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|KEIO Opencourseware >> Essay from Alumni >> #2|
My memories of Professor Toshio Kurokawa
I first met Professor Kurokawa in the summer of 1961, my sophomore year at Keio University. At the time, I was attending a five or six-day work camp in Okutateshina. I think that it was organized by the student union but I cannot remember the details. Any interested students could attend, regardless of their faculty, and there were no complicated exams or selection processes to go through. Every year, there would be almost 100 attendees because everyone was eager to meet the many promising young associate professors and instructors participating in the camp. I was accepted into Keio University after two unsuccessful attempts to pass the annual entrance exams and I attended the camp in my freshman year because I was looking for a chance to make a fresh start and leave behind my irresponsible lifestyle and defiant attitude. I participated in the camp again at Okushinatate the following year. During the day, we participated in regular seminars and discussions but everyone eagerly looked forward to short hikes in the mountains and the interaction between students and faculty members at evening gatherings.
Associate Professor Kurokawa, wearing his signature black beret, always looked elegant and handsome. With his wry smile, he treated everyone he talked to with the same level of respect. I was impressed by his broad insight and firm convictions and I was also fascinated by the underlying kindness and generosity of his personality which contrasted sharply with the harsh language he sometimes used. For these reasons, I became his biggest fan and spent most of my time at the camp as part of his entourage.
The final session of the camp was used to exchange messages. Professor Kurokawa wrote a quotation from Romain Rolland on my notebook: "Life is a daily struggle for those who refuse to resign themselves to a mediocre soul". This notebook is a priceless treasure to me and I still use Rolland's words of warning as a guide (although it is difficult to achieve his ideal).
In my junior year, I moved from the Hiyoshi campus to the Mita campus and I was required to choose a seminar group. I chose Professor Kurokawa's seminar without hesitation. It was a natural choice because I was more interested in Marxist economics than modern economics. On the other hand, I had heard rumors that there was conflict within the seminar group because Professor Kurokawa sympathized with left-wing student activists and gave them moral support. However, I believe that it was more important for me to study surrounded by the "freedom of thought" that had so impressed me at the work camp. I believe that this freedom of thought endorsed by Professor Kurokawa is also part of the Keio tradition. I was not part of the core group of Professor Kurokawa's seminar but I enjoyed the time that I spent there. I still get invited to "Toshio-kai" gatherings to meet with Professor Kurokawa and catch up with other former students (unfortunately, I am rarely able to attend Toshio-kai meetings due to my schedule).
In addition to attending the seminar, I also took other classes held by Professor Kurokawa such as "Social Policy" and "Reading Original German Texts". The latter, in particular, brings back some painful memories and I feel greatly indebted to Professor Kurokawa.
"Reading Original German Texts" caused problems because it was a compulsory course and a passing grade was necessary to graduate. I didn't take it seriously because I thought that Professor Kurokawa wasn't mean enough to fail one of his seminar students.
One day, however, a senior student I was friends with in my seminar group told me that Professor Kurokawa was so well known for giving out fail grades, it was almost like his hobby. My friend also added that he showed no mercy, even to members of his seminar group.
I was absolutely petrified when I heard this and before I knew it, I was facing my final exams.
To tell the truth, I was hopeless at German and I got through the first and second year exams by cheating and getting a friend to take an exam for me. My Professors somehow allowed me to pass but I had no linguistic skills whatsoever. Obviously, Professor Kurokawa's "Reading Original German Texts" was incomprehensible to me and I slept through most of the classes. At this point, there was no use panicking and trying to cram in study before the exams. I assumed that the exam questions would be about Karl Marx because "Das Kapital" was one of the course materials. I resigned myself to my fate and I thought that I might be lucky enough to pass if I took my chances and wrote about Marx. I decided to get a good night's sleep and made sure I did by taking a sleeping pill I had never tried before. The next day, however, I found that Professor Kurokawa had set questions about Keynes, not Marx, for the exam. I was still groggy from the effects of the sleeping pill and my mind went completely blank. While I was struggling to come up with something, Professor Kurokawa came up to my desk, grinned and said "What's this? You haven’t written anything. Everyone else is almost finished." Needless to say, my exam results were dismal. As a last resort, I visited the Professor's house in Kugenuma with a cheap bottle of whiskey as a gift. I got down on my knees and begged, "Please let me pass the exam. I will be forever in your debt." As I had hoped, Professor Kurokawa chose to act benevolently. When I received my report card, I saw that while my results were awful, they were just enough to avoid failing. Naturally, I sent him a very long letter of appreciation.
I would like to say that this story has a happy ending but it did not turn out that way. Professor Kurokawa was very hard on me at the final party for the seminar group just before graduation. Everyone was in a good mood after a couple of drinks when suddenly, Professor Kurokawa pointed to me and shouted "Listen everyone! This year was no fun at all. I usually fail five or six students every year for "Reading Original German Texts" but I let him pass so I couldn't fail anyone else! Kusakari, hurry up and bring me a drink!" I was shocked. As I suspected, I was at the bottom of the class.
(11 November 2006)
Takao Kusakari is representative director, chairman of the board of NYK Line. He was appointed to the position in April 2004 after serving as president of NYK Line since 1999. Now he has been serving as vice-president of Japan Business Federation since 2004.
Mr. Kusakari was born in 1940 and graduated from Keio University with a BA degree in economics in 1964. After joining to NYK Line in 1964, he was promoted to General Manager of Central/South America, Africa & Specialized Cargo Division in 1990, Director in 1994, Managing Director in 1997 and Representative Director, Senior Managing Director in 1999.
Mr. Kusakari has been serving as Chairman of Council for the Promotion of Regulatory Reform, Cabinet Office since January, 2007.
He was awarded Official Commendation by the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in 2004 and Medal with Blue Ribbon by the Japanese government in 2005.
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