Speech delivered at the Doctorate Graduation Ceremony 2015 (24 September 2015)

Juichi Yamagiwa, 26th President

To the 211 new doctors receiving their doctoral degrees today, let me offer my congratulations. Those whom we are celebrating today include 55 women and 61 students from outside of Japan. These conferrals will bring the total number of students who have received a doctoral degree from Kyoto University, to date, to 41,964. I, along with the Vice-Presidents, Deans, and other faculty members who are here with us today, want to offer our heartfelt congratulations to all of you.

I imagine that, today, all of your family members and friends, as well as others around you, must be feeling extremely happy and proud to attend this graduation ceremony. It is thanks to these people, who have supported you to this stage, that you are with us today, receiving a doctoral degree. We of the faculty would also like to express our appreciation of the challenges met and support provided by your families to help you arrive at this moment. We share their joy, today.

The degree that you are receiving today is surely the fruit of the serious study that you have pursued to date. Some of you may have experienced ordeals, even to the point of thinking about quitting your programs. And, particularly those students from overseas, pursuing their studies in a foreign environment, in a different language and amid a different culture, must have been required to put forth an extraordinary effort. Now, you have overcome those many difficulties and mastered the disciplines that you chose in your graduate school programs. Today, as holders of doctoral degrees from Kyoto University, you are officially recognized as being capable of working independently in your disciplines. From today onward, you are honor-bound to boldly and consistently demonstrate the individual strengths that you have honed thus far and to take advantage of the expertise that you have acquired, in order to tackle some of the wide-ranging difficulties and issues with which humankind is faced. In the turbulent world that you are now venturing into, you may encounter difficulties greater than any you have so far experienced. Even in that event, the degree that you are receiving today will certainly serve you as a strong foundation and source of confidence which will support you in overcoming such difficult challenges. It is my fervent hope that, building on what you have attained in your respective research fields, each of you will walk on your life path shining a brilliant light, responding to the various tides and currents of the times without confining yourself within the limited field of your specialty subject.

From now on, you will be required to step forward as a professional researcher with awareness and pride. Perhaps you can learn something about this from the lives of former Kyoto University researchers. On the 12th of September this year, in the city of Hatsukaichi in Hiroshima Prefecture, a memorial gathering was held in honor of Kyoto University's "Atomic Bomb Disaster Research Investigation Team". In that place, there is a monument to commemorate those researchers from Kyoto University who were killed in a tragedy that occurred 70 years ago. On 3 September 1945 -- about one month after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima -- Kyoto Imperial University, the forerunner of today's Kyoto University, sent a research team of about 50 persons, including faculty staff members and students from the Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Science, and the Institute for Chemical Research, to initiate medical care and research activities at a hospital in the village of Ono (now part of Hatsukaichi City), which was about 20 kilometers from Ground Zero. Unfortunately, on the 17th of September, the hospital suffered a direct hit from mudslides caused by the Makurazaki Typhoon, which raged across the region. I understand that 11 members of the team were among the 156 fatalities, who included inpatients. Each year, a memorial gathering is held on the nearest Saturday before 17 September, in front of the monument. This year, an especially large number of people attended to mark the 70th anniversary.

On that occasion, some of the families and friends in attendance told us about their memories of those days, one of which included some very impressive words. According to Mr Yoshio Mashimo, the son of Professor Toshikazu Mashimo of the Faculty of Medicine, who was killed in the disaster, when Professor Mashimo in Kyoto heard the news of the atomic bombing, he immediately said "that can't be what they promised", and was lost for words. Being conversant with physics, he had believed that scientists would never agree to utilize a nuclear fission reaction as a weapon. Nevertheless, focusing on the disaster that had occurred, he did not hesitate to go and assist in the rescue efforts, hurriedly leaving Kyoto in the early hours of the morning. When I heard about this episode, I was impressed by his awareness and pride as a researcher. A booklet entitled "History of the 'Construction of the Monument and Memorial Gathering'", published by the Hiroshima Branch of Shirankai in 2011, describes how tirelessly the Kyoto Imperial University research team worked to save atomic bomb survivors and sought to elucidate the disease conditions, causes of death, and the realities of radioactive contamination. They engaged in research and medical care activities in conditions of minimal supplies, contamination, and infestation by flies. That experience helped renew my determination to hand down to future generations the story about the precious human lives lost in the accident before those researchers were able to fulfill their hopes and intentions.

Now, I would like to mention another researcher who had profound ties with Japan amid the devastation of war. He is Dr Donald Keene, who first studied Japanese at Columbia University in the United States. During World War 2, he became engaged in deciphering Japanese military communications and interpreting for Japanese prisoners-of-war in Hawaii and Okinawa. In 1953, he began a two-year study period at Kyoto University. His subject was The Battles of Coxinga by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, which became the theme of his dissertation for a doctorate that he subsequently earned from Columbia University. Influenced by Michio Nagai, who was living in the same boarding house and who would later become Japanese Minister of Education, Science and Culture, Dr Keene came to develop a broad and deep interest in Japanese culture and literature, and he began working to make these subjects more widely understood. He also played a key role in the staging of events themed on the millennium of the Tale of Genji in Kyoto, in 2008. I believe that Dr Keene deserves great credit for helping to foster more accurate understanding of Japanese culture among people in other parts of the world. His autobiography clearly conveys his tenacity of purpose: Having developed a keen interest in Japanese literature, even before the war, he worked hard to master Japanese at a time when Japan received virtually no attention, traveling from Hawaii, to China, to Britain with the sole desire of becoming more involved with Japan. As his motto, he quotes a sentence from Basho's oi no kobumi ("Manuscript in My Knapsack"): "Tsui ni muno mugei ni shite tada kono hitosuji ni tsunagaru." ("At last, having no abilities or skills, I was led to this one line".). That may sound as if he were modestly defining himself as what we call "senmonbaka" (a person who is ignorant outside of his field) but, to me, it seems to reveal his pride in being a researcher. However lightly you may be treated by the rest of the world, even to the point of being regarded as having no value, you can just stick to the path to which you are attracted and keep on showing the rest of the world what you believe is true -- this is what a researcher aspires to. To me, this seems to be what he was implying.

Looking back over my own path, ever since I earned my doctoral degree from Kyoto University based on my research on gorillas, I have spent almost all of my life thinking only about gorillas. I am proud to say that I have read every publication and article on gorillas and listened to all lectures and presentations about gorillas. As a result, I came to be able to see humans from the perspective of gorillas, and to question those things that I would never have questioned if I had focused only on humans. This came about, I believe, not because of my desire to master a certain way but, rather, because I have been able to continue doing what interests me most and, consequently, to broaden my world view through studying the species that is closest in most respects to humankind. And, in time, I even came to feel that this was my duty and responsibility, because there are not so many people in the world who can speak out from my perspective. If I were to stay silent about the questions I had, then those questions would never be exposed in the wider world. That is why I needed to take on the whole world on behalf of my own discipline.

Now, having earned your doctorates, you will begin your careers as professional researchers who have mastered your respective specialty fields. Many of you may be feeling that you are weak in fields outside of your own. However, it is through that apparently small area of specialty that you will find a gateway to a wider world. The heights to which you have ascended within your own field will serve as a passport for your future journey into the world, as well as a reliable guide post when you seek to change the world. And, when the time comes for you to get a glimpse of the turbulent world, it is through that field of specialization that your awareness and responsibility as a researcher will be questioned. I hope that you can learn from the examples of those precedent researchers who studied at Kyoto University and walked paths with great pride and go on to help build an optimistic and productive society.

In conclusion, it is my sincere hope that you will treasure into the future the bonds which have developed between you and Kyoto University through the process of learning. The university aspires to serve as a solid foundation that supports the lives and careers of each of you. And, I would ask you all to continue to support Kyoto University. I would also like to invite you to join our alumni network as a way to reinforce friendships, and to come back and visit your alma mater from time to time. To those international students who are returning to their homelands, while wishing you future success in your respective fields, I would also like to encourage you to join our alumni association and help to further strengthen the already strong ties that exist between your countries and both Kyoto University and Japan. I sincerely hope that what you have gained through studying at Kyoto University will contribute to harmonious coexistence among the global community.

Once again, let me offer my sincere congratulations to each and every one of you.