2016-2017 Degree Conferment Ceremony Remarks (23 March 2017)

Juichi Yamagiwa, 26th President

Today, Kyoto University is proud to award master's degrees to 2,191 students, professional master's degrees to 147 students, juris doctor degrees to 131 students, and doctoral degrees to 555 students. Of these 3,024 students, 343 are from outside Japan. 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 76,605 students, professional master's degrees to 1,539 students, juris doctor degrees to 1,992 students, and doctoral degrees to 43,301 students. On behalf of the Vice-Presidents, Deans, Directors and Leading Graduate School Program Coordinators 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 24 different fields of specialization, such as the "Doctor of Letters". Five years ago we also began offering Leading Graduate School Programs, and the students who have completed these programs will receive degree certificates specifying the programs.

I am genuinely proud and delighted that you have worked so hard to hone and perfect your skills, learning from and inspiring one another day and night, in all of these fields of study. Today's conferment ceremony is both a 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 for cooperation across the University 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 as you step out into the wider world. 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 726 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 in the world. 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 for understanding, I would like to mention just a few that caught my interest.

One is a paper by Keiko Fujiwara of the Graduate School of Agriculture, entitled "Assessment of internal radiation doses from radioactive tellurium released into the environment following the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station". This is a world-first report on concrete estimations of radiation dosage from radioactive tellurium, which previously had not been given consideration due to the relatively short half-life of its isotopes. The uptake of tellurium from the soil by plants was analyzed under laboratory conditions using several samples of soil, including some obtained from Fukushima Prefecture. The analysis revealed that although effects on human health from internal radiation to which the general public was exposed was substantially low, it was at a level that could not be ignored when compared to internal radiation from sources such as radioactive iodine and cesium. This dissertation opens our eyes to the issues of radiation exposure.

In a paper entitled "Connections with others as actual feeling", Maki Fujii of the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies identifies a problem in existing research on understanding others, whereby concepts such as "empathy" and "intersubjectivity" are predicated from the outset on a distinction between self and other. The paper advances the idea that a sense of "connection" can actually arise in a bodily dimension at which self and other are undifferentiated, and that an appreciation of the texture of this dimension can lead us to be "at one" with others. This is a new insight on how to construct our relationships with others.

Junya Watanabe of the Graduate School of Science has produced a paper on "Comparative ontogeny of avian limb skeletons: implication for ontogenetic aging and evolutionary variability, with special emphasis on the evolution of avian flightlessness", which uses detailed comparison of the forms taken by limb bones at different growth stages in five separate families of birds, in order to shed light on how flightless birds may have evolved. The comparison revealed cross-family differences in ontogeny and showed that in the duck family, which has evolved through several stages of flightlessness, the upper limbs are extremely small at the chick stage, and become rapidly larger as the duck grows. These findings support one of several existing hypotheses, namely that flightlessness was achieved by delaying ontogenetic development and thereby altering the bird's adult form. The study could be said to open up a pathway to prediction of evolutional morphology based on ontogenetic tendencies.

In the Graduate School of Engineering, Hye‐cheol Oh produced a paper on "Development of a water environment management support system for unified management of lake and reservoir basins: The Paldangho Lake basin in South Korea". With a view to achieving unified basin management for the Paldangho Lake, which is used as a source of clean water for around 46% of the South Korean population, this study involved collecting quantitative material related to climate, soil, and other environmental conditions from a variety of institutions to build a database, as well as developing and testing a basin simulation model to calculate volumes of suspended matter, nutrient salts, and the like. The strategies for water quality enhancement proposed on the basis thereof have been praised as highly valuable and broadly applicable in the effective management and environmental preservation of other lake and reservoir basins.

In a paper on "The ethics of Schweitzer's Reverence for Life: Approach from the standpoint of ethics as mediating religion, philosophy, and practice", Kentaro Iwai of the Graduate School of Letters addresses the accomplishments of the legendary Albert Schweitzer, the "saint of the jungle", from the standpoint of ethics in his book Reverence for Life, and identifies a structural interweaving of elements of both self-containment and sacrifice for others. I have been to the Gabonese Republic in Africa, where Schweitzer was active, on many occasions in the course of my research on gorillas, even visiting a hospital which he built, so I was deeply moved by Schweitzer's ideas on colonies, labor, culture, and education as revealed in this paper. As the author points out, in Schweitzer's ideas one can clearly perceive meanings that correspond with the environmental philosophies of the present day.

The common thread running through all of these works is that they apply incisive analysis to problems arising in the contemporary world and questions that remain unanswered, yielding fresh evidence and proposals for resolution. I am convinced that they will serve as important guideposts to the future. There are many other studies with enticing titles that made me want to read on and learn about the research described, and other dissertations containing outstanding research far beyond my capacity for understanding. I am awed by the diversity of the fields covered, and positive that such diversity, creativity, and vision will lead to world-changing concepts and innovations.

What kind of spirit have you honed through your years of research here? Surely there are many valuable things that can only be acquired at Kyoto University. Recently I recalled how a certain British scholar referred to the exclusive environment of our university using the term "Kyoto Elite". The scholar in question was Dr Beverly Halstead, a paleontologist from the University of Reading who spent some three months in Japan in the fall of 1984. Halstead had come to Japan to take issue with Kyoto University's Kinji Imanishi, who had called into question aspects of Darwin's theory of evolution. In the course of his stay, however, he became aware of his own misconceptions and ended up spending the rest of his time here endeavoring to understand the scholars of Kyoto University. In a book recording his impressions, Halstead distinguishes the biologists close to Imanishi by use of the term "Kyoto Elite" rather than the more well-known term "Kyoto School". 

In Halstead's words, the ethos of the Kyoto Elite transcends differences of opinion. Generally, conflicting views lead people to split into different camps, but the scholars of Kyoto preserve their bonds of camaraderie and remain active across diverse fields even as they stand in opposition to one another. Students do not hold the same views as their teachers, but are nonetheless tied closely to them through bonds of respect. Halstead wrote that the tradition of free debate founded on respect for the extraordinary and diverse that exists at the University of Oxford can also be found here at Kyoto University. It is this tradition, he asserts, that fosters in students a capacity to engage with others based on understanding and discretion, and produces clear-thinking, candid, and fair-minded graduates equipped with the courage to speak out forcefully whenever needed. Based on my own experience, I can well understand Halstead's observations.

Tokindo Okada, who passed away in January this year, was a scientist who embodied this idea of the Kyoto Elite. Okada was a smart-looking scholar who turned the inconspicuous image of the biologist on its head: the sight of him arriving at campus in a bright red Alfa Romeo, dressed in red jeans and sunglasses and holding a cigarette between his lips, was an object of adoration for me and my contemporaries. A man of many talents, Okada trained numerous scholars from the field of developmental biology, created a new forum of scholarly endeavor called the Department of Biophysics and, among other things, loved the arts and wrote music criticism. He once said that science, the arts, and literature are all expressions of human creativity; they have a certain flavor in common, and none are completely independent of the history and ideas of their age. An important part of scholarship is having a sense of the times in which you live, and each country and each era has its own science. Okada also lamented, however, that the approach to science throughout the world has become far too uniform and tied especially to technology, and that across society as a whole the academic study of biology is becoming almost indistinguishable in style from that pursued in the business world. Surely he had sensed the importance of looking beyond one's own academic discipline, incorporating a broad range of knowledge and arts from other fields, and developing one's own individual flavor as a researcher.

I believe that each one of you has cultivated the qualities of the Kyoto Elite through your research life here at Kyoto University. You have cast your eyes over many different fields and developed your own distinctive flavor through vigorous dialogue with others. That is testimony to your studies at Kyoto University, and will be a priceless asset in your life from here on. Moreover, your dissertation is the ultimate gift you can give to future generations, and the footsteps you leave behind will serve as a guideline for those who come after you. I believe that the value of these things will be determined by whether or not you can uphold the pride and literacy of the Kyoto Elite. The recent spate of incidents of fraud involving scientists has drawn fierce criticism from the wider public. I hope that each one of you will rely on your pride and experience as researchers nurtured at Kyoto University, and go on to pursue brilliant careers.

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