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.

‘Soseki, Kumamoto, Ushigome, and Myself’: Some Happy Coincidences


You may recall that I wrote in an earlier blog post (in Japanese) on the 8th of July about how a chance encounter eventually led to The Royal Ballet touring the disaster-stricken areas of Kumamoto in a show of solicitude. I also provided a sample of the extensive media coverage of this happy event.

A week later. I received a phone call from Kumamoto prefecture Governor Kabashima about an episode at a press conference. When he was explaining to the assembled reporters that the sudden visit of The Royal Ballet was thanks to his friend, Dr. Kurokawa, one of the reporters asked whether this Mr. Kurokawa was related in any way to Soseki Kurokawa.

“Well, that person is my great grandfather”, I replied. “I am also eager to know more about this ‘other Soseki’, so is it possible for you to put me in contact with the reporter who asked this question?”

A few days after this conversation, I received a letter along with some documents. Enclosed also was a request to write a short article to be included in a pamphlet that would accompany the program of a theatrical production called ‘I Love Kumamoto: Four Years and Three Months of Soseki’. This production would be touring Kumamoto and Tokyo in October and December, respectively. For those who are interested, here is my piece (in Japanese).

‘Soseki, Kumamoto, Ushigome, and myself’. I would never have expected so many happy coincidences.

Japan is commemorating 100 years of Netsuke Soseki this year. NHK, the Japanese public broadcasting company, just finished broadcasting a drama series called ‘Natsume Soseki’s Wife’ (in Japanese), and I have heard that there are various events besides. The theatrical production that will be held in Tokyo in December (in Japanese 1, 2) and in this play also featured an encounter of the two Sosekis (in Japanese). I will be happy if you find the time to visit this interesting play.

Cheers to people of Kumamoto!

Revisiting UCLA


Returning to Tokyo on the 3rd of May after spending a few days in London, I spent the rest of Golden Week relaxing, before going to Los Angeles on the 8th. Unfortunately, I was unable to go to St. Gallen this time round.

Thankfully, the weather in L.A. was as sunny, if not more so, than it was in Tokyo. I headed for the UCLA campus for some meetings straightaway. In the evening, I attended a screening of a documentary filmed around the year 1984 called ‘Issei’, a documentary recording the experiences of ‘nikkei’ (Japanese American) people in and around San Francisco towards the end of the 1900s. It was filmed and produced on a tight budget and within a short timespan.

This screening was part of an initiative by the Paul Terasaki Center, an organisation set up by Prof. Paul Terasaki, an old friend I have had the pleasure of introducing here.

The next day, I participated in a forum on the theme of the Japanese diaspora. Starting off in the morning, it was full of interesting and thought-provoking research, insights and ideas. I learnt a lot, and had a great time. In my closing comments, I highlighted the fact that in our rapidly globalizing world, more and more people are actively choosing to cross cultural and national boundaries in order to create value for their talent. These pioneers creating value for themselves, become valuable ‘dots’ within a sea of homogeneity. And as these proactive pioneers often marry people from other cultures, a tremendous amount of cultural exchange takes place leading to the creation of a brand-new culture, which also unfortunately includes the gradual decline of any feelings of attachment to a particular country. This process of progressive change has been documented and represented through various data.

I had dinner at the glitzy Montage Hotel located right in the centre of Beverly Hills. The UCLA chancellor Block and Ms. Irene Hirano also joined us.

The next day, I attended a meeting hosted by the Terasaki Center at Montage Hotel, where Dr Terasaki was also present.

With cloudless azure skies, beautiful South Californian vistas, and the stunning UCLA campus, who could ask for more?

The next day, I was off, this time heading to Okinawa via Narita. What, Okinawa!?

To London -2: Shakespeare’s Globe


→Images of Shakespeare’s Globe

On my third day in London, May 1st, it was drizzling and a bit chilly.

In the morning, I strolled through Hyde Park for about twenty minutes to Marble Arch. I visited the office of a British friend who had just returned from a two year post in Singapore for about an hour. At the beginning of this year, his firm opened a new office in Tokyo and I had seen him at a reception at the UK Embassy in Tokyo. However, it was nice to sit down and have a relaxed talk.

At noon, I met with Ms. Ninomiya, who is a graduate student studying Politics at the University of Oxford and who worked on the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) in its translation and editing team. She had just submitted her master’s thesis and is currently finishing up the year, with her final exams to be held at the end of June (for these past two years, she has translated many of the entries on this blog). From there, we went to Chatham House and met with the former UK Ambassador to Japan, Sir David Warren. We talked for around an hour regarding the conference that is to be held in Tokyo in October of this year. I saw former Ambassador Warren only two weeks ago when he visited Tokyo and my office at GRIPS. Afterwards, I met with Mr. Mizuno, who is a member of advisory committee on the Japan’s Cabinet “Japanese NIH” Plan and had just returned to the UK from a business trip. We had tea at his club on Pall Mall.

In the evening we attended a play at Shakespeare’s Globe.

The production was “Titus Andronicus”. It is said to be the most brutal of Shakespeare’s revenge plays. Former Ambassador Warren, who had also seen it two days before, shared with us that the reviews in the newspapers reported several members of the audience having fainted during the performance.

The play was a three hour long production, starting at 7:30 P.M. and ending at 10:30 P.M. As can be seen in the photos, rain was pouring into the theatre, which only had a makeshift roof and windows with wooden frames and therefore, was very cold. The members of the audience standing in the yard area in front of the stage (the tickets are around six pounds) seemed to come prepared knowing this and it was very ‘British’ way of doing things. Even so, they were very patient in enduring the rain and cold. The yard area is also used by the actors as an extension of the stage, so it must have been exciting for the audience.

It was quite late when the play ended but Ms. Ninomiya was able to return by taking the bus that runs between London and Oxford twenty-four hours a day, which must be convenient for students.

My flight the next morning was with Virgin Atlantic and the check-in desk at the airport, the service and the lounge were all quite good.