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History of the Okuma Auditorium: Visitors to Waseda University

The 125 anniversary of the establishment of Waseda University is the year of its "Second Establishment" because Shigenobu Okuma, the founder of Waseda University, always talked about the '125 years of life ' theory: "the lifespan of a human being can be as long as 125 years. He will be able to live out his natural lifespan as long as he takes proper care of his health." On October 21, 2007, its ceremony at the Okuma Auditorium was attended by the presidents of universities coming from all across the world to celebrate the new start of Waseda University, including University of Bonn, University of California, University of London and National University of Singapore.

In the same year, a lot of cultural events were held at the Okuma Auditorium to commemorate the 125 anniversary: Kabuki performance Kanjincho by Koshiro Matsumoto, one of Waseda alumni; lectures given by a lot of internationally acclaimed intellectuals including Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics, and Donald Keene, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University.

On December 4 of the same year, the Okuma Auditorium was designated as an Important National Cultural Asset for its architectural design combining the Gothic and Romanesque styles. Since its establishment in 1927, the Auditorium has welcomed many nationally and internationally prominent scholars, politicians and royals, including Helen Keller, a deafblind American activist. Writer Hideki Kojima (member of the editorial board of Waseda University Alumni Bulletin) describes the history of lectures at the Okuma Auditorium.

October issue of 2007 Waseda University Alumni Bulletin, re-posted

1) I want to reach what we can say is the very bottom of the physical world: 1950s and before

Hideki Kojima (politics in 1970)
Writer & member of the editional board of Waseda University Alumni Bulletin

Visitors to Waseda University
Guo Moruo, President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (China)
Guo Moruo, President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (China)

December 8, 1955 (Showa 30)
Lecture title: China-Japan Cross-Cultural Exchange

(Photo: Takato, vol. 1, ed. Bureau of Extracurricular Lectures, Waseda University [collection at the Central Library])

Although Waseda University was seriously damaged during the Pacific War, classes resumed under a double-shift system on the eve of the signing of the Japanese instrument of surrender aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945 (Showa 20). It was time for the University to be engaged in the reconstruction effort.

On June 10 of the following year, the first presidential election took place and Sokichi Tsuda was selected; he had resigned in 1940 (Showa 15) after being criticized by rightists. Great expectations were held for a new age. But he firmly declined and Koichi Shimada assumed the presidency. Tsuda was a historian specializing in Japanese and Chinese intellectual histories. Graduated from 'Tokyo Senmon Gakko (College),' he became a teacher, then a member of the Research Bureau of the South Manchurian Railway Company, and was appointed as professor by Waseda University in 1918 (Taisho 7). He did an exhaustive study on Kojiki and Nihon Shoki and was original in his effort to reestablish Japanese people's view of the Emperor on a modern and scientific basis.

It was on November 12 that Tsuda came to the Okuma Auditorium for his three-day lectures; gEssence of Learning,h gContemporary Thoughts from an Academic Viewpoint,h and "Learning and Students." "The Okuma Auditorium was filled for three days. The audience was deeply impressed and excited. Mr. Tsuda's lectures were an extraordinary success" (Waseda University Alumni Bulletin).

In his lecture, Tsuda criticized democracy as political system, saying it does not offer perspectives on humanity and learning "Above all, it is humans that create social systems and environments." "And their basis is provided by learning that your students have," he encouraged.

On April 21, 1948 (Showa 23), Waseda University restarted as a four-year university with eleven departments. The total number of students was 15,600 (3,900 per year).

Although not drawing a large audience during the years of post-war reconstruction, literary lecture series in commemoration of Mimei Ogawa (Japan Art Academy Award winner) was held on May 8, 1951 (Showa 26), at the Okuma Auditorium and lecturers were given by Waseda alumni and master writers of stories for children including Joji Tsubota, Ujaku Akita, Hirosuke Hamada and Kinetaro Yoshida. "Amidst a light rain, an enthusiastic audience of over one thousand people filled the first floor of the Auditorium. It was a great success."

National and International Intellectuals Visit Waseda University
Hideki Yukawa, Professor at Kyoto University
Hideki Yukawa, Professor at Kyoto University

October 26, 1956 (Showa 31)
Lecture title: Trends in Nuclear Physics

(Photo: Takato, vol. 2, ed. Bureau of Extracurricular Lectures, Waseda University [collection at the Central Library])

On November 25, 1955 (Showa 30), Grayson Kirk, President of Columbia University, delivered a lecture entitled "the Role of Universities in Contemporary Democratic Society" and declared, "A university is not simply an advocate for intellectual freedom but also is responsible for protecting and promoting world peace."

On December 3, Hans Morgenthau, an authority on international politics and professor at the University of Chicago, gave a lecture entitled "On American Foreign Policy" and pointed out a complicated reality, saying "At present, those who heartily endorse Eisenhower's foreign policy are Democrats, the opposition under the Constitution to his Party."

It was on December 8 that Guo Moruo, President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, gave a lecture. He is a writer and historian, who studied and stayed long in Japan. He said, "Peaceful coexistence between the two peoples, between the two nations, will contribute to promoting cultural and physical well-being and bringing both nations happiness." In spite of his career in literature and social science, he was attacked in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. His self-criticism was a great disappointment to China and to the world as well.

On May 23, 1956 (Showa 31), Prof. Norbert Wiener, "the Father of Cybernetics," gave a lecture on "Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine." During the war, this "infant prodigy" worked on the problems involved in effective automatic range finders for antiaircraft guns and created a completely new academic field. "I referred to Greek words for coinage and in effect coined the term 'cybernetics' from the Greek word kybernetes meaning 'steersman.'"

It was on October 26 that Prof. Hideki Yukawa, professor at Kyoto University and the first Japanese to win a Nobel Prize, visited Waseda University. He won the Nobel Prize for physics for his prediction of the existence of mesons, in addition to previously discovered electrons protons and neutrons. In his lecture entitled "Trends in Nuclear Physics," he said, "Although I don't know when we will reach the end, I want to go, how should I say, to reach what we can say is the very bottom of the physical world."

On April 19, 1957 (Showa 32), Russian writer Il'ya Éhrenburg delivered a lecture. He depicted a tragedy of artists in The Thaw after Stalin's death ending the condemnation of the Stalinist era. In his lecture entitled "Visiting Japan," he said, "I really love Bonsai and picked up some pots to bring them back to Russia. But I think it's wrong to do the same thing with humans." This would be a significant remark of a writer who lived in Stalin's Russia.

Miyako no Seihoku sung for Prime Minister Nehru
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India

October 7, 1957 (Showa 32) Awarded an Honorary Doctorate
Lecture title: Those Who Create Tomorrow

On October 7, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, leader of the Indian Independence Movement and India's first Prime Minister came to Japan. In the afternoon, he visited Keio University and Waseda University, where he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate. After the ceremony, he delivered a lecture on the subject of "Those Who Create Tomorrow." Over ten thousand students attended it at the Okuma Auditorium and even in the square outside it his lecture was scheduled for 10 minutes but prolonged for 30 minutes and the audience rose to their feet and applauded. Then, at the request of Prime Minister Nehru, the audience sang Miyako no Seihoku. When he appeared in front of the Auditorium, the alma mater song rang out louder throughout the square.

On October 29, Alexander Oparin, a Russian biochemist and internationally recognized authority in the field, delivered a lecture on his theory of "the Origin of Life." He had advanced a scientific theory of how life may have arisen from inorganic matter. Oparin said, "I hope that, sooner rather than later, we will be able to recreate the process of physical evolution of life."

On June 16, 1959 (Showa 34), Achmad Sukarno, the first President of the Republic of Indonesia, visited Waseda University and gave a lecture entitled "World Peace and Our Nation's Independence." He is a leader of Indonesia's independence from the Netherlands and entered the limelight as a leader of the Third-World at the 1st Bandung Conference of Asian and African nations in 1955. Introducing the concept of "guided democracy," his administration survived relying on the national army and the Communist Party. In 1966, however, Sukarno was forced to relinquish the Presidency to Suharto. Sukarno remained under house arrest until his death in Jakarta in 1970.

On October 9, Kamekichi Takahashi, affectionately called as "an economist in the neighborhood," and Ex-Prime Minister Tanzan Ishibashi delivered lectures on their visit to China. Graduated from Waseda University, both were prolific writers for Toyo Keizai Shimpo (Eastern Economic Journal). After the war, Ishibashi entered politics and was appointed to minister of Industry under the Hatoyama administration, then as president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and became the prime minister. Unfortunately he became sick and gave up his office only two months later. He was called 'tragic head of state.' On December 10, Takeo Miki, then a lawmaker of the House of Representatives, gave a lecture entitled "Tomorrow's World." Graduated from Meiji University, he became the prime minister by the Shiina-decision (vice-president of the LDP Etsusaburo Shiina's appointment of Miki to president of the LDP) after the resignation of the Tanaka Cabinet following the Lockheed payoff scandal. It was a bolt from the blue. On December 11, Kenzo Matsumura, then a lawmaker of the House of Representatives, gave a lecture entitled "After a Journey across China." Graduated from Waseda University (School of Political Science and Economics), he held successively the posts as Minister of Health and Welfare, Agriculture and Education. He also worked to improve Japan's ties with China.