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June 25, 2013


It was last Wednesday when news broke that SoftBank Corp.’s bid to acquire Sprint Nextel Corp. (the third largest U.S. wireless carrier) which encountered numerous twists and turns since it was initiated 8 months ago may finally take a positive turn for SoftBank. On that very day, my office received a phone call from New York Times’ female reporter requesting an interview with me with regards to Mr. Masayoshi Son (CEO of SoftBank Corp.). I, thus, met with her last Friday afternoon for an hour.

According to the reporter, she came to my office after attending SoftBank’s shareholders’ meeting which was held earlier that day. I started our conversation by commenting that, “Although I am not involved in the management of SoftBank, if the current acquisition deal goes through successfully, I firmly believe that the company under the leadership of Son-kun (in Japanese, “kun” after last or first names indicate that the person is younger or is on very familiar terms) will start to play a key role in the U.S. This will definitely serve as a benefit to the American citizens.” To this, the reporter agreed by saying that, “Our newspaper wrote exactly what you just said in our editorial the other day” and the interview kicked off to an amicable start.

It was way back - 30 years ago - when Son-kun first visited my office in Akasaka. There, he met Mr. Yasuyuki Nanbu (founder and CEO of Pasona Group Inc., one of Japan’s large outplacement agencies) whom he found exceptionally compatible and became best friends with. Son-kun recounts how impressed he was with Nanbu-kun back then when he heard that the latter’s firm had 6 employees thinking, wow it is triple what I have. Since then, my friendship with Son-kun has lasted over 30 years and the firm he founded, SoftBank Corp. (and group companies), has grown into a leading company employing almost 30,000 workers.

Regardless of country, entrepreneurs, who have successfully expanded an anonymous small company into a reputable large corporation in their lifetime all, without exception, possess (1) high aspiration, (2) unique strategical management capability and (3) invincible spirit. However, this does not mean that they are all equipped with a passionate aspiration to contribute to society through business activities as corporate citizens. In this respect, Son-kun still speaks of his aspiration with strong emotions which he says I imparted to him (although I have no recollection of) 30 years ago when we first met at my office. Furthermore, his first name, Masayoshi, written “正義” in Chinese characters, means “justice” in Japanese. It is, thus, his motto to carry out justice no matter what. I have not a cloud of doubt to the further success of Son-kun who continues to nurture his original intention with such genuineness and that his firm will contribute not only to the well-being of Japan but to enriching the lives of citizens and society of the U.S.


June 10, 2013


“Paper,” the most commonly used product globally as producers’ and as consumer's goods is about to undergo a transformation. This is not because the rapid advancement of information technology is increasingly decreasing the demand for newspapers and other printed matters which account for 80% of the paper’s need. It is, actually, on the contrary. The past few decades has witnessed the rapid economic growth of countries and regions which were long considered as under developed or developing through the mobilization of cheap labor force as well as exploitation of various natural resources. This has spurred a sudden increase in population which has resulted in the drastic demand for paper on a global scale.

Under such circumstances, it is clear as day that the conventional method of paper production which utilizes pulp (=wood=forest) and water cannot sustain the growing need. Needless-to-say, without being pointed out by experts, it is evident that this poses a huge problem as consumption of enormous quantities of natural resources cannot go on without end. However, what the paper manufacturing industry has been undertaking so far is to engage in tree planting projects to increase the forest area throughout the world and to recycle used paper. The former has the disadvantage of posing financial burdens (planting trees and maintaining forests not only consume time and labor but cost a lot of money) and the latter not only suffers from the demerit of degrading the quality of paper when it is recycled but it has the crucial flaw of having to use huge volumes of water in the recycling process itself.

Therefore, the truly ideal paper manufacturing method the world looked forward to discovering was one in which pulp was not used as raw material and one that does not require water in the production procedure. Having said this, it is totally amazing that a new material has been developed by a Japanese venture firm (TBM Co., Ltd) which can amply serve as alternative to paper and plastic products. Furthermore, this new product uses limestone as raw material and it does not even use water. In this way, the manufacturing process does not discharge waste water which further adds to the environmentally friendliness of the innovative product. Indeed, upon the request of Mr. Nobuyoshi Yamazaki who is the founder of this firm, I have been actively involved in extending my assistance to him in all aspects so that his business can get into full orbit. Fortunately, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry approved to grant a subsidy designated especially for firms with innovative ideas/products which is acknowledged as hard to obtain. The plan as it stands now is for the company to start construction of the test plant in Miyagi Prefecture via Hitachi Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. Let us anticipate with high hopes that TBM Co., Ltd. will bring about a brighter future by revolutionizing paper.


May 23, 2013


“The Danger of Extensive Liquefaction in Tokyo” (May 15th), “The Government to take Initiative on Eruption Countermeasures” (May 17th) - both are headline articles that were featured on the first page of the Asahi Shimbun (one of the leading national newspapers in Japan). The former article is based on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s estimate of the damages that will occur within the city in the event of the gigantic Nankai Trough earthquake and the latter article refers to the announcement made by the government's panel of experts regarding the (government’s) countermeasure policies in case of huge scale eruptions (such as Mount Fuji). When noteworthy news with urgency does not occur the previous day, the newspapers tend to publish articles which highlight huge disasters that are unpredictable but highly deemed to happen. But can we just disregard them as being the sad trait of the media to intimidate the readers?

The impact of such incendiary reports by the media has an overwhelmingly negative effect externally rather than internally. Although such news may not make headlines in overseas countries, they have the full potential of misinforming foreigners who are unfamiliar about Japan that “Japan is a dangerous country.” On the other hand, the Japanese citizens living in old downtown Tokyo (where liquefaction is speculated to occur) and residents in the vicinity of Mount Fuji (that are feared to erupt) are not panic stricken but in high spirits. The Tokyo Skytree (the tallest structure in Japan at 634 meters) in Sumida Ward just celebrated its first anniversary on May 22nd and recorded 6.85 million visitors who enjoyed the panoramic view from the observatory while the adjoining multi-purpose entertainment facility, Tokyo Skytree Town, attracted 50.8 million visitors, both well exceeding the initially anticipated numbers. At the same time, the municipal governments, private firms and residents living in the proximity of Mount Fuji are all in a festive mood of celebration now that the mountain has finally been designated as the World Cultural Heritage Site. However, it is unfortunate that these positive phenomena contradicting the anticipated doomsdays-like scenario reported by the Japanese media have no news value for media overseas and go unreported.

The so called Abenomics has entered the stage to tackle the “third arrow,” the last of the “three arrows of economic revitalization plan” (i.e. [1] bold monetary policy, [2] flexible fiscal policy and [3] economic growth strategies). As one of the economic growth strategies, the plan has set the aim to attract 20 million foreign tourists to Japan annually. With the success of the first arrow (i.e. depreciation of the yen), the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan (mainly from surrounding Asian countries) has sharply increased over the past several months but still faces difficulties in surpassing 10 million visitors which has long been the goal of the Japan Tourism Agency. With this in mind, can we say that the Japanese media’s masochistic reporting attitude of shedding the country in a negative light is an “unintentional anti-Japanese campaign activity?”


May 13, 2013


From the above-caption, please do not speculate in haste that I have suddenly become interested in meddling in international relation affairs. As reference information to make my conversations with friends more productive, I am in the habit of reading several magazines that are being mailed to me every week. Among them, what caught my attention last week was an article in “Chuo Koron” magazine’s June issue titled, “Which Country should Japan put Her Pivotal Foot, the U.S. or China?”

The article summarizes the debate which were held 7 times between Professor Ronald Dore, a British sociologist who is well acknowledged as a specialist on Japanese economy and society, and Mr. Giulio Pugliese, a promising Italian controversialist on international relations (currently at a prestigious U.S. research institute) and a wrap-up comment by my friend Ez (i.e. Ezra Vogel, Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University). The exchange starts out by Mr. Pugiese expressing his candid criticism on Professor Dore’s newly published book, “日本の転機” (Japan’s Turning Point). For those who are interested in the details of this insightful discussion, I recommend that you read the original article.

The gist of the article can be summarized as follows. Professor Dore points out that the Japanese political leaders and citizens (who are shocked by the rapid rise of China) are obviously deepening their expectations to strengthen ties with the U.S. than the previous century. As for the U.S., with the domineering presence of China (regardless of likes and dislikes), the strategic as well as emotional prioritization of Japan among many political leaders and citizens have subtly changed. In light of this, Japan’s independence from the one-sided dependency on the U.S. is the best way to improve Japan-Sino relationship. To this, Mr. Pugliese objects that this attitude change is too soft to resolve trilateral relations and their argument starts to pick up momentum and escalates to a heated debate.

In the end, Professor Ezra Vogel gives his verdict which endorses Mr. Pugliese’s standpoint saying that Professor Dore’s assessment is too ideal and that an alternative suggestion ought to be formulated. To this, Mr. Pugliese (of course) is in total accord. Professor Dore counters by complaining that, although he has nurtured a friendship with Ezra for half a century, his viewpoint that Japan should strengthen U.S. relations while closing the distance with China is too naive.


April 25, 2013


When asked what is the mightiest creature on earth in terms of knocking down the opponent one-on-one physically, one may cite polar bears in the Northern Hemisphere and African elephants in the Southern Hemisphere. However, when one considers that huge dinosaurs which must have exceeded in power over the aforementioned bears and elephants became extinct from earth almost 65 million years ago due to great environmental changes that occurred on the planet, it may be inevitable to conclude that from a biological adaptation capability point of view, virtually all animals with enormous body mass may descend to the weakest rank in terms of surviving ecological change.

Although levels of biological adaptation may vary among microscopic creatures, Tardigrade, commonly known as water bear, has suddenly come to the spotlight. With more than 1,000 species, the size of water bears range from 0.05 to 0.17 millimeters. When this microscopically tiny creature is magnified, it takes on a powerful appearance resembling that of a monster featured in boy’s magazines and when it walks with four pairs of legs, it reminds one of a bear’s gait, thus the origin of the name.

Not only can water bears survive in severe environmental conditions (i.e. tropical heat to freezing Antarctic temperature, Himalayan high altitude to the deepest sea level), they can withstand extremely low and high pressures as well as high level radiation. Mr. Daiki Horikawa who took a special interest in the water bear’s extraordinary survival capabilities is currently devoting all his energies in the research of this creature at Paris University and NASA, of all organizations, is providing him with the scholarship. NASA, whose important mission is to develop space programs, did not overlook the water bear’s incredible environmental adaptation attributes which can survive in the vacuum of outer space and solar radiation.

The bi-monthly magazine “Brutus” featured a series titled “New Business Undertakings and Our Future, Part 2” in the most recent issue. This series introduces two individuals each from the list of 28 the magazine handpicked as those who are in the midst of cultivating project in innovative fields. The latest series featured Mr. Mitsuru Izumo, President of Euglena Co., Ltd. (the company name Euglena is taken literally from the single-celled microscopic algae and the firm aims to establish a carbon cycling society using Euglena) which was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Mother (Market of the high-growth emerging stocks) end of last year as the first university born bio-venture firm and Mr. Daiki Horikawa who has decided to devote his life on the research of water bear’s potential and in so doing, publishing an e-mail newsletter as well as creating and selling various “water bear” goods he designed.


April 18, 2013


Mr. Tetsuro Funai, the founder of Funai Electric Co., Ltd., who is one of my best friends and who is the same age as I must be the world’s oldest person who is still actively involved in business management. Among the Japanese consumer electronic manufacturers who are struggling for survival in the highly competitive global market, Funai Electric’s sound track record currently stands out. But the reason why I esteem Mr. Funai highly is due to his deep respect as well as high hopes on academic research regardless of or should I reword it as because of him being a typical self-made success as a company founder.

The Funai Foundation for Information Technology which Mr. Funai serves as the Chairman was established in 2001 as a public interest incorporated foundation and financially made possible by the donation of his enormous personal asset including his stake in the company’s stock. Since its founding, the foundation has played an active role in contributing to the promotion of scientific technology as well as the cultivation of talented individuals. As the name implies, The Funai Tetsuro Auditorium and Funai Center, a facility that boasts a splendid design and function which was completed within the Kyoto University’s Katsura campus in 2007, was built by Mr. Funai’s huge donation to reflect his desire to further advance the university’s education and research activities as well as to promote Japan’s academic research and industrial competitiveness.

The board of directors meeting of the Funai Foundation for Information Technology (which I am a member of) was held at the conference room of the aforementioned auditorium last Saturday afternoon. Following the meeting, a ceremony to award research subsidy to young researchers who have the potential of accomplishing excellent results as well as scholarship to students who were accepted to enroll in prestigious overseas universities were held at the auditorium and a celebration event was held at a hotel in Kyoto that evening. During the festive banquet, what kept on going through in the back of my mind was a remark Mr. Funai made while we were leisurely conversing after the board of directors meeting.

Mr. Funai cited real examples and lamented that these days, Japanese business executives who prioritize their own profit over company profit and those who do not think about the national interest by putting precedence on their own company’s gain are increasingly on the rise. The names of business executives who were cited as being such were so-called “elite” business leaders who acquired the top executive post by steadily moving up the career ladder. For those individuals, I sincerely hope that they, with humility, learn Mr. Funai’s way of life by heart which is “to put company gain over self-interest, to respect national interest over company profitability.”


April 15, 2013


A new film about Alfred Hitchcock is now on show. Furthermore, as the title “Hitchcock” indicates, it is not his usual cameo appearance but a film totally devoted to feature Alfred himself. Since it has been 40 years after Hitchcock passed away, Anthony Hopkins plays the leading role. The main plot of the movie is the inside story regarding the making of Hitchcock’s masterpiece film “Psycho.”

When I come to think of it, “Psycho” inflamed the hearts of movie fans throughout the U.S. when I was living in Boston which is half a century ago. As Hitchcock was already a world renowned filmmaker and regarded as the most influential person in the film industry at the time of “Psycho’s” release, I had always thought that the movie was shot under extremely favorable conditions until I saw “Hitchcock.” According to the movie, because of the shocking and (at the time) provocative plot of “Psycho,” the idea of shooting the film was rejected by all the film production companies. Hitchcock, thus, ventured to personally finance the project by borrowing money from the bank by using his vast estate as mortgage. However, when the movie was finally completed under dire conditions, it was severely criticized by those who saw the preview which almost drove Alfred into bankruptcy.

It was Alma, Alfred’s wife as well as his best collaborator, who came to his rescue. As a playwright and a professional in film production, she had constantly supported the success of her husband’s works behind the scene. However, with regards to “Psycho,” Alfred’s and Alma’s views parted ways and while she was focusing all her energies in her own new movie, she confronted her husband’s fatal moment. The unflinching Alma spurred as well as encouraged Alfred who was at rock bottom of despair, re-edited the negative by scrutinizing the film’s final version for continuity flaws and in a short time span, performed a miraculous act of turning a work of failure into an amazing success. In short, it took the teamwork of two to create a legendary film.

I think the same can be said of unique venture businesses. Cases where there are two co-founders stand out. Good examples can be seen in the Silicon Valley in the past 50 years; i.e. Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, Apple, Google. As for Japan during the reconstruction period after World War II and during the rapid economic growth, companies such as Sony (Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita), Honda Motor (Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa),. Matsushita Electric Industrial (currently Panasonic, Konosuke Matsushita and Toshio Iue) and Ricoh (Kiyoshi Ichimura and Masatsuna Tahara) immediately come to mind and I do not think that these are coincidences. Furthermore, this reminds me of the “pair system” which was named and endorsed by Mr. Hideo Itokawa who was responsible for designing the Hayabusa “Oscar” fighter aircraft during World War II and later became a pioneer of Japanese rocketry and of the Japanese space program.


April 8, 2013


Since the inauguration of the Abe administration end of last year, the various policies which are being implemented in quick succession to overcome the economic stagnation that has troubled Japan for a long period of time is generically referred to as “Abenomics.” As the people’s strong approval rating of the Abe administration indicates, the public’s expectations on Abenomics is high. Although I am one of those citizens that have high hopes for its success, I harbor two concerns.

The first concern pertains to issues which go beyond economy. Even among prominent economic scholars, their assessment on the effectiveness of the so called “three arrows of economic revitalization” (bold monetary policy, flexible fiscal policy and economic growth strategies) advocated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are sharply divided. This leads me to speculate that the factors which determine the success or the failure of Abenomics does not lie with the legitimacy of the economic policies themselves but depend heavily on the domestic political situation during the process to enhance the policies as well as on the international economic and political climate which are beyond the control of any one nation. I can only pray in earnest that both the domestic and international state of affairs turn out to be advantageous for Abenomics to pave way for success.

The second concern I harbor is that Abenomics as a scheme lacks a grand “design.” The biggest attribute of design is that it enables one to formulate a comprehensive mental image of the completed project (e.g. product, art work, architecture, etc.) which cannot be expressed by numbers and words. To be more specific, if Abenomics does have a design, it will enable us to envision how the Japanese society will change for the better from what it is now as well as foresee how the international community’s perception of Japan will take a positive turn. However, despite the excessive reports on Abenomics by the media, it is a pity that we are unable to paint a bright picture of Japan’s future which we can all look forward to with high anticipation as a result of the economic policies’ success.

In this respect, the “Income-Doubling Plan” proposed by Prime Minister Hayato Ikeda's cabinet in 1960 and the “Plan for Remodeling Japan” (via enormous infrastructure investment) announced by Prime Minister Kakue Tanaka in 1972 offered a splendid “design” which made the Japanese public’s heart throb with excitement although they had two contrasting outcomes. The former plan achieved enormous success by lifting the Japanese economy from the ruins of World War II's defeat in a very short time span and elevating Japan as one of the leading economically advanced countries in the world. The latter plan, though, faded into thin air with the outbreak of the “oil crisis” in 1973.


March 25, 2013


Yutaka, my third son, and his family will be departing Japan end of this week to live in the U.S. for a while. Just before the Lehman Shock, Yutaka, of all places, opened a restaurant near Wall Street in New York. However, since the restaurant is enjoying success beyond expectation, he has deepened his confidence to engage in business overseas and is now planning an ambitious move to actively pursue expansion of his company’s activities in various foreign countries including the U.S. I, as a father, have reiterated numerous warnings such as, “Don’t be conceited by a one time success,” “Doing business in overseas countries is not as easy as that in Japan,” “There is a high risk of endangering your health if you constantly travel around the world on business,” etc. But this does not mean that I am trying to stop him from getting involved in overseas projects.

Deep inside, I am applauding my son’s challenging spirit. When my father was a junior high school student in the mid-Meiji era, he was greatly inspired by the achievement of the Wright Brothers and aspired to specialize in aeromechanics. Although he studied diligently and entered the university’s Physics Department, he was disappointed when he found out that there was no specialist in this field at the university back then. He, thus upon graduation, became a researcher at the Navy Technology Research Institute and attended a university in Germany which was highly esteemed in aeromechanics as a foreign student and made his boyhood dream come true.

Being who he is as such, I have harbored a high respect for my father and nurtured a boyhood dream of aiming to become an aeronautical engineer who will surpass him one day. But this dream perished with Japan’s defeat at World War II since the Allied Powers which was occupying Japan banned the country from owing or manufacturing aircrafts. Under this circumstance, I reluctantly changed my major from natural science to humanities during my university years. As a Social Science major, I did have strong interest in a group of companies and prominent business leaders which I deemed were playing a key role in recovering and enterprising the Japanese economy during the reconstruction period after WWII. What satisfied my academic appetite was not university lectures on business management but a book by Peter Drucker which I happened to come across by chance. During my stay at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I was able to identify a concrete answer to my question of “what a university ought to be” which was constantly on my mind since my university student years.

Considering the above string of events, I believe that Yutaka’s decision to live in the U.S. for some time seems to be a natural manifestation of the romanticism inherent in the Noda family‘s nature which cannot be confined within the prevalent reality of the mother country during the era each one of us lives in.


March 15, 2013


The North Korean political press attache which appears on the T.V. screen has changed from a lady to a man but the way they both, from start to end, raise their voice harshly while squaring their shoulders remain the same regardless of gender. As an individual who has lived and experienced Japan firsthand from prewar to postwar times, every time I hear and see the North Korean political press attache, I cannot help recalling the abominable social atmosphere which prevailed in Japan just prior to the Pacific War with bitterness and dread. The anger and fear of the national leaders who were ruling Japan at the time towards countries which they regarded as unjustly impeding “our beloved” country’s growth and expansion escalated to the point where they took a defiant stance of not even declining war.

The immediate enemies were the U.S. and Britain which by far excelled Japan in economic power as well as military strength. At the same time, on the western front, the battle line with China had already expanded to an alarming magnitude while the Japanese Imperial Army to the north was facing a highly volatile state of tension with the Soviet Union which was regarded as a hypothetical enemy. Taking all these into account, this country’s leaders must have literally felt like having the whole world against them. This inevitably led Japan to join forces with Germany and Italy, located faraway in Europe, who were already engaging in warfare with democratic countries (Allied Powers). In other words, Japan took the formidable option to gamble the fate of the country in the form of war by risking the lives of the citizens. This is, in fact, exactly the same mentality that is shared by present day North Korea that the country will fight even if the whole world is against her.

The citizens of such a nation-state are forced to shoulder an unbearable burden. But, alas, under such circumstances, many of the homogeneous people constituting the nation-states such as Japan and North Korea are prone to take instinctive actions which are driven by gallant patriotism. While country in the context of motherland is the subject of love without reason, nation-state is an authoritative organization. For leaders who dominate this powerhouse, the citizen’s instinctive and spontaneous patriotism for their country is the most valued intangible asset which they can exploit. In this way, the irrational and thoughtless leaders manipulated the Japanese citizens during prewar time and led the people to experience hell (Pacific War/WWII).

Almost 70 years has passed since Japan’s defeat at WWII. Towards my fellow citizens who do not know prewar Japan, I would like to raise my voice and repeat, “Even if you love your country, do not let the nation-state take advantage of you” from deep down my heart.


March 3, 2013


Today is Doll’s Day, an auspicious day on the Japanese calendar to wish well for the good health and happiness of girls. However, as I thumbed through the newspapers, I could not find any heartwarming article pertaining to the celebration. Take the huge headline which ran on the front page of The Asahi Shimbun (one of the leading national newspapers) that read “22 Million People at High Risk of a Tsunami.” This article which must have darkened the heart of many readers with unnecessary anxiety was published since no newsworthy incidents happened the day before and it was just a summary of the observations made by the professors who conducted a “scientific” research on the occurrence of tsunami at Nagoya University’s Disaster Mitigation Research Center.

Although we are nearing the 2nd anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Japanese people, including politicians all the way to ordinary citizens, seem to be under the spell of a “disaster phobia” since March 11th, 2011 when the horrific triple combination of great earthquake + huge tsunami + destruction of nuclear power plant occurred simultaneously. The major prompter that is fueling this fear is the lopsided report by the media. Not only experts on nuclear engineering and seismology are speaking out but university professors, researchers and critics who specialize in academic fields unrelated to earthquakes and tsunamis are racing to voice their own perspectives on the possibility of the disaster that may befall on Japan and the extent of the devastation.

Contrary to the prevailing pessimistic outlook, one of my friends who is a university professor specializing in seismology cautions that it is impossible to predict earthquakes scientifically at this point in time. As the media is biased towards views of scholars and specialists who have reservations on the magnitude of the disaster that may occur or the scientific credibility of disaster prediction, our country’s obsession with disaster is escalating to include the eruption of Mt. Fuji (volcanology), outbreak of colossal typhoon (meteorology) to landing of huge meteorite (astronomy).

So far, scholars and researchers in the field of natural sciences were the major players in advocating the “disaster mania” boom as the investigations involving the causes of such catastrophes were on their turf. Now that Abenomics (economic policies advocated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe) is in the limelight to boost Japan’s economy, opportunities for scholars and researchers in the field of social sciences to have their says heard have suddenly risen. However, even if big names publicly assess the policies and accomplishments of the economic strategy in the media, the reality of the anticipated result lacks invincibility as nothing has been achieved yet. Same goes for disasters happening in Japan. At any rate, a bold prediction under the name of “science” does not only disturb people’s psychology but also puts the confidence in “science” itself at stake.


February 20, 2013


Yesterday afternoon, my office in Akasaka received a call from the President’s Secretary of Akita International University’s (AIU) informing me that, “President Mineo Nakajima passed away on February 14th. According to his strong will, a private funeral was held yesterday with only the family members in attendance and I will be sending out the news of his death to the press. However, I wanted to let you know of the sad news before I contact the media.”

The campus of the Akita International University which opened its door in 2004 used to belong to Minnesota State University - Akita which closed its door the previous year. After MSU withdrew, Akita Prefecture decided to purchase the site where it stood and upon renovation, planned to establish an International Department of the Akita Prefectural University. The plan was initiated in year 2000 and the prefecture requested Dr. Mineo Nakajima who had just resigned as the President of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies to become the Chairperson of the feasibility study committee. I also received a request to become one of the 10 committee members. Since I was the President of the Miyagi Prefectural University at that time, I was on extremely intimate terms with Chairperson Nakajima and we, hand-in-hand, strongly insisted that rather than setting up a new department of an already existing prefectural university, it is far more feasible to found a new university which may be small in scale but with an innovative, one-of-a kind vision. Although our claim met fierce opposition at first, AIU was born as we overrode the objections. Now that AIU is esteemed as being one of the best universities in Japan, I have every reason to be satisfied. In this respect, Dr. Nakajima’s efforts were fully recompensed. I pray that his soul rest in peace.

During this two weeks, three old friends of mine passed away; Mr. Hiroshi Kato (86 years old) on January 30th, Mr. Hiromasa Ezoe (76 years old) on February 8th and the aforementioned Dr. Mineo Nakajima (76 years old). Although Mr. Kato and I attended different universities, I first met him during our graduate school years at a part-time job and we have since then nurtured a close friendship of more than 60 years. As for Mr. Ezoe (founder and former Chairman of Recruit Co.) who is 10 years younger than I, our friendship lasted for half a century. Because of his involvement in the so called Recruit Scandal (i.e. insider trading and corruption scandal that forced many prominent Japanese politicians to resign in 1988), he was accused on suspicion of offering bribes in the form of unlisted shares. As a defendant of the criminal suit, he requested me to write the defendant’s appeal prior to receiving the final court judgment and I still vividly remember how I thoughtfully wrote each word. While the crowd of friends and acquaintances who surrounded Mr. Ezoe during his heyday turned away with the disclosure of the scandal, he must have remembered me who do not hold any stake in his interests as a last resort to solicit assistance.


February 19, 2013


As the media reports what it considers newsworthy one after the other on a daily basis, we sometimes tend to overlook events that have significant importance to Japan. For example, it has only been 10 days when the media reported that the Chinese navy vessel locked its fire-control radar on an escort vessel of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force near the territorially disputed Senkaku Islands. However, as soon as shocking incidents such as the indiscriminate attack which killed 3 and injured 10 Japanese tourists in central Guam (February 12th) or the huge meteorite explosion in Russia (February 16th) occur, the Chinese navy vessel’s radar-lock seems to have lost news value as well as the public’s interest.

However, of the aforementioned 3 incidents, the latter two are completely accidental and spasmodic in nature whereas the former (considering what has been happening lately) was triggered as a concrete result of the escalating tensions between China and Japan. Depending on how things develop, we must bear in mind that such provocative acts may bring about a dangerous situation which will sway the fate of our country. However we criticize the Chinese military or the Chinese leaders, the worst scenario is for Japan and China to get into a deadlock whereby a single misstep that goes beyond the radar-lock will bring on a virtual state of warfare. Under such circumstances, Japan is not even equipped with a legitimate legal system to realistically deal with this kind of emergency and I do not think that the Japan Self-Defense Forces will be capable to counter the Chinese military forces by exerting its utmost power under the Japanese leadership which lacks not only competence but conviction. The issue at stake will be how the U.S. (within the framework of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty) will react and take measure to deal with the situation (taking, of course, the U.S.’ interest into account). If we cannot count on U.S. intervention and if the result of the Chinese military’s abnormal hostility and military logistics are unexpectedly successful, Japan, no doubt, will fall into a state of abysmal chaos.

When I was still a child, the Japanese government could not prevent the Imperial Japanese Army’s reckless aggression in northern China and the majority of the Japanese were delighted by the advances it made. The conceited Imperial Army staged the explosion of the South Manchuria Railway and wrongfully accused the Chinese for detonating the explosives. This event, known as the Manchurian Incident, was a pretext for Japan to invade and occupy Manchuria. This eventually took a turn for the worse leading the nation to the Second Sino-Japanese War which culminated in the Pacific War. We must look back on history and take to heart that a single act of provocation can lead to a series of serious mishaps and bring about unexpected catastrophes.


February 12, 2013


The February 9th issue of the "Toyo Keizai" weekly magazine (one of the leading business magazines in Japan) devoted 40 pages to feature an article titled “Immigration and Foreign Investment - The Option to Abandon Japan." The main theme of the feature was "immigration" from Japan and the article cited in detail that the number of Japanese (born and raised in Japan) who concluded that living in Japan is economically or psychologically unfavorable and who have, thus, opted to become permanent residents or to reside extensively in a foreign country of their choice has been on a constant rise. As the article illustrated this trend by utilizing varied and numerous examples, I believe that this feature will have a substantial impact on the readers to consider such an option.

Over the past 10 years, I have continued to reiterate my claim that, “Even if you love your country, do not let the nation-state take advantage of you.” As one of the members who belong to the last generation of Japanese which experienced prewar to postwar Japan including WWII, I say this with a sense of urgency. To be more specific, if the current state of affairs in Japan (which is on the decline both economically and socially) continues to run its course, the Japanese people will eventually repeat the same mistake which the Japanese in prewar times made and this will subsequently bring about a fatally irrevocable outcome since the people as a whole have obviously grayed (have become decrepit with age) than prewar times.

Owing to the fact that the Japanese terminology for “country” and “nation-state” are very similar, the Japanese people often confuse them as being the same. However, in essence, they must be distinguished as two totally separate entities. An individual cherishes a genuine emotional attachment to a “country” as ones homeland. On the other hand, “nation-state” refers to an authorative political governing body which has set up sovereignty over a certain territory and rules the inhabitants. As the original purpose of the nation-state is to rule the people, its power can be put to best use by exploiting the people’s patriotism.

In short, nation-state refers to a group of politicians who hold the dominant power to govern and control and prewar Japanese military authorities and the German Nazis are typical examples. As an antithesis, democracy came to being but it harbors the fate of degrading itself to mobocracy since ancient Greek times. In the past, the Weimar Republic (Germany’s parliamentary representative democracy established in 1919) metamorphosed to totalitarian Nazi Germany. Taking this as a cue, the Japanese people who foresee the termination of Japan’s democracy may have started to evacuate and flee this country in earnest.


February 5, 2013


Mr. Ryuji Sonoda, head coach of the Japanese women's judo team, resigned. This was brought about as a result when 15 female judo athletes, some who participated in the London Olympics, submitted a letter of complaint to the Japanese Olympic Committee last December accusing the coaches for unjust harassment and physical abuse. Since there was virtually no report by the media regarding the reaction of the athletes’ parents, I was feeling a little puzzled but the mystery was solved when one of the athletes admitted that she could not tell her parent about the ongoing physical abuse because their interference may turn out to be disadvantageous for her to be selected to compete in international tournaments. Listening to the female athlete, I thought “Not again.” Why did I react in this fashion?

I believe that the “bond between parent and children” is the centerpiece of what makes life worth living for. I learned this instinctively through the daily sayings and doings of my parent when I was growing up from boyhood to youth which coincide with the tragic period in Japanese history from the end of WWII to defeat at war. During this dire time (with the exception of the privileged class), all the parents protected their children at the expense of their own lives and the children, in turn, trusted and depended on their parents more than anyone else in the world and exerted every effort to stay alive. 70 years have passed since then. After WWII’s defeat, Japan underwent miraculous reconstruction leading to recovery and achieved amazing economic growth and after overcoming two crises (currency rate and oil), the bubble era comes as a result of arrogance and ends in a well deserved “second defeat” (the aftermath of the bubble burst economy). I cannot help but think that present day Japan, together with prolonged economic stagnation, suffers from the malaise feeling of despair that saturates every corner of society (regardless of the fact that the majority of the citizens savor a quality life which is far above those of other countries) and the degradation of morals has gone so bad that it is manifesting itself as the extreme weakening of the parent and children relations.

Regarding the incident where the Osaka Municipal Sakuranomiya Senior High School’s basketball team captain committed suicide after repeated corporal punishment from the teacher who was coaching the team, the infuriated parent (who were informed about the teacher’s physical abuse from their son but were not asked for advice as to what the son should finally do to resolve the matter) have filed a complaint towards the teacher. When Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto (who was tolerant about corporal punishment at schools’ physical education programs) suddenly changed his stance and harshly criticized any form of physical harassment and ordered the senior high school in question to change its entrance examination system, the Municipal Board of Education as well as many of the parents strongly opposed his move. All these have not contributed to the elucidation of why the incident was caused nor have they been able to come up with remedial measures to ensure that such incidents are never repeated. Having said so, the lyrics (the above-caption) of the popular song among elderly Japanese sung by Mr. Koji Tsuruta, “Life Full of Bruises” (傷だらけの人生), somehow comes to mind with nostalgia.


January 24, 2013


The blundering remark which Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso made the other day is the target of public criticism. He made the comment in the context that many elderly people who are facing the final days of their lives are barely surviving by being connected to life prolonging devices. He boldly said, “Heaven forbid if you are forced to live when you want to die. On top of that, you cannot sleep in peace when you think it (life-support system) is all paid for by the government. This would not be solved unless you let the elderly hurry up and die.” Such remarks may be permissible if it is made by a comedian to ironically illustrate the current end-of-life medical care system which is increasingly becoming a financial burden on the government but in this case, it was a comment made by one of the key cabinet members during the meeting of the National Council on Social Security Reforms. No wonder a lot of the Japanese were outraged by the Deputy Prime Minister’s insensitivity especially when the society is aging at an alarming pace.

However, the point Deputy Prime Minister Aso wanted to make cannot necessarily be denied. A few years ago, I read “An Invitation to a Peacefully Death” (平穏死のすすめ, published by Kodansha) authored by Dr. Kozo Ishitobi, a doctor at a nursing home for the aged since 2005. He vividly depicted how many of the elderly at the institution are forced to prolong their lives via life-support system and questioned its validity from a doctor’s view point. I was deeply inspired by the book and resonated with his perspective on life and death that I immediately gave strong instructions to my wife and children to refuse all artificial life prolongation devices when my final days come and let me depart this world peacefully with dignity. Furthermore, I intend to officially put this in writing in the form of a will so that my words have legitimate legal status.

Although I will be turning 86 years old this year, I am, fortunately, in good health and spirit enjoying my busy days but I have never wanted to live long. I do no want to live to the extent where most of my relatives and acquaintances go before me while others around me look on my longevity with contempt saying, “Look, that old man is still alive.” And when I do finally depart after outliving my dear ones, there will be nobody who will miss me or who will lament and regret my death. Such a miserable ending is the last thing I want. I have reached an age where many of my good friends have already passed away and together with my parents, they must all be eagerly awaiting for me to join them at the higher sphere. However, if someone comments that “You are allowed such grandiloquence because you are healthy,” I must admit that I have no words to counter it.


January 7, 2013


How was your New Year holiday? I relished the 10 days holiday at home and spent a leisurely but fruitful time reading, going through documents as well as fine tuning my plans for this year. It occurs to me as always that a long holiday comes as a big welcome reward to freshen up and reinvigorate both the private and the business lives of individuals who are constantly engrossed in work on a day-to-day basis.

As for this year’s aspirations of mine, it increased by one when I received a request from Mr. Bhaban Bhatta, a Nepali living and working in Tokyo, who visited my office end of last year with one of my friends, Mr. Nobuhiko Koreeda. Mr. Bhatta came to Japan as an overseas student since he took a keen interest in Japanese culture and tradition, especially Bushido, a Japanese concept of chivalry, and decided to stay on after completing his studies. He endured numerous hardships even for a foreigner living in Japan which compelled him to live under and to overcome extremely disadvantageous conditions. However, his endeavors were not in vain but have bore fruits. He is now the Executive Chairman of a company he established in 2003 that specialize in restaurant business, real estate and travel which employs approximately 2,400 workers (mostly part-time) with an annual sales of 7.5 billion yen (2012). It is noteworthy that the number of restaurants which is his company’s core business line has already reached 70 throughout Japan including the highly competitive central Tokyo area. This figure alone can attest his superb management capability.

Going back to Mr. Bhatta’s request, he solicited my advice and assistance on the possibility of establishing direct flights between Katmandu and Narita Airport or Haneda Airport. If this is realized, flight time between Tokyo and Nepal which currently takes 15 hours via Bangkok can be shortened by half. 40,000 Japanese tourists visit Nepal annually as the country is synonymous with the Himalayas. If direct flights between the two countries can be installed, not only will the number of tourists visiting Nepal from Japan increase drastically but it will rapidly vitalize the bilateral economic relations between the two countries. For a mountaineer like me who have yearned for high peaks since I was a student, beholding the spectacular view of the Himalayas would fulfill my wildest dream.

Although only one firm in Nepal, BB Airways, operates international flights, Mr. Bhatta happens to serve as the Chairman of this firm. In other words, expectations of both the Nepal government and the private sector for him to develop new direct flight routes must rest heavily on his shoulders (in conjunction with this, Mr. Bhatta’s father presently serves as a cabinet member of Nepal). When I take all these into consideration, making Mr. Bhatta’s dream come true may certainly become one of my top priority challenges for this year.

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