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東京大学公共政策大学院 | GraSPP / Graduate School of Public Policy | The university of Tokyo

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Student Interview No. 18 (from Newsletter No. 37)

Mitsuru Matsunawa (from Japan)

– I understand your background is in architecture.
I graduated from the Department of Architecture at Waseda Unive rsity. Because there was no liberal arts course, I spent four years studying architecture only. In my second year at junior high school, I spent a two-week homestay at a small town in Michigan , the USA. The view from the window during my flights there and back left me with a powerful impression of the differences between Japan and America. I was also fascinated to see how eac h of the towns I visited had a different look. That led me to an interest in studying the architectural aspects of urban planning, resulting in my choice of an architecture degree. However, when you look at a career in architecture in terms of contributing to making a difference to large numbers of people, it may be difficult to see how this can be done. It is a personal view, but I believe that architecture is in a large part about the potential for self-expression in designing attractive buildings for one’s own satisfaction.
This led me to GraSPP out of a desire to learn more about the regulatory and other more macro-level aspects of urban planni ng. Also, my older brother (Hiroshi) is a graduate of GraSPP.
About once a week, I like to go out for a walk and look at buildings. Because the architecture course at Waseda was design-focused, it is always the design of a building that catches my eye. Likewise when I travel, it is almost always about architecture. One of the buildings I like around Hongo is St. Mary’s Cathedral, which was designed by Kenzo Tange. I like the concrete walls and the way the light flows down along them. Viewing modern buildings with a strong design component is something I get a kick out of. I was very excited when I discovered the Mori Ogai Memorial Museum designed by Yoshiro Taniguchi, in Sendagi near where I live. The Yanesen neighborhood where this building is located is quite unlike anything in Niigata, with a very “shitamachi” feel that is neither urban nor rural.
I have a connection with Yanaka that goes back to my time as an undergraduate. For my graduation project, I worked with two other students on a proposal for a new Nippori Station building that earned us second place. Two things that characterize Nippori Station are 1) that it sits on the border between two administrative districts, and 2) that it is a major hub for changing trains, with only about one-tenth of passengers exiting from th e station to the surrounding neighborhood. The aim of the project was to look at how to revitalize this divided area by encouraging transferring passengers to go out of the station. My work on this project left me with a strong sense of the need to consider how architecture impacts society, and of my own need to know about more than architecture.

-Your graduate school life has been going for two months now. How are you finding the day-to-day reality of the Economic Policy Program?
There are a lot of compulsory classes that are keeping me very busy. As I only started studying economics for the entry examination, I am struggling to catch up with the other students who have been studying economics since their undergraduate
years. If I am able to complete macroeconomics, microeconomics, and econometrics all together in this first semester, things should get a lot easier from the next semester on. With nine periods a week of classes in English, I am feeling swamped with
preparation and review, so I’m gambling on the tests! I hate to lose so I don’t want to do worse than those around me.
I will also start an internship at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. I anticipate this will involve working as a group with other student interns at the ministry on the sort of topics being covered in our classes, and then presenting this in the form of recommendations. We will be guided in this by ministry staff who will act as mentors.
As for my current ideas about future employment, I would like to find a job at a think tank or consultancy. My aim would be to develop myself as much as possible by building up experience so that I could take what I have learnt back to my home in Niigata. I hope to return to Niigata in the future. Because I love architecture, a job that combines architecture and economics would be ideal.