Table Speech

“Yoneyama Month” Meeting
“Switchboard for Friendship”

October 4, 2006

Mr. Shigeo Ono,
Ms. Nguyen Thi Cat Uyen,

“Yoneyama Month” Meeting
“Switchboard for Friendship”

Mr. Shigeo Ono,
Member of Yoneyama Committee, D2580
Senior Counselor, Nikon Corp.

On June 14, the 125th anniversary of Tokyo University of Science was celebrated at the Imperial Hotel. When I listened to the complimentary addresses from the president of the university and the guests of honor, I remembered one story, “Switchboard of Civilization,” from the novel of Kono Kuni No Katachi (literally, “Shape of Japan”), written by Ryotaro Shiba. The story explained about an internal combustion engine, which represents Western civilization that Japan accepted in the first year of the Meiji Era (1868). At the time, a switchboard was installed in the combustion engine of a car, and the engine was fired in a certain sequence after power was distributed to each cylinder plug.

The story can be comparable to academic society; the University of Tokyo is the switchboard and the electric power is the foreigners it has adopted. The role the foreigners played has been taken over by Japanese scholars returning from studying abroad. Professors distribute electric power or their particular knowledge further to the surrounding private colleges or other academic institutions; that is, they have spread new cultures to them. One striking example is the story of the Tokyo University of Physics.

Around 1879 (the 12 year of the Meiji Era), 21 graduates of the Department of Physics in the Faculty of Science, the University of Tokyo, using scholarship money that they had received from the Japanese government, decided to found a private school as a way to pay back the obligation for the education they had received to the nation. The school was operated in a rental house through donations. They went to the school to teach at night without pay. Laboratory equipment from the University of Tokyo was delivered in the evening by cart. This situation is said to have continued for several years.

The same was true for the schools of arts. The law school in Kanda, which later became a prestigious private college, was only open at night, because the professors of the University of Tokyo could only get time to teach at night. Their great ambition spread to medical schools as well.

When considering the Yoneyama Foundation Scholarship Program in retrospect, the program was started when money was first offered to three students from India and Thailand in 1953 (the 28 year of the Showa Era). This movement has, since then, become widespread to RC’s throughout Japan, and about 13,000 students have already graduated from Japanese colleges or universities. I believe the program has played an integral role as “a switchboard that distributes electricity” for the friendship between Japan and the world, and I cannot hide the feeling that the project has greatly contributed to all of us.

“What I Saw and Felt in Japan”

Ms. Nguyen Thi Cat Uyen,
Yoneyama Foundation Scholar,
Senior, Faculty of Human and Social Science, Mejiro University

It has been five years since I came to Japan from Vietnam. Five years ago, I knew almost nothing about Japan. However, through Vietnamese newspapers and television, I knew that it is an economic super power.

My father owns a rattan factory. When Japanese businessmen came to do business with him, they left magazines with text that I found intriguing. In these magazines many products and the scenery and lifestyles of Japan were introduced.

I wanted to know more about Japan, so I decided to study there. Watching the cherry blossoms and Mt. Fuji was also one of my purposes for coming to Japan.
When I first arrived in Japan, between Haneda Airport and Tokyo Station, there were many things that really surprised me. Tokyo Station was really crowded, and everyone was walking so fast. Some were even running, so I was really surprised. In Vietnam, people run only when they are involved in an accident or incident, become curious bystanders, or when escaping from an emergency.

Five years in Japan has led me to realize why people were walking quickly at Tokyo Station at that time. In Japan, almost all things are operated punctually. I think it is necessary to keep fundamental promises and time as a requisite to grow Japanese economy.

Speaking of my fond memories, I saw cherries in full bloom and Mt. Fuji covered with snow at the top. The Japanese I met were all nice to me and enthusiastic for education.

Thanks to the Yoneyama Scholarship, I was happy to be able to study at ease and had the leeway to concentrate on my learning. Especially, I would also like to sincerely thank Yoneyama’s counselors for their kind advice.

I would say that the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation has given me a chance to learn about making a contribution for people that asks nothing in return, as a human being with profound devotion and passion. If I return to Vietnam, I strongly hope that I, too, can be of great assistance to society.