"Cool Adult" columns


Dr. Hiroshi Komiyama

Chairman, Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc.

Born on 15th December, 1944

For the children of the future


Dr. Hiroshi Komiyama, who became the 28th President of the University of Tokyo in April, 2005 and promoted donations for the university, is acting as the Promotion Chairman of “Giving December”, a nationwide awareness campaign to inspire people to donate which has been organized every December since 2015. Personally, he has been a continuous donor to “WARRIORS”, the American Football Club of the University of Tokyo. WARRIORS has now successfully joined League 1 (top eight) of the Universities American Football League and is aiming to become the Number 1 student team in Japan. He laughs that “it is a painful investment” but as a passionate alumnus, Dr. Komiyama continues to send his message of support through donations, looking forward to seeing his young successors perform.

Promoting donations as President of the University of Tokyo

Immediately after being appointed as the President of the University of Tokyo in 2005, Dr. Komiyama initiated “Reform of the University of Tokyo” following corporatization of national universities the previous year. One of his key projects was fundraising.
He says he learned a lot in promoting donations.
He saw an article about Harvard University losing 500 billion yen then and looked into the matter as he was astonished by the figure and initially thought they must have got the wrong digit. He discovered that Harvard was managing 4 trillion yen worth of funds and asked the President of MIT, who he knew, how they managed to collect that much donations. He was told that there were 135 fundraisers at MIT and 430 fundraisers at Harvard at that time. At Harvard, these fundraisers were raising 60 billion yen every year which accumulated to 4 trillion yen in the end. 

He also found out that if the potential donor was a male, they would send a female fundraiser and a male fundraiser to a female potential donor. He also found that there was a “Repeater principle” that if one donates once, that person is most likely to donate again.
What was also interesting was that while 80 to 90 per cent. of total donation came from large donors, that did not mean you could target only the large donors. There was a donation principle that unless there were many donations made by small donors, the large donors would not donate.
“I raised 13 billion yen during the 130th anniversary of the University of Tokyo (2007). As the promotor, I also made a personal contribution then. However, I had not donated when it was the University’s 100th anniversary. Nevertheless, for the 130th anniversary, I followed the principle and donated. I also asked younger teachers with children and mortgage, like me at the time of the 100th anniversary, to donate even an amount as small as 1,000 yen. As a result, I believe 60 per cent. or so people donated. I would have wanted more people to donate but..”
When asked what was the key to his success of raising donations at the University of Tokyo, he says, “It is about continuity. If you do not give up, you will win at some point as fundamentally what you are doing is for the good.”

The time of “everything is okay so long as you are making money” is over

Adam Smith said “if each and every individual pursues their self interest in a market economy, the goods will be distributed fairly for the society as a whole”.
“In order for that to happen, you make an effort within a smaller local community as Japan as a total is too large. If the community is small, you cannot make an effort in a way that causes inconvenience for the others. That way, if each individual makes an effort, the society as a whole gets better.” However, now what drives self interest is to please one’s boss. Dr. Komiyama stresses that “That is not how our society should be”.

In the past, in small villages, the wealthy nobles sent out to the world talented children. Dr. Komiyama says that that was what drove the Meiji Restoration and believes that that is the fundamental nature of donations.
On the other side of its spectrum is tax. When he was the President of the University of Tokyo, he says there were many people that said “I cannot stand my money being freely used by the Ministry of Finance. It feels really good if I can spend it with my own will and can say how I want it to be spent. “
It reminds you how important it is to report on how the money has been spent to the donors.
At a time when the “government cannot afford to pay for the public”, Dr. Komiyama says that “If not donations, it can be social investments. Either ways, the time of ‘everything is okay so long as you are making money’ is over.”

“The courage to lead” “Intelligence to grasp the essence” “Power to feel the others”

There were 3 phrases he passed on to students when he was the President of the University of Tokyo. He says there was a story behind this.
He was having a discussion with four teachers in the areas of philosophy, engineering, etc. over what to say in the speech at the entrance and graduation ceremonies. That was when Dr. Komiyama proposed “The courage to lead” and “Intelligence to grasp the essence”. They thought there was still something missing and through further discussions, concluded that it was “Sokuin no Jo” meaning “compassion” that was missing and finally came up with “Power to feel the others.”
“What I wanted to tell to the students of the University of Tokyo most was ‘The courage to lead’ but what finally came up was ‘Power to feel the others’. I kept telling this to students for 4 years.”

It should also be noted that Chizuko Ueno made a congratulatory speech at the entrance ceremony of the University of Tokyo in FY2019. In her speech, Ms. Ueno talked about discriminations against female students and her desire to see a society where the weak can be treated with respect without changing. She told the freshmen that she wanted them to help those in need and have the spirit to support each other. Her speech was featured in the media and led to a big debate regarding gender issues. Dr. Komiyama was also asked to comment on her speech and replied “A wonderful speech. I hope that people become more conscious of and sensitive to issues in the society that are unjust.”
Dr. Komiyama deplores that Japan is rated 110th amongst 149 countries in the “Global Gender Gap Report 2018” which is an index for gender gap. Seeing leading career women throw away their management career and positions without a bother in order to seek for a new challenge for transformation, he is impressed that “Women are brave.” “Japan is still running with one lung alone. If we find a way to use both lungs, I believe we may be able to create a better society.”

For the children of the future

Dr. Komiyama who is a Doctor of Engineering is of course very athletic as he used to belong to the American Football Club at the University of Tokyo. When he was a child, he says he loved baseball dreaming to become like Oh and Nagashima of Giants. However, he says he became anti-Giants when there were scandals regarding intransparent recruitment process. Such episode is illustrative of his strong sense of justice. He, however, says he is “very simple minded. Most scientists are like that.”

Japan is currently going through a big transitional stage with environmental issues, aging population and regional economies in decline. In order to overcome such issues and to rejuvenate Japan, Dr. Komiyama is proposing a “Platinum Plan” to create a sustainable society with hope in the future so that the earth sustains with rich resources and the society allows people to fulfill their capabilities.
If Japan, as the economic power during the 20th Century were to be called “The Golden Country (Zipangu)”, let us become a sustainable “Platinum Country” in the 21st Century. That is the future Japan that he wishes to pass on to children of the next generation including his grandchildren.

He promotes donations and has also willingly become one of the supporters of Birthday Donation. He refuses to accept unjust in the society and endeavors to build a future for the next generation. Dr. Komiyama himself is a living example of the 3 phrases he told students, “The courage to lead”, “Intelligence to grasp the essence” and “Power to feel the others”. We were taught again what “Cool adult” was about.

Hiroshi Komiyama
After completing a Doctor Course at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering in 1972, he was appointed the Head of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Tokyo, etc. In April 2005, he was appointed the President of the University of Tokyo. After retiring as President in March 2009, he was appointed the Chairman of the Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc. in April. In 2010, he established “Platinum Society Network” and became its Chairman to promote innovation in order to establish a “Platinum Society” that pursues quality of life and society to build a sustainable future with hope.

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