A New Academic Year Brings New Leaders at ‘Teach For Japan’


Teach For Japan (in Japanese) is a program that allows highly motivated young individuals to teach and help students who are from less privileged social community. And through this groundbreaking program, these young teachers are able to impact society in a new way, to nurture young individuals and develop themselves into new leaders. Indeed, this program is able to accomplish so much from those who have gone through. Indeed, graduates fresh out of Ivy League colleges like Harvard and Yale are increasingly making the U.S version of this program their top choice.

Don’t you think that this is great? Mr. Yusuke Matsuda has been working hard to bring this program to Japan, as I have introduced here in my blog a number of times (1, 2).

In the face of problems and adversity over last years, an unexpected 15 students fresh out of graduate school or undergraduate programs, as well as people who previously had ordinary jobs, started working as members of TFJ in places like Tokyo, Nara, and Osaka. They would be teaching at elementary and junior high level schools in localities where there is a need to overcome the obstacles posed by an underprivileged social standing.

This evening, I was participating in the send-off party for these new participants. The strongest impression I had was that both those being sent off and the ones doing the sending off are very passionate and highly motivated.

In the short speeches each of the new teachers made, there was talk of various backgrounds, of  motivations for joining the TFJ program, of the trials faced in the three-week preparatory course, and of the fervent wish to help the children who needed their services.

It was a very moving and inspiring two hours. Among the participants, there were people who, after working in Tohoku in disaster relief operations as well as in NGOs, felt that education was the way forward and therefore had decided to step up to the challenge of the TFJ program. There was also a student who started thinking about the problems facing Japanese society after witnessing the social problems of South Korea during time spent studying there, as well as people who, after working for a few years, recognised problems that they felt needed to be addressed.

I strongly believe that it is the continued efforts of young people like these that will fundamentally change Japanese society, and although still in its nascent stages, it will act as a nucleus for bigger things to come.

I would really like to ask each one of you , my readers, to do whatever you can in order to help.

Attending Fukuzawa Yukichi Memorial School of Civilization


During the Meiji period at the turning point for a new era in Japan, Fukuzawa Yukichi was perhaps one of the greatest visionary leaders. Especially, the spirit of “Personal independence without relying on the government” and his way of life were extraordinary considering the situation at the time, and I believe this was Fukuzawa Yukichi I admire at his best.

This spirit of Fukuzawa Yukichi is even today one of the universally accepted social values. What is remarkable about Fukuzawa Yukichi is that he practiced this ideology. In other words, it wasn’t just lip service. He started up institutions such as Keio University (human resource development), Kojunsha (business community interaction), Jiji Shinpo (media), Gakushiin (scientists). Furthermore, he wrote a lot of deep, insightful, visionary novels starting from “An Encouragement of Learning” (Gakumon-no-susume) and “An Outline of a Theory of Civilization” (Bunmei-Ron-no-Gairyaku). He was truly a superman.

Maybe for these reasons, I have several personal ties with Keio University. If you search “Keio University” or “Fukuzawa Yukichi” on my website, a number of postings on Fukuzawa Yukichi should come up.

In 2010 and 2011 during the autumn semester, I taught a class on the Keio’s Shonan Campus. In 2010, I also spoke about a topic on “Global agenda and Japan’s risk management.”

Several years ago, a leadership development program called Fukuzawa Bunmei Juku was launched. There are a lot of great lecturers lined up. I took part in it about four years ago, and also last year in the final session of the 8th period.

Together with the aim of making young people find their career on their own, I strongly agree with the idea of putting emphasis on the spirit of Fukuzawa Yukichi even today, or rather, because the time is now.

I got to meet a lot of spirited young people.

National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission(NAIIC) -10: Talk at the Harvard Club of Japan


The Harvard Club of Japan invited me to give a talk about the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC).  Approximately sixty people came, with about seventy to eighty percent being Japanese.  Many of the Japanese people studied at the graduate school of Harvard, but there were also some who studied at the undergraduate college.

To my surprise, Professor Mike Yoshino, who is an Emeritus Professor at the Harvard Business School also came and gave a wonderful introduction for me.  It was a very pleasant surprise.  I have known Professor Yoshino for five or six years since we were together at the President Council at University of Tokyo and later at the meetings abroad in New York and Geneva.

After my talk, there was a lively question and answer session, which I enjoyed very much.  Even after this, many people asked me questions and offered suggestions as well.

Later on, as the lively mood continued, I enjoyed drinks with Professor Yoshino and two of NAIIC’s Angels (as in Charlie’s Angels), and the four of us had a wonderful time.

After the next day, I received the following emails, (1) indirectly and (2)-(4) directly.

1) Thank you for arranging the presentation and introducing me to Kurokawa sensei. It was a great chance to hear his anecdotes and get a sense of his mission and perception of the issues.  I was impressed with his compassion, integrity and sense of hope that things can change in Japan for the benefit of not the few but for the many.  I hope he can continue, despite his age, to speak out and energize Japanese to get more involved in their affairs of the country.

2) Your presentation was titled Independent Commission on Fukushima, but its message was more broad.  I believe you have some important transformational ideas as well as a healthy appreciation for the need to change.  I hope the recommendation for an annual ( 3/11 ) event to measure progress will both cause action and help keep public engaged and knowledgeable.

3) I wish to take this opportunity for your most stimulating and thoughtful provoking presentation yesterday evening.  Although I have read what is already available on the analysis and recommendations your commission has made, it is quite a different matter to directly hear your thoughts, commitment and above all your passion to the work of the Commission.  It is indeed one of the blackest chapter in the history of Japan, but your presentation has clearly pointed out the opportunity to seize on the accident to change Japan.

Throughout the discussion period after your presentation, I have heard numerous comments from the audience that they found your presentation the best they have heard or read on this Fukushima accident.

I am also very encouraged that not only do you have further plans to publish your results in English but, you are going around the world to share your report to the interested and concerned audience.

4) I apologize for the lateness of this e-mail, but I just wanted to thank you and your team again for last week’s event.

Your insightful comments, presentation of the thinking and process that went into this report, and your far-reaching conclusions gave us all much to think about.

Having lived in Japan for much of the lost decade(s), I have heard the call “for change” many times from different quarters.

I personally think it is up to all of us who live and work here to do what we can in our own ways to build the foundations and environment for a new era in the society and history of Japan. Promoting connected-ness between individuals of like minds both domestically and overseas, sharing of information and an awareness and curiosity about new ideas and ways of doing things, and a spirit encouraging challenges to the status quo by those who have new ideas and new outlooks ? these are the traits that I think will help to bring renewed vigor and power to the people, society, and culture of Japan.

I believe I was able to successfully communicate and share the purpose of NAIIC.

I am quite busy everyday but every minute of today was fulfilling and enjoyable.


National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) -3: To Nihonmatsu


On 28th, I was in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima.  Here, the people of Namie town and its local government office has evacuated.  Nihonmatsu is also a city where NAIIC held one of its town meetings.

I have a special reason to visit this town.  In our NAIIC report, I mentioned a book  “Japan at the Edge of Major Crisis” original title: 『日本の禍機』(in Japanese) by Kanichi Asakawa, a historian born in Nihonmatsu, Professor of Yale University, the first Japanese to become Professor of any university in US, in my message  (in Japanese, page 5, 6).  Several people responded to this, and one of them, Mr. Anzai, the Chairman of Seven Bank, who was also originally from Nihonmatsu, set up this lecture.

Mr. Uda, Chief Operation Officer (COO) at NAIIC, also happens to come from an old Samurai family in the Nihonmatsu han (“han” is a feudal domain which existed until the Meiji Restoration).  Nihonmatsu han had a very hard experience at the Boshin civil war.

Arriving early enough to Nihonmatsu, Mr. Anzai, Uda, Mori, the public relations officer at NAIIC, and myself went to the city office to pay respect to Mr. Miho, the mayor of Nihonmatsu, listened to his story and exchanged views.  We also went to the area where Mr. Anzai’s home used to be, the ruin of the Nihonmatsu castle, house where poet Chieko Takamura, was born, and the remain of the parents’ house of Kanichi Asakawa. 

The lecture of Mr. Uda and myself started from 7pm at the city hall (the same hall where we had one of the NAIIC town meetings). Quite a number of people arrived by buses (the city office arranged for many buses well in advance to avoid expected traffic jam).  The huge hall which accommodates 1,200 people was packed with people, many standing at sides or rear.  Those who were unable to get into the hall were guided to separate rooms to see the lecture on screen.  Mayor Miho and Chairman Anzai each gave a welcome speech for about 10 minutes, then Mr. Uda and myself delivered our lectures.  The audience was very attentive, we had lots of Q&As, the gathering went on for about 2 hours in quite an enthusiastic mood.

After the lectures, we had a short drive to Azumakan, at Dake hotspring, owned by Mr. Uda’s relative, for late dinner.  Talking about the lectures or the mysterious connections with Nihonmatsu each of us have, was fascinating.  It was truly a nice full day.

I was told on the next day that this lecture was uploaded on the web.  Please check here.

Isn’t it great that we live in such an “open” age?


HLAB2012- Education of Tomorrow


Harvard College in Japan; Liberal Arts Without Borders is a program for Japanese high school students organized  mainly by undergraduate students of Harvard University and several Japanese Universities.  It had its 1st event last summer.

Since it was shortly after the “3.11” that this program was held for the first time last year, there were a number of restrictions and inconveniences to overcome, but still, more than 20 students participated from Harvard, and the event in the end turned out to become a wonderful experience for the 80 or so Japanese high school students, giving them great Impacts, thanks to the efforts of the undergraduate students from both U.S. and Japan.   The event was also covered by several Japanese medias.

I was greatly pleased with their success because I was advising and supporting them from the start. (Ref.1

Perhaps last year’s success helped in many ways, because the program of this year, the 2nd event, was able to obtain a great support from a large number of people.  I would like to call your attention to the fact that about 80 Harvard students applied, and among the chosen 23 students, 6 were from last year’s participants.  So, I became confident that this program is a success.

On top of this, there were 350 applications from the high school students this year.  I was so happy to hear this.  I imagine that the students in charge had to work very hard in planning the program, not to mention the selection of 80 participants from the 350 applicants.

This year’s program lasted for 10 days and the students stayed at the same accommodation.

On the first day I delivered an Opening Keynote Lecture; “Uncertain Times Ahead: Why Liberal Arts Now?”.   It was a pity that other than this, I was only able to participate in a part of the afternoon sessions of the next day and about 10 minutes at the reception.  I had to be excused from the rest of the remaining week because of other responsibilities including a visit to Fukushima and Okinawa.

It is my firm belief that such  “Peer Mentoring” out of boarders among the people of same generation, as seen in this H-LAB, will become an important core of education in the future. 

Voluntary activities of young people are encouraging in many ways and I am very pleased to see such movements.  I cannot help wanting to support them wholeheartedly.

Thank you so much to all of you who have given support to the students.


National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) -2


Today, August 23rd, is approximately 6 weeks after submission of the report of the NAIIC, and I, as the “former chairman of the committee”, am continuing my journey to see the heads of the 12 towns and villages ruined by the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident.  The purpose of my visit is to express my sympathy, as well as to thank them for their cooperation to our investigation.  Everywhere I go, I see the heads and feel the people going through tremendous hardships and difficulties.

This trip is the last of my series of visits to Fukushima.  I left Tokyo with two of our staffs, joined Ms. Hachisuka, the (former) committee member, at Koriyama station, and climbed into her car which she drove for about an hour to Kawauchi village where we had an appointment with Mr. Endo, the head of the village.

Then, we drove for another 2 hours, headed to Aizu-wakamatsu, where the temporary office of Okuma town is placed.  We got off from the highway for lunch of Udon noodle, the local speciality, then continued our travel via the local road, viewing the beautiful Inawashiro lake to our left, and also the fields of Soba (buckwheat) flowers.

Before going to the Okuma town we had a brief stop at the temporary housings where Ms. Hachisuka also lives, and then went on to see Mr. Watanabe, the head.  It was a very, very, hot day but the temporary office had no air conditioners, so the staffs were working busily in the lukewarm rooms with only some breezes coming from the fans that were placed here and there.  We had a chance to take several snap shots together.

The quake and tsunami destroyed instantly the whole infrastructure and basis of the living of the people and there are yet no future prospects available whatsoever for them.  I witnessed the tremendous challenges the head and staffs of the towns and villages are facing which filled me with deep sympathy and sorrows which words cannot describe.

I honestly wish that our report will serve as any assistance in turning this circumstance to a better direction as fast as possible. 

Immediately after arriving at Tokyo station, I headed for a session on NAIIC on the web  (in Japanese) produced by the Asahi Weekly magazine.  I think we had a series of good and meaningful interactions and it lasted for about 70 minutes.  Please take a look and think about it.

Now that I have completed my series of visits to all heads of the 12 cities, towns, and villages of Fukushima hit by the 3.11 disaster, I somewhat feel relieved. 

Young People at AIESEC


I have reported several times on this web site that I support “AIESEC” , an organization working to promote university students’ internships at overseas.

When I participated in the AIESEC convention of last year, I was very much moved to hear the stories of Japanese university students who went to internships at India, Brazil, Philippine, and other countries, to overcome many obstacles and unexpected troubles.  This event of last year was postponed from the originally scheduled date due to the wake of the 3.11 disaster.  One of the speakers, a Chinese student, talked about her wonderful experience at a company in Sendai, a quake stricken area .  Her internship, she said, became a trigger for that particular company to consider expansion to China, and that she is now helping them make plans for the move. 

The AIESEC convention of this year (in Japanese) which took place this March was held at GRIPS, where I work.  More than 100 students and many supporters gathered again, and I was happy to be a part of them.  The program included a very energetic encouraging speech by Mr. Kan Suzuki, former vice minister of MEXT  as well as the presentations by the seven students who were selected from the participants of this year’s internships, describing their confusion, hardships, and sense of accomplishments which moved the audience very much.  After the speech was the announcement of the recipients of the “Global Internship of the Year” awards.

Then, we listened to the stories of the students who arranged the internship in Japan, trying to match foreign students with the Japanese companies, the difficulties they had to overcome, the growth and awakening which resulted from those experiences.  All the students in the venue, as well as the judges, representatives from the supporting companies, shared together this wonderful half day.  Awards were also presented to the students who worked to link the supporting enterprises with the potential interns, to express appreciation to the enterprises.

Next weekend, I went to an event which was held in part to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the AIESEC Asia-Pacific Chapter, spending a marvelous time with 250 or so young people from all parts of Asia Pacific.  In the closing speech of the second day, I commented that a true asset for them in the future, when they become the leaders of this rapidly changing, un-foreseeable world, is, for example, such experience as spending time together for a week in this camp.

I can tell you, Japanese youths are working to pave their ways, just like the youths in other nations.  I am truly proud of them and am looking forward to see the outcomes in the future.

Media Lab in Tokyo -2


I reported to you in my posting of the other day about the MIT media Lab in Tokyo.  I hope you were able to have a glimpse of how it went by browsing through the links I have included in the text.

My friends and I are exploring the possibilities of launching something that would offer young people in Japan to experience, even for just a short period, the free and lively atmosphere which MIT Media Lab possess.

By the way, the Asahi Newspaper (Ref.1) (in Japanese) covered this event of MIT Media Lab in Tokyo in its digital newspaper of March 3.

As you see in this article, I commented that the drive force of changes in all times are the  “Crazy Ones”. They are, for example, Galileo or Darwin, the founders of modern science, and other change makers of each age.  In our time, we have Steve Jobs, the change maker of the 20th century.

It has been a broadly shared assumption until last year or so, that young people in Japan are “too inward oriented and isolationalist”, or “in low spirit”, but this seems doubtful to me.   From my point of view, it is more likely that there were not much “role models” broadly recognized in our society whom young people could look up to as their goals.

The drive force for change in any time is the “misfits of the time”, “out of the box talents”.  To name just a few from Japan of 40-50 years ago, are Mr. Ibuka and Mr. Morita of SONY, Mr. Soichiro Honda of Honda, or Mr. Ogura of Black Cat (Kuroneko Yamato).  I am certain that all of those people were labeld as misfits of the society back then.

In recent years follow Mr. Yanai of UniQlo, Mr. Mikitani of Rakuten, Mr. Son of Soft Bank, Mr. Niinami of Lawson, and so on.   They were also categorized as the “misfits” until just recetly.  Mr. Joi Ito, the Director of MIT Media Lab, is clearly one of them, too.

These people responded to the great quake and tsunami that hit Japan with great speed and drastic measures.

Yes, there is a lot to see in this world.  I urge you to go and grasp every bit of chance to expose yourself to things that might become your great goal, or things that you will find truely exciting, things that are worth persuing with all of your passion.  For university students, as I write in my blog postings every now and then, it would be a good option to follow my advice and “Take Leave of Absence from School”.

It is my hope and wish that “3.11” will become an big opportunity for young people to take leadership in realizing the “Third Opening of Japan”


MIT Media Lab in Tokyo


MIT Media Lab is well known throughout the world and in Japan as a quite “obstinate” existence in that it aims to “Build the Future”.  The existence of this Lab is well recognized by the world for this unique character.

It was last year that Mr. Joi Ito (Ref.1), a Japanese, but rather more popular as a “global citizen”, was appointed to be the director of the Media Lab, and this attracted people’s attentions in Japan through the coverage by various medias.

I, too, introduced this topic on my web site.  

On January 17th, the “MIT Media Lab@Tokyo 2012” was held in Tokyo.  Dr. Negroponte, the founder of the Media Lab in 1985, also joined in this event to tell us the history of how the Japanese companies supported Media Lab.  Dr. Negroponte is also well known for the project “One Laptop Per Child” (Ref.1), an aid to Africa, and this time he showed me a new “Tablet” .

A prestigious university working on “outrageous, unprecedented” projects.  Such universities are, I think, the drive force for developing human capital that will transform the world.  Those universities are the producers of the “Out of the Box” talent, the “Change Makers”.

Dr. Ishii, the associate director, also joined with us in this event

All speakers very passionately delivered their speech and presented their demonstrations.  I participated in the dialogue with Joi.  Then, I went back to my work at the Congressional Investigation Committee on Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident, and returned again in the evening to join in the reception of the Media Lab which I enjoyed very much.

This whole event is uploaded on Ustream (Ref.1). 

The video starts with the Opening by Joi (the approximate time in the Ustream is “00:00:00–”), followed by the presentations of Dr. Hilgado “00:23:20–” Dr. Ishii “00:45:55–”, dialogue of Joi and myself “01:00:50–”, panel of Joi with “Out of the Box” people in major Japanese corporations “01:22:45–” and so on.  Take a look and enjoy.

Why don’t you go to the Media Lab?  Something inside you might change.  I also urge all Japanese companies to support this extraordinary Lab.

The Year 2012 Starts With a New Big Challenge


A Happy New Year.

During the past month, i.e. since December 6th of last year, I have not written any new columns nor did send any messages via twitter.

The reason is, as you may already know, that I was suddenly appointed to chair the “Committee to investigate the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants”.  The relevant laws for creating a committee that is independent from the government and the parliament passed the Diet, as is described in media by words such as “organized by the Diet, totally independent”, or “the very first in the 60 some years’ history of our constitutional government”.  On December 8th, the nine committee members and I received the official notice of appointment at the Parliament from the Presidents of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors.

If you search my name on the “news” sites in the web, you will find various reports (Ref.1) (both links are in Japanese) on this  issue.

What a big unexpected challenge I was appointed to!  I used to be one of the members of the “nongovernment Fukushima nuclear plant accident investigating committee”(in Japanese) chaired by Dr. Koichi Kitazawa (in Japanese), former Director of JST, but I resigned from this position for this new responsibility.

I will gradually explain to you, from time to time, the various challenges this committee face, but I think the most important and great challenge is how we – the nine members and I – share the mission of this committee and perform our investigations and analysis.  Every member is extremely busy with their own work, and on top of that, we have to recruit all of the administrative staffs and create rules on how to conduct this investigation as a whole.  So, I had to withhold from making any comments in public until the basic rules were defined within our own committee.  I hope you will understand the situation I had been in.

The “gravity of ‘the very first in the history of Japan’s constitutional government’” is not just about the historical impact to the system of our democracy, but it also refers to the countless difficult issues derived from the fact that this sort of investigation has “never taken place before”.  Therefore, I must say, the operation of this committee is by itself a huge challenge to all of us.

After the official launching of our committee, we traveled right away on December 18th (Sunday) to the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident (covering ourselves with heavy protective equipments…), Okuma town located near the nuclear power plant which now looked like a deserted ghost town, and places where decontamination was in progress. On the next day, the 19 th (Monday), we visited the temporary housings of the evacuees and another decontamination site.  (Ref.1) (both links are in Japanese)

The year of 2011 ended with an unexpected big surprise for me, and now the new year of 2012 started.