April 07, 2023

President's Message for New Students, April 2023

On April 4, 2023, the SOKENDAI entrance ceremony was held.
Congratulations on your admission to SOKENDAI!

President's Message for New Students

Congratulations on your admission to the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI. I am pleased to announce that 45 students have been admitted into a five-year doctoral program and 34 students into a three-year doctoral program. On behalf of the faculty and staff of SOKENDAI, I would like to extend a heartfelt welcome to all of you.

For the past three years, due to the pandemic, all SOKENDAI ceremonies have been held online. However, as the world continues to adjust to life post-COVID-19, we are able to hold a face-to-face entrance ceremony this year. It is a great pleasure for me to be able to directly appreciate your fresh and somewhat nervous state of readiness as you take your first steps as graduate students at SOKENDAI.

As I am sure you are already aware, SOKENDAI was established to aid in fostering the next generation of doctoral-level personnel by enabling students to study and research at national research institutions classified as Inter-University Research Institutes. Within SOKENDAI, we refer to these as ‘parent institutions’ as––like parents––they provide the stable foundation upon which our graduate school educational activities are based. These 20 parent institutions, located nationwide, are equipped with large-scale laboratory facilities, cutting-edge research equipment, and valuable research materials, and accommodate clusters of leading researchers. Numerous researchers from elsewhere in Japan and overseas make joint use of these research facilities and materials, and even engage in collaborative research with the researchers at these institutions, making them leading hubs of academic research in Japan covering a broad range of disciplines from the humanities through to high-energy physics. SOKENDAI’s most distinctive feature is that our graduate school educational activities are carried out at institutions where these sorts of world-class basic research projects are being conducted.

Allow me to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about SOKENDAI’s logo, which you can also see displayed here in this venue. This logo was designed to commemorate SOKENDAI’s 30th anniversary in 2018. Although the official name of the university is “Sogo Kenkyu Daigakuin Daigaku,” or Graduate University for Advanced Studies in English, it is more commonly known as “SOKENDAI” even in Japanese, and even though this is an abbreviation of its Japanese name, “SOKENDAI” has become the internationally accepted name of the university. Which is why the name is written this way on the new logo. The letters, each arranged at different heights, represent the high level of expertise, individuality, and independence of our parent institutions and the students who study there, and the line connecting them represents the educational institution of SOKENDAI linking organizations, personnel, and research together as an ‘Intelligence Connector.’

Next, I would like to touch on our educational programs. SOKENDAI used to consist of six schools and twenty departments. Each of these graduate-level schools corresponds to a large grouping of academic fields. SOKENDAI categorized disciplines into Cultural and Social Studies, Physical Sciences, High Energy Accelerator Science, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Life Sciences, and Advanced Sciences. Each school is comprised of departments specializing in a particular field. SOKENDAI has always provided highly specialized doctoral education with each parent institution hosting one or more of these departments and taking charge of their graduate school educational activities.

On the other hand, while recent academic trends show that dramatic advancements in measurement and information processing technologies are now enabling research into ever-more advanced and complex phenomena, the deeper that research delves, the more specialized and segmented it becomes. As a result, when working to elucidate each and every phenomenon, it has become that much more difficult to contribute to the total accumulated knowledge of humanity and society without organically linking these phenomena together in a way that enables the bigger picture to be perceived, understood, and explained within a more comprehensive context. This is why phrases such as “across disciplines” and “fusing different disciplines” are invariably used when discussing the future of academic research.

In consideration of these academic trends and the type of doctoral personnel that society will require moving forward, SOKENDAI has made a crucial decision. Effective from April, the very month that you are enrolling in SOKENDAI, we have decided to shift from six graduate schools and twenty departments to a system of twenty programs under the Graduate Institute of Advanced Sciences. The main purpose of this transition is to increase mobility by removing the organizational barriers that stood between schools and departments. What do I mean by “mobility”? To give a specific example, being able to go to some other research institution or university either overseas or in Japan to conduct research while still enrolled at SOKENDAI is a type of mobility. Being able to routinely take classes offered in other programs in order to gain knowledge in disciplines other than your area of specialty would also be considered mobility. Discussions at academic conferences and seminars with researchers and students from different communities can also lead to mobility. To put it more abstractly, mobility means being able to cross borders, whether physically, mentally, or in terms of one’s thinking. I suspect that, both in our daily lives and research activities, we subconsciously place limits on the scope of our activities and interest. Becoming aware of and crossing over these ‘borders’ around us provides access to new ideas and new perspectives with which to tackle problems. Our new curriculum is designed to facilitate such learning and research activities. And those of you embarking on your journey today are the first class of this new SOKENDAI. I hope that you take full advantage of this environment provided by SOKENDAI to develop research skills that enable you to think freely.

You are about to take on new challenges at parent institutions scattered throughout Japan. As you take on these new challenges, I would like for you to remain aware of your ‘imagination.’ Normally, when talking about research, we emphasize the importance of creativity. What I am talking about, however, is imagination. Whenever I am about to start something, I always recall the quote “Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.” This quote is attributed to a French novelist active in the 19th century who was later considered the father of science fiction. Of course, the original context of the quote was that humanity has always in some way achieved everything that it has ever imagined. For example, the reason people were able to land on the moon is because someone first imagined going to the moon. Considering this on a more familiar level, in terms of our personal activities, we do not do things unless we first conceive of them––or rather, there is no way to achieve that which we cannot imagine.

As you move forward, your imagination will undoubtedly be a powerful ally as you set your research topics and objectives, as well as throughout your life as you continue to pursue your research. However, it is impossible for us to imagine unless we have something to imagine from. In order to conceive of or hit upon that ‘something,’ we need input––even if only fragmentary knowledge or experiences––that triggers the expansion of our imagination. And while it goes without saying, the more input we get, the more combinations we are able to form. For this reason, I encourage you to expand your interests and to proactively interact with a diverse range of values and different ways of looking at things. When viewed in this light, the concepts of mobility and imagination I mentioned earlier could be considered closely interrelated.

In closing, I have one more thing to say. All of you have entered SOKENDAI with the intention of specializing in your chosen field and obtaining a doctoral degree. Certainly, the degree is the ultimate goal of a doctoral program. However, I do not believe that the only significance lies in obtaining a degree. As you pursue your research and studies from day to day, I ask that you spread the wings of your imagination, get excited about what you imagine, and accept the challenge of making it a reality. Even though at times you may be disappointed when things do not go your way, if you recall what you are excited about, your enthusiasm will soar once again. I believe that the significance of graduate school lies in these sorts of experiences. As you become absorbed in your research, you will acquire the ability to function as an independent researcher without even realizing it, and as a result, you will be granted a degree. It is my sincere hope that you spend your time in this way while in graduate school. SOKENDAI and every faculty and staff member are here to help you in this endeavor to the best of our abilities.

Once again, congratulations on your admission today.


2023, April 4
Takashi Nagata, President
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI