When I first arrived at Queen’s as an undergraduate student in 1976, one of my fellow classmates (though I did not know him personally) was Prince Takamado, a member of the Imperial House of Japan. Prince Takamado studied in the Faculty of Law and graduated from Queen’s in 1981. Tragically, the prince died suddenly in 2002 at age 47, but his fondness for Canada and Queen’s has become an important part of his legacy (great credit is owed to a former Queen’s Vice-Principal and later President of the University of Alberta, Dr. Rod Fraser, who made the relationship with Japan a priority in both of those positions). In 2004, Prince Takamado’s wife, Princess Hisako Tottori, visited campus to pay homage to his time at Queen’s. In addition to planting a Sakura tree in front of Summerhill, she also dedicated a special collection of Japanese materials to Stauffer library. A student scholarship, the Prince Takamado Visiting Student Scholarship, has been established in his name, and each year we welcome an undergraduate student from Japan on a one-year exchange.
I have been reflecting on Prince Takamado and the Queen’s-Japan relationship recently as I am currently travelling in Asia, which has included stops in Singapore, Tokyo and, currently, Nagoya, Japan. Prince Takamado recognized the importance of a global education, and we should all be proud that Queen’s had an important impact on his life. It was with great pleasure that, earlier this week at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss and I had the opportunity to participate in the selection process for the successful recipient of the 2015-16 Prince Takamado scholarship. While it is premature to announce the selected candidate, I can assure you that we will once again welcome a remarkable student from Japan to Queen’s.
My visit to Japan, which follows on a very productive two-day stop in Singapore, has been an important reminder of how much Queen’s has to offer this region and how much we can benefit from further engagement. During visits with Keio University and Waseda University (both old universities and members of the ‘Category A’ research universities group, roughly equivalent to Canada’s U15) I was struck by the similarities in the values we desire for our graduates, including a strong foundation in a broad based education that recognizes the importance of global exposure and experience. I am more convinced than ever that our latest push to diversify our community, and to provide more opportunities for student and faculty mobility, is necessary and will only serve to strengthen both our student learning experience and our research reputation.
Our international research trajectory is also clear. The challenges and intellectual questions of our time are global in nature and the solutions and answers discovered will only be strengthened if we work collaboratively. Issues of water management, ageing populations and the role of humanities and social sciences scholarship in society are themes that have resonated during several of our engagements on this visit (Vice-Principal Liss presented a talk on his own work in the area of water management at Nanyang Technological University during our visit to Singapore). There are obvious linkages to these areas, and many others, with Queen’s researchers, our centres and institutes, and with the National Centres of Excellence that Queen’s hosts. Vice-Principal Liss and I are in complete agreement that we need to encourage and facilitate greater linkages with this region to deepen existing partnerships and build relationships in identified areas of strength.
My last stop of this tour will be at Nagoya University where I will attend the opening of the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM). Professor Cathleen Crudden (from our own Department of Chemistry) also holds an appointment as a research professor at Nagoya and has been instrumental in establishing the Institute and preparing for its launch. Dr. Crudden joins faculty from Japan, Switzerland, and the United States in this impressive collaborative effort. She and her colleagues are to be commended for their research and global outlook.
Finally, I had the privilege of hosting alumni events in both Singapore and Tokyo. I am inspired by the enthusiasm of our alumni whenever I go, and it goes without saying that as we continue our drive for greater international exposure and engagement, our alumni will be important ambassadors. I am pleased to report that in both Japan and Singapore we have enthusiastic alumni who want to help, and who have a wealth of local knowledge to share. I thank those alumni who participated in our visits; you will hear from us again soon!
Although I started my career as a historian of 16th– and 17th-century Britain, in more recent years my interests have shifted to the history of historical writing, globally. Japan in particular has a rich tradition of historical literature going back to the seventh century AD. Interestingly, Keio University, which we visited a few days ago, was founded by the great 19th century social reformer Fukuzawa Yukichi. It was Fukuzawa who, in the aftermath of the Meiji Restoration (1868) helped open Japanese universities to western influences (and to the adoption of European, especially German, scientific and scholarly methods). Under current Prime Minister Abe, a renewed push to internationalize Japan is underway. We in the west, and especially in Canada, need to reciprocate that openness and to pursue linkages both here and elsewhere. Neglecting to do so will leave us much poorer.
I have enjoyed my travels in Asia, but I always look forward to returning to campus and sharing what I have learned. I encourage you to be in touch if you also have an experience to share about studying or research in Japan or Singapore. As always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.