Feb 4 2019

Meiji Gakuin University and Asahi Shimbun Cohost Symposium on Finding Connection in a Divided Society

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Meiji Gakuin University’s Volunteer Center, the university cohosted a symposium with the Asahi Shimbun newspaper at Yurakucho Asahi Hall on December 8. Over 630 people attended to successful event.

The title of the symposium was “The Meaning of Connection in an Increasingly Divided Society.” In today’s world, where human relationships tend to be casual and shallow, the threat we need as values become more diverse, and the concrete forms the university’s educational philosophy, “Do for Others,” can take. 

Following a greeting by university president Yasuo Matsubara, Faculty of International Studies professor Genichiro Takahashi delivered the keynote speech on the theme of universities and the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. He discussed how Japan and its universities have changed since those events, touching as well on his own experiences as a university student in the 1970s. 

In the second part of the event, Meiji Gakuin alumnus Akemi Shimazawa joined Professor Takahashi, who was her seminar instructor, for a discussion of the true meaning of volunteer work. Shimazawa reflected on her experiences visiting the Kirikiri district of Otsuchi, in Iwate Prefecture, many times through the Volunteer Center’s “Do for Smile@Eastern Japan” program when she was a student. 

“At first, I came with the attitude that I wanted to help the disaster zone, but I was increasingly drawn in by the power, warmth, and humanity of the people who lived there. In many ways I was the one who was saved by this life-changing experience,” she said. She and Professor Takahashi enjoyed a genial conversation, occasionally exchanging laughs as they talked about finding a new perspective in which volunteering is about more than saving the weak.

The third part of the symposium was a panel discussion titled “What kind of connections do we need today? Bringing the ‘Do for Others’ philosophy to life,” featuring journalist Yuriya Masuda; Tomoki Kurosawa, a board member at the non-profit Palette , executive officer at Branding Technology, Inc., and Meiji Gakuin alum; Kohei Inose , a professor at the Meiji Gakuin center of liberal arts Education Center ; and Professor Takahashi. The panelists engaged in a discussion with Asahi Shimbun education coordinator Kiyoshi Isshiki , drawing on both research expertise and unfiltered information gathered through reporting. Both participants and audience shared in exploring the idea that across various fields and settings, the people society deems “weak” often have the strongest presence and are the ones who fuel change in their immediate surroundings or society at large.  

Meiji Gakuin University has long been a pioneer in university volunteer activity, with many students volunteering both in Japan and abroad. We look forward to continuing to build connections with society at large and put into practice our educational philosophy, the lifelong creed of our founder Dr. James Curtis Hepburn, “Do for Others.”