Gratitude for the Wonderful People I Have Met - Tokyo College

Gratitude for the Wonderful People I Have Met

HANEDA Masashi

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Tokyo College was born on February 1st, 2019. The top photo seen below was taken on that memorable day, and it depicts myself with Professor Tokura, who assumed his dual post with Tokyo College that day, as well as the International Strategy Group staff at the University Headquarters who helped with the tedious administrative work before and after the College’s birth. Two months later in April, I would retire from my position as Executive Director in the University Headquarters and assume the post of Director of Tokyo College. The bottom depicts the two deputy directors, myself, and the administrative staff at that time; there were not yet any researchers.

As of February 1st, 2024, five years after Tokyo College’s formation, the College has a total of twenty-five members: four full-time faculty, ten project team members (project assistant professors and project researchers), and eleven postdoctoral fellows. This number does not include myself, the two deputy directors, Professor Tokura and the other five distinguished university professors, and visiting professors from abroad, some of whom stay for as long as a year. There are also more than ten administrative staff members who support the activities of Tokyo College. The third photo was taken in April 2023, and you can see how many people came to gather at the College in four years’ time. In the beginning, the offices and meeting rooms of Tokyo College were dispersed among three buildings on Hongo Campus, but now the College is consolidated in a single building. As the College has gained the attention of overseas institutions and researchers, we have received an increasing number of visitors and proposals for collaboration from abroad. Five years ago, this was unimaginable.

Having watched over the College as it grew and began to take its first steps, I have made the decision to step down as Tokyo College Director effective at the end of March. I have done all that I can do for the College in my own limited capacity – in order to take Tokyo College to the next level, it needs a new leader. March 29th is my last working day, and I feel invigorated.

For me, these past five years at Tokyo College have been just as intense and fulfilling as the entirety of the thirty years I spent at the University of Tokyo in education and research previously. This is thanks in large part to the many wonderful people I have met here.

Since I started working at Tokyo College, I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with a great number of students and members of the general public at in-person events. I would sometimes receive specific suggestions for lecture topics, and it has been an important opportunity for me to learn about the interests, concerns, and expectations held by the public. I am truly grateful to everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to offer their support to Tokyo College, whether by coming out to events or by posing questions and comments at online lectures. Tokyo College would not have been possible without you, and we look forward to your ongoing support of the College’s various activities. My only regret is that restrictions caused by the pandemic prevented me from meeting more of you.

A great number of outstanding scholars working on cutting-edge research in various academic fields have visited Tokyo College. Five years ago, it was unthinkable to me that a historian like myself would be having academic discussions with, for example, renowned specialists in cell and molecular biology or cognitive and computational neuroscientists from abroad. However, as the Director of Tokyo College, experiences like these are part of the job. It has provided me with many new insights and broadened my horizons.

I was also inspired by the excellent and highly motivated postdoctoral fellows who had only recently finished their degrees. They came to Tokyo College after successfully navigating a fiercely competitive international call for applications with hundreds of applicants. I did everything I could to meet such strong expectations, including organizing transdisciplinary research opportunities; introducing them to researchers in other departments; providing them with individual consultations; and chatting with them at our weekly Friday tea meetings. Interacting with these scholars allowed me to hit upon new research topics and approaches. I learned a lot from my time with them, including discovering new features of the University of Tokyo and even Japanese society that I had not noticed before.

The planning that goes into Tokyo College events and the dissemination of information through the website, mail magazine, and social media networks are the result of the dedicated work of the team of project assistant professors, project researchers, and administrative staff. They conduct creative and excellent research no different from the postdoctoral fellows, but they also spend half their time dedicated to the day-to-day operations of Tokyo College and its future. I have been encouraged by their enthusiasm many times, and their proactive suggestions have often given me ideas for managing the College. I am truly grateful to them.

I could never forget the excellent administrative staff members I have met here at Tokyo College. Many of the researchers that join us from abroad do not speak Japanese and are unfamiliar with aspects of Japanese culture, and so they sometimes need explanations and assistance from the staff in order to complete various procedures that are designed with Japanese-speaking Japanese nationals in mind. In addition, the staff also have to use English to carry out various parts of their job, such as tasks related to employment status, bank account management, and public relations that are specific to Tokyo College. It is no easy task. However, the administrative staff members assigned to Tokyo College have handled these tasks brilliantly and earned the trust of the researchers. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of our talented administrative staff, the College’s activities have been able to grow and develop without issue. I cannot emphasize this enough. I am proud to have spent the last five years working with such a wonderful group of people.

I have met many fascinating people from various professional spheres around the world, including the Ushioda Fellows, leaders of industry and government, politicians, diplomats, writers, professional Go players, and musicians. Talking with people outside of the “academic” world in the narrow sense of the word, I became aware of the difference between my position and theirs, and it allowed me to rethink the meaning and value of academic research. I am determined to use my research in the future to better meet to their expectations and address their questions more fully.

I have also met numerous other wonderful people, such as the university directors and headquarters administrative staff who have always supported Tokyo College, the deputy directors who have given me their sharp insight and leadership, the outstanding faculty members with world-class achievements in their respective fields, and the researchers from other departments within the university who have gladly accepted my sudden requests and provided thoughtful comments at events. Looking back now, I realize that Tokyo College has managed to grow to this point thanks to the tremendous efforts and support of these people.

For me, these past five years at Tokyo College were a busy time, but they were also electrifying. The stimulation and knowledge that I gained from those I met here, not to mention their warmth, have opened new doors for me that I did not know existed. I plan to make the most of the experience I gained here and tackle my research with a renewed spirit.

Thank you all very much. I look forward to having the opportunity to meet and speak with you all again in the future.

March 29, 2024
HANEDA Masashi


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