Congratulations to all of you who today become students of Kyushu University. We would also like to congratulate all of the family and friends, who have supported and encouraged you on your path to university.
This year, we have witnessed significant changes in our lives and in our society due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Here at Kyushu University, we have been forced to make sweeping changes to our usual schedule. We cancelled our spring Opening ceremony, and many international students had no other choice but to postpone or decline their enrollment due to immigration restrictions. Most courses were moved online, without anyone ever stepping foot on campus. Nearly six months have passed since then as we have found new ways of adjusting to a "new normal" and enacted careful measures to prevent the further spread of infection. It is no small achievement that we are allowed to gather here today for the fall Opening ceremony. Today, we welcome a total of 344 new students, including 35 undergraduate students, 291 graduate students, and 18 new international students on short-term study abroad programs (JTW and JLCC). Again, I would like to extend a very special welcome to all of our new students.
I would first like to ask you to think about why you chose to study at Kyushu University. And let me share with you the educational and academic philosophy of Kyushu University. Next year, Kyushu University will celebrate its 110th anniversary. Founded in 1911, Kyushu University is recognized for its high academic standards and cutting-edge research, which are built upon wisdom cultivated over more than a century of history and tradition.
Our basic philosophy is one of ongoing governance reform as we aim to become a world-leading center of excellence in education and research, a vibrant institution capable of addressing future challenges today. Based on this philosophy, our Education Charter stipulates that Kyushu University aims to contribute to progress in Japan and throughout the world by educating leaders who will assume an active role in the world, especially in Asia. Our mission is to instill in our students a strong sense of humanity, social responsibility, global citizenship, and an appreciation for creativity and originality in scholarship. In addition, our Research Charter stipulates that we shall carry out our mission of handing down to future generations a basic attitude of respect for humanity’s timeless pursuit of knowledge and the wisdom realized therein. Kyushu University ascribes the highest value to creative and original research and pays the utmost respect to academic freedom and the autonomy of researchers, and we shall endeavor, according to our conscience and good sense, to promote research activities that respect human life and human dignity.
Universities are the repositories of the wisdom that has been passed down throughout human history. It is the mission of those of us gathered here today to learn from—and add to—this wisdom. Starting today, you are a part of that legacy. Kyushu University is also home to a large number of international students from a wealth of countries. It is at the crossroads of diversity, in both values and ethics, where we develop new and inclusive ways of thinking. Furthermore, I believe that our wide range of knowledge and research, built on more than a century of academic scholarship, will spark curiosity in your studies. Our faculty is passionate about teaching and will welcome you in whatever field of study you choose to pursue. As new students, you have access to our support and consultation services offered by faculty and staff to help orient you to campus life and address any questions you may have regarding health and wellbeing.
In particular, here at Ito Campus, we have a wide range of facilities, including the newest state-of-the-art research buildings. At 2.5km long and 3km wide, covering an area of over 272 hectares, Ito Campus is one of the largest university campuses in the country. Among the campus’ many excellent facilities is the Central Library, which boasts the latest technology and a collection of more than 3.5 million books. Ito Campus is also just a 40-minute train ride from the city of Fukuoka. With a population of 1.6 million people, the city is home to our Hospital Campus, our art and design-focused Ohashi Campus, and our advanced and interdisciplinary Chikushi Campus. These four campuses, each with their own unique strengths, work together to create a better future for Kyushu University.
To our international students, let me remind you that your study abroad experience in Japan is not confined to your academic pursuits within the university. I encourage you to travel outside the university with your classmates. Both Fukuoka Prefecture and Fukuoka City are popular places to live, consistently ranking among the most livable places in Japan. Go out and expand your horizons through cultural exchanges and interactions with the local community.
From time to time, I would like you to remember the reason why you first chose to study at Kyushu University—that reason is at the heart of whatever it is that you want to learn here. I would ask that you approach your studies with sincerity, deepen your understanding, and fulfill your academic aims. We will do all we can to support you on your journey. Together we can create knowledge for the next generation.
Let me ask you, have you ever heard of Prof. Tetsu Nakamura? A graduate and University Professor of Kyushu University, Prof. Nakamura was shot and killed in Afghanistan in December of last year. More than 35 years ago, he was sent to the Mission Hospital in Pakistan to treat patients with leprosy. He later continued his medical endeavors in neighboring Afghanistan and spent many years of his life committed to constructing local irrigation canals for agriculture there. He had the foresight to realize that stability in Afghanistan could not be achieved through politics or force. Instead, he objectively observed and analyzed what was necessary for the local community to thrive and acted upon his conclusions. He noticed that poverty was the cause of the constant conflict, which led him to personally spearhead the construction of irrigation canals to draw water to dry, barren plots of land, so that local people could become self-sufficient through agriculture. He believed that the local community should be responsible for building, repairing, and maintaining the canals, so he researched the history of the Yamada Weir on the Chikugo River right here in Fukuoka and relearned mathematics from his daughter’s textbooks. He operated much of the heavy machinery himself and worked extremely hard to construct the waterways. Our hearts were moved to see local people working next to the irrigation canals he helped to build, where trees have now grown as living proof of Prof. Nakamura’s unwavering dedication.
He once noted that "a strange sense of incongruity struck him upon returning to Japan from Afghanistan" and that "technology and civilization are great acts that create a barrier between humans and nature.” These words sound the alarm for modern society, which tends to devote itself to the freedom of desire and a faith in science and technology. "People are a part of nature," Prof. Nakamura wrote in his book. “Nature is inside of us all. This fact is both an undeniable fate and a blessing that regulates all life on earth. There is no way for us to survive as a species without a reconciliation between nature and humanity and between humans themselves in the endeavors of science, economics, medicine, agriculture, and all other aspects of human behavior. I believe that this is the mark of a decent civilization," he concludes. His words are implanted in our hearts and minds, and his philosophy continues to inform academics here at Kyushu University.
In fact, we have developed a KIKAN education course under the tentative title "Reconnecting with the Philosophy of Prof. Tetsu Nakamura” to start in the 2021 academic year. I hope that you will find much to glean from his life and learn to appreciate the beliefs that were at the very core of his being.
In closing, I would like to announce that I was only appointed president of Kyushu University on October 1, 2020, so you are the first class of new students that I have had the pleasure to welcome since being appointed. I hope to grow as fellow compatriots as we mark our new beginnings together. I wish you all good luck.
Once again, congratulations on your enrollment.
President, Kyushu University