x = independently organized TED event

Theme: Where Art Meets Science

This event occurred on
June 30, 2012
9:00am - 6:00pm JST
(UTC +9hrs)
Shibuya-ku, 13

It was clear skies overhead when we took Shibuya by storm on Saturday, June 30th, for the fourth annual TEDxTokyo event. Under the theme “Where Art Meets Science”, this year’s event was our biggest yet, with more than 350 guests, speakers, media and partners joining the TEDxTokyo crew at our new location in Tokyu’s Shibuya Hikarie complex. Thousands more watched the event live online; caught the simulcast on the Q’s Eye screen high above Shibuya Crossing – an historic first; and created buzz across popular social media platforms – making TEDxTokyo the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter in Japan for most of the day. The house was rocking!

Shibuya Hikarie
2-21-12 Shibuya
Shibuya-ku, 13, 150-0002
Event type:
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John ken Nuzzo

Sometimes the libretto to a life is already written. John Ken Nuzzo was a university business major in California before he seriously contemplated a professional singing career, but he’d been an awed young extra in La Scala’s Japan production of Otello featuring Placido Domingo, and Mozart Effect author Don Campbell then John’s high school teacher prodded him to perform. In 2000, the Tokyo-born Japanese American won a competition in Japan to sing for the Vienna State Opera. A year later he earned the Eberhard Waecheter Medal, awarded to the two most promising talents in Austria’s opera houses. Engagements elsewhere followed, including Munich, Salzburg, Tokyo and many major roles at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Profiled in the TV documentary “Jounetsu Tairiku,” John’s profile soared in Japan, and in 2002 he sang at NHK’s famed “Kouhaku Uta-Gassen” New Year’s Eve concert. After the 3/11 disaster he traversed Japan, raising money and lifting spirits with his voice. He hopes to raise opera’s popularity here as well.

Yoshiharu Habu

When he was just 25, Yoshiharu Habu became the only player ever to simultaneously seize all seven titles of the ancient board game known as shogi. He’d been a pro since junior high and is an international chess player of note, but that singular feat indicates why the crop of dangerous rivals that arose alongside him is called “the Habu generation”. Yoshiharu says that IT and the Internet forever altered the shogi world, allowing the borderless sharing of strategies and producing a massive traffic jam of players with similar abilities. Yoshiharu’s Highway Theory hypothesizes that being creative and innovative is what will allow players to bypass the traffic jam and turn quantity into quality̶and victories. (His favorite word, reirou, essentially means a new and transparent mindset.) If his over seventy titles provide any indication̶trailing only the eighty the late Yasuharu Ooyama won – the theory holds. That deep thinking is no doubt why his books Ketsudanryoku (The Power of Decisions) and Habu’s Brain have sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

Ai Futaki

Imagine running ninety meters on a single breath. Daunting but conceivable, right? But . . . underwater? You’d have to be a fish, a mermaid or Ai Futaki, who earned a Guinness World Record for that singular feat in 2011 sans fins, by the way and a second for swimming a hundred meters in a cave on one inhalation. Ai’s love affair with water began when she was three. After journeying to California and Cuba to study film, documentaries and Spanish, she worked the world’s oceans for four years as a scuba-diving videographer and cave dive guide. Then she discovered apnea freediving on a lungful of air. Now, as one of very few humans specializing in freediving underwater performance arts, modeling and filming, Ai lives to convey the splendors of the sea to us. Her films are featured on TV and at events and aquarium expositions, and her image regularly graces the pages of magazines and books, including photographer Aaron Wong’s stunning WATER.COLORS and Blue Within.

Masahiko Inami

When Masahiko Inami decides to get reflective, he just disappears. That’s because the Keio Media Design professor is the inventor of the Optical Camouflage system, which Time magazine named 2003’s “Coolest Invention of the Year.” A more current project, Ecocar, uses the same tech̶making opaque objects see-through̶to give cars a transparent cockpit and a seamless 360-degree view of the outside. Masahiko and his crew are also totally into robots and remote control convenience. CRISTAL, the augmented reality (AR) interface they designed, lets you control room lights, Roomba cleaning robots, home theater systems and other appliances through simple touch- and-drag gestures on a coffee table. CRISTAL is part of the JST ERATO Igarashi Design Interface Project, as is Cooky, a cooperative cooking system with a robot as your sous chef. You probably won’t be surprised to know that Masahiko won the Keio Award and the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s Young Scientists’ Prize for Science and Technology in 2011.

Kathy Pike

According to a former Tokyo English Life Line colleague, Kathleen Pike has the “sigh factor” when she walks in, people sigh in admiration. A clinical psychologist and professor trained at Johns Hopkins and Yale, Kathleen’s clinic is essentially the world. Internationally recognized for her 25-year focus on women’s health and eating disorders, her research has received backing from the NIH, NIMH, Fulbright Foundation and other organizations. She has served as a consultant to the American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 and the World Health Organization ICD-10. A mental health consultant to disaster relief programs in Japan, she’s also a research partner with Outside the Wire, LLC, a group that uses theater to address pressing public health issues and enhance psychological functioning and resilience among participating community members. The executive director and scientific co-director of Columbia University’s Global Mental Health Program, Kathleen envisions global partnerships to reduce the stigma of mental illness and bring mental health services to under-resourced communities.

Huai-Chien (Bill) Chang

Huai-Chien (Bill) Chang has his head way above the clouds. A PhD student at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science, he helped launch the Consortium of Extreme and Space Settlements (CESS) in spring 2011. The mission of the students, professors and space experts in CESS is to discover how to make hostile environments habitable, including Earth’s harshest planetary surfaces and those of other planets. (With people planning to colonize Mars by April 2023, we’re already behind the ellipse on this.) A Red Cross humanitarian mission volunteer since 2010, Bill’s current endeavor is something called the U.P. Omni-rescue project—a plan to deliver supplies using ICBM rockets to isolated areas during massive disasters. He’s also a member of the Japan Space Elevator Association. When he can, Bill talks to local students about space architecture, hoping to inspire them to look to the skies and dream of living off-planet.

Tokiko Kato

The greatest artists are those who manage to soar creatively yet stay grounded. Tokiko Kato has won the Japan Record Award twice, made over seventy albums, and is a singer-songwriter with multiple hits who performs constantly. Born in China during World War Two and confined in a concentration camp in Manchuria afterward, she saw the scenes of hardship after the Great East Japan Earthquake and felt great kinship for the survivors. She has visited the disaster area frequently, performed live in evacuation centers, and supported reconstruction efforts. She did similar work while serving as a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, traveling through Sri Lanka and Thailand in 2004 after the tsunami hit and connecting through her music. Tokiko has also pushed environmental initiatives for World Wide Fund for Nature Japan, and persuades young people to consider sustainable lifestyles with agriculture at the core at her Kamogawa Natural Kingdom in Chiba. In 1988, she became the first Japanese female singer ever to perform at Carnegie Hall.

Team Turntable Riders

Street culture is about to take possession of a new vehicle for sonic expression. Spinning your wheels on Turntable Rider̶a custom-hacked BMX bike turned mobile DJ turntable̶actually controls the music, and acrobatics like bouncing, spinning and bumping intensify your exclusive mix. (The brakes even act as a beat pad.) Kenta Ikoma, Toshiyuki Sugai, Hiroaki Hasegawa, Shotaro Kato and Takashi Tsuchiya of the COGOO project launched Turntable Rider to spread the fun of sharing bikes globally. Creative director Ikoma and technical director Sugai have already won multiple honors for their creative work̶including the Cannes Lions Award̶and this invention will only add to their reps. Their performance videos have drawn the avid attention of freewheelers planet-wide. At TEDxTokyo, master freestyle BMX riders Gen Sasaki and Yukio Ito will show you why.

Tom Kelley

Brainstorms are Tom Kelley’s stock-in-trade, and when he says creativity is the secret to economic growth, people listen. After all, Tom helped take global design and innovation consultancy IDEO from a crew of twenty designers to over five hundred. He’s also the author of The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation both named among the top ten best books on innovation by Business Week’s SmallBiz magazine̶ and was a “Group of 33″ contributor to Seth Godin’s The Big Moo. Tom has been a corporate renaissance man, at various times handling IDEO’s business development, marketing, human resources, legal, and operations. Little surprise, then, that the dean of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business named him the school’s first-ever Executive Fellow. Tom joined the 2009 launch of the University of Tokyo’s innovative new “” program, and is now an Executive Fellow there as well. He’s also an advisor to California start-up Ekso Bionics, led by TEDster Eythor Bender, which makes a “smart exoskeleton” that puts paraplegics back on their feet.

Minori Saito

If the moon had a harbor, Minoru Saito would have already reached it and raised sail for home. He and his steel yacht, the Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III (his third vessel, all named primarily after a formidable demon from Japanese mythology) have sailed Earth’s oceans for over 265,000 miles. He has circumnavigated the globe solo a Guinness record eight times, and is intent on taking a ninth lap of the planet. Oh, by the way: Minoru’s now 77, and only started sailing when he was 39 years old. His last incredible journey, meant to be seven months long, was done westward against the currents and lasted a thousand days. Not surprisingly, the world has showered him with awards, including the Blue Water Medal in 2006 and the Naomi Uemura Adventure Award in 2011̶the latter out of a field of 207 nominees. If any story could raise the spirits of an entire nation after 2011’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, it is this man’s tale.

Yoshie Komuro

Here’s an object lesson in quality vs. quantity: Despite Japan’s fervent obsession with overtime, it occupies the bottom rung of labor productivity among advanced nations. Yoshie Komuro thinks Japanese workers deserve better treatment̶and to have a private life. While at Shiseido, she began an internal venture to help reintegrate women returning to work after child-rearing leave. Two years after Yoshie was named “Nikkei Woman of the Year” in 2004, she launched Work Life Balance Co., Ltd. to take her ideas nationwide. Work Life Balance has already helped over 900 businesses rationalize their work hours and ramp up fiscal performance. The company’s award-winning “Armo” computer program, for example, aids both employers and employees with maternity, childcare, and sick leave issues. Yoshie, who has spoken before the Diet and advises regularly on government labor policies, is now intent on upgrading the government’s control of the work environment as well as restructuring elder care̶another of Japan’s major social headaches.

Takashi Ikegami

To Takashi Ikegami, life is what you make it. Specifically, he and his Ikegami Lab cohorts are attempting to build viable synthetic life forms using computer simulations, chemical experiments and robots. A professor in the University of Tokyo’s Department of General Systems Sciences, Takashi’s works encompass both the arts and sciences. In one conceptual art project, Sound Bookshelf, an autonomous sensor network reacted to temperature and humidity changes in a Tokyo bookstore to create unique soundscapes. Takashi is now busy investigating life indicators such as autonomy, sustainability and “evolvability.” Some of his findings appeared in a 2007 book called Life Emerges in Motion. Takashi is also on the editorial boards of the journals Artificial Life, Adaptive Behaviors, BioSystems and Interaction Studies, and presented the 2008 keynote at the 20th Anniversary of Artificial Life Conference in Winchester, UK.

Yukio Yamori

Dr. Yukio Yamori says that living the affluent life is killing us. As the director of the memo: Institute for World Health Development at Mukogawa Women’s University, he’s found that lifestyle-related diseases such as cerebral stroke and cardiovascular diseases are rampant, accounting for 60 percent of deaths. The good doctor is the initiator of the WHO-CARDIAC Study, an international joint project that has been examining the effects of a diet of soy and fish on humans in 61 communities from 25 countries for over 25 years. Worldwide dietary biomarkers show that nutrition influences the risks of acquiring lifestyle-related disease, even among people with different genetic factors and lifestyles. The doctor’s own Genome Plus concept promotes better eating habits and lifestyles that can overcome genomic factors and thwart globally pervasive lifestyle-related diseases. As a scholar of nutrition focusing on health and longevity, he urges everyone to evaluate their diets critically.

Shihoko Fujiwara

Few crimes are more loathsome than trafficking in other humans and exploiting them sexually. Shihoko Fujiwara has spent years fighting to end the selling and abuse of women and children, first at the Washington, DC-based Polaris Project and then in Japan after launching Polaris as a local NPO, where she continues to serve as their representative. Their foe is powerful̶the world’s fastest-growing criminal pursuit, in fact but they persevere. Every single day Shihoko and heroes like her field phone calls in many languages, identifying victims and rescuing and supporting them, and getting the message out at children’s facilities and the Immigration Office. In 2008, Shihoko’s alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recognized her with its Distinguished Alumni Award, and this year the Japanese magazine AERA tapped her as one of the “100 people who will rebuild Japan.” We need so many more like her.

Masashi Kawamura

Masashi Kawamura has an idea lab. In that lab, called PARTY, he and several fellow creatives perform the advertising equivalent of alchemy, fusing raw and often disparate elements into artful, borderless, interactive multimedia content. Tokyo-born but San Francisco-raised, Masashi knows borderless: he has worked around the globe creating numerous award-winning ad campaigns for different agencies, including Hakuhodo, BBH New York, 180 Amsterdam, and as a creative director at Wieden + Kennedy NY. As PARTY’s creative director, Masashi now bounces back and forth between Tokyo and New York. Counted among Creativity magazine’s 2011 “Creative 50″, Masashi was also named one of 2012’s “the 100 most creative people in business” by Fast Company! His work has garnered international awards, too, including NY ADC’s Young Guns, Cannes Lions, and One Show. He’s currently shaping new episodes of NHK ETV’s Techne and music videos for Japanese bands Unicorn and Androp.

Eva Kestner

Eva Kestner uses the awesome vibrations of her drums to shatter the limits and labels of society, perception and culture. While studying philosophy at Cornell University, she cofounded a taiko drumming group called Yamatai, both playing and serving as its musical director. Yamatai brought the beat to events and concerts on campus and local communities. Eva returned to Japan after graduating from Cornell to join the professional taiko ensemble Bonten, leaving a year later to forge a solo career. Her solo compositions are all original pieces or interpretations of traditional taiko pieces, and she weaves Western classical, African, Korean, Middle Eastern, jazz, and Latin rhythms and tunes with Japanese music and dance. Eva currently studies Noh and Kabuki music under Shintaro Sendo, teaches taiko drumming at the Tsukuba School for the Blind, and is a member of the groups Megurobayashi Higashigaoka Hozonkai and Edo Kabukiren. She loves Japanese festivals, she says, because no one is an outsider or observer.

Open Reel Ensemble

In 2009, composer Ei Wada and four musician friends―Kimitoshi Sato, Takuya Namba, Yu Yoshida and Tadashi Yoshida―had a wacky retro idea: Let’s mix analogue sounds generated from old rolls of magnetic tape on open reel decks with computer-digitized samples! The crazy concept worked, and the Open Reel Ensemble was born. Open Reel collaborated on the TV commercial that won the Excellence Prize at Japan Media Arts Festival 2009, and the group began getting massive attention.The ensemble played at TEDxTokyo yz ver. 1.0 in 2010, and drew global attention in 2011 when they took the grand prize in the Entertainment Division at the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival. Open Reel shows feature four decks, but they also frequently toss in guitar and bass licks, percussion, their own vocals, old CRT TVs and even a vacuum cleaner as sampling sources, sequencing everything live into pulsating and progressively complex tracks. The ensemble just released its first full-length album―plus a bonus DVD for the full effect―featuring guest artists such as Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Yukihiro Takahashi and Sotaisei Riron lead vocalist Etsuko Yakushimaru.

Jesper Koll

Jesper Koll calls himself a professional Japan optimist, but that doesn’t prevent him from speaking constructive truths to power. An advisor to a broad spectrum of young-generation politicians and old guard and new-wave CEOs, Jesper is a passionate insider worth listening to: a Diet member’s aide for three years, he’s also been the chief economist at Merrill Lynch Japan, managing director at the Tiger Fund, and chief economist in Tokyo for JP Morgan, where he now heads up research. The author of two books in Japanese, Towards a New Japanese Golden Age and The End of Heisei Deflation, he’s also a regular“braincaster”commentator on NIKKEI-cnbc TV (in Japanese), columnist, and perennially ranked as one of the top Japan strategists in investor surveys. Jesper is currently fascinated by the generational change occurring in Japanese politics as fringe players like the You Party and Ishin no Kai and rogue elements within the established parties make their moves.

Naomi Kawase

Naomi Kawase’s loving but unblinking cinematic gaze turns ordinary lives and mundane moments into mesmerizing dramas. At the 1997 Cannes International Film Festival, she became the youngest director ever to win the Camera d’Or prize for best new director for her debut feature, Suzaku. Ten years later, Naomi’s film Mogari no Mori (The Mourning Forest) was awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes. In 2009, she became the first Japanese director to receive the coveted Cannes Carrosse d’Or. Naomi organized and serves as the executive director of the Nara International Film Festival. Keen on fostering future creators, she invites internationally active young film directors to the September event and runs film production workshops for kids. Naomi also shot, directed, and narrated a series called “Nippon Archives” that shows her gift for pushing the envelope of cinema. Her recent short Wasabi da is set in her beloved hometown, Totsukawa in Nara Prefecture, which was devastated by a typhoon last fall.

Yoshifumi Miyazaki

Want to de-stress, lower your blood pressure and pulse, and even bolster your immune system’s ability to fight cancer? Yoshifumi Miyazaki’s suggestion? Try “forest bathing.” (That’s forest therapy speak for taking a walk in the woods―no disrobing required.) A university professor, researcher and the deputy director of Chiba University’s Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences, he’s perfectly serious. Plants, you see, emit phytoncides, chemical compounds that repel rot and insects and have serendipitously beneficial effects on humans. Yoshifumi’s research found, for example, that contemplating a forest scene for just 20 minutes lowered levels of salivary cortisone, a stress hormone. He has published several books on the effects and benefits of forest therapy, and the concept is spreading. The Japanese government has created a few dozen forest therapy centers, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Japan Society of Physiological Anthropology have both honored the good doctor.

Edward Suzuki

Edward Suzuki worked alongside master architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller while attending Harvard on a Fulbright scholarship. Perhaps that’s one reason he’s a self-proclaimed student of life, regularly contemplating the structure of the atom, the environment, philosophy and the metaphysical. Edward’s bold yet organic architectural designs draw from influences both East and West, and have taken shape as far away as Kenya and China. He also devised the “EDDi-Pod”, a living space that can be constructed in a day in times of emergency. His work has brought him well over a dozen major awards here in Japan and the United States, the most recent being the prestigious “GREEN GOOD DESIGN Award 2011″ from the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design for a house he designed in Shimogamo. His current project is to turn his design for the International School of Asia, Karuizawa̶scheduled to open its doors in 2014 into a reality.

Junto Ohki

For the Deaf, the subtlest of hand movements and aspects can express vast meaning yet convey little to voice-oriented humans. Junto Ohki now stands astride that expression gap like a colossus. As a Keio University freshman, he formed a sign language club on campus despite being a signing novice himself and later produced a signing chorus that performed on NHK’s annual year-end song festival. Inspired, the student entrepreneur saw technology as the way to span the communications chasm, and started a social business called ShuR Group. ShuR now offers remote services for sign language interpretation (VRS), podcast and sign language guide application and other services. When he realized that no complete database of the 126 different sign languages in use existed, Junto also developed, published and now operates the SLinto Dictionary, a cloud-based, Wiki sign language dictionary to which users can upload, edit, and share sign language videos that has earned worldwide admiration.

Yayoi Oguma

Her abysmal scores on English-language proficiency tests shocked Yayoi Oguma. Instead of giving up, the girl who dreamed of becoming an interpreter transformed herself into a model for every clueless speaker of English in Japan, devising a 42-step approach to linguistic mastery. Three years later, Yayoi was linking Japan and the rest of the world across fields such as economics, industry, environment, medicine, entertainment and politics. She now counts self-help guru Tony Robbins, Nobel Prize winner Dr. Horst Ludwig Stormer and big-league CEOs among her clients, and her motivational and “super speedy learning” seminars earn a 99 percent participant satisfaction rating. Her first book, detailing her 42 rules for mastering the TOEIC test and becoming an interpreter, is a best-seller, and her second, Learning English with a Master Map: The Key to Staying Motivated, just debuted in April 2012 and is also selling fast.

Masa Inakage

In the entertainment realm, you’d call Masa Inakage a supreme hyphenate, as in “producer-director-creator-artist-storyteller.” And he actually wears more hats than that. Masa conjured up visual FX for 1997’s dark superhero epic Spawn, produced 144 episodes of an animated series called Fukushima Folklore “Listen Children . . .” and is a past master at fusing computer graphics with live action. He has also delved into game design, musicals and other stage performances, social media, and smart products and environments. His artworks and animations have appeared internationally at galleries and festivals. Both a professor and the dean at Keio University’s Graduate School of Media Design, Masa’s current core interest is storytelling for entertainment, experience design, and business organizations as well as innovation in learning. He’s also investigating the phenomenon of synesthesia, which mixes our five senses in intriguing ways. The Adventure of Multimedia, a book Masa wrote in 1994, predicted how digital technologies such as the Internet and multimedia would influence our digital future.


What kind of entertainment would Neo see in the Matrix? No need to imagine, kids̶ just watch Shiro-A. The troupe’s ingenious pop-cerebral antics are reminiscent of the Blue Man Group, but their music, dance and visuals are cyberpunked and way past hyperkinetic. Shiro-A whose name means “white” in the sense of nothingness̶formed up in 2002, and later took the Bronze Award at the Venice Biennale. Performance pieces like Bar Code Man, Peacock, Human Layers and Twinkle Man are the psychedelia of the 21st century, and the troupe is also skilled at improvisation, including audience participation. Shiro-A appears frequently on TV and in clubs and theaters, and has wowed audiences at events that include the Shanghai World Expo, Sado Earth Celebration 2010 and Summer Sonic Osaka 2010. The troupe is off to dazzle Berlin this August as it begins a three-month circuit of Germany, Denmark and Austria

Mizuho Asano

Dance as sacred offering is both ancient and ageless, silent and flowing yet pulsating with passion. Mizuho Asano realized that passion within herself as a student during a Chinese dance class, and later created her own contemporary style, known as memo: mizuhomai. Based on the traditional miko dance of shrine maidens, mizuhomai is also called the “angel’s dance.” As the president and chief muse of the Asano Mizuho Dance Company, Mizuho explores the past, present and future of movement through joint performances with Japanese classic and folk arts performers that entrance audiences here and abroad. Recently she produced an original performance work that depicts historical heroes, action films, and other aspects of the Japanese heart and soul. Mizuho has presented her dance to temples and shrines, including Ise Shrine and Izumo Grand Shrine, and she will perform later this summer in Fukushima during the spectacular thousand-year-old festival of Soma Nomaoi.

John Maeda

Art majors everywhere, take heart: John Maeda is lobbying to ensure your future by fusing art and design with science and infusing technology with soul. The world- renowned artist, graphic designer, computer scientist and former MIT professor’s STEAM movement wants to put art into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) educational model. And people are listening. In 2008, Esquire magazine named John one of the 21st century’s 75 most influential people; Forbes calls him the “Steve Jobs of academia.” John redefined the use of electronic media as a tool for expression, laying the groundwork for the interactive motion graphics now so prevalent on the web. He’s had well-received one-man digital art shows in London, New York and Paris, and his work graces the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Cartier Foundation in Paris. A TED Conference Brain Trust member, John earned a National Design Award in 2001, and received the AIGA Medal in 2011. His book The Laws of Simplicity now appears in 14 languages.

Junichi Ushiba

Imagine being paralyzed or in a vegetative state, powerless to move or even speak. Keio University researcher Junichi Ushiba may be the one to awaken your muscles and voice, just by getting you to focus your will. His epic labors on what’s called the “Brain-Machine Interface (BCI)” are designed to coax the patient’s brain into fixing itself, communicate with the external world, and even recover kinetic functions using robots and virtual-reality avatars in Second Life. Chatting and shopping in a virtual environment like Second Life, Junichi says, could also motivate patients with severe paralysis too depressed to undergo rehabilitation. The devices he envisions creating from his research and then commercializing are straight out of science fiction. A top ten nominee for the 2010 BCI Research Award, his cross-disciplinary investigations span engineering, technology, neuroscience and medicine, and have inspired intense research all over the globe. In November, Junichi will serve on the jury of the 2012 BCI Research Awards.

Masa Yanagisawa

Acceptance. We all crave it, but some perfectly wonderful people still feel that they have to hide their true selves. Last summer, the nonprofit organization Good Aging Yells opened an LGBT-friendly cafe, Colorful Café, in Hayama. Open only on weekends, it still drew more than 1100 customers and sponsorship by major corporations like Softbank and Alfa Romeo. Masa Yanagisawa, 2011 Colorful Café’s manager and project head, says he’s no activist, just an ordinary salaryman like you see every day. That’s the whole point of the café—although we should say cafés, since this summer the project is expanding to twenty cafés in Tokyo and Kyoto as part of the Welcome Café project. These bistros will welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers and non-LGBT folks alike, providing a place to just hang out and be yourself. Good Aging Yells also hosts seminars on topics such as financial planning for sexual minorities and produces LGBT student recruiting events.

Mizuki Oka

Can anybody make sense of all the random data rampaging through the cloud? Mizuki Oka, a post-doc researcher at the University of Tokyo’s Center for Knowledge Structuring, leads a project called pingpong devised to make the data beast sit up and speak. While pingpong’s primary aim is to structure knowledge on design processes by developing a new design platform and method, its tools can also be used to extract and extrapolate human behavior specifically from Twitterverse posts̶ and even analyze texts to map natural phenomena, such as where and how much pollen is in the air. Mizuki also found time to help initiate Tokyo University’s as an assistant director and as a technical advisor to Ohma, which operates a people search engine called SPYSEE. Her many honors include winning Tsukuba University’s Excellent Graduate Student Award twice and the 2009 Incentive Award at the 4th NLP Symposium for Young Researchers, Japan.

Ryosuke Shibasaki

How do you track the movements of over seven billion people and all their stuff without abusing the knowledge and infringing on privacy? Ryosuke Shibasaki faces that question every day at his lab at the University of Tokyo’s Center for Spatial Information Science. His solution, called the Information Bank, allows you to manage your own data in the cloud and even leverage it as a marketable asset. Another greater-good project he did in Bangladesh analyzed GPS data from mobile phones in masked format to smooth out traffic patterns and reduce damage from disasters. “Songs of ANAGURA,” an experiential exhibit Ryosuke directed that translated location and movement data into music, won the Excellence Award in the entertainment division at the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2011. The exhibit is now on permanent display at Miraikan, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

John Francis

Would you stop using cars and even go silent for a decade or two for your convictions? John Francis̶the man they call the Planetwalker̶did both after seeing the environmental devastation the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill caused. But John never stopped communicating, listening or moving. In fact, he trekked across the U.S., from Venezuela to Argentina, and sailed and walked through the Caribbean. The author of Planetwalker: How to Change Your World One Step at a Time also earned three degrees, including a doctorate in land resources. And now the Philadelphia-born son of a West Indian immigrant wants to redefine the environmental movement. He and his Planet Walk organization are developing Planetlines, a place-based curriculum that combines listening and walking as vehicles of exploration with Google and mobile technologies to gather qualitative and quantitative data about the Earth. One of two recipients of the 2012 McDowell Alumni Achievement Award, John is also a former goodwill ambassador for the UN Environment Program.

Drum Cafe Japan

Everyone with a heartbeat can appreciate Drum Café Japan’s elemental appeal. Born in Sendai in 2009 as an offshoot of the original Drum Café in Johannesburg, South Africa̶ which uses traditional African drums as motivational tools to help organizations build teams̶DCJ changed focus radically after last year’s devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The group’s ongoing Niko-Niko (Happy) Smile Project involves holding hundreds of interactive drumming performances at schools, hospitals and shelters in Tohoku. Accompanied by a clinical psychologist, three African drummers̶ called “drumming therapists” pound out rhythms while the audience participates. The research says this is great for post-traumatic stress disorder: beating a drum boosts the brain’s serotonin levels and alpha waves, relieving stress and improving concentration and well being. DCJ has already helped tens of thousands, and continues to inspire hope, one beat and one community at a time.

Organizing team


Tokyo, Japan