHIT has worked hard and the efforts have paid off; there has been tremendous progress in its first year, I believe. The activities of the GHIT have been reported overseas in papers like The Economist, The Lancet, and the Financial Times.

The meeting of the Board of Trustees was held in Tokyo, June 6th, one year after its inception.. The review from the council members was also very positive.

After the evening reception, I went to Haneda. I was on my way to San Francisco.

TEDxTokyo, The ACP Japan Chapter, and WEF Japan; Heralding the Change for Tomorrow


TEDxTokyo, which started in 2009, is now into its 6th year. Although TEDx has collaborated with many institutions over the past few years in the world, it all started here in Tokyo. From a conversation with my friends Patrick Newell and Todd Porter, this project has developed over the years in to the IMPACT Japan Project.

This year too, we had many interesting speakers at the TEDxTokyo, making for and enjoyable evening. You can catch the proceedings on the website.

Excusing myself from the reception held later in the evening, I headed for Kyoto, where a conference was being held, the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians Japan Chapter (ACPJC) (1). This congress was set up with the expressed purpose of nurturing world class talent in the clinical medicine by a group of dedicated young physicians who had received clinical training primarily in the US. Although this conference had started on the 31st, I was attending the TEDxTokyo, so I was able to participate only on the Day 2, 1st June.

I arrived in Kyoto just in time to join my friends for a second round of drinks, in a small bar that was quintessential Kyoto. I had a rousing conversation with my friends from my days as a clinical.

The next day, the second day of the conference, was attended by more than 600 physicians and interns (in Japanese) as the interesting sessions continued. The immediate past President of the ACP, Dr. Molly Cooke, was also in attendance.

I returned to Tokyo that evening to attend the World Economic Forum Japan to be held the next day. Here too, I caught up with many people, and we also had many stimulating discussions.

These 3 days were spent grasping the extent of the new generation of young people who were making their presence felt. This is a very heartening trend.

Okinawa OIST, followed by Asian Pacific Congress of Nephrology


I was on a flight to Okinawa via Narita from Los Angeles. Reached Naha Airport at around half past ten at night, from where an hour’s taxi ride took me to my hotel in Onna village.

The next day, I attended the meeting of the board members at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), an institute that is a rare entity in Japan, completely open to the world.

I was also able to attend the opening of the very interesting and wonderful ‘Sketches of Sciences’ display presented by the Nobel Museum.

This display was a work by Volker Steger, and we got an intimate look into his creative insights. Of the 50 people Steger had worked with, one was Tim Hunt, and he was right there in the room with us as he is a member of the board of OIST. This added a new dimension to the already engaging display.

The Nobel Museum started the ‘Cultures of Creativity’ series in 2001 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize. Incidentally, the first travelling exhibition was held in Tokyo and was opened in the presence of Princess Takamado. I also remember having been involved in the capacity of vice-president of the Science Council of Japan, helping them to host a commemorative symposium in the Yasuda Hall of Tokyo University (an in-depth special program was made by NHK featuring this event).

I had a pleasant conversation with the current director, Olov Amelin. We reminisced about past events, and also talked about Dr. Lindqvist (in Japanese), the previous curator of the museum.

The next day, after finishing off some business in the morning, I headed for Tokyo. I was very anxious when I heard that that the flight would be delayed, but I was able to make it on time to deliver my keynote speech at the Asian Pacific Congress of Nephrology. Here, I met up with old friends from all across Asia. Time flew by as we spent a time that was tinged with nostalgia.

During the three days of this congress, I was able to take part in various ‘extra-curricular’ activities and spent a lot of time dining out with our guests from abroad, including some friends from Taiwan.

Gathering for Assistance for Africa, Ms. Anayango


There is an organization composed of Japanese businesses, the Gates Foundation, and the Japanese government, which tackles the major diseases troubling developing countries, namely malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and others. It is called the Global Health Innovation Technology Fund (1) and I am the representative of the board of directors.

Malaria No More Japan, Health and Global Policy Institute and GHIT Fund co-organized a campaign event centered on young people. It was a very fun and lively gathering.

I met with a young doctor who I had encountered two years ago in Nairobi, as well as Dr. Sugimoto. I had not seen them for a while and it was nice to catch up with them. Dr. Sugimoto was in Japan but his family is in Nairobi.

Nyatiti is a traditional instrument in Kenya that can only be played by men but Ms. Anyango (Eriko Mukouyama) (1, 2) is the exception and she gave a marvelous performance playing the nyatiti and singing.

Japanese women are strong. Anyango was entranced by African music, went to Africa by herself and since then has been actively performing in the world. She must have encountered some obstacles along the way and it is impressive that she was the first woman to have been given the right to play this instrument.

It was a wonderful evening.