Overview of the 20th “Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan” Forum

Picture Symposium 2019

  • Date:
    Saturday August 3 2019
  • Location:
    Awaji Yumebutai International Conference Center
    (1 Yumebutai, Awaji-shi, Hyogo, Japan)
  • Theme:
    "Perspectives on Asia-Pacific Society in the 21st Century"
  • Details:
    • ○Keynote Proposals
      Hiroko Tanaka(President, Yumekobo Co., Ltd.)
      1) Technological Innovation for Human-centered Medicine and Healthcare
      Maki Sugimoto(Surgeon / COO of Holoeyes. Inc./ Professor of Teikyo University)
      2) Aiming for the Realization of an Inclusive Society Where All People Can Live with Pride
      Nami Takenaka(Chairperson, Prop Station, Nonprofit Social Welfare Organization)
      3) Efforts of Local Small and Medium-sized Enterprises to Survive the Mega Competition Era
      Tetsuya Arimoto(Chairman, DIGITAL ALLIANCE HOLDINGS CO., LTD)
    • ○Parallel Sessions
      Group 1: Issues and Prospects of a Safe and Secure Society
      Moderator:Ichiro Nagayoshi (President & CEO, Kobe Digital Labo Inc.)
      Group 2: Issues and Prospects of an Inclusive Society
      Moderator:Sachiko Kubota (Professor, Graduate School of Intercultural Studies,Kobe University)
      Group 3: Issues and Prospects of a Global Society
      Moderator:Fumiharu Mieno (Deputy Director & Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies Kyoto University)
    • ○Plenary Session
      Coordinator: Takayuki Satake(Dean & Professor, Institute of Business and Accounting,Professional Graduate School, Kwansei Gakuin University)
    • ○Summary & Acknowledgements

      Makoto Iokibe(President, Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st Century Research Institute)

The forum began with a greeting by Representative Director Satoshi Iue of the Awaji Conference Japan. This was followed by three speakers' keynote proposals, with Hiroko Tanaka, President of Yumekobo Co., Ltd. ,serving as coordinator. Afterwards, upon being divided into three parallel sessions, the forum participants engaged in active discussion on their respective themes.

At the plenary session held in the afternoon after lunch, Professor Takayuki Satake, Dean of the Institute of Business and Accounting, Professional Graduate School, Kwansei Gakuin University served as coordinator. The plenary session began with a report by the moderator of each parallel session on the key points of the discussion held in sessions. This was followed by further in-depth discussion with the involvement of all the participants.

The two-day Awaji Conference was concluded with the presentation of a summary and acknowledgements from Makoto Iokibe, President of Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st Century Research Institute.

Main points of the Keynote Proposals
“Technological Innovation for Human-centered Medicine and Healthcare”
Maki Sugimoto (Surgeon / COO of Holoeyes Inc./ Professor of Teikyo University)

Today,a transition is underway from Society 4.0 (information society realized by the invention of computers) to Society 5.0, namely a human-centered super-smart society accomplished by further digital innovation. With this background, a wide variety of personal medical information,ranging from medical checkups to medical practice, is digitized and shared extensively. In particular, image information, such as X-rays, is converted into a 3D version using virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) technologies mainly for the

purpose of the use for simulation and training designed for doctors to enhance their diagnosis and treatment skills. In addition, a new form of communication has been generated by using virtual space for telemedicine and support for regional medicine to ensure that users can share their actual experiences directly. Moreover, the integration of a virtual world and the real world is expected to realize a new, human-oriented, technology-based society. Medicine should not be underpinned by doctors or hospitals alone. To ensure that the entire society underpins medicine, you yourselves also need to provide or share their information. Above all, you need to be more aware of medicine and learn about technologies.

“ Aiming for the Realization of an Inclusive Society Where All People Can Live with Pride”
Nami Takenaka (Chairperson,Prop Station,Nonprofit Social Welfare Organization)

At Prop Station, we focus on the potential of those with disabilities and call them the “challenged.” Under the slogan “Making Japan a Society where the Challenged Can Become Taxpayers.” we have been engaged in activities using computers for 30 years to stimulate each individual’s hidden motivation and ability so that they can work in society. Behind this is my daughter, who has a very serious brain disorder. When she was born years 46 ago, her doctor told me that she would remain a baby for the rest of her life. Thanks to her, I have been able to meet a wide variety of people. I am often asked why I provide so much support regarding computer literacy, even though my daughter herself cannot even touch a computer due to her serious brain disorder. The answer is that I would like to feel at ease when I leave her behind upon my death, though this might be an ultimately selfish hope as a mother. To this end, the national economic situation needs to be robust enough to support people without any earning power like my daughter, backed by warm support from society. This is why under the slogan “Making Japan a Society where the Challenged Can Become Taxpayers,” I would like to help Japan become a country where the disadvantaged can continue to receive support permanently from everyone.

“ Efforts of Local Small and Medium-sized Enterprises to Survive the Mega Competition Era”

I was born in a family running a lumber mill in Hyogo Ward,Kobe City. When my father inherited the business from my grandfather, he changed the lumber mill to a dealer of aluminum sash and other construction materials with the change of the times. After inheriting the business, I established the current company in 2000. Today, we operate Ex-Shop, a new online business model of selling and installing exterior structures, such as wood decks and carports, nationwide. We also promote nationwide operation of Garden Plus, which is engaged in the planning, design and construction of gardens and exterior structures. Presently, headquartered at Kobe Fashion Mart, Rokko Island, we employ nearly 200 staff members, with the most recent sales marking nearly 10.6 billion yen.

In the process of changing the original family business into the present company, I often felt some emotional conflicts. Now, however, I am trying to establish a corporate environment in which young people can take on challenges and mature by hiring students fresh from school and developing them. In this age of mega-competition which is expected to further intensify, we are striving to further expand our market by taking advantage of our strongest point-our network including more than 500 construction companies across Japan.

Overviews of the Discussions in the Parallel Sessions
Parallel Session 1:Issues and Prospects of a Safe and Secure Society
Moderator:Ichiro Nagayoshi (President & CEO, Kobe Digital Labo Inc.)

Since the session began with the address by Dr. Sugimoto, who has successfully introduced the latest digital technologies into medicine for a practical purpose, we have been engaged in a very active discussion on the medical field's actual situation and potential. Society 5.0,presented by Dr. Sugimoto as a basic concept and advocated by the Japanese government, is defined as a future society in which both economic development and solution of social problems are realized by a system highly integrating virtual space and real space. Medical care and health care are expected to play a very significant role in creating a safe and secure society, which was actually the focal point of our discussion.

Dr. Sugimoto also indicated that medical care might show a different aspect if seen not only from the perspective of the relationship between doctors and patients but also from the perspective of healthy people. A good example is health checkup data, which basically come from healthy people. Let’s think about very slightly swelling or narrowing parts of blood vessels that are normally judged as “No apparent abnormalities” in MRI image diagnosis. If many people were to develop a critical disease in a few years due to such parts, it would follow that even such a small change might act as a critical factor in the future. If it becomes possible to make a more detailed analysis of medical checkup results and make predictions like weather forecasts, this will lead to the extension of healthy life span and a guarantee of quality of life. This way of sharing the data has very great potential for the future of medicine.

After Dr. Sugimoto's explanation, participants presented a wide variety of opinions, including those on the Japanese universal health insurance system and the inconvenience felt by those who really need a medical examination but cannot receive it sufficiently. Dr. Sugimoto stated that an advanced online medical examination system has enabled patients to inform their health problems directly to doctors. He said that it has become possible both technologically and socially for people to receive virtual medical treatment every day, instead of rushing to doctors when they have a health problem.

Another element that will contribute greatly to the development of such a system is 5G, a communications system that will be put into practice in Japan next year. Taking advantage of the system, which will enable largecapacity image data to be sent in real time more than 100 times the current speed without any delay, patients wearing virtual googles can receive a medical examination from doctors away from them, as if the doctors were in front of them. This service is becoming directly available to a wide variety of people, regardless of their conditions and whereabouts. This is not one-way communication which you have while watching TV but a medical examination which makes you feel as if you were having face-to-face communication.

Another element is facilities that draw many people, such as hotels. Some say that if a hotel houses something like a salon for handling health and medical affairs, the future of the hotel might be changed greatly. Actually, the range of the efforts that can be made at such a facility is expanding. Not only can blood pressure and other ordinary medical conditions be checked but also even an EKG can be taken with portable equipment. This means that it might be possible for hot spring users to not only check their weight, bone density, and other ordinary medical conditions in the changing room but also to explore the future of their own health. To make this possible, it has now been legally allowed for not only doctors but also pharmacists to engage in a wide range of things as part of health care checking, conducted before medical practice. It is expected that this trend will increase.

Parallel Session 2:Issues and Prospects of an Inclusive Society
Moderator:Sachiko Kubota (Professor,Graduate School of Intercultural Studies,Kobe University)

Our session began with a wide variety of members' explanations about their job experiences related to “kyosei” (living together) One of the members stated that while feeling a gradual accomplishment of kyosei of different cultures in his life, he also felt that the current trend of cultural homogenization was stronger than that. Another member referred to his experience as a corporate leader and indicated some differences between the 1960s and the 1970s, when there were many cultural differences, and the present days.

Another member stated that not only tabunka kyosei (multicultural symbiosis) but also gender equality was extremely significant in terms of kyosei. Committed to the World Masters Game to be held in 2021, the year after the Olympic and Paralympic Games, he said that the executive office was making preparations to hold the games as an inclusive event.

As the president of a company hiring many foreign workers, another member explained his company’s training program for employees to learn about differences in food and religion. Based on his corporate experience abroad, he indicated that there had already been differences since the 1980s in awareness of cultural differences between Japan and other countries. He insisted that considering a decline in academic ability of Japanese university students, their relationships with human resources from Southeast Asia should be utilized more effectively.

Another member presented opinions based on his experience of working with a prefectural government for tabunka kyosei. From the viewpoint of a researcher, he talked about his current research on infrastructure for the next- generation kyosei model.

As indicated above, the keyword “kyosei” stimulated session members to present a wide variety of experiences and viewpoints, and the above is just part of their comments. Actually, one of the members asked “To begin with, what is kyosei?” In principle, the answer is, of course, an inclusive society and an initiative to include all forms of differences. Differences in physical and mental conditions, nationality, age, gender etc. should be accepted in an inclusive society. In case of the disabled, for example, the Act for Eliminating Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities has already been established in Japan, as explained in this morning’s keynote proposal. For people with foreign nationality, the Immigration Control and Refugee-Recognition Law has been revised, leading to the estimate that approximately 350,000 people with foreign nationality will come to Japan over the coming five years. The session included the discussion on the necessity to consider kyosei in Asia Pacific Society in the 21st century based on the entire picture.

Actually, the connotation of the term kyosei is distinctive of Japan. It has been a while since the term tabunka kyosei began to be used in Japan, but there is no English counterpart conveying the exact meaning of the term. In English speaking countries,the term multiculturalism( “tabunka-shugi” in Japanese,) is used, but in Japan, the use of the term “shugi” (ism) is not preferred. Consequently “tabunka kyosei ” has come to be used in general. One of our members stated the term “kyosei” should not be translated into English but be used as it is,suggesting an ideal form of the Japanese-style tabunka kyosei. In a sense, the Japanese-style tabunka kyosei has potential and the style should be developed in the future.

How should people in Japan associate with those coming to Japan from other Asian countries in the 21st century and how should they be included in Japanese society? We had so many topics to handle that we could not discuss these questions sufficiently in the limited time for the session.However, many members concluded by strongly asserting that kyosei with China would be the key point for the future of Japan in economic, military, and cultural fields.

Parallel Session 3:Issues and Prospects of a Global Society
Moderator:Fumiharu Mieno (Deputy Director & Professor,Center for Southeast Asian Studies,Kyoto University)

At the beginning of the session, I made my own summary of Dr. Narongchai’s lecture from a macroscopic perspective, and presented the scope of the discussion that we were going to have. I assumed that there were mainly two issues to be addressed.

One issue was technological innovation,the wave of digitization. This trend began at the beginning of the 21st century and then has been accelerated further and further since the 2010s.So this issue concerned responses made by countries, regions, individuals and companies,and the expected results brought by such responses.

For these topics, Mr. Arimoto shared an excellent example in his report. According to him, as a result of a sudden decline in transaction cost, a new business environment has been generated in which small-scale companies form networks, enabling them to approach customers and make inroads into large markets.I understand that his company is an example of making good use of such an environment.

The other issue was the wavering of the free trade system. Although Japan, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN)countries, and China used to enjoy benefits from the system, a great imbalance is now shaking it. So the issue concerned future prospects of the free trade system, seen from the two viewpoints of China’s growth in the 2000s slightly before a full-scale growth of digital technology innovation and the recent conflict over the technological hegemony. While the Chinese authoritarian political system might unexpectedly go well with the technological innovation in digitization, democracy is now being shaken as indicated by the rise of populism. With this background, will technological innovation really occur under a system like the one China has now, and should technological innovation occur under such a system? As the moderator, I began the session by presenting these as focus points of our discussion.

We engaged in a discussion on these points for more than one and half hours, and many members presented their opinions. Since I don’t have sufficient time to introduce them all, I would like to summarize them into three points.

The first point is an issue not indicated frequently at the lectures in the symposium and the forum. One of our members stated that behind the current imbalance lies the problem of currencies. He expected that as shown by Libra by Facebook, digital technology innovation would lead to the convergence of currencies themselves in a distant future, which might help solve imbalance. In addition, some members said that the crisis of the free trade system was connected with the problem of the wealth gap generated in the process of growth, though the problem was found both at home and abroad, and that it was important to redistribute wealth systematically in light of the stabilization of the middle class.

The second point is the development of Japan and other Asian countries, and trade and economic structures of the entire Asia Pacific region. For this point, members presented a wide variety of opinions, which could be divided into two categories. Some members presented various opinions based on their views that the speed of digital technology innovation mainly in India, China and ASEAN countries was faster than expected, giving the countries great advantage, and that the depth of the innovation in these countries was far greater than that in developed countries, changing the economic structure itself dramatically. Dr. Narongchai indicated in his commemorative lecture that the eastern part of the Pacific might be decoupled from the western part of the Pacific. I feel that his indication is based on the assumption that it is possible that the new world of Asia will have technological advantages.

On the other hand, other members had quite different views and asserted the importance of returning to the basics. They said that in particular, the manufacturing industry still had many advantageous points in terms of the establishment of the Japanese-style business model for fitting well into regional, cultural, and social structures, and also the formation of supply chains based on the model. They also indicated the possibility that such advantages would be further reinforced. Moreover, we had a discussion on the stance of Japan. Some members stated that Japan was not fastidious about rules or principles, and tried to ensure neutrality and maintain its reputation for that stance.In this sense, Japan could be described as still staying competitive.Many examples, including business examples, were presented to support the assertion.

As the third point, some members asserted that behind all the issues previously mentioned was the nature of economic development and capitalism, whose structures were designed to generate gaps. They said that people should be aware of this point and that imbalance was the source of growth, making it necessary not to analyze a single aspect of imbalance alone, but to take a more holistic view to analyze the entire system. They continued that this meant that technological innovation might result in solving the problem of imbalance. For example,technological innovation might drastically change the present currency system and solve trade imbalance. They insisted on the importance of such a perspective for discussion on challenges and prospects of global society in the Asia Pacific region in the 21st century.

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