The peace and prosperity of mankind are the common aspirations for people of the world. When looking back over the history of humanity, science and technology have played an immense role in this cause.
The Japan Prize is an international award presented to individuals whose original and outstanding achievements are not only scientifically impressive but have also served to promote peace and prosperity for all mankind. Since its inception in 1985, the Foundation has awarded 104 laureates from 14 countries as of this year.
The most notable feature of the Japan Prize is its strong emphasis on "contribution to society", as clearly stated in the philosophy which the prize was founded on. When I look back over the pedigree records of the 104 Japan Prize recipients from this perspective, I strongly feel that it reflects the overlapping history of the progress of science and technology and the peace and prosperity of mankind.
Looking back on the establishment of the Japan Prize, it can be said that there was a strong desire to "express Japan's gratitude to international society" for the fruits of science and technology of the world that enabled Japan to achieve rapid post-World War II reconstruction and development.
The strong desires and aspirations of the first president, Konosuke Matsushita, and many of the predecessors involved in the creation of the prize still live on in Matsushita's philosophy of "Lifelong Ambition".
Every year in April, the Presentation Ceremony are held in Tokyo in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and are also attended by prominent figures such as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the House of Councillors, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, as well as other distinguished guests, including eminent academics, researchers and representatives of political and business circles. I would like to express my deepest appreciation to all those who are involved, for without their passionate support, the Japan Prize would not exist today.
As was the case so far, the progress of science and technology will continue to play a significant role in mankind's peace and prosperity into the future. With such strong desires and aspirations, the Japan Prize will strive to promote the further advancement of science and technology.
The Earth is just one of the countless planets in the vast universe. Following the birth of our planet 4.5 billion years ago, our ancestors only emerged during the last few millions of years, a very recent event in terms of cosmic scale. Since then, mankind as a species has continued to prosper and went on to develop civilization. While people’s lives have greatly improved, the progress has been extremely slow. However, since the industrial revolution 200 years ago, the situation has completely changed. Especially since the turn of the 20th century, the pace of development has accelerated significantly, thereby making people’s lives even more prosperous. The force that has been driving this development is science and technology.
For example, people now live much longer. In fact, almost all people throughout history lived very short lives. Even in the early 20th century, the average life span was only 31 years, but that has now increased to 72 years. Since the long-standing dream of longevity has now been realized, we must have succeeded in forming a civilization.
The Japan Prize was established to honor the achievements in science and technology that contribute to the peace and prosperity of mankind. When looking back over the history of achievements by the Japan Prize recipients, I am strongly reaffirmed that it reflects the prosperity of today’s society and the major role of science and technology that helped to bring it about. Convinced of its significance, I will continue to devote myself to the Japan Prizeand its cause.
At the same time, I cannot deny the anxiety that hangs over the future of humanity. Will we able to maintain our beautiful planet? Can humanity continue to prosper without leaving anyone behind? These basic questions are unavoidable and must be confronted. I am confident that the Japan Prize will play a crucial role in promoting science and technology that will answer such questions.
The advancement of science has blessed us with a huge body of accumulated knowledge. Knowledge is the most prized asset of humanity. Because of its sheer volume, it has become difficult to grasp the overall picture of just how much knowledge we now have. This, coupled with the increasing complexity of prosperous society, and the prosperity attained as a result of making changes to our planet, has brought about anxiety over our future.
In other words, scientists must confront this problem head on, as the advancement of science itself is a source of anxiety for the future. In order to solve the various issues we face, we must work together by transcending the fragmented fields of knowledge.
Despite the possibility that science and technology may be used for a bad cause, I'm convinced that we also possess the "wisdom" to overcome such a dilemma.
As we contemplate on the future of civilization, science and technology, the Foundation will establish the "Japan Prize Heisei Memorial Research Grant Program" this year in order to express our sincerest appreciation to His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus, who has blessed us with great support for the Japan Prize since the first award ceremony in 1985. We hope the program will encourage motivated researchers to take on further challenges.
The Foundation will continue to contribute to the peace and prosperity of mankind through the Japan Prize, research grants and the promotion of science and technology education.