On June 20, a press conference was held to present what Waseda University has accomplished in education, research and cultural affairs since the inauguration of University President Aiji Tanaka in November 2018. At the press conference, held at Okuma Kaikan Building, Tanaka shared future initiatives planned for the University with the media, including the announcement of details regarding the Waseda International House of Literature.
Since taking office, Tanaka has taken concrete actions to realize his vision of a “Waseda that shines on the global stage.” He has met directly with students, faculty and staff nearly 40 times to collectively share the determination necessary to realize the vision and to instill the vision’s goals, values and philosophy. In addition, he has proactively recruited board members who are graduates of universities other than Waseda, within Japan and overseas, and he has dedicated his efforts to raise the presence of Waseda within Japan and overseas by attending international conferences in various countries and visiting top universities in the world.
At the press conference, Tanaka first described how academic opportunities at Waseda foster resilient intellect and flexible sensibility, key characteristics that students at Waseda should develop to challenge unanswered questions and to understand and respect people of different sexualities, nationalities, languages, religions, cultures and values with respect. Some of these opportunities include the diversification of partner companies participating in the Professionals Workshop organized the Global Education Center, the internationalization of faculty members headed by the Faculty of Political Science and Economics, and the speeding up of the renovation of the entire campus in order to expand the learning environment.
He then introduced initiatives Waseda is taking to enhance research, namely the Open Innovation Valley Initiative, in a time when Japan’s declining competitiveness and research capability is an issue. The Open Innovation Valley Initiative aims to create an environment for a global open innovation from research hubs on campus, such as the Green Computing Systems Research and Development Center, Waseda Arena, and the Research Innovation Center (Tentative), which is expected to be completed in April 2020.
Finally, Tanaka announced the construction of the Waseda International House of Literature to start in June 2019. This new facility realizes the Haruki Murakami Library concept announced last year in November, when graduate Haruki Murakami donated his personal archive to the University.
“The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum at the Waseda campus is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, and it is a place where scholars from all around the world studying theater visit at least once,” said Tanaka. “When Mr. Murakami was a student, he had spent much time at this museum, and we hope that the Waseda International House of Literature, which will be built nearby, will become such a place.”
The Waseda International House of Literature will renovate a part of Building #4, and it is expected to open in April 2021. Its architectural design will be done by world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma.
In the video message at the press conference, Kuma said, “Mr. Murakami intends on this facility to be something like a library full of life, where university students and all kinds of people have access to. This library would be a perfect place for Mr. Murakami’s works. This could possibly be a place where students not only become exposed to the literary world of Haruki Murakami, but also contemplate the future of literature, maybe even the world. I’m now designing this facility with hopes that it will be somewhat of a casual, cultural center where people can think about such things over coffee.”
After this message, Tanaka stated his aspirations.
“When I asked Mr. Murakami what the most important thing was in a novel, he answered that it was ‘the story.’ A story overcomes language barriers and its value can be equivalently exchanged. I hope that the Waseda International House of Literature will embody the charm of stories connecting the world.”
The press conference was followed by a Q&A session, where Tanaka answered questions from the media.
In response to a question on admissions reform, he said, “We would like to welcome more students with high aptitude and something that makes them stand out. One of the reasons why we accept various English proficiency tests is to ensure a more flexible admissions process that caters to students of different backgrounds. Currently at Waseda, approximately 70% of the students are from Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama. There were more students from various regions in the past, and I would like to encourage students from different areas to apply and see them grow into individuals who can think through problems without definite answers with their resilient intellect.”