Congratulations, new students, and welcome! It is my great pleasure to be here today to welcome our 527 new undergraduate students and begin writing a new page in the history of Ochanomizu University.
I am delighted to offer my sincere congratulations to you, your families and all those who have supported you in reaching this important milestone. To our guests who have taken time out of their busy schedules to be with us here today, I thank you.
This year we are welcoming international students from Slovakia and Indonesia. At this venue, you’ll notice we are flying the flags of the countries of our international students alongside the Japanese national flag. It is the great pleasure of our faculty and staff to welcome students to Ochanomizu University from various countries all around the world every year.
Ochanomizu University was founded in 1875 as Tokyo Women’s Normal School, Japan’s first institution of higher education for women, and opened its campus in the Ochanomizu neighborhood of Tokyo’s Bunkyo City. Later, as changes were made to the education system, our name and organizational structure were changed. The school became the The Womenʼs campus of Tokyo Normal School, The Womenʼs campus of Higher Normal School, the Women’s Higher Normal School, and then the Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School. In 1949, thanks to the efforts of many of the school’s supporters, the school was converted into a university under the new system. This year marks the 140th anniversary of its founding.
A ceremony commemorating the university’s 140th anniversary and other events are scheduled for the fall. We hope that all of you entering the university during this exciting year will help support and participate in these various activities.
The document calling for the establishment of Ochanomizu University as a new national university states that “the mission of this university is to cultivate women who will take leadership positions in many different fields” and that “the cultivation of leaders requires both a general education and specialized expertise.” The forethought of the university’s leadership in this area was remarkable.
For many years this university has been expected to cultivate female leaders equipped with both general knowledge and specialized expertise. This continues to be part of Ochanomizu University’s mission.
When we became a university under the new system, we adopted the much-beloved Ochanomizu name—which had become associated with the university over many years—and began developing the school into a small yet distinctive comprehensive university. Many exceptional, progressively minded female students have enrolled in Ochanomizu University, just as they did in Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School. Even when it was difficult for women to play a working role in society, this university has consistently cultivated leading educators, scientists and engineers. In doing so, it has supported women’s independence and social engagement, and bolstered the intellectual foundations of society. We have sent many talented graduates out into the world. They have demonstrated excellence in a variety of fields, including academic research, education, industry, government and the media, and have carved out a path for the women coming after them.
Even at a time when it was difficult for women to conduct academic research, our graduates were taking their global perspective out into the working world. For example, we are proud to claim pioneering women like Kono Yasui, a Japanese scientist who studied abroad in the U.S. and became the first Japanese woman to receive a doctoral degree in science and to publish an article in an overseas journal. Chika Kuroda was the first female student at an imperial university, and the second to receive a doctoral degree in science. Toshiko Yuasa went to France during the difficult period after World War II, lived with Jean Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie, and became an internationally renowned physicist (earning degrees in both Japan and France). Michiyo Tsujimura continued her research as an unpaid assistant at an imperial university and became the first Japanese woman to receive a doctoral degree in agricultural science. Over the years, Ochanomizu University has produced many scholars and researchers active in both the Japanese and international arenas.
Ginko Ogino is known as the first woman physician in Japan. Tetsu Yasui dedicated herself to education in Siam after studying abroad in England, and became the second president of Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. Both of these women graduated from our university. Many of our graduates have also established schools that promote the education of women in Japan. One of the best-known examples of this is Ouin Gakuen, launched in 1924, the year after the Great Kanto Earthquake, by the Ouinkai alumni association of Ochanomizu University.
In 2004, all national universities became national university corporations, independent of the national government. Up to that point, national universities were subject to uniformly established national regulations based on their status as government institutions. After their incorporation, these universities were required to manage themselves in a way that demonstrated the uniqueness of their education and research offerings.
At that time, Ochanomizu University set its sights on creating a culture of research and education that crossed national boundaries, and on supporting women all over the world in the achievement of their dreams. The university adopted the motto of “being a place where all women who are motivated to learn can realize their most ambitious dreams.” We began conducting programs to support the growth and qualitiative skill development of women regardless of nationality or age, including women in developing countries who may have the desire, but not the opportunity, to pursue an education. We set a course toward global women’s education, intent on being an academic institution where women from around the world can learn alongside one another, develop a genuine understanding of people from different cultures with diverse values and perspectives, and mutually benefit from one another while pursuing their own growth.
We have built a distinctive education system that combines liberal arts education and leadership education, and we provide a place of learning where young women can explore for themselves what they want to do in society. The young women who come to Ochanomizu University to study are intent on self-improvement and pursuing their dreams so they can make key contributions to society.
Our world is going through a period of significant social upheaval. As this occurs on a global scale, people feel their values and the foundations of their lives being shaken.
This year, which marks the 140th anniversary of our institution, also marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. This is a particularly momentous milestone for Japan. Japan has remained at peace for seven decades, bringing no harm to the people or lands of other nations. This is an achievement Japan can be proud of on the world stage. I hope you all continue to be proud of your Japanese heritage, never forgetting the remarkable achievements that have contributed to the peace Japan has maintained all these years.
With conflicts occurring in countries throughout the world and frequent disasters disrupting everyday life for people across the globe, causing great loss of life, I hope you have etched on your heart the importance of being able to peacefully go about your everyday activities, of being able to simply live a normal life, and of living hand in hand with other people in the spirit of mutual trust.
Recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake is still very much under way. Those with the power to alter the future of Japan and the entire world must not forget a sense of compassion for the most vulnerable people in society, and must continue to ask what they can do to help.
In a society where globalization continues apace, it is increasingly vital for us to approach learning through the accumulation of dialogue and experience. This will enable us to reexamine ourselves and our world from various perspectives based on our experiences of complexity and diversity, and to gain a deeper understanding of people with values and perspectives that differ from our own. As we prepare to face an unpredictable future, it will be essential for the young people who lead the next generation to deepen their ties with their peers from diverse places around the world, to build relationships of trust, and to learn from one another.
Ochanomizu University offers a broad and diverse academic research environment, allowing students to investigate the way humans live in society and the institutions that support them, the workings of life and its structures, natural phenomena and the composition of matter, and subjects in science, technology and art that support human lifestyles and maintain health and well being. We are promoting various initiatives in the hope that women with diverse values will learn from one another, live alongside one another, work on improving themselves and develop skills that allow them to be truly global citizens.
All our faculty and staff are delighted that you who are starting your university careers today have chosen Ochanomizu University as your institution of learning. We hope you fully enjoy your student life on this campus and equip yourselves with a broad range of knowledge and robust powers of imagination as you grow into talented young women prepared to create a hopeful future for Japan and the world. We hope you are all prepared to turn the page on this 140th-anniversary celebration and begin writing the next chapter of your university’s legacy.
Take care of your physical and emotional health, and enjoy your time as university students. Again, I congratulate you on your acceptance into Ochanomizu University and wish you a fruitful and rewarding student experience during your time here. Welcome!
April 4, 2015