New Year's Address (4th January 2024)

Happy New Year to you all. The new year has started with an unexpected and tragic disaster and accident. On the evening of New Year’s Day, a major earthquake of seismic intensity registering an upper 7 occurred with its epicenter in the Noto region of Ishikawa Prefecture, claiming many precious lives. As aftershocks continue, more than 50,000 people have been forced to live in evacuation centers. On the following day, five people aboard a Japanese coastguard plane died after their plane collided with the Japan Airlines passenger plane at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. The coastguard plane was due to deliver emergency relief supplies to the quake-stricken areas above. We would like to express our deepest condolences to the victims of the earthquake disaster and the aircraft accident and extend our heartfelt sympathy to the people in the affected areas and to the passengers who were involved in the accident.

As posted on the university’s website, Hiroshima University is currently confirming the safety of all students, faculty and administrative members from the areas affected by the earthquake. We are also considering dispatching our own medical team to the affected areas as well as providing material assistance there. We are committed to offering as much support as possible to aid in the swift recovery of these affected areas.

Looking back, last year was a year when the world’s attention was focused on Hiroshima as the G7 Summit was held in Hiroshima in May when leaders, including those from states with nuclear weapons, laid flowers at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, visiting Peace Memorial Museum to see the tragic nature of the atomic bombing. However, despite our strong wish for peace, dark clouds of war have been hanging over the world, including the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the war between Israel and Hamas. Meanwhile, the emergence of interactive, generative artificial intelligence---represented by ChatGPT---is extensively changing the way we live, work and learn.

As for Japan, it was also a year in which ‘credibility’ of the so-called Establishment was severely shaken, as symbolized by the problems over ‘politics and money’. With the rapid decline in Japan’s birthrates, reductions in management expenses grants and the passage of the revised National University Corporation Law, national universities in Japan are becoming even more concerned about their future.

Against this backdrop, a number of events have taken place that will lead to significant progress for the future of Hiroshima University. These include the relocation of the School of Law to the Higashi-Senda Campus; the decision to join the ‘US-Japan Semiconductor Partnership’; a collaboration between US semiconductor giant Micron Technology and 11 US and Japanese universities; and the formulation of the ‘President 5 Initiatives for Peace Science - New Peace Science (Creating Peace for Safety and Reassurance)’, where Hiroshima University has set out five important initiatives it intends to address.

At the end of last year, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) selected our proposal ‘Realization of an industrial cluster ecosystem integrating semiconductors, super materials and biotechnology with visualization technology using synchrotron radiation’ for its ‘Program for Forming Japan’s Peak Research Universities’. Furthermore, thanks to your efforts, we were able to win several major projects, including the following, which I am convinced will undoubtedly enhance our research and education capabilities: we were the only university in the Chugoku-Shikoku region to receive the ‘FY2023 Project for Strengthening University and College of Technology Functions: Support for Strengthening Functions to Secure High-level Information Professionals’. The ‘Town & Gown Concept’, which works to solve problems in collaboration with the local community, has also started to expand nationwide.

As a new year dawns, Hiroshima University celebrates its 75th anniversary and the 150th anniversary of the establishment of its oldest predecessor school: the Hakushima School. In the run-up to the anniversary celebrations on 2 and 3 November 2024, together with alumni, students, faculty and administrative members, we are going to organize a number of events that will enable you to see first-hand the traditions that Hiroshima University has built so far and its bright future. One of such events includes the A-bomb poetry reading held in November 2023, where an actor Sayuri Yoshinaga expressed the anger and sorrow of the hibakusha in a true “reading from the soul”.

From the middle of this month, trams and buses whose designs are based on proposals by the student at Hiroshima University, will start running in Hiroshima City. In addition, events will be held in Osaka in June and Tokyo in September to publicize the attractiveness of the university. A commemorative ceremony in November will include a lecture by the French historical demographer, Emmanuel Todd.

Dr. Todd, who is known for predicting the financial collapse of the US and the UK’s departure from the EU, emphasizes the importance of studying history: ‘It is by no means impossible to foresee the future from the past if the right data is collected and analyzed properly.’ By taking a fresh look back at the history of Hiroshima University, I would like to find new paths towards a brighter future with you.

Since assuming the presidency in 2015, I have been at the forefront of reputation enhancement of Hiroshima University to ensure that its capabilities are duly recognized, while also making sure to build a solid foundation for the three pillars of education, research and social contribution. This year marks a new starting point for the next 75 years. Through close exchange with our members, I will focus even more on creating an environment in which students, faculty and administrative members can truly say ‘we are happy to have studied or worked at Hiroshima University.’

I pledge to devote myself wholeheartedly to the responsibilities of my office as President, learning from the history built up by my predecessors over the past 150 years, while contemplating what Hiroshima University should be for the future of Japan. Finally, I would like to conclude my New Year's greetings by wishing for the earliest possible peace to the areas of ongoing wars, and tranquility for Japan, as well as for a better year for all faculty and administrative members, students, and their families.

4th January 2024 (Reiwa 6)
Mitsuo Ochi
President, Hiroshima University