Asia Future Conference in SGRA
The Third Asia Future Conference (AFC#3) Report
The Third Asia Future Conference (AFC#3) was held from Friday, September 30th to Sunday, October 2nd in Kitakyushu, with 397 registered participants from 20 countries. The City of Kitakyushu developed as an industrial city with a strong base in the steel industry. Because of this, by the 1960s the city started to experience severe water and air pollution. Since then, however, due to the efforts of its citizens the environment of the city has greatly improved. In 2011, it became the first model city in Asia for urban green growth under the OECD’s Green City Program. Inspired by Kitakyushu’s story of coexistence between mankind and the natural environment, the overall theme was chosen to be “Environment and Coexistence” including broad range of issues based on the theme of coexistence in various social and cultural environments. Under this theme we had a keynote speech and symposium, forums and roundtable discussions, as well as a large number of research paper presentations, promoting international and interdisciplinary discussions.
The night before the conference, at 7:00 PM on Thursday, September 29, the 10th SGRA China Forum “Toward the East Asian Cultural History Without Borders” was held at the Kitakyushu International Conference Center. SGRA has been hosting China forums once a year in Beijing and other cities in China, but this time it was hosted as a pre-conference of AFC#3. In this forum, the points of discussion and achievements from the last two forums in Beijing were introduced and reviewed, and with the new contributions, the theme of wider cultural history was further developed.
On Friday, September 30th, from 9:00AM to 12:30PM, four parallel forums and roundtable discussions were hosted in the Kitakyushu International Conference Center. All of the four session rooms were full. (Simultaneous translation between Japanese and Chinese)
n Roundtable Discussion “Dialogue of National Histories; Japan, China and Korea” (Grant: Tokyo Club)
We all agree that we have to overcome our history in order to realize historical reconciliation, rebuild mutual trust among people, and to stabilize cooperative relationship in East Asia. The first step should be to “establish a dialogue” among the three national histories of China, Japan and Korea. Intellectual exchange among the respective “national historians” will lead to a “Shared History of Asia”. This roundtable discussion was the first of a series of 5 forums of the same theme aiming at establishing a “Dialogue among National Histories” among researchers from Japan, Korea and China. (Simultaneous translation between Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans)
n Roundtable Discussion “Religious Responses to Changing Social Environments in Southeast Asia” (Grant: Japan Foundation Asia Center)
This roundtable discussion took into consideration the present situation wherein religion tends to be viewed as the cause of conflict and clash in recent years, despite its genuine aim of achieving the happiness of humankind and society. Based on Southeast Asian country case studies, which reveal the unique religious and social relations that form a mosaic of ethnicity and religion, invited researchers from this region, together with foreign and Japanese researchers active in Japan, actively discussed universal themes such as the relation of society with religion, as well as social changes and the role of religion. (Language: English)
n Roundtable Discussion “Humans and Robots: Towards a Society of Coexistence” (Grant: Kajima Foundation)
In this roundtable discussion, after the introduction of the present situation of development of robots in Japan, Korea, Russia, Europe and China, the problems for the development of robots, which aim at coexistence with human beings, was discussed. The discussion about the society in the near future where human beings and robots can coexist was further elaborated by the comments of young scholars in the fields of philosophy and art. (Language: English)
n AGRI(?) Economic Forum “Population Problems and Solutions in Asia” (Host: Asia Growth Research Institute)
Currently, many Asian countries are facing a variety of population problems including declining fertility, aging population, declining population, migration, urbanization of the population, the entry of foreign workers, and gender differences. For these problems, it is critical for each country to conduct comprehensive analysis and introduce solutions urgently. In this forum, four specialists from the Asian Growth Research Institute took up various population problems facing Asia and discussed these problems, their impact on the economy and society, solutions to these problems, and lessons for other Asian countries. (Language: English)
After the lunch break, from 3:00PM, the Opening Ceremony commenced with a welcome speech by Dr. Michiaki Kondo, President of the University of Kitakyushu, followed by the proclamation of the opening of the conference by Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Conference Chairman. The keynote speech was given by Yoshikazu Tanaka, Chief Engineer of MIRAI, Toyota Motor Corporation on the theme “Development of the Fuel Cell Vehicle, MIRAI and the Challenges towards Hydrogen Society”. The Commemorative Symposium of the 70th Anniversary of Foundation of the University of Kitakyushu “Sustainable Development and Asian Civil Society －Toward the Hydrogen Energy Society－” started right after the Keynote Speech, in which researcher, NPO director, and entrepreneur reported their own activities. (Simultaneous translation between Japanese and English)
Program of Forums, Keynote Speech and Symposium are available from the following link:
At the end of the ceremony, after the speech of Vice Mayor of Kitakyushu City, Mr. Teruhito Matsumoto, the Sake Barrel Breaking Ceremony was held to celebrate the 70th Anniversary, using the sake produced in a collaboration between the University and local producer. When the participants went out from the Hall after the ceremony, 300 participants were offered this sake in the courtyard, where miraculously the rain stopped. After the participants, mainly from Asia, enjoyed casual food served at portable stalls (yatai), there was a local drum performance, followed by this conference’s highlight event, projection mapping, which showed the 1500-year history of Kitakyushu in 3 minutes on the big wall of Conference Center.
On Saturday, October 1, all the participants went to the Kitagata Campus of the University of Kitakyushu, where 225 papers were presented in 58 panel sessions, including 8 arranged group sessions. As the Asia Future Conference aspires towards an international and interdisciplinary approach, each session was arranged by the topics such as “Peace”, “Happiness”, and “Innovation”, which the presenters selected during the submission process. As such, each session did not necessarily consist of specialists in a specific academic field. Although different from academic conference in specific fields, this approach helped foster many rich and diverse discussions. 109 people in total including invited guest speakers kindly agreed to act as the chairperson of the panel sessions. Poster presentations were displayed next to the coffee break corner. Piano performance and tea ceremony were conducted by the students and volunteers of the University of Kitakyushu.
The Best Presentation was chosen by two chairpersons in each of the 50 sessions (excluding arranged group sessions). The list of Best Presentations can be found at the following link:
Two Best Posters were selected by the AFC Academic Committee from the 10 posters that were displayed in the Conference. The list of the best posters can be found at the following link:
In addition, the Academic Committee chose the Best Papers before the conference. and the awards were presented during the Farewell Party on the last day of the conference. 46 judges reviewed 115 full papers, which were uploaded to the AFC Online System by February 28, 2016 (with abstracts submitted by August 31, 2015). The papers were divided into 13 groups, and 4 reviewers read each group. Reviewers were asked to evaluate based on the following 5 criteria: (1) Is the theme of this paper in accordance with the AFC Theme “Environment and Coexistence”? (2) Is this paper perspicuous and persuasive? (3) Is this paper original and innovative? (4) Does this paper hold international aspects in some points? (5) Does this paper have an interdisciplinary approach? Each reviewer recommended two papers out of nine or ten in each group. After compilation, 20 papers were selected as the Best Papers. The list of the best posters can be found at the following link:
At 7:00PM at the Station Hotel Kokura, the farewell party started with the brief conference report by myself as the Organizing Committee Chair, followed by toast by the Vice-president of the University of Kitakyushu, Dr. Saeko Urushibara. Before dinner is over, AFC Academic Committee Chair, Dr. Hitoshi Hirakawa, Professor of Kokushikan University, gave a selection report and then the Award Presentation Ceremony was held. 20 authors of Best Papers came on the stage and the Conference Chair, Mr. Yasushi Akashi, handed a Certificate of Best Paper to a representative. Then 2 Best Poster authors and 50 Best Presentations awardees were commended.
On Sunday, October 2nd, participants took part in organized study tours and excursions, which included a Study Tour to Minamata, going to Akiyoshidai Cave and old town Hagi, sightseeing in the City of Kitakyushu, Kitakyushu Environmental Study Tour, and a hot spring experience.
The Third Asia Future Conference “Environment and Coexistence” was hosted by the Atsumi International Foundation Sekiguchi Global Research Association (SGRA), co-hosted by The University of Kitakyushu and City of Kitakyushu, supported by Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, received grants from The Japan Foundation Asia Center, The Tokyo Club, The Kajima Foundation, collaborated with Kyushu Economic Federation and Asian Growth Research Institute, and sponsored by Aso Cement Co., Ltd., Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo Co., Ltd., Honjo International Scholarship Foundation, JR Kyushu Railway Company, Kajima Corporation, Kajima Oversea Asia PTE Ltd., Kajima Road Co., Ltd., KOKUYO Co. Ltd, Kyudenko Corporation, Kyushu Electric Power Co., Ltd., Mera Group Corporation, Moji Koun Kaisha Ltd, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, PT Senayan Trikarya Sempana, TENO Corporation, TOTO Ltd, West Japan Industry, Trade Convention Association, The Yamaguchi Bank, Ltd., Yaskawa Electric Corporation, Zenrin Col, Ltd.,
The Organizing Committee and Academic Committee for this conference were organized by former Atsumi scholars (known as “Raccoons”), and together with the SGRA Steering Committee members, they voluntarily took part in almost all aspects of the holding of the conference, from planning the forums, maintaining the home-pages, selecting the best awards, to taking charge of the reception. A separate Organization Committee was established in the University of Kitakyushu with more than 120 professors, staff members and student volunteers.
We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the more than 400 participants, as well as to those who supported the holding of the conference and all of the volunteers who provided assistance in many ways and helped lead to the success of the Third Asia Future Conference.
The Asia Future Conference is interdisciplinary at its core and encourages diverse approaches to global issues that are both mindful of the advancement of science, technology and business and also take into consideration issues of the environment, politics, education, the arts and culture. This conference is organized with likeminded institutions, in order to provide a venue for the exchange of knowledge, information, ideas, and culture, not only by SGRA members, but also by former foreign students of Japan from various educational institutions throughout the world, by their own students and collaborators, and by anyone interested in Japan.
The Asia Future Conference started in 2013 and was originally planned to be hosted five times within a span of ten years. After hosting AFC successfully for three times, the Atsumi International Foundation has decided to continue even after 2020. The Fourth Asia Future Conference will be held in Seoul, Korea, from August 24th to 28th, 2018.
AFC#3 photos shown in the farewell party (movie)
We would like to ask for your continued support, cooperation and, most of all, your participation.
SGRA Chief Representative