The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Campus Now > SPECIAL REPORT : Early Spring Issue (Apr. 2013)

Campus Now

Early Spring Issue (Apr. 2013)


Cultivating global leaders active in the community

Happy relationships between university and the community

“Waseda Vision 150” is a mid-and-long-term plan which defines the ideal form of Waseda University in 2032, the year of our 150th anniversary. The global leaders who are described in this vision are not limited to overseas professionals; rather, they include professionals who return to their hometown, using their global perspective and sensibility for the good of the community. Cultivating such global leaders will further deepen the partnership between our university and the community. We will explore what Waseda University can do to construct a brighter future for our planet.


How can a university invigorate the community?

A discussion was held by 3 professors who conduct research on community invigoration from a variety of perspectives. Topics included problems in the community, solutions through university education, and qualities sought from community leaders.

Blending into the community and proposing problem-solving methods

――Today, I’m happy to welcome three distinguished professors who conduct research on community invigoration. Would you please start by introducing yourselves?

Sōda In communities faced with problems such as decline, stagnation and disaster related-damage, I make proposals which seek revitalization by citizens themselves, without relying on the government. In the social sciences, this field is known as “social design.”

Urano I first became involved in community research when I was a graduate student. Afterwards, I became a researcher at a think-tank and conducted social surveys, giving me an opportunity to perform disaster-related research in the community. At that time, I focused on measures for the occurrence of major earthquakes. Later on, I was thinking of community reconstruction following the eruption of Mt. Unzen in 1990. These experiences led to my current research.

Ukai Initially, I was involved in the invigoration of local industry through research on small, family-run factories. This led to my work in community invigoration through small factories.

――Specifically, in what communities do you conduct research and education?

Sōda I conduct case research in the inner-city area of Shinjuku Ward, as well as Kawaguchi City as the suburb. I assist in the proposal of town ordinances and in the operation of Seijin Daigaku (an educational institute for adults). Also, together with students, I support reconstruction activities in Tanohata Village, Iwate Prefecture, a place which is deeply connected to Waseda University.

Urano Students interested in studying local governance enroll in my seminar. Each student finds a field in the Tokyo area and summarizes their work into a seminar thesis. Through my support of such student activities, I am involved in a variety of regions. Personally, although my field was mainly urban communities when I was younger, I later began to visit under-populated areas. I hope to examine the form of regional society by comparing urban areas with under-populated areas. Currently, I am conducting a survey in the Ando area of Ōtsuchi Town, Iwate Prefecture, an area which was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Ando is based on the seafood processing industry. While including graduate students in my activities, I will continue my relationship with Ando for several years and support reconstruction.

Professor Shinichi Ukai

Ukai The target of my surveys is corporations, so I conduct research on communities through the perspective of small- and mid-sized corporations. My field encompasses Ōta Ward, Sumida Ward, Katsushika Ward, Kita Ward and Hitachi City. I provide advice for management of small factories and the issue of successors to business. One activity which is increasing recently is matching. For example, I connect company presidents from Ōta Ward and Katsushika Ward, and I hold discussions with participation from several young managers. This year in my seminar, students are conducting interviews at corporations in Sumida Ward and then reporting to government and corporate officials. Students also offer their opinions on products made at small factories.

Urano Tokyo changed dramatically in the late 1980s, didn’t it?

Ukai A community is similar to an ecosystem. Simply laying a single road will cause change. Even more, a community which has changed never reverts back to its original state. Urban planning must conduct a comprehensive assessment of people living and operating businesses in the community. For example, one can always find an interesting shopping district in areas with many small factories. Businesses and residences are intermingled, and the majority of companies are run by families. Since wives help at the factories, the shopping districts have lots of stores selling ready-to-eat dishes which make cooking easy. In many families, 3 generations live together. People have deep roots in the neighborhood, which results in large and lively festivals.

Urano Festivals are symbols of the community. Citizens feel pride in continuing festivals through their own work. Communities with festivals have an energetic elderly population and strong industry. Community research should assemble all such aspects of communities.

Various problems in communities

――What kind of problems exist in communities where you currently conduct research?

Urano Particularly from the late 1980s, urban communities are weakening in the Tokyo metropolitan area. People lack awareness of their own personal role in the community—perhaps it could be described as a kind of “suspended sensation.” For example, if the Great East Japan Earthquake had not occurred, no focus would have been given to our environment in our communities or the energy resources which support our lifestyle. They fail to realize the variety of weaknesses which communities contain.

Sōda Cities lead the birth of civilization. Unfortunately, their ability to create civilization is weakening. In the past, cities had a value chain in which people encouraged each other, rented and leased desirable property, and established creative communities in each region. However, at some point, people lost awareness in the community surrounding them and the chain was broken. The spread in mobile devices only serves to further heighten this trend. If the negative aspects of cities worsen in this way, things will fall apart—just like a family that lives together but doesn’t speak to each other.

Ukai Conversely, the feeling of being rooted in the community remains strong in people working at small factories. Even so, there are now only 4,000 small factories in Ōta Ward. That’s only half of the 8,000 that existed when I started conducting research surveys around 1985. I provide support with the aim of somehow invigorating communities where many managers are considering shutting down business in their own generation. On bright note is that small factories in Ōta Ward gathered to establish “Downtown Bobsled Network Project” and make bobsleds for the Sochi Olympics. I’ve heard that the bobsleds made in Ōta Ward have posted good times. Manufacturing with participation from many small factories is like a portable shrine used in a festival. It creates passion in the spirit of entrepreneurs and invigorates the community. I believe that we can make society brighter by bringing the flame of passion to corporations rooted in the community.

Urano Japan is experiencing an aging population, a low birth rate and a decreasing population. Effects of such problems are felt most in under-populated areas. As society shrinks overall, under-populated areas face problems such as how to restructure the community and how to create a community center such as facilities which condense core human relationships and areas for attracting commercial businesses/government services.

Sōda I believe that there are infinite possibilities for the revitalizing farming villages. For example, consider broccoli grown in Tanohata Village. There is a high shipping cost for each stalk of broccoli, so the vegetable is only shipped until Sendai. However, if salmon and milk are added to create a set which is sold as bouillabaisse, additional value is realized and the price increases 2 or 3 times. Shipping is then possible until Tokyo. This kind of value creation is extremely interesting.

Ukai A similar example is the citron juice from Umaji Village in Kōchi Prefecture. The village has succeeded by utilizing citron which cannot be shipped due to not meeting specifications, by way of processing them into a variety of products to create a brand. On the other hand, even without expanding nationally, it is possible to survive in the local market by creating a product rooted in that market. One example is a former subcontracting corporation under Nippon Steel Corporation in Kamaishi City, Iwate Prefecture. The corporation used steel-welding technology to develop and acquire patents for original products which satisfy needs of the local market. Notable products include an automatic scale for weighing cod roe, an automatic salting machine for seaweed, and a log stove which emits very little smoke. Unfortunately, the corporation’s facilities were completely destroyed by the Great East Japan Earthquake and reinvestment forced the corporation to double its debt. However, fisherman repurchased the corporation’s products and power outages created high demand for log stoves. Ultimately, the corporation is posting higher sales than before.

Expectations for the power of students to bring energy to communities

Scene from a workshop in the Ando region of Ōtsuchi Town

Professor Masaki Urano

Sōda Regions hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake can be clearly divided into two categories: regions receiving support from NPOs which backup municipalities and regions not receiving such support. In such cases, much can be accomplished through the ability of students to elicit power. Also, in terms of education, it is extremely meaningful for students to get a first-hand look at conditions in disaster areas and to experience a range of emotions together with citizens in such communities.

Ukai People are energized by a visit from university students. In my class on small- and mid-sized corporate theory, I require students to submit a report instead of taking an examination. In addition to interviewing the president of small factories, I have students shake hands and take a picture. I expect them to report on the feeling of a hand belonging to someone in the manufacturing business. I also require students to send a thank-you card. Around January, about 200 to 300 thank-you cards are sent to industrial areas such as Ōta Ward. This also brings happiness to the presidents of small factories which the students visited.

Sōda When expressed in terms of folklore, students are “divine visitors from afar.” They visit occasionally, raise novel ideas through an outside perspective, and find value in the community and its products. Members of the community listen closely to the fresh ideas of students.

Urano We can expect a lot of new discoveries through interaction between students and people who seek to invigorate the community.

Ukai At the Waseda University Incubation Promotion Office, there are students who operate a corporation named “Asile.” This corporation provides recommendations for selling tourist resources of a community. Students possess the ability to discover important needs which we adults fail to notice.

Sōda In addition to making new discoveries, I believe that Waseda students possess the leadership ability to enter a community and inspire citizens to try new things.

Leaders must realize that the world is “one by one”

――What is necessary for graduating students to enter society and become community leaders?

Sōda It’s important to constantly have fresh sensibility and not become engrossed in daily life. Students should be able to enjoy changes, feel stimulated by people with different ways of thinking, and feel joy.

Urano Students must be interested in what is happening in the community. They should carefully decide their own orientation while observing different generations and the action of people with different ways of thinking. Finally, they should find other professionals who will support what they are trying to accomplish and should possess the ability to interact with personnel of high quality.

Ukai In most cases, Waseda graduates go to regional cities because they are transferred as employees of general corporations. Even if they will only stay in that location for a few years, I hope that they will have the mindset to blend into the community, make friends, and leave their mark. Even if you weren’t born in a certain community, visiting from the outside can actually make it easier to feel affection for your location.

Urano I hope to instill students with the mentality that going to a new region is a chance. I want them to develop the desire to actively interact with community members and discover the appeal of the community.

Ukai Ever since the Meiji Period, martial artists such as judo and karate experts have traveled overseas and adjusted to their new surroundings. Their success was based on having a clear goal for what they wanted to accomplish and the knowledge they wanted to spread when traveling overseas. Furthermore, they had a mentality of being rooted in the community. Long ago, the ideal of being “global” didn’t really exist. In the first place, a true global community doesn’t actually exist; rather, a global community is the aggregation of local communities.

Seijin Daigaku in Kawaguchi City. Citizens, government employees and Waseda University students study community design together.

Professor Osamu Sōda

Urano Examining the question from another perspective, global leaders must possess the ability to blend with the local context and take autonomous action. They need the flexibility to interact with the community while modifying their own values.

Ukai When entering a community, it is necessary to change one’s self in response to that community. It’s a big mistake to think that the “world is one”—actually, the “world is one by one.”

Urano If a person holds a variety of strategic menus which match community conditions, they will have more options to choose from and a greater range of possibilities.

Sōda Indeed, aren’t global leaders capable of leading diversity in a positive direction? They also require the ability to connect the diversity of each region into a chain.

Urano Based on full recognition that standards are different in each region, leaders must devise mechanisms to connect regions. It is a difficult task, but people who can demonstrate such wisdom are truly global leaders.

Ukai A general liberal arts education is important for understanding diversity and differences with others. Students tend to be uninterested in the liberal arts education regarding Waseda University. However, Waseda culture found in institutions such as the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum is liberal arts education which is of great value in society. Students should become familiar with this area. Indeed, the starting point for liberal arts education is having interest in the world around you.

Urano Simply learning about historical figures associated with Waseda University is a form of liberal arts education.

――In conclusion, please discuss your aspirations for the future.

Sōda Regional studies is a very popular field overseas. It is a well-respected course which outstanding students select as their major. However, this field isn’t understood well in Japan. I will work to position regional studies within the academic system of Japan.

Urano I want to create a mechanism for connecting research and education with practical social implementation. I hope to cultivate professionals who consider matters through a community-based perspective.

Ukai So far, I have continued to broaden the scope of my activities. Therefore, in the future, I want to refine my themes and conduct deeper research. Through first-hand experience, I hope to rediscover small factories and to assist in community invigoration as a small- and mid-sized corporation evangelist.

Professor Shinichi Ukai
Faculty of Commerce (Small- and Mid-Sized Corporate Theory)

Graduated from the Waseda University School of Commerce in 1971. Completed the Doctoral Program at the Waseda University Graduate School of Commerce in 1980. After working at the Institute for Social Engineering and Mitsubishi Research Institute, became Full-Time Instructor at the Waseda University School of Commerce in 1986, Assistant Professor in 1988, and Professor in 1994. Has served as Director of the Waseda University Incubation Promotion Office since 2011. Chairperson of the NPO Monozukuri Shinagawa Jyuku. Chairperson of the Committee to Select Outstanding Factories in Ōta Ward.

Professor Masaki Urano
Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences (Regional Social Theory)

Graduated from the Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics in 1973. Completed the Doctoral Program at the Waseda University Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 1981. Served as researcher at Institute for Future Engineering and Research Associate at the Waseda University School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I and the Evening Division of the same school. Afterwards, appointed as Full-Time Instructor at the Waseda University School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I in 1986, Assistant Professor in 1989, and Professor in 1994. From 2001, has served as Director of the Waseda Institute for Sustainable Community and Risk Management. Served as Senior Dean of the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 2010 and 2012. Served as Visiting Researcher at the University of Delaware Disaster Research Center in 2005 and 2006. Served as Chairperson of the Japan Society for Urbanology in 2007 and 2011.

Professor Osamu Sōda
Faculty of Social Sciences (Urban Planning, Housing Measures, Community Development)

Graduated from the Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics in 1989. Completed the Doctoral Program (major in construction engineering) at the Waseda University Graduate School of Science and Engineering in 1993. Appointed as Research Associate at the Tokyo Metropolitan University Faculty of Engineering in 1994. Appointed as Full-Time Instructor at the Waseda University School of Social Sciences in 1995, as Assistant Professor in 1997, and as Professor in 2002. Awarded as an Honorary Researcher at the University of Birmingham Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (England) in 2003. Appointed as Visiting Researcher at the Beijing University (China) Department of Environmental Studies in 2004.