Congratulations and welcome to our 307 new graduates! It is a great pleasure to offer my sincere congratulations to you, your families and all those who have supported you in reaching this important milestone. And to all of our guests who have taken time out of their busy schedules to be with us here today, thank you.
Today we are welcoming forty-two international students from China, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Afghanistan. At this venue, 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 Graduate School from countries all around the world every year. The entire faculty and staff is sincerely delighted to greet those of you who have chosen to pursue a course of study and research here at Ochanomizu University.
After your four years of undergraduate study, or your six years of undergraduate and early graduate study and research, I imagine you have arrived here full of hope and ready to take the next step in your academic career. I hope you will take advantage of the rich learning and research environment of Ochanomizu University to explore and study a variety of fields, and then take what you’ve learned and use it out in the world.
Ochanomizu University faculty and staff will support your efforts and work to improve our university systems and campus facilities to enable all of you who are ambitiously pursuing advanced academic study to continue conducting research and producing results. We encourage you to take good care of your physical and mental health so you can continue to enjoy your studies and research during your time here.
Ochanomizu University was founded in 1875 as Tokyo Women’s Normal School, Japan’s first institution of higher education for women, in the Ochanomizu neighborhood of Tokyo. In the 140 years since, the university has produced many talented women educators and researchers. Launched as a university under the new school system in 1949, it established a graduate school master’s degree program in 1963, followed by a doctoral degree program in 1976.
Ochanomizu University’s graduate school strives to conduct cutting-edge academic research and public education by equipping students with specialized knowledge while also highlighting interdisciplinary perspectives. We also seek to cultivate individuals who can address various issues faced by Japan and the world and help solve real-world problems. To do this, our faculty and staff have developed diverse education and research programs unique to this university, and we continue to develop new academic values. We implemented a 21st-century Center of Excellence Program and Global COE Program. Today, we are promoting the Program for Leading Graduate Schools to encourage women to earn doctoral degrees and play an active role in working society.
We see about 250 master’s degree students and 60 doctoral degree students complete their degrees each year and take their place in society. Those graduates move into a variety of different positions within companies and research institutes, primary and secondary education, universities, national and public research institutes, national government agencies, prefectural and municipal government offices, courts and other legal institutions. They also enter media outlets such as TV and newspaper companies, independent administrative agencies and social welfare organizations. Our advanced degree holders use their talents in many different fields, earn the trust of their peers, and help clear the path for the women who will come after them. Many advanced degree holders pursue further self-improvement by studying abroad at foreign universities and research institutes and seeking places to conduct their doctoral research.
Even at a time when it was difficult for women to conduct academic research, our graduates were taking their broad perspectives out into the international arena. 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 woman to be a 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 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 become the second president of Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. Both of these women graduated from our university.
Even today, if you look at the alma maters of women who are playing leading roles in various fields, you may find it surprising to learn how many of them graduated from Ochanomizu University. The activities of previous graduates provide a great boost to the students who come after, giving them encouragement on their journeys forward.
In 2004, when all national universities became national university corporations independent of the government, Ochanomizu University set its sights on creating a culture of research and education that crossed national boundaries and supporting women all over the world in the achievement of their dreams. The university adopted the motto “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 benefit from one another while pursuing their own growth.
Thus far, our undergraduate and graduate school programs have welcomed international students from fifty-four countries. We have also concluded student and researcher exchange agreements with sixty-four other universities. As of October last year, we had 258 international students from 26 countries enrolled, and 60 percent of those were graduate students.
In a society where globalization continues apace, it is increasingly vital for us to approach learning through the accumulation of dialogue and experience. This enables 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 who have values and perspectives that differ from our own. As we prepare to face an unpredictable future, it will be vital 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 make efforts to learn from one another. Ochanomizu University is promoting various initiatives in the hope that women with diverse values will be able to learn from one another, live alongside one another, work on improving themselves, and develop skills that allow them to be true citizens of the world.
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 this institution, also marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. This is a particularly momentous milestone for Japan. For seven decades, Japan has remained at peace, doing no harm to the people or lands of other countries. This is an achievement Japan can be proud of on the world stage. I hope you will never forget just how admirable an achievement this is.
With conflicts occurring in countries all over the world and frequent disasters disrupting everyday life for people all around 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 shape 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.
There is nothing more rewarding than the knowledge that the results of your research will contribute to people’s happiness or lead to a brighter future for people in Japan and around the world.
I hope all of you who are starting your studies here today will fully enjoy your student life on this campus, equipping 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. I hope you all achieve unique research results, are prepared to turn the page on this 140th-anniversary celebration and start writing the next chapter of this 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’s graduate school and wish you a fruitful and rewarding research experience during your time here.
Welcome to Ochanomizu University!
April 4, 2015