My last day at Summer Davos began with a swim, my first in a while. During the conference, I’d had breakfast appointments with world leaders almost every morning. Today, with nothing scheduled, I was able to get in a little down time before boarding the bus to the World Expo Center.
I used the travel time for bilateral chats. One of the GLOBIS Fund investors was on the bus this morning, so I decided to sit next to him for a talk. It was luckyーI’d actually been thinking about making an appointment with him for bilateral meeting.
Arriving at the venue, I made a beeline for a specific break-out session. Word-of-mouth from participants who had attended drew many others, making it a popular event. I knew that if I didn’t get there early, I wouldn’t be able to participate.
I arrived at the room at 9:45 am, 15 minutes before the start time, and just barely got in. Only one other person after me made it.
The session was run by Dialog in the Dark. It was an experience-based session that aimed to make participants aware of the importance of communication and different senses when forced into darkness. The session was divided into two parts. We spent the first hour and a half in the dark. For the next hour, we went back into the light and discussed what we had experienced. The experience deserved its reputation, to say the least.
After lunch, I took part in a session with astronauts that started at 2:00 pm. As a rule, I push myself to participate in sessions that are completely outside of my field. This is how I try to broaden my horizons. In this event, we listened to retired NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger. He spent several months on board the Russian space station Mir and was the first American to conduct a spacewalk from a foreign space station. This was a more typical session, with a presentation followed by Q&A. It was during the Q&A that the most impressive story came out. Someone asked if Linenger had experienced anything mystical in outer space. Linenger answered, “I had a sense that I could see my father again for a moment…”
He then began talking about his father.
When Linenger was 14 years old, he had lightheartedly told his father that he would be an astronaut one day. His father had encouraged him, saying, “Son, if you try hard, you can surely be an astronaut.” Buttressed by these words, the young boy studied hard and built up his physical strength. More than twenty years later, he fulfilled his dream by becoming an astronaut. By the time he reached the Mir, however, his father had already passed away before Jerry was aboard Mir. Still, he insisted that he’d sensed his father’s presence outside the spacecraft window while exercising on a treadmill. He was moved to tears as he described this experience.
The audience broke out in spontaneous applause. As a father and an educator, the weight of his story reached deep into my heart.
The session with the astronauts completed my time at Summer Davos. Reflecting on this conference that evening, I recalled the things that had most impressed me.
1) The strong presence of newly emerging countries and regions, including Russia, India, the Middle East, and Brazil
Of course, China, the host country, had the most visible presence, but I felt that up-and-coming leaders were rising up from newly emerging countries. The world is moving at a tremendous speed. I could sense a complete shift from a dominant America, or the era of developed countries centered on the G8.
2) Western countries voicing their opinions
There were a variety of themes, such as China, newly emerging countries, the environment, and innovation. Western powers like France and Germany were not the focal points of discussion. However, these countries demonstrated their presence far more aggressively than the roughly 80 Japanese participants, who didn’t say very much. If you don’t speak up, you don’t make a contributionーin other words, you don’t exist. Moving forward, I want to be sure to express my opinions.
3) China’s seriousness and the setback of reforms in Japan
I felt that China was correctly doing things that need to be done. I was also overwhelmed by China’s seriousness and eagerness to hold this conference. Unfortunately, Japan lacks the vigor of the Koizumi reform era. With the bashing of successful entrepreneurs, the finger-pointing of the media, the lack of will to reform among cabinet members, and policies of opposition parties that appear to be moving toward big government, I can’t feel as positive about Japan.
As a Japanese citizen, I am seriously thinking about what is necessary for Japan. Is it time for me, like Shafik in Egypt, to launch some new endeavor, beyond the framework of business?
At 8:00 am the next day, a guide and driver arrived to pick me up at the hotel. We loaded my luggage in the trunk and headed to DETDZ. This development zone is a new city that was established in 1984. Its initial vision was to serve as the home to four industrial bases: petrochemicals, equipment manufacturing, electronic information/software, and ship building. Of the 2,200 companies set up here, 580 are Japanese, including giants like Canon, Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba, and Seiko. 220,000 people live in this zoneーwith neighboring areas, that total comes to 600,000. Despite that, to my surprise, Dalian is just the eighth largest city in China and is not regarded as an upper-tier Chinese city.
Passing through the DETDZ, we headed to Golden Pebble Beach facing the warm waters of the Yellow Sea. We also dropped by Golden Rock Park, where fantastically shaped rocks formed 600 million years ago had been excavated.
According to the guide, there was a fortune teller nearby with a reputation for very accurate predictions. I generally don’t go to fortune tellers because I don’t want to be overly influenced by their predictions. As far as I can remember, I’d been to one only once, when I started GLOBIS 15 years ago. Nevertheless, still fired up by my experiences at Summer Davos, I decided to ask what the future might hold for me.
I won’t share what the fortune teller said, but I will say that I felt the day was approaching for me to take action on behalf of Japan, Asia, and the world beyond the framework of business and education.