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December 20, 2011


I am full of gratitude that I am able to write my last Rapport for year 2011.

The Middle East and Europe were this year’s global focal point. What started out as the people’s protest movement in Tunisia against the authoritarian government a year ago referred to as the “Jasmine Revolution” triggered the “Arab’s Spring” and in no time spread to uprisings in Egypt and Libya. Even after Gaddafi was killed in October, the movement kept on gaining momentum. If similar protests to oust the existing regime in other Arab/Middle East nations succeed, it may have affects on the Palestinian issue, Iran’s nuclear development program, oil supply from Arab nations, etc. in the very near future which can possibly bring about the disruption of the global power balance established after the 90’s.

For major EU nations which actively supported the “Arab’s Spring” during its initial stage, the current transformations taking place in the Middle East pose huge political and economical anxieties. However, the matter of great urgency requiring immediate attention for the EU nations turned out to be its own financial troubles. After the so-called Lehman shock, the economical crisis of several EU nations suddenly started to surface and they are engulfing the EU as a whole to confront the financial crisis issue. The gruesome prospect of EU’s economic downfall making way for a global economic depression or the practical dismantlement of the EU itself is becoming a potential reality. Under such circumstances, the stakes are high that the world is heading towards political and economical turbulence next year.

And what about Japan? Right after 3.11, in contrast to the drastic magnitude of the devastating disaster that hit the Tohoku region, the virtues of the Japanese people which were illustrated in the victims’ stance of composure, patience and consideration for others won admiration from the world with innumerable support and encouragement pouring in. But what followed after this initial stage was to shed light to the total incompetence of politics including the insufficient decontamination measures of radioactivity emitted by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor plants which were destroyed by the tsunami. Even during this state of emergency to reconstruct the nation, a new Prime Minister was elected into office (the 6th prime minister in 5 years). Japan deserves the fact that its ranking fell to 50th among the 59 nations surveyed in the annual IMD survey of the most competitive nations’ government efficiency. The national debt for fiscal year 2011 has finally topped 1000 trillion yen by this yearend and the reality of Japan’s “financial bankruptcy” is increasingly gaining credibility.

Such was the year 2011. As for myself, I have been directly involved in obtaining official approval to establish The Graduate School of Project Design which I will serve as the first President, the 3rd time in my life, and indirectly involved in laying specific steps to inaugurate the “Republic of Awaji” to cite several of my major activities. Throughout the year, I think I have been physically very fit and mentally vigorous while I spent my days with a feeling of fulfillment.

Wishing all of you a wonderful New Year.


December 13, 2011


For the past few decades, it has been rare for me to encounter Japanese with “high spirits” who are living in this country but fortunately, there are quite a number of Japanese, both famous and unknown, who harbor great aspirations and are high spirited among those who have opted to reside or have their activities’ stronghold in overseas countries. To cite one of such examples, I introduced Mr. Tamotsu Yagi a few weeks ago (in Rapport- 840) who is regarded highly as a prominent graphic designer in the U.S. This time, I must introduce another individual, Mr. Masashi Kamo, who is passionately involved in a project of grandeur scale to cultivate a wilderness totaling 750,000 hectares (half the size of Tokyo) into agricultural land in collaboration with a Cambodian financial conglomerate.

It was only half a year ago when Mr. Kamo visited my office in Akasaka upon the recommendation of one the younger colleagues of the university I graduated from. When Mr. Kamo explained the aforementioned grand scheme to me for the first time, even I was in half disbelief and felt hesitant to offer my assistance as I was uncertain of its credibility. However, when I was invited to have dinner with the Cambodian Vice Prime Minister and high-level governmental officials last August who were visiting Japan at the time, I learned firsthand from them, as we conversed, about the magnitude of Mr. Kamo’s presence in their country. This prompted me to start believing in the legitimacy of the grand project and I even ended up accepting their invitation to visit Cambodia in December (when the country’s weather is at its best). Well, days passed and come December; I adjusted my busy schedule and managed to fit a business trip to Phnom Penh from December 4th to 6th of last week.

My goodness, was my schedule there jam packed. During the daytime, I held successive meetings with the Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Finance, Minister of Education, etc., etc. accompanying Mr. Kamo while giving special lectures in front of several hundred students at The Royal University of Phnom Penh (the equivalent to the University of Tokyo in Japan) and the Norton University (equivalent to Keio University). During the evenings, I dined and conversed with notable politicians, governmental officials and business leaders in the financial sector. As I was busying myself with these engagements, I felt an irresistible affection towards Cambodia growing rapidly within myself. Although Cambodia’s economic growth fell behind other Southeast Asian nations due to the severe civil war the country suffered, Cambodia will definitely emerge as a magnificent country in the near future as she is bestowed with a flat and fertile land (half the size of Japan) together with sagacious and diligent people (although the population is less then 10% of Japan). With this said, I am now seriously considering to extend my full support to the enterprising Mr. Kamo who is determined to entrust his life for the well being of Cambodia.


December 6, 2011


Although I was born and raised in Nagoya until I was a 9th grader, my father kept on telling me that we reside in the city due to his work but our ancestors are from the beautiful castle town of Morioka (in Tohoku). Hearing this repeatedly, my longing for the Tohoku region began to bud during my early childhood and the yearning grew stronger with the passing of age. After completing my term as the President of Tama University, the sole reason why I, at the age of 70 years old, decided to accept the post of becoming the President of Miyagi (Prefectural) University upon the request of the Prefectural Governor and gallantly accepted to live alone in Sendai, leaving my family back in Tokyo, was to fulfill this yearning.

The job to overcome conventional and old-fashioned customs that prevailed among public universities as a civil servant for the first time in my life was a succession of unexpected hardships. However, when rumors ran that “an outsider President is about to return to Tokyo out of despair,” my friends and acquaintances, mainly businessmen, in Sendai gathered and formed the “Kazuo Noda fan club” to my surprise to cheer me up. Moreover, this fan club still continues to hold a warm welcome gathering for me whenever I have the opportunity to visit Sendai although it has been already 10 years since I have returned to Tokyo after completing my term as the President of Miyagi University.

Mr. Shogo Kamei, one of such friends of mine in Sendai, sent me a book of photographs which he authored illustrating the butterflies’ mode of life titled “Enchanted by Butterflies” (蝶に魅せられて). Mr. Kamei is currently the Adviser of Kamei Corporation, one of the leading firms in Sendai. The company originated as a small retailer which was established in Shiogama by Mr. Bunpei Kamei during the middle of the Meiji Era. Since then, the company, with a stronghold in Sendai, has expanded and diversified its business line to the extent of being listed in the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange after World War II. Ever since the company was founded, all five Presidents are from the Kamei family.

What comes to mind immediately when one hears of a President of a family owned company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange now day is Daio Paper Corp. In comparison to the absurdity of Mr. Mototaka Ikawa’s (former President and Chairman of Daio Paper Corp.) infatuation with casino gambling, Mr. Kamei’s infatuation with butterflies is so exquisite. However, as one turns the pages of “Enchanted by Butterflies,” one realizes that Mr. Kamei’s interest in butterflies which he has cherished over a long period of time goes far beyond the realm of a refined hobby. From the photographs, one is able to discern his penetratingly keen observation of his subject and his dedicational efforts over a long period which are even impossible for ordinary scientists to equal. What is most striking is the immensity of his love for butterflies. All these factors contribute to making the book into an excellent fruition of his research. I would like to express my genuine appreciation to Mr. Kamei in one plain and simple word - “Congratulations!”


November 29, 2011


As you may all know, Mr. Hidetoshi Kiyotake, the Representative and General Manager of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, was discharged by the club on November 18th. This outcome was more or less anticipated by many when Mr. Kiyotake went as far as to hold a press conference a week earlier on November 11th to publicly and explicitly criticize the abuse of power by Mr. Tsuneo Watanabe, the Chairman of the baseball team. When the baseball team made its official announcement to dismiss Mr. Kiyotake, the fact that they had to go out of their way to quote Mr. Shigeo Nagashima’s (Lifetime honorary manager of the Giants) comment that “Mr. Kiyotake is causing so much damages” illustrates that the baseball team itself lacks self-confidence. Furthermore, it left an impression which tarnishes the glorious past accomplishments of Mr. Nagashima himself (despite the fact that he made the comment with conviction or not).

It has been more than 10 years since Mr. Watanabe reigned as the godfather of the Yomiuri Group, a huge media conglomerate, when he became the President of Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper which boasts the widest circulation in the world. His deep involvement in the management of the Yomiuri Giants’ affair started even before he became the President of the newspaper and his insolent comments and activities as if to assume that the Giants is the crown jewel of the Japanese professional baseball league have often made the public frown with disapproval. As a former journalist, Mr. Watanabe has rubbed shoulders with political leaders, especially with the prime ministers of the Liberal Democratic Party and this inevitably led leaders not only of the business world but of various established power circles to play up to Mr. Watanabe (putting aside what they really think) who in a secular sense is considered as an “Almighty God.”

As for Mr. Kiyotake who was dismissed, the hot-bloodedness as a former hard-hitting newspaper reporter must have revived within himself that he is taking an aggressive stance to take legal action against what he conceives as an unjust retaliatory measures by the club. To this, Mr. Watanabe bragged in front of reporters that, “I have already arranged for the 10 best lawyers to fight the lawsuit. I have never lost in a courtroom battle.” What arrogance! Even within the Yomiuri Group, the revolt against the increasing damages caused by the authoritarianism of an aging Mr. Watanabe seems to be on the rise. For the Yomiuri Shimbun which applauds the “Arab’s Spring,” when will the “Yomiuri’s Spring” arrive?


November 22, 2011


The double election in Osaka (to elect the Prefectural Governor and the City Mayor) to be held on November 27th is just around the corner. Needless-to-say, the reason behind why a regional election is attracting so much national attention owes solely to the controversial presence of Mr. Toru Hashimoto who resigned his post as the Governor of Osaka Prefecture prior to serving his full term so that he can run as a candidate for the Mayor of Osaka election with the goal to realize the Osaka metropolitan government scheme which he conceived and envisions to establish. His speeches are becoming increasingly radical and extreme by the day that he not only advocates to implement the Osaka metropolitan government (which proposes to eliminate overlapping administration function between the Osaka Prefecture and Osaka city) but pledges to reform the current Japanese politics and administrative systems that have completely deteriorated via the Osaka Restoration Association which he founded in 2010. Such severe criticisms by Mr. Hashimoto is creating a peculiar phenomenon where the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party and even the Japanese Communist Party, i.e. parties with conflicting interests, are all endorsing his opponent, the incumbent mayor.

Although this is truly exhilarating in one sense, I do have some grave concerns that the “atmosphere” (kuki -“空気”) in Japan will widely swing to the right if Mr. Hashimoto is elected as the Mayor of Osaka city. By “kuki,” I am referring to what Mr. Shichihei Yamamoto asserted as the most influential criterion which is distinctive to the Japanese where once a group consensus is determined and once this “atmosphere” takes hold of the society, the Japanese public opinion unanimously and instantaneously sways towards that direction regardless of its legitimacy. While I was growing up, I have eye witnessed and personally experienced two drastic changes in the “atmosphere.” The first happened right after the establishment of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association in 1940 and the second occurred during the Allied Powers occupation of Japan led by General Douglas MacArthur in 1945. The social “atmosphere” in Japan changed with surprising ease to that of “never succumb to the U.S. and Britain” during the former and that of “glorifying democracy” during the latter.

Although Mr. Hashimoto has not explicitly articulated his ideology, I cannot discern any leftist inclination from his speeches while there is a significant amount of hostility towards the existing authoritative power (i.e. conservative parties, financial/business world, wealthy class, etc.). It is clear as day that present Japan’s economy continues to suffer from stagnation as the “lost 2 decades” lags on while politics is in a state of total chaos. Furthermore, the Koizumi administration’s “structural reform” which ended halfway created a wide disparity between the haves and the have-nots whereby the majority of ordinary citizens are increasingly feeling paranoia that they now belong to the latter in unexpectedly high proportions. Under such bleak circumstances, stakes are high now that the social “atmosphere” in Japan will make a big swing to the right if something arises which seems promising to uplift the current sour mood although it may be deceptive.


November 15, 2011


Mr. Tamotsu Yagi who is presently the most well-known graphic designer in the world of Japanese origin is currently back in Japan. When I attended the event to commemorate the publication of his new book, “THE GRAPHIC EYE of TAMOTSU YAGI,” upon invitation which was held in Minami-Aoyama last week, I was personally introduced to Mr. Yagi by one of his old friends, Mr. Hiroyuki Sasaki (Founding President of Tomorrowland Co., Ltd.). Furthermore, when I accompanied Mr. Yagi and several of his American friends to visit Sankeien (a traditional Japanese garden) in Yokohama on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Yagi and I struck up and enjoyed a lively conversation as we sat next to each other on the car driving us to and back from our destination. This congeniality led us to meet again for more intimate talks over lunch by ourselves next day that we have become close friends over such a short time span.

During the early 1980’s, Mr. Yagi was working as an art director at the Hamano Institute which had its office within the AXIS Building in Roppongi. At the time, Mr. Douglas Tompkins (founder of Espirt) who was planning to expand his business in Asia visited Japan and during his stay, he was tremendously impressed by AXIS Building that he decided to open his retail store in Tokyo within the premise. In doing so, Mr. Yagi became responsible for the store’s graphics and Mr. Tompkins was fascinated by his creative energy so much so that as soon as he returned to the U.S., he wrote a letter inviting Mr. Yagi to work at Esprit’s headquarters in San Francisco mentioning that, “If you keep on overworking yourself at the current pace, you will end up ruining your artistic talent.” This triggered the birth of “Yagi, the world renowned designer.” (This paragraph is an excerpt from the aforementioned book, a piece written by Ms. Yasuko Seki titled “About Tamotsu Yagi.”)

When Mr. Yagi joined Esprit’s headquarters which had about 2,000 employees back then, he was the only Japanese there and regardless of the fact that he virtually spoke no English, his overwhelmingly creative and artistic “graphic eye,” his relentless dedication to work and his good-natured personality almost immediately made him a prominent figure within the company and built a solid reputation that “the spirit of Yagi is reflected in Esprit” which eventually led way for him to make a name for himself in the global arena. This is a delightful success story which goes counter to “A Fool is a Fool even if One is Good at English” (“英語ができてもバカはバカ” - title of a book written by Mr. Makoto Naruke, former President of Microsoft Japan and now President of Inspire Corporation). To all those youth who are born in this country which is heading towards a steady decline and who are anxious about the well being of their own future, I will continue to impart my words of encouragement. “Look up to Mr. Yagi as your role model!”


November 8, 2011


If I start out by writing that “I spent almost a week with my family in Hawaii last week,” I may receive harsh criticisms for being so irresponsibly easygoing at a critical time when the Japanese nation is on the edge. In other words, the current atmosphere in Japan is that tense. However, as I was lying on the hotel’s poolside bench with my eyes closed and basking in the gentle sunlight in Waikiki which has virtually not changed at all from the old days with its charm, I was filled with a feeling of immense happiness like I have been finally released from a long term in prison which I was jailed under false accusations. At that moment, the controversial TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), the global financial crisis, the fear of being exposed to cesium (emitted by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors), etc., all seemed to have metamorphosed themselves into bittersweet memories of days long past gone.

Upon my visit to Hawaii this time, I was planning to utilize part of my time there to finish writing a long manuscript for a book that will be published shortly which I will author. However, I made the mistake of bringing my wife’s laptop computer to work on the draft and it was only after I arrived in Hawaii that I discovered that I was totally unfamiliar in using this equipment to write. In short, it turned out to my good fortune (?) that I found it impossible to make any progress with my work which made me flexibly change my mindset as usual to decide that I will abandon my writing saying, “Well, nobody is going to kill me for this” to myself and thoroughly devoted my 5 days stay in Hawaii as vacation time with my family by playing golf, swimming, shopping and going on a long drive. As it turned out, the outcome was great; my family members were overjoyed that I could join them in all the recreational activities and as for myself, I got my spirits into high mode with a deep sun tan!

Just before departing for Hawaii, I heard the good news that the establishment of the “Graduate School of Project Design” received official approval as a graduate school from the Ministry of Education. Upon the request of Mr. Hideya Azuma (Chairman of Senden Kaigi Co., Ltd.) who respects me for reason unknown to me, I have been, more or less, consistently involved with this project since last year to found a graduate school to nurture professionals which is “located in the most attractive area in Japan (i.e. Aoyama/Omotesando),” specializing in the “most unique subject (project design?) in Japan” and being the smallest in Japan (initial enrollment of 30 students). This graduate school will open its door next spring and I plan to become the institution’s first President which will be the third time for me. As I will turn 85 next year, I will probably be referred to as the “oldest President in Japan who has served as university President for the most time in Japan with the darkest sun tan in Japan.” I can hardly wait for this to happen.


November 1, 2011


The scandal that the former Chairman of Daio Paper Corp. repeatedly borrowed enormous sum of money illicitly from its subsidiary companies and gone on a wild spending spree for unaccounted-for uses is making huge headlines. Although the scandal is very likely to develop into a breach of trust, I took special note that he was a graduate of the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law.

The University of Tokyo was established as the first university in Japan and opened its door in year 10 of the Meiji era. The institution was founded by the Meiji government but the groundwork was based on the educational and research facilities which were formulated by the former Edo Shogunate so the “governmental” temperament was strong to start out with. Although the university initially started out with five faculties, namely, law, science, literature, medicine and remedy, the Faculty of Law’s social reputation began to excel by far as it was able to educate and turn out graduates who went on to become young and talented bureaucrats which met the needs of the newly established Meiji government. With the advancement in the industrial sector, the university established the Faculty of Economics; Department of Economics and Department of Commerce (which changed its name to the Department of Business Administration in 1962) near the end of the Meiji era to meet the needs of the growing number of large private companies which required young and promising employees. As the Faculty of Economics and its departments became separate entities by becoming independent from the Faculty of Law’s Department of Politics, the Faculty of Law is the very origin of all the faculties that are deemed especially outstanding within the University of Tokyo.

Under such circumstances, it became the norm that many of the students graduating for the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law or Faculty of Economics comfortably join prestigious governmental organizations or leading/prominent companies. In light of this, University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law and Faculty of Economics graduates who aspired to set up their own companies and had to undergo hardships were considered as “underdogs” or “eccentrics” while those who joined their family owned companies with the hope of becoming future presidential candidates were perceived as “lucky dogs who are to be sympathized.” At any rate, graduates who did not pursue the socially expected course of life often cannot overcome their sense of superiority of being elites during their student years and as they begin their life as members of society, many (unless they are credited for their past accomplishments of being University of Tokyo’s graduate) end up leading a life of unanticipated dissatisfaction which may owe to their lack of well-balanced common sense and inexperience or due to their lack of personal charm and at times, tread a descending path of becoming heroes of tragic lives.

In this context, the former Chairman of Daio Paper can be considered as one of the typical examples of the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law graduate. This is, not to mention, a wide array of talented (?) graduates before him starting from Mr. Akitsugu Yamazaki (committed suicide while enrolled at the university’s Faculty of Law) who was arrested for the “Hikari Club” scandal which took place right after World War II all the way to the recently arrestd Mr. Takeshi Kimura (graduate of the university’s Faculty of Economics) of the Incubator Bank of Japan, Ltd.


October 25, 2011


When referring to international film festivals, one usually associates it with the most prestigious three, accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPP), which are held in Cannes, Berlin and Venice. Recently, five other international film festivals, especially those featuring long films, have joined the big three and are generating favorable attentions from movie fans around the world. One of the five, the “Tokyo International Film Festival” (TIFF), is held in October and I receive an invitation to the event every year ever since my friend, Mr. Tasumi Yoda, become the Chairman of TIFF in 2008.

This year, TIFF’s opening ceremony was held last Saturday (from evening to midnight). Dress code for the occasion was “formal” and as the event is called the “Green Tie Dinner Party,” I received a black bow tie with green polka dots and accompanying pocket-handkerchief which are sent to all male attendees prior to the event every year. Although I was pressed for time to finish writing an article for a publication which was due on Monday, I dressed up in a tuxedo with the “must wear” bow tie and pocket-handkerchief with green polka dots and headed towards Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hill, the venue of the event, lightheartedly saying to myself that “precious time can be found in the midst of busyness!” (忙中閑あり)

The special opening film at the event was a British movie, “The Three Musketeers” (2011 version). Although the film’s original is based on Alexandre Duma’s novel, it was a thoroughly 3D adventure-action movie which heavily utilized CG technologies and it was entertaining in its own way. However, before the movie’s showing, over an hour was consumed by speeches; Mr. Yoda’s opening remark was understandable being the host of the event but it was followed by remarks by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, Minister Yukio Edano of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and extended all the way to major personalities involved in the movie who took the trouble to visit Japan for the occasion. This inevitably delayed the dinner party’s commencement but even here, remarks by guests and introductions of other distinguished guests took up so much time that by the time National Strategy Minister Motohisa Furukawa (who spoke especially at length) finished his speech and a toast was raised, it was nearly 9:00 pm. Having found myself worn out, I decided to leave the dinner party early to head home.

Gatherings oriented towards invited guests should prioritize the proceeding so that it accommodates to entertain those who are invited. Although this should be the case, such gatherings in Japan give unreasonably excessive attention to companies and/or organizations which contributed to make the holding of the event possible and in some cases pay over due respect to politicians who had influential power for the event to take place. I cannot help but voice my dissatisfaction to such irrational customs!


October 19, 20111


Being busy at work and having fun is always the case with me every week but even I could not afford to spare the time and energy to write Rapport last week. However, the exuberant feeling of fulfillment that I have accomplished two undertakings which will make the life ahead of me a more fruitful one is exceptional.

To be more specific, the two events refer to the lecture I gave in Awaji on October 15th and another in Tokyo on October 17th which were both followed by extremely warm interactions with members who were involved in the events. The former event was a panel discussion organized by the Awaji Junior Chamber (together with the mayors of Awaji, Sumoto and Minamiawaji, the 3 cities constituting Awaji Island) under the heading of “United Awaji! For the Prosperous Future of Awaji Island.” As I was asked to deliver the panel discussion’s keynote speech, I gave a lecture on “Awaji Island as a Catalyst to Change Japan.” Furthermore, after my speech, I enjoyed conversing with the three mayors who were present. The latter event in Tokyo was a study group organized by the Growth Strategy Task Force of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan where I gave my presentation under the title of “Closed Nation - Japan’s Industrialization and Its Future Limitations.” Again, I enjoyed exchanging views with the task force members who were present at the occasion.

The two lectures together with meeting the members who were engaged in both events have a deep impact on a huge project which I am determined to accomplish in my life ahead of me which is “To Regenerate Japan, My Mother Country (not Japan as a nation).” The former project (assuming that it is designated as one of the Comprehensive Special Zones, a bill approved recently in the Diet to provide special subsidies and tax incentives for regional reinvigoration) ultimately aims to establish Awaji Island as a virtual “Republic” so that it plays a forerunner role in the formation of the “Commonwealth of Japan.” The latter project pertains to realize the “Japanese-Style Nation of Immigrants” which Mr. Hidenori Sakanaka proposes (an idea which the U.S. government has indicated strong interest in). Both are innovative proposals to revitalize Japan; the former by realigning Japan as a nation of autonomous, individual municipal bodies and the latter by accepting immigrants to replenish the nation’s decreasing population and to bring in young workforce to overcome labor shortage.

As I go about my daily life as such, I received an offer by Gentosha (publishing firm) that they wish to publish a book tentatively titled “ Dare to Age if You Are Dissatisfied with Yourself!” (「悔しかったら、歳を取れ!」) by thoroughly compiling what I have written and spoken in the past. This offer crossed my path as a result of a feature series on me which “GOETHE” magazine (published by Gentosha) ran in their April to June issues last year. Mr. Toru Kenjyo, the famous founder of Gentosha, suggested the book’s tentative title. While we conversed, he was inspired when he heard me saying the phrase jokingly and with a distinctive instinct as a publisher, he instantly thought “This is it!” Since it somehow sounds like I am howling in vain, I am currently wondering whether to accept the offer or not.


October 3, 2011


Upon the invitation of Mr. Soichiro Fukutake, my wife and I spent two refreshing days (last Tuesday and Wednesday) at Benesse House located in Naoshima, an island located in the Seto Inland Sea. As Mr. Fukutake welcomed us at Takamatsu Pier (in Shikoku Island) on Tuesday morning, he drove the cruiser (Kukai II) to get us to Naoshima and further amazed us when he maneuvered the helicopter for an aerial tour of the Seto Inland Sea. On top of this, despite the fact that an important foreign guest was staying at the Benesse House, he generously took his time to entertain us for dinner on Tuesday evening and breakfast on Wednesday morning with genuine hospitality.

Benesse Corporation which Mr. Fukutake founded has become a huge conglomerate operation which mainly specializes in the field of education and senior/nursing care with the group companies’ total annual sales of 500 billion yen which still continues to grow at a steady pace. After entrusting the business administration of the various group companies constituting Benesse Corporation to promising and talented in-house executives, he retired from the Chairman’s position in 2003, returned his holding in the company in 2009 and moved his residence to Oakland (New Zealand). At this point, I believe he started to finally embark on his long-standing dream which was initially conceived in Naoshima - i.e. an unprecedented scheme to promote the “revitalization of the region through art” with a global perspective in mind.

Honestly speaking, when I was invited to the opening ceremony of Benesse House in 1992, it appeared to me as an exhibition venue for the collection of contemporary art which is one of Mr. Fukutake’s hobbies rather than being a business enterprise. However, this perception changed completely when I was invited to the opening of the “Chichu Art Museum” (literary meaning “an art museum in the earth” and famous for displaying the great masterpieces by Claude Monet, the “Water Lilies” series) designed by Mr. Tadao Ando in 2004. Upon visiting the site which brought further acclaim to Mr. Ando’s creativity, I felt totally assured that Benesse Art Site Naoshima will certainly be recognized and succeed as one of the unique art enterprises in the world.

At present, the Art Site has expanded beyond Naoshima and has spread to 7 islands in its vicinity and eventually it will extend its presence throughout the whole region of the Seto Inland Sea. Mr. Fukutake established Benesse Corporation’s headquarters in Okayama since he detested the power play, vanity and avarice that are so predominant in Tokyo. As for his personal life, his hobbies include hang gliding and flying helicopters and super high performance gliders, all of which have nothing to do with competing with others, but single-mindedly aiming for the free and limitlessly open sky. His grand scheme and ideals makes my heart throb with jubilation.


September 26, 2011


As if I accurately predicated that typhoon #15 would ravage throughout mainland Japan with destructive power, I was in South Korea from September 20th to 22nd (i.e. exactly when the typhoon was pouring torrential rain and blowing gusty winds over Japan) where the weather was crisp and clear.

The new book on Mr. Masayoshi Son (title: 孫正義 - 恩人たちが語る孫正義, published by Genbun Media) was published and released simultaneously in Japan and South Korea. Mr. Son’s reputation has further grown not only in Japan but also in South Korea due to his 10 billion yen contribution to assist the victims who suffered tremendous tragedies from the March 11th devastating tsunami and earthquake. As I had the honor to contribute my piece to the book as one of Mr. Son’s benefactors, I was invited to attend the event to commemorate the book’s publication in Seoul as a speaker together with Ms. Jyuri Tsukui, the author of the book. Jyuri-san is a South Korean lady who plays an active role in South Korea’s journalism and she is married to a Japanese husband, Mr. Tsukui.

Besides the aforementioned event, I was asked to give a lecture to the students at Kyonggi University, invited to a dinner gathering hosted by Dr. Kim Dong Gill who is admired highly and even referred to as the “spiritual leader of the South Koreans,” etc., etc. that my schedule was jam packed from morning to late at night. Although this left me with no time to leisurely enjoy my trip to South Korea, I, on the other hand, had the opportunity to meet with a wide array of people and from the conversations I had with them, I realized that my vaguely conceived picture of modern South Korea, molded mainly by information prevalent within the Japanese media, was pretty much biased and I deeply regretted for harboring such a distorted view.

For example, I was aware that the region surrounding Seoul, where almost half of the population of South Korea resides, is located near the border with North Korea and this geographical proximity posed the latter’s presence itself as a huge military threat. At the same time, if North Korea disintegrates as an independent nation for internal reasons of her own and gives birth to a “United Korea” (i.e. the North pouring into the South), this is another nightmarish scenario for the majority of the South Koreans, shared commonly among both conservatives and liberals, despite the fact that the two countries are constituted by people of identical origin. Whether divided or united, South Korea’s outlook seems bleak. This understanding made me realize how intricate the North Korea issue is for South Korea.

For the past 10 years or so, South Korea’s rapid economic growth which went hand in hand with the people’s energetic power were greatly symbolized by South Koreans’ who played brilliant roles in the fields of entertainment and sports. However, it seems that it is a universal rule that every county, after all, is burdened with difficulties unique to her own predicament which are unknown to outsiders residing in foreign countries.


September 12, 2011


On the evening of September 5th, the Silver Wind cruise ship left the pier blowing a steam whistle which vibrated with melancholy. As I stood on the high deck of the vessel beholding the breathtaking view of Zadar (ancient city of Croatia) which shone golden under the radiant setting sun, even I succumbed to a feeling of bittersweet sentimentality. That evening, the ship would travel the Adriatic Sea upstream and reach Venice, the last destination of the cruise tour early next morning, that would bring an end to our voyage which extended over 10 days.

By “our,” I am referring to my wife, Mr. Hideo Sawada, Mr. Masahide Shoji, Mr. Yasuyuki Nambu and their respective wives. Although the three gentlemen differ in profession, I met all of them when they were around 30 years old at a time when they have founded or just begun running their own companies. Since then, our acquaintances have continued for almost 30 years and are still counting. The three fellows are on very good terms with each other and I feel blessed that they somehow revere me as their common mentor although their and my ages are far apart as father and son. We initiated the “Mediterranean Sea Cruise” project ten years ago under the premise that “since we are all besieged with work on a daily basis, we should, at least, get together once every few years to get away from our hectically busy business activities during the vacation season and hold an intensive short-term Noda seminar while traveling abroad on a cruise ship.”

So far, we have embarked on such cruise trips three times and enjoyed traveling through the Mediterranean, Aegean and Adriatic Seas while visiting the coastal cities by way of seaside approach. Although it may be too early to speculate the destination of our next trip, our concern now is that there are virtually no region in this world, how big it may be, where attractive cities worth visiting are located along the coastal areas of cruise ships which continually travel during the day and night time so that they arrive at new destination ports early next morning where we can disembark for a sightseeing tour which would last for 10 days that we have not been to yet. In short, we are running out of cruise ship tour options which venture into new and unknown territories to ourselves.

Traveling on luxurious cruise ships is considered to be the “ultimate vacation.” However, besides the aforementioned shortcoming (i.e. the limited number of destinations that can be visited by cruise ships), there are several factors to consider in order to fully enjoy the cruise trip to its utmost. For example, such pleasure factors may include (1) scale, available accommodations/amenities and service of the cruise ship (2) length of travel, season, weather, and (3) age bracket, class, sophistication of the travelers onboard. The combination of these various factors will determine how comfortable and refreshing the cruise experience has been. Fortunately, almost all of the conditions were met fully to our satisfaction during our cruise trip this time so that all of us returned to Japan safe and sound on the afternoon of September 8th in, needless-to-say, high spirits.


August 26, 2011


I have devoted 55 years of my life as a university professor. The most rewarding moment of having being a professor comes when I am reassured that my teachings have had a positive impact on the life of my students. Following is one of such examples.

Professor Sam Tabuchi (of Toyo University and one of my former students) visited my office on sudden notice the other day and I was pleasantly surprised by his first words - “When I was your student, you made the remark that one should thoroughly weigh and decide which country is best in the world in providing an opportunity for one’s talent to manifest itself and blossom to the utmost. This comment was decisive in how I chose to live my life.” According to Sam, after contemplating deeply on my words, he decided to depart Japan for the U.S. as soon as he graduated from Rikkyo University.

Upon arriving in the U.S., he enrolled and graduated from the Florida State University with a Masters degree and joined the Florida state government. With his expertise, he held important positions at several state and national organizations and contributed to the betterment of Florida and the U.S. 30 years after living in the U.S., he returned to Japan when he was appointed to become the Japan representative of the world’s largest think tank as well as to take on the responsibility of being the Japan representative of the state of Florida’s Economic Development Department. Since his return, Sam has been playing a leading role in promoting PPP (Public Private Partnership) utilizing his knowledge and skills which he acquired in the U.S. He has been appointed as the Managing Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s PPP Promotion Committee since last spring. He, by all means, is certainly a remarkably international Japanese.

Presently, Japan is tackling the renewable energy issue in earnest but electricity generation by solar and wind power not only have numerous technical hurdles to clear but enhances the critical defect that they do not create new employment opportunities. Presented with the current energy dilemma, Sam proposes to solve the problem by promoting wood pellet power generation (which is already popular in European countries) and visited me, his former professor, to solicit advice on how he can realize his ideas so that it can be implemented on concrete terms.

This subsequently led me to accompany Sam to meet with General Manager Suematsu who is in charge of Forestry Policy at the Forestry Agency. Not only did Mr. Suematsu have a comprehensive understanding regarding wood pellet power generation but he, himself, was in the midst of trying to find a means to realize this in order to preserve Japan’s forest (an asset as well as a natural resource which Japan can pride herself on). As I was listening to Mr. Suematsu, the familiar face of Governor Matsui of Miyagi Prefecture suddenly came to mind. In line with this, I was able to set up an appointment with the ultra busy Governor on August 22nd and headed for Sendai accompanying Sam. Just as I expected, Governor Murai indicated his enthusiastic interest regarding the wood pellet power generation system which would contribute to the reconstruction of the devastated Tohoku region (by creating jobs in the region and securing stable energy on the national level) and promised to give serious consideration to initiate the project. At 84 years old, I am living the most fulfilling days of my life.


August 15, 2011


Around this time of the year, that is before and after the Obon holiday, requests for me to give speeches, attend gatherings and write articles in publications come to a temporary halt. It is, thus, a time for me to usually spend my time at leisure such as going on a summer evening boat cruise, watching fireworks, golfing at resorts, etc. However, due to the scorching heat wave that hit Japan in early August this year, instead of spending my time outdoors, I opted to take refuge inside my home and ended up spending my time cleaning up my study and reading books which caught my whim.

Yesterday, I instantaneously finished reading “人生、これからや!” (I Still Have a Whole Life Ahead of Me!; published by PHP Kenkyusho) by Ms. Junko Koshino. She is, as all of you are well aware, one of the world-renowned three Koshino designer sisters (Hiroko, Junko, and Michiko Koshinos). In the book, Junko-san, the second daughter, lovingly as well as with respect recounts the memories of her mother’s (Ayako) life (she passed away in 2006 at the age of 92). I can guarantee that once you start reading, you get glued to the story and as you continue to read on, your spirit starts to feel reinvigorated with energy. The main character of “Carnation” which is scheduled to be broadcasted on NHK’s popular serialized morning drama starting this October is based on the very life of Ms. Ayako Koshino so I highly recommend that you read this book in this respect as well.

For some reason, among the three Koshino sisters, I have the opportunity to run into Junko-san very frequently on various occasions. This being the case, I was charmed by her remarks and demeanor which led us to get acquainted. Furthermore, when Junko-san introduced me to her husband, Mr. Hiroyuki Suzuki (photographer), I took an instant liking to him which turned out to be mutual. It did not take long for my wife and I to strike up a cordial friendship with Junko-san and her husband. As a consequence of this relationship, I was invited to a magnificent reception to commemorate the publication of Junko-san’s aforementioned book which was held at a hotel in Tokyo and received the book as a souvenir.

From time to time, I have heard from Junko-san about her mother who lost her husband when she was still young as he was killed at World War II and that her mother supported the family single handedly by continuing to run the dressmaking shop which she and her husband owned and raised her three daughters to become designers of global prominence. However, after reading Junko-san’s book, I came to recognize that the origin of her mother’s vigorous activities and her original and unrestrained way of thinking which were rare attributes for a Japanese woman her age are reflected in the unique way she cultivated her daughters’ talent which owes greatly to the fact that Ayako-san was a rare Japanese mother. Last but not least, I totally identify myself with Junko-san’s mother who had the habit of saying “I still have a whole life ahead of me!” after she passed 80 years old.


August 2, 2011


When a visitor comes to my office in Akasaka for the first time, they are almost always surprised to see a German Shepherd, well to be more exact, a life-sized German Shepherd stuffed dog. When my friends threw a splendid party to celebrate my 80th birthday 4 years ago, Mr. Masahiko Tsugawa (famous actor) carried the stuffed dog to the gathering as a sign of friendship. Since I could not find a suitable place for the dog at my home in Hiroo, I decided to put the dog on display at my office. Although it is a stuffed dog, my affection towards it has grown over time and I have come to regard it as my real pet dog as I often pat its head and stroke its back.

When I mentioned this to Mr. Tsugawa during our phone conversation the other day, he visited my office right away and was overjoyed to see the dog welcome him. Furthermore, noticing how particular I am towards sweet potatoes when we ate tempura that day, he invited me to his favorite tempura restaurant in Ginza yesterday saying, “Just come and you will know why.” This restaurant’s specialty is a gigantic sweet potato tempura but due to seasonal reasons, they stop serving this dish at the end of July. Knowing this, Mr. Tsugawa personally solicited the owner’s consent to extend the deadline by one day so that I can relish the specialty on August 1st. Such gesture of genuine hospitality of his does kill.

In general, actors and actresses refrain from voicing their personal opinions and preferences as they gain fame since doing so may harm their professional standing. However, by reading Mr. Tsugawa’s blog, one can understand that he is an exception. For the past several months, his dissatisfaction and anger towards how the Democratic Party of Japan is dealing with the aftermath of the great earthquake which devastated the Tohoku region stand out in his blog. At the same time, Mr. Tsugawa who was born in Kyoto expresses his deep sympathy for the people of Tohoku. He comments that, “The Tohoku region is freezingly cold in the winter time, buried in snow. During such times of severity, the families live in unity by retreating quietly inside their homes and endure. The snow country nurtures the virtues of ‘patience’ and ‘mutual support.’ This spirit of Tohoku which impressed the world is the origin of the Japanese soul.” As my ancestors are from Tohoku, his tenderness towards the region comforts my heart.

Mr. Tsugawa is about to film a new movie which takes place in Tohoku. On August 22nd, the day Mr. Tsugawa arrives in Sendai, I too, by coincidence, have an appointment to meet with Governor Murai of Miyagi Prefecture in Sendai. This being the case, I am thinking of accompanying Mr. Tsugawa to the meeting so that I can introduce the two gentlemen to each other. I am already looking forward to this opportunity of getting them acquainted.


July 26, 2011


One of the privileges for a person like myself who gives speeches and lectures on a weekly basis is to get personally acquainted with a wide array of people who happen to be listening in the audience. One of such people, Mr. Hidenori Sakanaka (Chairman, Japan Immigration Policy Institute) visited me last week saying that he was in total accord with my stance that Japan must surmount the current closed door national policy which is chokingly rigid. Upon reading his recent book titled “日本型移民国家への道” (Road Map to Japanese-Style Immigrant Nation; published by Toshindo) which he presented to me when we met, I became aware that he was an expert in the field of Japan’s immigration policy and felt embarrassment of my ignorance of not knowing him.

Throughout his career at the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Sakanaka was deeply involved with policies pertaining to foreigners living in Japan. Upon retiring as the chief head of the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau after serving at the Ministry for 35 years, he established the Japan Immigration Policy Institute in 2005 with a clear vision that Japan needs to accept 10 million immigrants within 50 years to replenish the nation’s declining population due to low birthrate as well as to bring in young workforce to overcome labor shortage if Japan is to survive as a nation. The media responded favorably to Mr. Sakanaka’s proposal and a political group constituted by many of the Liberal Democratic Party’s lawmakers drafted the “Proposal of Japanese Style Immigration Policy” in line with his proposition to open doors to immigrants to rescue the nation. However, after the Democratic Party of Japan became the ruling party, further moves to implement this policy is now at a total standstill.

On the very same day I met Mr. Sakanaka, one of my friends brought one of his acquaintances, Mr. Namegh Mehrdad, a 44 years old Iranian, to my office insisting that he needs to introduce him to myself. Under the Islamic Republic which was established after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, individuals who harbored any Western style liberalism became the target of thorough liquidation. Mr. Mehrdad who was a young intellect at the time was arrested and was forced to serve a year and a half term sentence in prison just because he happened to have an English book. After being released, Mr. Mehrdad left his country and via the Egypt - Turkey - Thailand route, he came to Japan as a refugee. Starting out as a dishwasher at a restaurant, he took on numerous menial jobs and finally came to own his own restaurant. He is, indeed, a talented achiever with perseverance.

It took him 16 years to get where he is now after arriving in Japan. Despite his relentless plea in applying for Japanese citizenship while taking painstaking efforts to keep his record clean of any suspicion, he anticipates that it will still take another year or two for the country to grant him eligibility. Beholding this intelligent and good natured person in front of me, the anger towards my country which continues to adhere to an absurdly closed door policy towards immigrants fiercely ignited in my heart.


July 19, 2011


At a time like this when politics, economy, society, etc. are unanimously stagnant and in a state of disarray, the only things that thrills us with excitement is.... sports. Last week, Ryo Ishikawa who was expected to do well at the British Open Championship ended up in 147th place with a horifying14-over score and could not advance to the final round. On the contrary, the Japan women’s national soccer team, Nadeshiko Japan, miraculously kept up their winning streak at the FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Germany and dramatically won the final match against the U.S. team. Although the game was aired in the wee hours on July 18th, I got up early to watch and root for the Japanese team and the result was a very rewarding one. Needless-to-say, Nadeshiko Japan’s victory rocked the nation with jubilation and boosted our spirits.

Ryo Ishikawa was brought in a favorable environment where he was able to receive excellent training in golf since his early childhood years and as a high school boy, his talent blossomed as a prodigy and became the youngest and one of the most gifted and talented Japanese golfers. However, Ryo’s father who resigned his own job to devote himself in becoming his son’s manager may have had a negative impact on Ryo’s career as a professional golfer. As Ryo’s fame rose, so did his father’s secular ambitions (such as signing Ryo to become the exclusive personality to appear in commercials endorsing products of over 20 firms). Such side jobs may have burdened Ryo from concentrating his focus on golf since his recent scores have become noticeably inconsistent. Not to mention the British Open, the T.V. footage of Ryo’s face showed deep sign of fatigue when he played in a domestic golf tournament right before he flew to England. The exhausted expression chiseled on his face conveyed that he was not in his best self and why he was not doing well as he and others expected.

On the other hand, unlike the U.S., Japan’s women soccer has been a minor presence when compared to men’s soccer although they both have professional teams. This being the case, almost all the members of Nadeshiko Japan, regardless of being chosen players to form a national team, were virtually unknown to the Japanese audience. On top of the fact that the population of women soccer players is small, they are underprivileged by various conditions such as in compensation and availability of athletic facilities where they can train themselves with little or no media attention. Under such disadvantageous circumstances, only those who genuinely love and enjoy playing soccer can seriously exert all efforts to practice day after day. As an outcome of the incredible achievement of winning gold at the World Cup, the economical and social environment surrounding Nadeshiko Japan may change drastically. It is my earnest hope that the head coach and the members of Nadeshiko Japan sincerely continue to remind themselves and do not forget the proverb in Japanese “艱難汝を玉にす” which is equivalent to “adversity makes a man wise.”


July 12, 2011


Last week, as I was dining and having a jolly time with several of my close friends belonging to the business sector, the atmosphere of gaiety suddenly changed to that of anger when the topic of the conversation touched on the current political situation. As soon as one of the diners commented, “I wish something like UFO would land and abduct that guy from earth,” criticisms towards Prime Minister Kan erupted like a volcano from all in attendance and the dinner ended in a somewhat sour mood when one of the members suggested, “Shall we break up?” reflecting the futility of our despair. This is most probably a typical exemplary scenario which is occurring everyday in Japan these days.

Japan has certainly degraded as a nation but even in such a country, there is virtually no one in Japan who presently thinks that Mr. Kan has the proper and necessary capabilities to serve as our leader. As a young man, Kan made a name for himself as an active member of the civil grassroots movement and after several unsuccessful attempts to win in the general election as a candidate from the Social Democratic Federation, he was finally elected to the lower house in 1980. As soon as he gained this position, he skillfully maneuvered his way outside the declining Liberal Democratic Party and took legitimate steps to become one of the core executive members of the newly formed Democratic Party of Japan. As a result of what can be considered an outrageously absurd faction struggle within the party, Kan at last won the Prime Minister’s seat last year. However, as Prime Minister, he has not delivered any notable achievements but continued to make careless blunders which would lead a person with a sense of decency to voluntarily resign from the post. Kan, on the contrary, has the insensitivity of clinging onto the Prime Minister’s seat even using the misfortune of the devastating earthquake to his advantage of staying on.

Before World War II, the armed forces took advantage of the deteriorating party politics to take control of the administration and led Japan to reckless warfare causing great damages and sufferings to the citizens. After the defeat, the “democracy revolution” enforced by the occupational forces unexpectedly had a positive effect to reinvigorate the people’s spirit and their vitality culminated in the form of Japan achieving miraculous economic growth which was marveled by the world. Today, Japan has succumbed to “mobocracy” which is a chronic malaise of democracy and the Japanese have all but lost their motivational power. Kan’s strong headed remark of, “Is there anybody else who can succeed me?” is nothing but the root cause of the abysmal gloom overshadowing the mentality of the Japanese people.


July 5, 2011


It was almost exactly a month ago when my wife who has been my significant other for 53 years accidentally slipped by the swimming pool side at the sports gym and broke her right arm. Upon learning of the incident, I hastened home only to be stunned to see her crestfallen wearing a cast. Since then, my daughter has been at my wife’s side constantly to attend to her and I have opted to stay home as much as possible to take care of her needs. As a consequence of these efforts, my wife has gradually recovered to the point of being able to take a slow walk.

Last week, my wife made a rare request to me saying that she wanted to see the movie “Letters to Juliet.” So on a sunny Saturday morning, my wife and I together with my daughter proceeded to the LE CINEMA movie theater within the BUNKAMURA complex in Shibuya. When my daughter jokingly mentioned, “Mother, I guess you want to reminisce about the time when you traveled to Verona with father long time ago,” I suddenly realized that the Juliet referred to in the movie’s title was the heroine of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy “Romeo and Juliet.”

The main character of the movie, however, is not Juliet herself but Claire, an elegant English elderly lady, and Sophie, a bright and attractive young American woman. While Sophie travels to Verona with her fiance, she visits “Juliet’s House” by herself and finds that many letters to Juliet are posted on the courtyard wall. These letters are written by women with various afflictions regarding love and solicit advice from Juliet. Sophie further discovers that a group of volunteer women who calls themselves the “secretaries of Juliet” collect the posted letters, read them and write earnest answers back to the writer. When Sophie, who is impressed by their activities, reaches out to retrieve a letter stuck between the brick of the wall, the brick falls and she, by sheer chance, finds an unanswered letter written by Clair 50 years ago. Sophie, in turn, writes a sincere answer to Claire’s letter in the name of Juliet. This is how the lives of the two main characters, Claire and Sophie, begin to interweave.

When Claire, already a widow, receives Sophie’s letter back in London, it awakens her deep feeling for Lorenzo whom she met and fell passionately in love 50 years ago when she was staying in northern Italy as an art student. However, their marriage was not approved by his parents so they, against their will, had to part ways. The longing becomes so urgent that Claire promptly decides to visit Verona accompanied by her grandson, Charlie, with a determination to meet her love of half a century ago.

The story ends as Claire weds Lorenzo (now a widower) while Sophie and Charlie also affirm their love for each other. Although it was a typical American style movie ending, I was deeply moved. The lives the couples in the movie followed are different from the ones my wife and I did but I resonated with the “peaceful contentment” the elderly couple was finally able to reach.

copyright(C) Kazuo Noda.  All rights reserved.