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December 21, 2009



As a senior high school student, my childhood dream of becoming an aviation engineer was shattered with Japan’s World War II defeat. This, inevitably, made me decide to change my senior high school major (under the old system) from natural science to what is broadly categorized as “humanities” (文科). With this change in course, I had to spend an extra year as a senior high school student which brought about the unexpected privilege of having classmates in both majors. At the same time, I encountered the reality in Japanese society that it is advantageous to major in “humanities” (especially in law and in economics) to secure successful careers not only at private enterprises but also in politics and government. I have harbored a deep indignation towards this trend and I have voiced its irrationality whenever I have the opportunity to do so.

In the age when most of the major countries favor leaders with natural science backgrounds, Japan’s tradition of revering “humanities” background individuals as leaders may bring about the decline of the nation. To cite one example, eight out of the nine leaders in China are natural science majors. In conjunction with this, recruiting highly capable engineers (i.e. natural science majors) who have retired in Japan has become one of the national strategies among China, South Korea and other Asian countries for the nation’s survival and future growth in the global competition. The Japanese media which pursues frivolous incidents bloodthirstily is totally indifferent to this alarming phenomenon (probably due to the fact that the media’s top management all the way down to desk chiefs are dominated by “humanities” majors).

One of my young friends, Mr. Masanao Otsuka, experienced this unjust “humanities” major advantage firsthand as an employee of one of the leading companies. This led him to resign the company with strong resolve, establish his own firm and steer it to achieve huge success. After this accomplishment, he founded and became the President of a NPO organization, Japan Executive Technology Officers (JETO), and in his capacity, he is widely appealing the aforementioned critical issue to the public while trying to solve the problem with organizational efforts. He is also deeply involved in innovating the existing agricultural and the food industries with the cooperation of Gunma Prefecture and local municipalities and as native of southern Gunma Prefecture, it is one of his dreams to form a “Green Valley” between Tokyo, the largest consumer market, and the prefecture.

On December 18th, a grand conference to commemorate Mr. Otsuka’s activities was held at Oizumi-machi in Gunma Prefecture. As I am the Chairman of JETO upon Mr. Otsuka’s solicitation, I attended the event and gave a speech to support his endeavors. As I stepped out of the convention hall heated with excitement, I felt the cold gusty wind particular to this region. At that moment, my recollections as a “professor” for half a century flashed in my mind and I mumbled to myself, “So, it has been another year where I have been running around until year end.”


December 8, 2009


Actor, Ken Watanabe, was selected as the winner of this year’s “(Sakaguchi) Ango Prize” and as a Chairman of the nomination committee, I am scheduled to meet him very shortly. This being the case, I went to the movie theater, Scalaza, in Hibiya to see “Shizumanu Taiyo” (沈まぬ太陽), the film Ken Watanabe starred in which is currently enjoying a lot of fanfare.

The movie is based on Toyoko Yamasaki’s novel by the same title which was published ten years ago. Although the producer insists that the film is “fiction,” it is obvious to the audience that “Kokumin Airlines” referred to in the movie is actually “Japan Airlines” as the opening shot of the disastrous jumbo jet crash takes place at “Osutakayama,” the very location where Japan Airlines Flight 123 caused the worst single plane crash in aviation history.

The main character, Hajime Onchi, played by Ken Watanabe, is a graduate of the University of Tokyo and an employee of Kokumin Airlines. However, as a young employee, he becomes heavily involved with the airline’s labor union and as a chairman of the union, he continues to vigorously demand the company to improve the workers’ labor conditions. Onchi’s activities are conceived as having a negative effect to the company by top management and as a retaliatory measure, he is transferred to Karachi, then to Teheran and finally to Nairobi. Not only is his work environment made miserable, his personal life as well, due to his relocation to remote countries, causes a crisis within the family and almost collapses. As the story develops, the audience inevitably feels a strong indignation to the irrationality which befell on Onchi and starts to sympathize with his fate.

Based on the original novel which alerts social awareness, the indirect cause of the jumbo jet’s horrific crash follows a rather simplified sequence of events; defect in aircraft maintenance, deterioration of workers’ moral, unjust labor conditions, dysfunctional management, corruption among politicians, bureaucrats and the media. On the other hand, the personalities of the two characters, the newly appointed Chairman of the airline company who is chosen to solve the management crisis and Onchi, who is promoted by the Chairman to head the Chairman’s office after the latter learns that he is a man of determination within the firm, are idealized to the extreme in contrast to the prevalent corporate culture of decay.

As Japan Airlines is currently facing an unprecedented management crisis and the Japanese citizens are closely watching how it will find its way out, the timing of the movie’s public showing must have been excellent in terms of the movie producer’s commercial success. At the same time, the entities involved in reorganizing Japan Airlines must be frowning with disapproval. As far as I am concerned, the movie left me with several questions such as “Why didn’t Onchi thrust his resignation after being mistreated numerously by the company?” “After finally being sent to Kenya, did Onchi really find his ultimate peace of mind in the immense natural surrounding of Africa?” With these questions unanswered, the movie did not leave me with a satisfying sense of reconciliation.


December 2, 2009


Adam Smiths, the father of modern economics, wrote the book entitled “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” 10 years prior to publishing his magnum opus, “The Wealth of Nations.” Smith, who was a professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow when he wrote the book, cited human happiness as fulfilling three conditions, namely (1) good health, (2) without debt and (3) with a clear conscience.

In 1937, 180 years after Smiths’ publication, Harvard University embarked on an extensive research to examine and pursue the profound question under the theme of “Is there a set formula to lead a happy life?” by assembling a team of distinguished professors from various field of studies and by selecting 268 students who were esteemed as the best and the brightest, highly ambitious and possessing excellent adaptability to varying environments (young John F. Kennedy was chosen as a member of this group) and following them closely through their life’s ups and downs all the way to their old age. The research continued over a span of almost more than 70 years and the result was recently published. According to the study, among this group of the top of the cream students, 20 individuals after 10 years and 30% of the total after 30 years dropped out of life’s elite course due to mental illnesses. At 50 years old, only 106 individuals were equipped with the 7 qualifications defining happiness (i.e.1. spiritual maturity to endure and overcome obstacles, 2. continued educational motivation, 3. stable family life, 4. non-smoker, 5. abstinence from alcohol, 6. sports as a hobby and 7. proper weight) and by the time they were over 80 years old, that number was reduced by half.

As the famous proverb “He laughs best who laughs last” conveys, this survey concludes that the factors leading to a full and satisfying life do not depend on the individuals’ intellectuality or upbringing but on the intimate human relationships they were able to nurture during their life time (family, friends, colleagues, superiors, subordinates, etc.). There may be some of you who would ridicule that the result of the research is self-evident and not revealing anything new.

The aforementioned study by the Harvard University was published in the June issue of “The Atlantic,” a U.S. magazine, and Mr. Cho Woo-Jin (Associate Professor of Tama University) whom I fondly think of as one of my dear sons read the article and sent me a summary. I interpreted his synopsis in my own way to mean what I have stated above. For those of you who are really interested in obtaining a more in-depth comprehension of the study, I sincerely urge that you get hold of and read the original text.


November 25, 2009


The moment I opened the door of the dim auditorium, I was almost blinded by the bright ray of light. At 10:30 am on November 21st, I looked up at the crisp blue sky where yellow leaves glowed with the transparent sunlight and even the faces of the passer-bys underneath looked happy with fulfillment. Although I had another engagement, I found it difficult to leave the campus right away and my legs on their own will turned left and headed for the Sanshiro pond.

I intentionally avoided the paved sidewalk and chose the path covered with fallen leaves which turned into a steep desent towards the pond. As I walked, my thoughts wandered back 60 years to my student days when Japan was still in the midst of the war’s ruins. Back then, thick weeds grew around the pond while the surrounding trees grew wildly and on the bank of the muddy water that had dried up, even corpse of a dead cat was floating. As I stood at the edge of the pond, listening to the luscious sound of the waterfall from across and watching the water birds and fishes swimming with ease, I was struck by a deep sentiment which I have never felt before towards my alma mater and was glued to the spot for a while.

That day, upon the request from Dr. Kazuhiko Atsumi, I visited the University of Tokyo after a long absence to give an opening remark as a guest speaker at the 13th convention of the “Society for Intergrative Medicine Japan” (IMJ) which was held at the Yasuda Auditorium. After giving my remarks, I remained to listen to the first speech given by Dr. Atsumi, the founder and the President of the IMJ. On stage, Dr. Atsumi looked majestic and dignified, totally different from the person I know whom I exchange jokes with whenever we meet.

Dr. Atsumi belonged to the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Medicine and spent his Assistant Professor and Professor years at the Medical Electronics Research Center. In other words, he was in charge of pioneering the most up-to-date western medicine. However, when he initiated a movement to integrate medical solutions from all over the non-western countries upon his retirement in 1989, not only I but everybody who knew him were taken by surprise. This movement is now acknowledged and fully supported by the political, bureaucratic, business and academic arena and is about to blossom not only as Japan’s but as the world’s future medical treatment. Hats off to Dr. Atsumi’s foresight!


November 17, 2009


My office in Akasaka (although it has relocated 7 times) has always opened its door and welcomed my friends and acquaintances to get together regardless of their age, gender, nationality, profession, etc. It was right here at my office that the two individuals who have both attained spectacular successes, namely Mr. Masayoshi Son and Mr. Yasuyuki Nanbu, met by coincidence and became friends almost 30 years ago.

I received an invitation to dinner from the aforementioned two friends of mine end of last month saying that it has been quite a while since we met last and that it was about time for all of us to get together. The occasion materialized earlier than expected and it was scheduled for last Thursday. The location of the dinner was Soft Bank’s headquarters in Shiodome. Mr. Son, President of the company, personally rented half of one of the building’s floors and elaborately created his own world of “tranquility” according to his taste. Although I had heard many stories about this location I was virtually dumbfounded when I saw it firsthand. Once one steps out of Mr. Son’s office which is designed to provide a relaxing working mode, one suddenly encounters an authentically Japanese universe (as if to wonder into an aristocrat’s manor in the dynasty era) with inter connecting corridors and an interior garden. The dinner started on time at an elegant Japanese style room with windows overlooking the splendid night view of Tokyo.

On top of this, what came as a big surprise was the invitees. Mr. and Mrs. Maehara (Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) and Mr. Heizo Takenaka were invited to the get together. Mr. Takenaka who returned from New York that very evening headed straight to dinner from Narita Airport and was a little late while Mr. Maehara who is leading an ultra busy life attending to his demanding minister post joined much later. However, by the time everybody was sitting at the table, Mr. Son’s woe about the country’s lamentable state was as its height.

“With only 1% growth rate, Japan’s gross GDP will fall to 8th place globally in 20 years. If the growth rate can be increased to 3% as a result of significant improvement in manufacturing processes brought about by cutting edge innovation in IT, Japan can, not only retain 4th place in gross GDP, but can also achieve first place in GDP per capita. In order to accomplish this, it is imperative, on the one hand to quickly build and establish a comprehensive information highway by completing the optic fiber network and on the other hand to carry out an innovative educational reform by introducing ‘electronic textbook’.” Such was the gist of Mr. Son’s case.


November 11, 2009


President Obama’s visit to Asia will start this weekend with Japan being his first destination. Many Japanese may be concerned that he will spend only one day in Japan as opposed to spending three days in China. When I met and conversed with one of my best friends, Ezra Vogel (professor at Harvard University), on November 3rd for lunch since he was visiting Japan for several days last week, he mentioned, “The American leaders’ heightening interest in China embodies the potential threat China will become in the future. This is why many of America’s ordinary citizens, not only the political leaders, are concerned as to how Japan will determine its foreign policy under the new administration. Until now, the U.S. felt secure and comfortable with Japan’s unilateral loyalty but the new administration may be steering away from the cozy U.S.-Japan relationship of the past by asserting more say towards the U.S. and proposing a new East Asian alliance by collaborating with China and Korea.” As Ezra had just met and exchanged views with his former students, namely Foreign Minister Okada and legislator Koichi Kato, his words were deeply suggestive.

With the weak won, Korea’s trade surplus reached $26.6 billion (during the first half of this year) surpassing that of Japan ($9.1 billion) by far but Korea’s current-account deficit with Japan has continued to increase over the past years and posted a record $21.7 billion loss (during the first half of this year) consuming its black ink in trade surplus. However, I think that this figure, in a way, reflects the intimacy between Korea and Japan. Last week, one of my best friends, Professor Lee Jong Hyum of Kyongbuk National University (also an expert in semiconductor and the Chairman of the Asia Science Park Association) led a delegation of 40 businessmen from Korea to Japan. During the workshop held at the Hayama International Bunkamura for the delegation members, I gave a keynote speech which was entitled “East Asia’s Future and Venture.” After the lecture, I was overwhelmed at how the audience listened with enthusiasm as well as the extremely fraternal atmosphere that prevailed among all those who were present.

During the same time, the world-renowned conductor Myung-Whun Chung was visiting Japan. He and I have become real buddies who rejoice in our reunion with a big hug and I always make it a point to meet him in person whenever he visits Japan. Myung-Whun Chung conducted Brahms’ “Requiem” at Suntory Hall on November 6th and on the 9th, during the cordial cocktail party held at “Maestro” within the New National Theatre complex, he inaugurated the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra’s “One Hundred Club” which was founded upon his proposal.


October 28, 2009




Since last year, I have practically accepted the responsibility of founding a new university and have been giving considerable thought in its planning. “Graduate School of Project Planning” is the name of the institution on the application form submitted to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. After retiring from the President’s post at Tama University, I became deeply involved in founding the University of Miyagi (prefectural university) upon the request of the than Governor of Miyagi. I crowned one of the departments with the name “Project Planning,” the first of its kind in Japan.

Although generally unknown, founding a university is an extremely backbreaking job in Japan since it needs to obtain approval from the national government and every aspect in its establishment are subject to evaluation including the financial status of the founding body, building and facility requirements, eligibility of faculty members and validity of the curriculum. Among them, the faculty members and the curriculum are under special strict scrutiny as each department (and division) must be approved separately by a subcommittee of the Council for University Chartering (constituted by scholars specializing in various fields). Since these learned men are mostly conservative in thinking, they tend to disfavor the creation of innovative departments (or divisions).

As my vision for the University of Miyagi was to foster talented individuals who are capable of becoming entrepreneurs or appointed as top executives of organizations, the curriculum to enhance the breadth of such learning could not be contained in any one existing department. After much thought, I united “project” and “planning,” two words that did not exist in the academic community’s terminology, and not only did I submit the application drafting the curriculum’s aim and content to the Ministry of Education, I personally visited the ministry and met with the person in charge to give him a detailed face-to-face presentation. After completing all the necessary procedures involved, I was finally able to obtain approval to establish the department.

While in Sendai, the conception of the new department was rather indifferently received as, “the President of the University of Miyagi who came from Tokyo set up a department with a queer name.” However, in Tokyo, many individuals highly assessed the department’s name as well as its purpose. Furthermore, a young entrepreneur who has been harboring ideas about setting up a unique graduate school and was taking special note of my activities took the trouble of visiting me in person to express his total support that this is the one and only name for a new university. We instantly synchronized with each other and he entrusted me with the responsibility of taking initiatives to establish the university. This will be the third university for me to found. These days, I am acutely re-realizing the profoundness of human encounter.


October 21, 2009


Being able to encounter people and circumstances which I am impressed and inspired anew even at the age of over 80 years old is life’s blessings which I could not have anticipated when I was a young man. Guided by Mr. Soichiro Okishio, one of my best friends who is an architect one year junior than myself, I visited KAYAC Inc. in Kamakura yesterday afternoon and enjoyed a delightful conversation with Representative Daisuke Yanasawa, almost oblivious to the passage of time.

KAYAC Inc. was established by three members who graduated from Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus in 1974. Although they went their separate ways after graduation to pursue their own career, they kept in touch with each other and after numerous brainstorming sessions, they set up this web site development service firm in 1998 with only 33,000 yen as initial capital. Since then, the company has grown and now employs 70 workers with annual sales of 700 million yen. Well, this might not be enough to excite people to take interest in the company. However when one hears of “The Fun Corporation KAYAC,” (面白法人カヤック) one may, at least, wish to secure a copy of the company brochure. Once one takes a look at the booklet which is totally different from those of other companies being almost comic bookish both in design and content, one is lured to visit the firm. The moment one steps into the office (located within a four story elegant building facing the arcade of Cherry trees), one is taken by surprise at the office’s original and bold layout and as one listens to the employee’s numerous stories about the delightful working environment and lives they lead, one cannot help but be thoroughly impressed.

The company’s management philosophy is “To increase the number of creators (who can utilize his/her creativity to the utmost whatever the work).” The keyword since the founding of the firm is “(In order to share the fun and happiness of work among in-house colleagues and with clients), think of with whom to work with first rather than what to do.” To achieve the company’s vision, they have implemented a flat, communal system and set up a fun-loving workplace whereby all workers can work wherever they like and whenever they choose to with the aim to “contribute to society by utilizing one’s own individual talent to the best.” As I toured the company which was unique in all aspects, Google’s “campus” was constantly lurking behind my mind. Although different in size and ideology, the two firms will leave their names in history as being the pioneer of “office workers’ revolution.”


October 14, 2009


Under a clear blue sky after the typhoon, I played golf with Mr. Naomi Tomita last weekend. Although it is impossible to compete in score with Mr. Tomita who boasts long distance strokes with an outstanding read on course directions, I relish the time when I, once in a while, overdo him by shooting a distance longer than his. As the game went on and every time I lost against him that day, I bemoaned saying, “I hate to loose to a guy who is 20 years younger than myself” to which the caddie comforted me with words of consolation.

Mr. Tomita served as the President of several foreign-based technology innovation firms such as Picture Tel Co., Ltd. Furthermore, he has been appointed as the Chairman of the “Asia Radio Control Association.” His duties take him around the globe to engage in various overseas activities and while in Japan, he shows up dashingly at numerous events by choosing the best vehicle among his favorite Porsche, Harley-Davidson and Q-Car (an ultra small Japanese electric automobile). He has an astonishingly thorough comprehension on worldly affairs and his knowledge and experience with ICT and “mechatronics” is one of the kind.

As we drove for the early morning golf that day, the topic of our conversation for some reason centered on CAE (computer-aided engineering). Mr. Tomita started mentioning that he cannot expect any innovative products from company S and cited Formula One (F1) as a good example as to why this is so. “Be it production or development, the relationship between the manufacturing floor and the headquarters must have the same intimacy as that between a F1 racing driver/racing car and the team’s command center (CC-leader and 20 to 30 members). During the F1 race, the driver plus the car and the command center are constantly united by wireless voice communication and telemeter. Highly sophisticated real time collaboration takes place between the driver and the command center who has a grip on the driving data sent immediately from the sensors attached to the racing car’s parts. In light of this, winning or losing the F1 race not only depends on the mechanical performance factor (for manufacturers, production facility) but on the intimate teamwork between the driver’s (for manufacturers, the onsite production staff’s) excellent driving technique + sensibility + verbal expression and the command center (for manufacturers, the headquarters staff) who possesses a speedy and accurate organizational decision making ability. Unfortunately, company S no longer has a first-rate driver or a competent CC staff.” Indeed, his explanation and the conclusion reached were precise and convincing.


October 2, 2009



I do not have the faintest clue as to who first started the association but the word “monozukuri” (the art and soul of manufacturing) is used frequently when Japanese industry is discussed. As my field of specialty is business administration, I, myself, have not only spoken and written about “monozukuri” somewhat extensively but have served 4 terms as a Director of Kokusai Gino Kogei Kiko (学校法人国際技能工芸機構), the mother body which established the Monotsukuri University (Institute of Technologists; President-Umehara Takeshi) in Saitama Prefecture.

Although the definition of “monozukuri” varies and ranges from “manufacturing in its simple form of making goods” all the way to “a process to transform a product as the copy of design data into a material, namely a medium” (quote from Manufacturing Management Research Center, the University of Tokyo), the advocators of “monozukuri” all speak in one voice when it comes to emphasizing it as being a distinctively Japanese disposition. Even among them, opinions vary from those who emphasize “monozukuri” as a personal trait which is embedded in the Japanese individual’s DNA to those who emphasize “monozukuri” as the fruit of the unique tradition of the Japanese society which fostered its development.

As I am not an advocate of “monozukuri,” I do not think that the Japanese people and society when compared to other nationals are especially suited to the manufacturing industry. However, the combination of the nation’s geographical, meteorological and historical conditions fortunately overlapped to create a “homogeneous society” (as Kinya Abe elucidated in ‘Seken’) with a unique culture based on an excellent self innovation-oriented agriculture as its foundation. When this society reached maturity (with the momentum of the Meiji Restoration), the timing was perfect to skillfully integrate the Western style “industrialization” into the groundwork of the self-improvement mentality that was already in place. This, I believe, led Japan to become a globally renowned nation of “monozukuri.”

Because Japan was the only non-Western country among those which succeeded in “industrialization” during the 19th and 20th centuries, the pundits were able to claim the supremacy of the Japanese people and society by referring to their “monozukuri” spirit. With the coming of the new wave of “information technology,” “industrialization” in the 21st century is confronting a rapid succession of changes in the global front. This is a crucial moment when the validity of Japan and the Japanese people’s “monozukuri” spirit is scrutinized for its genuineness.


October 2, 2009




Calligraphy is a form of art which is distinctive to the orient and since 1946, Nitten (Japanese Fine Arts Exhibition) designated it as the fifth art faculty to comprise the art organization together with Japanese style painting, Western style painting, sculpture and craft as art which were in place before World War II. Mr. Hakuju Kuiseko (who serves as the member of the Board of Directors of Nitten for one) is currently regarded as one of the leading calligraphers in Japan. While I acknowledge without hesitation that my handwriting is bad, I, for some reason unknown to myself, have been appointed as the Chairman of Mr. Kuiseko’s fan club in Tokyo.

During the recent gathering of this group, Mr. Kuiseko mentioned to me that he met Mr. Seijyuro Shiokawa (retired LDP member who held numerous important ministerial posts) the other day who recently attended a conference held in Europe. While there, one of the foreign participants suddenly approached him asking, “Doesn’t Japan foster culture?” Surprised, Mr. Shiokawa responded in what context the question was being poised to him. The questioner pointed out that he has read the political parties’ manifestos proposed during Japan’s recent general election and both the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan did not even have a line with reference to the subject of culture illustrating their negligent stance towards the issue. To this, Mr. Shiokawa could not even say a word in response.

Upon hearing this from Mr. Kuiseko, all of us who were present at the event had a heated discussion on the topic. As for myself, as soon as I returned home that night, I immediately searched the “budget for cultural affairs” via the internet and to my surprise, I found out that the only party which boldly stated the need to increase the budget for cultural affairs together with reasons for the increase and a plan outlining the details was the Japanese Communist Party. While the New Komeito Party made a mere one line reference to culture in their manifesto, both the LDP and DJP had no posting on this issue. This is solid evidence that the two major parties’ manifestos totally disregarded the significance of culture on the national policy agenda.

From the westerners’ perspective, it is obvious that Japan’s assessment of “culture” is abnormally low for a country with such economic magnitude (this is due to the overall indifference of leaders in the political, bureaucratic and business arena towards culture despite the fact that Japan is endowed with distinguished cultural assets that she can be proud of). The Agency for Cultural Affairs was established in 1968 and the “Fundamental Law for the Promotion of Culture and the Arts“ was enacted in 2001. However, the budget allocated to cultural affairs has not grown and even now, it accounts for only 0.1% of the total national budget which amounts to merely one tenth of those of European countries. With the current national economy and the existing financial system in mind, how to shift more emphasis on cultural affairs is a critical issue for the new DJP administration to tackle.


September 15, 2009



As an aftermath of the general election which rocked the Japanese political arena, not only the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which suffered a blowing defeat but the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) which won a sweeping victory seem to be going through a hectic time; transitional stage where LDP members who lost their seats are moving out while the incoming new ruling party are in the process of establishing the next administration. As if to flee the prevailing atmosphere of mess, friends and acquaintances of politicians have been visiting my office frequently in recent days. It has always been my basic stance to state my straightforward opinion without being too sensitive towards the circumstances the other is under. For example, when Kenzo Fujisue (DPJ, current member of the upper house) and Satsuki Katayama (LDP; former member of the lower house) visited my office separately last week, I suggested to both that they should form a new party which surpasses the existing ones.

Mr. Fujisue (born 1964) graduated from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, joined the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (current Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry), studied at MIT as an overseas student, became an Assistant Professor at the University of Tokyo and was elected as a DPJ member of the upper house in the 2004 election. As for Ms. Katayama (born 1959), she graduated from the University of Tokyo, joined the Ministry of Finance, studied at Ecole Nationale d’Administration (one of the most prestigious French universities) as an overseas student, appointed as one of the Budget Examiners of the Ministry of Finance (the first woman to be appointed to the post), elected as a member of the LDP’s lower house in the 2005 general election and lost her seat in the Diet as a result of the last election held in August 2009. Both individuals, although different in gender and party affiliation, not only belong to the same generation but the careers they tread are considered as the top of the cream elites by Japanese standards.

The two individuals must have dreamt of a brilliant future and became young bureaucrats with high aspirations. As both of them are smart enough to keep their mouth shut, they do not speak of what actually awaited them as bureaucrats but I assume they had to render ridiculous “services” demanded by ignorant, rude and arrogant politicians (with a few exceptions). Working under politicians who often mention about breaking away from the bureaucrats but who cannot accomplish their main duties without their assistance, both Mr. Fujisue and Ms. Kataoka, had every reason to think that they can do a better job than the incompetent politicians.

With the “luck of the time” behind them, the two succeeded in being elected to office when they ran as candidates for the first time. But what they experienced as newly elected politicians must have been a world infested by unfair seniority (determined according to the years in office), hereditary politicians, money politics, bizarre and manipulative activities within the factions, etc. When I advised, “All the opinion leaders agree that the result of the recent election reflects the rejection of the LDP and not the approval of the DPJ by the Japanese public. If this is the case, with the vision of the party’s uncertain future status in mind, why not form a fresh and new third party as a‘simultaneous revolution’within the LDP and the DPJ.” To this, both replied with a meaningful smile.


September 7, 2009



A week has already passed by since the lower house election which resulted in the historical defeat of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). As the Democratic Party of Japan (DJP) won a landslide victory, it was natural to anticipate that the party president, Yukio Hatoyama, will assume the role of the next Prime Minister of Japan. However, as the media started revealing the members of the new cabinet, I cannot help but honestly feel that the banquet which started out by being fun is suddenly coming to a souring end.

Besides the fact that the content of the manifesto proposed by the DPJ was far from exhilarating, I do not think that there is anybody who has total faith that the newly appointed cabinet members will be able to come up with refreshing and effective policies by minimizing the intervention of the manipulative bureaucrats to the utmost and bring about genuine hope for the future of the country. What struck me as the most surprising post within the cabinet goes by the hyperbolic name of “State Strategy Minister” which is supposed to be one of the distinctive features of the new administration.

Naoto Kan has been appointed to this post but, normally, the job of executing state strategy should be in the hands of Prime Minister Hatoyama. The two, Hatoyama and Kan, are far apart in almost all aspects - birth, breed, career, principle, opinion, etc. On top of this, the party’s executive members are composed by individuals with diverse backgrounds from those who embody the most traditionally old-fashioned predisposition of the LDP to advocates of the former Socialist Party’s right wing. Furthermore, heavyweights from the Social Democratic Party and the People’s New Party will be appointed as cabinet members in the next administration. Taking all these contradicting factors into account, one can only wonder how a coherent set of state strategies can be formulated.

As for the arrogant LDP members who blindly believed that their power was everlasting instead of being transient, the magazines and the like are publishing stories of the deep dejection the former lower house members are experiencing after loosing the election. Even among those who won (including those who barely hung on by getting proportionally represented seats), the discord within the party is clear as day. These eyesore events are not only pathetic but are on the realm of absurdity. The one and only good news that came to light after this election was the virtual end of the factions’ power within the LDP which the members counted on most over their own party as well as the nation.

In order to protect democracy which tends to incline towards mobocracy, how about revising the law and ban candidates from engaging in election campaign activities? Instead of running around the representative district with rolled up sleeves, why not entrust the campaigning to the supporters and leisurely go on overseas tour accompanying their spouse. I believe that such individuals are best qualified to be elected into office.


August 24, 20099



If I recount that “I stayed over at a resort hotel in Nasu Shirakawa last week, enjoyed playing golf the next day and then headed for Aizuwakamatsu to give a speech at the summer seminar of Doyukai,” many of the business executives in Tokyo who deem themselves as “business leaders” would put on a perplexed look. This is because, for them, the summer seminar of the business leaders is always held at a hotel in Karuizawa and this year’s event has already been held quite a while ago.

As you are well aware, “Doyukai” in Tokyo is an abbreviation for “Japan Association of Corporate Executives” and together with the Japan Business Federation (Nihon Keizai Dantai Rengokai) and the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it constitutes the “Big Three” of economic organizations. On crucial issues, Doyukai voices its high-minded advices on political as well as administrative policies. Although the constituting members of the Tokyo headquarters are only 1,000 plus several hundreds, it prides itself as a prestigious group of intellectuals. Being a national organization, it retains branches in every prefecture throughout Japan but the regional offices’ presence and activities (being outside the jurisdiction of Nagatacho and Kasumigaseki) are, unfortunately, no match to that of its influential Tokyo headquarters.

I first became aware of this difference when I was the President of Miyagi Prefectural University and resided in Sendai. While local business executives (i.e. top executives of leading local firms as well as branch manager class businessmen of large corporations headquartered in Tokyo) recognize and identify with the prefecture’s Doyukai office, local citizens, on the other hand, thinks that the “Association of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises” is referred to as Doyukai. With the goal for local small and medium sized company executives to study and exchange instrumental information on how each firm can grow and operate successfully, the Association of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises was nurtured spontaneously by each prefecture and is a group of voluntary organizations. Currently, it boasts a membership of over 40,000.

Since this association is strongly rooted to each locality, every entity is an autonomous body with independent authority to determine its own activities and management. However, each association retains an intimate communication network with one another and such informal information exchange among them seems to give the organization a flexibility which the national Japan Association of Corporate Executives lacks. During my presidency at the Miyagi Prefectural University, the Association of Small and Medium Sized Enterprise in Miyagi started a monthly event called “Doyukai Academy” with the campus serving as the conference venue. As I give my keynote speech at this event in early September every year, I eagerly look forward to next week when I attend the 12th anniversary of the gathering.


August 11, 2009



Have you heard of “The Miraculous Apple” (奇跡のりんご) which is currently one of the best sellers (written by Takuharu Ishikawa, published by Gentosha)? It is a biographical story of Mr. Akinori Kimura, an apple orchid farmer. By strictly adhering to the practice of not using any chemicals or fertilizers, he succeeded in cultivating amazing apples which compare to none in flavor with long lasting freshness. Overturning the conventional wisdom prevalent among modern farming, Mr. Kimura led a turbulent life until he finally achieved his dream. His endeavors were featured on NHK’s television program “Professional - Shigoto no Ryugi” (プロフェショナル 仕事の流儀) which aired on December of 2006 to a nationwide audience. The program was so well received that it recorded an unprecedented amount of positive responses from the viewers.

Although born as the second son of a farmer, Kimura distained agriculture since his childhood while harboring a fascination for machinery. In line with his interest, he obtained a Class 1 certificate in bookkeeping during his senior high school years and joined a manufacturing plant in the Keihin area where he was in charge of cost management. However, after life’s twists and turns, he had to return to his hometown against his will and ended up by marrying into a farmer’s family as a son-in-law. As Kimura took up farming which he could not relate to from the start, his skepticism towards agricultural methods continued to deepen until he, by coincidence, came across “The Natural Way of Farming” written by Mr. Masanobu Fukuoka. Extremely impressed by Fukuoka’s farming methodology and philosophy, Kimura repeatedly read the book over and reached a strong determination to apply Fukuoka’s natural farming practices to his apple orchid with his own modifications (i.e. from crop to tree).

Ironically, this was the beginning of his hardships. The next four decades and a half was a succession of one failure after another which led to contempt and criticisms from those who ridiculed his practices. Devastated by his unsuccessful attempts and from poverty, Kimura’s desperation reached a point where he walked into the forest one night with the intention of hanging himself. As he was about to execute his deed, he halted at the sight of a splendid beech tree which stood resolutely under the moonlight. Wondering how such a tall and solid tree grew in the wild without any chemicals or fertilizers, he came to the conclusion that the powerful roots and the fertile soil that sustain their healthy growth were the key. Recognition of nature’s harmonious coexistence shed light to his pursuit and finally led him to cultivate the trees which bear the miraculous apples.

Mr. Kimura was invited as a lecturer at “Aomori Risshi Chosen Juku” (青森立志挑戦塾) end of last month. After the lecture, I had a chance to personally converse with him. All throughout our conversation, his revealing words kept ringing in my head. “The real essence of farming is to collaborate with nature and to be given a share of her blessings.”


August 4, 2009



Writer, Saburo Shiroyama, passed away more than two years ago but the popularity of his refined works, reflecting his noble personality, continues to be on the rise. One of Mr. Shiroyama’s representative novels, “Summer of the Bureaucrats,” (官僚たちの夏) portrays the competent bureaucrats at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) who played a leading role during the high economic growth period of Japan after the war. A drama series by the same title based on the original novel of Mr. Shiroyama is being aired on T.V. every Sunday since last month.

The 19th century “industrialization” oriented society was at a turning point to evolve into a new historical era of “information society” in the 60’s (with the emergence of the computer after World War II and the rapid technological innovation accompanying it). MITI (now METI) promptly recognized the trend and established the “Electronic Industry Policy Division” in 1969 and selected Mr. Morihiko Hiramatsu as the first division manager to draft up and implement policies to tackle the issue on a national level. This timing coincides with when I was responsible in establishing the first non-profit think tank in Japan. This organization, Japan Research Institute (first Chairman; Dr. Seiji Kaya), was officially approved in the summer of 1970 by the Economic Planning Agency (now Cabinet Office) and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry). The MITI side segment which was responsible for granting approval was the aforementioned “Electronic Industry Policy Division” headed by Mr. Hiramatsu. It is not an overstatement to say that this marked the “dramatic beginning” of the long lasting friendship between Mr. Hiramatsu and myself.

The focal theme of the T.V. drama “Summer of the Bureaucrats” which aired last Sunday featured the intense royalty fee negotiation with IBM which held the key to obtain permission from IBM to manufacture computer domestically. Although many of the leading Japanese electric manufacturers were in the process of developing their own computer versions, they were not in a position to discuss this vital royalty issue with IBM, a giant who held most of the patents related to computer, independently on their own. MITI, thus, took the initiative to facilitate the possibility of opening the door on their behalf. The fiery discussion neared a deadlock but Mr. Hiramatsu was able to skillfully succeed in convincing the Vice President of IBM to drastically reduce the fee the latter was demanding. Mr. Hiramatsu, played by actor Masato Sakai in the drama, must have impressed many of the viewers with his strong determination and invincible yet sincere persuasiveness to accomplish his mission. After watching the T.V. drama, I called Mr. Hiramatsu at home in Oita and as we conversed, I was filled with a deep sense of fulfillment of having such a significant person as one of my best friends.


July 26, 2009



The show began with Debussy’s eloquent flute tune as the lights temporarily went down and darkened the big banquet hall. From then on, the stage became a breathtaking attraction where dancers performed dynamically choreographed movements by skillfully maneuvering yo-yo, an opera harmoniously sung alternately by two lovely female singers whose white costumes glowed radiantly in the spotlight...The climax came when the whole wall behind the stage became a screen illuminating a kaleidoscopic sequence of contemporary metropolitan construction site images accompanied by music full of heart-throbbing beat which stunningly synchronized with the visual display. The final act was a stylish fashion show where 9 professional female and 3 guest male models appeared alternately adorned in chic pret-a-porter collection attires. I am referring to Ms. Junko Koshino’s show, “A MOMENT,” which was held on July 23rd at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo in Roppongi.

I have been enjoying a close friendship with Ms. Junko Koshino who is a famous international fashion designer together with her two sisters. Or to be more specific, my acquaintance with her deepened when I found a true friend in her husband, Mr. Hiroyuki Suzuki, a photographer with a unique angle and a short essay writer who enjoys a high reputation among professionals in these fields. The aforementioned construction site slides were Mr. Suzuki’s compilation selected from the enormous amount of photographs which he recently took. The background music that accompanied the images was composed by their son, Yoriyuki, who got his inspiration by carefully looking at his father’s construction site photographs. He integrated and synthesized melodies of modern music such as the theme song of “Terminator.” I was able to wholeheartedly enjoy an enriching evening by attending this event which was a fruition of this family’s magnificent “collaboration” and “artistic talents.”

Speaking of art, I never mastered piano or violin which I took lessons in my youth and without reservation, I admit that I do not have a hand at painting. This being the case, I do not think I am endowed with an authentic talent for appreciating art. In order to make up for my shortcomings, I have harbored a profound respect for artists and their works in every field who/which are highly esteemed (regardless of whether I comprehend their work or whether they are compatible with my personal taste). My humble stance with regards to art has brought about an unexpectedly happy outcome for me to get acquainted and cultivate friendship with many exceptionally talented individuals who specialize in this arena.


July 14, 2009



Many of my friends would wonder in bewilderment if I mention that I gave a lecture on “The Blind Spot of Regional Revitalization” last Saturday afternoon at the Academic Association for Regional Revitalization. They would quizzically ask why would I be giving a speech on such a theme? To this day, I have given countless lectures almost on a weekly basis at various venues but I sense a difference in the nature of the request I receive. Unlike the past, requests for me to lecture on themes that are not considered my specialty as a “keynote” or “special” guest speaker have vastly increased in recent years. As a verification of this trend, I have numerous lecture engagements lined up covering diverse topics such as “ High Hopes on the Vegetable Factory” and “Thought on Enhancing Business Logistics.”

This does not mean that I freely accept all lecture requests that I come across. Since my youth, I have had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge to satisfy my vast curiosity and a strong determination to immediately put my thoughts into action. With the accumulation of age, my area of interests, activities and domains related to my expertise have continued to expand so that I find myself in a position where I sincerely wish to offer many of my original suggestions and proposals to experts in a variety of fields pertaining to the issues they specialize in from a different point of view. When I do give lectures, I do not speak on irresponsible grounds taking refuge in the fact that I am not a professional on the topic. Not to mention long lectures but even for brief opening remarks, I take my time to deeply contemplate and investigate on the theme that I am to give my speech so that when it comes time for me to go on stage, I can give my presentation with full confidence.

From my perspective, the subject of “regional revitalization” should not be defined as the municipality designated by the government. Furthermore, the emphasis to realize this goal should not be through strengthening the region’s economy but through fulfilling the humane needs of the residents. A good case exemplifying my point is Tsuchikure Village and Jeff (Rapport-747). Even for an isolated community which has been economically as well as socially abandoned by the government, revitalization is fully possible under the guidance of an exceptional leader. Counter to this, the most absurd example is the two subsidies granted for regional revitalization which were included in the fiscal year 2009 supplementary budget passed by the Diet recently as part of the regional revitalization policy led by government initiatives (started under the Koizumi administration). Such administrative policies to indiscriminately distribute subsidies only mislead the residents of each respective region to carelessness and passive decay. As far as regional revitalization is concerned, each local community is the key player to find its one and only unique way to reinvigorate itself and the
nation’s position is to play a minor supporting role.


July 7, 2009



Jeff’s welcoming and genuine smile flashed when I arrived at the lobby of Kagoshima Airport last Saturday evening. He had taken the trouble of driving an hour and a half from Tsuchikure to meet us in Kagoshima. With ardent emotions surging in our hearts, our handshake was tight. Through our communication via phone and e-mails prior to our meeting, we had nurtured an intimacy like we have known each other for a long time.

As mentioned in Rapport-747, Jeff was born and grew up in a well-to-do family, graduated from a prestigious university and worked for a leading firm in the U.S. While doing so, he sensed that something was missing from the life he aspired to lead which prompted him to leave his mother country for Japan, a land which had captured his fantasy since his boyhood. After visiting and living in various locations in Japan, he became a crew of the fix net fishing boat in southern Kyushu attracted to the island’s picturesque setting and, finally, of all places, decided to settle in Tsuchikure, a remote village with only 28 inhabitants whose average age is 81 years old. While domesticating himself to the village, he eventually won the trust of the villagers and as soon as he took the initiative of attending to their needs, he reinvigorated and elevated the community’s spirit. By all means, he is an incredible individual in both deeds and persona.

Next morning, I, together with two staff members from the Aomori Prefectural Government, hastened to make our way for Tsuchikure Village. Upon arrival, what awaited us was a typical pastoral mountain village contrary to its name
(土喰村-literally meaning a village living off eating soil). Jeff immediately guided us through the village and introduced us to all the villagers as we visited their residences. We, then, headed for his home.

Like a rural European country cottage, Jeff’s home stood atop a hill overseeing the meadow. According to Jeff, it used to be a hut to keep a watch on grazing cows. Enchanted by the location, he repeatedly renovated the decrepit old rotting hut with his very own hands and remodeled it into a cozy abode where he now lives with his lovely wife and two sweet children. Pleasantly surprised by the “frontier spirit”
(a characteristic trait of early Americans) within Jeff, I could not help but renew my deep respect towards him.

After relishing lunch warm-heartedly prepared by Jeff’s wife, we visited the village hall to thoroughly enjoy conversing with the villagers who congregated as we munched on the handmade snacks they so generously brought. We then got into Jeff’s car and headed for Kagoshima Airport. On my return flight, I looked back on the rewarding time I spent in Tsuchikure. Physically, it was a busy day but mentally, an extremely enriching one where time passed leisurely.

copyright(C) Kazuo Noda.  All rights reserved.