New Year’s Address (6th January 2020)

Happy New Year everyone! This is the first new year since the era name was changed to Reiwa, which makes me feel even more refreshed than I usually do at this time of year. I sincerely hope that this coming year will bring everyone good tidings of health and happiness.

Last year saw many pleasing news including the honorable awarding of Cultural Merit to Dr. Yoshinori Kobayashi, a Professor Emeritus at HU and the leading expert on Stylus-Impressed Writing in Japan.

Unfortunately, it was also the year when the serious risks caused by global warming became a reality.
Last October, Typhoon Hagibis (Typhoon No. 19) brought a record amount of torrential rain across eastern Japan. The flooding, overflows of many rivers and landslides claimed many lives. You may recall that in 2018, the western part of Japan suffered due to both torrential rain and a subsequent heat wave. The report released in 2018 by a German think tank said, “Japan earned the worst spot in the ranking of countries that had suffered a severe impact from climate disasters in 2018”. I think that all of the members of Hiroshima University certainly feel that in their bones.

With ongoing global warming, we already see some serious impacts of it on the ecological system of the land and sea. Meanwhile, COP25 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) was held in Spain last month. Needless to say, each government is required to take specific action towards combatting global warming, but we also need to be fully prepared to set our own achievable SDG goals. Indeed, Ms. Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish activist, said in her COP25 speech, “Hope comes from the people.”

Talking of peace, last November saw Pope Francis visit Japan for the first time in 38 years. He visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima, declaring to the world “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, as is the possession of atomic weapons,” which is still fresh in our memory.

If I may add one more word regarding peace, it has been decided that HU’s “The Center for Peace (TCP)” and Hiroshima City University’s “Hiroshima Peace Institute (HPI)” are to be moved to the No. 1 Building of the Faculty of Science on the site of the former university headquarters on the Higashi-Hiroshima Campus. As a new peace education/research center, I would like TCP and HPI to jointly disseminate messages for peace to the world.

As “the University of Peace”, HU is keen to invite as many students from overseas as possible to Hiroshima on 6th August this year. To facilitate that, HU is now thinking of initiating a crowd funding campaign. The idea behind organizing this event is that the participants at this event may one day become world leaders and disseminate messages of peace that they have learnt during their stay in Hiroshima. This year sees the start of construction of a new building intended for international exchange. I do hope that the new building will serve as a place to cultivate peace-pursuing individuals with a challenging spirit.

As has always been the case, the faculty/administrative members of HU and the students provided me with various comments and suggestions last year. Among such messages, I was so pleased to have received an e-mail from an ex-postgraduate student of the Hiroshima University Law School.

The student in question communicated to me that she had been in a dilemma regarding whether or not to go to university, because of the economic circumstances of her family.  During this dilemma, she discovered the availability of the Hiroshima University Phoenix Scholarship, which exempts scholarship recipients from admission fees and all tuition fees while they are at Hiroshima University, and provides each recipient a stipend of 100,000 yen per month. So, she sat for the HU entrance examination and eventually was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the Scholarship. She read law for her undergraduate studies and subsequently enrolled in the Hiroshima University Law School. Last May, she passed the bar examination.

Now, she is attending a legal apprentice course. In the e-mail, she wrote “Thanks to the HU Phoenix Scholarship, I have been able to open up my career path. I intend to continue my efforts to become a good law practitioner.” In addition, she said that from now on she would like to be on the side of supporters in society and give some assistance, however little it may be, to Hiroshima University.

Universities in Japan are in a phase of transformation right now. As for HU, it has been tackling the issues of reforming its management system involved with the reorganization of its existing Graduate Schools. Following the launch of the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences as well as the Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering this April, almost all the reforms due now will come to an end. I would like to express my gratitude to all the HU members involved, who have kindly dedicated their substantial time and energy to this transformation process. Now that the process is complete, I am convinced that faculty members of HU will have more time from now on to devote themselves to research and education.

I think that HU’s reforms cannot be driven only by the members of the executive board. Indeed, it is your ideas and suggestions that facilitate the birth of new innovations. For the future of HU, I would like to move forward with you all. When we look back the journey we have taken in the future, I sincerely hope that we have made right turns in our journey and the path we have walked on is shining through.
Finally, I sincerely hope that 2020 will be a fruitful, and above all, a peaceful year for faculty and administrative members, students and their families. Happy New Year!

6th January 2020 (Reiwa 2)
Mitsuo Ochi
President, Hiroshima University