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Taking my supervisor’s advice

Kaori Habu
Master of Laws (2003), Doctor of Laws (2008)
Kaori Habu is currently an Associate Professor at the Sophia Law School, Sophia University.
*The text below is an English translation of an article published in an email magazine by the Career Support Office, Hitotsubashi University in May 2011.


 We interviewed Ms. Kaori Habu, a graduate of the Graduate School of Law, about the process through which she became a researcher and her current job as a university faculty member. We hope that prospective students will find the stories of their seniors, who actively work as university faculty members or researchers, useful in deciding on their future course of study or research.

Profile of Ms. Kaori Habu

She entered the doctoral program in the Graduate School of Law, Hitotsubashi University, in 2003 and graduated with a PhD (law) in March 2008. The theme of her doctoral dissertation was “The limits of veritism with respect to the position of children in the legal relationship between real parents and children.” Her supervisor at the time was Professor Tsuneo Matsumoto. In 2008, she worked as a researcher at the Japanese Law International Research and Education Center affiliated with the Graduate School of Law. From 2006 to 2010, she worked as a part-time instructor at the College of Humanities, Ibaraki University. Since 2010, she has been a part-time instructor at the Faculty of Policy Management and the Faculty of Environment and Information Studies, Keio University. She assumed the current position at Tokyo Kezai University in 2009. Her area of specialization is civil law, particularly the established judicial doctrine related to legal parent-child relationships.

* The Q&A format has been adopted and some parts of the following interview report have been edited.

Toward a female researcher

Q. When did you first want to become a researcher and what did you do to realize the goal?

A. Ms. Habu (hereinafter omitted): I had a vague idea of becoming a researcher from when I was a high school student. I was very interested in the position of children under the law. To tell the truth, I sometimes thought of becoming a legal professional; however, the instructors of all the classes I had in my freshman year were male. I thought then that there were only male instructors at the university. I had a female teacher, for the first time, for the family law class I took in my sophomore year, when I realized that females could be faculty members at the university. Since then, my desire to become a researcher grew even stronger. This was a big turning point for me. I could not think of any other jobs. I sometimes have the arrogant doubt as to whether I’m fit for my current job. However, I am grateful now that I can totally devote myself to research.

Taking what my supervisor told me seriously

Q: How did you get the current research job?

A: When I was a doctoral student, I worked as a TA at Tokyo Keizai University. So, I was closely connected to the university to begin with. The reason that I worked as a TA at the university was that one of my seniors in the seminar used to work as a TA at the university and found a job at another university after finishing the doctoral program. So, the TA job was passed on to me. Since my supervisor told me to finish my doctoral dissertation as quickly as possible, which I think now was only the supervisor’s policy, I took his words seriously and worked hard on my dissertation, which I think resulted in my current job.

Basic research is unshakable!

Q: You just said that you gave priority to finishing your doctoral dissertation. Could you tell us about the process you underwent to finish the dissertation?

A: Actually, I experienced many difficulties in the process. However, when I had my first research guidance during the first year in the master’s program, my supervisor told me that I should do research on something more basic than the theme I wanted to work on. The supervisor suggested a theme that involved the very basics of law by saying that the basics stand the test of time. The supervisor went on to say that while the current social situation would change over the coming 10 or 20 years, its core would remain unchanged and that is what I should pursue. Since the supervisor said that I would be able to pursue the theme that I was interested in at the time as much as I want 10 or 20 years later, I followed the advice of the supervisor. While research is a process of accumulating everyday work step by step, I sometimes lost confidence in my ability to carry through on the research when things did not work out as I expected. At such times, I recalled the advice of my supervisor and clung to it. Eventually my continued efforts were rewarded when I was granted the Family Law Award for New Researchers last year. The award was granted for the paper I submitted to the Hitotsubashi Journal of Law and International Studies (11th Ikuo Onaka Family Law New Researcher Encouragement Award organized by the Nihon Kajo Publishing Company; the abstract was published in the 657th issue of Koseki Jiho), which was a revision of my doctoral dissertation. (I made additions and alterations to the original dissertation.) Through this award, I realized anew that what my supervisor said was true.

7 +1 course hours per week

Q: Now, let me ask you about your current job. How many course hours do you teach per week?

A: I teach seven course hours per week at Toyo Keizai University, plus one course hour at Keio University as a part-time instructor. At Tokyo Keizai University, I teach classes on the real right law and law of real rights obtained by way of security in civil law, family law, introduction to law for freshmen, and an introductory seminar for freshmen. I also take charge of a practical seminar and a class for the Off-campus Workshop program each week. The Off-campus Workshop is a unique internship program offered by the Faculty of Contemporary Law, where students do their internships not in companies, but in law offices. Compared to other instructors, I think that my teaching load is not heavy. But still, since I do my own research after these classes and seminars, I go home late every day.

Q: How do you feel about working part-time at another university in addition to your full-time job?

A: The university where I work as a part-time instructor has a different atmosphere from Tokyo Keizai University and students there have different characteristics. They ask interesting questions, so I enjoy teaching them.

I should have studied harder!

Q: This is the last question. Please give some advice to your juniors.

A: When I was a graduate student, my seniors who found research jobs used to say, “Now is the time to study” and “Once you start working, you won’t have time to study.” I realize that it is so true now. I should have studied much harder. If I had done so, I could have enjoyed my present life more. I regret every day. It is only when you are a graduate student that you have time to study. I have no time now. However, since I can do research on what I’m interested in, I am grateful for this environment. While it is difficult to find enough time for research, I should be grateful for being able to carry on my research.

Summary

Students who aim to become faculty members at a university or those who are interested in such a job, what do you think of the interview?

While it is important to plan your research work to become a researcher, your research will continue after you get a job. On top of that, once you get a research job, you will have other tasks, such as teaching classes, and it will become increasingly more difficult to secure time for your own research. Therefore, we encourage you to use your time as efficiently as possible to improve yourselves while in graduate school. Research job openings are on the decrease, except in some fields. However, the interview with Ms. Habu tells us that it is important to carry through on your original intentions; pursue your own research themes in an unflagging manner; actively ask for advice from supervisors, teachers, and seniors; and take the advice seriously.

Interviewer: Yutaka Sato (Instructor, Career Support Office)
(Posted on May 31, 2011)