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Capitalize on Diversified Insight to Extend Healthy Life Expectancy

The University of Shizuoka is located in Shizuoka City, which can be reached in around one hour from Tokyo by shinkansen bullet train. The city is the capital of Shizuoka Prefecture, which shares Mt. Fuji with Yamanashi Prefecture to the north. Shizuoka Prefecture is well known in Japan as ranking number one in the production and consumption of tea and other cultivated plant products. In addition, the website “Statistics Japan: Prefecture Comparisons” (http://stats-japan.com/; http://todo-ran.com) reveals some other interesting and amusing data on Shizuoka. The prefecture is also ranked number one for the proportion of elementary school students who get up early in the morning, junior high school girls in table tennis clubs, and junior high school students participating in local community events. These statistics reveal that Shizuoka’s residents are both health-conscious and active, qualities that have helped the prefecture become one of Japan’s leaders in healthy life expectancy. Furthermore, as Japan has the longest healthy life expectancy in the world, the people of Shizuoka have among the world’s very longest.

Hirokazu Kobayashi, Prof & PhD

Shizuoka is highly diverse geographically and environmentally, and includes both Japan’s highest mountain, Mt. Fuji, and its deepest near-shore ocean area, Suruga Bay. Shizuoka produces a large volume of agricultural and marine products, including tea, mandarin oranges, and whitebait fish. Because of its geographical advantages and blessing of abundant foods, Shizuoka is commonly called Fuji no Kuni, “Country of Mt. Fuji”. It was in this rich environment that our university initiated the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences in 1987, integrating these two areas of study for the first time in Japan.

Furthermore, in 2012 we established our Graduate School of Integrated Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Sciences through the merger of our research programs food science, nutrition, and pharmaceutical science, another first in Japan. The Graduate School consists of the Graduate Division of Nutritional and Environmental Sciences and the Graduate Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences. It grew out of our 21st Century Center of Excellence (COE) Program, begun in 2002, and our Global COE Program, begun in 2007. Both programs were based on grants awarded by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). In these programs, we developed the concept of “integrated food-pharmaceutical science” to discover and promote scientific knowledge based on the relationship among food, pharmaceutical products, and the maintenance of human health. When our Global COE Program was completed in 2012, we established the Graduate School of Integrated Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Sciences to continue actively conducting advanced research and educational projects in this cutting-edge research area. Since then, the University of Shizuoka has placed first in the Agriculture category of the Thompson-Reuters University Rankings for Japan in 2013 and 2014 (http://dfns.u-shizuoka-ken.ac.jp/labs/pctech/univ-shizuoka-ranking-14.pdf), as well as in the Dietary Science category in Japan’s National Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research Funding Program in 2016 (http://eng.u-shizuoka-ken.ac.jp/news_topics/news20161017/index.html).

In recent years, the number of students entering graduate school in Japan has been declining since reaching a peak in 2003. This is thought to reflect the nation’s current economic difficulties, and has led to a reconsideration of the utility of doctoral degrees in our society. We view doctoral degrees in terms of the notion of “designated emphasis” (http://senate.ucsc.edu/committees/gc-graduate-council/policies-and-memoranda%20/designated-emphasis-policy/index.html) that has been developed at the University of California: “a broadening of training that comes from adding course work, training, and/or research work from an external department, degree-granting program, or cross-departmental grouping of faculty who together offer a designated emphasis”. To this end, we provide lectures by leaders from private companies and government, and offer practical training in our seminars for graduate students. After evaluating students’ knowledge, abilities, ethics, and other essential qualities, we recommend them to companies for internships lasting from several months to a year. In this way, we aim to aid in the development of students who will take an active role in companies and organizations.

In Shizuoka Prefecture, local industry and civil society groups aim to cultivate and expand their activities worldwide. Similarly, our Graduate School has already established partnerships with four universities in Asia and five in the United States. We promote exchange programs with these partner universities at the student and researcher levels, and we accept a large number of foreign students. We are continuing to pursue our mission of contributing to society by extending healthy life expectancy through the fields of food science, nutrition, and environmental science, in the form of our dual pursuits of research and education.

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