Why Japan Matters

Project Structure

The project assembled an international team of prominent academics, journalists, lawyers and consultants to serve as authors for the Why Japan Matters publication. They wrote on a wide range of topics, from global civilian-power diplomacy to inbound foreign tourism, disaster resilience to high-tech startups, reforms in corporate governance to the growing global popularity of Japanese designers, artisans and chefs. The team avoided retelling well known stories like “Cool Japan.”

A working group that consisted of the team of authors and young emerging professionals was also established. The working group had two main functions. The first was to gather on a bi-monthly basis to act as a steering committee for the project and its direction. The second was to conduct hearings on a weekly basis with guest speakers invited as part of the project. The guest speaker list is highly selective, made up of politicians, senior government officials, top business leaders, internationally acclaimed designers, field experts, and sought after thinkers.

Guest Speakers List PDF


“Reinventing Japan: New Directions in Global Leadership”

The outcome of this research project culminated in the publication of the report, “Galapagos Cool – Eleven Fields In Which Japan Can Matter More,”(Japanese) by Toyo Keizai Inc. in February 2017, and the English edition, “Reinventing Japan: New Directions in Global Leadership,” was published by Praeger in March 2018. This book takes a fresh look on Japan’s so-called Lost Decades to see in what ways Japan may have gained. Written by a dozen experts in their fields, this book describes Japan’s contributions to the world in fields ranging from fashion and pop culture to development aid and historical reconciliation.

Edited by Martin Fackler and Yoichi Funabashi
Publisher: Praeger
First Published: March 31, 2018
ISBN-10: 1440862869
ISBN-13: 978-1440862861

Praeger *Available as e-book and Hardcover


Introduction: What Can Japan Offer the World?
Part One Galapagos Incubator
1. A Soft Superpower: The Pivot from Manufacturing to Pop Culture
2. Dominating the Pritzkers: Japan’s Emergence as a Leader in Design
3. Asia’s Rediscovery of Japan: The Boom in Inbound Tourism
Part Two Outliers and Pioneers
4. Departing from Silicon Valley: Japan’s New Startup Ecosystem
5. A Nation of Centenarians: Japan’s Revolution in Health and Wellness
6. Pursuing Nobels: Japan’s Emergence as a Global Leader in Science
7. Deciphering Japan: China’s Fascination with Its Neighbor Part Three Global Contributor
8. Lessons of Tohoku: The Sources of Japan’s Resilience to Disaster
9. Bridges Make Good Neighbors: Building Soft Power with ODA
10. Japan’s Strategic Position: Global Civilian Power 2.0
11. Obama in Hiroshima: A Model for Historical Reconciliation?
Conclusion: Japan’s Frontiers Are Global Frontiers




Professor and Co-Director, Security and Resilience Studies, Northeastern University

He researches post-disaster recovery, the siting of controversial facilities and the interaction between civil society and the state. He has held posts as a Fulbright Research Fellow and an Abe Fellow at Tokyo University and as an AAAS Science and Technology Fellow with USAID. Aldrich is a contributor to the New York Times, CNN, and the Asahi Shimbun, among other media. His publications include “Building Resilience” (University of Chicago Press, 2012) and “Site Fights” (Cornell University Press, 2010).


Professor of Architecture and Chair of the Center for Japanese Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Her work focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations in Japanese architecture and construction practices, starting with her first book, Japanese Architecture as a Collaborative Process: Opportunities in a Flexible Construction Culture (London: Spon, 2000). It dealt with the radical changes that occurred in structural design and their exciting architectural outcomes following the 1995 Hanshin (Kobe) earthquake. She has conducted fieldwork in Japan, the US, Taiwan, and Korea, supported by several fellowships, and was a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo and at Tokyo Institute of Technology.

【Strategic Position】

Professor, Faculty of Law, Keio University

He received his B.A. in politics from Rikkyo University, MA in international studies from the University of Birmingham, and Ph.D. in politics from Keio University. His areas of expertise are the theory and history of international relations, contemporary European history, and Japanese foreign policy. His recent books include “Japan’s National Identity in Postwar Diplomacy: The Three basic Principles,” (Stanford University Press, 2012), “The Atlantic Community and the Restoration of the Global Balance of Power: The Western Alliance, Japan, and the Cold War, 1947-51,” (Routledge, 2010), etc.

【Science and Education】

Innovation Director, Cancer Scan Co., Ltd.

He received his B.A. in Health Sciences and Nursing from the University of Tokyo, and worked for a health consulting firm for several years before receiving his M.A. in public health from Harvard University. He obtained a Ph.D. from Jichi Medical University. His Ph.D. dissertation was on breast cancer screening. He has co-authored several articles including “Community-wide promotion of physical activity in middle-ages and older Japanese: A 3-year evaluation of a cluster randomized trial” (International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 06/2015).

【Inbound Tourism】

Fumiko KATO
Chief Researcher, Jalan Research Center

She received her B.A. from the Faculty of Environment and Information Studies, Keio University. She joined Recruit Holdings Co., Ltd in 1998 and has been involved in several core strategic projects including the establishment of Jalan.net and Hot Pepper Gourmet. Her research focuses on the Japanese domestic travel market and tourism’s impact on regional revitalisation. She sits on several tourism-related councils for various prefectures and cities such as Nagano, Shiga, Fukui, Ibaraki, and Yokosuka, and is a member for a tourism-related committee run by the Japan Tourism Agency.

【Innovative Consumers】

Matthew ALT
Vice President of AltJapan

A native of Washington, D.C., Matthew has been working as a professional translator and freelance writer since the early 1990s. His translation experience includes four years as an in-house technical Japanese translator for the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He is the co-author of numerous books about Japan, and a contributor to CNN, Wired Magazine, Slate Magazine, the Independent, Newsweek Japan, the Japan Times, and many other publications.

【Science and Education】

Principle, Industrial Growth Platform, Inc.

He received his B.A. from the Faculty of Law, Keio University, M.A. in International Relations from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, and MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has experience in the manufacturing, finance, information and communication, service and medical welfare sectors of Corporate Directions, Inc. where he was involved in management strategy. He also worked at the International Finance Corporation and Poyry Management Consulting.


Kengo KUMA
Founder, Kengo Kuma & Associates

Kengo Kuma is a world renowned architect. He received his M.A. from the Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo. After experience working in construction companies and studying at Columbia University, he established Spatial Design Studio in 1987, and Kengo Kuma & Associates in 1990. He has received several awards including the Architectural Institute of Japan Award for his “Noh Stage in the Forest” (1997), Decoration Officer de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2009), MEXT’s Art Encouragement Prize (2011). He previously taught at Keio University and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and is currently a professor at the University of Tokyo. His wooden lattice design was chosen for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic/Paralympic National Stadium.

【Innovation and Entrepreneurship】

Japan Program Research Associate, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University

He received his B.A. in economics and East Asian studies, and M.A. in East Asian studies from Stanford University. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests cover a wide range of fields such as international comparative politics, information technology and cloud computing. He is also an affiliated researcher at the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy. His publications include “Biculturalism and the Japanese: Beyond English Linguistic Capabilities” (Chuko Shinsho, 2006) and “International Schools, an Introduction” (Fusosha, 2008)

【Values and History】

Jennifer LIND
Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College

She received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, M.A. in Pacific International Affairs from the University of California, San Diego, and Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a Fellow at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in 2014, and is a fellow of the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future. Her area of expertise is international relations in East Asia. She is the author of “Sorry States: Apologies in International Politics,”(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008)among others. She regularly contributes articles to publications such as Foreign Affairs and the Wall Street Journal.

【Soft Power】

Visiting Scholar, Policy Alternatives Research Institute, University of Tokyo

She received her B.A. from the School of Agriculture at the University of Tokyo, M.A. from the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo, and Ph.D. in Law from the University of Tokyo. Her publications include (in Japanese) “The War of Civilians,” (Iwanami, 2012) and (in Japanese) “Introduction to politics for those who have lost hope in Japan,” (Bunshunshinsho, 2015).

【Health and Care】

CEO and Founder, MinaCare Co., Ltd.

He received his B.A. from Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo. He specialized in cardiovascular medicine and worked for the University of Tokyo Hospital and Metropolitan Hospital, then received an MBA from Harvard University as the first Japanese doctor. He was a fellow of Special Coordination Funds for the Promotion of Science and Technology, the Chief Executive for Capital Medica, a committee member of the Cabinet Secretariat’s Promotion for Medical Innovation. In 2014, he received The Entrepreneur Award in Japan. He co-published the book (in Japanese) “The System of Hospital Management,” (Discover 21).

Working Group Members (non-writing)

Daisuke ABE
Consultant, Hay Group

He received his B.A. in Liberal Arts from the University of Tokyo and M.A. in American Diplomacy from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University. He worked at the Foreign Policy Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Embassy of Japan in Ethiopia, and the Disarmament, Non-proliferation and Science Department of MOFA. After that, he worked at McKinsey & Company as an associate. Currently, he works for Hay Group in the field of leadership development and institutional management.

Doctoral Candidate, Department of Law, Keio University

He received his undergraduate training at Georgetown university (one-year exchange programme, Heiwa Nakajima Foundation scholar) and International Christian University, and M.A. in political science from Columbia University. He was a recipient of the security studies fellowship from the Research Institute for Peace and Security (2010-2012). He is currently a non-resident SPF fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS and a Research Assistant at the Center of Government for Civil Society, Keio University.

Tokyo Correspondent, Financial Times

She is a native of Vancouver, Canada, and received her M.A. in Arts from the University of Chicago. She began her career at the Tokyo bureau of Associated Press, covering Japanese politics, before moving to Kyodo News where she reported on market and corporate news. She then spent four years as a Tokyo correspondent for the Wall Street Journal Dow Jones Newswires covering the technology sector, M&A and markets before joining Financial Times in 2014.

Yasuko MORI
Faculty of Economics, Keio University

Yasuko is currently a senior student at Keio University (Class of 2016). She is a member of the Professional Career Program (PCP) at the Faculty of Economics, which provides an opportunity for senior students to take economics courses in English. From April 2016, she will work for Boston Consulting Group in Tokyo. During high school she was an overseas exchange student at the Sherborne School for Girls, UK. She joined RJIF as an intern in February 2015 and was a research assistant for the Built Environment and Lifestyle project.

Global Corporate Communication Group, LIXIL Corporation

Yoko received her B.A. in Science and Technology from Keio University, and received her M.A. in Architecture from the Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Engineering, University of Tokyo. After working for Kengo Kuma and Associates, she joined LIXIL Corporation. She is a board member at the LIXIL JS Foundation and a qualified architect.


Attorney at Law, Partner, Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu

He received his B.A. in Law from the University of Tokyo, M.A. in International Politics from Stanford University, and MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Nagashima Ohno and Tsunematsu is one of Japan’s leading firms and he practices mainly in the fields of corporate governance and crisis management. He worked in the Prime Minister’s office as senior policy advisor (2006-2007). His publications include the co-authored “Japan’s Worst Case Scenario – Nine Blind Spots,” (Shincho, 2013).


【Project Director/Editor】

Journalist-in-Residence and Research Fellow, Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation
Former Tokyo Bureau Chief, New York Times

Martin Fackler covered Japan and the Korean peninsula as Tokyo bureau chief for the New York Times from 2009 to 2015. He is also the author (in Japanese) of the bestseller “Credibility Lost: The Crisis in Japanese Newspaper Journalism after Fukushima,” a critical look at Japanese media coverage of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster. He joined the New York Times in 2005, where he also served as Tokyo business correspondent. He has also worked in Tokyo for the Wall Street Journal, the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News, and in Beijing and Shanghai for AP. He has Masters degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana and in East Asian history from the University of California, Berkeley.

【Project Director】

Chairman, Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation
Former Editor-in-Chief, Asahi Shimbun

Yoichi Funabashi is Co-founder and Chairman of RJIF, and the former Editor-in-Chief of the Asahi Shimbun (2007-2010). He is an award-winning Japanese journalist, columnist and author. He has written extensively on foreign affairs, the US-Japan Alliance, economics and historical issues in the Asia Pacific. He served as correspondent for the Asahi Shimbun in Beijing (1980-81) and Washington (1984-87), and as American General Bureau Chief (1993-97). His books in English include The Peninsula Question (Brookings Institute, 2007); Reconciliation in the Asia-Pacific, ed. (USIP, 2003,); Alliance Adrift (Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1998, among others. He received his B.A. from the University of Tokyo in 1968 and his Ph.D. from Keio University in 1992. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University (1975-76), a visiting Fellow at the Institute for International Economics (1987), a Donald Keene Fellow at Columbia University (2003).

【Staff Director】

Researcher, Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation

He received a B.A. in Liberal Arts with a certificate in Interdisciplinary Japan Studies from International Christian University, Tokyo, and an M.Phil. in Modern Japanese Studies from the Nissan Institute of Modern Japanese Studies, University of Oxford (St Antony’s College). He worked at the British Council Tokyo as an Education Projects Officer before joining RJIF in July of 2014. His publications include “Seeking an Independent Voice: Japanese Think Tanks” (Global Asia, Spring 2015).