‘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!

An Encouraging Message – 3


The world was shocked by the recent scandal surrounding Toshiba, a leading company that represents Japan. It was truly a shame.

The company culture of Toshiba has been said to have played a part. As I posted on this blog the other day, an article pointed out that a more fundamental problem underlying the Toshiba scandal is the mindset of many people in Japan, which the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) also shed light upon in its investigation of the nuclear accident. Toshiba is one example of this tendency seen in many Japanese companies and organizations.

The root cause of the Fukushima nuclear accident, as pointed out by the NAIIC report, has been recognized across the world.

It was also highlighted by Reputability, a consulting firm specializing in corporate governance, in their article, “Loyalty- Virtue and Risk”. The article argues that “Groupthink” (1, 2) is typical in Japanese firms.

Even in the case of a major accident on the scale of the Fukushima nuclear accident, vital lessons have not been learned and only superficial issues have been dealt with, reflecting the complacent attitudes of the people in positions of responsibility. Experts around the world are watching Japan, regarding the future challenges and issues surrounding the restart of nuclear power.

Learning from one’s mistakes and being accountable are essential for any organization, company or government to gain the trust of the globalized world.

Getting The Terms Right: Accountability and Risk Communication in the Japanese Language


I have talked about Jun Kurihara previously in my blog posts ( 1 in Japanese2 ). He widely reads and erudite, and boasts a repertoire that ranges from classics to contemporary books written in several languages. He uses his considerable linguistic ability to access literature in various languages, making his insights to be sharper and insightful. It is always a joy to talk with him, and we are never short for topics to talk about.

He is one of the few people who understand when I use the word accountability. In Japan, it is often translated to mean ‘responsibility to explain’, but this is a serious misunderstanding. The word accountability is used to denote ‘the fulfilment of duties and responsibilities one carries, encompassing more than the mere explanation that the wrong translation suggests.

Regarding this topic, Professor Kiyoshi Yamamoto’s ( in Japanese ; in English, ‘How ‘Accountability’ has become ‘Responsibility of Explain’ in Japanese’ ) excellent book is worth reading. And Mr. Kurihara has already started quoting him, as I shall talk about later.

Last year in June, when I was presenting at the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S, I stated that in Japan the the word ‘Accountability’ means ‘Responsibility to explain’, thus a typical case of ‘Lost in Translation’, there was a strange reactions, ‘uproar’ , among the audience.

In a similar case, Mr. Kurihara has commented on the word ‘Risk Communication’ within his column ( in Japanese ), and if one reads it, one can understand why I have not used this word within the NAIIC Report.

Loaning words from a different language ( in this case English ) is fraught with opportunities for misunderstanding, and we need to make sure that we understand in what sense the word is being used.

‘Be Movement’ Interviews Me


‘Be Movement’ is one of the most exciting emerging media in this net-savvy age. It is good to see young people embrace the possibilities of a globalised age and try out new things.

Recently, they carried a special issue about Japan, perhaps in commemoration of the third anniversary of the East Japan and Fukushima disasters.

An article about Mr. Kogure of ‘Table for Two’ comes right after my interview. Given the focus of their special issue, they paid special attention to what I had to say about the NAIIC Report.

Although a bit long, I would like to request my readers to go through the interview during their spare time.

JAPAN’S SPIRIT -Strength through the Storm-
(be movement pp114-122)

My thanks go to Cassie Lim and her team.

Congratulations! Shigeru Ban is Awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize


Shigeru Ban. An architect known all over the world, he has also demonstrated his compassion and philanthropy by helping create cost-effective temporary housing and great buildings for disaster affected regions. He is indeed, a great man.

Congratulations on being awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

I am privileged to have a friendship with Mr. Ban that goes back almost a decade, not to mention that we are both alumni of Seikei Gakuen (in Japanese). In addition, he is the architect behind the critically acclaimed design of the library at Seikei Gakuen (in Japanese).

I met him for the first time in 2012 at the World Economic Forum in New York City. I remember because of the location. Although the WEF is always held in Davos, 2012 was the only time that another city was hosting the event, in commemoration of the tragedy of the September 11th attacks. This was also where I attended a memorable session where leaders of both academic and science community and religious grops came together over lunch and had a very interesting discussion.

Mr. Ban has also appeared on TEDxTokyo in 2013. He manages to convey the essence of what he does in this presentation, and it is worth a watch.

I remember one time, when I tried to arrange a meeting several months in advance, and I asked him about his availability. I was startled by his reply, which was that ‘I don’t plan more than a month in advance. Who knows what kinds of tragic events might happen thusu where I might be’.

Leading groups of young people, he has travelled all over the world, quickly to regions affected by disaster, like L’Aquila, Christchurch, Haiti and Tohoku. There, he has helped in the rebuilding process by creating functional and beautiful buildings out of paper.

But one of the most awe-inspiring creations of Mr Ban to me was the ‘Nomadic Museum’ (in Japanese), not to mention the ‘Ashes and Snow’ collection within it. Another building of note is the NG Hayek Center in Ginza, Tokyo, which also houses the flagship store of Swatch. A unique project, it is elegant and refined, making it a joy to visit.

I am very pleased and happy to be able to appreciate the work of Shigeru Ban, truly a worldwide presence.

Steps Towards Safer Nuclear Energy: The U.S.A GAO Report and the NAIIC Report


In any democratic setup, the separation of the three powers of the Government, administration, legislature and judiciary is a core necessity, with independent organisations  acting as watchdogs necessary for the proper functioning according to democratic principles.

The United States of America has the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to fulfill this role. Functioning under the legislative banch, ie, the Congress, it used to be called the General Accounting Office (the Japanese equivalent being the Board of Audit of Japan) till 2004, after which it changed to the present name.

This organization has recently published a report titled ”Nuclear Safety: Countries’ Regulatory Bodies Have Made Changes in Response to the Fukushima Daiichi Accident”, in which the NAIIC Report has been mentioned 6 or 7 times.

I am happy to have been part of the Commission, the first of its kind in constitutionally governed Japan, that has set a precedent for the further reforms that are urgently needed in the structure of governance in Japan. The NAIIC report has exposed the fragilities inherent in the present structure in a clinical and precise manner that can be likened to a medical check-up using a whole body CT scan, with us pointing out the problems that need to be remedied to the patient, in this case, the Japanese government.

A controversial point I made in the report was shown through my pinpointing Japanese ‘culture’ and ‘mindset’ as important causes of the accident, something for which I was heavily criticized by some media. However, the IAEA and the GAO have both acknowledged this proposition, judging from the fact that the IAEA is hosting a ‘Workshop on Global Safety Culture – National Factors Relevant to Safety Culture’, the 8th-11th of April. The first of its kind to approach Nuclear Safety from this standpoint, it is a encouraging response to the lessons learnt from Fukushima.

Interestingly, I have not been sent a notification nor an invitation by both the Japanese government and the IAEA. It is through an overseas colleague of mine that I heard about this workshop.

I had a similar experience in 2012. I leave you think about why, and to reach your own conclusions.

The 3rd Anniversary of March 11


Sorry for not updating my blog more often, but today is a day I must write. For the many people who have suffered the unimaginable, and continue to suffer in the aftermath of the events of 3.11, and the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, an event of such gravity that the Japanese government for the first time n her constitutional democratic history, set up an independent committee to investigate it, resulting in a report that has been submitted to both Houses in the Diet a year and 8 months go. I must write today because I was the chair of the committee that was in charge of the investigation.

Elsewhere in the world, many regions are gripped by drastic changes. Syria, Ukraine illustrate perfectly the tumultuous period that we live in. In sorry contrast, the unchanging situation in Japan is dominated by the political-industrial-bureaucratic complex, despite the glaring errors and gross negligence exposed in the aftermath of 3.11.

Yesterday (March 10th) was spent at the Japan National Press Club conference, in a two hour debate session with panelists such as G. Jazcko, the former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Yotaro Hatamura, former chairman of the Investigation Committee on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident by the Cabinet, and Koichi Kitazawa, former chairman of the Independent Investigation Committee of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident by a private sector. The full video of the proceedings can be accessed here on Youtube.

With the time for reserved for each speaker as told to be limited to around 6 minutes, I showed them a short excerpt of a video titled ‘What is the NAIIC?’ to help the audience understand what was so different about this investigation as seen from the various documentation, reports and publications. I also introduced the notion of ‘Accountability’ into the debate. My aim was not to go into details but rather introduce the issue as a way of understanding the various processes involved in the functioning of a large society governed according to democratic rules, and of the constantly changing situation in Japan and abroad.

I think that accountability is important because we need to ascertain the mindset of what those in power, how committed they are to their responsibilities. I was also interested in what the audience had learnt from the accident, how they felt about the situation, and what they were changing in their own life styles and values in response to the accident. Most of the participants were in media-related jobs, ie, journalists, and I really wanted to question them on their understanding.

The South China Morning Post also featured an interview of me, please see the link. I am pleased to note that the video, ‘What is the NAIIC Report’ is also mentioned. My comments on Safecast have also been included.

All eyes are upon Japan as it deals with the aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. After all, there are 440 other such nuclear reactors in the world with the potential of causing similar accidents, plus 70 more under construction.

As greater information connectivity through Internet brings about an increasingly globalised world, transparency across all spheres, whether it be the state, the government, companies, media outlets, universities will be increasingly important in order to be trusted.

The Situation at Fukushima, An article in the Washington Post


It is already two and half years since the accident at Fukushima, yet there is virtually no one who would consider that the situation has been suitably has been stabilized. The media reports one problem after the other: contamination of groundwater, leakage of radioactive water, the problems posed by rainfall. Indeed, this is a critical issue not only for the Japanese but also for the world.

The biggest question right now on everybody’s mind is whether the Japanese government has made an accurate appraisal of the ability of TEPCO in allowing to deal with a disaster of this magnitude. The government too, is resorting to its usual way of dealing with such problems: setting up a committee, in this case, the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning. It remains to be seen how open to debate, how transparent and how international this committee will become.

Although TEPCO invited an international advisory committee that in itself is not enough. Transparency in areas such as how serious TEPCO is about dealing with the situation, and what measures it plans to take, and what it is learning are needed in order to lend credence to the whole process. Yet even here, there are many problems. One of these reports came from Lady Barbara Judge, vice-chair of TEPCO Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and it was carried on the 16th page of the October 22nd Nikkei newspaper morning edition.

We are not the only ones worried about the situation. That the Washington Post carried an article about Fukushima Daiichi on its first three pages on the 21st of October, and the New York Times on the 4th of September, speak volumes about the critical stance of foreign media. To appear as the top article in the printed version is quite impactful and the illustration in On-line version of Washington Post is well done.

By the way, I would like to introduce Junichi Kobayashi (blog, twitter @idonochawan), who translates one foreign media article into Japanese everyday. Predictably, most of the articles these days have to do with Fukushima Daiichi, but it is a good source of information if one wants to get a sense of how the world is currently viewing Japan.

I am thankful for his efforts, for it requires a great deal of effort to accomplish what he is doing.

The “Audacious Young Lady” continues her work, and my opinions


There are people who have chosen very diverse careers after working at the National Diet of Japan Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). The three people whom I introduced in my column, Mr. Shiina, Mr. Ishibashi and Ms. Aikawa, the “audacious young lady,” are examples of this.

Ms. Aikawa’s book, Hinanjakusha [The Vulnerable Evacuees] has been read widely, and recently there has been an online article of her interview (in Japanese). It makes me happy that her message is being spread. Young people will take action. It is quite impressive.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan’s magazine, The Number 1 Shimbun ran an article by me following up on NAIIC after it was disbanded, also featuring Ms. Aikawa, Mr. Shiina and Mr. Ishibashi.

NAIIC is the first independent investigation commission in Japanese constitutional history. As it is the first, many politicians, bureaucrats, media, academics and the people of Japan do not understand what NAIIC stands for. The response in Japan has been much weaker than abroad (1, 2).

It takes time for democratic systems to fully function.

I am very concerned about the situation at Fukushima Daiichi. We must not forget that there are many people around the world who are truly worried and concerned about Japan.

Newspaper Article in the Netherlands


The problem of leakage of contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is still ongoing and has become widely known throughout the world. The media abroad has been reporting frequently on this fragile situation.

I served as the chairman of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), the first independent investigation commission in the constitutional history of Japan, and the Commission’s report has been highly evaluated by the world. As a result, I have been interviewed many times by the foreign press. This is a major issue facing Japan and I feel it is my duty to speak out in the media.

Recently, I was interviewed by Trouw, the major newspaper in the Netherlands. Through this website, I received an email from Ms. Nishimoto, who read this article and kindly translated it into Japanese. This is possible in the age of the internet. I made some edits and it can be read here in Japanese version. Its English version was translated by Mr. Wouter van Cleef, who wrote the original article in Dutch.

“Japan Needs Independent and ‘Against the Grain’ Thinkers.” (Trouw, 2013/9/16)
in English
in Japanese

I would like to send my thanks to Ms. Nishimoto.

My message in the article is quite the same as you see often in my blog posts, eg, most recent one, my speech at GRIPS Commencement.