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To the Youth of Tomorrow:
On the Establishment of Uryuyama Academic Foundation

On the Establishment of Uryuyama Academic Foundation

Here, today, the institution is about to step out into a new beginning. At this critical moment, however, I must confess to a certain ambivalence. There is of course the physical challenge of founding a university under the current circumstances. But more importantly, my thoughts turn to the conviction that those who uphold lofty ideals and commit themselves to an institution of research and education that brings together young people must themselves possess a vision of the future and a profound philosophy for the realization of that vision—that they must have a ground from which they can proudly say to the young people assembled around them, “Live thus.”

The young have their own youth. How much of what I cultivated through my youth would be of good to the lives of you who are young now? When I reflect on this, I feel I have much to be ashamed of. Having spent my youth during the tumultuous postwar period, I cannot look back upon those years without pain and anger. But for the very same reason, I have felt a powerful sense of spiritual exaltation every time I have looked back on my youth. Such is youth in every age, it seems to me. If that is so, then I have no choice but to cast my own dreams and convictions into the midst of today’s young people and to live side by side with them single-heartedly. With that in mind, I would like to tell you about a certain resolve that I have made.

Adorn Thyself Beautifully—Beauty Is in the Heart

This institution is a congregation of people who discuss and explore beauty. Naturally, those who seek beauty will try to present their most attractive image to others, adorning themselves based on their peculiar sense of aesthetics. At the same time, they are deeply moved by the beauty of others. I therefore feel that the institution should be a place filled with young people who are always concerned with beauty and are sensitive to beauty, and I also believe that it is only to be expected that it should become a place where students compete with one another over who is more beautiful. Lest I be misunderstood, let me make clear that when I encourage you to adorn yourselves, I am not saying that you should simply be attentive to your clothes or your outward appearance, for I do not believe that a person’s beauty is determined by such things.

Students are generally poor. Extravagant glamour is certainly important, and there are certain kinds of beauty that cannot be achieved in any other way. But inexpensive beauty, or the beauty of poverty, is equally legitimate; in fact, I am inclined to think that asserting oneself in that manner is, in a sense, a privilege permitted only to students. To elaborate on this point, it is in the rejection of material things that the beauty of youth can be fully manifested.

Moreover, human beauty is such that the state of being natural at all times, regardless of whether or not the individual is conscious of beauty, is in itself an expression of beauty. When you have lost a love, for instance, you may suffer so hard in your bitter shock that you would rather deny your very existence. Yet even in the particular shape of your shock and of your grief lies a profound human beauty.

An exceeding beauty is to be found within the entire expression of a person’s humanity, even in the angst over a death in the family or despair at one’s talents. I believe it is possible to see a unique beauty in each moment—of joy, of earnest study, of talks with friends, or of play. That is why artists from ancient times have continued to depict human beings in various ways.

I want you to understand that because everyone has a desire to present his or herself beautifully, the rudiments of beauty lie in every mundane corner of our lives. Beauty is not about money; its origins exist in the totality of the way a person lives.

Thou Shalt Play, Thou Shalt Venture—Searching for Greater Enrichment

Universities are said to be seats of learning, places for the pursuit of truth. As reasonable as this view is, it seems to me an archaic picture that hardly reflects the reality of universities today. In real life, the university years are sandwiched between the harsh competition for school admission and the fierce battle for employment. It has become nothing more than an insecure period of superficial relief from the examination hell that students have gone through and their anxiety toward the life that awaits them in the real world, a temporary phase for acquiring the qualifications needed for entry into a society where academic credentials are everything.

The pursuit of truth sounds all very well, but look at the devastation that our predecessors who upheld that ideal have wrought on this country and the world. Have we not seen all too clearly the wars they have started, the suffering they have inflicted, the pollution they have allowed, and the disgraceful lives they have led? We must now question with a deep sense of remorse what the “pursuit of truth,” considered the eternal principle of universities, amounted to. Frankly, I cannot help but be critical as well of scholars in general as apostles of the pursuit of truth. While I know of many fine scholars whom I respect, there are also so many scholars who seem to be concerned only with preserving their livelihood and pride. There are all too few who can follow their heart and show an attitude of resistance against absurdity and evil, firmly standing up for their convictions.

Being young, you have keen and pure eyes that see through the false facades of your teachers, and therefore you will not trust them, nor will you seek their guidance. But because you must graduate in order to find a job, you will do what you need to obtain the credits. Your teachers, meanwhile, will not be particularly pained to see you behaving in that way. Therein lies only a relationship of cold detachment. Your student days will bear little fruit, and you will leave school with but meaningless and shallow pieces of knowledge crammed into your heads.

I do not wish to create a university like that. Although there may not be a lot that we can bestow on you in this short period, what I want very much for you to know comes down to this: what is beautiful and what is ugly, what is true and what is false, what it means to love someone, what human beings are about, how one should endeavor to live.

With a legion of rebellious yet earnest teachers who are human and young at heart, I am about to welcome you into this institution that I have founded for the exploration of aesthetics and art. I would like you to share, discuss, and nurture with your friends your views on humanity, of the world, of how to live—all of them founded on beauty. And what I would therefore ask of you is to have plenty of fun and to boldly try many things. During this phase of purity and hunger as you move on from adolescence to youth, I hope that you will expand your horizons and accumulate a broad store of phenomena within you.

I hope that you will continue to gaze at your own selves as you live through the dizzying flood of experiences—your time with your friends, romantic relationships, your first steps into the adult world, travel, music, literature, sports, as well as creative adventures in your areas of choice, your path toward creation in unknown realms, encounters with great artists, and other experiences in labor and everyday life.

When you bring back to campus those experiences, observations, and insights and reflections on yourself, your trusted friends and revered teachers should give you advice, relate their experiences to you, and provide you with many hints as to how you might live as a fine human being. Your character will then expand beyond the bounds of the small campus, and you will grow fuller as a person. Therein, I believe, lies one significance of this institution as a university.

Seek Thy Friends–A Beautiful Age of Ambivalence

As well as being a time for finding a good mentor, I believe that one’s student days should be a time for gaining good friends. I, for one, am blessed with many teachers and friends, most of whom I met as a student. I live with a sense of connectedness so deep that I can declare that I would not have been who I am today if it were not for those individuals.

After all, there is so little that the institution can teach you in your short time here, and it is hardly possible to discuss how much of what you learned in university will be of use to you after you have gone out into the world. To put it boldly, I think it is more important for the institution to offer an environment where young people can gather with their peers and resonate with one another than to desperately try to force-feed an almost infinite amount of academic knowledge into you.

School is a place that is relatively free of the hoggish weighing of gains and losses that you will eventually learn about in society. Students have a youth and purity with which they can stare contradiction and sin in the face, and they are thus capable of speaking of ideals and romance without affectation. What is more, I believe that school is a privileged place where all students can sympathize with one another in good faith.

People cannot live alone. That everyone seeks friends who will understand them and help them to grow is an undeniable fact. One who lives in the world of art and aesthetics occupies a lofty and lonely place. But what a great fortune it would be to have a friend who admires one’s work. The more such friends one has, the greater the joy must be. And so I say to you, seek many friends, and in your talk and laughter with those friends, compare yourself with them. Endeavor to understand the minds of your friends and to sympathize with them. Steal from their outstanding features. And quietly watch over the sorrow that they hold in their hearts or the sometimes deep solitude in which they reside.

Teachers in Self-Negation–They Too Are Troubled Beings

What are teachers? To begin with, teachers are individuals who possess knowledge and skills superior to yours and who have an outstanding sensitivity and theory. They seek your sympathy for their ways of thinking and feeling, while they overwhelm you with their entire being and try to impart that power to you. By drawing on their own experiences and their view on humanity, moreover, teachers take on the task of exposing and making you realize your hidden potential—various components of your whole identity, such as your talents and sensitivity–and of making you aware of what your fortes and individuality are.

Thus, those who have fine teachers are fortunate, and they will likely live their entire lives under the influence of those teachers. But wonderful though they may be, do teachers have absolute power? No, just as there is no such thing as absolute art, I do not think there is such a person as an absolute teacher. One of the main attributes that support one’s status as a teacher, particularly in the world of art and academics, is one’s achievements. But aside from an exceptional few, a person’s achievements will eventually cease to reach greater heights and will become blunted.

I believe that, sadly, one’s vigor inevitably declines after a certain point in time or a certain age, although the teacher’s talent and physical and intellectual strength affect just when that may be. As one’s achievements begin to stagnate, one’s comprehension and foresight begin to stagnate or dull as well. A person’s sensitivity and skills also tend to lose their former fiery creativity.

Another point to consider is that when the cultural current of the age that nurtured a teacher moves beyond maturity and is replaced by a new current, it generally becomes impossible for the teacher to maintain a leading role, though he or she may approve of the trend. Teachers then have no choice but to give up that position to those of the next generation. Thereafter, their task is to quietly look back on their own achievements and to deepen, flesh out, and ripen them, while pondering the difficulty of life and the academic world.

Young students who have received the tutelage of these teachers will inherit their great achievements and, freely drawing on the creativity that has been trained under the teachers, will try to establish new ideas that suit the new age and environment. They will strive to rise above their teachers and will no longer rely on the creative power of the latter. They will sense that the day of their teachers has gone, that they are the pioneers of the culture of the times, and will begin to think of entering into positions in which they can guide younger generations.

Teachers are destined to be outstripped by the creators of the day and negated by their juniors. That is the truth of how the times progress. To put it differently, I am suggesting that teachers confront and instruct young people such that they might negate themselves. In fact, I believe that the true path of a teacher lies in rearing young people who will surpass them.

The life of the teacher who strives to find a footing in the changing times and environment and to continue to grow one’s creativity is a life full of agony indeed, and that attitude is nothing short of remarkable. In that respect, your teachers are no different than you in being students themselves. They are your elders who walk but a few steps or a few dozen steps before you. If you have something that you aspire to and desire to be creative, you must humbly listen to the words of your teachers and sincerely take in what they have to convey to you.

Live Out Your Youth–The Age Is Yours

In the above paragraphs, I have discussed the institution’s ideas of how we wish you to live. Just like you, I, too, am no more than a student who walks his own path. But I hope I have been able to tell you something of what has been on my mind upon the founding of this institution. It has only just taken its first step forward. As I wrote earlier, I am discontented with the state of conventional universities and conventional views of student life. Above all, I feel that most universities have lost sight of the views on humanity and the world—and in particular, the idealism—with which they, as schools, should necessarily be imbued. The young will undoubtedly be the leaders of the next age. As such, universities should not dwell on preconceived notions but should foster a drive toward the creation of a new age.

Today it appears that the authorities that we would rely on are in utter decay, and we are short on world-oriented principles for nurturing the youth who will become the mainstay of our country. And so I hope that this institution might become a center for the creation of new views of the world and humanity and, at the same time, a seedbed for fine concepts of beauty that will prevail in the coming age. We would gladly sacrifice ourselves to that end and many teachers gathered here await you eagerly.

The young who converse with their peers in search of romance, the young who live in angst, unable to content themselves with the age or with the status quo, and seek to find hope in life—you are the ones whom I strongly hope will gather at and live with this institution.

Fall, 1976

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.