HGPI-Thought Leaders

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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Kohei Onozaki

Kenichi Hanioka

M.James Kondo

Seigo Hara

With the aim of running a first-class operation, Health and Global Policy Institute has gathered together outstanding professional talent from day one. A talent production cycle is now firmly in place, with people who share our aspirations brought in from such diverse fields as consulting, investment banking, media, the healthcare industry, medicine and more, then working together for better healthcare while each in turn gains the opportunity to nurture their talent and flourish on their chosen path.


Kohei Onozaki

Kohei Onozaki

Returning from Global Business to a Non-Profit.


Kenichi Hanioka

Kenichi Hanioka

A Change of Direction: From Business Journalist to Patient Advocate

M.James Kondo

M.James Kondo

From founding HGPI to the heart of policymaking.


Seigo Hara

Seigo Hara

From practicing medicine to HGPI and to business school.


Kohei Onozaki


Professionally, Onozaki first engaged in marketing, strategic planning, and medical safety projects with global consumer health and medical supplies giant, Johnson & Johnson. Experience in the US planning and managing projects related to public health and health policy fostered a keen awareness of the need for social security and health policy reform in Japan. Upon his return to Japan, he entered the political sphere with the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP), and ran in the Upper House elections for his native Mie Prefecture. First joining the Health and Global Policy Institute in 2007, Onozaki planned and implemented numerous health policy-related projects as Director of the Health Policy Unit and Vice President of the Institute. Following time with a leading global pharmaceutical firm, he rejoined the Institute in 2014. He holds a law degree from Hosei University and a master’s degree in health policy and management from Harvard University, School of Public Health.

-Familiarity with healthcare, nursing, and welfare since childhood

During my teenage years, both of my parents were ill. My mother, in particular, was confined to a wheelchair after her work doing various part-time jobs affected her health and I soon became very familiar with many medical and nursing care issues. At that time, there was no information available to help us choose a hospital, and so, in desperation, we spent a significant sum of money on traditional remedies. Gradually, my family’s financial situation became worse and worse, and in an effort to help, I worked part-time in a sushi restaurant throughout my high school years. I learned first-hand the inseparable relationship between issues of health and income. Undoubtedly, this experience was a significant factor in my subsequent decisions to pursue a career in healthcare and to study public health in graduate school.

-Gaining a new appreciation and gratitude for Japan’s strengths while overseas

After buying countless books on health policy to study in my free time, I realized I had developed the desire and motivation to study the subject more systematically. Recognizing that there were few viable options open to me in Japan, I decided to take on the additional challenge of moving to the US to study. I continued working full-time while preparing for the necessary exams and struggling to overcome the additional barrier of my lack of English skill. Funding my own one-way ticket to study abroad, I also tried every means available to secure a scholarship. Somehow, I eventually managed to win a place at graduate school and, selling the family car and possessions, I travelled to the US with my wife, son, and just 3 bags. I was 34 years old.

I gained far more from my time studying abroad than I had expected. Most of all, while living in a foreign country, I felt a newfound gratitude and appreciation for Japan’s advantages, including the universal healthcare system and ease of access, the benefit system for high-cost medical expenses, long-term care insurance, and overall low cost. I also gained a new admiration for the country’s lifestyle infrastructure. Tap water in Japan is both safe and delicious, school meals contribute to public health and nutrition, trains run on time, and we can breathe clean air. I realized that such “natural” aspects of life cannot be taken for granted in most other countries, even developed ones, and what an achievement this represents for Japan. In the US, I remember being speechless when pizza and cola were served for lunch at the kindergarten my son attended, and I realized how, in Japan, conditions are fostered favorable to public health, including eating habits and other lifestyle behaviors. However, with our own mass media and punditry seemingly competing to emphasize how useless Japan is, I also came to see how such truly positive achievements can fail to be appreciated.

-Diverse human resources are needed for Japan’s policymaking process

At the same time, I felt that the diversity of talented people involved in policy in the United States brought a greater dynamic to the policymaking process there. The US has numerous policy think tanks supplying both policies and people to government and political parties. University professors also are appointed to political posts with each change of government. Indeed, many private citizens from think tanks, universities, the media, business, and elsewhere are appointed to important roles in government. And, once they have achieved their given mission, they return to their previous private sector activity. I have seen with my own eyes how this so-called “revolving door” function enhances the diversity of both human resources and policies. Public policy is not the exclusive reserve of government, nor should discussions of policy be mere cosmetic exercises undertaken to arrive at a predetermined consensus. Instead, both the legislature and policy think tanks need to involve diverse interest groups and debate the merits of different policy options. There can be no hope of convincing diverse stakeholders without going through such a thorough and perhaps sometimes troublesome process.

Of course, within the US, there are also criticisms of this process, and since the political systems and bureaucracies of the two countries differ, no direct comparison can be made between the US and Japan. On the other hand, because one of the biggest issues in Japan is the lack of diversity among those involved in policy making and the public tends to follow the government’s lead, I couldn’t help but come to regard Japan’s policymaking process as a closed one.

-A keen realization of Japan’s need for civil society

Just before returning to Japan, I decided after much agonizing to turn down a stable job offer and instead enter politics. Selected through the Liberal Democratic Party’s public recruitment process, still rare at that time, I ran under the first Abe administration as a candidate in the 2007 House of Councillors election from my home prefecture of Mie. Ultimately, though heavily defeated, I gained a great deal from the experience.

First of all, I experienced for myself the very real trepidation of public opinion. At the time, there was a series of problems with the pension system and scandals involving Cabinet members, which dominated all interactions even when simply handing out flyers on the street. Once “public opinion” has been made, nothing can be done to confront it. Truly, I recognized the power of the media and the fearfulness of television coverage.

I also felt great frustration at repeatedly hearing calls of “The government must do something” or criticisms that “Politicians are inept” and I came to feel that, for both the public and the media alike, these were merely empty criticisms of other people’s affairs. In conducting political activities, one is continually swamped with petitions and requests to do this or that as much of the Japanese public still waits for politicians to do something for them rather than taking action for themselves. This is not how it should be, and I became acutely aware that Japan must grow into a true civil society where individuals think and act for themselves.

-Once again on the political path via HGPI

As I was tidying up after my election campaign, I first heard about the Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI), and immediately recognized how closely its mission aligned with my own goals. Joining HGPI, I took charge of various projects, including the launch of the Health Policy Forum, a council of private sector health policy experts. HGPI itself was also highly active as a “revolving door” with one colleague from those days appointed to a key foreign government position and another poached by the Cabinet Office. Producing such numbers of talented people was, I felt, one more positive outcome of HGPI’s overall mission.

With the approach of the 2010 House of Councillors election, I determined I would run once again as an LDP candidate. I wanted to stay true to my convictions by standing in the election, and I also wanted my endeavors to show leadership by example to all, especially the young, of how we can work toward realizing a true civil society for Japan’s future generations. Despite my hopes, I finished second. However, having made a positive effort, I had no regrets.

Through my think tank experience and political activity, I gained invaluable insight into the relationship between government and politics, closely observed the capabilities and limitations of politicians and political parties, and witnessed the real conditions of daily life in local communities. I became keenly aware of just how narrow my perspective had been during my early career as a Tokyo-based, Nikkei-reading business-man. Moreover, while I came to understand the overwhelming power, information, and resources that the government and ruling parties have at their disposal, I gradually became aware of what they lack.

-Returning to a non-profit think tank after global business management

I next joined a global pharmaceutical firm headquartered in the UK in a senior management post with responsibility for corporate affairs, similar to a Chief Cabinet Secretary in government. The job was a continual whirl of meetings, approvals, and responsibilities ranging from spokesperson to crisis management, and I worked alongside a diverse group of colleagues from countries including the UK, US, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Turkey, and Spain. After several years away from the corporate world, working in such a diversity-driven environment was tremendously challenging but also highly rewarding.

After concluding several large projects and thus being able to afford myself a little more free time, I was invited by a friend to volunteer at an HGPI event as one of the Institute’s alumni. At that time, I recognized once again the tremendous value and potential of non-profit, non-partisan, independent think tanks like HGPI.

Not as a politician, not as a bureaucrat, not as a journalist, and not as an employee of a major corporation, but with a “non-profit independent think tank… Isn’t that where one can best play a central role in nurturing civil society? While leading companies and government ministries are magnets for talented human resources, few people are drawn to NPO management. I remembered that, in HGPI’s early days, there were always concerns about management and holding on to capable personnel. Believing that I should practice what I preach and see what I can do to make a difference, I returned to HGPI.

Now at HGPI there is a rich diversity of high aspiring people working together, from doctors and researchers to businesspeople and former central government bureaucrats. Working at a policy NPO is not about how elite one’s organization is or a competition among one’s peers, but it is about growing and developing as an individual and then moving on to be active and exercise influence in diverse fields.

I truly hope those who share my passion will seize the moment and choose to follow a similar path in future.

Carpe Diem! I truly hope like-minded people will follow in my footsteps and seize the chance to pursue their goals.

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Kenichi Hanioka


After extensive experience as journalist, New York bureau chief, and deputy editor of Nikkei Business, Kenichi Hanioka became executive director of the Japan Marrow Donor Program in 1999. From 2003, he worked for Nikkei Medical, and in addition to writing articles on issues including evaluation of healthcare, discrepancies in treatment, and cancer control, he also served as editor-in-chief of Cancer Navi, a website supporting cancer patients. In 2004, he was appointed Associate Professor at the University of Tokyo’s Healthcare and Social Policy Leadership Program (HSP). The same year, he became a director at HGPI and, from 2008, he served as co-chair of HGPI’s Commission on Citizens and Health and Director of its Cancer Policy Information Center. Since 2010, he has been a professor in the Health Policy Unit of the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo. He has held committee seats with the Governing Council of the Center for Cancer Control and Information Services at the National Cancer Center, the steering committee of the Japan Health Insurance Association, and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s Cancer Control Promotion Council. He left HGPI in June 2014. Mr. Hanioka is a graduate of Osaka University.

-Ignorance of illness and healthcare learned through a relative’s fight against disease

If a close relative had not developed leukemia in 1996, I would certainly not be doing what I do now. I was living with my family in New York, working as an economic journalist, when disease struck suddenly. At first, it felt like the kind of thing that only happened in TV dramas, and it took some time for the reality to sink in. A matching donor was found and my relative underwent a bone marrow transplant. However, after a relapse, she sadly succumbed to the disease.

After returning to Japan, I was able to reflect upon the experience and I became painfully aware of my own ignorance of disease and healthcare. Inspired by my relative’s words - “If I live through this, I want to give something back to society” - I decided to create a mailing list for leukemia patients in my free time. Membership of the mailing list was not limited only to patients but expanded to include patients’ families, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers and supporters so a broad range of experiences, opinions, and advice could be exchanged via the internet. Realizing there was a lack of leukemia-related information in Japan compared to what was available in the US, I also translated and posted articles with the help of colleagues.

-Nothing changes without reaching out and working with policymakers

When I saw how the Japan Marrow Donor Program (JMDP) operated, I realized another significant gap existed between Japan and the US. As an organization, the JMDP was faltering, and, unable to idly standby, I announcing my candidacy for the executive director position pledging to drastically reform the organization if elected to the post.

Though my commitment was doubted at first, with the help of volunteer supporters and growing support from within the organization, I became executive director. Over the next four years and with the support and cooperation of many people, I instituted numerous reforms, including creating a new system to recruit donors, speeding up the donor coordination process, and restructuring the organization’s finances.

Through this work, I realized that healthcare decisions should be made through a multi-stakeholder process. In the field of bone marrow transplants, patients, donors, doctors and other medical staff, coordinators, administrators and other involved parties openly exchange opinions allowing all those involved to share a greater sense of awareness, participation, and even fulfillment in collaborating to achieve positive healthcare outcomes.

I also realized that politics, administrative authorities, and policy play a significant role. A policy change can transform the environment for patients and healthcare for the better, but a monolithic healthcare system does not change easily. I realized that to create change, we must first learn more about government and politics, create forums for discussion involving lawmakers and administrators, and reach out to policymakers to make the case for change.

-Fully focused on the mission of the Institute

In 2004, I received an invitation to work for the newly established Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) from Masaakira James Kondo, whom I knew through various healthcare-related meetings.

By that time, I had resigned my post as executive director at JMDP after determining that the organization moving in the right direction and that my mission there was complete. I was again working as a journalist, so I was able to join HGPI initially on a part-time basis.

In 2008, I made the decision to leave the publishing firm and work full-time at HGPI to reflect public voices in shaping health policy. I had come to realize that contributing to improving healthcare had become my goal in life, and thus I could commit myself fully to pursuing the mission I shared with HGPI.

-Transforming local decision-making on healthcare through six-way collaborations in cancer control

Over those six years at HGPI, I devoted most of my time and energy to the improvement of cancer control. To improve healthcare, it is necessary to improve policy, and the key to improving policy is for patients and the wider public to participate in the policymaking process. Based on that belief, we worked to nurture the policymaking capabilities of patient representatives. Moreover, through convening a total of nine Cancer Policy Summits, we were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of a participatory model for the policymaking process that can best be described as a six-way collaboration. A six-way collaboration is an effective, collaborative style of policymaking that can be fostered by bringing together the different viewpoints of patients, lawmakers, administrators, healthcare providers, business representatives and the media to share perspectives and build consensus thereby enabling shared action.

Together with activities to push for local adoption of ordinances to promote cancer control and improvements in local cancer control plans and measures, this collaborative, participatory approach continues to grow in influence across every region. I’m immensely grateful for being able to participate in this dynamic movement, and I am confident that continuation of this nationwide endeavor in cancer control will lead to significant results. Even more than that, I believe the six-way collaboration style can be applied to local policymaking in any field. I certainly intend to continue taking advantage of the lessons I learned during my time with HGPI. And in the Health Policy Action Community public education program I run within the Health Policy Unit at the University of Tokyo, I am continuing to explore the role and potential of six-way collaborations.

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M.James Kondo


As a core member of the McKinsey Global Institute operating out of Washington, D.C., he advised Heads of State and Economic Ministers in Japan, Taiwan (Province of China), the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia. Turning his focus to Japanese healthcare reform, he founded the Healthcare and Social Policy Leadership Program at the University of Tokyo in 2003, and Health and Global Policy Institute in 2004, serving as Vice Chairman and President of the Institute. Since December 2009, has served as Counsellor to the Secretary General of the National Policy Unit in the Cabinet Secretariat of the new Japanese administration. Earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997.

-A think tank was needed to effectively tackle immediate concerns

I spent ten years with the global consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, engaged in economic policy planning in Japan, Taiwan (Province of China), the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Russia. Moreover, as a core member of McKinsey Global Institute, the Washington, DC, economic think tank, I was involved in projects to research and study each country’s policies and policymaking process.

Having gained a global perspective through close observation of the policymaking process in numerous countries, it was clear to me that one of the major fields that could boost Japan’s future prospects was healthcare. With an aging society advancing faster than in any other nation, Japan is confronted with healthcare challenges never before faced by humanity. If Japan is able to address and resolve these issues appropriately, its experience and know-how will be a valuable resource for other nations that will face similar challenges in the future.

Surprisingly, however, I found there was no arena for public discussion of healthcare in Japan at that time. If the outdated policymaking process remained unchanged, there would be no resolution of the problems faced by society, and so in 2003 I joined the University of Tokyo to create a channel for presenting policy options in the health policymaking process. The first thing I did was to cultivate leaders capable of formulating and proposing policy to improve healthcare in Japan. Together with the university’s Medical School faculty, the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology I belonged to launched the University of Tokyo Healthcare and Social Policy Leadership Program (HSP). HSP realized a significant achievement in involving four diverse and often antagonistic stakeholders - healthcare providers, patient leaders, policymakers, and journalists - to form a cooperative community seeking better healthcare. At the same time, however, I realized that a different type of organization, a think tank, was needed to better tackle immediate policy concerns. Fortunately, I found support and understanding for my idea when I consulted Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, who worked with me to establish HSP, and Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) was duly created in 2004.

It is meaningless to debate health policy without citizen or patient participation

Since establishment, HGPI's mission as a neutral think tank has been to help citizens shape health policy by bringing stakeholders together and generating policy options.

It is a basic democratic principle that citizens participate in formulating policy while lawmakers debate the choice of policy options, but such a process has yet to be realized in Japan, and the “relevant parties” involved in health policy debate had always been limited to government administrators and healthcare professionals. I had serious doubts about any policy debate which excluded citizens or patients, since it was self-evident that policy discussion was taking place in a vacuum, without the voices of patients who have experienced actual healthcare conditions or the citizens who pay taxes and health insurance costs.

Japan’s healthcare is at a critical juncture in reconsidering the balance of benefits and burdens. Should benefits be cut to reduce the burden? Or should the burden be increased so that benefits can be extended? Both options would cause some pain for the public, which is precisely why reform cannot and should not be carried out without public participation.

-Japan’s healthcare can contribute to global health

Health issues, like environmental ones, should be addressed in a global context, and so we at HGPI have always kept an eye on global developments. Also, as we have actively collaborated with the World Bank and major think tanks in the U.S. on global health issues, we have continually asked ourselves how our organization should live up to the expectations of the international community. I was determined to enhance the Institute’s presence in the international as well as domestic arena in order for Japan to contribute to global healthcare, and one result of fostering greater awareness of global developments is that we were able to break into the 2010 global Top 10 Health Policy Think Tanks as ranked by the University of Pennsylvania.

-From HGPI to the heart of the Cabinet Secretariat’s National Policy Unit

Five years on from the founding of HGPI, 2009 saw the inauguration of a new administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan, and I am now involved in policymaking in the office of the chief of the Cabinet Secretariat’s National Policy Unit. In order to promote social change, it is vital for there to be cooperation between various and diverse bodies, including theory-focused universities, policy-proposing think tanks, government administration, and private enterprises and NPOs involved in hands-on social practice. From a career perspective as well, it is important for individuals to acquire a comprehensive understanding through experiencing the entire process from theory and proposal to administration and implementation. Based on such a belief, I myself have gained valuable experience in business, academia, NPOs and think tanks, and now have the opportunity to apply my insights at the heart of policymaking in the current administration.

In the United States, a system is firmly in place to appoint or promote the most suitable and talented people from any and all walks of life to important government posts. A “revolving door” flow of talent between government and private enterprise is essential in enabling the best brains to be put to work on formulating key policy. Private think tanks are capable of playing an important role in supporting such a mechanism, and I believe we will increasingly see this in Japan as demand grows for talented resources.

To realize a policymaking process based on truly democratic principles, it is imperative that barriers between government and private enterprise are lowered and a mechanism is put in place to facilitate effective policy formulation by experts. The experience I cultivated at HGPI in constructing a policymaking process drawing on the knowledge of various civil stakeholders is proving to be a priceless asset as I now participate in policymaking in the administration, and I hope we start to see more people from private think tanks such as HGPI becoming involved in the actual policymaking process.

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Seigo Hara


Gained experience at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine before joining Health and Global Policy Institute in 2007. At HGPI, he launched projects on lifestyle-related diseases and global health, before leaving in 2009 to pursue studies at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

-Tackling healthcare problems in the truest sense

The trigger for my involvement with Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) was my participation in its Health Policy Clerkship program for medical students. As a student pursuing a career in medicine, the clerkship truly opened my eyes to the reality of healthcare, which I discovered was decided not simply by the Japan Medical Association and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, but with the deep involvement of various stakeholders such as patient associations, business, and the media. Thus, in the middle of my medical education, I started consider how I could best contribute to addressing healthcare problems.

After graduating medical school and commencing hospital training, I was confronted with the first-hand reality of healthcare and came to sense the limit of what I could achieve as a practicing physician. The medical staff and patients at the hospital were all wonderful people, and made every effort to confront the challenges they faced, but at the same time most had doubts about what constituted the ideal form of healthcare. With many issues coming to light, including the shortage of doctors, malpractice lawsuits, and basic mistrust of the healthcare system, I really felt there was insufficient debate as to what kind of system was needed or wanted, and that few solutions were being offered. Thus, empathizing with its mission to offer citizen-centered policy proposals, I made the decision to join HGPI.

-The importance of a multi-stakeholder policymaking process

At HGPI, I focused on projects concerning global health and countermeasures against lifestyle-related diseases. Even though lifestyle-related diseases already represent the leading cause of death in Japan and globally, patient numbers continue to increase unabated. At the hospital, while there was widespread awareness of lifestyle-related diseases, I had seen people’s anxiety at not knowing how to set about actually changing their lifestyle habits, and this set me thinking how I could contribute to offering some kind of solution. Taking advantage of our position as a private non-profit organization, HGPI worked to create a platform involving government, healthcare providers, patients, academia, and others, and through mutual cooperation among all stakeholders, we were able to create fertile ground for innovative solutions to develop.

For global health, we launched a completely new project. In 2008, when Japan hosted the G8 Summit, there was extensive domestic and international coverage of Japan’s efforts to tackle global health challenges such as infectious disease and maternal and child health as well as lifestyle-related diseases. As a representative Japanese health policy think tank, we cooperated with the World Bank, Gates Foundation, and numerous Japanese ministries, agencies and NGOs, in seeking ways in which Japan should contribute, organizing conferences, and realizing policy proposals. We were able to succeed in this challenge thanks to the domestic and global network of leading organizations in the field that HGPI has fostered since its establishment.

-From HGPI to Stanford Graduate School of Business

Through these projects, I learned the importance of acting from a citizen-centered approach. Even a relatively small, private non-profit organization such as HGPI can have an impact on major social issues such as healthcare through proactively promoting and engaging various sectors of society. I realized the importance and worth of this type of endeavor, and became fascinated with the concept of social entrepreneurship. Thus, I decided to study at business school in order to consider more deeply the role I could play in this field.

I have obtained invaluable assets through my time with HGPI, including a belief in being proactive and the opportunity to meet domestic and international leaders in various fields. Leveraging these assets, I will continue to strive to contribute to this vital work in whatever way I can.