2015-2016 Degree Conferment Ceremony Remarks (23 March 2016)

Juichi Yamagiwa, 26th President

Today, Kyoto University is proud to award master's degrees to 2,113 students, professional master's degrees to 156 students, juris doctor degrees to 135 students, and doctoral degrees to 592 students. Among these students, 302 are from outside the country. Let me begin by offering my sincere congratulations to all of you on your accomplishments.

With today's ceremony, Kyoto University will have awarded, to date, master's degrees to 74,355 students, professional master's degrees to 1,389 students, juris doctor degrees to 1,859 students, and doctoral degrees to 42,556 students. On behalf of the Executive Vice-Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Deans, and Directors here today, and all other faculty and staff, congratulations to each and every one of you on receiving your graduate degrees.

At Kyoto University, master's and doctoral degrees are granted in 23 different fields of specialization, such as the "Doctor of Letters". I am genuinely proud and delighted that you have worked so hard to hone and perfect your skills, learning from and inspiring one another, in all of these fields of study.

Your graduate school commencement today is both the destination you have been working toward and the launching pad for your future. I hope that the academic degrees awarded today will be of great help to you in carving out your career paths.

Since becoming President in 2014, I have advocated the WINDOW Concept, which sees Kyoto University as a window to society and to the world. Of the three roles expected of universities in general -- education, research, and public service -- we have made education the shared mission of Kyoto University as a whole, and have implemented a number of initiatives to help talented students and young researchers develop their abilities and find opportunities to unleash their potential.

The first letter "W" in WINDOW stands for Wild and Wise, and signifies our commitment to fostering wisdom and an adventurous spirit in our students. We want you to be able to make your own decisions, act independently, and generate unique ideas, undaunted by the rapid pace of global changes. I hope that you will all become shining examples of these qualities.

Another focus of the WINDOW Concept is women; it advocates building a society of hope by supporting women's career success, and includes Action Plans for the Promotion of Gender Equality. There are 718 women among those receiving degrees today, and I am confident that this number will continue to grow year by year. I look forward to you utilizing your experiences and abilities to pursue careers that support realization of a society in which men and women can enjoy working together without discrimination.

Looking through the report on the dissertations for which students are receiving degrees today, I noted that, as would be expected of Kyoto University, many of them describe basic research on a wide variety of common phenomena. I also noticed, however, that there are also quite a few studies related to recent developments. Examples include cross-cultural encounters resulting from globalization, multiculturalism, human migration, movement of goods, global-scale climate change, natural disasters, rethinking legal and economic systems to adapt to rapid social changes, and new methods of treatment for mental illness and a number of other medical conditions. Although most of these topics lie outside my field of specialization and are far beyond my capacity to understand, I would like to mention just a few that caught my interest.

For a paper entitled "Practical social scientific research on media reports and public opinions about public works projects", Mr Kosuke Tanaka of the Graduate School of Engineering quantitatively analyzed newspaper editorials on public works projects. What he found is that the tone had grown increasingly critical through the 2000's, but had become more and more positive over the last several years. Instead of attributing this shift to instructions from superiors or pressure from external stakeholders, as has often been done, Mr Tanaka states that writers today seem to place a higher value on avoiding controversy and producing easy-to-read pieces than contributing to the diversity of viewpoints.

Ms Sandra Milena Carrasco Mansilla of the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies (GSGES) authored "Post-disaster housing and resident-initiated modifications -- Spontaneous housing modifications in disaster-induced resettlement sites in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines". Focusing on resettlement projects underway in a Filipino city hit by Tropical Storm Washi in 2011, Dr Mansilla examined the process of housing construction by the government and the state of housing modifications by local residents. In conclusion, she argues that durable, earthquake- and wind-resistant housing can be achieved by complementing government projects with NGO-led modifications.

Ms Marie Sato of the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies (ASAFAS) wrote "Refugee Crisis and Islamic NGOs in the Contemporary Middle East: A Case Study of Jordan". She points out that the creation of modern nation states in the Middle East, with borders that do not align with the region's ecological and historical differences, is the root cause of the wars and conflicts that have led to the unfolding refugee crisis. Based on this understanding, she goes on to propose a framework of cooperation in which the work of national governments and international organizations is organically complemented by that of Western and Islamic NGOs, which are capable of delivering timely and flexible responses.

Mr Naoto Yamabata earned his Doctor of Agriculture with the thesis entitled "Multiple benefits of community measures to control animal damage: rural communities' systemic efforts to repel Japanese macaques". Focusing on farming communities in Mie Prefecture, Dr Yamabata studied monkeys' activity areas and surveyed local residents. He then analyzed the data obtained based on three indices -- the ratio of the repelling operations conducted to monkey sightings, the ratio of participating to total local households, and the ratio of preventive to the total repelling operations conducted. He concludes by suggesting that sustained community-wide efforts to keep monkeys away could not only help reduce animal damage but also contribute to higher farmer morale and greater "community power".

Ms Chizuru Kabumoto, of the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, is the author of "A sociological study of the contemporary transformation of 'dying': 'medicalization' of hospice care in Japan and South Korea". She examined the process of medicalization that hospice care had been undergoing in Japan and Korea since its introduction from the West, from the viewpoints of specialization, institutionalization, and commercialization. She found that Japanese hospices had already been heavily medicalized, manifesting as a shortage of non-medical staff, while in Korea, end-of-life care was still available from a wide variety of non-medical providers. She also notes that hospice workers in both countries constantly report difficulties in understanding the needs of patients and their families, a problem she attributes, among other factors, to the absence of the principle of self-determination and autonomy in Japanese and Korean care settings.

All of these works offer fresh insights into ongoing issues, along with possible solutions. I am convinced that they will serve as important guideposts to the future. There are many other outstanding studies -- some with such enticing titles that I very much wanted to read on and learn about the research described -- although most of them are far beyond my capacity to understand. Another thing I was impressed with was the diversity of the fields covered. I am positive that such diversity, creativity, and vision will lead to world-changing concepts and innovations.

Having said that, I would like to mention that not all scholarly efforts yield immediate practical benefits; some are meant to serve future generations.

Take, for example, a scholar by the name of Yoshitaro Kamakura (1898-1983), who studied Ryukyu Culture from the end of the Taisho period (1912-1926) through the Showa period (1926-1989). Born in Kagawa Prefecture, Mr Kamakura graduated from Tokyo Fine Arts School in 1921 and moved to Okinawa at the age of 23 to work as an art teacher. He traveled extensively around the islands, collecting historical materials and taking notes and photographs. In his 60's, he began to professionally produce artworks using a local dyeing technique called bingata, and became a Living National Treasure at the age of 74. What I find particularly moving about his life is that the historical materials and photographs he collected with such tenacity subsequently played a crucial role in the restoration of Shuri Castle from the devastation of World War II and in the revitalization of Ryukyu Culture.

It all began when Mr Kamakura boarded with a certain family, who was descended from a high-ranking samurai, residing in the district of Shuri. He won the affection of his hosts, who treated the young mainlander as one of their kin. Mr Kamakura, on his part, diligently worked on learning the local language and culture. This attitude earned him the trust of local people and access to invaluable historical materials.

He took innumerable photographs of Shuri Castle and other cultural properties, and carefully kept the glass plates on which they were recorded. It was those images -- faithful representations of the historical assets before they were damaged -- that eventually made possible the reconstruction of the history and culture of Shuri.

It should be noted, however, that Mr Kamakura did not take those pictures with this purpose in mind. At that time, Shuri Culture had been driven to the edge of extinction by overwhelming influences from mainland Japan, and was all but ignored by outside researchers. Mr Kamakura, obviously, was not affected by these circumstances; he just fell in love with what he experienced of Shuri Culture, and concentrated on capturing and immortalizing the beauty that unfolded before his eyes. It was how he came to serve an extremely important role in the turbulent history of Shuri. This, I think, can serve as an excellent example of how scholarly work can sometimes generate value in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.

The life of Mr Kamakura is chronicled in a work of non-fiction entitled Shuri-jo no Sakamichi ("Slopes of Shuri Castle"), written by Ms Kei Yonahara and awarded the 2014 Kawai Hayao Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities. The late Dr Hayao Kawai, in whose honor this Prize was established, was a KU alumnus who studied at the Faculty of Science and taught for many years at the Faculty of Education, before being appointed Commissioner for Cultural Affairs. A prolific and renowned expert on Carl G Jung, Dr Kawai authored numerous studies and essays on the subjects of human psyche and culture. The fact that a book about Mr Kamakura was recognized in the name of a KU affiliate gives me enormous pleasure.

Just like the photographs and notes left by Mr Kamakura, dissertations produced by those gathered here today may later be appreciated for unexpected reasons. Likewise, your life path, whether as a researcher or otherwise, may be studied with great interest by someone in the future. Your dissertations are invaluable gifts to posterity -- guideposts for anyone interested in following in your footsteps.

I think, however, that the amount of value you can generate depends for a large part on your ability to maintain research literacy. Due to the recent spate of incidents of fraud involving scientists, the academic community is being subjected to increasingly critical scrutiny.

I hope that each one of you will draw on the pride and experience you have acquired and developed through your time here at Kyoto University, and pursue brilliant careers.

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