To Various Places


After attending the Mansfield Foundation’s U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group convention, I flew to Okinawa to attend the meeting of the board of governors at the OIST.

It was to be a three days two nights meeting (the 2nd , 3rd and 4th of October), but because I was feeling not well, I returned to Tokyo on the second day and participated through video-conference on the 4th. Although there is still a lot left to be done, I feel that it is wonderful that we have accomplished so much in so little time. I feel that this tenth anniversary will mark some big changes as well.

The next day, the 5th, I participated in the  Japanese Society of Nephrology’s ‘Panel Discussion For Gender Equality’ (link in Japanese), after which I headed to Kyoto for the STS forum (5th to 8th October). This event too was celebrating its tenth year in existence. With more than a thousand participants and with Prime Minister Abe giving the opening speech, the forum was off to a great start.  I was on the panel for ‘Education and ICT (Information and Communication Technology)’. I met with many friends and colleagues at the forum, and I also had the good fortune of meeting people from the Qatar Foundation who were attending for the first time. We had the opportunity to have a conversation and I also managed to provide them with the names of some researchers who would be able to cooperate with them.

On the 8th, after returning from Kyoto, I had a dinner with an executive of a foreign capital enterprise, and on the 9th and the 10th, I was invited to the 35th anniversary celebrations of Oriental Giken, where I lectured and shared the stage with Ken Kornberg, the architect who designed OIST. Ken is the son of Arthur Kornberg, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Roger, one of his brothers is a Nobel Prize Laureate in Chemistry. Another brother Thomas is an outstanding scientist in the field of molecular biology.

The next day, I went to a discussion with the Liberal Democratic Party about the form that a new Nuclear Regulatory Commission would take. After this meeting, I headed to a workshop organized by IOCA, a group that I met at the summer course on Global Health organized by HGPI. This workshop was getting some good reviews from among various organizations, so I wanted to take a look.

At night, I was invited to the Swiss Embassy, where I met with Honorable Doris Leuthard, one of leading Swiss politicians who is the Minister of the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications portfolio, and I talked about nuclear energy.

Again, I was busy as always, but if I am asked what I have accomplished, or what I have contributed, I would be forced to pause and think.

San Diego to San Francisco


This is my third time (1) visiting San Francisco this year.

I wish I could say that this time, I was here to see the America’s Cup, but it is not so. The reason for my visit was to attend Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia’s GSCIA (12) at the Fairmont Hotel. I was able to see many people in and around the hotel from the America’s Cup and people involved in Oracle.

The first and second days were the last round of the America’s Cup, in which the champion would be decided. The race was the Emirates Team New Zealand vs. the Defending Champion Oracle Team USA, with the score being 8:5, and the challenger being one race away from winning. The rooms at the Fairmont Hotel were priced steeply and there were very few vacancies.

The first day was the reception and the morning of the second day were three panels on the High Level Forum Green Future, of which I was on the first panel. All three were very interesting.

At lunch, Prime Minister Najib gave a speech and there were four MOU ceremonies. I participated in the signing of Japan’s cooperation. This was because the Prime Minister’s chief scientific advisor is my old friend, Mr. Zakri. Future relations should involve not only governments but also the private sector, with multiple levels of cooperation among many people.

At night, there was a banquet with people of the local businesses, as well as a speech by the Prime Minister and interviews. As this was an official public banquet, wine and other alcohols were not served and I felt a bit wistful but there is no use being remorseful.

Especially for people like myself who are in the academic world, the trust that is developed between us is free from special interests and forms a basis that is different from the relationships formed between governments and companies. This allows the advantage that new projects can be started on such occasions.

Oracle won the America’s Cup, but I had to return to Japan before the final results.

On the day after I departed for Japan, Oracle Team USA did not back down and there was a major reversal in the outcome.

From Okinawa -2


On Saturday, August 10th, I visited Okinawa again. I attended the ten-year anniversary of the Muribushi Clinical Training Program (in Japanese), which was started by Dr. Seishiro Miyagi and is a pioneering program for dealing with the future of medicine clerkship. I had the honor of giving a speech at the celebration, as I did ten years ago when this program was first established.

After training in this program, many OB/OG alumni from the time of the Okinawa Prefectural Chubu Hospital have gone on to receive further training in the United States, showing that this program is suited for a global Japan and world.

In these past ten years, the required skills of doctors have changed in response to what is happening in the field. There are many outstanding clinicians who are active and appreciated on the global scale, as can be seen in the establishment of the ACP (American College of Physicians) Japan Chapter (1, 2) and the OB/OG of the New York Beth Israel hospital clinical training program.

In my speech, I mentioned the virtuous cycle that is created when people who have received clinical training in such programs pass on their expertise and wisdom to their juniors. It just happened that Dr. Harry Ward, who was a fellow at my time at UCLA, was visiting Okinawa, and I introduced him to everyone, thus creating another virtuous cycle.

On the afternoon of the 11th, Mr. Ichida of BirdLife International showed me around northern Okinawa. He took me to a secret place where butterflies can be observed and to see the Okinawa rail or ‘Yanbaru Kuina’ On this day, twenty-eight Okinawa rails were killed due crashes with cars on roads this year. I was told the number used to be only around ten per year….

On the 12th, I took part in a gathering at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) in order to discuss plans for the future of this new research-based graduate university. We spent the entire day discussing many different issues.

I hope that this will aid the reform of research in Japan.

Nature Café: Can Japan Change?


As I have mentioned before, the well-known scientific journal ‘Nature’ organizes an annual ‘Nature Café’ (Japanese).

This was the 12th such event, and was organized in collaboration with Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). The panel for the Japan session was mainly composed of the ‘Crazy Ones’, scientists who are willing to think different. The title for the discussion session was ‘Will Japan Change? Universities and Research Facilities Faced with Change’.

The venue for the session was SONY CSL, the small research laboratory where geniuses and other ‘crazy’ people have been rcruited.

The panel was composed of the director of SONY CSL, Mr. Hiroaki Kitano (1); the leader of the initiative to bring about a new collaboration between the astronomy and the mathematics department of Tokyo University, Hitoshi Murayama (there are a lot of videos with him as well); a professor at OIST, Yoko Sugiyama Yazaki; and me. The moderator for the event was Yukiko Motomura (Japanese), from the Mainichi Shimbun.

I liked that the audience was composed mainly of students. Each of the panelists gave a brief but energetic 10 minute ‘talk with a twist’ before entering a panel discussion. We had a surprise during this discussion as Joi Ito (1), the head of MIT Media Lab, joined in.

For the details of the ‘Nature Café’, please check the OIST web site.

It was a  wonderful evening and the young people in the audience enjoyed it immensely.

I am glad it was a very stimulating session.

“Bula” from Fiji


After participated Manaba, I departed Haneda Airport on July 6th for Nadi in Fiji, via Hong Kong, and then to the capital city of Suva.

I attended the Inter-Congress (1) of the Pacific Science Association.

Everywhere you go, you first say “Bula,” the greeting for hello.

This association was established in 1920 and I have been quite involved in its work since 2003. On this website, I have written about the activities in Okinawa, Tahiti (1, 2, 3) (including the hidden story of Yoshida Shoin), and in Kuala Lumpur after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.

This time the congress was held at the University of the South Pacific and there were many students who were active as volunteers and it was a vibrant environment. I met with some Japanese professors who are members of the faculty here as well.

The next day, President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau gave a powerful speech at the opening ceremony. At the opening  ceremony, myself, Professor Nordin Hasan, Director of Asia Pacific Regional Office of ICSU gave the keynote speeches. Ambassador Eichi Oshima also attended the ceremony.

We were interviewed by television reporters and were on the evening news. The next day, it was widely reported in the newspapers as well.

Over the next two days, there were many activities organized around the sessions. I spent three hours sightseeing, had dinner with USP Vice-Chancellor and President Chandra, and was invited by Ambassador Oshima to lunch, where I spoke with members of the Embassy and Japanese people who work in Fiji. I also met with female UNDP officials who are working in Pakistan, Sudan and Fiji.

The official residence of the Japanese Ambassador to Fiji was acquired twenty years ago, is in a prime location in Suva, the capital city of Fiji, and has an incredible view.

Fiji was a British colony in the past and recently has been developing relations with India, China and South Korea. There are many Chinese fishing vessels that have come to do tuna hunting. Although the work of Japan is well known, there seems to be few Japanese people here.

This is also one of the challenges facing the Ambassador.



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.

Speech at the National Academy of Sciences; Lost in Translation – “Accountability and Groupthink”


To Washington D.C. Dulles from Paris via Chicago O’Hare.

After being picked up at the Dulles airport, Washington DC, I went directly to the hotel, where I checked my powerpoint presentation.

The next morning, I went to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which is across the street from the State Department. It has been two years since the last time I went there, and it is slightly bigger and the renovation has been completed.

Here, I attended a meeting hosted by the NAS on cooperation between countries with alliances for measures against CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiation, Nuclear and Explosives). I gave the keynote speech, entitled, “Opportunities and Challenges in Coordinating the Response to CBRNE Events: Fukushima Daiichi, A Case Study.” Executive Director of the Office of International Affairs of the NAS, Dr. John Boright, my old friend, introduced me quite a very nice way. This meeting and lecture can be viewed online.

Due to the nature and the topic of the meeting, representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the military also were in attendance.

It felt nostalgic when I met with officials from the Department of Defense whom I had met during my visit of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) to Washington D.C. and Counselor of Security, Mr. Tsugita from the Japanese Embassy, whom I have known for a long time.

It is commendable that in the U.S., there are public meetings on such topics, hosted by the National Academy of Science in response to governmental request.

This year happens to be the 150th anniversary of the NAS, founded by President Lincoln, and there are many events going on. The founding spirit of the NAS is that it is an independent, private entity, which provides the government with advice on policies. This spirit has withstood many years of change and is the foundation of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, which represents the scientific community and is widely trusted by the American public and the world.

Even if such an example is imitated in Japan, without an understanding of the spirit, history and civic culture of the nation, many things will be will be lost in translation. In these past 150 years, there have been many such cases in Japan’s rapid modernization. This tendency has not changed and is still apparent today.

In this lecture, as an example of this, I pointed out the word “accountability” and how it’s meaning has been lost in translation (see top image, it has been edited slightly for this website). I explained that in Japanese, accountability is translated as “the responsibility to EXPLAIN.” Upon hearing this, the audience showed a surprised reaction with laughter. The true meaning of this word is “the responsibility to carry out the duty it has been given.” It has more weight than the word ‘responsibility’. In every job or position, there comes a duty, and it is fulfilling this duty that is the job of people in higher positions. It makes me wonder who started using this mistaken translation. I hope it is not someone who was in a top position.

Furthermore, I talked about ‘groupthink’ (see above image). Please ‘Google it’ in English and in Japanese. What does everyone think about the meaning of this word in Japanese? My view is that it is a herd of elites that never learns. My comments are on this site.

Underlying this mind set is the refusal to understand the significance of the “obligation to dissent” (see above image) and a society that excludes individuals who are different, who disagree and dissent. This can be seen in the weakness of the elites. If they do not acknowledge their weakness, they will forget to be humble and become arrogant.

It is this tendency for elites to take things for granted that is in the backdrop of the Fukushima nuclear accident. This self-serving mindset afflicts many elites resulting often major man-made disasters to the nation and the public.

Among the participants, there were many who had looked over the NAIIC report, of which I served as the Chairman. Some people said to me, “I understand better by listening to your talk. I have worked with many Japanese government officials before and I finally understand the things that were always unclear and did not make sense. Thank you.”

The NAIIC report is fact based and aims to have as little speculative and judgmental comments of the commission members as possible. For this reason, everything other than the introduction does not address specific matters of culture or society and presented ‘facts’ we found and learned. It may be difficult to grasp the true core message of the human factors, even for Japanese people.

This is the meaning of the ‘mindset’ and ‘single-track elites’ that is mentioned in the introduction at the beginning of the NAIIC report. In the English version, it is also mentioned in the “Message from the Chairman.”

I attended a dinner with the speakers and the hosts and departed the next morning. This was my third world-round trip this year.

Some Recent Happenings


I have not posted recently though in fact I have been part of several interesting things ever my early breakfast at the British Embassy after an early morning flight from Bangkok on the 31st of May, I have not updated this column.

Anyway, I would like to report that the HGPI and the JCIE jointly hosted the fifth and final installation of the symposium on development in Africa (website in Japanese, Facebook page) in the run-up to the TICAD5. For dinner, I headed to Yokohama with the board of directors for GHIT (Global Health and Innovation Technology), with whom I would be having a meeting the next day. I spent the night at Yokohama.

The GHIT is a rare initiative, combining private and public interests with the Gates Foundation, and has a 5 year program. I get the feeling that it is going to be hard to stand at the helm of this organization.

The next morning started with the meeting of the board of directors, followed by a council meeting and then a press conference, and then I was in Tokyo. I had been invited to talk at the beginning of the ‘Global Agenda Seminar’(blog in Japanese) by Yoko Ishikura, and pretty soon, I had to head back to Yokohama in order to attend the award ceremony for the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize.

I welcomed the two recipients, Dr Peter Piot and Alex Cortinho and introduced them to the Emperor and the Empress. I was kept busy by the presentation ceremony and the reception dinner, and was able to go back home only late at night.

So this is what I was doing after returning from Bangkok on the 31st of May and the 1st of June. Considering the fact that it was only two days, I think I managed to accomplish a lot.

On the 2nd of June, I attended the farewell party held in memory of Mineo Nakajima (newspaper article in Japanese and English, Wikipedia page in Japanese), the late founder of the now famous Akita International University. In the short span of 10 years, AIU has earned praise for its mission of educating world-class university students. He was a wonderful scholar, a true educator; we will truly, truly miss him. I join my hands in prayer for this teacher who left us so suddenly.

University of Tokyo President Council in Bangkok


After the Kavli Conference at University of Tokyo, I departed Narita Airport on the evening of the 28th for Bangkok to for the President Council. Our host was a member of the President Council, the Royal Highness Chulabhorn of Thailand. I was invited to speak at the entrance ceremony of the University of Tokyo this year, so I participated with feelings of gratitude though my schedule was very tight. From Japan, there was President Hamada, and others of administration of the University of Tokyo, and of the Council members, Professor Emeritus Yoshino of Harvard (he had also faculty position at UCLA in the late 1960s), Mr. Yokoyama, and Mr. Munjal from India, Dr. Raivio from Finland, Hassan Jamil and Rita Colwell. It was my third meeting with Ms. Colwell this year.

We visited the Chulabhorn Research Institute and the Chulabhorn Cancer Hospital next door. The facilities are extensive and research is conducted actively. There is also research on local organisms and aquatic plants from the sea that are effective for treating cancer. In one of the research labs there was a talented young researcher who studied at John Hopkins as an undergraduate and received a PhD from there as well. I wish all the best for future achievements.

The cancer hospital is also relatively new, with one hundred beds, and it is a hospital that specializes in cancer. There were some cherry blossoms decorating the lobby. As this is a new hospital, other than there are plans for expanding it into a center for extracting cancer samples analysing cancer. According to her Royal Highness, the budget has become tight recently and there is difficulty in moving things along.

In the evening, I attended a dinner with her Royal Highness.

The next day, Dean Kiyono gave a presentation on the President Council, several challenges for the University of Tokyo, around the world and research by the Institute of Medical Science on the“rice vaccine,” in which mucosal immunity is induced by inserting antigenic agent into rice. The vaccine does not need to be refrigerated and is a very interesting research concept. The presentation was superb, reflecting his career of twenty years in the United States.

In India, I had met the father of Mr. Munjal, Chairman of the Hero Group (he is currently ninety and very well). He has long been an avid supporter of education and has major plans of establishing Munjal University. It is promising and is likely to actively incorporate many new innovations from the world.

I took a red eye flight back to Haneda, where I landed at 5:45 AM. I returned home to take a shower and then went to the British Embassy for breakfast at 7:20 with the State Minister for Energy and Climate Change, the Rt Hon Edward Davey MP. It is admirable that there is a periodic changing of ministers accompanied with civil servants under the Minister in the UK.

As I felt the other day in West Sussex, British politicians are highly talented and well trained.




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.