HOMEAsahi Now!2019年

Welcoming the New Year and a New Era

2019年01月01日

Katsuyuki Ohtomo, President of Asahi University


 I wish you a happy New Year and a healthy and productive 2019. Thank you always for your continued support.

 As you all know, the Heisei Era is coming to an end this year, and it is a good time to look back and reflect on the highs and the lows, the achievements and the failures. Last year, in the 30th year of the Heisei era (in 2018), Japan endured multiple natural disasters such as heavy snowfalls, torrential rains, typhoons, record-breaking heat waves, and earthquakes. Amid these disasters, the spirit of togetherness and compassion shone through and untied us in adversity. At the same time, the hurried social infrastructure put in place after World War Ⅱ to support a different time and era with the slogan of “post war reconstruction”, yet again revealed itself to be inadequate when we are confronted by the disasters and the new pressures modern society is facing.
 The question then is until what year exactly we consider the “post war period” to have ended? Regarding this question, I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with a gentleman in his late 80s who lived through World War Ⅱwhen he was in junior high school and survived several aerial bombings in Hamamatsu. I asked him what he thought and he concluded that the post war period ended in the 39th year of the Showa era (in 1964) when the Tokyo Olympics took place. One day in an air-raid shelter, he found his acquaintance (the landlord of the apartment he was boarding in) had died in an explosion. He still now remembers a strange memory that he was so obsessed with his studies and even amid such chaos with countless bombs raining down around him he went back to his apartment, took his shoes off neatly and proceeded to go upstairs just to collect the textbooks he needed for school. In retrospection, he now realizes that he would not have needed to so faithfully take off his shoes if he had known that the apartment might have been burned down soon afterward. For many who survived World War II such retrospection and awareness of irrationalities that occurred amid the hardship likely indicated a true return to the normalcy of life. For this studious gentleman, he also told me that with the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, he came to believe that Japan had finally rejoined the international society.
 A woman who was born after World War Ⅱand is in her 50s answered differently. She considered the post war period was over when we entered the “Japanese economic miracle” period. Although there are differing views on when specifically the Japanese economic miracle began, the most agreed conclusion is late in the 29th year of the Showa era when Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama formed his first Cabinet. In the 31st year of the Showa era (in 1956), the famous phrase “Mohaya sengo dewa nai (Japan is no longer in the post war period)” was declared in the introduction of the annual economic report published by the Cabinet Office.
 Every time I hear diplomatic news such as the U.S. military base relocation issue in Okinawa, debates over constitutional reform in the Cabinet, disputes over Japan’s Northern Territories, the souring of relations between Japan and Korea, I am still concerned the post war recovery is not over yet. We have stepped forward through Meiji, Taisho, Showa, Heisei and in spring this year, we will enter a brand new era. Historians divide history into periods and eras to capture the characteristics of a particular time. Nevertheless, we should not forget that these eras are not separate from one another. We live in a flux of time, ever changing but also ever influenced by what came before. I implore you all, the youthful students, those next in line to forge the new paths ahead, to look back upon our past, learn from it, and create a bright future for Japan, and for the world.