Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Tohoku University struggles to handle transgressions by its President Akihisa Inoue

March 14, 2012

Professor Akihisa Inoue

Professor Akihisa Inoue is the President of Tohoku University, is a leading materials scientist and the author of over 2,500 publications. But criticism from other Japanese scientists (as on this Japanese website) has now led to at least 7 retractions for plagiarism. Three investigations have been conducted so far  with rather wishy-washy conclusions. The investigations are in uncharted territory since Japan has no established processes for handling cases of scientific wrong-doing. There is no institution or body for supervising ethics or misconduct in research. And now yet another investigation committee is proposed. Without the guidance of precedent Tohoku University and even the Japanese Science and Technology Agency are not really sure how to proceed – especially when the allegations are against as prominent a person as the President of a University. Almost a classic case of  what in industry would be called “paralysis by analysis” where every analysis shirks the task of coming to conclusions, declines to make judgements and merely proposes further analysis.

Nature reports:

Japan fails to settle university dispute

It has been a rough year for materials scientist Akihisa Inoue, the president of Tohoku University in Japan.


One year on from the Great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami

March 11, 2012

One year on and young hopes bloom eternal.

Illustration by Yuko Shimizu

Young hopes bloom eternal: Illustration by Yuko Shimizu: From The Japan Times

I was in Japan during the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995 when over 6,000 perished in Kobe and – inevitably – I try to relate events to my own experience. But the Graeat Tohuku earthquake and tsunami were something quite different and have claimed more than 20,000 lives.

The death toll was much greater after the Aceh earthquake and tsunami but was spread over many more countries and in that sense is more “diffuse”. Perceptions sometimes get diluted compared to the intensity of the reactions one year ago. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami claimed over 230,000 lives in 14 countries.

The meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami were pretty scary but sometimes the coverage (especially in Europe) becomes alarmist and tends to take away from the earthquake and tsunami. But it is worth remembering also that the incidents at Fukushima  – without trying to trivialise them – have caused no radiation related deaths.

Suspicious goings on at Kyoto Prefectural University

December 20, 2011

Hiroaki Matsubara

Hiroaki Matsubara  has been Professor of Cardiology and Vascular Regenerative Medicine at Kyoto Prefectural University’s School of Medicine since 2003 and was earlier at Kansai  Medical University.

A Japanese investigative website ( has found 12 published articles where manipulation of images is very likely. The suspicious images in the papers published by the Matsubara lab are carefully deconstructed by Abnormal Science in an ongoing series of posts: here, here and here.

Joerg Zwirner of Abnormal Science comments:

(Part 1) Taken together, articles 1-5 are distinguished by the extensive reuse and mutual exchange of data, in particular Western and Northern Blot bands. A single band has been reused up to eigth times in distinct blots in Kidney Int. 2002. 
It is apparent that band images from ‘real’ blots may have been digitally reassembled into new blot images pretending to be derived from distinct experimental settings. Since ‘reconfigured blots’ have been densimetrically scanned and the results illustrated in tables and figures, we are presumably confronted with a case of severe data fabrication. …..

(Part 2) ….. The images on the left were derived from nude rats, the images on the right from C57BL/J mice. ….

Apparently, histological images have been modified by the exchange/addition of image fragments. According to the figure legend, “five fields from two muscle samples of each animal (n=10) were randomly selected, and capillary density was shown as the capillary/muscle fiber ratio.”

Can we call this practice experimental science or should we term it digital art?

Apparently, anything goes.

(Part 3)….. Of note, the only coauthor on all 12 articles is Hiroaki Matsubara. The sheer scope of the alleged manipulations in these 12 articles is reminiscent of the research misconduct investigations at Borstel/Germany into the work of Prof. Bulfone-Paus and at NUS/Singapore into the work of Prof. Melendez.

The Japanese M3 Blog is run by just one person with its readership mainly among doctors but apparently runs a serious risk of being shut down by legal threats as has happened with an earlier investigative blog.

Japan back to growth with a bang with GDP up 1.5% in 3 months

November 14, 2011

I have faith in Japanese resilience and will still stick my neck out and stay with my forecast that the Japanese economy  will become a global “driver” through 2012 and 2013.

Japanese Gross Domestic Product grew by 1.5 % over the 3rd quarter (July – September) representing an annualized growth rate of 6 percent. This is the fastest rate of growth for 18 months.  The Cabinet Office said today in Tokyo that at 543 trillion yen ($7 trillion), the economic output was back to levels last seen before the March 11th  Great Tohoku quake and tsunami.

The growth seems to have been led by exports rather than the domestic impetus measures to recover from the earthquake or the subsequent spending on rebuilding infrastructure. These probably need 2 more quarters to kick-in but that  means that this growth is still vulnerable to current global weaknesses.

However the optimistic “glass half full” view would be that Japanese exports have grown mainly to Asia and the earthquake rebound  has yet to come. Moreover this has happened in spite of a very high Yen. Any recovery in Europe and N. America would be a further boost to an economy which is large enough to then act as a global motor.

NY Times: 

The rebound underscores the speed at which Japanese industry has been able to get back on its feet after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, rebuilding factories and re-establishing supply chains severed by the destruction.

Exports jumped 6.2 percent as manufacturers got production back on track. Private consumption, which accounts for almost two-thirds of Japan’s economy, grew 1 percent, helped by a rebound in consumer sentiment and replacement demand in the tsunami zone.

Still, policy makers and economists also worry that the punishingly strong yen of recent months as well as weak growth in major trading partners, like the United States and China, will take a toll on Japanese exports. The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, meanwhile, has thrown the country’s energy policy into disarray and cast a pall over Japan’s recovery.

Related: Could the disaster in Japan power a wave of sustainable growth? 


Japan Colloquium: Lessons for crises management

July 24, 2011

I was recently invited to write a contribution for a Japan Colloquium for the Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad.

My contribution entitled ” Sound judgements must not be stifled by Crisis Management Protocols” appears in Japan’s Tragedy and Aftermath: Lessons for Crises Management, Vikalpa, Volume 36, No.2, April – June 2011, pages 81 – 118.

Sound Judgments Must Not be Stifled by Crisis Management Protocols – Vikalpa June 2011

The story is told that at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, the three reactors in operation began an orderly shutdown when the Great Tohoku quake of 2011 struck, even though the magnitude at 9.0 was significantly higher than the 8.3, the plant was designed for. But when the tsunami wave rolled in and all the 13 back-up diesel generators and all the emergency cooling pumps were knocked out, then an unprecedented and unforeseen chain of events was set in motion. It is said that the site management quickly came to the conclusion that sea water cooling was necessary even though this would render the reactors permanently inoperable. But it took a further eight hours for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) management in Tokyo to agree. In the event the meltdown of the fuel rods may have been unavoidable in any case but an additional eight hours of cooling with sea water could not have hurt. A similar story is told about Hurricane Katrina where an operating engineer had the possibility of opening some valves and preventing flooding of some areas of New Orleans but did not do so because such a decision was explicitly excluded from his authority and his superiors were unreachable.

The question that arises is whether the culture of an organization helps or hinders individual managers to make judgments at times of crisis or impending disaster? Should the site manager at Fukushima or the operating engineer in New Orleans have had to wait for higher authority as they did or should the organizational culture have permitted him to bypass the chain of command? ……

The “goodness” of a judgment can only be assessed long after the judgment itself and therefore it is the soundness of judgment which must be sought rather than the intangible goodness of a future result. But a sound judgment must also be consummated by the willingness to exercise it. 

Tepco shares rise sharply on reports of planned break-up and nationalisation

July 4, 2011

Tepco shares rose almost 20% today as reports on Sunday described government plans to break-up the Japanese utility and to nationalise its nuclear plant assets.

Market Watch:


Senior members of Japan’s government have been involved in secret plans to break up the operator of the beleaguered Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, according to reports. 

The plan would see the nuclear operations of Tokyo Electric Power Co. JP:9501 +19.82%  come under government control, said Reuters, citing a report Sunday in a local paper.

The plan has been devised by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, said Reuters, citing the Mainichi daily. The newspaper said its information was from unnamed sources.

As well as nationalizing the nuclear business, the plan would see Tepco sell its power distribution business, said Reuters. Power-generation operations that use thermal and hydraulic power plants would remain as the company’s business. 

The plan would shred Tepco’s size, according to the reports, leaving it with 1.6 trillion yen ($19.8 billion) in power industry assets compared to its current 7 trillion yen.

The reports state that Sengoku has met several times with Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, and has informed Katsumata about the plans.

Also Sunday, The Wall Street Journal said the company has restarted the use of contaminated water to cool the reactor cores at Fukushima, one week after an initial attempt was suspended because of leaks. Tepco is hoping to achieve a cold shutdown, lowering the fuel rods’ temperature to below 100 degrees Celsius, by January.


Signs that the Japanese recovery is beginning

July 4, 2011

Having a very strong belief in the resilience of Japan and the Japanese in the face of natural disasters, I have – paradoxically – been anticipating that the Great 2011 earthquake and tsunami will actually lead to a wave of infrastructure spending which can actually lead to a new spurt of economic growth. If political changes are also forthcoming this could be a wave of sustainable growth. 

Now 3 months after the quake and tsunami the first signs are visible that the recovery is beginning. There is a long way yet to go but I remain convinced that over the next 2 or 3 years we will see Japan re-emerging as a significant motor driving the world economy.



Japan’s industrial production rose at the fastest pace in more than 50 years, led by carmakers as they restored operations at plants after a record earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Factory output increased 5.7 percent in May from April, the biggest gain since 1953, the Trade Ministry said in Tokyo today. The median estimate of 30 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News was for a 5.5 percent gain.

Output in the transportation industry advanced 36 percent from the previous month as automakers including Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. restarted production lines. Manufacturers said they plan to increase output 5.3 percent this month and 0.5 percent in July, according to a survey of companies included in today’s report.

“The report shows that the auto industry is a strong driving force” in boosting production, said Hiroaki Muto, a senior economist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co. in Tokyo. “The post-quake shock is running its course and production is undergoing a V-shaped recovery.”

The output report follows data this week showing that retail sales rose 2.4 percent in May from April, in a sign that consumer demand is rebounding.

Business World:


THE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY foresees a more stable supply situation at the very least following reports that Japanese parts production has picked up following March’s deadly earthquake and tsunami. Timing of a return to full output, however, remains uncertain given power shortages caused by the shutdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant, industry officials said.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry last week said industrial production rose by 5.7% month-on-month in May from 1.6% in April, with transport equipment among the sectors leading growth. Inventory was said to have similarly increased by 5.1% in May from previous month on improved production of electronics parts and devices, among others.




Massive 7.4 quake again in Japan – as predicted on 5th April

April 7, 2011

On 5th April there was a large coronal mass ejection on the sun:

article image

The sun on April 5th 2011

In consequence:
– solar wind speed went up
– a 5MeV proton burst and
– proton flux went up.

Piers Corbyn then predicted that heightened earthquake activity was likely between the 6th and 9th of April.

article image

Prediction on 5th April

And lo and behold, a 7.4 magnitude quake has struck off the north east coast of Japan again – strong enough for the Fukushima nuclear plant to be evacuated and for a tsunami warning to be issued. Fortunately no significant damage has been reported and the tsunami warning has now been withdrawn.

Earlier in the day there was  a 6.5 magnitude quake near Vera Cruz Mexico. There are some reports also of increased seismic activity in the western US.

One more piece of evidence linking heightened earthquake and volcanic activity on earth with what happens on the sun.


Solar effects will give increased volcanic and earthquake activity in the next 2 years

Two 7.0 quakes hit Burma — as predicted?

The dark side of black

March 31, 2011

From Kyodo News:

Radiation fears have prevented authorities from collecting as many as 1,000 bodies of victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami from within the 20-kilometer-radius evacuation zone around the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, police sources said Thursday.

One of the sources said bodies had been ”exposed to high levels of radiation after death.” The view was supported by the detection Sunday of elevated levels of radiation on a body found in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, about 5 km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The authorities are now considering how to collect the bodies, given fears that police officers, doctors and bereaved families may be exposed to radiation in retrieving the radiation-exposed bodies or at morgues, according to the sources.

Even after the bodies are handed over to the victims’ families, cremating them could spread plumes containing radioactive materials, while burying the victims could contaminate the soil around them.

The following are the latest casualty figures related to the earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern and eastern Japan on March 11, according to the National Police Agency as of 9 p.m. Thursday:

Number of people killed 11,532

Number of people missing 16,441


TEPCO President goes AWOL – not seen in public since March 13th

March 27, 2011

While the toll of casualties keeps increasing it has emerged that TEPCO’s President Masataka Shimizu has gone into seclusion and has not been seen publicly since 13th March. In the meantime the leaderless TEPCO has retracted the very high radiation results from reactor #2.

The National police Agency’s figures for casualties from the earthquake and tsunami, as of Sunday night, exceeds 27,000 killed or missing:

Number of people killed 10,804

Number of people missing 16,244

At the Fukushima plant TEPCO has retracted the measurements of high radioactivity they announced earlier and give the impression, not so much of being clueless, but certainly of being without any coherent leadership.

NHK reports:

Tokyo Electric Power Company has retracted its announcement that 10 million times the normal density of radioactive materials had been detected in water at the Number 2 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The utility says it will conduct another test of the leaked water at the reactor’s turbine building.

The company said on Sunday evening that the data for iodine-134 announced earlier in the day was actually for another substance that has a longer half-life.

The plant operator said earlier on Sunday that 2.9 billion becquerels per cubic centimeter had been detected in the leaked water.

It said although the initial figure was wrong, the water still has a high level of radioactivity of 1,000 millisieverts per hour.

The perception of TEPCO being without leadership first built up when the President Masataka Shimizu tried to abdicate all responsibility for the site on March 14th and was severely told off by the Prime Minister and the government.

But it now emerges from Kyodo News that he has not been seen publicly since 13th March. He seems to have gone AWOL:

Masataka Shimizu, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the crisis-hit Fukushima nuclear plant, fell sick March 16 and took some days off from the liaison office between the government and the utility firm, TEPCO officials said Sunday.

While Shimizu was away from the office set up at the firm’s headquarters, he collected information and issued instructions from a different room of the headquarters building to address the troubles at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station hit by the March 11 quake and subsequent tsunami, the officials said. He has already recovered and come back to work at the liaison office, they said.

A TEPCO spokesperson declined to elaborate on his health condition, but said he did not fall over or need to be hooked up to an intravenous drip.

Shimizu has not appeared in public since attending a press conference on March 13, two days after the catastrophe that wreaked havoc on northeastern and eastern Japan.

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