I returned to Japan from Washington D.C. on Saturday the 21st. I took the day off on Sunday, was busy with meetings on Monday, and departed once again for the U.S. east coast on the morning of Tuesday the 25th for Boston. I took a direct flight from Narita, on the Boeing 787 that made the news with its problems of fire on its Japan-made battery last year.

I arrived around noon on the 25th. After resting briefly, I went to the MIT Media Lab. This was not the main objective of my trip, but I paid a visit to the Media Lab Director, Joi Ito (1) and the Associate Director, Dr. Ishii (1, twitter: @ishii_mit) and they showed me various projects. Ryuichi Sakamoto also happened to be there and they are talking about possible collaboration. They are involved in many interesting things. In the evening, I had a pleasant dinner with Dr. Ishii, his wife, who is a journalist and was a Niemann fellow last year (I follow their twitter), and his secretary.

The next day, I met with Professor Richard Lester, who invited me to Boston. He is the Director of the MIT Nuclear Science and Engineering. He is leading a program entitled the International Nuclear Leadership Education Program, which is being held twice this year, each for two weeks, and invited me to the course. I was there for just one day, but I participated from eight in the morning through the afternoon. Among the participants were nuclear experts from the U.S. and Europe, many of them know Japan nuclear leaders and the IAEA, and qualified people from Vietnam, Abu Dhabi, Kenya, Mongolia, and Nigeria. They will go on to make their careers in this field, so the discussion was very lively and interesting.

The English version of the well-known NAIIC (National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission) Executive Summary report appeared on-line at the time of NAIIC report in Japanese and the full report was also made available on-line last October. As the full report is available, experts and everyone around the world can study and evaluate our report.

In the evening I attended the reception at the Museum of Science of Boston <>. The next morning, I started my return journey.




The breeding ground of some of Japan’s craziest and most eccentric people, the SONY CSL marks its 25th anniversary this year. I attended its annual Open House and other special events at its headquarters.. Started by Mario Tokoro, this laboratory  is truly special.

The event started with a speech by Chief Manager Hiroaki Kitano. The suit and tie not being his every-day attire, he looked ill at ease. He talked about how important it is for people to ‘Act Beyond Borders’, to surpass the frontiers of whatever they choose to do, and to be second to none in enjoying that very process by harnessing their own creativity.

Each of the presentations that were made were interesting, and the visitors were fascinated. The first section of speakers included the likes of Junichi Rekimoto, Alexis Andre, Shigeru Owada, and Ken Endo.

The second section boasted the likes of Hiroaki Kitano, Masato Funabashi, Natalia Polouliakh, Yuji Yamamoto, and Takahiro Sasaki.

Each of their presentations was interesting and inspiring, and I felt the fact that they are not receiving orders from others, while making things complicated, allows them the freedom to do the awesome.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion featuring Mario Tokoro, Mr. Kitano and Mr. Rekimoto on the topic of ‘Toward The Next 25 Years’ and a play by Luc Steels, a member of the French division of SONY CSL. Titled ‘AI- Artificial Intelligence-Opera, Casparo’ , the play showcased Luc’s genius as well as the refined style and depth that we associate with European tradition. Unfortunately, I was forced to leave mid-way through because of prior commitments.

Mr. Kitano is one of those rare people who is a visionary in varied fields, who is able to understand the patterns and trends and to act accordingly, making him capable of getting results without any regard to time or place. He is indeed, one of the ‘Crazy Ones’.

I was lucky to be able to dine with him a few days earlier, and needless to say, this man is something!

Being with people like him is sure to make one feel excited and hungry to explore.

To Taipei, a Series of Coincidences



Prof. Yang 2nd from left. Next to the right between Prof. Yang and me is Prof. Tomino of Juntendo University.

After having spent the first day of GEW, I set off to Taipei on the following morning. A small workshop that I promised to have with Chang Gung Medical Center was postponed last year due to the disastrous event of 3.11. I have known Professor Chih-Wei Yang for some time; he is currently the coucillor of International Society of Nephrology and the Dean of Chang Gung College of Medicine. I felt grateful to him for welcoming me at the airport despite his busy schedule.

The other day, although it was a coincidence, I was consulted by an American friend about the innovative project ‘Biosignatures’(1) which is partnering with Chang Gung Medical Centers, Arizona State University and also Mayo Clinic. Hence, it was by chance that this was one the topics that came up in the discussion with Professor Yang.

The next day, along with Professor Yang I attended the workshop, which involved presentations by the younger members, and by four o’clock in the afternoon I headed back to Haneda. It was a short stay in Taipei.

I believe that what may seem like an ordinary coincidence such as the one above is in fact not a coincidence, but a result of expanding different kinds of people and establishing relationships of mutual trust along the way. I also believe that the series of coincidences and the unique relationships are based upon trust in the special “attributes” of your own abilities that are not limited to the organization to which you belong and are built throughout your career. In today’s borderless, global world, these are indispensable and most valuable assets.

Creating your own value from a young age involves finding opportunities to develop your “attributes” from your teens, 20s and early 30s by interacting with the world’s professionals, and it is important to have a strong sense of your own objectives and the efforts required to fulfill that your own goal.

I think that finding your own unique value, being humble, and setting your own position in this world will help you build a successful career.

After I return, in the following evening of November 11, I am setting off to Dubai from Narita.


National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) -12: New York City, Speech at the Japan Society, and the Challenging Yourself in the World


Photo credit to Mr. Ken Levinson for 3 photos at Japan Society Lecture, and to Dr. Y. Kuwama for 6 photos at its private reception.

After spending two days in Washington D.C., I traveled to New York City, where I gave a speech at the Japan Society.

As there has been high global awareness of the Fukushima nuclear plant and NAIIC, many Japanese and Americans alike came to the speech.

My speech was a part of the “Yoko Makino Policy Series,” with Daniel Bases of Thomson Reuters as the moderator.  I talked for half an hour about the significance of NAIIC for the world, our activities, the report and the recommendations. Afterwards, Mr. Bases and I had a discussion on two or three topics and then had a question and answer session with the audience.

You can view its video at Adobe Flash Player) in my ‘Japanese’ English(see this article).

It was a very energetic and lively session and the time spent with the audience was very fulfilling. Just a week ago, William Saito, my colleague or “representative”, had also given a speech here and had pointed out the same problems that I did about Japanese society.  It seems that the audience was very energized and stimulated.  I give my thanks to President Sakurai of the Japan Society and to Ms. Yoko Makino.

Among people who came to the speech were young doctors from Japan who are training in hospitals in New York in a clinical training program launched by Mr. Nishimoto (though it was only for a while, I was also involved in the program).  Dr. Kuwama, who is a clinician in New York and was a student at the University of Tokyo when I taught there, also came to the talk.  I was invited as the guest of honor to the Japan Society reception, as well as the Private Reception, which was held in a condo on the fortieth floor of the Trump Tower that overlooks Manhattan.

The next day was a beautiful, clear day and I enjoyed walking through New York in the autumn weather.  I had lunch with the Consul General Hiroki and Mr. Kaneko of the Public Relations Center and enjoyed conversing about many topics.

In the afternoon, I went to the Harvard Club where I met with Ms. Yoko Makino and local young doctors, and then off to see the Broadway musical Chicago with Ms. Makino and her three friends.  It was an amazing piece of work by incredible professionals.

This past summer, Ryoko Yonekura (1, 2) played the role of Roxie in Chicago.  She had trained intensively for a year before taking on the role. It is no mean feat, for the performance is on the world stage among fierce competition.  She plays opposite Amra-Faye Wright (1).

Taking on this challenge must have been a breakthrough experience and an enormous step forward for Ms. Yonekura.  To perform on the world stage at this top level must be an incredible experience that will lead to confidence that is unattainable by many, as it is won by competing with the world.

I wish that more young Japanese would go out into the world and challenge themselves at the top level, in any area or field.  You may face many hardships and may not succeed right away, but this experience is priceless and irreplaceable.  It will lead to greater confidence in yourself in the future, and will provide a good chance to examine the path you are taking in life.

There is no denying that more Japanese can play an active role in the world.  So let’s try and challenge ourselves- there is much more to gain than to lose.  The world is becoming more global.


Why not begin your global career by studying at OIST, it is already part of Global World


I have introduced several times on OIST in this blog posting site.  OIST is now open for graduate students for 2013.  Read the attached brochure, visit its website, think of applying, contact the office, think of visiting OIST.  OIST is completely different from any other graduate university of Japan, beginning of your global career, it is already a leading Graduate University of Global World.

OIST Brochure English (PDF)

Call for applications: PhD Program
The deadline for applicants living in Japan is December 31, 2012.
The deadline for international applicants is November 15, 2012.*

*The earlier international deadline is to allow time for visa processing.

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University is now accepting applications for admission to the PhD program for the September 2013 intake.  We are looking across the globe for students who will flourish in an atmosphere of encouragement for discovery and innovation.  With over half of OIST students and faculty coming from outside Japan, OIST offers the highest level of graduate education while embedded in a truly international environment.  About 50 cutting-edge laboratories conducting research in a range of fields form the hub of the OIST Graduate University.  Based on a firm foundation in the basic sciences, we promote education that is highly interdisciplinary.  The graduate program features interactive teaching with tutorial-style courses providing preparation for thesis research.  Course design is customised to the unique needs of individual students.  From the beginning, students work side by side with world-class faculty and researchers in well-equipped laboratories.

We are currently selecting our next class of graduate students and we would like the opportunities for PhD study at OIST to be as widely known as possible.  Our intake is limited to about 20 students per year, and we aim to recruit excellent students.  All students receive an internationally competitive support package, health insurance, and subsidized on-campus housing.

More information about the program and how to apply on-line is available at:
Students who are interested in applying but have difficulty meeting the deadline should contact us for assistance at:

Jeff Wickens
Dean, OIST Graduate School


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?


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”


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.


Inauguration Ceremony of Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST)


I have introduced OIST (Ref.1)  to you several time in this site.  Now, OIST is officially approved as a graduate university starting from November 1st, since the government has given permission.

In Japan, as well as in other countries, we have been discussing much about the reform of universities or researches to address today’s needs.  However, at least from my perspectives, nothing has changed much.  I have been pointing this out  every now and then in my web site whenever appropriate.

On November 18th, the first board meeting as a university was held at OIST.  I have been supporting this project from the start, so I attended and joined in the seminar in the morning of 19th where four researchers gave presentations.  The presenters introduced to the audience new type of researches which were not only interdisciplinary, but also had great scale of scopes.  The researchers from the world who were at the seminar were apparently very impressed.  It is our earnest hope that we promote such unique researches open to the world that will contribute to the solution of global issues, as well as to nurture young researchers of the next generation equipping them with both the mind set and power to take action for such solutions.

In the afternoon, the inauguration ceremony was held.  Mr. Tatsuo Kawabata, current Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, Mr. Koji Omi, the first person who came up with the idea of this project, and Ms. Yuriko Koike, the Minister prior to Mr. Kawabata were among the guests.  From Okinawa, Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, Mr. Keiichi Inamine, the former Governor were present.  Many more from in and out of Japan attended the ceremony.  The list of main participants should be available for your reference at the website of OIST.

There were four speeches at the ceremony.  Among them, the one I particularly liked was the speech given by Dr Charles Vest, President of the National Academy of Engineering, who served for 14 years as the President of MIT, as a message addressed to this new Graduate University, titled “On Universities of the 21st Century.”  I understand that those speeches will be uploaded on the website of OIST soon.

It was a pity that the weather was a bit rainy this day, that the ceremony had to move its place from the wonderful courtyard to the auditorium.  However, we had a small intermission of the rainfall in the afternoon, and we enjoyed for about 20 minutes dance performance and such at the courtyard.

An Invitation to the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW)


The Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) has been held simultaneously over the past three years around the world for one week in the middle of November.  You can access a list here [Ref. 1, 2] of the participating countries and the main events which are scheduled for this year.

As I have touched upon numerous times on my own site [Ref. 1, 2, 3, 4] we in Japan would like to expand the reach of these activities throughout the whole of Japan.

Many of the individuals who are involved in these activities were also involved in the establishment of Impact Japan which I have also introduced on this site.

The Honda Foundation served as host for the past three years. Currently the Kauffman Foundation, which has become a central figure in these types of global activities, is acting as the Japanese host with Impact Japan scheduled to take on these duties from next year.

This year’s GEW will be held from November 14th through the 20th.  Many events [1, 2 ] will be held in Tokyo and Kyoto that are open to the public.  I highly encourage you to take a look at the schedule and think about attending.  I am sure that you will meet many interesting people there.

I hope that these activities can spread further throughout Japan and the rest of the world as we move into the coming new year.