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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.32(from Newsletter No.56)

Kotaro Shiojiri (from Japan)

― I understand you previously worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after graduating with a master’s degree from the University of Tokyo. After two years studying in the USA, I worked for four years at the Japanese embassy there before returning to Japan. That was when I learned about the doctoral program at GraSPP. As I had always dreamed about getting a doctorate, I consulted with my superiors and arranged to enroll in the program, starting in April last year, while still working at the ministry in Kasumigaseki. While being at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs involved a lot of hard work, it felt good to be working for Japan and it was a very fulfilling job where I strived night and day alongside talented and motivated colleagues. Although I wanted to keep up both my job and my doctoral studies, it proved impractical to do this while also attending mandatory classes held during working hours. I began to realize that I was going to have to choose one or the other. A lot of the people I talked to were sympathetic, telling me that they supported my doctoral studies and suggesting that I should be able to continue without quitting my job, and I myself wanted to keep both going, but I also realized that I would need to put a lot of energy into my doctorate if I was to complete it successfully. After much soul searching, I came to a decision. I resigned at the end of May this year, exactly 10 years after I entered the ministry.

― Now that you have committed yourself to being a fulltime student, what are your plans for the future?
In academic terms, I am interested in the role that economic measures adopted for reasons of national security play under WTO rules, and how they are treated in dispute resolution procedures. Having worked in diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I want to study how to reconcile within myself the things we discuss in academia alongside my own work experience.

And then there is travel. When I worked at the ministry, especially during my time at the embassy, I could never go anywhere outside mobile phone range because I never knew when an urgent call might come in. Now that I have my freedom, I have been able to get my fill of nature, recently going on a week-long camping and hiking trip to the Himalayas in India. It was very refreshing to live without a mobile phone.

― Once you have achieved your dream of getting a doctorate, what comes next?

While there is no telling what opportunities might arise in the future, I want to give it careful thought. As I no longer have a clear-cut career path like I did at the ministry, I am conscious of the pressure of needing to keep knocking on doors to get them to open and of the fear of having to publish a thesis under my own name. The truth is, there are times when I am struck by anxiety about how I will get on. On the other hand, my mentors tell me I should revel in the uncertainty rather than rushing to decide what to do next, so for now I have resolved to bear with it and to give my thoughts a chance to settle. I am just grateful that there are so many kindhearted people looking out for me. This is a path I chose to follow and so it is up to me to put heart and soul into what I do so that I can lead a satisfying life. The benefits will likely take a few decades to emerge.
That is why it feels like such a tough road that I have chosen to take (laughs). Once I have graduated with my doctorate, then I hope I can
live up to the expectations of all those people who have helped me along the way.