The President’s 2024 Academic Year Pledge Ceremony Address for the School of Science and Technology and the Graduate School of Science and Technology

Congratulations to you all, on your enrollment and on entering or advancing to the graduate school of Kyoto Institute of Technology, on this truly auspicious day. On behalf of the faculty and staff of our university, I salute you, your family and others who have provided you with guidance and support.


Kyoto Institute of Technology evolved from two predecessor institutions, which began over 120 years ago, Kyoto College of Technology and Kyoto College of Textile Fiber. This culminated in our founding in 1949. Over the years, we have fostered a unique academic culture pursuing wisdom, beauty and scientific knowledge, and producing numerous talented graduates who have contributed to academia, the arts, culture and industry.

Throughout history we can observe a strong commitment to refinement, evident among the people of Kyoto. This has permeated every aspect of life, from customs and objects we use every day to cultural pursuits such as the rituals of tea ceremony, artistry of flower arrangement, solemn performances of Noh theater, and the jubilance of festivals. Kyoto’s commitment to sophistication has been unwavering. This ethos finds tangible expression in the refined craftsmanship of culinary delights and confections for which every ingredient and utensil is carefully selected. What is more, in the interiors of homes and even businesses, we can observe small, but impactful changes which reflect the seasons and demonstrate an innate reverence for harmony and beauty.

At the same time, Kyoto has faced significant challenges, not merely inheriting traditions, but perpetually innovating and evolving. What occurred in the second half of the 1800’s that set the stage for our predecessor institutions? The examples from history I am about to share with you, all contributed to the “Kyoto Thinking” that our university promotes.

In 1864, four years before the start of the Meiji period, the Chōshū domain violently confronted the Tokugawa shogunate forces culminating in a devastating fire that destroyed the center of Kyoto. Records show that more than 27,000 houses, or 55% of the city’s 50,000 houses, burned to the ground. When, a short five years later, the capital relocated to Tokyo, Kyoto faced a new set of challenges.

In 1872, eight years after the rebellion against the Tokugawa shogunate, which came to be known as the Imperial Palace Gate Incident, three people from Nishijin, an area of Kyoto renowned for its silk brocade and other textiles, were sent to Lyon, France. Their mission was to acquire technical expertise and bring back a Jacquard loom. These looms enabled the production of complex textile designs using a chain of punch cards to manipulate warp and weft threads. What is more, it was the Jacquard loom that inspired 19th century English mathematician and father of the computer, Charles Babbage, to create the world’s first programmable calculator, a difference engine. In other words, the Jacquard loom was a revolutionary device that led to today’s computers. Mechanization introduced standardization to the world of hand looms and hand-drawn designs, when automatic looms with punch card programming suddenly transformed the world of experience, manual labor and intuition. We owe a debt of gratitude to these pioneering predecessors who took on innovative challenges and created new value.

You may be familiar with the Philosopher’s Walk or the Nanzen-ji aqueduct. Both are associated with the Lake Biwa Canal, another example of Kyoto innovation and eagerness for development. Sensing the necessity for change, Kyoto promoted this waterway, another significant construction endeavor that, by transporting water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto for hydroelectric power generation at the Keage Power Plant, contributed to the modernization of Kyoto.

Funding issues for this project were also met with ingenuity. To supplement construction costs, municipal bonds were issued, donations were solicited and specific-purpose taxes were imposed on citizens. These measures were met with a positive response from Kyoto’s citizenry and the Lake Biwa Canal was completed in 1890, a mere twenty-five years after the Imperial Palace Gate Incident. The following year, the Keage Power Plant began operation. Industrial modernization continued, and Japan’s first commercial electric tramway was soon inaugurated.

It was during this dynamic period of innovation and public support for development in Kyoto, that the two predecessor schools of our university were established, focusing on the weaving and dying of fiber, and design and engineering, respectively. These schools contributed talented expertise to Japan’s leading export economy industries at the time. Again, this was only a single generation, roughly thirty years after the Imperial Palace Gate Incident. In the 120 years since that time, our university has sent useful and talented graduates to industries and academia throughout Kyoto prefecture and the nation, challenging them to create new value.

The efforts of our predecessors have made the Kyoto of today a globally unique city, where refined traditional culture coexists with cutting-edge global corporations. We have termed the spirit and creative challenge that shaped our city, “Kyoto Thinking.” Kyoto Institute of Technology aims to nurture individuals who will shape the possible futures of the Earth and of Japan by incorporating Kyoto Thinking into education, research and practice.

To this end, our university advocates three Kyoto Thinking based principles: ART×SCIENCE, LOCAL×GLOBAL, and TRADITION×INNOVATION. I would now like to explain these principles and offer some recommendations to our new students.

The first principle, ART×SCIENCE, emphasizes the concept of “an artistic imagination.” This entails thinking and ideation free from established concepts. To solve global challenges, it’s essential to incorporate not only the natural sciences, but also humanities and social sciences. Our university, as a unique engineering university covering a wide range of fields from design and architecture to biology, boasts faculty members researching such fields as bioengineering, materials and chemistry, electronics, machinery, information, design, architecture, textiles, humanities and the social sciences. Research faculty gather for cross-disciplinary innovation at Kyoto Agora, a campus venue designated for the exchange of ideas across different specialties.

We highly recommend this type of interdisciplinary activity to our students. I hope to see you, incoming undergraduates, diversify your knowledge base, by engaging in liberal arts subjects, and cross-disciplinary and practical courses. Graduate students, I suggest not only that you delve deeper into your specialized field, but also that you participate in projects involving interdisciplinary integration. This will enable you to bring new meaning to current research and discover alternative forms of societal implementation. Whether you’re exploring the potential of new developments or seeking to delve deeper into your research, you’re bound to make significant discoveries.

The second principle, LOCAL×GLOBAL, builds on the locally nurtured, refined craftsmanship of Kyoto Thinking and aims for global solutions to sustainability issues. Here, we strive to create new value. We encourage all of you to take a global perspective and somehow look beyond borders. Venture overseas. Our university has partnership agreements with over 100 universities worldwide. You can choose from internships, summer schools, joint graduate programs and more. We offer a wide variety of opportunities for experience abroad. Graduate students often have opportunities to present research results overseas. We encourage you to actively engage with the world, gain diverse perspectives and solidify your values.

The third principle, TRADITION×INNOVATION, embodies aspects of Kyoto Thinking, the spirit of learning from the past while innovating and embracing the ever-changing present.

I wish to share a final reflection with you today. When I was a university student, the internet did not yet exist. Even so, I was taught that “the purpose of a university education is to develop the ability to distinguish between what is real and what is not.” The common Japanese term, hon-mono (a genuine article), has significant weight in Kyoto, where it emphasizes the genuine and robust quality of something. With the rise of artificial-intelligence-generated texts and deep-fake images, we increasingly need to develop the ability to distinguish between fact and fiction.

To discern what is real or true, I urge all of you to strive to improve your critical thinking skills through your activities at KIT. Learn to understand different perspectives and develop competence in assessing information. This ability can be cultivated through interpersonal engagement. By interacting with classmates, faculty and like-minded individuals, you can build relationships, exchange ideas, gain various experiences, acquire knowledge and shape your personal values and beliefs. Through these interactions, you can clearly define the criteria for discernment. I strongly encourage you to actively participate in extracurricular activities to diversify and enrich your social interactions.

In conclusion, the joy found in the pursuit of truth ignites the spirit of academic pursuits, while the pleasure of creating new value is the driving force of engineering. Through collaboration and mutual recognition, there emerges a shared joy in flourishing together. Joy is the primary component of dreams and hope.

May your journey at Kyoto Institute of Technology be enriched with learning and joy. Congratulations.

April 5, 2024
Dr. Masahiro Yoshimoto
President, Kyoto Institute of Technology