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Study Abroad - From WASEDA to the world -

From Waseda to Holland

Mr. Masayuki Ohira
5th year student at the School of Law

Leiden University, where I went to study, is in the city of Leiden, which is located in the Netherlands, sandwiched between Amsterdam, the business center, and The Hague, the political and judicial center. It is the oldest university in the Netherlands, its foundation dating back to the year 1575.

Eminent professors gathering from all over the world

Leiden University is traditionally famous for its superiority in the field of international law. Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), "the Father of International Law," once taught at the university, which has, for centuries, turned out scholars and lawyers engaging in international justice. I studied international law here, too, mainly in the field of human rights. I now look back with great appreciation on those days, days in which I could fully enjoy well-developed "academic" surroundings. The professorate consists of well-known scholars in the area of international law, some of whom came here from across the world, and some of whom have wide experience in courts of law. Outside classes, I had opportunities to listen to ambassadors and diplomats, and to go out for a party with United Nations officials. It was a year of luxury, as if I were being treated to a full-course dinner of international politics and justice.

With law students in a cafe situated in Leiden. (Writer, fifth from right)

The City and the University of Leiden have a close relation to Japan

Another purpose of my studying in Leiden was to trace the history of Japan-Netherlands exchanges. Leiden University has long been known for strong ties to Japan. Among students who were sent to the Netherlands by the Tokugawa Shogunate at the end of the Edo Period for the purpose of studying were Amane Nishi and Mamichi Tuda, who studied law and political science at the University. In addition, Leiden is also the city where Phillip Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), after having left Japan, tackled research on Japan in his later years. Marks of the solid connection between Japan and the Netherlands were left not only in the facilities of the University, but also here and there in the city. A huge collection of materials concerning Japan is kept in one of the cityfs museums, and the Rising Sun flag of Japan is flown in one of the squares. There is also the inscription of a famous haiku by Basho on the wall of a building in the city. These facts show that the city has kept its intimate relationship with Japan.

With students of Japanology and international students. (Writer, far right in the front row)

Communication with students majoring in Japanology

In Leiden University, the Department of Japanology, whose founder is the venerable scholar Siebold, is one of the world's best research institutions in this field. Professors are not only scholars active in the front line of Japanese studies; they have also developed many exciting classes. I therefore tried to find time to attend classes in this department as often as possible. I acquired knowledge new to me about Japanese culture and history from these classes. I also enjoyed interacting with students who specialized in Japanology. As the students I met in my regular law classes were mostly foreign, I owe what I know about Dutch culture to the students of Japanology. I have many unforgettable memories of that time, such as having been invited to their homes and having celebrated festivals like Queen's Day and Sinterklaas (or Saint Nicholasfs Festival) with them.

Let's activate exchange between young people in Japan and Holland

In the midst of an unprecedented Japan boom in Europe, students who aim to study Japanology come to Leiden University from throughout the Netherlands. There are many students who want to study in Japan. However, the present situation cannot fully meet their requirements because of such restrictions as the limited number of students sent as international students, and the scholarship situation. I am planning approaches to activate exchange mainly between young people in the two countries. One of them is an event which promotes mutual understanding of each culture and each society by learning about both nations. Various possibilities like giving support to studying, working, and internships in both countries are being considered for the event. In gratitude for the wonderful encounters and experiences I acquired in the Netherlands, I would like to make as much of an effort as possible for the further development of Japan-Netherlands exchanges.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)