Congratulations, new students, and welcome! Today I am pleased to welcome you 510 new students to Ochanomizu University. On behalf of the entire faculty and staff, I offer my warmest congratulations to you, your families, and all those who have supported you in reaching this important milestone. I am delighted to be with you here on this beautiful day. To all of our guests who have taken time out of their busy schedules to be with us here today, I appreciate your presence. I hope that you will watch over the futures of these young students.
This year we are welcoming international students from China, South Korea, Taiwan and Sweden. We are flying the flags of the countries of our international students in this hall alongside the Japanese national flag. It is the great pleasure of our faculty and staff to welcome students to Ochanomizu University from countries all around the world every year.
To all of our international students, it is my great hope that by studying here in Japan, far away from your home country, you will not only be academically stimulated but also have opportunities to learn about different lifestyles, viewpoints, cultures and values through your interactions with students born and raised in Japan. I hope you enjoy these interactions and gain an appreciation for the wonderful diversity and strong appeal of various types of people.
As new students, you all have gotten to where you are today through continuous growth as a result of the affection and dedication of your parents. From the time you were an infant, one day at a time, you have learned things, acquired new knowledge and gradually grown into an adult. Take a moment and think back to your childhood. For example, if you compare who you are today to the person you were in elementary school, junior high school or even high school, I’m sure you can see how much you’ve changed and matured. Over the next four years you’ll spend in college, you’re going to grow even more.
The type of study you’ll engage in here will be quite different from what you’ve experienced thus far. If you become passive, you may not be able to complete your work. I hope your approach will be to quickly take the initiative to study things on your own. If you take the initiative to hope, study and explore, you will become familiar with a rich, expansive academic world, and are likely to make a variety of discoveries. I think you’ll quickly come to realize that this academic realm is changing and evolving dynamically. I hope you will seek ways of promoting theories backed by robust knowledge and intellectual curiosity, be willing to make changes in how you perceive things, your ways of thinking and your sense of values, and will allow your skills and character to change and grow dynamically.
Your world will expand significantly, even in a social sense, during your time in college. The rich encounters you will have with people born and raised in many different countries and regions—and people with skills and experiences that you do not possess—are vastly different from what you experienced in high school. Your extracurricular activities will expand as well. There is a vast, new world just waiting for you.
Every day you will spend time living and studying with people who grew up in different environments and with different values, people who have their own amazing talents and personalities, and this will lead to tremendous personal growth. Herein lies the real charm of life as a university student. I hope that you meet many wonderful people in the new environment of Ochanomizu University, and that you voluntarily get involved in a variety of intellectual and social activities. You should know that this university has many different systems and frameworks to help support you in pursuing your ambitions. The faculty and staff will do everything they can to assist you.
As you all know, Ochanomizu University celebrated its 140th anniversary last year on November 29. On that day, many people from various sectors both in Japan and abroad came to celebrate this milestone with us.
Ochanomizu University was founded in 1875 as Tokyo Women’s Normal School, the first national institution of higher education for women in Japan, 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 changed as well. The school became the Women’s Campus on Tokyo Normal School, the Women’s Campus on Higher Normal School, the Women’s Higher Normal School, and then the Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School. In 1949, the school was converted into Ochanomizu University under the new system, named after its birthplace. In the 140 years since its founding, Ochanomizu University has been expected to produce female leaders equipped with both general knowledge and specialized expertise. This continues to be part of Ochanomizu University’s mission.
Since its founding, the university has accepted many exceptional, progressively minded female students. They became leading educators, scientists, engineers and people who have all helped bolster the foundations of society in various fields. Our graduates have played leading roles in women’s independence and social engagement even in times when it was difficult for women to play a working role in society.
Since its founding, Ochanomizu University has also cultivated women active in their fields both in Japan and abroad. In 2004, when all of the national universities were established as 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 on 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 qualitative 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. These programs focus on the globalization of academia in the truest sense, serving as a manifestation of our intent to be an academic institution where students can develop a genuine understanding of people from different cultures with diverse values and perspectives from around the world as well as mutually benefit from one another while pursuing their own individual growth.
In an increasingly borderless world, studies that include genuine dialogue and real-world experiences are increasingly important. The young people who will lead the next generation need to deepen their ties with their peers from diverse places around the world, to build relationships of trust, and make efforts to learn from one another. Ochanomizu University has concluded exchange agreements with 69 universities in 24 countries. We also hold various summer school courses and short-term exchange programs, expanding opportunities for exchange and learning in a variety of fields.
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 important contributions that benefit people in Japan and around the world.
As students at Ochanomizu University, you will join this place of learning. As you make new efforts in this new environment, you can expect to face various difficulties. It is by overcoming difficulties that people refine their skills and achieve personal growth. These are opportunities to make you aware of your skills and capabilities you were not aware of on your own. As reflected in the lyrics of our student song, “Unless you polish it, even a jewel or mirror will be for naught. The path of learning is much the same.” I hope you will learn to polish and refine yourselves so that you can fulfill your dreams.
Ochanomizu University has various systems and frameworks to help you overcome difficulties that you might face while striving to achieve your goals. Our faculty and staff stand ready to support your growth.
The world we live in today is experiencing unpredictable changes, and people’s values and the very foundations of society are being shaken. With conflicts occurring in countries all over the world and the frequent occurrence of natural disasters, people are no longer able to peacefully go about living their everyday lives, and their lives are lost. Even the recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake is still very much under way.
I hope you will press on with your studies, never forgetting to take into consideration those who are less fortunate than you, and always asking what you yourself can do to help others.
I hope all of you who are starting your studies here today 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 who will be prepared to create a hopeful future for Japan and the world. Be sure to take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally, and enjoy your time as university students.
Once again, I would like to express my sincere congratulations to all 510 of our new students, your families and others who have supported you in reaching this point in your academic careers. I genuinely hope that you will have an enjoyable and rewarding experience here.
Welcome to Ochanomizu University!
April 4, 2016