The International Red Cross Meeting on Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Preparedness



On October 27th, the Third Reference Group Meeting on Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Preparedness (Japanese) was held in Fukushima City.

It was the third meeting in this series but the first to be held in Japan. I was invited to give the keynote speech.

The main points of my speech were to explain the purpose and process of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), within the context of the rapidly changing world. I also showed the video of the Simplest Explanation of NAIIC and introduced ‘SafeCast’, a new system for documenting and sharing radiation readings, which is suitable for the global era. Lastly, I touched upon the significance of the role of the Red Cross, a brand name organization with an international network that is independent from governments and politics.

After my speech, a group of seven high school students gave a presentation on their activities, which they started after watching the Simplest Explanation of NAIIC video and thinking about what they could do as individuals. They gave an amazing presentation in English, despite the fact that none of them had lived abroad for a long period of time. They must have put in tremendous efforts and preparation into the presentation. I felt that the whole audience was very moved by their presentation.

After the conference, I expressed my wishes to the Red Cross to develop greater cross-border networks with such youth through the activities of the International Red Cross.

Lectures with High School Students and Reception at PEAK


Since entering October, I have had two opportunities to speak to high school students. The message of my talks was the same as always, “the world is changing and it is your choice.”

The first was a lecture to high school students aiming to enter the University of Tokyo, organized by an elite cram school. Around one hundred students attended, under the unfortunate circumstances of a typhoon approaching. Most were students in their first and second years of high school. After a lecture of about ninety minutes, the students got into groups and discussed their goals for the next ten years and what they would need to be doing in two years time in order to achieve these long-term goals. They summarized and presented their discussions and then evaluated other groups’ presentations.

The next session was at the Komaba campus of the University of Tokyo, where the “Special Friday Seminar for High School Students” is held twice a month. It was the three hundredth seminar and I was invited to be the speaker at this milestone event. Around eighty students participated as well as many of their families and people from the general public. My speech at last year’s entrance ceremony at the University of Tokyo was distributed to the audience.

Lately, I have been showing a brief scene from the movie, ‘The Matrix’, at such lectures. My message there is to question authority, to question norms.

Many of the students who participated stated that this seminar was different from all of the past seminars at the University of Tokyo. Many commented that their thoughts towards society changed and that although the same Matrix clip was shown at the beginning and the end of my speech, one student wrote he perceived different message. This gave me the impression that these young people were somehow deprived of something.

It is very fun to interact with young people, for in the future they will be the Japanese who will live and pursue their carer in this rapidly changing world.

After the lecture, a group of foreign undergraduate students to Tokyo University’s PEAK program came together and there was a small reception. The foreign professors also came and we had a good time together. This was made possible thanks to Prof Ryoichi Matsuda, who is in charge of PEAK.

PEAK has many challenges ahead of it but I sincerely hope that it will be able to respond to the needs of the fereign students and continue to develop and grow and impact true internationalization of the education of the University of Tokyo.

Panel at Tokyo University with Charles Casto


On October 9th, I was invited to speak on a panel entitled “Nuclear Energy; Post-3.11” at the Hongo campus of the University of Tokyo. The panel was moderated by Prof. Osamu Sakura of the University of Tokyo, with panelists, Kyle Cleveland of Temple University, Mr. Charles Casto, who is a long-time veteran in the field of nuclear power plant operation and regulation in the US, Mr. Tetsuro Fukuyama, who was the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary at the time of the accident, Mr. Tatsujiro Suzuki, who represented Chair of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission during 3.11, and Mr. Yoichi Funabashi, the former editor-in-chief of the Asahi Shimbun and director of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Private Independent Investigation Commission and myself.

The panelists had many opinions and we had a very engaging discussion. We had a large audience, including with NHK, National Broadcasting Station. When it came to the question and answer session, as it is often the case, many people gave their own views rather than asking questions. I had talked to the moderator, Prof. Sakura beforehand but perhaps this is the style of panel discussions in Japan.

Towards the end, we were joined by Mr. Hosono, who was a special advisor at the time of the accident (later Minister) and was the liaison between the US and Japanese governments and TEPCO.

I brought to the attention of the audience, the excellent 300 page report, “Crisis Management: A Qualitative Study of Extreme Event Leadership” by Mr. Casto, who wrote the report based on his experience during the Fukushima accident and now holds a PhD.

The panel discussion covered many topics but one of the major points was that “Japan was not in line with IAEA guidelines regarding the “defense in depth” standards for the evacuation of residents.” This is widely known by experts in Japan and around the world and it was pointed out that the necessary measures have yet to be put in place in many nuclear power plants in Japan.

What should be the next step? There is a tendency for many people to get bogged down by the details but I have focused on the fundamental issue. The National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) not only covered the technical details of the accident but also the societal and structural issues in Japan, which served as the background to the Fukushima nuclear accident. Thus, I repeatedly explained that the accident was just the tip of the iceberg and that the fundamental problem lay in the governance structures in Japan, seen in the issues of regulatory capture and the separation of powers among the three branches of government.

The following day, I was delighted to receive an email from the simultaneous interpreter at the conference:

“Dear Mr. Kurokawa, thank you for the symposium yesterday. I am XX and did the interpreting at the symposium. What you said left a very strong impression on me as I was listening from my booth and it made me feel that there are many things we citizens must do as well. I would like to follow your work and look into these topics myself. I wish you all the best and would like to thank you again for yesterday.”

After I responded immediately, the interpreter wrote back:

“Thank you for your response. Since the symposium, I have been reading and listening to your work and I look forward hearing more from you in the future.”

It is wonderful that such exchanges can take place so easily via the internet.

Mr. Casto and I were on the same page about many things and the day before leaving Japan, he paid me a visit and we discussed many matters over a nice dinner together with some of my friends.

To Okinawa again, the closing ceremony of Asian Youth Development Program in Okinawa (AYDPO)


AYDPO 2014 marks the seventh year that this program has been running.

I have reported on this program (1, 2, 3, 4) a few times on this blog. It is a program in which young people from Japan and other Asian countries, aged fourteen to sixteen spend three weeks together in Okinawa.

Each year, I have participated in either the opening or closing ceremony. This year, I gave a speech at the closing ceremony. The students who participated this year proposed making a “GIA Green International Academy” on the Kerama Islands and gave a presentation on this. As in past years, the former Governor of Okinawa, Mr. Inamine also was in attendance. Dr. Iwama, the new President of Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology and one of the new leaders of Okinawa, also made his way to the ceremony.

The young people who participated all spoke in English, their common language and they were very good. The closing ceremony was a special time and as it happens every year, all of the students all cried, including the university students, sad to say goodbye to their new friends, with whom they formed very close bonds and became like sisters and brothers.

This program actually began at the time of the first Abe government, when I was a special advisor and assisted with AYDPO (formery AYEPO) establishment. Continuing and spreading programs such as these, and developing young people who are active in the changing world and share memorable experiences with friends across borders is vital to our world.

Through Facebook, the students who participated in this program remain connected with the university students who became like their older sister and brother mentors. I also continue to stay in touch with a young person who was a university student when this program began and is now in Indonesia.

Being connected in this day and age of the internet is important and very useful in stay in touch.

To Aizu-Wakamatsu


On August 6th, I visited Aizu-Wakamatsu for the “Platinum Future Leaders Seminar at Aizu” (in Japanese) for junior high school students, in their first to third years (7-9th graders in US). It is one of the projects chaired by Hiroshi Komiyama, former President of Tokyo University.

During the car ride from Koriyama station to Aizu, I visited the areas where I was evacuated during the war in my childhood. The places included the area south of Sekito station on the Ban-etsu West line, with Kaneda-kanemagari to the side and Tenjin-hama, where I used to play when I was little. Next, I visited the house near Inawashiro where Noguchi Hideo (in Japanese) was born.

The venue of the Seminar was the university campus, where I had visited a few times. Most of the students who participated were born after 1999, as they are currently junior high school students. Many changes in the world have been taking place since they have reached this age.

I was able to hear only the latter half of Ms Tamako Mitarai‘s lecture, which was right before mine, but I felt that she had many points that we had in common (please forgive me if I am wrong). We had an energetic audience and everyone asked lots of questions.

After our talks, the students came on the stage and we all took pictures, shook hands and then took a group picture together. We had a very good time.

Afterwards, I visited the famous Nisshinkan of the Aizu-han (1) (in Japanese). Visiting hours had already ended but they were kind enough to guide me this old school. There is a statue of Kenjiro Yamakawa (1) (in Japanese) (built in 2004), whom I respect deeply. The Nisshinkan looks similar to Yushima Seido and also has a statue of Confucius. Even when seen today, it is an amazing school.

Later, I met with Ms Hachisuka, who was a Commissioner at the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission. She still resides in temporary housing.

Many people evacuated to Aizu-wakamatsu from Okuma village, the site of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The Okuma town headquarter is still here at Aizu-Wakamatsu since immediately after the accident, many evacuees from Okuma village stayed in a business hotel in Aizu. Ms Hachisuka and I had dinner at the restaurant above this hotel, where we met the owner of the hotel, had sashimi and tempura and spent some time talking.

My heart goes out to the evacuees of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident.

Okinawa OIST, followed by Asian Pacific Congress of Nephrology


I was on a flight to Okinawa via Narita from Los Angeles. Reached Naha Airport at around half past ten at night, from where an hour’s taxi ride took me to my hotel in Onna village.

The next day, I attended the meeting of the board members at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), an institute that is a rare entity in Japan, completely open to the world.

I was also able to attend the opening of the very interesting and wonderful ‘Sketches of Sciences’ display presented by the Nobel Museum.

This display was a work by Volker Steger, and we got an intimate look into his creative insights. Of the 50 people Steger had worked with, one was Tim Hunt, and he was right there in the room with us as he is a member of the board of OIST. This added a new dimension to the already engaging display.

The Nobel Museum started the ‘Cultures of Creativity’ series in 2001 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize. Incidentally, the first travelling exhibition was held in Tokyo and was opened in the presence of Princess Takamado. I also remember having been involved in the capacity of vice-president of the Science Council of Japan, helping them to host a commemorative symposium in the Yasuda Hall of Tokyo University (an in-depth special program was made by NHK featuring this event).

I had a pleasant conversation with the current director, Olov Amelin. We reminisced about past events, and also talked about Dr. Lindqvist (in Japanese), the previous curator of the museum.

The next day, after finishing off some business in the morning, I headed for Tokyo. I was very anxious when I heard that that the flight would be delayed, but I was able to make it on time to deliver my keynote speech at the Asian Pacific Congress of Nephrology. Here, I met up with old friends from all across Asia. Time flew by as we spent a time that was tinged with nostalgia.

During the three days of this congress, I was able to take part in various ‘extra-curricular’ activities and spent a lot of time dining out with our guests from abroad, including some friends from Taiwan.

Twenty Years Since the Rwandan Genocide


The other day, I was invited to the Embassy of Rwanda by Ambassador Charles Murigande.

We talked for an hour at the Embassy in Fukasawa Setagaya, where the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.

I have not been to Rwanda yet but have some links ( 1 , 2 ) to Rwanda.

When I mentioned Romain Murenzi, the Executive Director of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), whom I have met with on a number of occasions, it turned out that he and the Ambassador are longtime friends, even having attended the same school and sitting next to each other in class. They have both served as governmental ministers and are also scientists.

The tragedy of the Rwandan Genocide started in April twenty years ago. Today, Rwanda has overcome this sadness and has transformed into a new country that looks remarkably different from its past.

The Ambassador had some documents with him and told me he had attended the GRIPS Commencement ceremony last September and that he had been very moved by my speech.

It was a meeting in which I felt that we had many common friends and stories to share.

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.

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.