9 Students – A Footstep toward “Super Doctor”

Roundtable Discussion
Nine Students who Aimed to Become “Super Doctors”
– Looking Back on Five Years in the Program for the Leading Graduate School –

Friday, August 26, 2016

1. Growing “Aspiration” over the Course of Five Years in the Program

Prof. Kannari:I’d like to say “thank you” to first-term students for participating in this roundtable. We planned this roundtable based on our desire to document in some form a review of the Program for the Leading Graduate School’s five years as well as proof of your development. To begin, I’ll explain how we intend to proceed. This is a bit unusual, but I’d like to start off by asking you a question that may sound like I’m putting the cart before the horse. Typical students basically spend their five years focused on their own specialized studies, and they have few opportunities to learn about other fields. I think they become free after settling their employment situation, and it is then that they can begin learning about social mechanisms as a non-student or as they pertain to their work. However, in the case of the Program for the Leading Graduate School (which we commonly refer to as the “Leading Program”), we have sought to avoid this situation. We have had you take notice of various phenomena while completing a diverse menu that includes project-based activities with mentors, internships, and fieldwork over the five years of your master’s and doctoral studies. We have also provided opportunities for you to talk to a broad range of people in career path lectures and other venues.

Fumihiko Kannari

We have packed various menus into the program so as to have you notice actual problems in society as well as bottlenecks to their solution. As a result, I think you now give thought to what social problems are and what challenges will be difficult to tackle in Japan and the world. What areas interested you? Or, what areas do you see as problems? I think you have now what we can call “aspiration”—the desire to go out into society and do as much as you can to help resolve those problems. English language skills will be necessary, and work to strengthen your specialties will also be important. You will also need to gain knowledge of various other fields, but you can do this later if you set your mind to it. I think that the problem awareness and aspiration that you absorbed or found can only be cultivated during these five years of your young life, between the ages of about 23 and 27. So then, what is the “aspiration” that grew inside you through the five-year program? How do you think you will make it in society in the years ahead? What will you sink your teeth into? I think the most important thing is to think about these questions. So I would like you to begin by talking about them.
Our lead-off batter will be Nagashima-kun, who sought a position in the central government, where they debate policy in the nation and world.

Hiroki Nagashima

Nagashima:To begin, when I first joined the program, I was interested in working in the field of robotics and pursuing its technical development, and so this is what I studied. I think that, originally, my mind was entirely focused on wanting to be involved with this technology, and it was the only thing I paid attention to. However, as I began to see “social issues” within the program, I started to think that I cannot change society simply by seeing a technology and wanting to remain involved with it. Going through the process of taking the national public servants’ exam made me realize that I was not first focusing on a technology and then looking to put it to use for society in some way. All I had been doing was not paying attention to society.
I want to first consider the challenges that Japan now faces, and how the nation of Japan is positioned in the world, and then I want to consider how technology should be utilized in those contexts. Technology alone is not enough, and the presence of other nations cannot be ignored. I felt that I have come to look at problems while also being mindful of how I am positioned among a variety of different players, and am not the only player.
Prof. Kannari:Was there a time or experience that became the biggest turning point?
Nagashima:Yes. Various experiences came through my laboratory and the program. It was literally in August of this year when I finally got them sorted out in my head.
Prof. Kannari:It was before that you decided to start your career path by taking the public servants’ exam, right?
Nagashima:That’s right. In that sense, you could say my aim to become a public servant was the spark. I could learn about working in companies, working in research institutes, and working as a public servant in the career path lectures that I attend each Saturday. As part of this, I learned that, in the central government, people experience a wide spectrum of jobs, as they change jobs every year or two. Moreover, I was attracted to the idea of working to make Japan better from the standpoint of the nation, rather than of a particular company, and so I went to employment presentation meetings held by government ministries and agencies. So in that sense, the career path lectures I took about two years ago were the biggest catalyst.
Prof. Kannari:Thank you. OK, Yu-kun?

Koyo Yu

Yu:I study robotics in a laboratory that has a “sister laboratory” relationship with Nagashima-kun. My dream is to focus on robots and to make robots a more familiar part of daily life. Right now, robots are mainly used only in factories. They are only seen in daily life in limited situations. Given this, my dream is to expand the use of general-purpose robots and to put them to use in such areas as nursing care and medical care.
If I think about how I have changed since entering this Leading Graduate School, I can think of two ways. The first is that I understand how important it is to get things done by cooperating with those around me, as there is a limit to what I can do alone. Of course, circumstances vary depending on the situation, for example, in terms of leadership and followership. But I think the importance of cooperating with others is particularly great. And secondly, my thinking has changed. Rather than thinking about how to utilize a technology simply because it exists, I understand that there are problems and pain in the world, and so I want to alleviate that pain with the technology at hand. In other words, first set a goal and then find ways of achieving it.
Prof. Kannari:There are probably other doctoral program students in your laboratory, and if they too are studying robotics, I’d imagine that they share the same way of thinking that you originally had—specifically, how to disseminate robots. Do you think that what you have realized from the program—in other words, your desire to take an attitude of working with others and adapting to social challenges—differs from the attitude of students who are studying robotics outside of the program?
Yu:I wonder. Naturally, researchers who mainly study a particular technology have deep technical knowledge and tend to engage in that kind of study. However, through the program, I have acquired a broad perspective and problem awareness that comes with a desire to identify more problem areas in the world. And this perspective and awareness have grown. I think this may be a point that separates me from other doctoral students.
Prof. Kannari:So you feel this point gives you have an advantage.
Yu: Yes. I have gained confidence. As a result of having more varied experiences than conventional doctoral students, I have confidence that I am different from others, and I think this is a significant outcome.
Prof. Kannari:Thank you. Now we’ll turn to Nagao-kun.

Ken Nagao

Nagao:I’d like to begin by looking back at my reason for joining the program. I have always had an interest in information technology. I decided to go on to a doctoral program even before I entered the Leading Program. I made this decision because I wanted to fully explore the field and my studies.
On the other hand, I worried that, by doing so, I might end up stuffing my head with so much knowledge that I’d be of no use to anyone. But then, just at the right time, recruitment for the program began. That was five years ago, when I joined up.
When I actually started with the program, I found the content to be studied exceeded what I had imagined. And I felt that all the participating members—my first-term classmates—truly possessed their own viewpoints and aspirations. I remember that I was greatly influenced by this. In that sense, I learned the importance of having a broad perspective and discerning things from numerous possibilities.
This also applies to information technology, my original interest. Although I was particularly interested in computer graphics-related study, I felt that if I fully pursued information technology, somebody would be able to put the results to good use. But when I looked at things with a broader perspective, I came to realize that this was not enough. I learned that, more than just pursuing technology, it is extremely important to seriously consider which social problems the technology will be useful in resolving, for example, and how to develop the technology. I had grown in that sense, as I could discover within myself the importance of seeing a single thing from a broad perspective. The truth is that this realization also had a small bearing on my job-hunting activity. Because I had always been interested in IT, I still wanted to work for an IT company. However, among IT companies, I went to one that is more advanced in technology and marketing than development. It may be that I chose that path because I had been given the opportunity to see that singularly focused development and a one-way approach are not the right way to go. In that way, I think that I have grown tremendously. Having said that, however, because my focus remains on information technology, I hope that I can be involved in IT problems through my work in the future.
Prof. Kannari: OK, Kato-kun?

Takumi Kato

Kato:In my case, I don’t think I would have gone on to the doctoral level if I had not entered this program. My primary thought when I joined this program was that, even though I came from the Faculty of Science and Technology, I wanted to resolve social problems rather than technical problems, and I wanted to make this my challenge going forward. However, after I entered, the first thing I noticed was, no matter the subject, you’ll get nowhere if you don’t have strong personal abilities. So, in this sense, I think I have improved my personal abilities by, for example, studying overseas through the program and sharpening my ability to think logically through my doctoral course. On the other hand, when I was reaching a final decision about my career path, I thought that I would prefer take a path that allows me to make some kind of contribution to society or the country, rather than doing something with my personal strengths or making a contribution to technical advancement. And so I chose such a career path.
So, as for my aspiration now, if given a choice, I think I want to apply my own strong personal abilities and work to solve social problems based on them, rather than simply doing something or trying to make something happen with my own strengths.
Prof. Kannari:Speaking personally, that you and Nagashima-kun, who just spoke, would choose to become national public servants and enter government was something that I originally neither anticipated nor expected. I am truly pleased that you chose to look carefully at social challenges and resolve problems by approaching them from that kind of national perspective. Kato-kun, when did you start to think about a career in government? Within government there is the Patent Agency and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, either of which I could easily see you going to. But you chose the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, which I think shows a unique perspective and makes me hopeful. When was the turning point, so to speak, for you to make this decision?
Kato:Let me see. It’s not that I’m not interested in the industrial application of technology or things like that. But, generally speaking, my study is largely focused on basic technologies, and as a result I initially thought I wanted to orient my career toward basic technologies or something in science and technology. Of course, I also went to lots of employment presentations. And then I found out that MEXT handles quite a lot of large national projects but, surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, the ministry has few doctoral degree holders. The highest degree that people have tends to be a master’s degree. Those are the people who are driving major S&T projects forward. When I saw that, I thought perhaps there is some way that I can contribute. I approached the ministry, and they had a good opinion of me. No PhDs had been hired in this field before, so I didn’t know what would happen. But I think my experience in this program helped. I’m very happy that they liked what they saw in me.
Prof. Kannari:OK, Yoshiki-kun?

Wataru Yoshiki

Yoshiki: I understood just how complex social problems are after joining the program. One thing that I have felt through my research is that there are many issues that can be resolved if a professional is present. I conduct experiments and research on lasers, and I think there are many issues that are resolvable to a certain extent if, for example, someone with knowledge of light or knowledge of light-controlling electricity is present. On the other hand, looking at social problems, for example, in the program, we often examine such issues as pension and medical costs, and we have many opportunities to discuss them together. Before I entered the program, I thought that these were problems that could basically be resolved through the efforts of people who are knowledgeable about policy. However, when you really think about it, simply being knowledgeable about policy is not enough, as economic knowledge of how to properly prepare estimates of future pension costs and then consideration of what to do about labor also have a role. Most likely, experts in multiple fields will be needed to resolve such problems, and I get the feeling that, in my own research, this is something that cannot be achieved by simply focusing on one field. I think that my noticing this kind of complexity in social problems through my activities in the program has been extremely beneficial to me.
I think that, by acquiring sub-major master’s degrees and communicating with people in different fields in the program, I have expanded my perspectives and gradually prepared myself with the ability to tackle complex problems. Having said that, however, I believe that I am still a student and have not reached a point where I can display my skills. This is the kind of problem awareness that I want to maintain as I continue growing.
Prof. Kannari:Dan-kun?

Maki Dan

Dan:Speaking personally, there is one issue close to my specialty that I think is the most important. I have long specialized in earthquake engineering, and I see various risks in the form of earthquakes, natural disasters, and other such problems occurring throughout the world. Before entering the Leading Program, I spent a lot of time researching ways of eliminating damage vis-à-vis risks and building structures that can minimize damage. But now what I think most is that, no matter how hard we try to stop it, what will happen will happen.
Based on this, I think that it is important to think about how to recover quickly from a disaster and how to reduce damage. But what I now feel is especially important is to consider how people can quickly rebuild their lives and then grow from there. One significant reason why I began thinking this way was my entry into the Graduate School of Business and Commerce to complete my sub-major. There, I studied private enterprises, and I realized that enterprises play an extremely significant role when society attempts to get back on its feet following a disaster or other danger. From then on, I have continuously studied disasters as they pertain to private enterprises. Of course, I also think that the public sector and local governments also play a large role. But I think that considering about how private enterprises quickly recover and move to the next step when society meets some sort of difficulty from their viewpoint represents a new perspective that I only became aware of after joining the Leading Graduate School.
Prof. Kannari:Dan-kun, you will be joining a general trading company, so I think you’ll have few opportunities to work directly with technology. If that’s the case, you will be in the position of starting all over from scratch in terms of your work. With little solid ground to stand on in this respect, I think you’ll need an attitude that is oriented toward carving out your own space within your huge new employer. When and where did you get the confidence and determination to take on such a tough challenge?
Dan:I think confidence—and I’m sure everyone who has progressed to a doctoral course feels the same way—is having the ability to see one thing through to the end. I am personally confident that I have done fairly well in this five-year program. So, in the sense that I can see one thing through to the end, I had confidence that I can succeed regardless of the company I join.
As for how I feel I differ from students who have not joined the Leading Graduate School, in completing my doctoral course in the fifth year, I have the perhaps unjustified image that many ordinary students have great confidence in their own specialties and want to use them as their weapon in pitting themselves against others. Of course, I too have a specialty. However, I feel I have other possibilities that go beyond it. That’s why I also have confidence. I want to challenge myself in a big company, regardless of the cost, and I want to succeed in the future with this motivation.
Prof. Kannari:How about you, Ando-kun.

Daisuke Ando

Ando:As I was sitting here thinking, the meaning of your question became a little vague. Are you asking, what kind of problem awareness vis-à-vis society have I developed through the program?
Prof. Kannari:I’m asking about how much your aspiration has grown.
Ando:How much my aspiration has grown, and, even more, how much significance starting at the age of 23 had, right? Let me see. Where should I start? In truth, about the time that I was a third- or fourth-year undergraduate student, I thought I was something like a god. Perhaps “god” is not the right word. What I mean is…
Prof. Kannari:Perhaps you had great confidence in yourself?
Ando:I was overflowing with self-confidence, and of course I was an excellent student. Even after I entered my fourth year, I pursued my studies alone, shutting myself in my laboratory. I was good at my studies and I thought I could do anything. I really thought that way.
However, at the same time, when I went out into society, I honestly understood that, clearly, the “nail that sticks out will be pounded down.” And, in a sense, I felt fearful about going out into society. Some people might say that was because I had no understanding of my own personality, but that wasn’t the case. It was then, during my undergraduate years, that I decided that I would absolutely do two things.
The first is that I would go to a doctoral program. It’s great when people go to a PhD program and fully pursue their studies. But at the time I was probably different from others, as I had little idea of what a PhD was. I wanted to go to a doctoral program because I somehow thought the word “specialist” sounded cool. The second is that I would not engage in job-hunting, because a person like me would always have a useful place in society. I determined to only go to an employer who wants me. Those two points were in my mind constantly from my third year as an undergraduate.
So that was the way I was. I was the same way when, upon entering graduate school, I encountered the Leading Program. I was attracted by the program’s catchphrase of cultivating “super doctors,” doctoral human resources for the next generation. This is outstanding, I thought. I felt very strongly that the program probably came very close to my own ideal. I decided to apply, and I am extremely pleased that I did. If you ask me why, in a phrase, I’d say it was because I gained the wisdom to see my own ignorance. In other words, I could see how ignorant I was of things, how narrow my perspective was, how I could only see things in a straightforward manner and from one side only. The most important point of the program that brought me to this realization is its gathering of people from all fields. Another is that mentors from various occupations in the industrial world come to the program. And yet another is that the program gives participants a variety of experiences. For example, during my very first year, I was given an opportunity to redefine my own value as a human resource in a completely new environment: an entrepreneurial venture in San Francisco to which I had gone for an overseas internship.
Through everything, I gained a strong sense of the importance of looking at things from many sides. If I think back, I remember that I had strong awareness of social problems—for example, pension problems, various political problems, and welfare problems, for example—when I was a third-year undergraduate. And I wondered why so much time was spent on them. I thought that the problems would be easily solved if people did this thing or that.
However, to take elimination of poverty as an example, various approaches exist. And available resources are limited. This is a difficult problem precisely because action takes place only after the question of how these resources will be applied is considered by a variety of people possessing a variety of motives. I think this comes extremely close to the complexity that Yoshiki-kun mentioned earlier. Indeed, social problems are comprised of the various feelings brought by many people, and they have many conditions. This makes them tremendously complex. For this reason, I am enormously glad that I gained the ability to see things from many angles and to consider seriously what stakeholders are present, what solutions can be envisioned, and how problems must be resolved. If I had gone out into society without the opportunity for such training, it’s possible that I would have succeeded nonetheless. However, I get the sense that in time, in some way or another, the gap between the world around me and the rigidness of my own personality and way of thinking, as well as the narrowness of my perspective, would have grown too wide. In this sense, I feel that the fact that I succeeded in this five-year program, particularly from the young age of 23, has been an extremely valuable part of my life, and I am very thankful.
Prof. Kannari:Thank you. Now let’s hear from Sakamoto-kun, the only one here with a humanities background.

Masaki Sakamoto

Sakamoto:Since I’m one of the last to speak, I thought I’d come up with something clever to say, but alas I couldn’t think of anything. If I were to sum up in a word or two how I’ve changed since entering the program, I’d say I’ve become more tolerant.
“Tolerant” is an extremely odd word, and I think there are various types of tolerance. As the others have said so far, I think the Leading Program was, in a way, kind of like a lion that pushes its cub off a cliff in that it throws students into a world of which they know nothing about and says, “OK, now go and learn something on your own.” And not only that, the program makes us do that not just once but many times. It was the case when I was sent on a one-month internship to a law office in San Francisco, and it was the case when I entered the Graduate School of Science and Technology, a field far outside my own specialty, for my sub-major. In itself, the Leading Program was a place truly full of strangers, like a watering hole, so to speak, and I experienced many things after being thrown into it. In that way, there were many people from different fields present. Some had different ideas, and some had different methodologies. I therefore had to communicate with people with ways of thinking and from backgrounds that were completely different from my own.
I think that when people pursue a specialty wholeheartedly, they tend to get shaped into adhering to a single methodology—like “I have to do it this way”—and they end up thinking that way throughout their studies. I think this cannot be avoided if you are going to see a specialty through. But, and I think this is important, pursuing a specialty can actually produce obstacles in the process of communicating with people from different fields.
In this sense, I think the program was a place for me to practice how to become tolerant with people whose background differs from mine. Perhaps “tolerance” isn’t such a good word, but I think that if I have a multifaceted perspective, then I start to want to know about the backgrounds upon which other people’s thinking are based. That also makes it easier to understand the ideas upon which those backgrounds are rooted. Among the great many things that I acquired during the program’s five years is the desire to make this effort. Rather than a group of “superior” people—a description that I find somewhat inappropriate—I think it is important for this program to be a group of dissimilar people. I think that by being dissimilar, we can become the piece that today’s society is missing.
At the same time, today, I think we can also become human resources that serve to link various specialties and fields. Today, in Japanese society, and within the process by which various fields are becoming linked, and countries are becoming linked, as part of globalization, there are abilities that are greatly needed by the world, by society, and by Japan. I think we can be the people who supply them. In that sense, I believe that the Leading Program’s objective is in perfect alignment with the times. I think that whether or not we live up to that objective will depend on our own effort. But I want to try to get as close to it as I can.
Prof. Kannari:I personally believe that the fact that a humanities student is among the first-term students that completed the program is an extremely important factor. If only science students had completed it, people outside might think that those science students had simply expanded their perspective somewhat and received a bit of refinement. And those people would probably expect that the students will enter jobs close to their specialties, like something technology-related. So I think it’s extremely wonderful that you came from a humanities background to earn a master’s degree in science as your sub-major, returned to your main subject of the humanities to pursue your doctoral degree, and are now going out into the world with confidence. On the other hand, if you go to Mita, you’ll find quite a few eloquent and intelligent doctoral students. I imagine that you have had opportunities to talk with some of them. Are there any differences in terms of the perspectives and thinking that appear in those conversations and that appear in your conversations with science-oriented students from completely different backgrounds in the program?
Sakamoto:Well, I think there is probably a difference in the level, or perhaps phase, of the discussion. What I mean is that, when I talk to people in my specialty at Mita, we talk at a deeper level. In a sense, we talk at a higher context, with everyone already having a shared understanding. Consequently, our discussions become deeper and deeper with lots of specialized terminology flying back and forth. But, in this field, when I am among people from various fields, like those I encounter in the program, the first thing I have to recognize is that we do not have that shared understanding and that saying things like “Well, we all know that this is true” simply won’t work.
Indeed, this is something I reflect upon, because ideas that can be pushed onto others by saying “Well, we all know this is true” are unacceptable. Instead, the person speaking must discuss their idea beforehand. I believe that, even if a person has an extremely interesting idea, if there are few people to hear it because the person did not properly lay the groundwork by, for example, explaining specialized technology, then the idea will go to waste or lose its significance. So, like I just said, I feel this generates a great difference in the scale or level of conversation.
Prof. Kannari:Sakamoto-kun, you come from a humanities background, so naturally you don’t have such an open path to employment in industry; anyway, it is not the typical path. Has anything grown inside you in terms of where and how you want to follow your career path, or how you can contribute to society?
Sakamoto:Well, at the present time, I’m not even sure whether or not I will enter industry. The other day, I spoke to an instructor visiting the program from Harvard University, and he gave me a suggestion. And that was that what I have learned—including the circumstances of my study in a faculty that is far outside my own specialty and the circumstances of its operation—will do a lot of good. He told me that even if I decide to remain in a university in the future, for example, the fact that I know the differences among faculties will allow me to make contributions that others can’t when the university reexamines its system of operation. Perhaps the place need not be in a university. As I said earlier, I believe the ability to serve as a bridge can be applied in many places. And in today’s industry, most of the people at the top of many companies come from a humanities background. My main background is the humanities—namely, law—and so I can engage in detailed conversation with the many people from the same background who are in management. And, in a sense, I can approach and communicate easily with people from a scientific background. I think that describes my position.
Prof. Kannari:Thank you. OK, Yamamoto-san?

Yuri Yamamoto

Yamamoto:I’m not sure if I can give a proper answer here. Before I entered the program, I had no intention whatsoever of earning a PhD. I wanted to complete my undergraduate studies and, if possible, start my own entrepreneurial venture. This program started just as was when I was thinking about reenrolling in the Faculty of Business and Commerce or Faculty of Economics to help my venture and expand my own perspective, and I applied without hesitation. At that time, I had little idea of the value of a PhD.
If you ask me now, I could not come up with a really good answer, but over the course of these five years, I have gained a real sense that there is a great difference in a PhD’s value inside and outside the country, for example between the United States and Japan. I think that, in the time until I graduate, I have to think through how I want to use my PhD. On the other hand, one thing that has become firm with me, so to speak, or that I have gained solidly through my five years in the Leading Graduate School is an understanding of the importance of communicating with people from other fields. When I was an undergraduate, I found out just how naïve I had been, as it was much harder than I imagined to insert my knowledge and skills into a service and to provide that service to users. For example, there were times when questions asked of me by people in other fields really got straight to the heart of a matter, hitting on points that I had never thought of on my own or shedding light on things that I had overlooked. Through such experiences, I was able to absorb a great many things from the Leading Graduate School as a place to expand my perspective outside, a place that gives me a connection between myself and society—to use an oddly passive expression—or rather to gain a link with society. Particularly when I spoke with my mentor, I was given a perspective that differs completely from the understanding and way of thinking of master’s or doctoral program students who are seen as researchers in the making. I was able to expand my perspective greatly during these five years.
I am made keenly aware of this point when I talk to my fellow students in my laboratory, underclassmen, and instructors. For example, when outside instructors give lectures for the program, many of the questions from students are along the lines of “How about this technology?” or “What do you think about the future?” However, as for my interest, I am of course interested in technical aspects. But more than that, my interest now leans toward wanting to know how a service will impact on society when it is provided, how much it can contribute to society, and if racial discrimination or other such problems will occur in the midst of its contribution. Particularly as a person involved in life sciences, one of my objectives from a research ethics standpoint is that people must not be harmed. I think I have gained the ability to discuss things with greater focus on that point.
Prof. Kannari:Well, I think that you showed sufficient aspiration just with your original thought of starting up a venture. And as your aspiration has grown, what kind of social contribution do you want to make now? Even just something you dream of doing will be fine.
Yamamoto:I originally thought that if I have some kind of seed when I launch my venture, that seed will probably form the core of my venture and the starting point for growth in various directions. But later my thinking changed, and I once thought about getting a job at a company. But it wouldn’t be a food company, a cosmetics company, or a pharmaceuticals company. I wanted to work in a place that provided some kind of service or solution. What I thought was, even if I were to start a business with people in the fields around me, I would probably stay in the life sciences. But then I thought, what if I didn’t do that? What if I joined a company that did business in various fields and that brought in people from different fields—for example, like here, where we have people studying science and engineering and people studying law—and I went to a position that provided a service? I thought in that case I might be able to provide highly impactful services and products with the cooperation of people in various fields. And I’ve come to think that it would be great if that helped trigger a social trend or consideration of a healthcare industry for the next generation.

Prof. Kannari:Thank you.
So, we have heard from everyone. What strikes me is that you have extreme confidence that comes from your five years in the program. There are students who, like you, are in the third year of their doctoral course and are already serving as assistant teachers in the Graduate School of Science and Technology. If they were to participate in a roundtable like this one, they would probably be able to talk about their own specialties. But I think it is highly unlikely that any kind of spirited discussion toward looking outside those specialties and linking them to society would result. That you can have this kind of discussion makes you completely different from them—that is my impression. On top of that, I truly see that you are not haughtily saying things that you read somewhere, but rather are speaking with confidence that comes from your own hard work. Expressing it neatly in the form of “aspiration” may not be easy, but in this regard, I can see that you are growing in ways that differ from non-program students.
Is there anything you’d like to add concerning this topic of aspiration?
Ando:I have something. Everyone just said they have confidence, and indeed I was one of them. But on the other hand, having gone overseas many times and met many people, I feel that I’m still not really anything special. Certainly, we have double majors in that we have two master’s degrees. But if you go to other countries, that is not so special. In some cases, people have three degrees. And I get the sense that they have interests in many, many things. Of course I am confident, but I also feel that I still have a way to go. I suspect everyone feels this same way, but I want to try even harder, and I want to grow even more by using what I have acquired during these five years.
Prof. Kannari: Yes, that’s also an important point. It is also very important to be able to see objectively your own position, the circumstances you are in, and your abilities from a global perspective. Japan’s education has a problem in that it wants to produce highly skilled doctoral graduates but has master’s and doctoral programs that are not rich in terms of their educational content. The educational system is not one that accepts people with broad experience and ways of thinking who wish to return to education after entering the workforce or who wish to study while having various experiences in the outside world. So I think that probably in some ways Japanese education is underdeveloped and thus has aspects that appear to lag behind Europe and the United States.
On the other hand, Japanese companies compete with others as equals on the global stage. So then, this deficiency must be being rectified somewhere. And here we see of course that Japanese companies provide in-house education that develops employees by having them experience extreme hardships and trials by fire in the form of on-the-job training. And I think at some point we realize that, yes, indeed, the system does produce corporate warriors who can fight globally. I have heard that this gives companies confidence. In fact, I have heard that, from their standpoint, it is better for the development of useful human resources to have students graduate early at age 22 than to have them gain various experiences in university. If so, then skillfully matching in-house education with university curricula will be difficult. So, really, the question of which is better—this program on the university side that involves getting to where you are now, or the on-the-job-based Japanese style—will depend on you who are about to enter the workforce. If, through your activities, companies recognize that the five years you spent in the Leading Program—a time during which you raised your aspirations compared to when you were 22 and came to possess problem awareness in terms of social issues, your own capabilities, and what must be done—as something invaluable, then I think the program will grow. However, if companies still conclude that on-the-job training is better, then chances are this program won’t have much of a future. So, in this sense, I think that how well you succeed after entering your new company—or your new government office—will be extremely important.