A week after Seoul and Okinawa, I flew to Taipei. I was invited to give a plenary lecture at the Society of Internal Medicine in Taiwan. Another invited speaker was Dr. Virginina Hood , the president of the American College of Physicians whom, by the way, I happened to see in San Diego this April.
In the Sunday afternoon, I made an excursion to Jiufen (Ref.1), a village located about 40 minutes by car from Taipei. This village is well known as the site where the movie “A City for Sadness” was filmed, and also the model of the unique architectures and shopping street that appear in “Spirited Away”, an animated fantasy-adventure film by Hayao Miyazaki. It was very amusing to stroll around and listen to those interesting stories about the village. I recommend that you visit here some time. The only thing was that since it was a sunny Sunday, the busy traffic and crowded tourists was somewhat overwhelming...
Taipei seemed to be less energetic than the time I was here before. They might be experiencing economic recessions, too.
Other events scheduled around this weekend were; my annual general health check up, UCLA alumni gathering, hearing session of the Canon foundation research grants, and “The Entrenpreneur Awards Japan 2011, Second Annual Awards Ceremony” at the U.S. Embassy. This event is very strongly supported by Ambassador Roos and I have participated in the first ceremony, also.
Each day is passing quickly and busily. It is not a very pleasing situation, I have to say.
I have been busy these days, which is nothing new..... And since my blog postings can not catch up with my real time activities, I would like to post here a summary of my recent activities.
From Sydney, I moved to Singapore. Here, I visited several public institutions such as Temasek, National Research Foundation, EDB (Economic Development Board), A*STAR, and SPRING with my friends from Japan to promote mutual connections. Arrangement of appointments with these institutions went quite smoothly because I have been in touch with them for many years as you will see if you search this web site by the key word “Singapore”. Besides these visits, I also spent some time in Singapore with several private entrepreneurs or companies at meetings or meals. Anyway, my impression here was that they are quick in understanding our points, very positive, fast in taking actions, so much that we started worrying about whether we can catch up with their speed in follow ups. In this period of great transformation, nothing matters more than mutual personal trust, networks, and speed for action.
I had dinner with professor Ito (which is a regular event in Singapore) of A*star together with Dr. Shigeki Sugii (in Japanese), Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore from this year after earning a PhD degree at Darthmouth University, and completing Postdoctoral research at UCSD. I also had meals with several people including Ms Tan Siok Sun, the daughter in law of Goh Keng Swee, major figure with Lee Kuan Yew in the founding of Singapore.
On 10th, I went to Hiroshima to attend a meeting which was originally scheduled in March by Dr. Yorioka, my long time friend, a nephrologist who retired from the position of the Professor of Faculty of Medicine, University of Hiroshima this spring. The gathering was postponed because of the great disaster. I gave a speech for about an hour. Recently, I focus my speech on “Age of Uncertainty” because we are now living in the age of global transformation. This theme, I believe, is relevant to everyone regardless of boundaries, especially to those who are working in the field of education. I spent a great time here and enjoyed reunions with many old friends.
The next day, on Sunday, September 11th, I saw Dr. Azimi (Ref.1), former Director of UNITAR. It has been a long time since I saw him before, and there were so many things to talk about, but unfortunately we ran out of time, and I had to leave for Tokyo.
The day was precisely the 10th year of the “9.11”. The whole world remembered this day, and I think every each one of us, in memory of this tragedy that took place 10 years ago, strongly felt how drastically our world has changed since. And it happens that this was also my birthday. I went to the same restaurant as 10 years ago with my family. I received so many Happy Birthday e-mails and stayed up until midnight sending reply to all messages.
On Monday, the 12th, I attended the International Conference for the launching of “Japan Renewable Energy Foundation (自然エネルギー財団)“. This foundation was founded by Masayoshi Son of Soft Bank. Multiple resources show that his keynote lecture (Ref.1) was well accepted. The program was nice with many guests from overseas. This conference will continue for 3 days.
In the late afternoon, I gave a lecture at a gathering of business persons hosted by Kanazawa Institute of Technology . My topic here was again “Age of Uncertainly”. I used the same title as at Hiroshima, and talked basically the same things although I changed the outline a bit. The huge hall was filled with quite a number of people. I think my speech was welcomed by business persons, and especially people at the Kanazawa University, the host of this event. Since I knew that Kanazawa University has enrollment of over 1000 students per grade, its employment rate exceeding 95%, which means that it holds a high position in the employment rate rankings (though there are a variety of this sort of rankings….), one research showed that Kanazawa University scored 9th in the national level, so I made some comments on the background of this fact, what it means, and what the issues of the companies are.
During this couple of weeks, I have been busier than ever before, seeing lots of people, attending many events, so many things tend to fall behind.
I left Hayman Island after the ADC Forum for Sydney and stayed there for overnight for time adjustment.
The weather was beautiful next morning, and I had free time for about half of the day. So, of course, I headed right away to the Opera House and enjoyed a very relaxing time.
What is amazing about this Opera House is, that the more you take a close look at it, the more you see how it was built with a vision for the future, integrated plans to materialize the vision - not only within its structural design, but also in the contents and wonderful programs that continue to attract people of the world to this day. In short, this House has a great “magnetic power” that comes only from something produced with long term perspectives.
On the other hand, it seems to me that the national policies of Japan lack such dynamic, big concepts based on the understandings of current and future standpoint of itself in the global settings as I sense in this Opera House. After all, our national policies are essentially nothing but the output of the “small town community” mindset traditionally nurtured within each ministries, which, as Tatsuru UCHIDA put it, is the reason why “Japan tends inherently to be a follower/responder rather than leader in the world affairs ” (Ref.1 in Japanese).
I decided to spend rest of my time at Bondi Beach, and had lunch at an Italian restaurant run by a young Jewish fellow from Israel. I enjoyed talking about various things with him. By the way, Bondi Beach is also famous for its Life Saving Club as well as the Icebergs.
Now, I will pick up my baggage at the hotel, go to the airport, and fly to Singapore.
I think Jiro Asada, a Japanese writer, has quite a lot of fans. I am one of his fans, too, although I have not read all of his works.
The 4 series’ novel about China in the end of the Qing Dynasty “The Firmament of the Pleiades (Soukyuu no Subaru, 蒼穹の昴), “Imperial Consort Zhen’ s Well (Chinbi no Ido, 珍妃の井戸)”, “Chugen Rainbow (Chugen no Niji, 中原の虹)”, and “Manchurian Report (Manchurian Report,マンチュリアン・リポート)” (published last year) is one of my favorites. What attracts me is the structure, analysis, and the viewpoint in each “Story (monogatari, ものがたり)”. Once I start reading, the story is so fascinating that I am completely caught by it and can not stop until I get to the end.
Last year NHK broadcasted a drama series that was produced in collaboration with China titled “The Firmament of the Pleiades”. It is a story about Empress Dowager, Chunru (春児, チュンル）, and the people close to them, in the last phase of the Qing Dynasty. Yuko Tanaka, a Japanese actress, played the part of Empress Dowager which I thought was done nicely. After this novel came the “Imperial Consort Zhen’ s Well”. I don’t think I have to remind you that the Imperial Consort Zhen also appeared in “The Firmament of the Pleiades”.
I had an opportunity to visit Beijing (北京) several years ago, and since I had a bit of spare time I decided to go to the Forbidden City (紫禁城). The guide asked me where I wanted to see, so I requested him to take me to “The Chinbi’s Well (珍妃の井戸)” because I didn’t have enough time to see all. So, as I recall, we went directly to the well and saw nothing else. I do not regret this though, because each of Asada’s storis is so fascinating that you feel as if you were living it. My impression of “The Chinbi’s Well”? Well, I would rather hear your impression after you have seen it.
The 3rd book of this series is “The Chugen Rainbow”. This is a story about Zhang Zuolin (Cyo Sakurinn, 張作霖); the son of a refugee, later the leader of the mounted bandit in Manchuria area (bazoku, 馬賊), Puyi (Xuantong Emperor, Fugi, 溥儀); the last emperor whom Zhang Zuolin is to encounter at Chugen, and Yuan Shikai (En Seigai, 袁世凱). The Western nations and the Kwantung Army (Kanto-gun, 関東軍) are also involved in the complicated development of the story. This piece is also quite exciting.
The last book; ‘Manchurian Report’ was published last fall. It has a wonderful structure and excellent style of story telling of the process that leads to the death of Zhang Zualin by the bomb explosion which Kwantung Army planned and executed near the Fengtian (Hoten, 奉天) Station of the Manchuria Railroad.
I truly admire the extensive research ability and high quality of writing by the professional writers.
While there are a variety of books dealing with the history of Japan and its relations with the neighbors - Korean Peninsula, China, or Manchuria - from end of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th Century, I find books such as Asada’s that tell stories of individual characters quite amusing, not to mention that they are “non-fictions” which are intended for entertainment. Besides the books by Asada, I would recommend a story of Hajime Satomi the “King of Opium” (by Shinichi Sano), or in this connection, “The Back Side History of Manchuria; What Masahiko Amakasu and Shinsuke Kishi Bore” (by Naoki Ohta), or many other stories concerning “Japan-Korea Relations”. There are many things to be learned from these books regarding the life of people or how history is created, among others.
“Historic novels” has nothing to do with strange nationalisms; it is a good way to understand the movement of the world or nations from the multi-standpoint of those who lived in that time, the effects those movements had on the everyday life of the people. Such perspective is especially important at times when you have to deal with the issues that arise in this rapidly globalizing world.
Below are some of the examples of the insights of Mr. Asada expressed as the words of the “story tellers” in this 4 series’ books;
“Neither (Japanese) government nor army is capable of thinking in a big scope because they are too nearsighted, merely focusing on immediate, short-term tiny profits….”
“Japanese thinking is too small scaled, just like the size of their homeland…”
“’Manchuria is the lifeline of Japan’, the words slipped out (at the Far East Meeting), but this comment was practically equivalent to saying ‘we are determined to invade our neighbors for the profit of our nation’….”
“Wise men learn from history, fools learn from experience” is a well known saying. Likewise I think “If people do not study the long history, they are just a bunch of idiots” is a good quote, although it is anonymous.
Homare Sawa shot a miraculous heel shot goal, with just 4 minutes to play in the extra time, making the score even with the US. Click here for the video.
After returning home from Washington DC on Saturday, the 16th, I spend the next day fighting against the jet-lag. On Sunday the 17th, I watched on TV Darren Clark of Northern Ireland win the Championship at The Open in England. Darren Clark gained victory after 20 times of challenging The Open which made this victory even more heart-warming.. Yuta Ikeda from Japan did fairly well in the final round.
After midnight of the 17th, from 3:30 am on 18th, the final match with US, the number one ranked team of the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off. Since I did not want to miss this game, I took a short nap and started watching. I think that the US team could have been frustrated because their aggressive play did not produce any goal in the first half, with a score of ‘0 – 0’ .. They might have been mentally tired a bit, too. Japan was actually in possession of the ball 53% of the time versus the US at 47%. The physical difference between the two teams was visibly clear, but Japanese players were doing their best to overcome it.
In the latter half, Ms Morgan ’s beautiful shot resulted in 1 goal. Japan of course fights back trying to score, but was unable to get the ball in the net. With only 10 minutes to go, Japan plays beautifully just in front of the goal and leveled the score with a goal.. The game thus goes into extra time with the score tied at 1 - 1.
In the first half of the extra time, Wambach scored with a heading shot.. This goal might have made the US side believe that they won. However, with just 3 minutes to go in the latter half, when the ball was corner kicked, Sawa caught it and shot a miraculous outside heel into the goal. This evened the score again at 2 - 2. Regulation time ended 3 minutes later.
So, next came the penalty shoot-out. I think the Japanese team was in a better mood. For some reason, the Japanese players were all smiling. The first 3 US players missed their shots. Ayumi Kaihori, the goal keeper, blocked the 1st and the 3rd shots. The success of the 4th player for Japan sealed a miraculous victory for Japan with a final score of 3 - 1.
What a game. What a big surprise! Both teams did great. Sawa, the captain of the Japanese team, had shown not only wonderful leadership, but also has done a beautiful job of being in the right spots at the right times throughout the game. For this effort works, Sawa was awarded the MVP and the Golden Boot. Truly a wonderful achievement.
I think the keys to this victory were their spirit of togetherness, and the good management by the head coach, Norio Sasaki.
I was impressed. It was truly a great game. Nadeshiko Japan moved us all in many ways. Thank you so much.
Many photos are uploaded here for you to enjoy.
The Nadeshiko team returned to Japan today with their faces shining with sense of achievement and happiness. They are truly wonderful women, our pride. I respect them deeply. Their victory has had also a huge impact and serves to encourage the people of Tohoku. Thank you, Nadeshiko Japan, for your wonderful work.
It is hot summer now. In Iwate or Miyagi where tsunami hit, people must be having hard time because of the heat. Many problems must be solved; such as securing appropriate shelter, maintaining hygiene, or keeping their food safe and edible. It was March when the Tsunami hit, there were even snowfalls then. Time passes so quickly.
Through this disaster we saw how the ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’ of Japan was exposed to the world by the power of highly developed information technologies. I have pointed this out repeatedly in this site(Ref.1, 2, 3), as you readers know.
This is the season of Tanabata (a summer festival in Japan), and it is so hot every day. In the town where I live, we have a ‘Rio Carnival’ every year, and people paraded gaily again this year too, a view which so matches the hot summer.
It was a very hot Sunday. I found the sides of the streets packed with people. Many street stalls stood alongside the narrow streets which made us feel the air even more heated.
The parade began. Music just like in Rio (though the scale of everything is much smaller) starts almost noisily, including the sound of the drums. Men and women dressed up in festival clothes dancing in the parade move along. This is actually quite a view. Onlookers are busy taking pictures with their cell phones. Dancers in brilliant costumes wave hands to the children who are watching on both sides, and many take pictures with the dancers.
I came across unexpectedly to my friend, a Korean news reporter, who was there with her child.
When we talked over the phone later that afternoon, she said to me ‘I was surprised by how quiet Japanese people were even at a jolly festival like this. They don’t make sounds. I myself shouted ‘bonita’ and such words over and over…. Japanese people are taking photos but…”
Actually, I did not notice this much, but it seems that such behavior gives somewhat an unusual or strange impression to the foreigners. People in the parade are trying to encourage onlookers to join and stir up the festive mood but their efforts do not seem to be working. Here again, I might say, the typical Japanese behavioral pattern of ‘follow others, try not to stick out…’ is prominent.
The ‘strength’ or ‘patience’ of the people at Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima exist in the behavioral pattern of Japanese as a whole - we act this way in every day life, and although foreigners admired it at time of the tragedy, such character could turn out to be very useful for their (Japanese) leaders.
Iadmit that Japanese have more tendencies to ‘suppress than pour out personal emotions, act in the same way as others’. However, it is not good to act like this at all time.
I think it is much better to pour out emotions, especially a happy or gay feeling such as in this festival.
In the time of major disaster, being ‘stoic’ is good but not enough. Firm leadership is badly needed.
The 16th International Conference for Women in Business will be held on Saturday July 23rd at the Grand Pacific Le Daiba. The theme of this conference is “Acting and connecting beyond borders.”
This event is the brainchild of Kaori Sasaki who is the CEO of eWoman, Inc. Keeping in mind the need to save electricity, the doors to the conference rooms will open at 7:00 a.m. and the conference itself will start bright and early at 8:00 a.m. There will be a networking lunch with the conference ending at 2:00 p.m.
You can take a look at the program here. The conference itself promises to be extremely thought provoking and I will be participating in the form of a dialogue with Yoko Ishikura in a session entitled “Connecting beyond borders”. She has recently published a book entitled Global Careers (in Japanese). She has also moved over to Keio University in April and is taking on new challenges. I anticipate that my dialogue with Professor Ishikura will be fun and lively.
Participation is not restricted to women and Japanese/English simultaneous interpretation will be provided. I look forward to seeing you there!
You can sign up via the conference website. However, I must say that the conference fee is just a little on the high side.
My Golden Week, I must say, was no holidays at all, packed with meetings with people even on Sunday, the 8th.
Next morning on Monday, the 9th, I left home early in the morning to take a flight from Narita to Washington DC, had meetings with various people in the afternoon right after the arrival, and then went on to the reception in the evening. Quite busy, at least I wish I had a bit more of free time. What keeps me going on is the notion that it is important to do such activities for Japan, especially in this circumstance. I am, in a way, working as a sort of ‘Permanent Global Part Timer (permanent part timer’ (‘freeter’ in Japanese) is a popular word in Japan which refers to a person who takes a succession of casual jobs in preference to steady full).
On 10th, the 2nd day at Washington DC, I was at the Brain-storming of a think tank on Ageing and Health, where I also gave a presentation of 30 minutes or so. Right after the meeting, I rushed to the airport to fly to Zurich via London. My visit to Zurich is for the St Gallen Symposium (in Japanese) (Ref 1).
To see the forecast of good weather seems to be the only pleasure I have at hand. My trip this time is so packed with schedule.
Much supports, aids, donations are coming from all over the world for the East Japan Natural Disaster ‘3.11’.
Drue Kataoka is a spirited artist known world wide by her works on philosophy and traditional Japanese Sumi-e (an Indian ink picture). She participated in TEDxTokyo in 2009. She was also invited to the Davos meeting for this year. Her father is a Japanese.
Ms. Kataoka set up ‘Sunrise 2011’ for this great disaster. I received a request from her by e-mail to send her a photo of my face with the sun as the background.
I sent her the photo, of course, but since she wants to collect as many photos as possible for ‘Sunrise 2011’, I will transfer her message to you, too.
Let us collaborate with the people of the world, and together create the new Japan!