Address by His Majesty the Emperor (2003)

Address by His Majesty the Emperor of Japan On the occasion of the Ceremony to Celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the Chemical Society of Japan Rihga Royal Hotel Tokyo (March 19, 2003)

I am pleased that this ceremony to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Chemical Society of Japan (CSJ) is being held here today with the attendance of those affiliated with the CSJ and distinguished guests from abroad.

The CSJ traces its origins to the year 1878 when some 20 students and graduates of the University of Tokyo created a forum to study foreign scientific papers, exchange opinions, and discuss chemistry. Known at that time as the Tokyo Chemical Society, the group was a gathering of very young scientists with 23-year-old Mitsuru Kuhara serving as the first president.

For Japan, which had just emerged from its more than 200 years of national seclusion and begun to establish its relations with other countries, it was urgent to promote industry and strengthen itself in order to develop as a nation among the countries of the world. Hence, great efforts were made to advance chemistry as the base for this endeavor. The establishment of the Society of Chemical Industry of Japan under President Takeaki Enomoto twenty years after the founding of the Chemical Society of Japan was also in response to this requirement. I can only imagine how passionately the young Japanese students of that day must have learned advanced chemistry of other countries, either in Japan under foreign teachers who were invited from abroad or in foreign lands far from home.

In time, these efforts bore fruit. From the close of the nineteenth century through the early years of the twentieth, achievements in chemistry research that are still remembered today began to be made by Japanese scientists. The first key finding was Nagayoshi Nagai's discovery of ephedrine in 1885, a substance used in kampo, traditional Chinese herbal medicine practiced in Japan. Around that time, there was also a change in chemistry education in Japan. Although those in charge of the teaching of chemistry, such as professors at the University of Tokyo, were foreigners until then, Japanese scientists who had returned from their studies abroad began to be assigned to give instruction in chemistry.

When I reflect on this history, I cannot but pay tribute to the hard work of those forerunners who persevered in research and education with high hopes amidst difficult conditions that were entirely different from today's situation. They indeed paved the way for the advancement of chemistry in Japan. At the same time, I feel deep appreciation for the foreign chemists who trained them either in our country or abroad.

Supported by the intellectual passion of these early Japanese chemists and the desire of the government and society to promote industry, chemistry developed markedly in Japan and has come to contribute to its advancement in the chemistry community around the world. In 1981, Dr. Ken-ichi Fukui became the first Japanese researcher to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I am most pleased also that in recent years three more Japanese chemists-Drs. Hideki Shirakawa, Ryoji Noyori, and Mr. Koichi Tanaka-have been honored with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Chemical industry played a very large role in Japan's recovery from World War II and its development thereafter, raising the standard of living of the Japanese people and providing them with material affluence. It is very regrettable, however, that human health has been harmed by the pollution problems that arose over this period. We now see many improvements in pollution issues thanks to the further research of chemists since that time, and I am encouraged by the fact that the Chemical Society of Japan today implements a variety of initiatives regarding environmental issues. The advancement of science and technology has brought many benefits to humankind, but it must also be admitted that it did not always bring happiness alone. I would like to reflect once again on the words that the late Ken-ichi Fukui spoke at the banquet held after the Nobel Prize award ceremony, "We sincerely hope that all fields of science will bring happiness to mankind and never cause disaster."

I hope that the members of the Chemical Society of Japan-which has a history of 125 years-will devote themselves to the further advancement of scientific inquiry and the teaching and training of future generations, while proudly inheriting the outstanding research accomplishments of their predecessors in Japan and deepening exchange and cooperation with researchers and scientific research institutes around the world. It is my hope that, in this way, they will contribute to the happiness of the peoples of Japan and of the world in the years to come.