Presumption of Innocence

“Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty”. Universal Declaration of Human rights, article 11.

Though it may appear that everything has been said and done regarding the drug-related incident that involved students of Tohoku University last year, the circumstances of the arrests are still a blur. In order to clarify on what grounds the students were taken under custody, the team of The Sentinel contacted one of them for an interview. The student, decided to stay anonymous.

  • According to the police reports, all the students involved in the incident consumed an illegal drug, allegedly cocaine, in parties either in a night club or in the University dorm. Were you actually in one of these? If so, what happened during the event?

“It’s true that all detained students consumed illegal drugs at some point. We did it in the club one night where we got it from Australian guy who was arrested first. None of us planned on doing that, it’s just that we were pretty drunk and at some point he offered us drugs. Also that night, other people who were not found by the police used drugs that he possessed but they were not students and known to me.”

  • When the police took you into custody, were you, at any moment, told the reason why you were being detained?

“It’s their obligation to tell you why they are detaining you and explain it all, so yes.”

  • Were you in possession of any illegal substances when you were detained?

“No. None of the other 6 students possessed or bought drugs. Only the guy who was arrested first and who bought them had drugs when police came.”

  • Did someone, at any moment, told you the charges you were accused of?

“After police arrested a couple of our friends, we suspected we might be next. Also some other students were just brought in for questioning and we were informed that police might arrest us too.”

  • Did the police provide you with a translator?

“Yes. Even during the arrest, and later when I was held in custody, during every interrogation there has to be a translator. “

  • Were you subjected to any form of mistreatment while you were under custody?

“No. Police was nice to me. They tried to help even though communication was a bit difficult due to the language barrier. “

  • Did you have a trial? If so, were you allowed to contact a lawyer?

“We had government assigned lawyers but we didn’t have a trial. On the second day of the custody, police took me to talk to the prosecutor and judge where I admitted that the thing I was accused of was true.”

  • Under what conditions were you left free?

“I believe me and my friends were pardoned by the judge since it was our first crime and it wasn’t anything serious. I wasn’t convicted of anything or paid any fine to be released. Also, I think university assured police that I and my friends will leave Japan after we are released. I also wrote an apology letter to the judge where I stated my intention to leave Japan if released.”

  • Were you officially expelled from Japan?

“I’m not really sure cause after I got out, people from Tohoku University helped me with moving out and all that and after that I went to Tokyo for the airplane. I wasn’t under any surveillance by the police, I met with friends and even spent a day in Tokyo before I left. Also my lawyer told me that we can return to Japan as tourists if we want. Maybe it will be more difficult to get a job and a permanent stay but I don’t think there is a problem to come back and I intend to do that one day.”

As per this statement, the student was treated with respect and kindness while under custody.  However, all of the 6 students were arrested without any physical evidence against them. Whether or not they were presumed innocent is, perhaps, a point open for discussion, but the crux of this matter is if there is no incriminating evidence against someone,  on what grounds is this person arrested?

Disclaimer : The Sentinel is unbiased regarding any incident that takes place within or outside the university. It seeks to state the facts and not take any side. It respects the law of the land but at the same time, seeks to have an open discussion about the same from opposing perspectives.

The Sentinel is not obliged to reveal any details about the interviewee to anyone. No requests regarding revealing of details shall be entertained.

Interview : Tohoku University Festival Committee 2017

In November last year, Tohoku University Festival Committee spoke to ‘The Sentinel‘ in an exclusive interview about what it is like to organise a student event at such a scale. With internationalisation of the festival being a key feature in 2017, the organisers have tales to tell. The organising committee is primarily represented by the 2017 Festival Director, Ryuhei Notsuke. Other interviewee profiles are mentioned at the end of the interview.

  1. What do you think needs to be changed or kept for the festival next year?

I think we have to interact more with students and work as a team.

  1. Where do you want Tohoku University Festival to be in the next 50 years or near future?

Well, though we cannot exactly but we hope it attracts a lot more people and that students can express what they have learnt.

  1. Have you attended any other university festival? Is there anything that makes the Tohoku University Festival unique?

I have attended the festivals at University of Tokyo and Tohoku Gakuin but I think that what makes the Tohoku University Festival different is our focus on what we have learnt and not just entertainment. Invited lectures are a reflection of the same.

  1. Is it the first time you decided to make festival more international? Why? What were the initiatives taken under this process?

Yes, it is the first time. Our idea was to create a school festival where foreign students can truly enjoy. To facilitate the same, we had an English website, signboards in English and also the map in English.

  1. Tohoku University International Festival (TUIF) is chiefly organised by TUFSA. Have you ever considered to have just one festival which includes both international and Japanese students?

For organising the current festival itself, we have to take permission for hosting and cooperate with the authorities. Maybe in the future, we can think about having one festival.


2017 Festival in numbers


  1. How many months do you take to prepare for the festival? What is the process of organising?

For organising the festival in November 2017, we began planning in December 2016. Organising the festival itself is a club activity and anyone who is interested can join. Anyone who wants to make a change and has a strong feeling for the school can join the club. The selection of the executive committee is random and this year we chose the members through lottery as the number of interested applicants were many.

The leader of the festival is chosen through voting by former members. The leader is always a sophomore and this activity is meant for freshmen and sophomores only.


  1. How did you decide this year’s theme (もどれどうしん、おどれわこうど), mascot (Peton) and theme song (Mellow Grace)?

The theme was decided by sophomores in around May or June but the discussions regarding the same began right from December. For the song and the mascot, we asked the student community to contribute something and then vote upon the same. Therefore, both the song and the mascot, are original creations.

  1. What is your fondest memory of the festival?

Ryuhei : Well, the entire process of organising was fun but most importantly, smiles of the people would remain as my fondest memory.

Ryota : Being responsible for the internet promotions and pamphlets, I saw many people looking up for what we sent out and that made me happy. Personally, I felt a sense of accomplishment when my best friend said that he had great fun.

Yuto : Not many people knew what I did in the team but a lot of them told me that I was shinig in the spotlight. That made me really happy.

Naohiro : This year, the number of people who watched the stand-up comedy live were more than 1,000! This was much more than the last year. This remains as my fondest memory.

  1. Any message/comments for our readers?

Ryuhei : I really hope that everyone, both Japanese and international students, enjoy the school festival next year too!

Naohiro : I would like more international students to attend the festival. This year, it was only the website that we worked on. Next year, I hope we can publish something too so that more international students. The university is investing its time and effort for bringing in more international students and I think that the festival should be reflective of the same too.

Interviewee profiles :

Ryuhei Notsuke (Festival Leader, 2017) : 3rd year student of psychology (Department of Literature) from Gunma. He loves swimming and is good at apologising as he always did so on behalf of the executive committee to the school authorities.

Yuto Sano (Translator during the interview and organising committee member) : 2nd year student of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering from Tokyo. He loves solo traveling and tends to be alone a lot.

Ryota Saeki : 3rd year student of Economics from Miyagi. He loves statistical analysis and he analysed all the festival data this time.

Naohiro Kobayashi (Organising committee member and the person who came up with the idea of internationalisation of the university festival) : 3rd year student of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering from Miyagi. He loves taking photos and was the photographer for the festival committee.

This interview was ideated by Tanach Rojrungsasithorn. A 3rd year student of IMAC-U at Tohoku University, he is a member of the editorial borad at ‘The Sentinel’. 

The 70th Tohoku University Festival would be held in November 2018 under the leadership of Shu Takeda. You can join the festival through this link


Tête-à-tête with President Ohno

The new academic year is almost around the corner and Sentinel is excited for the new President. Arunava Acharyya, Manuel Campos and Trishit Banerjee asked some fun questions to the new president. 

  1. What are your hobbies?

I often mix my work with hobbies but I still enjoy skiing once or twice a year. I am not sure how good it is for my health though. I also like to go on a day-or-two driving trip with my wife to onsen or nearby places like Urabandai in Fukushima.

  1. Which is your favourite food?

I really like Inaniwa Udon of Akita. I also like steak. I remember visiting a restaurant in Switzerland where I had Argentinian beef and I am still trying to find it again. I also visit Sindur once in a while to have Indian curry. I prefer the mild ones though.

  1. Do you like J-Pop? Which is your favourite J-Pop Band?

I guess the J-Pop of the 1970s. My tastes haven’t evolved since then. Since my wife is a piano teacher, she has influenced me a lot and I take keen interest in classical music like the piano sonatas of Mozart and others.

  1. Which is your favourite book?

I really enjoy the work of Shiono Nanami. She lives in Italy and she writes about the ancient Roman empire. I enjoy it because it is not scholarly dry and she is an amazing story-teller. You can get a grasp the life very well as if you are re-living the history. It’s imaginative too. I find it highly entertaining because it tells a story, not just information.

  1. Which club/circle/activity did you pursue when you were a university student?

I was involved in the automobile club rally as a navigator as I was not brave enough to be a driver. This was while I was at University of Tokyo.

  1. Lastly, where were you born and brought up?

I was born in Tokyo but brought up in Sapporo.

“Take full advantage of what Tohoku University provides”: The Dawn of President Ohno

In January this year, Arunava Acharyya, Manuel Campos and Trishit Banerjee of ‘The Sentinel’ sat down with Prof. Hideo Ohno, the newly appointed President of Tohoku University for an informal conversation about his research, his vision for the university and his favourite Udon from Akita. He shall succeed Prof. Susumu Satomi this April as the 22nd President of the university.
  1. First of all, heartiest congratulations on being appointed as the 22nd President of Tohoku University. Are there any changes expected in your term and where do you see Tohoku university in the future?

Thank you. I will follow on from my predecessors in continuing the work they have started.

As you may be aware, Tohoku University was one of three universities given the Designated National University status by Japan’s government last year. We are considered to be one of the top research universities in Japan. And in order to stay a top player in the global arena, we need to strengthen our research capabilities, shape education to make it in line with the globalized world, and increase social engagement including academic-industry collaboration. So a major role is to maintain the current framework, while building on what we have to adapt to society’s changing needs.

  1. What are your thoughts on english-language programs, the government’s G30 project and the overall internationalisation of Tohoku University ?

Well, I would like to see it enhanced further but I can’t tell you about any specific programs right now. We need English language courses to prepare our students as global citizens. Since the majority of the undergraduate students are Japanese speaking, a good portion of the undergraduate classes will still be continued in Japanese, however. On the internationalization front, President Satomi has worked hard and I will do the same to make the on-campus processes transparent to non-Japanese speaking students. I would also like to see a one-stop service established for providing such support in all administrative processes in my tenure as president.

  1. What are the major challenges that you feel the university needs to address?

Naturally, there are multiple challenges that we face. In terms of education, the challenge is to make sure that students are ready to contribute as global citizens following graduation. We also want to facilitate studies, which are not just curriculum-based, but that also nurture entrepreneurship and teach aspects such as those used by nonprofit organizations. In regards to research, although we have played a major role until now, we still need to strengthen our research base. Finally, in terms of social engagement, we have to improve our support for members of the faculty, students and staff who are keen to work on innovative projects with collaborators outside the university.

  1. The university implemented the labour contract law in 2012 and did not renew the fixed term contract of 3,243 workers as reported by The Japan Times in November 2016. What was the reason behind such a drastic step?

I am going to look into how it developed. My understanding is that the university is working very hard to ensure that the people who are working here are happy. We are striving to help our staff maintain a work-life balance too. If there is something that the private sector is able to do which we are not, I would like to learn from this and improve our policies where possible.

  1. You are an established researcher in the field of spintronics. Would you like to elaborate on the research you are currently involved with?

Electron has mass, charge and spin. In many cases, we utilize charge and mass. In other cases, we use spin but the basic idea of spintronics is to use charge and spin together. I started basic studies of spintronics in 1988. At that time, the study was curiosity-driven. We started doing experiments at 5 K or 50 K, which is much below the freezing temperature, but were able to show a proof-of-concept device that utilizes electric fields to manipulate magnetism, thereby using charge (electric field) to control spin (magnetism). I expanded my horizons during the course and we started to develop spintronics devices, which can be used in our modern integrated circuits. We developed material stacks which are now a de facto standard being used in the industry.

The reason we could make such developments was due to what we learned from basic research mostly done at low temperatures. The spintronics technology we have developed will shortly be commercialized as big players in the semiconductor industry are all involved. The CIES (Centre for Innovative Integrated Electronic Systems) at our university in the Shin-Aobayama campus is capable of implementing our spintronics devices in semiconductors so that we can combine it with transistors and demonstrate functionality. We can design such circuits using our own material stacks that we have developed which can help in realising new integrated circuits based on Tohoku University’s novel design. As a matter of fact, Tohoku University is the only public-sector institution in the world where you can do this.

The development of new semiconductor integrated circuits is a huge area. I have asked colleagues on campus to participate in the effort. Together, we design the circuit, process magnetic materials among other things. We aim to show the world that this is the way to build the integrated circuits of tomorrow. These circuits are high-performing circuits and consume considerably less energy which makes it particularly suitable for IoT (Internet of Things) and artificial intelligence. This is something that I am still involved in and our university is leading the world in this field.

  1. Considering the current advancements in nanotronics, what possibilities do you see in the development of nano sensors for medical research?

So far, I have spoken only about the spintronics research I am involved. Other people like Prof. Ando of Applied Physics at our university are involved in developing highly sensitive magnetic spintronics sensor. Prof. Ando has succeeded in capturing magnetic fields generated by a heartbeat. He is now working in capturing magnetic field changes in the brain. Today, it is done by devices requiring liquid helium, but in the future, his device enables us to do the same at room temperature and therefore, without using liquid helium. His sensor is extremely inexpensive and highly sensitive at the same time. This could lead to branching out of this idea into different fields for other potential applications. After all, until we show our results to the world, we do not know the value of our research.

  1. Tohoku University has contributed extensively in the revival projects after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Are there any other steps the university plans to take?

People are continuing their work in rebuilding the region. We are working together in the process and at the same time hoping to take it one-step further. Living in Japan, we have to face disasters such as volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes. Our society must always be disaster-ready. We have to recover and rehabilitate in a short period of time and take care of those who have suffered. We have to develop this in the form of a package to help our communities prepare. It is our responsibility and Tohoku University is committed to contributing its expertise in disaster management.

Also, in relation to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, a center (Center for Fundamental Research on Nuclear Decommissioning) has been established, which is developing technology on how to shut down the Fukushima plant and other nuclear plants around the world. Such studies will be conducted on our campus too.

Green energy is essential in preparing us for a sustainable future and more research has to be conducted in this field. Tohoku University will definitely play an important role here as well.

  1. Any message for the students and our readers?

I would like to see our students take full advantage of what Tohoku University provides. We are here not just to disseminate knowledge but also to provide a ground to play and to use the knowledge gained so that students are fully ready for the next stage of life after university. The environment here is of a high standard for conducting research activities. While we are working very hard on this front, if you find any room for improvement, please let us know.

As spoken to Arunava Acharyya, Manuel Campos and Trishit Banerjee

5 years of President Satomi : A Grounded Approach

In August 2017, Team Sentinel interviewed President Susumu Satomi of Tohoku University. President Satomi’s presidency shall come to an end with this academic year. He speaks about his fondest memories, idea of internationalisation and the revival of Tohoku University post-2011.

Q1) You became the President of the university in 2012, the year following the Tohoku Disaster. What were some of the challenges that you faced then and how did you overcome them?

When I assumed Presidency, the campus was still damaged from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. At that time, we were working on both restoration and reconstruction of the campus. We were also working on the location to set up the new campus for the School of Agriculture. Around the same time, I developed the Tohoku University Broad vision at that time which consisted of the Satomi vision and the Faculty vision. It was also necessary to inspire and motivate the students and the faculty who lost their positivity. So, I asked one of the alumni members, Kazumasa Oda, to write a new song for the university. This is how the song Midori no Oka came to being. This made students revive their positive spirit which subsequently translated into them winning the National 7 Universities Athletic Meet for 3 years consecutively and Tohoku University being honoured as an institution in the list of ‘Designated National Universities’.

Q2) In the aftermath of the Tohoku Disaster, the entire region has suffered immensely. How has the University given back to the Tohoku society in the recovery and stabilization of the region?

As the director of the School of Medicine at that time, I sent medical officers on the ground and accepted several patients affected by the disaster. Many students worked hard as volunteers to clean the debris. We also established the Tohoku University Institute for Disaster Reconstruction and Regeneration Research in which we undertook 8 main projects and 100 other reconstruction project plans. One of the projects out of the 8 main was to establish the International Research Institute of Disaster Science for practical disaster mitigation. The other project was the Tohoku Medical Megabank Organisation under which we collected the genetic and medical data of 150,000 people to develop next-generation medical care system. Other projects like New Information Communication Systems helped extremely during the disaster. We are also very committed in the decommissioning of the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and we have also put in place entrepreneurship training courses to enhance jobs. After the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was held in Sendai, Tohoku University has become a global centre for disaster statistics and creation of Tsunami early warning systems using high speed computers in collaboration with Osaka University.

Q3) Since you assumed the role of President in 2012, we understand you have made various changes with your leadership on the management of Tohoku University. What kind of changes have you made over the past 5 years?

In the field of education, I set up the Institute for Excellence in Higher Education to expand the Admission Office entrance exams in order to match the international standards. Course numbering, GPA and Quarter system were a result of this. Few years ago, the Tohoku Global Leadership Program was also established and student exchanges were promoted under the Study Abroad Program. I also established the International Joint Graduate program in Spintronics and Data Science and Tohoku Forum for Creativity where, world-renowned researchers visit and guide students and younger researchers. The Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences was established under my tenure to develop outstanding young researchers to whom we may also offer tenure positions.  I also established the Global Research Hub under which institutes like WPI-AIMR (Material Science), CIES (Spintronics), ToMMO (Medicine) and IRIDeS (Disaster Prevention) came into being.

Q4) Can you tell us about some of your fondest memories being President of the University in the past 5 years?

Some of my fondest memories include construction of several buildings on the campus and rebuilding of infrastructure affected in 2011. Students resumed their activities and won the National 7 Universities Athletic Meet for 3 consecutive years. Recently, Tohoku University was also selected as a designated national university. These memories remain very dear to me.

Q5) We know that Tohoku University has eagerly tried to promote internationalisation in each department.  We are here as a result of such a move.  Would you tell us your personal feelings and motivation for such a move? And what is your view on the internationalisation of education in Japan?

In 1967, I entered Tohoku University. At that time, Okinawa was still under the American occupation. I learnt many things during that period and I thought that I would like to offer these opportunities to other international students too. Therefore, I wanted to increase the number of international students and building the new university dormitory in Aobayama is one of the few steps towards taken in this direction.

Q6) While internationalization certainly begins with bringing in more foreign students to study in Japan, it does not end there. The entire system of education must be transformed to truly be called international. There have been some challenges in this aspect such as the language gap, the Japanese society’s inertia to Internationalization etc. How have you dealt with these challenges to improve a situation?

It is necessary to change the language education system in Japan. Japanese people have translated western science, ideology and philosophy to Japanese so that we can understand it in our own native language since the Meiji restoration. Therefore, I think that it is important for us to keep our identity and originality first. I do agree that English language courses are necessary in the graduate level but I have my own apprehensions about introducing them at the undergraduate level.

Q7) Where do you see Tohoku University in the next decade, in terms of research, education and it’s influence and engagement with society? 

Today, all the campuses are located within 9 minutes of travel time from Sendai Station. I would like to see many more companies building research centres on the campus. My dream is that Tohoku University becomes a leading research hub in Japan in the next 10 years.

Q8) What advice would you like to give based on your personal experience to the students, staff and all the members of the University especially with reference to how they can give back to society through their research or educational activities and strive to solve the problems in it?

Our duty is to give back to the society and strive to make a peaceful and just world. I think that it is difficult to do that today but there is definitely many possibilities. So, do your best and become a true member of the elite!


Interviewed by : Rohan Raj

Photograph and Video : Reyhan Daffa Athariq

“Learn to accept and share knowledge” : Dr. Ryuta Kwashima

The Institute of Development, Ageing and Cancer recently celebrated its 75th anniversary but the man who is leading it today is a name that most people know of : Dr. Ryuta Kawashima. An alumni of Tohoku University and the person behind Nintendo’s popular ‘Brain Games’, he speaks exclusively to ‘The Sentinel’ reflecting on his life, work and his infamous rejection of a million euros salary.

When was the first time you realised that you were interested in neuroscience?

It goes back when I was a junior high school student and I didn’t want to die. I wanted to see the end of the humans with my own eyes. I imagined if I could integrate my brain with a computer then, I could definitely see the end of the world with my own eyes. This was the inspiration.

Your research has been highlighted in various schools and institutes across the world. Did you ever expect the incredible public response?

Actually, No. When I published my book ‘Brain Training’, neither the editor nor I trusted its success but within a year, it already sold 1 million copies! It was then that Nintendo approached us to make a video game version of the same. Nobody trusted it then.

You graduated from Tohoku University in 1985. It has been 31 years since then. What do you think are the most significant challenges in the university regarding your research in neuroscience?

In the initial phase, there was not so much budget allocation for neuroscientists from the government or the companies. When it was highlighted in the US in 1990s, Japan followed the US. Huge grants were received but ended in 2000s. These days, there are machines like MEG and Cyclotron (since 1980s) that can be used to measure the brain activity.

You have famously rejected a 15 million euros salary from Nintendo. Why did you do so?

There are two reasons for this. First, the amount of money is too big for my pocket (laughs) and secondly. I did all my work as a professor of Tohoku University. I did not spend any of my personal time or money. Hence, this huge amount of money is well deserved by the university and the government who provided all the support. Hence, I cannot accept such a huge amount.

Could you share a memory/experience from your life when you realised that your research is truly changing lives?

When I was 50 years old, I felt that my ability to think clearly was weakening and I feared Alzheimer’s 10-20 years down the line. It was at that time when I used my own program and within 2-3 months, I became absolutely normal and hence, this itself stood as a proof that it was changing lives. Also, I did several randomised studies and improvements in cognitive function amongst people suffering from dementia was significantly observed.

Your work has met with criticism from doctors and researchers according to a feature report by ‘The Independent’ in May 2013. How have you personally dealt with criticism?

I welcome criticisms as it is very useful but, there are only few reasonable criticisms. One of them was the randomised control study. The control group was not enough to be controlled and hence we created finer controlled groups. The other was about the outcome measures and we accept these criticism too. All other criticism seem to have emerged from jealousy and hence were not acceptable. Anyone can criticise but not everyone can create a new thing. It is only a select and knowledgeable group of people who can create something.

Any message for the readers of ‘The Sentinel’?

Tohoku University has everything and is an universe within itself. You can find a professor for any information. You are free to ask any professor since you are a student. Learn to accept and share knowledge.

“I try to tell my own story in music”

After the passionate words from the Sendai City mayor BEc. Okuyama Emiko, the winner of the triannual Sendai International Music Competition was announced.  Ms. Jang Yooling from Korea stood the tallest among 32 of the best young violinists of the world. Her impeccable performance on Stravinsky Violin concerto in D and Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor (Op.64), earned her a 10 minute ovation and the ¥3,000,000 Yen prize!

‘The Sentinel’ got the opportunity to interact with Ms. Jang Yooling (Winner of the Violin Section) and Ms. Anna Savkina (Winner of the Audience prize for Violin sectionI). Excerpts from the interview:

A. Jang Yooling

1. What does being a Violinist mean to you?

To be a violinist means everything for me, I can’t imagine to be myself without music. I love music and have a responsibility to share and introduce the beautiful music through the violin.

2. How was your experience in Sendai and would you like to come back to Sendi for performing once again?

It was amazing three weeks in Sendai, it was my first time visiting Sendai. I felt very welcoming from the people and loved the city! I am coming back for the concerts next year and I can’t wait to visit Sendai again!

3. Your performance on Stravinsky Concerto was filled with energy. What emotions did you go through while playing that music?

Stravinsky violin concerto has a lot of character in music. It has some varieties of rhythm and fun dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra. The conductor, Hirokami and Sendai orchestra was amazing musicians and very supportive. I think I was inspired performing with them and was able to generate the strong energy together on the performance.

4. What message would you like to give to aspiring violinists?

More than just aiming for the perfection, I really hope to enjoy the music!

B. Anna Savkina

1. How was your experience in Sendai and would you like to come back to Sendai for performing once again?

First time I went to Japan in 2013 when I participated in 5th Sendai International Violin Competition. Japan is amazing country and I always wanted to go there. Japanese people are very kind and friendly, always ready to help you. Then I met Michiyo Tanaka-san and her wonderful family – her husband and two daughters – Mai and Mizuki. They gave me great emotional and psychological support during the competition. I got a 4th prize and Audience prize of 5th SIMC.

After that I went to Sendai in August 2015. It was a real holiday for me! I played two concerts. First was a recital with wonderful pianist Junko Kinoshita. We performed pieces by Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Sibelius, Bach etc. Our concert was during the Summer Tanabata Festival and my Japanese friends showed me the one of Tanabata songs. I decided to write a small variations on this song for violin and piano. It was very interesting for me. Also I had a talk-session with audience. During this interview I was in national Japanese summer dress – Yukata. I talked about my life in Russia, about my country, my studying and musical life. Second concert was with Miyagi University Orchestra and Maestro Hiroyuki Hibino at Hitachi Systems Hall Sendai (Sendai City Youth Cultural Center). We played Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. The conductor Mr.Hibino is wonderful master and musician. Orchestral interpretation was amazing and highly emotional, displaying a deep inside into Russian music. I enjoyed playing with them!

I was so much pleased with organization and welcoming atmosphere of Sendai Competition that I decided to send an application for the second time. I am interested in the competition program.

I had an opportunity to learn and play with a symphony orchestra rarely performed concertos such as Schumann’s Concerto and Shostakovich’s Second Concerto.

It is a great honor for me to have got the audience prize second time!

I think Japanese people are a most musical loving nation in the world. They have a very good musical intuition. Now I am going to visit Sendai for concerts again.

2. Your performance on Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E Minor and Shostakovich’s Concerto in C Sharp Minor was filled with energy, subtleness, passion, mystery and a myriad of emotions. What emotions did you go through personally while playing them? 

When I was 12 years old, I recorded my first CD, with symphony orchestra. The one of pieces was Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. I played this work many times and I knew this music well. During preparation for the competition I found a lot of new things in this Concerto. I tried to look at this piece in a new way as a mature musician.

Shostakovich’s Second Concerto is new music for me. I love first Concerto and play it often.  I have found for myself that Second Concerto is not inferior to the First in the beauty and depth of music.

My Japanese friends from different cities and all members (!) of Miyagi University Orchestra and Mr.Hiroyuki Hibino went to support me.  I will never forget your storm of applause after my final round performance and especially after Shostakovich. It’s so nice for me as an artist! I want to say “great thanks” to all players of Sendai Philarmonic Orchestra and Maestro Junichi Hirokami for their brilliant playing!

3. What does being a violinist mean to you?

I love to master musical compositions again and again and to discover composers through music.

I grew up with a violin in my hands. When I was kid, I just loved music and playing for audience. I did a lot of musical things intuitively. Now I try to analyze more. I want to understand a composer’s intention and at the same time  I try to tell my own story in music and show my personal feelings.

4. What message would you like to give to aspiring violinists?

Love music and keep the music in your heart. It is most important for a musician.


This year, the performers came from 10 different countries spread across the globe and the city of Sendai welcomed them with open arms and a record-breaking attendance of over 900 people for the final round.  Along with Ms. Jang, 5 other splendid violinists made it to that stage: Ms. Meruert Karmenova (Kazakhstan), Mr. Okamoto Senji (Japan), Mr. Stephen Kim (USA), Ms. Anna Savkina (Russia) and Ms. Aoki Naoka (Japan). They were judge by a select group of experts from 8 different countries, led by Ms. Yuzuko Horigome. The jury of 12 members indeed had a difficult task of selecting the finest talent of this year cohort.

With the final concert presenting the top 3 violinists, the extravaganza concluded on June 5th. The schedule: Schumann Violin Concerto in D minor by Ms. Aoki Naoka, Medelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor (Op. 64) by Mr. Stephen Kim and Ms. Jang Yoojin with her crown jewel Stravinsky Violin Concerto in D.

Events like this are strong evidences that Sendai is not only a city with a cultural interest but also, a welcoming place for witnessing the birth of some of the finest future talents.

“To the new generation youngsters I would rather say- never stop chasing your dreams!”

On June 19th, The Sentinel had the opportunity to interact with Dr. Glenn Mansfield Keeni, Ideator of Tohoku University International Festival- ‘Kokusai Matsuri’, which is in its 31st year now. To the newspaper, it was a great pleasure to ask him first-hand questions on how the actual idea was born and the story behind it.

 Q: How long have you been in Japan and why Japan at the first place? 

Ans: That has been a very long time ago; it is going to be 32 years in October. Actually Japan was very special. I never had an inclination towards any other places if it was abroad except for Japan. I did my Bachelors and Masters in India itself and then started working in TATA Consultancy Services (TCS). One of the intentions was to join the 5th generation computer system which was happening in Japan that time and the  other was to take some day off from work and experiencing something out of my own country. I applied for the only scholarship (Monbukagakusho) available that time and got accepted. I flew to Japan right after that!

 Q: When and how did the idea of Indian Festival – ‘Indo Matsuri’- struck you?

 Ans: The main idea was a brainchild of my elder sister- Gargi Keeni. She came here before me and was the second Indian at the university. Gradually, the number of Indian students increased to 6 and my sister always had the intention to do an Indian festival. There were TUFSA parties which constantly relied on western themes and had food and music for the people. My sister after seeing the amount of interaction and liveliness during the parties, came up with the idea of an Indian festival. She was very enthusiastic about the whole objective and introduced her plan to six of us at first.

Q: How many international Students were involved in the preparation of the festival and what was the impact of the festival on the student community generally?

 Ans: The festival itself was way more influential than we expected it to be. We thought of inviting as many people as we can and estimated about 600 guests. From students of the University to school students and kindergarten kids nearby, everybody were invited. If you ask me about the participation of international and local students, I would say somewhat to our surprise that there were about 100 international people coming to the venue the day before the festival for helping us with the preparations. We were amazed to see the amount of energy in the atmosphere from the day before the festival. Everyone was extremely helpful and supported the core Indian members throughout the preparation process. On the other hand we gathered around 60 volunteers and so together we had a greater support force than we ever imagined. It was amazing!

 Q: Talking of the international festival that occurs every year now, how did the alteration took place from Indian to International Festival?

 Ans: The next year after the Indian Festival, I became the president of TUFSA. It struck me that the idea of evolving the ‘Indo-Matsuri’ to an International Festival would be beneficial and exciting to all the people. Already, in the Indian Festival there were people around the world helping us and hence, it had a tinge of internationalization right from the beginning and I wanted to execute the idea to a better fiesta in the subsequent year with the addition of several countries coming together as one.

Q: The last International Festival that took place on May 22nd 2016, and is well known for achieving its goal on attracting more visitors. What change do you see in the recent International Festivals?

Ans: This is the 2nd time the festival has taken place in the Kawauchi Hagi hall and I think  it is one of the best changes in the venue of the festival. The Hagi hall itself is extremely beautiful and is perfect for the festival. I think every other person from children to grandparents should have the accessibility to the festival and with each year, the festival seems to be more and more successful in achieving the same. Another major change would be the vast number of undergraduate students participating in the festival. At our time it was mostly the senior students who organized it but I am glad the trend is changing.

Q: As a pioneer of the idea what aspects would you like to perceive in the development of the festival? 

Ans: I would like to see the cultural side to fuse in, a bit more into the festival. I know that the cultural exchange that takes place each year at the festival is humongous however, what I really want to experience is the interaction within those cultures. For the visitors, together with food, it would be a pleasure to see them take something from the cultural point of view with them back home.

Q: What message and advice would you like to send to the visitors and the organizing committee today? 

Ans: It might be hard to say that the world is one but these kind of festivals which are a result of the immense hard work of  common people are ones which ignite ideas. It is definitely not easy to bring so cultures , traditions and love together under one roof but ‘The World is One’ is an ideal goal towards which we should head to. To all the visitors who visit and spend time in the festival, I would want them to take something very special with them as they leave the festival. So next time, all the organizing committee members, volunteers, participants and visitors can connect to each other with those bits of memory.

Q: How do you see the change in internationalization of Tohoku University compared to your educational period? 

Ans: A huge difference indeed. The years brought a huge change in the amount of internationalization. If compared, it is difficult to imagine actually. If you compare the number of foreigners you can easily observe the change in quantity. From Tohoku University to all over Sendai, the quantity and international relations have undoubtedly increased. But in order to compare internationalization I think, more facts should be differentiated. I always believe that a person can reach anywhere but the sum of internationalization that the person radiates depends on him solely. I can only say the target is not very far.

Q: You have undertaken your M.S. in Particle Physics and also your M.E. in Physical Engineering. After that you went on to earn your Doctoral Degree in information sciences. Why did you want to make such major shifts in your fields? 

Ans: Among all the professions I, really admire the medical profession for the determination and affection it requires. However, I was always a physics person to be honest. At that time, physics individually was not really easily accessible and so I thought why not direct myself to information sciences which to a great extent relied on my favourite field as well as provided me extra dimensions to enlighten myself. Luckily, I was there at the right place at the right time.

Q: After graduation how did you make your way to the industrial field and how difficult was it?

Ans: It is very difficult to express within a few words. There have been lot of ups and downs in the process itself. My professor started to work with networking at the time of my graduation and asked me to participate. I took the chance and then after a while started working for internet. I would say I tried to grab opportunities which led me to what I do now. With every obstacle, I decided to take the idea further.

Q: How often do you visit India? 

Ans: Oh yes! I visit India very often. About 2 to 3 times a year.

Q: What message would you like to send to the readers of Sentinel? 

Ans: Well, I am not really good with messages but very briefly, I would like to appreciate the young generation today. To the new generation youngsters I would rather say- Never stop chasing your drams. You don’t realize how important you are in this era. The whole world is counting on each and every one of you. You are the future leaders of the world. So grab as many opportunities as you can and widen your knowledge and hearts. I reckon the Earth will be a better place to live in future.

Reported by Kashfia Ahamed 

The Sentinel