Vol.11 Messages from graduates
Messages from graduates: Special Event on the 12th Kyoto University Homecoming Day
Dreaming is the Beginning of Everything
On Homecoming day, November 3, 2017, Kyoto University held its 3rd networking event comprising a lecture and panel discussion for its alumni and existing students. Our alumni, who serve active roles in various fields, spoke of their dreams that helped them carve out their careers, providing existing-student and recent-graduate attendees with an idea of how they need to act in the business world.
Part 1: Lecture
Representative Director and Chairman of Kyushu Railway Company
Born in Osaka Prefecture in 1953. Graduated from Kyoto University's Faculty of Law in 1977. Joined the former Japanese National Railways in the same year. Joined Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) at the time of the Japanese National Railways' breakup and privatization in 1987. Has coordinated projects to operate resort trains, including the limited express "Yufuin no Mori" and the SL rapid train "Aso BOY," as well as a high-speed boat named "Beetle," which operates between Hakata and Busan. Made JR Kyushu Food Service Inc., a restaurant operator, profitable and opened stores in Tokyo after becoming its Representative Director, President in 1996.
Became JR Kyushu's Representative Director and President in 2009, and then its Representative Director and Chairman in 2014. Built the Seven Stars in Kyushu, Japan's first cruise train, in 2013, making JR Kyushu a well-known name throughout Japan. Listed JR Kyushu on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2016.
It all began from dreaming of operating the world's most luxurious sleeper train
Mr. Karaike says that the three things he has valued throughout his career are the ability to dream, the ability to strengthen one's qi, and the ability to communicate effectively. Regardless of what we want to do, we first need to dream.
"Mr. Son, the founder of SoftBank, once talked big to his employees, saying that their company would expand and become so large in 30 years that they would be counting their sales by the cho (trillion) like they count tofu cakes 1 cho, 2 cho, and so on. He was true to his word. Many other founders also aimed at growing their companies into the world's largest," says Mr. Karaike.
Dreaming big, beyond what you think is possible, and putting all of your knowledge and energy into pursuing it drives your growth.
The dream that drove Mr. Karaike's growth was to operate the Seven Stars in Kyushu, the world's most luxurious sleeper train.
Mr. Karaike became the President of JR Kyushu in 2009. Just after that, the long-awaited dream of JR Kyushu, cherished about 40 years before then, was about to come true on March 12, 2011, with the opening of all Kyushu Shinkansen lines.
"So, I decided to begin pursuing another one," he says.
Mr. Karaike says he began cherishing his dream about 30 years ago, when one of his acquaintances told him, "If you built a luxury sleeper train in Kyushu, it would become a bit hit." Immediately after assuming the post of president, Mr. Karaike ordered his subordinates to explore the possibility of operating a luxury train.
"My subordinates reported back to me, basically saying, 'Although we see many challenges ahead, there is nothing that we could not solve.' But, reading between the lines, I could tell they were not excited," Mr. Karaike says.
Nevertheless, the project took off. The Seven Stars in Kyushu was designed by Eiji Mitooka, an industrial designer, who had previously collaborated with Mr. Karaike in producing many novel trains.
However, "This time," Mr. Karaike says, "even Mr. Mitooka seemed stuck, probably asking himself 'What could the world's most luxurious design for a train be?'"
After traveling around the world to study luxury trains by actually riding them, the first design that Mr. Mitooka came up with was a futuristic one with all visible sides made of glass. Mr. Karaike says this was one of the very few times he rejected Mr. Mitooka's proposals.
"I told Mr. Mitooka that what people regard as fancy or luxurious must largely depend on their past experience, so we should stay within the boundaries of their expectations," says Mr. Karaike.
The design that Mr. Mitooka came up with after another two weeks was absolutely magnificent. With that one, they began building the train. Engineers with cutting-edge expertise and skills were recruited to work on the train car frames and its furnishings. Half of the train attendants were experienced professionals recruited from outside the company and countries worldwide based on their impressive backgrounds.
"When I asked them why they were interested in working with us, they all said, 'I want to be part of the team because I understand it aims to provide the world's best service.' I guess the expression 'the world's best' motivates us all," Mr. Karaike says.
While preparations were steadily underway, Mr. Mitooka felt that something was still missing, so he asked an Arita ware potter named Sakaida Kakiemon XIV, who was the predecessor of the current heir, for help. Sinks and lamp bodies in the guest rooms and art objects decorating the inside of the train became his last work.
"The Seven Stars in Kyushu created with the shared ambition of making the 'world's best' luxury sleeper train finally began operations in 2013," Mr. Karaike says.
Even today, four years after it began operating, the average ratio of reservation seekers to seats available surpasses 20 to 1. With the Seven Stars in Kyushu helping JR Kyushu gain popularity, its other tourist trains have begun attracting more passengers, together leading the company to success.
Strengthening one's qi creates moving experiences
On October 15, 2013, the day the Seven Stars in Kyushu made its first trip, 100,000 people from all over Kyushu gathered along the railway line. Mr. Karaike says, "Almost no one seemed able to hold back their tears as they waved at the train, admiring it."
Its passengers were also moved to tears, shedding tears of joy at least 4 or 5 times throughout the three-night, four-day ride and one good last time at a farewell party held on the final day, which seemed infectious as the crew also joined them.
But, why does the Seven Stars in Kyushu move so many people to tears?
"The secret lies in the power of qi," says Mr. Karaike.
If you look up the word "qi" in a dictionary, it will say something comparable to "The momentum that drives a person's life. The source of vitality."
Mr. Karaike says, "The Chinese character for 'qi' is used in words like qiryoku (energy), qihaku (vigor), and yuuqi (courage). The strength of our qi differs from one person to another. However, by strengthening it, we can all achieve our dreams. On the other hand, the only way we can strengthen our qi is by pursuing a dream. In other words, dreams and qi are inseparable."
The qi of everyone involved in building the Seven Stars in Kyushu converged into the realization of their dream of creating the world's best luxury sleeper train.
"When qi strengthens to the point of realizing its practitioner's dream, it turns into a power capable of moving others," Mr. Karaike says.
Now, how can we strengthen our qi? Pursuing a dream of course is one way. Another way that Mr. Karaike described was something he had already been demonstrating throughout his lecture.
"Put speed and energy into everything you do. Always speak in a lively voice. Stay alert to keep your guard up at all times. Try to become a better person and try harder," Mr. Karaike says.
He closed his lecture by demonstrating with his words and attitude the importance of the ability to communicate effectively.
Part 2: Panel discussion
For the future you
The panel discussion held in the second half of the event welcomed Associate Professor Takayuki Shiose of the Kyoto University Museum as the facilitator and three graduates. The three graduates, who represented different fields, looked back at how they pursued their dreams until then and provided the younger generation with advice on how to find a dream.
Associate Professor; Kyoto University Museum
Graduated from Kyoto University's Department of Precision Mechanics in the Faculty of Engineering in 1996. Completed one of Kyoto University's Graduate School of Engineering's Programs offered by the Department of Precision Engineering in 1998. Doctor of Engineering. Returned to his current position (Associate Professor of the Kyoto University Museum; in charge of the history of technology) after working as Deputy Director of Innovation Strategy in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's Industrial Science and Technology Policy Division of its Industrial Science and Technology Policy and Environment Bureau. Expert Committee member of the Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee's "Special Team for High School Inquiry-based Mathematics and Science Subjects" of the Central Education Council. Council member of the Education Creation Council of Gifu City's Board of Education.
[Areas of interest in college] Soccer, tennis, Nishida's Philosophy, and attending lectures at other universities
The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games
Director of Planning Promotion in the Committee's Innovation Promotion Division
(Director of NTT DOCOMO's Corporate Strategy & Planning Department)
Graduated from Kyoto University's Department of Applied Mathematics and Physics in its Faculty of Engineering in 1987. Completed one of Kyoto University's Graduate School of Engineering's Programs offered by its Department of Applied Mathematics and Physics in 1989. Joined Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation in 1989 and then was transferred to NTT Mobile Communications Network Inc. (now NTT DOCOMO) in 1992. Studied abroad at the University of Pittsburgh (Master of Engineering) from 1995 to 1997. Has worked on developing digital mobile communication systems, new businesses, and electronic money businesses. Assumed his current position in 2017.
[Areas of interest in college] Pursuing my studies (freshman), planning tours (sophomore), and traveling and motorcycling (junior and through graduate school)
Representative Director, President, and CEO of RENOVA Inc.
Graduated from Kyoto University's Faculty of Integrated Human Studies in 1998. Majored in environmental policy, and minored in material environment. Founded Media Max Japan Inc. while at college in 1997 and served as its Representative Director. Worked at McKinsey & Company Inc. Japan from 1998 before founding RENOVA Inc. (formerly, Recycle One Inc.) in May 2000. Became RENOVA's Representative Director and CEO in 2016. Listed RENOVA on the Mothers section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in February 2017.
[Areas of interest in college] Backpacking (freshman and sophomore) and working part-time at a venture business (junior).
Representative Director of Genequest Inc.
Graduated from Kyoto University's Faculty of Agriculture in 2010. Completed one of Tokyo University's doctoral programs offered by its Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences in 2015 (Doctor of Agriculture). Founded Genequest Inc. and became its Representative Director in 2013. Received the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry's 2nd Nippon Venture Award (Female Entrepreneur) in 2016. Received the Japan Academic Society for Ventures and Entrepreneurs' 10th Bio-venture Award in 2017.
[Areas of interest in college] Participating as a member of Kyoto University's Figure Skating Club, playing Dragon Quest (freshman and sophomore), and conducting experiments and research (junior and senior).
Shiose Since all of you represent different fields of expertise, let me begin by asking each of you about your careers after graduation. Ms. Takahashi, you founded a company while at college. Was there something that inspired you?
Takahashi Genequest offers genome (gene) analysis services. In addition, after anonymizing the data it gathers through its services, it uses it for research purposes. My area of interest as a graduate student was applying genome information analysis to the prevention of lifestyle-related diseases. I began thinking about founding a company because I wanted to develop a system that would allow me to apply my findings to help people and also stimulate my research.
Shiose Mr. Kiminami, you underwent the process of founding a company twice. Why did you choose different industries?
Kiminami The first company was an IT start-up, and I co-founded it with my friends who were in the same faculty as myself. We wanted to see if we had what it takes to start a business. However, subsequently, I realized it was not what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. Then, I remembered I chose the Faculty of Integrated Human Studies because I wanted to study the environment. So, I started again by founding RENOVA. We build renewable energy facilities.
Shiose Mr. Oto, I can understand how your field of expertise, applied mathematics and physics, would lead to your joining NTT. But what led you to become a member of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games?
Oto I'm not sure, but it could be because, thanks to my job in the corporate planning department, I had become fairly experienced in launching projects and new businesses. I joined NTT because I wanted to make one of those wearable video phones they used to show on TV when I was a child, which was also the reason I asked to be transferred to NTT Mobile Communications Network Inc. (now NTT DOCOMO) so that I could develop a career as an engineer.
Shiose What kind of work do you do now?
Oto One of the visions of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is to bring about the world's most innovative and positive changes. My job is to design and promote measures to make that happen. I am still in the early stages of formulating them, so my next task is to work on developing the details.
Shiose I see that you wrote "planning tours" as one of your areas of interest in college. Does planning projects still interest you?
Oto Let me see. Yes, I enjoy gathering in a certain place for a certain number of days with others to work toward the same goal by sharing ideas.
Shiose Ms. Takahashi and Mr. Kiminami, as the representative directors of your respective companies, how do you get your employees involved in working toward your vision?
Takahashi I organize my vision into easy-to-understand documents, because I know I am not very effective at communicating verbally.
Kiminami I do not need to worry about my employees becoming confused about what our policies are, because, from the start of our company, we have had two firmly established pillars, which are to "improve the environment" and "aim at conducting highly profitable businesses."
Shiose I understand that RENOVA was listed on the stock exchange this year, while Genequest chose to become a subsidiary of one of University of Tokyo's start-ups.
Kiminami We finally succeeded after failing twice. With the world shifting toward renewable energy sources, our company is planning to move up from our current section to the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Takahashi Japan still has some way to go before an ecosystem for attracting investment to start-ups in the genome industry can establish itself, until which day managing a business in this field will not be an easy task. So, we chose to become a subsidiary of a listed company, hoping that doing so will increase our sales channels and opportunities to advance our research through collaboration.
What panelists hoped their future would turn out to be at college
and how they see their future today
Shiose Back in your college days, what did each of you imagine your futures would be like? In addition, how do you see yourself in 10 years and 20 years from now?
Takahashi When I was an undergraduate, my dream was to become a researcher. Beginning my own business was not on my list of options. However, during graduate school, when I told one of my upperclassmen of the same laboratory what I wanted to do with my life, he helped me realize there was the option of doing both research and business by saying, "Then, you should start your own business." Looking back, I consider myself lucky for having been able to find the fun in conducting research, because otherwise I would not have developed my strength of being a corporate manager also able to perform research. My dream continues to be to uncover the mysteries of not only genomes but also every aspect of life and apply my findings to helping resolve social issues. So, I want to find the best way to do so while pursuing further research activities.
Shiose Since when have you had that dream?
Takahashi I grew up in a family of doctors, so I always wanted my future job to have something to do with people's health. When I came across bioscience, I immediately knew it would be my vocation. The thing I enjoy about research is its process of constructing a hypothesis, testing it, making discoveries, and presenting them to the world.
Shiose You are a researcher before a businessperson.
Takahashi Yes. But I think researchers' lifestyles from here on will diversify. We currently have fewer university research posts than there are people interested in becoming researchers. So, those interested in becoming one need to choose other lifestyles or find various ways to pursue their careers.
Shiose That would also accelerate research. I admire you for choosing to live a new lifestyle of pursuing research by starting your own business. I look forward to seeing Kyoto University maintain its status as a research university by cultivating more people who choose to live a new lifestyle involving research as does Ms. Takahashi.
Takahashi I found the fun in conducting research during my days at Kyoto University. At the University of Tokyo, I noticed that students diligently study any subject regardless of their interests. However, at Kyoto University, we only put serious effort into subjects that match our interests, and with other subjects, our efforts go into finding ways to earn credits with as little effort as possible. I prefer being the latter type of person.
Shiose Mr. Kiminami, you give me the impression that when you were a college student, you were confident of making it to where you are today.
Kiminami I entered the faculty because I was inspired by its philosophy of creating Faculty of Integrated Human Studies that deals with such difficult issues as those relating to the environment, and have ever since considered my mission to be carrying out environmental work. My dream continues to become bigger and more concrete. My primary aim at the moment is to lead our current project to success in 10 years from now. From there on, I can see us planning the world's largest offshore wind power generation projects and geothermal power plant projects targeting overseas markets.
Shiose You just reminded me of something Mr. Karaike said earlier: "Try harder."
Kiminami I have changed, besides, times have changed.
Shiose Yes, success depends on being able to quickly respond to the changes of the times.
Oto My mission has also been the same ever since college, which is to develop new mobile communication services. But I also changed. After being transferred from development to corporate planning, I found the fun in working in a team of people who have different values. This new side of me helps me to serve in my current position.
Shiose The Tokyo Olympic Games are only three years away. How can we use this opportunity to bring changes that will last for at least a decade?
Oto The important theme is "leaving a legacy." The 1964 Tokyo Olympics left a legacy of highways, the bullet train, and pictograms, including ones for restrooms. I look forward to seeing this event also leaving a legacy that will last for decades to come.
Messages for current students
Shiose Do each of you have any advice for current students based on your careers?
Takahashi If you are still figuring out what your dream is, what helps is learning about the outside world. Try imagining yourself carrying out some job to see what you like and spend more time devoting yourself to some activity. Devoting myself to bioscience helped me realize what I like. In addition, I recommend engaging yourself in multiple activities because it helps you think more deeply.
Kiminami Backpacking during college helped me gain a broader perspective from which I understand myself better, by encountering people whom I likely would not have met had I stayed in Japan. All experiences are worth having. Use the university to the fullest to understand yourself better, and once you know what your dream is, push toward achieving it. We only live once. Let's live rich lives by making our visions big.
Oto Many people probably graduate from college before they figure out what their dream is. But time is valuable, and you have more of it as students than as working members of society. So, I recommend that students try all kinds of things while they can. If you find something that even slightly interests you, give it a try. If it doesn't work out, you can always look for something else. Students have the privilege of trial and error.
Shiose Producing great graduates, such as today's panelists, is one of the strengths of Kyoto University. We look forward to offering equally inspiring networking events.
This day's networking event was preceded by an informal gathering for the three panelists and current students to become acquainted. Provided with an opportunity to personally speak with the panelists, students asked one question after another, including, "What dream did you have as a college student?" and "Do you find your experience at Kyoto University helpful as a working member of society?" Some of the questions seemed to have given the panelists an exciting challenge, as they later commented, "Thank you very much for today's valuable experience of interacting with students currently pursuing studies at the same faculties we graduated from. We look forward to seeing similar events being held in the future."
（Event held in November 2017）