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On Saturday 11 November the Tsushima City Kōryū Centre hosted the JIBSN Borderlands Research Network Japan Tsushima Seminar. The title of the seminar – ‘The Changing Border/Borderlands: tourism and the population problem’ – proved popular and over 50 people attended. In their introductory remarks, several speakers referred to borders not as the ‘end’ of Japan but as the country’s ‘gateway’.
The first session focused on the development of border tourism in Rebun, Wakkanai, Gotō, Taketomi and Tsushima. Some of the most successful measures to develop tourism included building relations with nearby towns and cities on the other side of the border. Wakkanai looked to Sakhalin and Gotō turned to Cheju to encourage tourists to go to and fro across the border and boost the local economy. The seminar’s relaxed atmosphere encouraged the exchange of ideas between the ‘old hands’ at border tourism and the ‘newcomers’. For example, Rebun joined JIBSN this year and was keen to hear from the others about how they have made the border work for them in their tourism planning. Several of the speakers used the idea of the gateway to suggest that tourists do not always have to ‘pass through’ for border tourism to occur. For many Japanese tourists going to the borderland is the purpose of their trip rather than ‘border crossing’.
The different kinds of border tourism indicated some of the flexibility in local government thinking in how to attract more visitors. Such flexibility is vital for tackling the problem of Japan’s declining population, as the speakers in the second session explained. The aging of the population is also a problem that confronts local governments across Japan. Nevertheless, there are specific problems for border regions. Often, in the recent past, people have been able to move back and forth across the border more easily, helping to sustain the local economy. The loss of such freedom of movement has, in many cases, reduced the number of jobs for local people and forced many of the young to move elsewhere in search of work. The message of the second session was that considering population policy as it applies to the borderlands is more likely to provide effective solutions.
The closing discussion provided an opportunity for all of the participants to consider some of the fundamental changes in Japanese society that are likely to become increasingly necessary over the next few decades. One is encouraging more women to participate in local government politics as a way of building strong communities. Another is rethinking what a ‘Japanese identity’ means at a time when greater immigration seems more likely.
The Center for Northeast Asian Studies, Tohoku University and the Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University (NoA-SRC) organized an international seminar at Tohoku University, Sendai on 29 October. Almost 50 people attended the seminar which consisted of two sessions and a general discussion.
Akihiro Iwashita (Hokkaido University) chaired the first session titled “Migration and refugees in Northeast Asia”. The speakers included Naomi Chi (Hokkaido University), Mitsuhiro Mimura (The Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia), Yuji Fukuhara (University of Shimane) and Serghei Golunov (Kyushu University). The three papers each focused on a specific location in Northeast Asia and analysed how migration affects issues of security.
Professor Chi presented her findings from 10 years of fieldwork interviewing women from China, Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam. Professor Chi is interested in these women’s experiences of being ‘marriage migrants’ and ‘domestic and care workers’ in Japan and Korea. Her argument was that both societies could do more to protect these women’s human rights. Professors Mimura and Fukuhara did a joint-presentation that also relied heavily on interviews. This time, the voices the audience heard about were those of North Korean men working on building sites in Mongolia and these men’s employers. Professor Mimura contextualised the details of Professor Fukuhara’s detailed fieldwork by placing these workers’ experiences in the framework of Mongolian-North Korean relations. The paper revealed how these worker’s experiences are increasingly influenced by international politics – in particular, the pressure exerted by the United States for Mongolia to reduce its support for North Korea.
The third paper moved away from interviews in person to consider the words of Russian politicians and officials as reported by that country’s media. Professor Golunov identified how Russian perceptions of Chinese migrants exist between two poles that he called ‘alarmism’ and ‘utilitarianism’. Although some politicians have resorted to critical portrayals of Chinese migrants as a threat to the nation’s security, others have taken a pragmatic approach favouring encouraging such migration as a boon to the economy. He concluded with the insight that as China’s economy becomes stronger, migration for Chinese is becoming less attractive. Furthermore, migration to China for Russians is actually becoming more appealing, who are enticed by the higher wages. Professor Jong Seok Park (Kyushu University) as commentator provided several new points for the panellists and the audience. These included a discussion about the role of ‘agency’ in women’s migration decisions and a questioning of the terms used to describe North Korea.
Following lunch, Jusen Asuka (Tohoku University) chaired the second session on “Migration, refugees and the environment”. The first speaker was Nina Hall (Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Bologna, Italy). She spoke about how international organisations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have adapted their mandates to meet the challenges of migration caused by climate change. John Campbell (University of Waikato, New Zealand) followed Professor Hall. He introduced his research on the threat posed by climate change to people living in Kiribati. While not central to his presentation, Professor Campbell’s view that the United Kingdom as the former colonial power should do more to acknowledge its responsibilities to the Kiribati people caught the attention of the audience. Benoit Mayer (Chinese University of Hong Kong) gave the last presentation of the seminar. He argued that rather than discuss climate change as a discrete factor contributing to migration, academics and policy-makers should think about the ‘climate-migration nexus’. Using the example of international law, Professor Mayer examined how climate change was one of many causes of migration that are entangled and cannot be separated out. The session concluded with comments by Kentaro Ono (Honorary Consul of the Republic of Kiribati in Sendai). He made a plea for academics not to apply the label of ‘climate refugee’ to the people of Kiribati. Instead, he urged the panellists to think of new terms that emphasised ‘migration with dignity’.
Following the two sessions, the symposium finished with a general discussion. Mr Ono’s argument provided the starting point for a debate about how to counter ignorance in Japan about refugees. More specifically, an international student asked what policy-makers might do to assist people in a country such as Bangladesh where the state has limited resources. The panellists conceded that there are no simple solutions but warned against thinking only about migration as a security issue. As the title of the symposium stressed ‘security perspectives’, this reminder of the importance of a humanitarian approach to migration and refugees was welcome. Akihiro Iwashita gave the closing remarks in which he thanked the staff of Tohoku University for their hard work in organising such a successful symposium.
On 6 October 2017 researchers from Japan and Poland participated in a seminar at the Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw. An initiative of the head of the centre – Adam Eberhardt – the seminar is held at regular intervals with the SRC. This seminar was the third so far and was organized by Marcin Kaczmarski who was a 2016 Foreign Visitors Fellow at the SRC. There was a dynamic discussion on not only the seminar theme of Russia but also on Chinese policy in South East Asia and Japan’s response. The small number of participants meant frank views could be exchanged in ‘off the record’ discussions, especially about the situation in Russia.
The seminar was part of the research achievement of the following projects: ‘Reconstructing International Relations through Border Studies’ (Principal investigator: Akihiro Iwashita, Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research A), ‘New developments in Sino-Russian relations’ (PI: David Wolff, Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research B) and National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU) Area Studies Project for Northeast Asia Slavic-Eurasian Research Center Hokkaido University.
The program was as follows:
Joint OSW-SRC seminar: Russia’s turn to Asia: between expectations and reality
Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw, 6 October 2017
6 Oct., Friday
9.45 – 11.45 Session I
Russia-China relations: between the marriage of convenience and the alliance in all but name
Chair: Adam Eberhardt
Introductory remarks (10 min each followed by discussion):
12.30-14.30 Session II
East Asian politics between Russia and China
Chair: Akihiro Iwashita
Introductory remarks (10 min each followed by discussion):
On 3 October 2017 Professor Jarosław Jańczak (a 2017 Foreign Visitors Fellow at the SRC) organized a special lecture on Border Studies at his home institution. Akihiro Iwashita attended and gave a lecture with the title ‘Transformed Border in the Borderless World: The Case of Asia’. Over 50 graduate students and faculty were in the audience meaning there was close to a full house. The main message of his lecture was that humans can’t live without borders. Rather than dream of borderless society they should learn how to manage life with borders. In response, a student from Catalonia questioned this view and a lively discussion ensued. Europe’s continuing problems with borders mean that the importance of comparative work with Asia is going to increase in the future. UBRJ looks forward to continuing to work with Professor Jańczak and Adam Mickiewicz University.
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