Welcome Address at the 2018 Entrance Ceremony

April 3, 2018

Let me begin with a warm welcome to all our new students, and their parents and guardians.

The number of applicants for undergraduate places at Hosei University has continued to grow in recent years. It was higher than ever in 2018, setting a new record for the third consecutive year. You have overcome fierce competition to join us here. Together with the new entrants to our graduate schools, you are the front-runners who will shape the future. Approach your studies at Hosei University with confidence.

The origins of Hosei University date back to 1880, the 13th year of the Meiji period, when the Tokyo Hogakusha (Tokyo School of Law) was established. You may be surprised to hear that the school was established by three young men in their twenties. The Freedom and People’s Rights Movement was flourishing in Japan at that time, and as people became aware of their rights, they sought knowledge of the law. Those three men were Magane Kanamaru, aged 28, Osamu Ito, aged 25, and Masakuni Satta, aged 24. On the top floor of the Sotobori Building on our Ichigaya Campus there is a multi-purpose hall called Satta Hall. That name commemorates the youngest of the three founders. Also on the Ichigaya Campus is a 27-story high-rise called Boissonade Tower. It commemorates the Frenchman Dr. Gustave Emile Boissonade, under whom the three young founders studied, and who became the founding director of Tokyo Hogakusha.   

You may be wondering whether Hosei University simply adopted European learning and educational methods introduced by foreign teachers. I have a profound interest in the reasons why these three young men created the school, and in the social climate of those times. The key to understanding that environment lies in the intellectual societies that gave birth to the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement.

Around 2,000 intellectual societies are believed to have existed in Japan in 1880, when Tokyo Hogakusha, the forerunner of Hosei University, was established. They were discussion forums for people who had awareness and ambitions relating to politics and the law. The samurai class no longer dominated politics and the law after the end of the Edo period, so forums were needed where farmers, townsfolk, and former samurai could overcome traditional barriers to discuss matters together. Citizens who no longer had a fixed position in society eagerly set up reading groups, engaged in discussion, and held lecture meetings aimed at establishing a constitution and a national assembly. These gave rise to several draft constitutions prepared by citizens, including the Itsukaichi Kenpo. An intellectual society was formed for the purpose of discussion in Tokyo’s Itsukaichi district, and it debated whether knowledge or force was the quickest path to gaining freedom, the pros and cons of crowning an empress, and many other topics. Our Tama Campus in Machida is located in the town of Aihara, which in the Meiji period was Aihara village, a place where nearly a hundred youths debated matters day and night. The Tama area was a particularly thriving hub of the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement.

Intellectual societies existed in every corner of Japan. In Okayama Prefecture there was a society called “ameigun,” which is written with characters meaning “a group of croaking frogs.” Its name was chosen to convey the message that although the members might be no more than frogs croaking in the paddy fields, they were determined to say what should be said.      

In 1889 Tokyo Hogakusha evolved into the Wafutsu Horitsu Gakko (Tokyo School of Japanese and French Law). The first head of school was a man called Rinsho Mitsukuri. At the age of 19 he led the translation service for the magistrate of foreign affairs, which was the equivalent of today’s Minister for Foreign Affairs[A1] , and at 21 he went to France, before later becoming head of Wafutsu Horitsu Gakko. He also wrote the first history book in Japan to fully discuss the French Revolution. He belonged to Meirokusha, a ten-person intellectual society that also included Arinori Mori, who founded Hitotsubashi University, and Yukichi Fukuzawa, the founder of Keio University. This society published the Meiroku Zasshi (Meiroku journal) and was an opinion leader at the time. We can picture an era when many people threw themselves into fervent debate aimed at creating a new society.  

What enabled people born in the Edo period to engage in such thriving discussion in intellectual societies? In the Edo period, schools had already established a method of study called “kaidoku,” which focused on discussion. Under the kaidoku method, a group of ten or so students took turns in lecturing on certain parts of a text. The other students then asked questions and discussed the content. The teacher acted as moderator, intervening when discussion became antagonistic or disorderly.

The Edo-period study method firstly taught people to learn by reading aloud. The sound helped people to internalize the lesson. Then they gained a deeper understanding of the words they had internalized from the lecture. And finally, a discussion of the material took place. In the Edo period, Japanese people did not simply acquire knowledge. They thought about how to use it while comparing theory with the real world, expressing their opinions, and debating. Even in a time when a national assembly and a constitution were being established and civil society was being built by laws, lots of people were able to discuss a diverse range of opinions. I regard Tokyo Hogakusha as another intellectual society for debating changes to the society of that time. Without a doubt, its young founders studied and thought for themselves, and came together to fully debate matters with citizens.  

I have a reason for talking about this founding era today. Since the Japanese population peaked in 2004, it has started to decline sharply. Commentators suggest that Japan and the world will face major change around 2040, when artificial intelligence is likely to bring about technological singularity. Conventional jobs will progressively be replaced by other work. We are at the start of an era of change comparable with the Meiji Restoration. In such a time, young people will create new things, just as they created Hosei University. The future is difficult to discern, but you will live through its realities, and have the chance to be front-runners.

With a view to this era of tremendous change, Hosei University, which we can presume has inherited the kaidoku method of learning through discussion I mentioned earlier, is now constructing a method of learning through “practical wisdom.” The documentation you have been given today contains the full text of the Hosei University Charter. The title of this charter is “Practical Wisdom for Freedom,” and this is the promise we make about our education and research, because our role in an era of change is to help you develop real-world wisdom to achieve freedom.

What is “Practical Wisdom for Freedom?” By freedom, we mean thinking for yourself and living your own life based on those thoughts with self-discipline, without being swayed by conventional authorities and organizations or the surrounding climate. Practical wisdom does not simply mean knowledge that will actually be of use; rather it is intelligence exercised in various settings in the aim of being of value to society. Tokyo Hogakusha consisted of two sections: one where students discussed law, and one which functioned as a legal office, and those who studied there could also experience legal work. From its very founding, this school has emphasized experiencing the achievement of ideals in real-world settings. Our charter sets direction for Hosei University by valuing practical wisdom that creates ideas for solving problems, and by stating our intention to produce graduates with the ability to live anywhere in the world and contribute to the future of sustainable societies.  

What exactly is “the ability to live anywhere in the world?” No matter what kind of work you do when you graduate, you will enter a society integrated with the entire world. The most important thing of all will be to respect diversity. The Hosei University Statement on Diversity states that “eliminating discrimination on the basis of gender, age, nationality, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, disability, or sexual orientation is essential” and that “diversity also means respecting such differences as integral to human individuality.” This stance is a requirement for living in the world.

Hosei University will keep striving to ensure that its students acquire ways of continuing to learn in this new era. We only get one life. Today you embark on a crucial few years in that journey, when you will challenge yourselves intellectually and acquire the abilities that will form the foundations for your lives.

Once again, I welcome you to Hosei.

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