Message to graduate students matriculating in fall 2022

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Today, Kyoto University welcomes 91 new students enrolling in master's programs, 3 enrolling in professional degree programs, and 128 enrolling in doctoral programs. On behalf of the University's faculty and staff members, I congratulate each and every one of you on your enrollment at Kyoto University. I also extend my warmest congratulations to your families and all those who have encouraged and supported you thus far. As Covid-19 has not yet been contained in Japan, we are forced to hold this year's Graduate School Entrance Ceremony for the 2022 Autumn Term online. It is unfortunate that I cannot meet all of you in person to celebrate your enrollment, but I am happy to send this message of congratulations to you today via online video.

Your enrollment in a postgraduate program at Kyoto University represents a new step towards mastery of your chosen field of specialization. This year marks the 125th anniversary of Kyoto University, so I would like to begin by providing a brief overview of the University's history. Kyoto University was established in 1897 as the second imperial university in Japan. Since the Meiji Restoration, Japan had undergone rapid and profound changes in its political, economic, and social systems, and had been following a path towards becoming a modern nation state. Under the Imperial University Ordinance of 1886, the University of Tokyo assimilated the Engineering College and became Japan's first Imperial University. The Tokyo Imperial University was a "catch-up type university", and its main mission was to foster capable bureaucrats, engineers, and other human resources needed to build a new nation state. At that time, the technological innovation of the Second Industrial Revolution had already advanced in Europe and the United States, and rapid academic and scientific progress acted as one of the main driving forces of social development. Against that backdrop, Japanese society was giving increasing credence to the idea that creative and innovative academic and scientific research are essential, and that it was necessary to establish an innovative university that was able to play a central role in such efforts. This led to the establishment of Kyoto Imperial University in 1897. It can be said, therefore, that Kyoto University was the first institution established as a "university for academic research" in order to create new values in Japan.

During the 125 years since its foundation, Kyoto University has endeavored to pursue truth through academic and scientific research based on a spirit of freedom, and create new intellectual values based on its research results. During the course of its history, in natural science fields, Kyoto University has produced 11 Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry, and physiology or medicine, which is the greatest number of any institution in Asia. The University has also produced two Fields medalists in mathematics. In the humanities and social sciences, the University pioneered and introduced to the world an original philosophy known as the "Kyoto School", which assimilates Western philosophy and Eastern thought, as well as an interdisciplinary collaborative research style based on fieldwork, known as the "New Kyoto School". One of the events held to celebrate Kyoto University's 125th anniversary in June 2022 was a commemorative forum that included six Kyoto University-affiliated Nobel laureates who are still active in their fields. During my participation in that forum, I strongly felt that these outstanding researchers have two things in common, even though their research fields are completely different: physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine. One of the commonalities is that they respect creativity. They have a strong belief that a spirit of freedom is essential in order to be creative. Dr Tasuku Honjo always says that a trend is not a thing to be ridden but to be created. Dr Ryoji Noyori also says that you should travel anywhere in the world to do what you really want to do. Another thing that they have in common is an absolute confidence that the pursuit of academic research to elucidate the truth will lead to the creation of social values that will surely be of benefit to people. In the field of chemistry, the University has produced three Nobel laureates, including Dr Kenichi Fukui, the first Nobel laurate in Asia. Their achievements bring to mind a saying that remains relevant: "If you want to do applied research, do the basic research." The development of synthesis technologies for many valuable compounds, including medicines, based on Dr Ryoji Noyori's research, the development of lithium batteries by Dr Akira Yoshino, the development of regenerative medicine based on Dr Shinya Yamanaka's research, and the development of revolutionary cancer treatments based on Dr Tasuku Honjo's research, are all products of creative basic research. After Dr Honjo's Nobel Prize award ceremony, many people who had overcome cancer thanks to a new treatment method gathered around him and shook his hand to thank him. That scene moved me far more than the award ceremony itself.

In its Mission Statement, Kyoto University declares its intentions to "sustain and develop its historical commitment to academic freedom and to pursue harmonious coexistence within the human and ecological community on this planet". The world now faces many issues, including climate change, destruction of the global environment, violence and war, emerging infectious diseases, disparity and poverty, and declining birthrates and aging populations. Given these difficult challenges that we face, the enthusiasm and aspirations that the young generation — including you — have for academia and science must never be diminished by external factors. In Ukraine, the irrational war continues, and Ukrainian students are unable to engage in study and research as normal. This autumn, approximately 20 students from Ukraine will come to Kyoto University to continue their studies and research. Ms Anna Kreshchenko, a Ukrainian student already enrolled at Kyoto University, advanced to graduate school in April this year. I heard that, in addition to her research, she is also working on the social issue of providing mental health care for women who are pregnant or raising children. Ms Kreshchenko has embarked on a highly promising new career in Japan as a creative social entrepreneur developing innovative ways to address social issues.

You are all about to take your first step as researchers in one of Kyoto University's graduate schools. At this research university, with its long history and traditions, I hope that you will all devote yourselves to your research and deeply enjoy it. In addition, I hope that our international students will deepen their understanding of Japanese culture through experiencing it in Kyoto, Japan's ancient former capital. Kyoto is not only one of the nation's cultural and academic centers, but also a hub of entrepreneurship. I hope that you will study hard, and forge your own unique and creative careers that contribute to different sectors of society.

In closing, I offer my sincere congratulations once again to each and every one of you on your enrollment.

1 October 2022
Nagahiro Minato
Kyoto University