Last month, I had the honor of giving the address to the international student alumni on Homecoming Day at Kobe University, which I attended as a graduate student between 1993 and 2000.

As is common on these alumni occasions, I waxed lyrical about the good old days, remarking how barbaric and bare Kobe University was when I arrived there in the early 1990s —crumbling buildings, stone floors, old desks and bookcases — yet I made sure to mention how wonderful some of the professors who taught there were.

I'm an out-and-out fan of Kobe University and over the years I've also given talks at other institutions of higher learning around Japan — I even studied as an undergraduate at a couple of others — so the occasion of Homecoming Day inspired me to concentrate on what the characteristics of Japanese universities are and, in a globalized world, where they need to improve. Japan's universities are, after all, one of the main portals through which the country interacts with the rest of the world.