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Toward a Kyoto Renaissance

The twentieth century was an era that witnessed great strides in science and technology. But it was also a century of chaos and pollution. It was a tragic time of unending strife between nations, religions, and ethnic groups, of poverty and starvation and slaughter.

The philosophy of humanism that emerged in the late thirteenth century and flowered during the Renaissance took its place as the dominant current of modern thought, which places humanity at the pinnacle of all creation. Over time, this current swelled into a torrent of greed that knew no bounds, ultimately bringing humanity to the point where its own survival was in question.

Today, humanity has finally begun to realize its error.
What, after all, are human beings? Have we not existed since the dawn of history as just one of the earth’s countless creations, coexisting as we live our lives buffeted by joy and sadness, love and hate, hope and despair, as is our destiny?

What is it to live? What is life? What is the cosmos that nourishes life? These are the questions that philosophy and religion, literature and art have sought to answer. Today, many people of good will have begun to devote their lives to exploring these fundamental questions. At such a time, we have discerned signs of a revival of the creative spirit, filled with humility toward creation and reverence toward nature, and we are convinced of the possibility of overcoming the ills of our present age and building a brighter future.

I ask you, the students of this university, to fix your pure and exacting gaze on our times and on our nation. I pray that the youthful endeavors of your predecessors, and above all the image of your own earnest and energetic search for beauty and truth, will energize this university to lead the campaign for the revival of Japan as a nation of the arts and the fight to restore respect for the human spirit.

Without you and your understanding, the university has no future.
I pose the question anew: What is the mission of a university?

Universities have traditionally made it their mission to cultivate the young people who will lead the next generation, as the foundation on which the future of the nation rests. Today, however, we must create a new model of the university in which all thinking people, regardless of age, race, or nationality, join together to seek the truth, debate ideas and ideals, and nurture hope.

I believe that the courage to embark on the grand experiment and adventure of resurrecting the human spirit, grounded in the ideas and wisdom of the East, together with the ongoing study and exploration of art and culture can lead humanity toward a future filled with hope. I hope that the drumbeat for a revival of the arts emanating from here in Kyoto will stir the spirit of Japan quietly but deeply, and I pledge to make this a new beginning.

October 27, 1999

Shochoku Tokuyama

* The above sentences were written by university founder, Shochoku Tokuyama, when he was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Uryuyama Academic Foundation.