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.

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.

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..

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.

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.

To London -1


Last December, the UK government set up the ‘G8 Dementia Summit.’ Considering the increasing ageing population in many countries, dementia is a world wide problem. Many people must have experienced this personally through their families. Japan is one of the most ‘advanced’ countries in the world regarding this issue.

I suddenly received a message from the British Embassy regarding the Dementia Summit. It was a request that I serve as a Council member on the Global Action Against Dementia, an organization independent from the UK government and central in leading the Dementia Summit on behalf of UK Government. They stated that they could not yet make public the identities of the other members but the first conference would be held on April 30th in London.

I had just returned from a trip to Abu Dhabi and the Kansai region of Japan but as it was possible to book a flight with Virgin Atlantic and a hotel via the Japanese Embassy in London, I departed Narita Airport on April 29th.

I arrived at the hotel around 5 P.M. When I went to check in, I was told, “your reservation was made for next week.” There must have been some mistake. After an hour, I was able to get a hold of someone at the Japanese Embassy and reach a solution. I would be able to stay at this hotel for one night and at a different hotel for the remaining two nights. What an ordeal. It had been a chaotic time at the Embassy due to Prime Minister Abe’s visit to London.

The following day, I had a meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It is the largest governmental building in British Government and is called the FCO (in Japanese). Upon my entering the building, I almost ran into the person exiting. Looking up, we recognized each other. It was Sir David King. What a coincidence! I had just received an invitation for dinner a few week ago to see David King during his visit to the UK Embassy in Tokyo on May 8th but unfortunately had to decline due to my schedule. He is currently the ‘Special Envoy for Climate Change’ of the UK Government. I was genuinely surprised that such coincidences really occur.

The conference lasted around five hours. I had looked over many documents before coming to the meeting and it seemed that the main topic of discussion were the goals for 2025 and what we want to achieve this year. This should be posted on their website shortly.

Afterwards, I went to a meeting, was shown around in the Parliament, Big Ben, and then had a meeting with the Minister for Health, Jeremy Hunt for around half an hour.

The inside of the building exuded a sense of the long tradition of the British parliamentary system. Some elements of the structure reminded me of the Japanese Diet but it the made me feel the heavy weight of British history.

After returning to the hotel, I met with Dr. Sahara, who previously worked at the Health and Global Policy Institute. We walked around nearby Queensway and stopped by a pub and restaurant, where I listened to him talk about his current studies at a fine arts school in London (it is a four year program) and enjoyed the sunny afternoon in London.

It was a very fulfilling day.

To Abu Dhabi and Her Highness of Qatar’s Visit to Japan


I arrived in Abu Dhabi on April 20th to take part in the Board Members’ meeting and graduation ceremony at Khalifa University. There are 350 students graduating this year. This university specializes in science and technology and is attracting many bright students.

The graduation ceremony took place at the Emirates Palace. The President of Khalifa University, Tod Laursen has held his position for four years and will see his first cohort of students graduate. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi was also present at the ceremony. Each student was handed the graduation certificate individually, signifying the significance and thought that went into the graduation.

I departed Dubai late that evening, or rather the next morning, at 3am and landed in Kansai Airport. Her Highness Moza of Qatar was visiting Japan and I joined the Qatar Foundation that day. The next day, I visited Kyoto University and joined Her Highness Moza’s tour of Shinya Yamanaka’s iPS Research Center. The next day, I joined their visit to Riken in Kobe and met with Chairman Noyori and went to the signing ceremony.

Japan’s relations with Abu Dhabi and Qatar have been centered on oil and gas but in these past ten years, mainly through the field of scientific research, efforts have been made for greater cooperation in human resources training. At the beginning of this year, there were several events held at Tokyo University between the main heads of the universities in Abu Dhabi and Japanese universities. In March, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi made a visit to Japan. During his stay, he visited the Tokai University Korin campus and spoke with Vice President Yasuhiro Yamashita regarding more interaction through judo as well as the joint development of solar cars.

Encouraging greater cooperation with the Middle East regarding human resource development is a wonderful thing for Japanese government and businesses, which tend to think of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates only in terms of business relations.

It is a challenge for not only Japan, but for all countries to develop individuals who can understand and reach out across the world.

Japanese universities should also build on their own unique strengths and have greater interaction and cooperation with the world.

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.

January This Year


It has been quite a while since I have last written, not since the New Year.

On January 10th, I travelled to Boston to attend a conference on the future of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). As there are many people on the board who are in Boston and New York, it was the most appropriate location. Mr. Hunt from the UK was also in attendance. The US east coast was covered with heavy snowfalls until the previous day but it calmed down from the 10th.

I stayed in Boston for two nights and then departed for Okinawa. I attended “The 1st International Symposium on Open Energy Systems,” held by OIST, where experiments and demonstrations were shown.

The future of energy policy will move forward to become more diverse, it will use local renewable energy sources and smart grids and increase ‘visualization’ with new App (applications) of energy use. Through this diversification, the awareness of the users of electricity will change, as happened with the rapid change of the internet (http- www- iPhone- iPad) in the 21st century, with an increase in accessibility due to the regulatory reforms, technological innovations and development of new software. Whether it is in the energy sector, politics, or companies, it is imperative that the leader provides a clear direction for the future of the global world affairs.

On the 18th, the Health and Global Policy Institute held its annual Health Summit. Many people participated along with the panelists and the organizers and had a very lively and enjoyable time.

Lots of things happened in the week of the 20th and I went to Sendai. I had the honor of reading the eulogy at the funeral of a friend who was long at Tohoku University. I met with his family, whom I had not seen for some time. The previous evening, I contacted Tohoku University and had a nice dinner with four female scientists representing the university.

On the 27th, I had afternoon tea with three British officials, Anthony Cheetham, the Vice-Chair of the Royal Society, Ambassador Hitchins, and Ms. Elizabeth Hogben, the Head of Science and Innovation at the British Embassy in Tokyo. I enjoyed the elegant afternoon.

On the 30th, the Health and Global Policy Institute had its first breakfast meeting of the year and I gave my annual seminar along with my greetings for the New Year.

This past month has flown by quickly.