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Hitachi Social Innovation Forum 2018 TOKYO

Special Talk 1 <Highlight>

October 18 (Thu) 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Creating Sustainable Cities
-Lifestyle Innovation: Its Past and Future-

Venue photo

Hiroshi Naito
Professor Emeritus,
The University of Tokyo
[Notable Works]
Toba Sea-Folk Museum
Toyama Prefectural Museum of
Art & Design

Kazuto Hongo
Professor, Historiographical Institute,
The University of Tokyo
[Books and Series]
"Nihonshi No Tsubo
(The key points of Japanese history)" (2018)
Contribution series
"Nihonshi nanameyomi
(Diagonal reading of Japanese history)"

Shigetoshi Sameshima
General Manager, Center for Technology Innovation
General Manager, Yokohama Research Laboratory
Research & Development Group, Hitachi, Ltd.

Before introducing the two speakers, Sameshima from Hitachi served as moderator, greeted as follow.

Sameshima (the moderator): "We would like to look back on a history how people and cities have developed themselves, and how people sustained their day-to-day lives and the cities they lived, and identify our vision for the future."

Following that, Sameshima explained about the "Hitachi The University of Tokyo Laboratory" and asked for their opinions on habitat innovation, a resident-driven innovation from the perspective of habitation.

Prof. Hongo: "Diversity is now gaining a lot of attention, but since the Meiji era, the Japanese have enhanced their national strength by being standardized in a particular direction, and making an all-out effort together, which caused a sense of suffocation, making them hard to be innovative. I personally have a great expectation to companies like Hitachi that are providing support for innovation today."

Venue photo
Prof. Naito introduces the achievements of the late Mr. Hideaki Ishikawa.

Prof. Naito: "It's an extremely difficult theme, but I think that it is time to ask ourselves again what exactly humanity and the affluence mean to us, from the historical perspectives how Japan has dealt with various changes till now."

Firstly, Prof. Naito talked about the late Hideaki Ishikawa, who is called the "father of urban planning".

Prof. Naito: "Mr. Ishikawa is known for his post-war reconstruction planning. After returning from Britain, he realized that urban planning is just a method and what he should aim is to create environment where people can hang out together and feel relieved, and his later researches had got focused on entertainment districts. I completely agree with Mr. Ishikawa, and think that it is absolutely meaningless if people aren't conducting their activities vibrantly. We are in a country where we have many disasters while obtaining a lot of benefits from nature also. What is 's important is that the strength to regenerate, in other words, a sustainability of the mind. And I think it is the role of innovation that to support such soft aspects."

Sameshima: "Japan has sought too much spatial value after World War II, but I think, today, we're making a shift from spatial value to time value, which is, how people spend the time there."

Prof. Hongo: "I sleep in a sleeping bag at home due to a lack of space, but I feel happier that if I were sleeping in a canopied bed."


Venue photo
Prof. Hongo gives a presentation on city planning during the Edo period.

Venue photo
Sameshima serves as moderator.

Following that, Prof. Hongo made a presentation, and talked about urban development in the city of Edo, which has been continued since the time of Tokugawa Ieyasu. He explained that after the Great Fire of Meireki, the central government prepared a huge public space for evacuation, which later became the epicenter for a new culture, where people gathered for sumo matches, various show tents, and Kabuki.

Prof. Hongo: "When you look back on the history of autonomous city development by the people rather than by one-way order from the central government, and see the global trend to indicate the names of stations with numbers, I get concerned as to whether the traditions behind the names might be forgotten as people look for convenience, and it may not be possible to secure the rich humanities."

Prof. Naito: "I agree. In the same way as in the recovery from the great fire of Edo(Meireki), the people's power to regenerate had been the driving force in reconstruction efforts after the Great Kanto Earthquake"

Prof. Naito then talked about the history where people have been made to lose the awareness to be independent, starting to take the uniform actions under the centralized system, which has continued for 150 years since the Restoration of Sovereignty, while before, people had sought to make their communities on their own.

Prof. Hongo: "There is a big potential for AI and Big Data to play a key role to enhance "independent consciousness" intrinsic to people. I think that now is the time for the talented human resources that have centered in Tokyo to spread across local regions, to turn our attention to the history and tradition of those areas, to create a sustainable society with AI leveraging within that scope."

Prof. Naito said that as a clue for regional revitalization, there was a need for "regional studies" that combines history, geography, and the latest technologies, and continued as follows.

Prof. Naito: "Regional studies should be established, knowledge should be integrated-like circumstances unique to those local areas, and how natural disasters and other challenges had been overcome, and made for use as a terminal in case something happens. I think it would be a new role for innovation like AI to play in these areas."

Sameshima asked about challenges and expectations with regard to new technologies like AI.

Prof. Naito: "There's no doubt that it will bring dramatic changes to many areas like healthcare. However, that's where design as a human interface is needed."

Prof. Hongo: "I look forward to an interface that's gentle on people, and technical innovation that's gentle on people."

As last comments, the two speakers said as follows.

Prof. Naito: "While there are many things like disasters that worry us, there's no need for fear. We'll definitely be able to overcome them, as long as we have the power to regenerate behind our culture."

Prof. Hongo: "This special talk has given me courage as an opportunity to rethink the role of history, which often tends to be considered useless."