Speech at the Welcome Party for Newly Enrolled International Students - Jun 1, 2005 -

Kazuo OIKE

Good evening everyone, and welcome to this party held in honor of this year’s newly-arrived 379 international students.

Currently, at Kyoto University there are a total of 1250 international students.

On May 13th of this year, Kyoto University concluded a consortium General Memoranda for academic exchange with the University of Science and Technology of China, the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and National Taiwan University. Kyoto University is collaborating with research institutions and university groups from sixty-three universities around the world.

Kyoto has been designated by the United Nations UNESCO group as a world heritage, signifying the world’s commitment to preserve its beauty. This beauty is evidenced by the four distinct and abundant seasons of Kyoto. The Sakura in April, the ensuing young leaves in May, and the rain season of June produce various beautiful flowers.

In June, the water lilies will bloom. The beginning of June is the best time to see Heian Shrine, just around the corner from Kyoto University. Heian Shrine also features many Irises. Additionally, throughout the city you can find hydrangea, which are flowers that symbolize the rain season.

Throughout Kyoto there are many traditional activities, and I would like to take a moment to introduce to you a few of them that occur in June.

On June 2nd at Heian Shrine, the bonfire noh performance of Kyoto will take place. Noh is one of the most traditional arts in Japan. Following that on June 3rd, Heian Shrine’s garden is free to view. Within the temple garden there are almost 2000 Irises.

On June 20th, you can see the cutting of bamboo at Kurama Temple. The strong green bamboos are four meters long and ten centimeters thick, like giant snakes. There is also a competition to see who can cut the bamboo the fastest. Later on June 30th, there are ceremonies called Nagoshi-harae, meaning to ward off evil spirits that arrive with the summer season. For example, at Yoshida temple, located next to the entrance of Kyoto University, I think you would enjoy the experience of passing through the Chinowa, or Cogon ring. Cogon comes from Spanish meaning thatched roof using bamboo or straw, and the ring is said to bring happiness to those who pass through it.

While you are at Kyoto University, do not just excel in your studies, but please be sure to make friends from all around the world and experience a bit of the history and culture of this traditional city.

In Japan my nickname is namazu, which literally means catfish, but it is the term that Japanese people connect with expressing the awakening or starting of an earthquake. I have acquired this nickname because my research specialty has been earthquakes. What I am showing you are namazu paperweights that I have designed. They are my personal protectorate against earthquake damage. Tonight I present these specially-designed paperweights to the four individuals who are speaking with me this evening.

Let us all have a good time this evening. Thank you very much.

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