SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Chang Kuei-E “The 3rd East Asia Consortium of Japanese Studies” Report on “Building a Research Network for Japanese Studies”


The 3rd East Asia Consortium of Japanese Studies was held on October 27, 2018 in Kyoto.  As one of the panels in the conference, we had a panel discussion titled “Building a research network for Japanese studies: An Attempt by SGRA (Sekiguchi Global Research Association /Atsumi International Foundation).” This panel consisted of four presenters, two discussants and a chairperson.   

We had an extensive discussion about how SGRA has attempted to build a network for Asian researchers of Japanese studies with the audience which consisted of people from all over the world. .


Through looking back at the activities of SGRA since the year 2000 when we first started to establish a network of researchers of Japanese studies, this panel aimed to search for new approaches to pursue. We focused on activities run by SGRA such as the “Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum” (2001~), “Japan-Philippines Shared Growth Seminar “(2004~), “SGRA China Forum”(2006~), and “Japan-Taiwan Asia Future Forum”(2011~).  

Through various opinions in such forums or seminars, we could share different views or viewpoints for establishing an “intellectual shared space (知の共同空間)” which can be shared and could also share problems and solutions as well as a vision for the future. During the Q and A session, we had a lively discussion together with the panel participants. I realized anew the keen interests of researchers and personally benefitted greatly from the session. 


To start the panel, Prof. Liu Jie (Faculty of Social Sciences, Waseda University), the chair person, explained first the background and aims of this session and introduced the members. After the four presentations, the two discussants commented and we made time for their discussion.

Prof. Liu raised questions such as “how can ‘Japanese studies’ be shared in Asia or in the world?” “how can we build a scheme of Japanese studies in East Asia?”. These opinions had also been raised at the 49th SGRA Forum in 2015 titled “Searching for the new paradigm of Japanese studies”. Prof. Liu himself foresaw and proposed building a network of Asian studies in order to encourage “Japanese studies” as “shared wisdom” in Asia, which can then be shared as an urgent issue. At the same time, he is an adviser for the Raccoon network and gives us comments on our course of actions. He, as a speaker, facilitated the session cheerfully and in an organized manner.     

I summarize hereunder the points by the four presenters and the comments by the discussants. 

The first presenter was Prof. Kim Woong-Hee (Inha University/ Korea). He has been involved with establishing the “Japan Korea Asia Future Forum (JKAFF)” since 2001 and explained the activities of the JKAFF such as the formalities, contents and the extras throughout the past seventeen years. According to his explanation, JKAFF was established as a joint project by the (Korean) Center for Future Human Resource Study (未来人力研究院) / The 21st Century Japan Studies Group and SGRA / Atsumi International Foundation. At present, JKAFF offers opportunities for researchers of Japanese studies and specialists who are involved in actual fields to exchange their opinions about the future of Asia. He dynamically visualized this by using a graph of social statistics which he termed a “network of wisdom” built by Raccoons in Korea and the audiences of JKAFF.  The scientific and empirical basis for the data on the screen gave a strong impact on the audience, including the presenters.


Prof. Kim was proud to discuss the successes that JKAFF had managed to achieve despite the unstable relationship between Japan and Korea.  At the same time, he had some misgivings about the present situation regarding how the theme of JKAFF is chosen as well as fostering young researchers to lead the next generation. These points need to be further considered. He stated that he would like to build a dynamic and practical “network for wisdom” which can correspond to cooperation between researchers in East Asia multi-laterally taking into consideration pluralistic and dynamic promotion systems. Korean Raccoon members, who are a treasure trove of Japanese studies experts, are working towards JKAFF. I strongly felt that Prof. Kim has a vivid image of the future of JKAFF in their diversity of themes, plural identities of operation, stable way of raising funds for operation, keeping budget for simultaneous interpreters and de-centralization of the network etc.


The second presenter was Ferdinand C. Maquito, Associate Professor, University of the Philippines, Los Banos. He talked about the history, present and themes of the “Japan-Philippine Shared Growth Seminar” which was established in 2004 and fully supported by SGRA. Originally, the seminar was based on just the theme “shared growth,” in which economic growth and distribution proceeded simultaneously. After the year 2010, in cooperation with Prof. Gao Weijun (the University of Kitakyushu), an academic (including environmental issues) joint platform by Japan and the Philippines took shape. Afterwards, such environmental issues were taken up by researchers who had experience visiting Japan. In the past few years, these seminars have developed into “Durable Progressing Seminar by Japan and the Philippines” which aims at three goals: 1)environmental (durable) conservation,  2) fairness (jointly owned), and 3) efficiency (growth).  As the first letters of those three goals in the old Philippines language were “KA, KA, KA”, this seminar was nicknamed the “three “KA” seminar”.   


After Prof. Maquito returned to the Philippines in 2017, he has promoted activities such as the “Shared Growth Seminar by Japan and the Philippines” in the Philippines in English. He appreciated having the opportunity to present about his activities in Japan in Japanese at the conference.  He gave his explanation, though hesitant and a little tense, simply and straightforwardly in his clear Japanese.  I thought it very successful.    Prof. Maquito was appointed as one of the people in charge at the 5th Asian Future Conference which will be held in January, 2020. He expressed his resolution for the comprehensive survey of the SGRA Philippines, holding onto the theme “Lasting shared growth:spiritual hometown for everybody and happiness for everybody”. He summed up his words by vigorously stating that he would like to do his best to contribute to the topic of “lasting shared growth” which is not only relevant to the Philippines but also the rest of the world.  


The third presenter was Prof. Sun Jianjun (Associate Professor, School of Foreign Languages, Peking University).  As he has been managing the SGRA China Forum since 2006, he presented on the history, present, and problems of the Forum from the viewpoint of “searching for possibilities of reconstruction of the cultural history of the East Asia from cross-jurisdictional view point”. In the early period  (2006-2013), his activities were based at the universities in which Raccoons were based in China, which were a little less than twenty in number and based in Peking, Shanghai, Hohhot, Urumqi, Yan’an). He held meetings for the young (mainly university students) and introduced the transaction of public interest in Japan such as environmental issues and cultivation of human resources. The main purpose in these meetings was the sharing of intellectual information, cultivation of international viewpoints and harmonious personality. 


The last presenter was Assistant Prof. Chang Kuei-e (Department of Japanese Language and Literature, Soochow University (Taiwan)). She introduced activities by Taiwan Raccoon members, looking back at the course of history (details, the present and topics) of JTAFF (Japan-Taiwan Asia Future Forum) which was established around 2010.

She explained also that JTFFA developed a unique and flexible form of intellectual and cultural exchange that suits their needs.  JTFFA forums have looked at issues such as language, culture, literature, education, history, society and regional exchange. Through such discussions, JTFFA aims at the development of scientific exchange between Japan and Taiwan and to deepen Japanese studies in Taiwan through fostering young researchers. At the same time, they aim to envision a future for Asia where the young can hold dreams and hopes. JTFFA was established just after the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 and was supported also by the friendly atmosphere of Japan and Taiwan. They are also financially well off because they are supported not only by universities and the public sector in Taiwan but also by Japanese companies in Taiwan. 


The seven Taiwan Raccoons who are responsible for the JTFFA, specialize in different fields and based on their pluralistic and scholarly fields had to work creatively together. On a long-term basis, if we cannot establish any concrete targets which can be approached easily, in other words, if we cannot establish a sustainable vision of an “intellectual common space(知の共同空間)“, we are forced to fall into a sense of impending crisis which dries up our inspiration and ideas our activities.  What we strongly expect from each Taiwan Raccoon is positive participation in an international scientific exchange. They have to develop our forum from a long-term perspective and tackle difficult themes from an integral viewpoint. They have to have interest in historical, political and social issues between Japan and Taiwan and also have to have a high-level of knowledge and the ability to look into such issues deeply.  


Following the four presentations, we received feedback from specialists in the field.

As the first discussant, Prof. Shigemi Inaga (International Research Center for Japanese Studies and the Graduate University for Advanced Study), commented as follows:

He referred to the International Research Center for Japanese Studies which he belongs to, and how their impact on international exchange is far from that of SGRA, which,  though a non-governmental body, manages to remain largely “international.”  He stated that the International Research Center could learn from the strategies used by SGRA.

Given the anxiety that scholars have about linguistic problems in submitting papers for international conferences, he showed his agreement in how SGRA adopted the forums in China, Korea and Taiwan. These forums are supported by simultaneous interpretation (the three “KA” seminars were an exception because English is an official language in the Philippines). Finally, he ended his comments by saying that:

・It is urgent to consider what Japanese Studies is and what value it should have.

・How to build platforms of results, knowledge and interpretation of Japanese studies in East Asian countries (non-Japanese speaking counties) which were discussed throughout the four presentations in this Forum?

・How to situate the field of “Japanese Studies”?


The next discussant was President ,  Prof. Shyu Shing Ching(Chinese Culture University Foreign Language, Japanese Literature)who summed up the four presentations mentioned above and gave us his impressions and comments as follows:

・In the “three KA” Seminars, in the Philippines, they successively took up environmental or natural issues, or fair redistribution of economic profit withstanding against the power of the time.

・In the Chinese Forum, they experimented with innovative ideas which focused on rebuilding cultural exchange in the arts and cultures of Japan and China.

Both countries have had strong connections in their cultural history.

・In the JKAFF, they could realize a sense of solidarity by having the forum mutually between Japan and Korea.

・At the first JTAFF, President, Prof. Shyu himself, as a promotor, made use of his own individual style. He could show the potential power of Taiwan as a pluralistic cultural society which has the ability to respond flexibly to social issues.

He gave comments encouraging us and pointed out that Raccoons in their own countries

have succeeded in developing their own activities catered to their own situations and needs. 


Prof. Liu Jie, as the chairperson, gave brief comments for each presentation and received

many questions from the audience.


We exchanged opinions on a wide range of issues. Questions started with enquiries about

the activities of the Atsumi International Foundation, Other questions include questions

about how to apply for funds for projects which would be held in countries other than the four countries presented about and know-how about setting up a common place for Raccoon members to exchange their opinion’. In response to those questions, our Director Ms. Imanishi as well as other Raccoons in the hall explained or advised.

From the buzzing atmosphere in the conference room alone, we could experience the

importance of conferences such as this about Japanese studies which can establish

 intellectual exchange by encouraging academic and cross-cultural dialogue.



All the Raccoon members who have returned to their home countries – Korea, the

Philippines, China and Taiwan – after graduation are so-called “Japan experts”.

They have accumulated their know-how for intellectual exchange through their

activities in their own organizations. I am convinced that such know-how can be brought

into an international exchange of intellectual information and give birth to new energy.  I hope that this energy can be taken in by international facilitators and extended to international networks and create a renewable cycle of intellectual exchange.


I participated in this conference as a panelist and a presenter and gained many new

fruitful experiences and precious memories.  Through exchanging opinions with other

Raccoon members and understanding their situations and efforts in their own countries,

I hope to develop an innovative approach and convey my understanding of developing

our networks of researchers of Japanese studies to my friends in Taiwan.

At this conference, I came to realize the meaning and necessity of forming consensus

through conversation.  


Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity to participate, and thank you to all the discussants, presenters and to the chair person.


Photos of the Day


Resume of Prof. Kim Woong-Hee

Resume of Prof. Ferdinand C. Maquito

Resume of Prof. Sun Jianjun

Resume of Chang Kuei-e


Refer to SGRA News (2019, January 24 ) in Japanese


(Chang_Kuei-E/Associate Professor, Department of Japanese Language and Literature, Soochow University(Taiwan))


Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Sonja Dale