Congratulations on your admission to the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, or SOKENDAI. Today, you are taking the first step in your new life as a graduate student in our doctoral program. Since our departments are located in research institutions scattered throughout Japan, there are few opportunities for everyone enrolling at the same time to gather all together. I had hoped that the entrance ceremony at least would be one such opportunity, but due to the continued spread of COVID-19 infections, this year's entrance ceremony as well is being held online. While that is regrettable, on behalf of the entire faculty, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you. Welcome to SOKENDAI!
Our graduate university offers no undergraduate programs, which means that all of you here enrolling today have graduated from some other university or graduate school master's degree program. In Japan, there is a tendency for it to be both more common and easier to remain at one school for one's entire period of study, so I would like to express my respect for your decision to purposely change your place of research and enroll in our university. Launching a new research project in a new location is, of course, difficult, but it is also a very stimulating and marvelous experience, and in many parts of the world this has become the norm.
Unlike graduate schools in what would be considered typical universities, each of our departments is located at a national research institute. Each is classified as an Inter-University Research Institute, where the world's most advanced research is conducted in their respective fields. In other words, the research institute where you will be conducting research for your doctoral degree also has a mission to support the research activities of numerous professors visiting from other universities.
This means that, from now, you will be surrounded not by undergraduates below you but by researchers engaged in first-class research, and you will likely be treated as a part of such research from the very beginning. Since most of you have just graduated from an undergraduate program, you may feel that you are far from qualified for such a position and that you need more attentive guidance. That's natural, and of course, your professors want to teach you everything they can.
However, this environment, in which each of our departments is located at a research institute, feels substantially different from graduate schools in other universities. I hope that, instead of fearing this, you will all find it enjoyable, and have the breadth of mind to be proud of being treated as a mini-researcher from the start. Even so, if you are dissatisfied with something, or if there is something you would like us to do something about, please do not hesitate to contact the office in charge of your department or the university headquarters. We would like to do our best to improve your research environment in any way that we can.
What kind of research will you be engaging in from now? For some of you, the details may still be undecided, and for others, the plans may be quite detailed, but I am sure that you are all truly excited to begin working on something new. Regardless of your academic field or your specific subject of inquiry, all of you have entered this university with the desire to pursue something intellectually. Therefore, it is important for you to acquire more in-depth knowledge in your particular field, and for a while, you will be concentrating on that. However, apart from that, I would also like you to contemplate the nature of intellectual pursuit; what sort of activity is it, and what significance does it hold? I realize that, from now, you will be busy with your research, and may not have any time to consider such abstractions. Even so, somewhere in the back of your mind, I would like you to maintain a bird's eye view of your research activities. If you remain aware of this, you will surely become able to tackle any type of intellectual pursuit, not limited to a particular field.
SOKENDAI is currently composed of six schools and a total of twenty departments. This will remain the case for this academic year, but from next year, we are redesigning the university to have twenty courses organized under a single department. Even now, it is possible to learn about different fields of research and incorporate them into your own research, and to receive guidance from professors in different schools. Nevertheless, moving forward, we would like to further facilitate the flow of ideas by completely removing the barriers between schools. By doing so, we hope to become able to foster more people than ever before who work to discover new problems and tackle them in innovative ways. You are enrolling in the university just prior to this reorganization, and I hope that you adopt the spirit of this reorganization in advance and cultivate an attitude of free thinking, unrestrained by your doctoral course or department.
Personally, I entered the field of Physical Anthropology in the Department of Biology. The academic field of Physical Anthropology explores what kind of organism humans are and how we have evolved. The fields of Paleoanthropology, the study of human fossils, as well as Human Genetics, research into our genetic makeup, are both well known, but there are still many other fields of research that can provide us with deeper insight into the human organism.
I wanted to know how humans developed into such a unique organism, and in particular, I wanted to research the evolution of human behavior. Due to our extreme complexity, though, human beings are a difficult topic to cover, so for my doctoral dissertation, I decided to study the behavior of wild chimpanzees, the closest living animal to humans. However, I found that chimpanzees are also not an easy topic to cover, and I struggled a great deal in my research. Also, studying the evolution of human behavior requires not only knowledge of the natural sciences, such as the behavioral ecology, endocrinology, and neuroscience of animals, but also a certain level of knowledge of research findings in the humanities and social sciences, such as psychology, social psychology, and cultural anthropology. Although the focus of my research was on evolution, I needed these other areas of knowledge because human behavior is the subject of a great deal of research in a diverse range of academic fields, albeit not all necessarily focused on evolution.
So, I took many detours, and I feel that some of my efforts were even in vain. In retrospect, I think I may prefer connecting research findings scattered throughout various other fields to create something new in my own way, rather than delving deeper and deeper into a single issue.
The first thing I would like you all to do is to develop an area of expertise in which you are second to none. I want you to feel like a professional who, at least for the time-being, knows more than anyone else regarding a particular issue. Mastering a single path is important because it provides you with your own internal axis. In addition, I would like you to acquire the habit of always looking around to see what you can learn from research in other fields outside of your specialty. Although academia by its very nature tends to move constantly toward subdivision, there are no boundaries when it comes to the phenomena themselves that we want to learn about. The various phenomena we observe in nature and in the world are interrelated to varying degrees, and there is never only a single way to view an issue. I hope that you will learn to be both specialists and generalists in this way over the years you spend at SOKENDAI.
The future course of the pandemic is still unclear. Life may remain inconvenient for some time to come. Even so, we hope that the period of research you are now beginning will be a wonderful part of your life. We would like to provide you with as much support as we can. Once again, congratulations on your enrollment today.