Yoshito Hori speaks about leadership lessons with enthusiasm in a suit and tie

I woke up in the morning, with a tolerable hangover, planning to attend all subcommittee sessions. As I went from one session venue to another, I admired the scenery created by the falling snow. I had never seen a snowscape so amazingly beautiful.

To start with, I sat in on the session on sports. Runner Dai Tamesue, retired sprinter Nobuharu Asahara, and former synchronized swimming national team member Miho Takeda acted as panelists. They explored the theme, “What Japan Needs for a National Commitment to Sports.” In a separate room, Governor Hirohiko Izumida of Niigata Prefecture, Assistant to the Prime Minister Goshi Hosono, Hirokazu Kiuchi from Wagoen, Masahiro Hayafuji from the Trade Policies Review Division of the World Trade Organization, economist Noriyuki Yanagawa, and others took the platform at a session on “Opening Up the Japanese Economy.” Another session focused on the theme, “Restoring Japan’s National Commitment to Manufacturing: Going Beyond Manufacturing Myths.” Sakie Akiyama from Saki Corporation, prominent analyst Fumiaki Sato, Chief Operating Officer Hiroshi Hamada of Hoya, and Booz & Company Representative for Japan Hiroyuki Sawada were the panelists. Other participants stayed in the restaurant, chatting over a leisurely breakfast. The second day of the G1 Summit was underway.

IThe second round of subcommittee sessions began. I chose to sit in at Session 1 on Cool Japan. Panelists for the session were Michelin three-star chef Kunio Tokuoka from Kyoto Kitcho, leading Japanese interior designer Izumi Okabe and Kunimitsu Masui from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Shujiro Kusumoto from Cafe Company was moderator.

Subcommittee sessions continued through the late afternoon on the second day of the G1 Summit. A plenary session scheduled at the end wrapped up discussions on the subcommittee level. Panelists for the session on Cool Japan were also Japanese food evangelists. A standing ovation reportedly lasted for five minutes when Tokuoka, Okabe, and Kusumoto visited a culinary graduate school (known as the Harvard of food) with Yoshiki Tsuji of Tsuji Culinary Institute to give an onsite presentation.

Vigorous discussions on Cool Japan continued. I needed to play the role of a host, in addition to enjoying the G1 Summit as a participant. As host, I had to visit all other sessions from that point on, and find the opportunity to thank people who took the platform. Everyone, including panelists and musicians, come to the G1 Summit as unpaid volunteers. That’s why I wanted to thank them in a courteous way.

Being held for the third time this year, the G1 Summit is basically funded with entry fees and sponsorships limited to participants. Unlike the Davos Forum, the G1 Summit has a tough time financially, and is nowhere near profitability. It costs money to stage a world-class meeting. So we ask presenters to pay entry fees, just like other participants.

Everyone is coming to the G1 Summit out of their “willingness” to participate. I probably shouldn’t say it here, but in fact we don’t pay any speaking fee or honorarium to anyone. Even people like a genius pianist or a famous journalist such as Yoshiko Sakurai receive no money from us. And we hold this meeting in a far-off place every year. I’m full of admiration for those people’s willingness to be part of this event. That’s way I must communicate my sense of gratitude to them surely.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was scheduled to come to the last session on this second day. As host, I wanted to do my best so that all participants would be satisfied. Through a large window, I saw falling snow. It was a beautiful sight. The presenters sat in front of the window and continued their discussion.

A presenter at one session becomes a floor participant at the next. This is one good point about the G1 Summit. In other words, few people come to this meeting just to take the platform. I always urge presenters to “talk with other participants by all means” when I invite them to the G1 Summit. To put it another way, everyone at this event is equal. I believe this spirit is an important element for a community like the G1 Summit. People at the event are equal, regardless of their attributes, including presenters, floor participants, Japanese citizens, and foreigners. They are all friends who share a desire to better Japan, irrespective of their career, age, or gender.

Besides the session on Cool Japan (a session on culture), the second round of subcommittee meetings included one held on the theme of “Ideals and Realities of Businesses in Emerging Countries” (a session on the economy) and another that pursued the question “Will Japan Fail?” as its theme (a session on politics). Subcommittee sessions at the G1 Summit advance simultaneously along three lines: “politics and policies,” “economy and technologies,” and “culture.”

Keiichiro Asao from Your Party, Toru Umemori from the Bank of Japan, Hiroshi Oogushi from the Democratic Party of Japan, and well-known economist Robert A. Feldman sat in a panel that discussed the theme, “Will Japan Fail? – A Course for Exiting Deflation and Rebuilding State Finances.” Chief Editor Takeshi Yamawaki of the Asahi Shimbun GLOBE supplement moderated this panel, whose discussions were left out of the record.

Panelists for the subcommittee session that examined the “Ideals and Realities of Businesses in Emerging Countries” were Yoshimitsu Kobayashi from Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Yasutoshi Nishimura, a former candidate for the Liberal Democratic Party president, and Kunio Yamada from Rohto Pharmaceutical. Chikatomo Hodo from Accenture moderated their discussions. All panels had outstanding members.

A third session in the politics line began. This session focused on diplomacy and national defense. Akihisa Nagashima from the Democratic Party of Japan, Yoshimasa Hayashi from the Liberal Democratic Party and Ken Jimbo from Keio University sat on a panel for this session, moderated by Tsuneo Watabe from the Tokyo Foundation. Introducing the three panelists, Watabe told the audience, “Honestly, this is an all-star panel. These people are all rising stars in this field.”

The session was on the topic of “New Power Balance and Japan’s Diplomatic Strategies.” Members of the G1 generation include many professionals and other experts in the fields of diplomacy and national defense, including former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara. From a current affairs perspective, events in Egypt and the future of Russo-Japanese relations were causes of concern. But this session discussed the diplomatic strategies Japan should adopt as a country that finds itself in between the United States and China. Jimbo, Nagashima, and Hayashi took the microphone in that order.

“China is increasing its command of the air and the sea dramatically,” pointed out Jimbo. “In this environment, Japan should do three things – (1) involve emerging countries in security arrangements, (2) provide Asia and the Pacific with a regional security architecture, and (3) do what it has to do without fail (including bolstering its defense capabilities). The points were very easy to understand.

“How should we look at the rise of China?” Answering this question thrown to the audience by himself, Nagashima explained, “The era in which Japan boasted the greatest economic power in Asia had ended.” This statement brought home to me once again the fact that Japan does have excellent political leaders.

In fact, what people like to hear most usually comes at the G1 Summit after a preliminary remark, “Please don’t tweet this.” It has been that way because the views policymakers share with participants may cause market fluctuations, affect diplomacy and, or newspaper headlines the next day, were they to be leaked.

“In fact, Japan is in a good diplomatic position,” maintained Nagashima. “Japan always occupies the first or the second place in a British BBC survey of countries having the most positive influence in the world.” Both Nagashima and Hayashi stated what they thought Japan should do in the areas of diplomacy and national defense as individual politicians, instead of as ruling and opposition party members.

“Deep down, I want to ask Mr. Nagashima why your government has done those things,” said Hayashi. “But there is no use doing that. So, I’d like to discuss how things should be.”

Commenting on Hayashi’s remark, Watabe said, “A generational change is taking place for sure. No former defense minister has spoken as logically as Hayashi. Individuals of ordinary ability were able to lead organizations up to this point, thanks to solid organizational structures. In the coming age, leaders will be important.”

I saw my youngest son, who is five, while moving from one session venue to another. He was having a good time, skating in a rink specially built in the courtyard. It was another scene from the G1 Summit 2011, which played a second role of a family trip for the Hori family.

Parliamentary Secretary for Economy, Trade and Industry Kaname Tajima, Minoru Yoshikawa from Restir Holdings, and other participants took the platform at the second session on Cool Japan. Takaaki Umezawa from A.T. Kearney acted as moderator for this session. At the G1 Summit, policymakers appear on the platform side by side with other presenters, such as experts, businesspeople, scientists, and intellectuals. This is another positive aspect of this meeting. People in industrial, government, and academic circles must work with one another in functional ways and take Japan to a better direction.

People from traditional and new media shared the platform at a session titled “Media Changes Caused by the Internet.” Takeshi Natsuno, Hiroyuki Fujishiro, and Tamon Andrew Niwa from Tokyo Broadcasting System Television sat on a panel for this session. Professor Jiro Kokuryo of Keio University moderated their discussions. As you can imagine, these people made the session extremely interesting.

It was time for lunch. The nonprofit organization Table for Two (TFT) made a presentation at lunch. TFT’s founder and directors are all G1 Summit participants. They include Kohei Takashima of Oisix, Kumi Fujisawa, Keiichiro Asao, and Kota Matsuda.

TFT directors took turns to address the audience after the presentation by Takashima. Making an impassioned appeal, Fujisawa said, “African people, when asked to state the difference between Japanese and Chinese people, say they can see the faces of Chinese people, but they can only see companies for Japanese people. I really want Japanese people to show their individual faces, too.”

The G1 Summit supports NPOs and social entrepreneurs. We invited no social entrepreneur to the meeting this year because we had no relevant session this year, after running one in the previous year. We hope to invite social entrepreneurs and add them to the list of G1 Summit participants next year.

A subcommittee session scheduled for the afternoon got underway. It explored the theme, “A Sharply Critical Look at the ‘Sanctuaries’ of the Supreme Court and the Prosecutors’ Office in Charge of Special Investigations.” Attorneys Hideaki Kubori and Nobuo Gohara, and attorney and House of Representatives member Masahiko Shibayama made presentations. Shingo Miyake from the Nihon Keizai Shimbun facilitated their panel discussions as moderator.

“Please cooperate in our efforts to realize a one-person, one-vote system in a variety of ways,” urged Kubori. An extremely large number of platform speakers (including Yasuchika Hasegawa and Kazuhiko Toyama) referred to the “realization of a one-person, one-vote system” at this year’s G1 Summit. This was an extremely positive development. I’m thinking about starting a movement by inviting many people to the “March 14 One-Person, One-Vote YES!” event I’m planning with Daigo Sato.

Gohara talked passionately about the problems he encounters at public prosecutors’ offices. He spoke of the questionable detention of Atsuko Muraki, a scandal at the Osaka district public prosecutors’ office, and problems found in the organization and culture of public prosecutors’ offices today. In my observation, the exposure of scandals involving prosecutors’ offices owes to Gohara to a considerable extent.

Looking at it a second time, the title of the session amazed me with its boldness: “A Sharply Critical Look at the ‘Sanctuaries’ of the Supreme Court and the Prosecutors’ Office in Charge of Special Investigations.” Vested interests have been a topic of discussion at the G1 Summit. This session represented a G1 Summit attempt to cut its way into the sanctuaries of the judicature. It was an inconspicuous session of great importance. Participants included many politicians.

Japan will not improve unless we realize reforms in the three powers of the judiciary, legislative, and executive branches, and the fourth power known as the media. I want to help bring about these reforms with fellow members of the G1 generation and create a fair society.

I moved to another subcommittee session that looked into Japan’s “National Commitment to Tourism” as its theme. In truth, I wanted to “settle down” at a single session venue. But I believe that visiting all subcommittee sessions was my way of extending courtesy to presenters. Commissioner Hiroshi Mizohata of the Japan Tourism Agency, Yoshiharu Hoshino from Hoshino Resort, and Suguru Tomizuka from the Jalan travel magazine served on the panel for this session. Takashi Mitachi from the Boston Consulting Group facilitated their discussion as moderator.

Mizohata made an enthusiastic plea for “action, action, and more actions.” The commissioner for cultural affairs visited our meeting on the following day, too. Four prefectural governors, more than 20 politicians, and two commissioners for central government agencies visited the G1 Summit this year. I want them to gain a great deal of stimuli from this event and work with others to better Japan….No, that’s not the way. We must plan an active part in such efforts ourselves, instead of relying on politicians.

Kakaku.com and Cookpad founder Yoshiteru Akita, Allen Miner from SunBridge, and Soichi Kariyazono from GLOBIS Capital Partners sat on a panel that discussed the theme, “A Seed for Innovations: Breeding Ground for Entrepreneurship.” They were the best panelists on the support side we could think of at the point of the G1 Summit.

Many leading entrepreneurs in Japan took part in this session. I saw snow through the window. It had begun to fall again.

“Everyone here has achieved success,” noted Akita. “Other people in society are thinking, ‘It’ll be fun if they fail.’ This view is causing society to condemn successful individuals. But is such bashing good for Japan? Let’s stop thinking in that way.” I concur with Akita completely. I’d like to express my strong agreement here.

The second session in the afternoon examined the theme, “Cyber Security as National Security: How to Fight ‘New Wars.’” Ken Jimbo served as the moderator for this session. Panelists consisted of leading Internet authority Jun Murai, Akira Saka from Hyogo Prefectural Police Headquarters, and Hiroaki Kawamura from Symantec.

Personally, I thought this session was very important. As discussed in Davos, wars are taking place in cyberspace now.

“The numbers of people working in cyber security in the United States and Japan differ too much (the number is more than 10 times larger in the United States),” one panelist pointed out. I am determined to promote awareness of cyber security as an important issue. That’s why we took it up for discussion at the G1 Summit.

Leaving this session midway through, I went to the hotel entrance to greet former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and journalist Yoshiko Sakurai on arrival. There were security guards from the Yamanashi Prefectural Police Department in dark suits around the entrance. With serious faces, they exchanged information of some kind.

The news that a GLOBIS staff member had picked up Sakurai at the train station arrived. And after a short while, she had reached the hotel in a minibus. I welcomed her with a handshake. As usual, Sakurai showed up with a beautiful smile on her face. Hoping to give her the best chance to experience the atmosphere at the G1 Summit, I invited her to a session titled, “The Future of Japan as Discussed by Young Politicians,” instead of asking her to wait for her turn in an anteroom. Yosuke Kondo and Kenji Tamura from the Democratic Party of Japan, Masaaki Taira from the Liberal Democratic Party, and Kenji Nakanishi from Your Party took the platform. Yuri Okina from the Japan Research Institute moderated their discussions.

After Sakurai, former Prime Minister Abe arrived in a car. Hiroshige Seko and I bowed our heads to greet Abe in the driveway at the entrance to the hotel. I guided the former prime minister to a session in the same way that I had led Sakurai. I took him to the venue for a subcommittee session on technology based on an interest he had expressed.

“Science and Technology Policies: Human Dreams and Innovations” was the theme this session on technology explored. The panelists for the session were terrific: Senior Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Kan Suzuki, Professor Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, and President Keiji Tachikawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Former Science Council of Japan President Kiyoshi Kurokawa was moderator. In my opinion, the best possible team had assembled.

The last subcommittee meeting on the second day was over. It was time for the plenary session. I saw participants climbing a snow-covered hill to reach the main G1 Summit venue.

The plenary session at the end examined “Actions We Should Take Now and Things We Should Pass Down to the Next Generation as Proud Japanese.” I believe the awareness of our “Japanese identity” is most important aspect in competing on the global stage. It was this belief that has prompted me to organize a session on the theme at the G1 Summit every year.

The plenary session began with Sakurai’s speech. “Each member of our future generations will spend his or her entire life paying back debts and pensions totaling 105 million yen,” noted Sakurai. “This is no time for our government to engage in lavish spending.

“We have many problems. They involve: (1) public finances; (2) the mental state of the elderly; and (3) national defense. To address these problems, we must go back to basics. A decent nation defends itself. A decent person takes care of personal matters, and defends himself or herself.

“If we were to put them in the context of our own lives, public finances are now in a state where we are making 200,000 yen a month but spending 500,000 yen. This is not right. Politicians and all 120 million of us are responsible for this. I think people are leaving this problem up to the authorities and giving it no thought.

“So what should we do? I believe we should study history and relearn the values our predecessors had. You might say, ‘Sakurai is talking about history again’ when I tell you this. But Japan cannot achieve prosperity unless those values are preserved.

“Japanese people must address national security issues steadfastly, after broadening their perspective through education. We need quiet and steady efforts to expand our national strength, in addition to verbal diplomacy. A willingness to revise the Constitution and to defend this country with our own hands is necessary for this.” Sakurai concluded her speech with these powerful statements.

After the speech, Sakurai and Abe sat face to face on the platform for a dialogue with their audience. Then, the former prime minister shared a personal view. “I think profit and loss have been the only values that have existed in Japan for 65 years after the end of World War II. But I feel there must be values greater than profit and loss. Taking pride as a Japanese is not the same as growing arrogant.”

Following these remarks, a dialogue with floor participants began. I asked a question from the floor myself. My question was this. “What are the specific values we should preserve?” In reply to this question, Sakurai said, “Study the history of your hometown, and look back on the values of your forefathers who lived there once. As you empathize with them, they will come alive. If you are from Nagaoka, back on the values of your forefathers in Nagaoka. Study the values of Fukuoka’s forefathers if you come from Fukuoka.”

Incidentally, I come from Mito. As a Mito native, I’m very aware of the ideas and thoughts of my forerunners in Mito. The dialogue was quite meaningful for me because it gave me a chance to confirm my personal approach.

Abe gave me his answer, too. “More than 70% of people in the United States and China replied yes to the question, ‘Do you wish to contribute to your country?’ Less than 50% of people in Japan gave the same answer. People in the three countries gave similar answers to the question, ‘Are you proud of your country?’ Education that looks down on Japan produced this result for our country. That’s why I amended the Fundamental Act of Education and incorporated a sense of public duty into educational curricula during my time as prime minister.”

“We must work hard to preserve values,” elaborated Sakurai. “Values weaken unless we make this effort.”

Questions from the floor continued. To a floor participant who said, “From time to time, I wonder how I should associate with my many Chinese and South Korean friends,” Sakurai answered, “I’m trying not to use the so-called labeling expression that ‘Japan invaded’ and to discuss matters (that divide opinions) thoroughly. I’m working to discuss subjects based on historical studies and my understanding of how things were in the past, instead of making judgment based on present-day values.”

I’ve taken the same approach myself. I have been able to befriend many people in China and South Korea and achieve mutual understanding with them precisely because I had comprehensive discussions with them. I believe discussions deepened our trust in each other. I think a personal view of history is essential for this. Later, German economist Jesper Koll pointed out to me that “Japanese people have an excessive tendency to treat the question of what really happened as a taboo.”

Replies arrived from followers while I was making a tweet. I chatted with followers on Twitter while presenters and floor participants engaged in their dialogue.

At night, a program called “An Evening for Enjoying Whisky and Hoto” was held at Suntory’s Hakushu Distillery. There was also a poolside dinner event for families. I expected discussions to continue into the night. There was no easy answer for the subjects discussed. The important thing is to keep thinking about them. For my part, as the host of this event, I kept thinking about upcoming programs and the people around me.

After the plenary session, we boarded a bus with Abe and Sakurai. I sat next to Yoshimasa Hayashi, all of us feeling quite cramped. In fact, Hayashi and I had known each other for more than 20 years. He was studying at the Harvard Kennedy School while I was attending the Harvard Business School. Both of us have worked for trading companies. With his wife, Hayashi and I used to enjoy friendly discussions at a Chinese restaurant in Harvard Square. Hayashi was not a politician back in those days, which was before I launched GLOBIS.

Come to think of it, Kaname Tajima is an old acquaintance of mine, too. I remember eating lunch with him at a Spanish restaurant in Harvard Square back when I was in my 20s. Tajima is now the parliamentary secretary for economy, trade and industry now. In the meantime, Hayashi has been a cabinet minister twice already. I also met Keiichiro Asao and Taro Kono when I was in my 20s. So I’ve known almost every politician who has come to the G1 Summit for longer than they have been in politics. These people include Yasutoshi Nishimura, Kan Suzuki, Koji Matsui, Yosuke Kondo, Kota Matsuda, Kenji Tamura and Kenji Nakanishi. I feel a close bond with them.

After a 20-minute ride on the rocking bus, we arrived at Suntory’s Hakushu Distillery. We made a study tour of a whisky storehouse and a distillery on our way to a large hall where “An Evening for Enjoying Whisky and Hoto” was scheduled to take place.

Readers may wonder, “Why did you go to a distillery?” We did it because attending sessions inside a hotel creates the need to refresh the spirit. There is always a need for surprises and mental diversion. When we told him we had not been able to find any facility that could accommodate close to 200 people near Risonare, Mr. Hoshino introduced us to the Hakushu Distillery, telling us how great it was. But our staff members found a problem when they visited the distillery for an advance check. They told me, “We can’t serve hot food there because there is no kitchen.”

I like to turn weakness into strength. “In that case, let’s use portable gas stoves and have a one-pot cooking party there,” I proposed, adding, “Let’s have a hoto (flat and broad noodles cooked with vegetables) party to go with Yamanashi.” So in seconds, I decided on the menu, and based on this plan I named the event “An Evening for Enjoying Whisky and Hoto.” But sake goes better with one-pot cooking than whisky. So I asked President Haruhiko Okura of Gekkeikan to contribute some of his company’s sake to the party. A good contrast with “An Evening of Wine and Piano” on the night before emerged as a result.

I had to arrange the entertainment next. I felt that something completely different from the piano performance of the night before would be good. Starting from there, I came up with the idea of staging a talk show by Rome Kanda, a stand-up comedian who is achieving success worldwide. I had read his book “Samurai Spirit” and it was extremely entertaining. I decided to ask Kanda to do his show at the event. He is the only Japanese to host a prime-time show on the ABC, one of the three major TV networks in the United States. He is said to be a friend of Matt Damon.

I was worried about audience reactions, but Kanda’s show turned out a smash. He introduced Redfox President Hiroyuki Bessho in a clever way, too. Kanda’s talk show united all participants in a way different from their experience the night before.

I sent Yoshiko Sakurai off while other participants enjoyed their food and drinks. After finishing my dinner, I thanked Abe courteously and bowed my head to bid him farewell. His car disappeared into the darkness of the snowy night.

We rode the rocking bus again to return to our hotel. On the way back, I sat with my good friend Hiroshige Seko. Compared with the first bus ride with Hayashi, there was more space around me, but I still felt cramped during the ride.

After-hour activities continued at the hotel. I had some very interesting chats with politicians. After drinking and talking with them, I went to a public bath at the hotel. It was midnight. I also enjoyed some friendly conversation there, drinking wine in an open-air hot spring with Takuro Tatsumi and others. The alcohol quickly took effect, and there were those who got face down in the snow to help them get sober.

I urged everyone in the hot spring to leave, because I didn’t want to give Mr. Hoshino any more trouble. Many G1 Summit participants were still drinking when I returned to the restaurant. It was past 1:30 a.m., a time when new ideas can indeed emerge. I went back to my room past 2 a.m. after swapping ideas with mainly younger participants in their 20s and 30s.

I saw my three youngest sons sleeping with my wife on the first-floor section of the duplex. My two older boys were on the second floor. Finding no bed available, I moved my youngest son a little and created some space next to him. Tomorrow would be the final day for the G1 Summit, I thought before falling asleep.

February 14, 2011
Yoshito Hori
Written at my house in Sanbancho based on my own tweets

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