2016-2017 Graduate School Entrance Ceremony Remarks (7 April 2016)

Juichi Yamagiwa, 26th President

Today, Kyoto University welcomes 2,307 new students enrolling in master's programs, 318 in professional degree programs, and 854 in doctoral programs. On behalf of the Executive Vice-Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Deans, and Directors here today, and all other faculty members and staff, I congratulate each and every one of you on your entrance into Kyoto University. I also extend my warmest congratulations to your families and others around you who have encouraged and supported you thus far.

You are now taking a new step toward mastery of your various academic disciplines. Kyoto University operates graduate schools across a wide range of disciplines, and awards 23 different types of academic degrees. The studies of our graduate students are supported by 18 graduate schools, 14 affiliated research institutes, and 17 other education and research facilities. Students in our master's programs are expected to gain advanced knowledge and skills and develop their abilities as researchers through classes, practicums, and fieldwork that build on the basic knowledge and expertise acquired at the undergraduate level. Professional degree programs include professional practicums, case studies, site surveys, and other activities in addition to regular classes, and provide many opportunities to learn from experts with extensive practical experience in the respective fields. Doctoral programs focus on the production of a doctoral thesis, and essential tasks for that purpose include data-gathering, analysis, and comparative review of findings with existing research.

What is important is for you to let your data speak for itself. Then, talk repeatedly with your colleagues about the ideas you develop through analysis of that data in order to establish the true value of your ideas. Letting your data speak for itself, however, is far from easy. If your approach to the collection of data is flawed to begin with, the data you gather will not furnish correct answers to the questions you have posed. You need to start by determining exactly what it is you want to find out and setting your research questions accordingly; it is also important to select methodologies tailored to those questions.

Then you proceed to actually gather your data. This is the most crucial stage in the research process, and also the one which can generate unexpected discoveries. I experienced many hardships in this stage of conducting field surveys of wild monkeys and gorillas over the course of many years. Wild gorillas are not accustomed to humans, so I struggled to gather the kinds of data on their behavior and society that I hoped for. Day after day I would trudge through the forest searching for signs of gorillas; when I found fresh tracks, I would follow them in hope of locating a group. Even when I was lucky enough to find one, one of the gorillas would often sense my human presence and raise a cry that would prompt the entire group to disappear from sight. There was no way I could gather behavioral data under such conditions.

Nonetheless, in order to work out what the gorillas were doing, I would collect their feces and identify what they had been eating, and observe the number and sizes of their bedding, which they re-made each evening, in order to establish the population and structure of their group. The gorillas gradually started to lose their wariness, but that is when things really became difficult. Gorillas do not enjoy being followed around by humans, so they try to scare us away. They charge at you with roars that seem loud enough to break open the very ground. But if you become scared and run away when this happens, gorillas will think that their message has got through and assume that the way to get rid of humans is to attack them. You need to stand your ground, no matter how terrified you are, and face up to them. Once they realize that it is useless to attack, they will gradually suppress their anger and allow you to come closer.

The gorillas stop being so conscious of being followed by human observers, and eventually even allow you to enter the group without disturbing their everyday activities, enabling you for the first time to record their natural behavior. Usually it takes at least five years to get to this point. During that time you cannot gather the kind of data you really want, and must instead spend your time engaged in speculation as to what the gorillas must really be up to, based on indirect evidence. It is therefore a particularly joyous moment when you are finally able to observe the gorillas' actual behavior and can confirm some of those speculations.

For example, it was well-known that chimpanzees share out food within their groups, but such behavior had never previously been reported in relation to gorillas. I was of the opinion, however, that this was due to the fact that previous research had focused on mountain gorillas living at high elevations in an environment where sweet and highly nutritious fruit did not grow. In recent years, newly-initiated research on lowland gorillas dwelling in tropical rainforests had revealed that such gorillas, like chimpanzees, consumed many varieties of fruit. I believed that this surely meant that lowland gorillas also shared out their food, and I started tracking gorillas in anticipation of being able to observe such behavior. In my sixth year of contact with one particular group of gorillas, I was finally able to observe gorillas sharing a large fruit approximately the size of a football. Furthermore, this was different from the sharing behavior of chimpanzees that I had expected to see; it was a more gorilla-like method whereby pieces of the fruit were dropped on the ground for others to eat. As well as being profoundly moved that I had finally got to witness the scene I had searched so long for, I was astonished by this unexpected difference.

Even though I succeeded in taking photographs of the gorillas' sharing behavior, it took me another four years to finish an academic paper describing the behavior. This is because I needed to analyze my observations together with those made by my colleagues in the same survey team, compare them with reports of sharing among chimpanzees and other primates, and consider the significance of the gorillas' behavior in terms of evolutionary history. This was an enjoyable task, but at times it demanded considerable patience and forbearance. But I knew that what I had seen was a phenomenon never before experienced by anyone else in the world. I felt that it was our obligation to shed light on the meaning of this phenomenon and make it public. For ordinary people it may seem a matter of little meaning or consequence. I believe, however, that our discovery may perhaps transform conventional thinking about the evolution of gorillas, and even alter our understanding of humans, who share the same ancestors as gorillas.

Speaking at a research gathering for faculty members at Kyoto University in 1962, thirteen years after he had been made Japan's first Nobel laureate, Dr Hideki Yukawa described the core mission of universities as "to seek the fundamental truths underlying the world in which we live, to discover those truths, and to communicate them to our students, to our successors, and to people beyond the campus." In regard to the nature of truth, Yukawa stated that in reality there are a multitude of facts accumulated across many different domains, laws that govern certain portions of this body of facts, and theoretical frameworks that encompass several of these laws: truth, then, is the entirety of these facts, laws, and theories. This is not, however, a complete account of truth in an ultimate sense. In reality, the truths that we accept are both partial and diverging in a huge variety of directions. There are cases where a law or principle may not stand up in the same way when applied to a different category of phenomena, and a principle that applies equally to both categories has not yet been discovered. Dr Yukawa reminded us that as researchers, we know that there are so-called uncharted fields into which scholars across the world have not yet entered, and other fields that are already the subject of research but which nevertheless contain many unsolved problems. He also stated that it is this nature of scholarly truth that makes the "pursuit of truth" important: academic knowledge is not something that is fixed as a whole, but rather something that continues to change and grow as new facts and new laws -- in other words, new truths -- are discovered.

Today, university research is expected to contribute to the development of industry, but this does not mean that Kyoto University only encourages research that is of immediate use in wider society. Since its establishment, our university has upheld the tradition of academic freedom based on dialogue and fostered a spirit of creativity. These traditions generate diverse learning activities and research inspired by new ideas. You are about to embark on research of a highly specialized nature, but this does not mean plunging headlong down a narrow path. Enriching your own ideas through dialogue with many fellow students and researchers in other fields will help you find pathways toward the truth. Today you begin your graduate studies at Kyoto University, but one day you too may diverge from your own fields of specialization and delve into other areas of academic inquiry. I believe that such divergence is a chance to open up new possibilities for you and lead to great advancements equal to any success in your own field. Immerse yourself in your research with no fear of failure as your interest dictates. I am confident that Kyoto University can provide you with an environment equal to your ambitions.

There are 34 research units at Kyoto University engaged in a variety of interdisciplinary activities having to do with education and research. There are education programs and research projects underway that involve multiple graduate schools, research institutes, and research centers. I encourage you to participate in these programs and projects in order to open your eyes to the diversity of academic endeavor and to enhance your own creative powers. Our university is also home to five Leading Graduate School Programs in which students complete doctoral degrees and go on to leadership roles in applied settings: the Graduate School of Advanced Integrated Studies in Human Survivability (Shishu-Kan), the Inter-Graduate School Program for Sustainable Development and Survivable Societies, the Training Program of Leaders for Integrated Medical System for Fruitful Healthy-Longevity Society, the Collaborative Graduate Program in Design, and the Leading Graduate Program in Primatology and Wildlife Science. Specific graduate schools work in partnership with each of these programs. I encourage you to find out more about them. In addition, in recent years there have been many cases of data manipulation, plagiarism, and other improper conduct in the production of academic papers, and researchers are coming under strict public scrutiny. It is my sincere hope that you will all observe the ethics of research, pursue highly original projects, and produce findings of great significance.

In Japan, it has often been said that students with doctoral degrees find it difficult to secure employment in industry. In recent times, however, as many employers move to become more internationalized, we are beginning to see signs of more proactive recruitment of people with doctorates. It is therefore important for graduate students to gain insights into actual workplaces while they are still enrolled. To this end, the university operates an Industry-Academia Innovative Human Resource Development Consortium project involving many companies to offer medium- and long-term internships and matching services. We hope to expand the opportunities for our students to gain hands-on industry experience before completing their studies and to experience fields suited to their own abilities and research interests. Additionally, in order to cultivate students' abilities to play active roles in the international arena, we are working to offer more double degree and joint degree programs with leading universities overseas. Through international offices in London, Heidelberg, and Bangkok, we are strengthening our ties with universities in Europe and Asia. This year, we also plan to establish offices in North America and Africa in order to expand the opportunities for inter-university exchange. Many of Kyoto University's faculties, schools, and institutes already have their own networks and bases for exchange with other researchers around the world; these will be used to advance joint research and student exchange, extending our capabilities and opportunities for international engagement.

In all these ways, Kyoto University is working to enhance its education and research activities and to help our students lead a secure and fulfilling life. To support these initiatives, we have established the Kyoto University Fund. The families who are here today have been given leaflets explaining the Fund as well as details of a special plan put together in celebration of your entrance. I would be grateful if you could all take the time to read through the material provided and for any support you feel moved to provide.

Once again, I offer my sincere congratulations to each and every one of you on your entrance into the Kyoto University Graduate Schools.