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Campus Now

Spring Verdure Issue (May)

Message to the second century

Times are changing.
The ability to think thoroughly is essential.

Hajime Takano

As one of Japan's premier journalists, Mr. Takano has discussed important issues on television and the internet.
Mr. Takano discussed his own student life, classes at Waseda University, and his expectations for universities in the future.

Student demonstrations followed by a career in journalism

――What kind of a student were you?

I was the exact opposite of a model student. I entered Waseda University from an affiliated high school. However, I had formed a jazz band with my friends during high school and used to play saxophone at clubs on U.S. military bases. I also participated in student demonstrations at university. During my 4th year of university in 1966, an increase in tuition triggered the first student protest at Waseda University. The entire university went on strike. I helped to build a barricade and seal off the university. Honestly speaking, I wasn't a very good student.

Reflecting back on those student demonstrations, there was no way that building a little barricade and sealing off the university was going to force the university to dismantle. The whole thing was just youthful indiscretion. Even so, students at that time had a very pure source of motivation. Everyone was genuinely angry about conditions at Waseda University, which we considered to be the finest university in Japan. We wondered what had happened to the spirit of acting according to one's own beliefs. In any case, student back them were extremely passionate and animated. I put all of my energy in student demonstrations and ended up being held back twice. And now I give lectures at my alma mater! Truly, you never know how life is going to turn out.

――Why did you chose to pursue a career in journalism after graduating?

The student demonstrations really influenced my plans for the future. While I could never have been called a serious student, I read a lot of books, which was a popular trend at that time. After I finished reading a book, I would debate the contents with my friends and posted propaganda handbills with my opinions all over the campus. Such actions are very similar to journalism. I found employment at a news agency after graduating and, to speak frankly, my work duties didn't differ much from what I had done as a student.

However, when working at a news agency, the articles that I wrote actually became news. Therefore, I worked hard to refine my writing. I remember staying up all night to write a draft only to see my boss check it, ball it up and throw it in the trashcan. Afterwards, I would stealthily pick that draft out of the trashcan and check it to see what needed improvement. Just as a carpenter's apprentice remembers how to use a plane while being yelled at, I remember writing articles while being berated by my boss. I can laugh about it now, but it was really tough at that time.

Reflect seriously upon yourself and chose your path in life

――Based on your long career in journalism, what kind of qualities do you think are required in today's youth?

When I look at today's youth, it seems that they lack education. There is particularly conspicuous lack of knowledge regarding modern history. In an extreme example, some students have never heard of the Vietnam War. Of course, students at Waseda University possess a certain level of knowledge. Still, it is not uncommon for students to lack an understanding of historical significance or causes behind the war.

If you don't know about the past, it is impossible to exercise your imagination when considering the future. You can't decide what action you should take because you have no point of reference. However, if you know about nationalists during the Meiji Restoration, then you might be able to see similarities with today's world and decide on the correct course of action. Such knowledge would at least provide a hint of what to do. In recent years, more and more students can't decide on an appropriate course of action. One reason for such indecisiveness is a lack of knowledge about the past.

――At Waseda University, you teach seminars and at the Okuma Juku. How do prepare for your lectures?

I want students to cultivate their intelligence. Intelligence is the ability to use information and knowledge to form your own opinion and decide on a course of action. This ability could also be described as wisdom. There is still a vague definition for "knowledge" and "intelligence" in Japan. As a result, too much emphasis is placed on knowledge alone. There is an overwhelming lack of opportunities for cultivating intelligence.

Therefore, in my classes, I focus on providing an opportunity for students to think by themselves. One example is the class "Structure of 21st Century Japan" which is offered at Okuma Juku. During each lecture, I invite a guest to speak about their own life. Some of the numerous guests that have visited our class so far include Eriko Yamaguchi, who entered Bangladesh and started a bag factory when she was still in her 20s, and Yukio Okamoto, a diplomatic analyst. I hope to stimulate students by providing them with a sample of different lives, and to provide them with hints for considering their own future. In actuality, one student from a class where we learned about the plight of children during the Iraq War decided to become a doctor and entered medical school after graduating from Waseda University.

Just as is proclaimed by today's society, an increasing number of students in recent years seek only stability. Although I cannot completely deny such a way of thinking, I hope that students will break free from stereotypical ideas and will reflect seriously upon themselves when choosing their path in life.

Remaining a first-class university in the coming years

――Would you please discuss your expectations for Waseda University in the future?

As I stated earlier, I think that there is an overwhelming lack of education for cultivating intelligence at Japanese universities. Although this problem is not limited strictly to university education, it is certain that education to increase independent thought will become more important in the future.

Throughout its existence, Waseda University has been viewed by society as a first-class university. However, such a designation is limited to Japan's growth period beginning from the Meiji Period. The times are changing. No longer is a bright future guaranteed to those who are willing to work hard. Japan has still to decide on its path for the future. Today is also a time of change for universities. Waseda will only truly be a first-class university once it has implemented education which focuses on the future.

*Okuma Juku: A project founded in April 2002 with the mission of cultivation professionals who will support the future of Japan and the world, as well as to establish a clear future plan and lead a troubled Japan towards recovery. Okuma Juku aggregates intellectual assets from both inside and outside Waseda University. Waseda alumnus and journalist Soichiro Tahara serves as Director of the school, with Hajime Takano serving as Alternate Director. Together with Waseda University faculty members including Professor Aiji Tanaka and Professor Yoshiaki Tsuboi (both from the Faculty of Political Science and Economics), staff at Okuma Juku conduct activities based on the three pillars of education, research and society.

Lecture at Okuma Juku

Hajime Takano

Born in 1944. Graduated from the School of Arts, Letters and Science I in 1968. Following employment at a news agency and an advertising firm, became a freelance journalist in 1975. Established the newsletter Insider and the comprehensive media website THE JOURNAL. Appointed as a Waseda University Visiting Professor in 2002. Teaches classes including "Structure of 21st Century Japan-Okuma Juku" and "Okuma Juku Practical Exercises: Techniques for Intelligence" at the Open Education Center, as well as "News Room (Techniques for Reading Newspapers)" at the Graduate School of Political Science.