New Year’s Address (7th January 2019)

Happy New Year everyone! To mark the beginning of this year, Heisei 31 (2019), please allow me to say a few words by way of a greeting. I sincerely hope that this coming year will bring everyone good tidings of health and happiness.

Looking back the last year, I must admit that it was a year when we were made to realize how powerless human knowledge is in front of raging natural disasters such as the torrential rain that struck Western Japan in July including Hiroshima prefecture, the 2018 Hokkaido Eastern Iburi Earthquake in September, typhoons that hit Japan one after another. In particular, the torrential rain that struck Western Japan hit directly Hiroshima Prefecture, claiming more than 100 precious lives. At the sight of a natural disaster which was beyond description, I felt completely at a loss, but I was determined to deliver a special edition of President’s Message to the students, faculty and administrative members of HU in Japanese, English, and Chinese.

Many of you may know this already, but immediately after the torrential rain last July, many of the major roads in Higashi-Hiroshima were cut off by landslides, bringing most of the traffic to a standstill for several days. Upon hearing such news, I recall that fifteen students from HU text-messaged to the public via SNS, asking for donation of rice grains; the students then made more than 1,000 rice balls and distributed them to the drivers stuck in the traffic jam. I was told that more than 1,300 of student volunteers including “OPERATION Tsunagari” were dispatched to the affected areas, giving support for restoration work as well as helping with constructions of temporary shelters. It was reassuring and gratifying to know that these students thought how they could be of any help to those people in difficulties and took the initiatives to take some actions, while the students themselves were also under difficult circumstances.

Following the disaster, I immediately went on to organize HU Disaster Investigation Team for Torrential Rain of 2018 with me as the head, and then in September HU Resilience Research Center was established after mobilizing about 40 researchers from across the entire university. 

As you may know, what is behind frequently-occurring natural disasters worldwide is climate change on the global scale such as the global warming. From that perspective, it is essential for us to address the goals set by SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)---common global goals to seek solutions for the environmental issues in the world. Last year saw an establishment of a center called FE (Future Earth)/SDGs Network for Education and Research on Peace and Sustainability. I think that HU is expected to be on higher standpoint, which enables the University to obtain an overview of the world and to address wide range of global issues in flexible manner, while having its solid base in Hiroshima.

Last year was a milestone for the world as it marked a centennial anniversary since the end of the World War One in which more than ten million people fell victim to it. Following that war, the world has seen one war after another breaking out: the World War Two, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Iraq War. These go to show that there simply has not been any time when the world is free from wars. What is worse, nationalism is widespread in today’s world with trade wars between the superpowers escalating more and more. I am deeply concerned about the current situations in the world where the momentum for the world to be united as one is fading away.

The first principle that HU holds out in its Guiding Principle is “The Pursuit of Peace.” What kind of roles are expected of HU to play? One attempt initiated last autumn is the launch of “the Peace Lecture Marathon (PLM).” So far, globally-renowned speakers including the Prime Minister of Lithuania have been invited to deliver lectures concerning peace. PLM is, needless to say, a good occasion that enables us to share with the history of a speaker’s country and a wealth of his/her thoughts. However, PLM was originally started with the following purposes in mind: to encourage each influential speaker to disseminate what he or she may have felt during their stay in Hiroshima to their home countries and the rest of the world as a message for peace.

As one passage from the Preamble of UNESCO Constitution---“That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”---says, I would like to see HU moving forward like the passage above by steadily undertaking what it can do as “The University of Peace.” 

This year, reorganization of Graduate Schools at HU will get into full swing. In April this year, Graduate School of Integrated Life Science and Graduate School of Medical Science are to be launched.

In addition, this year marks the 70th anniversary of HU. It is also a run-up to 2024, which serves as a milestone for its 150 years old of history when the history of HU’s predecessor schools is included. Last July, HU set up a promotion committee in order to promote a fund called “The fund for uplifting Hiroshima University and energizing the local communities of Hiroshima.” I would be very much obliged if you could kindly ask the people around you to contribute to the fund through donation.

By solidifying the empirical knowledge of the past alumni of HU, I am keen to lay down the foundation of HU which aims to be the “University of World-wide Repute and Splendor for Years into the Future.” In order to realize that, I am counting on your support and understanding.

Finally, I sincerely hope that 2019 will be a wonderful year filled with full of hope for you all. Happy New Year!

7th January 2019 (H31)
Mitsuo Ochi
President, Hiroshima University