Today is a very happy day, both for you and for us. Each of you has completed your degree research, submitted your doctoral dissertation, and now today proudly receive your doctoral degree. Over these past several years I am sure you experienced great moments of joy when your research was going well, as well as moments of disappointment when it was not. In some cases, it may even have been months before things got better. Then, the act of writing it all up as a single dissertation was an enormous effort that was at times tedious and at other times required numerous revisions. I offer each of you my heartfelt congratulations on overcoming all of these things to reach this moment today when you have received your doctoral degree. I would also offer my congratulations and deepest thanks to the family members who gave you their support, as well as to the faculty members who guided your research.
In all, SOKENDAI has twenty disciplines spanning both the humanities and sciences. Do you remember the day you first entered SOKENDAI? Many of you attended the Freshman Course, did you not? I wonder if that opportunity allowed you to make friends across disciplines and areas of research. Whether it was at the Freshman Course or elsewhere, I hope that you were able to form intellectually rewarding personal relationships beyond the narrow confines of your own lab during your time as a student at SOKENDAI.
I hope so because the world of scholarship is one where ideas compete, where progress is made by discovering new facts, formulating new theories, and proposing new perspectives that enable us to come up with ideas unlike those that came before. For instance, you might think that a graduate student researching the history of Japan and a graduate student pondering the origins of the universe would have little to gain by speaking with each other because they would have little in common to talk about and no knowledge of each other's field. Yet, when we transcend our own individual concerns to engage in the act of "thinking," there is a kind of common principle that underlies it. By speaking with people from different areas of research, one continually has the potential to grasp something new. A conversation that seemed merely "interesting" at the time can, years later, offer you a clue to something else.
It is not for strictly utilitarian purposes that I am recommending that you become friends with researchers in different fields. You have completed research worthy of a doctoral degree. Whether or not you pursue the life of a scholar in the future, I do hope you will remain the kind of people who understand what scholarship is. I hope you will be the kind of people who attempt to transcend different areas of research to better understand the myriad phenomena of our world and who share with others their passion for making such attempts. Sadly, I do not believe our current world has very high percentage of people with a passion for intellectual activity and an understanding of its significance. In a world with a stagnant economy, I suspect that for many people what matters most is money and their lives now and in the near future.
The growth of ICT in recent years has also drastically changed the information environment around us with the spread of the internet and SNS. What might have taken many hours to look up a generation ago, today can be searched within mere seconds. With large-capacity storage devices now readily available, people no longer commit even the little things to memory. While ideals and appearances still matter, people who in the past would have quietly talked with a small group of friends about the things that irritate them can today share their views anonymously with the entire world. People are now able to take an attitude that cannot be bothered with factual details and would prefer to see the world as a reflection of their feelings. From my perspective, all of these forces have converged in a way that has undermined the process by which people take their time to meditate on issues, reflect on themselves, discuss their views seriously with others, and then form an opinion. In other words, people have come to regard scholarly activity less seriously. Given this, I truly hope that you will go out into the world having earned your degree and be the kind of people who carry on the tradition of intellectual activity that humanity has built and who understand the significance of scholarship and people's passion for it. And I hope that you will work to build networks of such people.
Many of today's degree recipients are international students. What paths will you pursue, I wonder. There are many for you to take--whether you continue to live in Japan, move on to another country in pursuit of your career, or return to your home country to fill an important position. Wherever you go, whatever position you take, let the years of research you spent in your discipline at SOKENDAI serve you well.
There was a time when Japan lagged behind the West both in scholarship and in industry and the goal was catching up to the West. Today, we no longer lag so far behind. Our number of Nobel Prize winners is fairly strong. More than 160 years have passed since arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853 and the long period of seclusion in the Edo Period ended. How, in such a short span of time and unlike many other nations in Asia, was Japan able to achieve such growth? And how is it that we now find ourselves with so many issues and a feeling that we are stuck? As international students, what were the good things about living in Japan, about conducting research in Japan, about Japan itself? What were the not-so-good things? I would like all of you, international and Japanese students alike, to give thought to these questions.
The world to come will be built and transformed by your generation, by your work. May you spread your wings ever farther in the world, allow yourself to experience and reflect upon many different things, and seek to create an ever better world.
Again, my sincere congratulations to you all.
September 27, 2019
Mariko Hasegawa, Ph.D., President