Stanford Colloquium: Japan’s Great Earthquake & Nuclear Disaster: 5 Years Later [Report]

Japan’s Great Earthquake & Nuclear Disaster: 5 Years Later (March 10, 2016)
Japan Program Colloquium Series@Stanford University:
“The Great Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: 5 Years Later”
Date/Time: March 10(Th), 12:00-1:30pm
Venue: Philippines Conference Room, Encina Hall, Stanford
Phillip LIPSCY, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Freeman Spogli Institute Center Fellow, APARC, Stanford University
Daniel ALDRICH, Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and Co-Director of the Masters Program in Security and Resilience, Northeastern University
Kenji KUSHIDA, Research Associate, Japan Program, APARC, Stanford University.
Kyoko SATO, Associate Director, The Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Stanford University
(From left) Dr. Aldrich, Dr. Kushida, Dr. Sato and Dr. Lipscy
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Commemorating the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear accident on March 11, 2011, this timely colloquium presented three speakers with very different attitudes and approaches toward the unprecedented disaster in Japan.

First, Dr. Daniel Aldrich gave a summary of his comprehensive study on differences in casualty rates as well as social recovery rates among towns and villages in the affected regions, and drew an important conclusion, that is, human connections or social capital made a significant difference in most of the cases.
Second, Dr. Kenji Kushida made a visual presentation about what was really happening in and around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant during and after the accident for the purpose of filling in some information gaps about the nuclear disaster and spelling out some misinformation that is still circulated and widely believed among the public.
Finally, Dr. Kyoko Sato tried to answer the question of why the Japanese who went through the nightmare of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, came to embrace nuclear power as an important source of energy for the nation, however reluctantly, in the postwar period, and applied various social-political models for possible explanations.

Although all these presentations were very interesting and informative, there remained quite a few questions to be asked, such as whether it is appropriate to use "crime rates" to be a proxy for the degree of human connections in Dr. Aldrich's study, whether how "socially," if not academically, significant it is to revise the timeline of the nuclear accident in detail 5 years later, as Dr. Kushida did, and whether we can ignore, as Dr. Sato did, the fact that many Japanese, at least most political and business leaders, were really concerned about the heavy reliance of imported oil and its security and environmental consequences to find any meaningful answer to her question.
It is too bad that there was not much time left for discussions after the three presentations within an hour and a half. Hopefully, some more Q&As will take place at a seminar about nuclear safety to be held on March 11 as a sequel to this colloquium:
(Takahiro Miyao)

Stanford Seminar: Yamaha Motor in Silicon Valley [Report]

Stanford Seminar: Yamaha Motor in Silicon Valley (March 8, 2016)

Silicon Valley-New Japan Project Public Forum Series
Title: Back to the Source: Yamaha Motor’s Challenges on Business Development
Speaker: Hiroshi "Hiro" Saijou, CEO and Managing Director, Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley Inc.
Date/Time: March 8(T), 2016, 4:15-6:00pm
Venue: Philippines Conference Room, Enc ina Hall, Stanford
Report: by Takahiro Miyao

“I did not want to join Honda, which was number one in the motorcycle industry, and I did not like companies with their headquarters in Tokyo,” said Hiro Saijou, who explained why he chose Yamaha based in a small town to display his fighting spirit, which eventually led him to the current position in Silicon Valley.
In fact, he graduated from Kyushu University, where he apparently learned the spirit of “Kyushu Danji” (Kyushu guys), who brought down the Tokugawa feudal regime and established the new Meiji government in the late 19th century.
This analogy seems perfect, as Japan is now facing another “Kurofune” (Black Ship), not led by Commodore Perry, but by Silicon Valley disrupters, who are seriously challenging Japan’s traditional, if not feudal, way of doing business.
Saijou, who is one of the very few software engineers at Yamaha Motor and thus calls himself as an “alien,” says he always tries to challenge the traditional mindset of his bosses and fellow engineers in Japan, reminding them of the corporate founder’s pioneering philosophy: that is why Saijou chose the seminar title “Back to the Source.”
In his talk, he touched on so many ideas including his social and business objectives, his technological and management approaches, his current and potential projects, etc., which were not necessarily well-organized in presentation, or not even consistent with each other in content. But at the end of the day, a couple of things clearly came through:

First, he likes to do what he does best, that apparently is robotics. After all, he is a software engineer in that field. As a result, he prefers the idea of robots which drive motorcycles, rather than networked vehicles without human or robot drivers, claiming that robot drivers could be more widely and readily utilized than networked vehicles (although his approach would not necessarily serve his original purpose of solving the parking/congestion/accident problems).
Second, his company, Yamaha Motor Corp., seems to be making full use of the contribution of his presence in Silicon Valley and his projects, especially robotics, as a good business and PR strategy to compete with its rivals, Honda and Suzuki (see Nikkei Shimbun, featuring the Shizuoka economy, Feb. 21, 2016).
Finally, it appears that in his business pursuits Saijou is not at all afraid of or intimated by anything, whether it is his company’s president in Japan or it is Google in Silicon Valley. He has his enthusiasm and fighting spirit to challenge the “main stream,” just like a young samurai in Kyushu against the incumbent Shogun government in Edo. Whether he will survive and succeed in his endeavor to initiate a new business trend for the industry remains to be seen, however.

Hiro Saijou's Presentation and Q&A
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