Fall 2020 Entrance Ceremony Address
Congratulations to all of you on your admission to SOKENDAI. Some of you are entering our five-year course, while others are transferring into our three-year course. Either way, you will be spending the next several years at the university engaging in doctoral research. No doubt, some of you have clearly defined research topics already, while others are perhaps still in the process of deciding. In either case, I am sure that the next several years will be an intensive period that will be both exciting and at times quite painful as you endeavor to pursue novel research.
Normally, we would have you come to SOKENDAI's main campus at Hayama and I would call out each of your names and speak to you directly. Unfortunately, because the COVID-19 pandemic still has yet to be contained, we are unable to hold our entrance ceremony as usual. It's regrettable that even my remarks have to be transmitted to you online.
Normally, the entrance ceremony would also be followed by the Freshman Course, an opportunity for you to lodge and study together in Hayama. Because the departments at SOKENDAI are located in research centers scattered throughout Japan, there are few opportunities for you to come together with other students from your same year. The Freshman Course is where you not only learn about the various fields of research at SOKENDAI but also reflect on the relationship between scholarship and society and learn what to pay attention to when communicating your research to others. While such topics are important no matter what field of research you pursue, the Freshman Course is also important because it is an opportunity for all of you to lodge together and form collegial bonds that transcend individual departments. Although we cannot host it at this time, we do hope to find a way soon to organize something, so you can look forward to it.
Our university is a graduate university with no undergraduate division. While there are 86 national universities in Japan, there are only four graduate universities. They are the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and our university. Since none of the four has an undergraduate division, the atmosphere at each is different from a typical university. Even so, our university is especially unique because the university departments are housed in national research centers scattered throughout Japan.
Each of these research centers is an Inter-University Research Institute with large-scale equipment and research archives found nowhere else, where large numbers of experts in a given discipline come together to conduct the highest world-class research. They are places where numerous researchers from universities elsewhere in Japan, as well as those overseas, come to conduct joint research. While the number of students admitted to any given program is small, there is a large number of professors and postdocs at the research centers. And there are no undergraduate students beneath you.
Such research centers provide each of you with a very unique research environment in which to pursue your future life of research. It is a truly wonderful environment, but you may also find yourself confused by it, given how different it is from that at graduate schools at normal universities. There are no sports or leisure clubs, no frequent opportunities to have fun with fellow students, no student coop. Your professors are leading researchers in their fields and busy with their research. Even those of you entering the five-year course who have just graduated from an undergraduate program will be throw into this environment and find themselves "treated as adults," as it were.
Each department makes every effort to provide you with a good environment not only for research but also for living. Still, they are not the same as ordinary universities and I hope, as you find yourself thrown into such an environment, that you will be the kind of person who embraces it rather than laments it.
Even so, your future life of research is certain to bring with it various difficult challenges. At such times, please never hesitate to consult with someone. While the professors and students ahead of you in the department will no doubt be there for you, SOKENDAI headquarter in Hayama also has a consultation center that you should never hesitate to use. All of us at Hayama also want to do everything we can to ensure your life at SOKENDAI is the best it can be.
Because of COVID-19, there are many things we would normally do that can no longer be done. Online lectures and seminars are now the norm. For a time, we were even unable to enter our labs and conduct experiments. They are re-opened now but could be restricted again depending on how infection spreads in the future. In such conditions, it is hard not to feel anxious about whether research can be pursued as planned. At the university, we intend to do everything in our power to ensure that everyone is able to lead an unhindered and fruitful life of research.
The future is impossible to predict, but let us all continue to adapt flexibly as circumstances dictate and never lose our sense of humor as we move forward together.
Again, congratulations on your admission today.
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI