News & Event
Good morning everyone and congratulations on your successful entrance into Hosei University.
I believe some of our new entrants have only just arrived in the country and some have still not been able to enter Japan. The global spread of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, has highlighted just how international universities have become. Universities are strongly impacted by events taking place around the world. For that very reason, we must continue to learn about and focus on the ways in which the world is changing and how the world ought to be.
I am sure that you have all experienced unprecedented events over the past six months before entering Hosei University. How did they make you feel? What were you thinking about? Whatever the answer, it has certainly been an especially unusual six months for you all. Students across Japan and around the world have participated in online learning. However, I am sure this unusual experience will prove a great source of strength for your future life. When you have some time to spare, I urge you all to reflect on the past six months and ensure your individual experiences in such a restricted environment are not wasted or forgotten.
I too have had to attend most of my meetings and events online over the past six months. Each time I conducted a meeting online, I was struck by the importance of words. There is an expression in Japanese, which translates as “reading the atmosphere,” but that does not really work online. Even if you can see people’s faces and hear their voices, you cannot read the finer facial expressions or tone of voice of multiple people at once. I have to chair most of the meetings using clear words and verbal interaction alone because I could not see people’s minute expressions. If I think about it, the phrase “reading the atmosphere” really is the perfect expression. A person on the ground is able to gauge the emotions of a relatively large number of people simultaneously by absorbing a variety of minute signals. Be they in a theater, a concert or a lecture hall, great performers, actors, and orators absorb all of these elements and fine-tune their performances or speeches accordingly. I have developed an even greater respect for the wonderful human senses that enable us to do this. Reading the atmosphere is certainly not a bad thing. However, it is important not to simply go along with the atmosphere, but instead to be conscious of the mood and sharpen your own expressions and arguments within it. Clearly, in this current environment, it is not possible to read the atmosphere, so we have to change the way we communicate. The best way to do that is to sharpen our awareness of words and polish their delivery.
When Hosei University started the spring semester with nearly all lectures being conducted online, I launched a page on the University website called “From the President to You All.” I started by talking about how to read books even if you could not get to the library to our first-year undergraduates who were studying in their homes or overseas far away from the university and who had not yet set foot on the campus, to our returning undergraduate and post-graduate students who could not use the library, and to everyone who could not do their part-time jobs, could not meet their friends, and who had no choice but to stay at home. I then moved on to introducing books written by Hosei graduates who have gone on to become authors, or by current or former faculty members. When summer vacation came around, I asked everyone to post things on the page, and now that the fall semester has begun, I intend to resume my own posts. Our library boasts a wide range of Japanese books, English-language books, and academic papers, which you can read online. I urge you to try using those digital resources.
When writing messages for From the President to You All articles, I felt very strongly that neither the University nor I wanted to force students to focus entirely on their studies to the exclusion of all else. Meeting people from countries and regions who you have not had the opportunity to meet before, interact with faculty members, and experiencing entirely new activities—I took it for granted that students would get to do those sort of things in their university life, but over these past few months when such activities have not been possible, I have been reminded of just how important they are.
Under such circumstances, it is important to read. If you come across a word that you do not understand when you are reading, you can look it up in a dictionary. You organize the plot in your head. You peruse encyclopedias and chronological tables if you have any questions about a specific location, season, or era. You imagine what those who appear in the reading material were like. In other words, reading continually and actively engages your logic, research skills, and imagination and strengthens your brain as a result. If you have a tough brain, you can nurture strong writing skills without hardly noticing, and, once you have fostered a certain writing ability, you then read and write at the same time, meaning you write about what you have read over and over again. You each have different levels of Japanese skills but I would urge you to nurture your ability to read Japanese books little by little. However, improving your language skills is not the sole purpose of reading. It is also important to increase your reading of texts written in a language that you would normally use in daily life.
On a different note, I heard several people saying it was really hard to complete assignments when lessons were being taught online during the spring semester. You may experience similar problems going forward, but, as I have just mentioned, these tough experiences will definitely benefit you and make you stronger. If you use this time wisely, this period will cease to be a tough memory someday. I myself entered Hosei University exactly 50 years ago. I got to read more books, write more pieces, and study more than ever before during those early days at University. Today, what I remember most about those times is how fulfilling and fun they were. No one told me what to do. I chose my own path. My teachers offered me guidance and I got to spend as much time as I could doing what I wanted to do.
Today, our world and our society are undergoing dramatic change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies worldwide have been weakened by the outbreak, but the whole experience is also bound to generate some new and unexpected jobs. So I say to you: Don’t give up. Make the most of your unique skills and abilities, and learn as much as you can while at Hosei University. In your studies, pay attention to how society and the world change and develop, because the world will change very rapidly. Our founders established this university to convey the knowledge required to develop a new society in early modern Japan, which had itself undergone significant change. Our very own University Charter talks about the desire to both respond to reality and strive towards an ideal in its Practical Wisdom for Freedom message.
I would like to take a few minutes to introduce the history of Hosei University to our new students. Hosei University’s predecessor, Tokyo Hogakusha (Tokyo School of Law) was established in 1880. The school was founded by three young people in their 20s. At the dawn of Japan’s modern age, those wanting to promote awareness of individual rights were keen to acquire a knowledge of the law. The three founders were Kanamaru Magane (28), Ito Osamu (25), and Satta Masakuni (24). Today, we have a multipurpose hall called Satta Hall on our Ichigaya campus, which was named after the youngest of the three founders. The Ichigaya campus also boasts a 27-storey high-rise building called the Boissonade Tower, which was named after Dr. Gustave Émile Boissonade from France. These three young people studied the law and decided to base the Tokyo School of Law’s teaching on Dr. Boissonade’s concepts of natural law.
The Japanese people first learned law from the French, but they had actually already developed their own study methods in the Edo period (1603–1867). This involved not only listening to lectures, but also taking turns giving lectures to each other and engaging in lively debate. This method was implemented in higher education clan schools and private cram schools. The three founders of Hosei University were born and raised in the Edo period, but they were already blessed with the ability to debate and the core “Practical Wisdom for Freedom” that forms the spirit of our Hosei University Charter.
All of you entering Hosei University right now will also pursue studies based on this Charter, so let me introduce it to you here. First, the charter has a slogan. We refer to that slogan as a promise. A promise from the University to society. That promise is the Practical Wisdom for Freedom that I mentioned earlier. The Hosei University Charter broadly anticipates the future Japan and our future world. When you enter Hosei University, your learning will be founded on this Charter spirit.
Hosei University Charter
Practical Wisdom for Freedom
Hosei University was founded by a group of ambitious young men at the beginning of the modern era in Japan for ordinary citizens who had become aware of human rights and sought a knowledge of the law.
As the school song says, Hosei University is a place where “good teachers and good friends gather.” The university has always fostered a “free academic atmosphere” in which the rights of others are respected and diversity is accepted and a “pioneering spirit” which is not bound by convention and aims at building a fair society.
Carrying on the legacy of the university’s founders, our mission is to pass on this free academic atmosphere and pioneering spirit to the next generation and contribute to solving the problems of the world.
In order to fulfill this mission, the university strives to support farsighted research from a variety of points of view and educate students to become independent citizens who carry out their work for the society and the people based on well-grounded principles and unrestricted thinking.
Hosei University promotes sound critical thinking based on sympathy for all people, both locally and internationally, and the creation of ideas for solving social problems based on practical wisdom. In cooperation with its many graduates, who have the ability to live anywhere in the world, Hosei University will contribute to the future of sustainable societies.
That is the Hosei University Charter. What do you think the promise of Practical Wisdom for Freedom really means? Here, freedom means to think for yourself without relying on an outside authority or organization, and to discipline yourself to live in accordance with those thoughts and beliefs. Practical wisdom does not refer just to knowledge that is actually useful, but to the demonstration of intelligence in different fields channeled into achieving ideals and social value.
Hosei University is one of Japan’s global universities, so one of the ways we herald our promise of Practical Wisdom for Freedom is to send many students overseas to study and welcome many international students to the University. Many of our graduates are now actively involved in different activities worldwide. Right now, overseas study programs have been hindered by the spread of COVID-19, and some of you will be listening to (or reading) this entrance ceremony address in your home country. Going forward, you will all be utilizing different learning mediums, including online, on-demand, and face-to-face teaching wherever possible. The globalization of education and learning will require a combination of various new ways of learning to suit the situation at the time. So I say to you: Don’t give up on learning in Japan. Choose the study method that suits your individual needs best or suggest a better one to your teachers so that you can deepen your learning.
I am delighted to have you at Hosei University and wholeheartedly welcome you into our University community.