September 24 2020
Professor Akira Haseyama
President, Keio University
Congratulations to all of our new students on your admission to Keio University, and welcome to the Keio community. I would also like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to your family and friends.
Due to the spread of COVID-19, Keio University was forced to postpone and then cancel the Spring 2020 entrance ceremonies.
So, in addition to you all, at the fall ceremony, we had plans to invite the students admitted in April and were making preparations to hold lively ceremonies at the newly completed Hiyoshi Commemorative Hall, which was rebuilt to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of Keio University. Sadly, however, the spread of infections still continues unabated and the outlook remains uncertain. In order to prioritize everyone's health and safety as well as reducing the risk of further spreading infections, we were forced to abandon the in-person ceremonies once again and instead are celebrating your entrance to Keio University virtually through this online broadcast.
It is extremely unfortunate that your time at Keio has begun in this manner and I am sure that both you and your families are very disappointed. Please understand, however, that for us too, this was a very difficult decision to make.
At present, in preparation for the start of the Fall Semester, the faculty and staff members of the undergraduate faculties, graduate schools, and the Office of Correspondence Courses are tirelessly working together as one to create an environment where all of you, our new students, can devote yourselves to your studies with peace of mind. From what we experienced in the Spring Semester as well as through the feedback we received, it became clear that while there are certain advantages to online classes, including the possibility to engage in repeated learning at your own pace and simultaneous interactive discussions with multiple individuals, it is no substitute for learning on campus. Having physical real-world interactions with faculty members and peers is such an important element of character-building, and the various practical knowledge and learning you can absorb in classroom settings, in the library, gymnasium, and on the sports grounds is a fundamental component of Keio's educational philosophy that emphasizes personal growth through participation in both the regular curriculum and extracurricular activities. For the Fall Semester, we therefore have plans to implement a hybrid of online and in-person classes and lectures, and we are also working to gradually bring back on-campus activities in stages.
As we take steps to reintroduce in-person classes, we will thoroughly implement university-wide safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus, but to ensure that infections remain contained, it is vital that students, faculty and staff members, and other related parties gathering on campus all have a firm resolve to "not get infected and not infect others" and act accordingly.
There is a deep connection between Keio University and infectious diseases. In his younger days, Yukichi Fukuzawa, the founder of Keio University, was tutored in Dutch studies by Koan Ogata, a respected physician of Western medicine and a leading academic, at his Tekijuku school in Osaka, where he also saw with his own eyes his mentor's dedication toward treating patients as a family doctor. When there was an outbreak of cholera in Osaka, Koan made every effort to treat the disease and wrote a handbook titled Korori Chijun (a guide to the treatment of cholera) to help fight this epidemic. Fukuzawa himself suffered from typhoid fever twice, once while he was studying at Tekijuku, and again in the early days after founding Keio, experiencing first-hand the dread of infectious diseases. It may be because of this experience that in later years, he championed that "for one's mind to be active and refreshed, one must be in sound and robust health," and based on the medical and hygiene practices he learned at Koan Ogata's Tekijuku, he adopted the philosophy of nurturing of individuals with a good balance between physical and mental well-being as a fundamental educational principle at Keio.
In 1858, the year when Keio was founded, there was a cholera epidemic in Edo. It was also the year in which the Ansei Treaties (part of the so-called "unequal treaties") were signed between Japan and five Western powers (United States, Netherlands, Russia, United Kingdom, and France), which was said to have led to the introduction of infectious diseases from abroad, and was one of the factors that contributed toward the escalation of the joi (literally, "expel the barbarians") movement.
These experiences led to Fukuzawa's lifelong interest in medicine and his deep-rooted yearning to establish a hospital. This vision was inherited by Shibasaburo Kitasato, who is known as the father of Japanese bacteriology. Kitasato studied in Germany under Robert Koch, a renowned German physician and microbiologist who was also one of the founders of modern bacteriology. He made significant contributions toward identifying Clostridium tetani, the bacteria that causes tetanus, and developing a treatment for this disease. But he faced adversity after his return to Japan. Fukuzawa, who was outraged by this development, lent Kitasato a helping hand, assisting in the establishment of a private research center for infectious diseases. Kitasato continued to make great achievements, including the discovery of Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for the plague, and when Keio University planned to establish its long-sought medical school and hospital in the Taisho period after Fukuzawa's death, he dedicated himself to this venture. This led to the birth of the present-day School of Medicine and Keio University Hospital with Kitasato as its first dean.
Currently at Shinanomachi Campus, the School of Medicine and Keio University Hospital are working as one in the fight against COVID-19. Recently, the students of the School of Medicine prepared a detailed infection prevention guideline that was made available to all Keio students online with the help of the All Keio Student Senate, a student organization at the university. At Shonan Fujisawa Campus, the annual Tanabata Festival (Star Festival) was cancelled this year, but a group of volunteers, mainly first- and second-year students, created a virtual Tanabata Festival online making full use of cutting-edge technology. This was a great success and was featured on national television.
Furthermore, a group of Keio students continue to offer online student counselling through a non-profit organization they set up.
I am deeply encouraged by and extremely proud of the strong will and commitment of our students to continue their studies and make great efforts to generate a variety of ideas to motivate and inspire each other in the midst of these difficult times.
I am speaking to you all today from the Enzetsu-kan, or the Mita Public Speaking Hall, on Mita Campus. Built in 1875, the Enzetsu-kan is the oldest building on Mita Campus and the first facility in Japan built for the purpose of public speaking. In the middle of the 19th century, Yukichi Fukuzawa travelled twice to the United States, and realizing that free speech is the foundation of democracy, had the Enzetsu-kan built to establish a place where people in Japan could freely express their views. Fukuzawa encouraged Japanese people who at the time were not inclined to express their opinions in public settings to speak their mind, and to lead by example, he himself enthusiastically delivered speeches of his own. He attached so much importance to both delivering speeches and having debates that he integrated these as key components of education at Keio. He believed that if everyone could voice their own opinions and build on the arguments they present, truths will be revealed, making it possible for people to make good choices.
Fukuzawa was also concerned with the lingering feudal residue in society that dictated people to wait for instructions from those in power and subserviently follow orders and directions. He thus embarked on a mission to nurture individuals who pursue knowledge, are not influenced by the current passing trends of the world, and possess a spirit of independence and self-respect, motivating them to proactively think about their own lives and determine the direction we as a society need to take.
What is more, he argued that all learning should be based on practical learning, jitsugaku. Now, jitsugaku is sometimes misunderstood to mean "learning of practical skills that can be immediately applied in real life," but in his book Fukuo Hyakuwa, Fukuzawa explains that jitsugaku means the illumination of the true principle of things and propagation of their application. Be it the humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences, we can take the essence of jitsugaku to mean the drawing of conclusions not based on mere speculation, but on empirical evidence found through the meticulous analysis of facts.
In these times of rapid change, we will face unexpected situations many times during our lifetime. To get past these, we cannot be misled by fallacies. We must be able to see the true nature of the situation through the power of learning and choose the right course of action.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing both the beauty of the human heart and ugliness of human behavior, at times, side by side. Throughout history, there have been a number of major outbreaks of infectious diseases including the Black Death in medieval Europe, the widespread emergence of smallpox in North and South America in the 16th century, and the Spanish flu in the early 20th century, but this current pandemic differs significantly from those in the past.
Technological advancements, especially those related to information and communication technology, ICT, have enabled us to disseminate information regarding infections all over the world practically as situations unfold. The scenes of healthcare professionals battling COVID-19 and stories and images of people who have been forced apart and isolated due to citywide lockdowns are quickly shared worldwide. Moreover, among those who have been distanced and secluded, there is a growing movement to reconnect through the internet. Artists and athletes from around the globe are posting videos to give solace and hope to people. Many ordinary citizens too, both children and adults, are sharing, among others, videos of dance and musical performances as well as a variety of cooking and handicraft demonstrations and ideas.
On the other hand, in our present daily lives full of restrictions, there are people being misled by false information, and videos of discriminatory behavior and violence by those who have been psychologically trapped are also circulating around the internet. Furthermore, the world is being flooded with unsubstantiated information about the virus, spread online and stirring up anxiety. Thus, although it is essential that we discern what is accurate and reliable from everything else that is out there, it has become clear that at the end of the day, to prevent the spread of infections and maintain social stability, awareness and the sensible actions of each and every individual is what is vital.
Individuals who possess a spirit of independence and self-respect, as envisioned by Fukuzawa, are those who do not just wait for instructions from above and carry out orders from others, but rather are people who can think for themselves and act responsibly on their own accord, and the existence of these citizens can be said to be a way of measuring a nation's maturity.
Since its establishment in 1858, Keio has overcome many hurdles as a private institution of learning through the cooperation of benefactors who share in its philosophy, and has evolved into one of Japan's leading comprehensive universities. Whenever Keio faces a crisis, the overwhelming support we receive through the power of shachu kyoryoku (the entire Keio community coming together is a spirit of collaboration), fueled by our students, alumni, and faculty and staff members, enables us to prevail.
From today, you have not just become university students; you have all become part of the Keio community, which prizes the spirit of independence and self-respect as well as the spirit of shachu kyoryoku.
At this virtual online ceremony, I am joined by the deans of the undergraduate faculties, graduate schools, and correspondence courses as well a representative of the class of 1970 Mita-kai (alumni association), and each have a message of support and encouragement to share with you all. Now, as members of the Keio shachu, I hope you will all overcome your anxieties, and mindfully and rationally surmount the difficulties brought on by this pandemic.
Moreover, while you all devote yourselves to your studies in the liberal and benevolent atmosphere of Keio University, be sure to also take part in sports, engage with the arts, and participate in social activities. I hope that you will accumulate a variety of experiences over the coming years and enjoy a rich and fulfilling student life at Keio.
Congratulations to you all again on your admission.