Minister Naokazu Takemoto currently serves as the Minister of State for Science and Technology of Japan since September 11, 2019. First elected as a Member of the House of Representatives (HR) in the Diet in 2000, Naokazu Takemoto has since then performed different roles and positions within the Japanese government. Minister Naokazu Takemoto is part of the House of Representatives in the Diet (national legislature) as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Originally from Minamikawachi District, Osaka, Naokazu Takemoto graduated from Osaka Prefectural Tomitabayashi High School, Kyoto University Law School, University of California, Berkeley.
Among his various responsibilities, Naokazu Takemoto is responsible for Science and Technology Policy, Intellectual Property Strategy, Cool Japan Strategy, and Space Policy, among others.
1. An introduction from Minister Naokazu Takemoto - background, personal history and education.
2. In terms of the highlights, could you tell us a little bit about your work, serving the Japanese government and the differences you experienced in the Japanese economy in the last decades?
3. So what would you highlight as the main strength of Japan, some of the policies and strategies that Japan has been taking, especially regarding the area that you are currently leading?
4. Japan launched Society 5.0 as "A human-centered society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space”. Can you elaborate more on this revolutionary concept?
5. What I like about Japan is the balance between tradition, the modernity and innovation of technology. As a decision-maker and part of the government, what do you think are Japan's main strengths?
6. From your experience and someone who has gone through these changes, what makes Japan so special in terms of history, innovation, and culture?
7. COVID-19 is a worldwide crisis, although Japan seems to have managed it well. Likewise, COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation. Which ways do you imagine, to redesign the strategies of Japanese society in terms of digitization?
8. What are the main goals that you have in terms of technology and the challenges that you see for this innovation, related specifically to the technology and scientific changes?
9. In terms of your work and science, are there any areas where Japan is internationally working to expand some of its expertise in the areas of healthcare and wellness?
10. At the moment with all these experiences, what would be the advice to the young Japanese population and the rest of the world?
11. No country in the world has 2000 years of history that was wholly maintained over time. All other countries have experienced a downfall or change. What do you think is Japan’s secret?
12. Japan has some of the most advanced cities in the world. You have Tokyo, Osaka,, Nagoya and Yokohama. Could you tell us the innovation brought by, and what is behind- these Smart Cities?
Hello Minister Naokazu Takemoto, it's an honor to have you here. Can you tell us about your education, you have been studying in major universities in Japan and the USA, and you have gone through recent challenges in Japan’s history. Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
I was born in Minamikawachi District, Osaka. I finished my undergraduate at Kyoto University in Kyoto. After a while working in the construction department for the government, I was sent to the U.S. to study business administration. Then I graduated from Berkeley and went to Columbia University where I spent one more year. After that period of education development, I came back to Tokyo and have been working here for 25 years. I was first elected as a Member of the House of Representatives (HR) in 2000. Since 2011, I have been the Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy, and other strategic offices within the Government.
You are a leader and have had an impressive career that took you as minister of Construction, State Minister of Finance, Parliamentary Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare as well as multiple other roles within the Government in the last decades. In terms of the highlights, could you tell us a little bit about that work, serving the Japanese government and the fluctuations you saw in the Japanese economy in the last decades?
Getting the right education was really important for me, that is why I went to the U.S. to complete my studies and learn more about the biggest economy in the world. When I arrived in the U.S, in California, everything was so new for me and compared to society at that time. They were a few steps ahead in business development and innovation. And after that, I went to the east coast. The east coast was very similar to the state of Tokyo at that time, so it gave me an invaluable point of view for the present world and the future. After that learning experience, I came back to Japan and decided to join the political circle.
20 years ago, our GDP was 70% behind the world's top GDP, and now Japan has grown to become the third economy of the world. Other countries might overcome us in the next decade, such as India, but anyhow I think we will be able to maintain our growth and a healthy economy in the following years. Even though our country doesn't have natural resources at all, we have a strong focus on technology development and innovation. And we know this can only be achieved by training the best scientists and through education. Thus we pay much more attention to make an effort to educate scientists and reach a desired intellectual point. For example, the price to enter university is 10% of what is offered in the U.S. And although we know we can lose some talent to the U.S. we know we can hold some of them, and that has worked for us all over these years.
One aspect I am really keen on change is the pharmaceutical industry. As it stands right now, the share of their profits for the scientist patent is only around 1%, so that means that 99% goes to pharmaceutical companies and therefore these scientists go to the US since their reward is much higher. And this is the reality we have to change. We have to change our business practices and make it the same as in European countries in this regard. This is one of the goals of this government.
In the last 50 years, Japan has emerged as a global leader in innovation and technology. As you said, although it's a country without resources, Japan is by far the third economy in the world, and in technology is second while leading the world in terms of innovation and science. So what would you highlight as a strength of Japan and some of the policies and strategies that Japan has been taking?
Judging with my own experience in childhood and University, I think at some point we put great effort to educate younger people into science and technology. 1960-65/70 at that time, the grandfather of our Prime Minister put strong efforts in educating people in technology, science. This is a very important factor as to how our business ecosystem can keep leading the world. We are very good at making machines and electronics which in turn means science and technology.
One of the things that Japan has been leading the world with is the new area of Japan Society 5.0. Defined as "A human-centered society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space," the concept is revolutionary. Society 5.0 was proposed in the 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan as a future society that Japan should aspire to. Can you elaborate on this vision from the Japanese government?
We want to become a leading country in society 5.0. We have to pay much more attention to other advanced countries such as the U.S. and other countries. We have to thus focus and concentrate on being superior in this field. Our government made up the mission program, and within 10 years we are planning to develop and implement every aspect of our roadmap. As of now, we have focused on 6 items of the agenda while expanding overtime to every one of them. From now on, we expect it could take up to 10 years to have everything in place. It is a big undertaking as society 5.0 is based on high-end technology advancements. The most important aspect of Society 5.0 is sustainability, which has become our main goal.
Another question I have related to this is that Japan is the society with a longer life expectancy. I would like to hear your vision as you are a part of the changes in Japan. And that's what I like about Japan, the balance between tradition and the modernity and innovation of technology.
As you know our country has been hit with so many casualties and natural disasters over the years. Nonetheless, we have been conquering them. So, we get our technology to communicate with society, without saying anything. We are phenomenal in doing such a thing. However, in terms of technological society, we are lagging behind other countries. This type of society is based on a continuum communication process to any person, business, institution in the world. And now that we are suffering from this new type of coronavirus, it has become a bigger challenge.
However I strongly believe we can conquer it: the death rate of COVID-19 cases in Japan is only 3% or so, while in Italy and other European countries is much higher (more than 10%). The reason I believe our death rate is lower than in other countries lies in our resilient culture. It's because of our lifestyle, and because we never give up. Our education and behavior, the policies that the government put into practice, the economic aide, our healthcare system… all of that put together with our strong will as a nation has made us get through the coronavirus pandemic.
Coming back to the Japanese culture which is quite remarkable, you kept up to the ancestral Japanese tradition but making a level of technology that has made Japan number one in technology that I think is unique. From your experience plus someone who has gone through these changes, what makes Japan so special in terms of history, innovation, and culture?
It's our point. Japanese are very different from western cultures. They change their surrounded natural environment, in terms of lifestyle. In our case, we are friends with nature, we have learned to live with it for millennia. With coronavirus, there is this coexistence that has been developed between nature and us and it is helping us going through the pandemic.
Japan managed the COVID-19 pandemic very well, but COVID-19 has been accelerating digitalisation in the world. We all had to digitalise our lifestyle, businesses, etc especially the governments. Nonetheless, COVID-19 has had a negative impact in Japan, as in anywhere else. There has been a huge economical and financial impact, the delay of the Olympic games, but there's still an adaptation of all these things, what ways do you envision to redesign Japanese society strategies in terms of digitalisation?
Coronavirus is a virus, but also a good chance for digital transformation. In this case, our government issued so much money, almost 50% of our GDP in financial aide and stimulus. Our GDP is 5 trillion, of which 6 % is consumption. In this case, to this consumption, we added 2,3 trillion to the market. Thus now, most people have money and can begin using it in the markets sooner or later. My guess is within one year, Japan's economy will become very strong. Economic activity hasn’t stopped at all and big companies are doing their part. Thanks to that, the stock market has not come down, it has maintained its status. Therefore big companies are good and not that damaged. The only ones facing problems are SMEs such as retailers, hospitality companies, etc. People have pessimistic opinions and thoughts, but within one year, we can imbibe such western ideas and show them that our economy will be much better. That is our commitment.
You took over as the Minister of Science and Technology leading position in the government of Japan. What are the main goals that you have in terms of technology and the challenges that you see for bringing innovation, being this innovation understood as technology and scientific changes?
What’s more important for us is our people, the talent we train and the talent we can attract. That is the base of Japanese innovation. A good example to picture this statement is that 90 Japanese people have been awarded Nobel prizes since the beginning of this century. This is the highest in the world. Neighboring countries such as China has only 1 person. Korea has none. Therefore, with our strong focus on nurturing the best possible talent, the level of our technology is way superior to our neighboring countries.
The question from now is: how do we maintain this situation in the future? We are very uncertain about the future and have to change our society, which respects science and technology. As of today, we are the second country in terms of technological advancement. This shows our society is very advanced. We have to keep doing what we do right for the future. Retaining talent is one of those things, but also attracting new ones. Making attractive to come to Japan for foreign scientists by offering high salaries, for example. That's why this year our budget has increased, offering grants and benefits for innovating scientists who are researching in Universities. He/she can get much more money and budget from their research -hopefully two or three times as much-, then we can keep on producing and obtaining Nobel prizes as we have done in the past.
In terms of healthcare, Japan is the leading country worldwide because of its lifestyle and longevity of its population. In terms of your work and science, are there any areas where Japan is internationally working to expand some of its work in the areas of healthcare and wellness. Are there any plans made for the present and the future within the society 5.0 framework?
Our government has kept its focus on health and insurance -applied to the entire Japanese society. This is critical for us. My mother lived for 104 years, my aunt for 101 years. This is possible because they are protected by health insurance and sustain a certain level of income till the end of their lives. This is important for longevity and to have a certain level of well-being.
You have been having multiple roles within the Japanese government: Ministry of construction, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health Construction and Welfare, Vice Minister of Economy trade, and industry. At the moment with all these experiences, what would be the advice to the young Japanese population and the rest of the world?
I have worked in many fields, by doing so I can make better decisions in terms of which policy works best and to what extent changes are needed. In that sense, I hold a special position in the political circle. My opinion is not always supported by certain Ministries. I propose something based on my experience and the general situation. What's more, I propose these changes thinking about the history of Japan. Right now, I think in our experience, we have been building this modern society since the 1st century. We have a long history that goes back to 2 millennia. The United States, for example, only has 200 years of history, we have 2000!
Based on 2000 years of history, Japan kept its autonomy and identity. I would like you to elaborate more on that. No country in the world has 2000 years of history. All other countries have experienced a downfall or a change. What do you think is Japan’s secret?
One point is that we are surrounded by sea and are not a part of a continent, so we have been able to keep our own independence with relative ease. Secondly, our nation is mostly homogenous, one nation. That is very important. It works and follows the same culture and the same practices, even with other people. In the case of a small country surrounded by others, conquest or external pressures can be fatal. We have not experienced anything of such sort. We always think about the response of good people. This type of behaviour is the reason for our long history.
Japan has some of the most advanced cities in the world. You have Tokyo, Osaka. Could you tell us the innovation of these Smart Cities?
We have designated certain cities as a new type of smart cities, following the concepts first seen in Silicon Valley. We have designated Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, and Fukuoka. These are high-tech marvels where artificial intelligence and big data are to be used to provide more efficient and cost-effective solutions to social problems, especially in areas faced with aging and declining populations and a reduced tax base. In the future, these can help to build maybe 20 to 40 unicorns. In order to do so, we need brilliant people from across the world -not only from Japan but also from India, from European countries. We can hopefully become a world center of people who can help and have so much talent, by making such cities due to our government’s power.
Minister Takemoto Naokazu was born on November 23, 1940, in Minamikawachi District, Osaka. Mr. Naokazu Takemoto graduated in 1964 from the Faculty of Law, Kyoto University. Mr. Takemoto went on to study at Graduate School, University of California, Berkeley in 1987. Thereafter in 1989, he was appointed as the Director-General, General Affairs Department, Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation. Only two years later, in 1991, he took up the role of Director, General Affairs Division, River Bureau, Ministry of Construction. He was the Councillor to the Minister's Secretariat, National Land Agency in 1996.
Mr. Takemoto political career started in 2000 when he was first elected as a Member of the House of Representatives (HR). This was followed by different roles within the Japanese government and in various committees working for Japan. As such, Mr Takemoto has performed the roles of Director, Standing Committee on Construction, HR in 2001. In 2002, he became the Parliamentary Director-General, International Bureau, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP); Secretary for Economy, Trade and Industry, and Deputy Director, Economy, Trade and Industry Division, Policy Research Council, LDP in 2003. In 2004, he was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary, Health, Labour and Welfare, followed by Deputy Chairman, Diet Affairs Committee; Member, General Council, LDP in 2005. That same year, he was re-elected to HR; Director, Committee on Rules and Administration; Secretary-General, Davos Diet Members' Caucus, National Diet of Japan.
In June 2010, Mr Takemoto became the Chairperson of the National Public Safety Commission (and Minister of Economy and Fiscal) at the Tanigaki Shadow Cabinet.
Finally, in September 11, 2019, Mr Takemoto was appointed Minister of Information and Communication Technology (IT) Policy, Minister for Special Missions and Cabinet Office, responsible of the areas of Science and Technology Policy, Intellectual Property Strategy, Cool Japan Strategy, and Space Policy.
Throughout his extensive career, Mr Takemoto has been especially active in the areas of Japan-US relationship, international development cooperation, and upgrading social infrastructure including superconducting Maglev Linear Motor-Car Train.
Minister Naokazu Takemoto’s political vision can be found in the answers he gave to the questionnaire submitted by Mainichi to parliamentarians in 2012. In it, Mr. Takemoto said:
· in favor of the revision of the Constitution
· in favor of the right of collective self-defense (revision of Article 9)
· against the reform of the National assembly (unicameral instead of bicameral)
· in favor of reactivating nuclear power plants
· against the goal of zero nuclear power by 2030s
· in favor of the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma (Okinawa)
· not applicable: evaluating the purchase of Senkaku Islands by the Government
· not applicable: a strong attitude versus China
· not applicable: the participation of Japan to the Trans-Pacific Partnership
· against a nuclear-armed Japan
· against the reform of the Imperial Household that would allow women to retain their Imperial status even after marriage
Minister Naokazu Takemoto’s career in the Japanese government:
· Ministry of Construction
· State Minister of Finance
· Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare
· Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry
· Chairperson, Deliberative Council on Political Ethics, HR
· Chairperson, Special Committee on North Korean Abductions and Other Issues, HR
· Member, Committee on Financial Affairs, HR
· Member, General Council, LDP
· Chairperson, Special Committee on Superconducting Maglev Linear Motor-Car Train, LDP
· Chairperson, Research Commission on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise and Small Business, LDP
Parliamentary Friendship Association Attached
· Chief secretary, Japan-France Parliamentary Friendship Association
· President, Japan-India Younger Parliamentarians League
· President, Japan-Slovakia Parliamentary Friendship Association
Other Career Highlights
Affiliated to the openly revisionist lobby Nippon Kaigi, Takemoto is a member of the following right-wing groups in the Diet:
· Nippon Kaigi Diet discussion group (日本会議国会議員懇談会 - Nippon kaigi kokkai giin kondankai)
· Conference of parliamentarians on the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership (神道政治連盟国会議員懇談会 - Shinto Seiji Renmei Kokkai Giin Kondankai) - NB: SAS a.k.a. Sinseiren, Shinto Political League
Profile of Takemoto Naokazu on LDP website: http://www.jimin.jp/english/profile/members/114775.html