SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

  • Cho_Suil “Korea-Japan relations are increasing chaos !? ”

    While Korea-Japan relations are becoming increasingly chaotic, I would like to look back on my short life as a foreign student in Japan, my individual connection with Japan and I would like to mention about the Korea- Japan relation in the 21st century.  [TV animations]I was born in 1982 (Showa 57 in Japanese era ) and spent my student life in Seoul, Korea. When I entered “national school”, I have enjoyed TV animations like “Tetsujin 28”, “Mazinger Z”, “Tetuwan Atom (Astro Boy)”, “Science Ninja Team Gatchaman”, and “Honoh no Tokyuji, Dodge Danpei” etc..  In my junior and high school time, I have enjoyed “Slum Dunk”. *On March 1,1996, the name “national school” (vestige of Japanese colonial rule) was changed to“primary school”.  It was in 2001, when I became the university student, I came to know that those enthusiastic animations were imported from Japan. Actually, I was not so interested in Japanese people, Japanese language, Japanese culture and Japanese history. I wanted to be a teacher, so I enrolled in the Japanese Language Education Department according to my score in the entrance examination. I was shocked to hear those animations were made in Japan from a friend who was familiar about Japanese culture. It was because of the character`s Korean name and the Korean language they spoke.   When I came to Japan for the first time in 2006 for the purpose of learning Japanese language, I have been crazy, rather than textbooks, about colored “Slum Dunk” in 24 volumes which I bought at a nearby secondhand book store. I took it back to Korea and read it over repeatedly.  [Okinawa, Nagasaki, Yakiniku]  In 2006, during my language training period in Japan, I went to Catholic Church every Sunday morning together with my roommate. I went to Okinawa together with Japanese, Chinese and Korean believers in June and prayed for the war deaths in the battle of Okinawa.  I learned about the past and the present of Okinawa by visiting the battle site, Peace Memorial Park, Futenma U.S. Military Base and Shuri-Jo (castle). We stayed at a religious house for five days having breakfast made by the Sisters. We travelled in Okinawa by micro bus and I could not forget enthusiastic voice of an Okinawa-born clergyman who guided us. Especially, he repeated “I am not a Japanese” which made me feel embarrassed and made me to notice that I have to study Japanese more. It might be an instant when I changed and selected my way to a scholar.  This time, Okinawa tour was planned by the father of the church where I used to visit for praying, He was born in Nagasaki and took me to Nagasaki so that, I could visit Catholic churches, Endo Shusaku Literature Museum and Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. I read the names of Korean victims whose name were inscribed in the Foundation of Peace at the Peace Memorial Park in Okinawa. I saw names of Korean workers who were victims of atomic bombs at Hiroshima on August 6 and at Nagasaki on August 9, in 1945. It made me realized sincerely that I, as a teacher, cannot teach Japanese without knowing their existence and meaning of Korean victims who came to Japan in the foreign land.    When I came to Japan first, I could not progress my Japanese conversation ability despite of Level 2 (N2) ranking at Japanese-Language Proficiency Test. I worked as a part-time at a Yakiniku restaurant. It was strange for me to see Korean words, like ‘kalbi’, ‘kimchi (Korean lettuce)’, ‘kakuteki (cubed daikon kimchi)’, ‘Oi-Kimchi’, ‘sanchu (Korean lettuce)’, ‘gukpa’, ‘ bibimbap’ and ‘chijimi (Korean pancake)’. Some people say that such Korean words in Japan began to be used currently after the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. The Yakiniku restaurant, where I was working, was run by a family.  I was able to take staff meals and enjoy free alcoholic drinks after work.  The staffs who were working there were all Japanese except me, so that I was able to practice Japanese by asking everything that I was worried about. There is no exaggeration to say that communications and understanding with profound Japanese, whom I met at Yakiniku restaurant, have broken my walls of prejudice toward Japanese and changed my life.  [A piece of memory at my national school]Going back to my national school time (March, 1989 - February, 1995), I would like to say about the Korean War which broke out on June 25, 1950. When the day, June 25 was near, we drew anti-communist posters and had anti-communist speech contests in school. At first, I thought that only demons and devils live in North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). On other hand, we sang the national anthem in which words like “Beckdu Mountain (白頭山) 2744m” or “Mountain Kumgang (金剛山) 1638m” are included.  We wrote posters and sang songs both of which are just for our hope “unification” and we were thinking that the North and the South will be unified in these five or ten years. In the year 1994, when I was in the sixth year at our national school, the Premier Kim Il-sung passed away. In our school, an announcement was made to turn on the televisions where his death was reported. I thought the unification of the North and the South would be materialized soon. Twenty-five years has already passed, but we are still divided.        [The Millennium between Korea and Japan starts from dialogue and human love]  On October 8, 1998, President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister, Keizo Obuchi agreed on the Joint Declaration on the Korea-Japan Partnerships toward the 21st Century.  In the Declaration, both of the countries agreed that they would talk about the ideal friendships and build new partnerships between two countries reconfirming the present amicable friendships.  Based on this agreement, “Common undertakings for foreign students from science and technology departments of both countries” was established. Korean students, who graduated high schools, were invited to the departments of science and technology of Japanese national universities and learned for four years. Since the year 2000 when this program started, about two thousand Korean students have studied under this program.  Regret to say, however, this program ended in 2018.  In October, 1998, there was a memorable change. The Korean Government released Japanese public cultures which were prohibited to import and we were able to touch with Japanese public cultures like movies or cartoons legally.  Unfortunate to say, I have to touch with “the accident at Shin-okubo station where a passenger fell down from platform”. At around 19:00, on January 26, 2001, a drunken man fall down to railroad track and a Japanese cameraman together with Korean students jumped down on the track to save him. But, unfortunately, all three of them were run over by the train to death. A plate for morning and praising for the death of victims were founded at stairs just between the platform and the ticket gate of the station. On January 26, every year, they have a remembrance event for Lee Su-hyon, Korean student who passed away at the accident. “LSH(initials of Lee Su-hyon) Scholarship” was established by voluntary fund-raising of the people and is said to be a symbol of friendship between Korea and Japan.          Success in the FIFA World Cup in 2002, which was jointly organized by Korea and Japan is still fresh in our memories. On December 19, 2002, Roh Moo-hyun was elected as 16th President against all the expectations. He visited Japan from June 6 to 9, 2003, held summit meetings and spoke with political figures. He also made a speech at the Japanese parliament, and appeared on the TBS news program, "Hundred People Hundred Heats, President Roh Moo-Hyun's Real Intent", and had heart to heart talks with Japanese people for around one and half hour. Looking back from now on, it is an exceptional thing and I think that it is necessary now.  It is the millennium now for both countries. Both of us, Korea and Japan, cannot forget have started to deepen mutual understanding through exchanges based on human love and dialogue. (To be Continue) SGRA Kawaraban 611 in Japanese (Original) Cho_Suil / Graduated School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo, Fellowships from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala 
  • Hourieh_Akbari “We are still in Japan!”

    Thirty years ago, back in the 1980s, I came to Japan when I was only three years old with my family.  My father was an Iranian student in Japan. At that time, it was very rare for an Iranian to study in Japan and it is said that he was the first generation to study abroad in Japan.  Japan’s economy was in top form back then, during the “bubble era.” This news reached Iran as well and people in Iran were looking for jobs as this was just after the Iranian Revolution.  In 1974, the “Visa Mutual Waiver Agreement” was concluded between Iran and Japan and we could visit Japan without a visa. Due to such changes, Iranian youth began to visit and stay in Japan looking for jobs. It is said that in the year 1992, more than 40 thousand Iranians - the highest number ever - were in Japan. Our family was also living in Japan in that period.  I do not know why Iranians have been gathering together around Ueno Park in Tokyo. On Sunday, Ueno Park became a “mini-Persian town” and a place to exchange information over Iranian foods. Sometimes, famous Iranian singers or artists came to the park to have concerts. I have a memory of our family going to Ueno for Iranian foods, music and movies.  Looking back, I have a strange memory of my father whom I believed to have been busy in preparing his doctoral thesis. When I was in the third grade of elementary school, he went out around 11 o’clock in the evening a few times a week in a luxurious car and came back the next morning. Feeling anxious about this, one day I asked my mother about it, thinking that my father had a part-time job at night because he was busy in the day.  My mother told me that a lot of Iranians were in prison for illegally overstaying.  Japanese police stations were short of interpreters for Persian and Japanese at the time and asked Iranian students such as my father to interpret.  In 1995, we returned to Iran when my father completed his studies in Japan.  Other Iranian people who had been working in Japan also began to return.  After my return to Iran, I had the chance to talk with Iranian people who had been working in Japan. When I talked with my mother in Japanese in places where there were a lot of people, we communicated freely as we assumed that Iranian people could not understand Japanese.  When we talked in Japanese in taxies or supermarkets, I was surprised on many an occasion by taxi drivers saying “I understand Japanese” or “your Japanese is very good”.  In my schooldays, I was teaching Japanese to ordinary citizens at the University of Tehran.  Some Iranians who had lived in Japan took my class and told me about their memories of Japan in the 1980s, bringing up Japanese soberness and politeness.  In 2013, eighteen years after my first visit to Japan, I came to Japan again as an Iranian student. In my doctoral course, I started my research in the field of sociolinguistics, focusing on Iranian people who have stayed in Japan for more than five years.  I aimed at an investigation of the actual situation of their use of the Japanese language.  I tried to listen to their life stories as much as possible, because their life stories relate to their abilities of speaking Japanese after their studies of the language.  Students were included in my field of research, of course. However, it was also true that many Iranians who came over to Japan in the 1980s were laborers. Some of them were married and had their families in Japan, and some of them were running good Persian food restaurants or supermarkets.   Whenever I start my interviews with these individuals, sitting in front of them and asking them to “please, tell me your “life story”, I always have a strange feeling. They came to Japan in their twenties and are in their forties or fifties now. I came to Japan as a schoolgirl and am an adult woman now. And I am sitting in front of them as a researcher. Our paths might have been different, but I have a feeling that we share something in common.     It is a fact that “we are still in Japan.” We love Japan and are sharing our memories, be they happy or terrible. We thank Japan for Japan has made us grow and gain many experiences. We are sharing wonderful lessons with each other.  Hereafter, I will continue to look into the Iranian community in Japan.  Though we are living in Japan with some similar background and reasons, we will grow and have our own way of living.  I would like to convey the stories of our small communities to the Japanese people.   SGRA Kawaraban 601 in Japanese (Original) Hourieh_Akbari / 2017 Raccoon, Researcher at Chiba University (Graduate School of Humanities and Studies on Public Affairs) Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale
  • Kimiya Tadashi:“How to overcome the critical situation between Japan and Korea?”

     Just after the G-20 Osaka Summit in June 2019, the third North Korea-United States summit was held at Panmunjon (板門店), Korea.  And on July 1st, immediately after the G-20 Summit, the Japanese Government released a press release about the regulatory measures of the METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)’s licensing policies and procedures on exports of controlled items to the Republic of Korea. At first, given the timing of the announcement, most people thought that it was a “countermeasure” against the government of President Moon Jae-in who did not respond to the judicial decision regarding the wartime laborers by the Korean Supreme Court in October 2018. People anticipated that it could be possible that the Japanese Government would take countermeasures against this if the assets of Japanese companies in Korea would be forcefully cashed by the Korean government for reparation purposes, which would result in visible damages to Japanese companies.  The rights of Korean sufferers, who could not get any relief, should be reinstated.But, it should be done on the basis of “The Agreement for the Rights to Claims between Japan and Korea” which was signed in 1965 as the foundation of the “promise between the two countries”.  However, the Korean Supreme Court has tried to supersede the conditions of the agreement, despite the sentences being “perfectly and irreversibly” declared by interpreting “an extent of the agreement” in narrower terms than the “intention of lawmakers”.  Such an understanding might be supported in South Korea. However, in Japan, it has hardly been accepted.  These differences should have been resolved as “diplomatic issues”. Accordingly, South Korea should have sought agreement with the Japanese side through negotiation or made a proposal which does not go against judicial decisions and the agreement.In any case, this issue should be handled by the government of President Moon Jae-in.  Response by the government of President Moon Jae-in after the judicial decision was slow. President Moon himself, who had the experience of a counsel for a similar lawsuit, might have held the conviction that Japanese companies should provide compensation. Surrounding staff members might have thought favorably of President Moon. In Japan, there is the opinion that responsibility for this judicial decision should belong to the government of President Moon. However, the “original judgement” was made at a small claims court in the Supreme Court in May 2015, the last period of President Lee Myung-bak. Park Geun-hye, the following President, tried to take some countermeasures considering the potential destructive impact it might have on Japan and South Korea relations.  But, she failed as she was soon impeached and dismissed.  Furthermore, the head of the Supreme Court was arrested under the government of President Moon, the reason being that he exercised illegal “judicial monopoly” by trying to adjust relations between administration and judicature.  In Korea, people strongly believe that the Korean Government should negotiate with the Japanese Government to accept the judgement by the Korean Supreme Court and the Japanese Government and companies should abide by the judgement. I personally think it should be left to the judgement of the companies whether they follow the judgement or not. As for the Japanese government, they consider that the judgement by the Korean Supreme court is against “The Agreement for the Rights to Claims between Japan and Korea” which was made “perfectly and irreversibly”. This means that if the judicial procedures in Korea proceed as is, the Japanese government would have to take some “counter measures”.  However, how can we justify “counter measures” which the Japanese Government took before Japanese companies experienced any visible damages? Furthermore, they explained that they decided to take “export regulatory measures” for security reasons given that strategic goods or techniques are being outsourced to third party countries (such as North Korea or China) . in the belief that they would not get any support internationally for their “counter measures”.     In any case, we cannot deny either side regardless of the explanation by the Japanese government of what they regard as “protective counter measures” against the encashment of assets of Japanese companies in Korea. This measure has led to great tumult in Korea.  Far from being effective, the Japanese counter measure has brought about “solidarity” in Korea by encouraging a hardline stance against Japan. At first, Korean parties, both conservative and opposition, criticized the “no policy” stance against Japan by the Moon government. But, this criticism against the government changed to criticism against Japan. The wartime labor (victims of forced labor) issue, which was the reason for the “great tumult”, disappeared into thin air and Koreans now think that Japan is trying to make Korea yield through spiteful actions. Behind the act of boycotting (non-selling and non-buying) of Japanese goods in Korea, there seems to be a Korean “simple sense of justice” rather than anti-Japanese sentiment which came from the historical experience of Korea.   If Japan seriously considered this issue not as a simple “expedient” and did not consider Korea as “a problem country” from a security viewpoint, that would be a big change for Japanese diplomacy and security from previous standpoints.  We cannot deny the Abe administration’s new policy which can be called a “re-definition” of Japan and South Korea relations”.  They even deleted the sentence “Japan shares basic values, market economy and democracy, with South Korea” from governmental documents and even stated that they lowered the diplomatic order of priority for Korea.  As proof, Japan showed that South Korea sided with North Korea rather than staying with allied nations such as Japan and America, or that South Korea showed their ambiguous attitude in their response to the confrontation between America and China.  Japan should give a convincing explanation about not only South Korea but also America which shares an alliance with Japan and South Korea. Needless to say, Japan should give this explanation to a domestic as well as international audience.    At present, however, Japan has not given any explanation about their change in attitude toward South Korea for security reasons. We cannot evaluate the “counter measures” this time because there are a lot of incomprehensible parts to it. It may be difficult also to withdraw the “measure” without any reasons.   As for the judicial decision for the wartime laborers, which was a cause of the great tumult this time, I think it is necessary for Korea to present their proposals which are compatible with the judicial decision by the Korean Supreme Court and the Agreement for the Rights to Claim between Japan and Korea. Providing relief for the victims (wartime laborers) should be the basis of this proposal. It should not be on the basis of how to compensate the victims by Japanese companies. In other words, it should be on the basis for compensation by Korean and Japanese companies to take part in voluntarily under the initiative of the Korean government. It is necessary for the Japanese government also to boldly withdraw their “counter measure” if their anxiety can be cleared by talking with South Korea about national security.      Relations between Japan and South Korea have been unsymmetrical and complementary, but changed to symmetrical and competitive and compete with each other now under “justice”. So, it will be difficult to solve this issue on a so-called zero-sum basis: namely, either one side will be correct and the other side wrong. As far as this game continues, both sides will only end up miserable like the so-called “chicken game”.  This confrontation, which started directly from historical issues, is now extending to affect the economy and security.     What should we do?  It would be difficult to relieve or dissolve this confrontation without a clear government standpoint and direct negotiations. Japan and South Korea should consider the intentions of the other first.  They should judge what their top priority would be, how they would get it and what they would sacrifice. Then, it is necessary to proceed with their intellectual (not emotional) negotiation consciously and distinguish it from their diplomatic, security and social viewpoints. Not only political leaders but citizens also have to keep this situation of both countries in mind.  Now, there is a movement by nongovernmental organizations and/or local governmental bodies in Korea to discontinue their exchanges with Japan.  I want the government of President Moon Jae-in to be clear on their standpoint and forthrightly state whether this is an act that is necessary or not.  SGRA Kawaraban 604 in Japanese (Original)  Kimiya Tadashi /Professor of the University of Tokyo (Liberal Arts)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale
  • TSUNODA Eiichi “The 62th SGRA Forum ‘ Can Renewable Energy Change the World ? – Moving Beyond ‘ An Inconvenient Truth”

    The 62nd SGRA Forum “Can Renewable Energy Change the World – Moving Beyond “An Inconvenient Truth””, a joint session with the APYLP (Asian Pacific Young Leaders Program) and SGRA, was held on February 2, 2019 at the International House of Japan (Roppongi).*APYLP is a program organized by the International House of Japan for the purpose of connecting young leaders in the Asia Pacific region.   The theme of this forum was “renewable energy,” an issue which has made rapid progress since COP21 was agreed in 2015 in Paris. The purpose of the forum was to consider the possibility of renewable energy in our societies through considering the rapid progress of the past and its prospects in the future from the viewpoints of international politics and economy, environmental innovation, energy and community.*COP:Conference of the Parties “parties”:UNFCCC(The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) (気候変動枠組条約締約国会議) Summaries of the research papers and key-note speeches can be found below. .We started our morning session with an opening address by Ms. Junko Imanishi (Representative of SGRA), introduced by the moderator, Sonja Dale (Adjunct Professor, Hitotsubashi University), who was delighted with the full house of over 120 people.Three Raccoons presented about their research in the first session.Adjunct Professor Park Joonui (George Mason University) spoke about her research titled ” Renewable Energy in Trade Wars: Solar Power in South Korea’s Energy Mix and the Impact of Protectionism”.She discussed how the environmental policies under President Moon seem to be too ambitious, how China is monopolizing the market through mass-production as a state policy, and the protectionist stance of the US. She ended her presentation with a warning about the present situation in Korea in which the business of renewable energy is becoming distorted because of the decline in the solar cell industry in Korea, and emphasized the necessity of changing Korean national policy.The second presentation was made by Professor Gao Weijun, University of Kitakyushu、and was titled “Chinese Policy on Renewable Energy and the Direction of Environmental Improvement”. He surveyed present environmental problems in China and discussed the necessity of change in renewable energy to overcome the serious environmental pollutions at present. Professor Gao introduced large-scale domestic and overseas projects which are being carried out by government initiatives. However, he emphasized that the government should establish meticulous environmental policies in order to avoid favoring big projects.The third presenter was Associate Professor, Yeh Wen-chang, Shimane University.His presentation was titled “How low can the cost of solar power go? What tasks lie ahead?” He discussed the many innovative possibilities for reducing generating costs by solar cells, and shared his method of cost calculation for PV (photovoltaics-太陽光発電). He also called for the necessity of innovation in the combined accumulation and generation of electricity.   We had a coffee break in the garden under the spring sunshine. In the second session we heard about the situation in Iitate Village, Fukushima Prefecture. In Iitate, they are trying to promote the generation of renewable energy for regional industries. The purpose of this attempt was to gain energy independence and restore the environment after the Fukushima nuclear power incident. Mr. Kenta Satoh, a member of the Iitate Village Assembly, looked back at the damage caused by the incident on March 11, 2011 and the experiences of people who had lived as evacuees for seven years up until last year.  He explained the meaning and vision of generating renewable energy as a core for the reinvigoration of Iitate Village and as a community development project.Mr. Kei Kondo, Iitate Power Company, discussed their efforts to generate solar energy in Iitate on a small scale and spoke about the difficulty of increasing their production capacity within regional levels under the present regulations in Japan.    In the afternoon session, we had two keynote speeches and smaller panel discussions. The first key-note speech, titled “Global Shifts in Renewable Energy,” was given by Associate Professor, Llewelyn Hughes from Australian National University,.  He gave an overview of the world-wide shift towards low carbon energy and pointed out its necessity for climate change. He explained the Japanese policy for energy which, though promoting low-carbon energy, has no clear guidelines.The second keynote speaker was Mr. Hans-Josef Fell, President of Energy Watch Group (ex-Member of German Parliament), who gave a talk titled  “German Experience of Energiewende and Community Power”.  He discussed his experience of community organization by PV business operators in 1994, the first in the world. He also played a role in the establishment of the EEG (Renewable Energy Act) bill in the German Parliament, and has been working for the promotion of renewable energy around the world under the slogan “Renewable Energy 100,” a program which aims at the actualization of renewable energy societies.    After the five presentations and two keynote speeches, we separated into three separate panel sessions - “global shifts/international economy”, “environment/innovation” and “energy and community”.    In this forum, we sought to discuss solutions for problems as well as the possibilities for actualizing renewable energy societies in a single day, and we handled topics from various fields. It was not easy to integrate and assimilate these different fields and findings. I personally thought that we could share, at least, the knowledge of not only the presenters but also all of the participants, and the awareness that there is no turning back in of the global shift towards de-carbonization and renewable energy.This shift is inevitable. From the presentations, however, it became clear that this process would not go so smoothly. It also became clear that every country and every field has their own problems to solve. We cannot say that all the questions could be solved.For example, when we think of climate change and using up natural resources which has been actualized as global warming, shifting to renewable energy (non-carbon energy) would be an urgent issue for all societies on earth. We, as a result of entering big capital enterprises, may be able to change the present global environmental problems by shifting to natural energy from fossil fuel. However, even if we change the source of our power on a large scale, we cannot change the substance of civilization itself, which is supported by mass-production and mass-consumption. In the panel sessions, the many protests and demonstrations in Japan and Europe were discussed, and the issue of gigantic mega-solar power systems which are destroying the scenery and circumstances of societies. The problems of environmental pollutants which are being discharged in the process of production of solar panels were also discussed, as were other problems such as the introduction of FIT (Feed-in Tariff:(売電の)固定価格買取制度)  and the problems it caused for late-comers in entering the market and the effects of FIT on finance in Germany. The necessity of technical innovation in technology for the storage of electricity was also discussed.  As a matter of course, I do not think that an issue related to the future of the earth such as this can be solved easily.  We should be cautious of haste in discussing issues such as this.  Surely, it is a reality that societies using renewable energy will spread and expand in the world and this trend or wave is only growing. The sub-title of the forum is “moving beyond “An Inconvenient Truth,”” which is the title of the book written by Al Gore, ex-Vice President of the United States, which was written as a cautionary tale about the problem of global warming.“An Inconvenient Truth” is one which goes against the currents and thoughts of current time, and is not liable to be talked about or hidden.In the discussion of renewable energy, it became clear that in the Fukushima nuclear power incident, a lot of “inconvenient truths” were being hidden and not talked about.  I hope that many of these “inconvenient truths” will be discussed more openly and with more frequency, and not be hidden nor neglected at the level of citizenship for the purpose of establishing our consensus for spread of renewable energy.   SGRA News in Japanse (Original) on 14th March, 2019 Photos of the Day  (TSUNODA Eiichi / Secretary General, Atsumi International Foundation)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale       
  • CHIANG Yung Po “’Academic Independence’ and Myself”

    Recently, China has made remarkable economic progress. In the academic world, however, we are unable to see similar progress. Among the scholars whom I have been indebted to, there have been some who have been communicating with scholars in China. Their essays, which were scheduled to be published in China, were sometimes prohibited from publication because of censorship. However, owing to the persistent endeavors of their friends in China, these essays were published with certain parts blacked out. When I talked with a professor about this phenomenon, he pointed out that if an essay has been partially censored, we cannot say that it is the same essay. He then explained about the spirit of “academic independence” in Waseda University. As a graduate of Waseda University, and from the standpoint of “academic independence”, I do find some agreement with his uncompromising spirit. However, I did feel some conflict over it. If not for censored publication, there might be a possibility that they cannot dispatch any information at all or that they have to give up on contributing their essays under the threat of censorship. Dispatching information under any difficult circumstances would be a different form of “academic independence”.     In Taiwan, my native country, there is no such censorship. However, “academic independence” is being challenged in a different way. When we talk about Taiwan overseas, we are asked if we support independence or unification. Actually, there are considerable supporters for both independence and unification in Taiwan. If we are allowed to have our own thoughts, siding with either independence or unification would be a form of “personal freedom”. It is in a “democratic country” that we can respect each other although we may have different opinions. However, confrontation in political ideology in Taiwanese society has taken a serious turn. Some researchers “work-out” their research in order to create a logical backing to assert their thoughts. One typical example is the “Taiwanese heritage dispute” which was based on the doctrine that “85% of Taiwanese have the heritage of Taiwanese aborigines”, which was published by Professor Lim M, National Taiwan University College of Medicine. Such a doctrine was hard for me to understand given that I am a researcher of modern history. A famous jurist, Santaro Okamatu, who crafted the Taiwanese Private Law in the colonial period of Taiwan, gave a statement which said that “all people in Taiwan have Chinese ethnicity, and do not belong to the primitive race. People have their own special cultures and characteristics.” There are some discriminatory terms in this statement, but we get the impression that Taiwan, in the colonial period under Imperial Japan before the war, consisted of Chinese (Han) people who had a specific culture and characteristics. There were some who had marital relations between such Chinese race and aborigines. But, such relations were very few. Moreover, they were not hostile against each other, but rather were not interested in the other and lived in “different worlds”. We can find this account in many historical documents. Before the war, we used the term “Go-yo (御用)” to preface words which related to the Office of the Government of Formosa, like “Go-yo newspapers”, “Go-yo merchants” or “Go-yo scholars”. However, according to recent studies, even newspapers which were known as “Go-yo newspapers” carried many articles which criticize government policies.  According to my research, professors of Taiwan Imperial University, who have been labelled “Go-yo scholars” were engaged in working for the government and practiced their “academic independence” despite the harsh environment, keeping their dignity and fulfilling their responsibilities.  Another example is the “Preservation of Historical and Scenic Spots and Natural Monuments” which was initiated by the Office of the Government -General in the 1930s.  There were many “new” historical spots possessed by Taiwan under Imperial Japan which implied their political intentions. On the other hand, there are also other spots which were designated variously while under the Netherlands, the time of Koxinga or the Qing dynasty. These spots which were designated before Imperial Japan are precious and valuable for Taiwan today and are linked to Taiwanese identity. The three cases mentioned above differ in time and the place. Yet, from them we can realize the importance of “academic independence”. In recent years, historical revisionism has become an issue. I, as a researcher of history, think it is my mission to convey historical facts to people without any bias. And, as a graduate of Waseda University, I will conduct my research with “academic independence” in mind.However, I do not think that “academic independence” only belongs to graduates of Waseda.  Rather, “academic independence” should be shared with researchers of all fields and from different countries and universities. That is why I decided to write this column.      SGRA Kawaraban 597 in Japanese (Original)  (Chiang Yung_Po / 2018 Raccoon, Research Assistant, Research Institute of Law in East Asia, Waseda University)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale   
  • Borjigin Husel “The 11th Ulaanbaatar International Symposium ‘Kyakhta and Khuree:A View from Eurasia’ ”

    Since the Japan-Russia Summit Meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Putin, the Kuril Islands dispute has been reported on and in the global spotlight often. Actually, the year 2018 was “the Japan Year in Russia” and “the Russian Year in Japan” and, at the same time, the Hundred Year Anniversary of the Siberian Intervention. Commemorating those events, we decided the title of the 11th Ulaanbaatar Symposium to be “Kyakhta and Khuree:A View from Eurasia”.   Historically, Kyakhta was not just a trading center but a political and military center as well. Important international meetings were held there often, which affected the establishment of the order of North-East Asia. After the middle of the 19th Century, a lot of Jews and Tatars came to Khakhta, a place of refuge for them. On the other hand, Japanese have been interested in Siberia including Khakhta since the Meiji era and across the Korean Peninsula and the Qing Dynasty.  Between the latter part of the 19th Century and early years of the 20th Century, many Japanese politicians, diplomats and intelligence officers such as Takeaki Enomoto, Kiyotaka Kuroda, Yasumasa Fukushima, and merchants or karayukisan (Japanese working at brothels abroad) visited Khakhta. There were many Japanese shops and hospitals. It is said as a myth that the Japanese economic growth was established after the World War II, but that the foundation of this growth was already established in the 19th Century.I think it very meaningful to study the histories of Kyakhta and Khree (the former of Ulaanbaatar) from viewpoints of area-studies and international relations which include relations between not only Russia and the Qing Dynasty but relations with Japan.     In the evening of August 30, 2018, the day before the symposium, the Japanese Ambassador to Mongolia, Masato Takaoka, invited President Tomoko Kaneko (Showa Women’s University), Honorary Professor Hiroshi Futaki, and Lecturer Akira Kamimura (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies), Professor Kunio Minato (Kochi University), and myself to dinner. We had a pleasant talk about politics, the exploitation of mines, the International ‘Memory’ Olympic (Mongol has been in the top the past few years) , grand Sumo tournaments, and the relations between Japan and Mongolia.   We had “The 11th Ulaanbaatar International Symposium ‘Kyakhta and Khuree: A View from Eurasia’ ” on August 31, 2018 at the conference hall in the 2nd Building of Mongol National University, and hosted by SGRA (Sekiguchi Global Research Association) of Atsumi International Foundation, the Institute of International Culture of Showa Women’s University, and Department of Asian Studies, Mongolian National University jointly. The Japanese Embassy in Mongolia, Showa Women’s University, Institute of International Affairs of Mongolian Academy of Science, the Mitsubishi Foundation and the Association for the History and Culture of the Mongols supported us. More than eighty scholars and students from Mongolia, Japan, Russia, China and Germany participated. At the opening ceremony Ambassador Masato Takaoka (Japanese Ambassador to Mongolia), President Tomoko Kaneko (Showa Women’s University), and  G.Chuluunbaatar, (First Vice President, Mongolian Academy of Sciences) gave their congratulatory speeches. After this, we had research reports. The official languages at the symposium were Mongol and Japanese. However, many presentations were made in Mongol and we provided interpreters for presentations in Japanese. The executive committee selected fifteen reports from 22 invited researchers and applicants to improve the quality of the symposium reports. Unfortunately, one of the young researchers from Poland could not get a visa and we had 14 presentations in the end. The purpose of the symposium was to look back at recent research first and study the history, politics, economy and cultures of Kyakhta and Khuree with a view from Eurasia based on recently discovered historical records. Through exploring and discussing these issues we aimed to develop a creative and fruitful discussion for the restoration of our pride and glory. At the reception party at night, we could enjoy “Morin khuur”(馬頭琴:stringed musical instrument of Mongolian origin), Urtyn duu (Long song), and dances. To conclude, I would like to sum up our results as follows: It is noteworthy that there were many reports which utilize maps of Kyakhta and outer Mongolia which scholars could not use much in the past.Progress has been made in research about international agreements which relate to Kyakhta.New theories about the present of Kyakhta and Khuree using fresh data or materials were presented. Please refer to “Research on Mongolia and North-East Asia” No.4 and “Bulletin of the Academy of Japan and Mongol” No. 49.  You can refer to the Mongolian newspaper “Soyombo”, “Red Star” and symposium that was broadcast by Mongol TV about this symposium.  SGRA News in Japanese (Original) on 12th April ,2019 Photos of the day  (Husel Borjigin / 2003 Raccoon, Professor, International Studies, Showa Women’s University)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale
  • Kim Woonghee “Report on the 18th Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum : Japan-Korea Relations -Present Position and Improvement Plan”

    On March 23, 2019, we had the 18th Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum at the Institute of Future Manpower (未来人力研究院) in Seoul, Korea.  When we had the 4th Asia Future Conference in August 2018 in Seoul, we planned to re-start planning for this event after considering the past results and problems of the forum. However, Ms. Imanishi made an urgent request and we decided to hold the forum at this time. The background of her urgent request was the unusual development of political relations between Japan and Korea, which has recently broken away from the  established norms. For this forum,we invited five specialists each from both countries. They exchanged their frank opinions on why relations between the two countries has become worse, how they judge the present situation, and what we should do to overcome the present problems.      Following the opening address by SGRA Director Junko Imanishi, two specialists from Japan and Korea each gave their key-note speeches. Professor Tadashi Kimiya, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo spoke first under the title “How to ‘scientifically’ analyze and practice Japan-Korea relations” According to his explanation, towing to the opposition and preference of policies in both countries, the confrontation between them was left alone rather than amplified. In the past, the two countries would cover each other by emphasizing the commonality of their oppositions and preferences for their policies. He said that it would be possible to form minimal consent although it may be difficult to cooperate with each other to establish closer bonds. And, there are already good relations between the citizens of both countries which can make the situation between them controllable. He ended by emphasizing the need to restrain from actions which make it difficult to ease confrontations between the two countries.   Professor Li Wong Dok, Kookmin University (国民大学), presented on “The relations between Korea and Japan: The present situation and a perspective for improvement.” He started off by explaining the strange phenomena that Korean people are still actively coming and going despite facing the worst political situation with Japan. The Japanese dislike of Korea and anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea are getting worse gradually and he judged that we can see the reverse phenomena in relations between Japan and Korea, namely the relations between offender and victims. He said that the “issue of conscripted workers” is the leading cause in the recent deteriorating political atmosphere in the relations of both countries and presented three possible solutions. The first solution is leaving it as it is. The second is establishing a foundation. The third is judicial settlement (arbitration committee or the International Judicial Court).  He opined that the third scenario is the most possible way for resolution.       After the coffee break, we had a fruitful free discussion. 黄永植, Ex-Chief Editor, Hankook Ilbo(韓国日報), criticized that freedom of speech in Korea is shrinking and intellectuals are keeping silent. He emphasized that we should not overestimate the importance of the issue of conscripted workers. Ms. Akiko Horiyama, head of the Seoul Branch of the Mainichi Shimbun, urged that now is the time when the Korean Government should answer. Professor Kan Kimura, Kobe University, said that “a collapse of governance”, which we saw in the 1990s in Japan, is seen in Korean governmental policy to Japan and it’s recovery is important now. As for the issue of conscripted workers, it would be desirable to appeal to the International Court of Justice.Professor Park Yong-Jun, National Defense University, explained the necessity of the practical use of the “Japan axis” in the process of denuclearization and peace.Jun-ichi Toyoura, the head of the Seoul Branch of the Yomiuri Shinbun, pointed out that regarding the issue of conscripted workers which has been left alone for more than five months, if the Japanese Government would appeal to the International Court of Justice, it would mean a defeat by the Japanese Government against Korea. There is no other choice than establishing a foundation.Associate Professor, Nobuo Haruna, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, suggested the necessity of relativization of the relations between the two nations which does not stick to the present framework of “Korea is victim and Japan is wrongdoer”. Professor Kimiya commented that denuclearization by North Korea is more important than the “issue of conscripted workers”. Professor Nam Ki-Jong (南基正), Japan Institute, Seoul National University, emphasized the necessity of “Declaration of History” by both counties which acknowledges the role and process specifying the compensation by the Japanese Government. He also said that appealing to the ICJ is just “rhetoric” and both counties should try to solve the issue positively. Associate Professor Kim Sung-be, Chungnam National University, said that the odds are against Korea but we should proceed with the discussion.Lastly, Li Jing-gyu, the chairman of the board of directors, the Institute of Future Manpower commented about the timely selection of the theme and ended the forum with his closing address. After the closing address at around 17;30, we had a social gathering and the atmosphere of our office changed to a wine-bar.  As expected, our wine cellar became empty and we enjoyed “a frenzied night” again like the past Japan-Korea Asia Future Forums. Usually, when we say “we exchanged frank opinions” or “we had a heart-to-heart talk”, it means we could not reach a consensus. At this forum, however, as we could have an in-depth debate, we cannot say that we did not achieve this. At international meetings with experts from various fields, the shouldering of national standings or interests is often discussed. At this forum we saw that discussions were divided by individual ideals and not by just by nationalities. We had a feeling that there was a level-headed evaluation of the policies by Moon Jae-in, the President of Korea to “bury the past pro-Japan” or “collapse of governance against Japan”.  Needless to say, the good relationship between Japan and Korea is essential for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, establishing a peaceful system, and peace and prosperity in North-East Asia. In the relationship between the two countries, if only straightforward “principles” are discussed there will be no appeal. If they discuss based on “sentiment”, which is not straightforward, a good solution cannot be attained.  Recently, “principle” or “sentiment” are not so workable. If they try to manage only by “fear” which exists behind everything, the relationship between both countries would falter. It will be important to balance the three factors of “principle”, “sentiment” and “fear” from now on. Thank you to all the people who contributed to the success of our 18th Forum, Director Imanishi, Chairman Li and Ms. Ishii who kindly sent us the Japanese sake “Haru-shika” and other necessary goods for the party.     SGRA News in Japanese (original) on 2nd May, 2019 Photos of the day  (Kim Woonghee /1996 Raccoon, Professor of  Inha University (Korea))  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale
  • Sim Choon Kiat “An Active Singaporean Struggles for Active Learning in Japanese Universities”

    No one would object to me declaring that “I am very active”.In my childhood, I used to play the cornet as a member of the marching band / chamber concert band in primary school. In middle and high school, I switched to theatrical club and was an actor and concurrently scriptwriter cum director until I came to Japan to study. The reason why I switched was because of the warm climate in Singapore. It was just too tough to play an instrument in the marching band under the blazing sun.After coming to Japan to study, I returned to the theatrical field again while working as a government official. I appeared twice a year on the stage of the Singapore National Theater as a semiprofessional actor up until I went to graduate school in Japan. Due to this hidden career, once I appear on the stage or in front of people, I am still in the habit of straightening my posture and raising my voice in order to attract attention and treat leading actors and the guest of honor with due respect. When I talk about teaching in universities in Japan as my new “stage”, there was a world of difference from Singapore. Whatever you may say, the reaction from students in Japan is very subdued. Sometimes, everyone keeps silent, like putting on a “Noh” face.Since I have been studying in Japanese universities for more than ten years as an undergraduate, a Masters student and a PhD student, I can say I know well the “inactiveness” of Japanese students.There is scarcely any passionate discussion even in a class at the graduate school of the University of Tokyo, which is said to be the top educational institution in Japan. I am not sure whether these students are just trying to express Japanese “refinedness(奥ゆかしさ)”, or if they do not want what they say to be considered foolish, or if they are just not thinking anything.  Anyway, it is very, very quiet in the Japanese university classroom, so much so that the saying “silence is golden” feels sacred here. This situation is the reason why the Ministry of Education in Japan is now urging schools and universities to practice “active learning”. They strongly encourage schools to develop group discussion, debate and group-work in classes to solve problems actively. I, as an active teacher, do not let such students continue keeping on a “Noh” face, even if the Ministry of Education would not urge this. In other words, I, being so active on the stage, am too proud to leave such students alone. But, since such students have been getting a passive education sitting on hard chairs for a long time, it is not easy to get them to open their silent mouths. I asked them to write comments on reaction papers after class, which many university teachers also do. I forbid them from writing simple reactions which a lot of students in primary schools are apt to use, such as “I was surprised when I know XXX”, “I learned a lot from XXX”, “I am interested in XXX”, and “I enjoyed a lot from XXX “.  I told them I would subtract points for using such simple phrases, and asked them to write their doubts, questions or counterarguments.  I presented several good comments on Power-point as the basis for further discussion in the following class. I can say now that it proved to be effective because many students  tried after that to write meaningful comments that would be taken up in the next class.I also decided to pass students the microphone because I realized that students have a lot to say and thought I would let them discuss further. I did this because writing reaction papers is a form of “reactive learning”, not active learning. As a matter of course, when many students are given a microphone, they turn their faces away, or could not say anything, or opined irrelevantly.It was like an improvised play for me in that I could not try to lead any response or opinion and , had to create an environment in which any response or utterance would be acceptable.. This is why active learning is far more difficult than one-way teaching in which teachers just keep speaking. What I like to emphasize here is that it is not OK to just keep discussing nor for students to just speak any opinion. If fruitful discussions, which are based on academic theories or knowledge, cannot be developed, then it is just a brainstorming session in which they just exchange their opinions.Then, what should we do?  It is not easy to explain fully in this paper.  I will just say that I want to make use of my experience on the stage on this new stage that is the university classroom.  I have had many questions in my mind over the past several years: even if there is fruitful discussion, is it alright that only teachers provide topics or subject of discussion?  Is it necessary for teachers to prepare their teaching materials by themselves? We are now in a time when students can find out any information they want if they check Google.  So, in several of my classes, I, as a teacher, decided to ask students to decide on a concrete theme by themselves although I suggest a rough idea in the syllabus.For example, in an “Introduction to Social Problems” course, I asked students to decide the subjects and questions by themselves. In a lecture of “Theories of Modern Society”, they decided by themselves how to present their opinions or which country and subject to take up. When students present their opinions, I asked them to stop reading in the same monotone manner that Japanese politicians or public officials use when they are afraid of reading mistakenly. If they do so, points would be subtracted. Do not think that it got easier for me by leaving students to be independent or to direct themselves. On the contrary, it became more important for me to prepare myself further to face a situation in which students may choose any subject. As such, I became an “ultra-active” teacher. I have never specified textbooks and have decided to stop distributing lecture materials when I have classes in a computer room. In other words, I have stopped lecturing itself. The reason for this is that I have determined that it is alright once students gather reliable information from searching on the internet and make the most suitable textbook by themselves after I instruct them on the main subject. I allowed students to do this alone or put their thoughts together with group members. Walking around the class, I sometimes spoke highly of a student who put her ideas together using her own words and good materials. Or, I gave questions to the students who just “copy and pasted” wrong or false information. Needless to say, you may be able to imagine that such teachers become busier in class. I cannot write much about my “battle” because of the space limitations of this essay.Fortunately, the classroom environment mentioned above is being evaluated highly and students themselves are also gradually changing.  I do not think that the “inactiveness” of Japanese students comes from the national character of Japan. Rather, it is because students have become too accustomed to the Japanese educational system. It is quite natural that students are more interested in education achieved through cooperation or interactive and two-way education. School lessons are established by teachers and students together. The Japanese campus of Temple University, an American college based in Pennsylvania USA, will move to the campus where I am working now in September this year. It is the first time in Japan that a Japanese and American colleges will share a campus. There will not only be an increase in the number of foreign students but also the presence of male students in classes.I am already excited thinking about how my “battle” will be become more challenging! SGRA Kawaraban 592 in Japanese (Original) (Sim ChoonKiat / Associate Professor, Showa Women’s University )  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale
  • Khin Maung Htwe ”From Physicist to Hotel Proprietor”

    Everybody has a dream. Some people can make their dreams come true and some have to walk away from their dreams. A lot of children dream of becoming doctors, engineers, artists, businessmen, and so on, devoting themselves to improve their skills to become famous in the world in their own fields.In my childhood, I dreamt of becoming an airplane pilot. However, now I am the proprietor of “Hotel AKIMOMI” which I established in Pyin Oo Lwin in Myanmar,  a highland sightseeing resort similar to Karuizawa in Japan. I studied abroad in Japan in October, 1988. I grew up in a family of optometrists, but had no interest in medical science and wanted to become a pilot. However, my parents opposed this. As a result, I majored in physical science at Mandalay Technological University and, after graduation, studied abroad in Japan. I visited many places in Japan as a tourist and for conferences, and boarded together with seminar students.  In Japan, I could experience and enjoy various sceneries and cultures and also enjoyed various Japanese food cultures. When I travelled across Myanmar in my childhood during in the 1970s, there were no hotels nor ‘min-shuku’ (private guesthouse) and I had to stay at the houses or cottages of our relatives. I could stay at national guesthouses sometimes because my father had some connections. At that time, hotels in Myanmar were almost only occupied by foreign tourists. When I visited Kalaw, a highland tourist spot, I stayed at the Kalaw Hotel which was built in the British era. It was my first opportunity to stay at a hotel. Kalaw is a town where many summer resort houses were built during the English colonial era and is known as “pine hill”. There are a lot of foreign visitors, especially from Europe and America, and even now it is very famous for trekking on Trip Advisor.Everything about the experience became an unforgettable memory, much like the first encounter with a lover, the feeling of staying at a hotel for the first time, the preparation of the rooms, the taste of breakfast, the comfortable air and atmosphere of the English colonial style. I visited Kalaw many times after that and thought about staying at this hotel. However, even so I never imagined that I would run my own hotel. In 1997, I obtained a doctor’s degree from the Faculty of Engineering at Waseda University. I returned to Myanmar after serving as an assistant for the School of Applied Physics. There were no positions for “physicists” in Myanmar and I devoted myself to working towards the development of Myanmar through using my experiences in Japan as a proprietor. As I was a researcher while studying abroad, after returning to Myanmar I tried my hand at being “a shrimper with a PhD in engineering”, “a scientific farmer” and “a hotel proprietor who thinks about different cultures and environmental conservation.” It is the image of old Japan, rather than new Japan, that remains in my mind. For example, I am interested most in buildings which make full use of traditional Japanese wood craftsmanship. When I was building “Hotel AKIMOMI”, I asked a Japanese architect in his 70s who had profound knowledge of traditional Japanese wooden houses to help me realize my dream image of Japan. It took about two years to complete. I could reproduce the image of Japan through a restaurant for Japanese food, a large public bath and food stands made using materials available in Myanmar. I aimed to achieve the best service and the best engineering which I had experienced in Japan in Myanmar.As a result of this, many hotel guests appraised my hotel as “a little Japanese village”.With regard to international appraisal of hotels, we received 4~4.5 out of 5 on “Trip-advisor”. On “”, we got 8.3~8.7 out of 10 and 8.0 out of 10 on “Agoda”.In January, 2018, we received the “ASEAN Green Hotel Standard Award”. For this Award, five hotels out of all the hotels in Myanmar were selected, and “Hotel AKIMOMI” was ranked the top. The confidence to try new things, persevering until one succeeds, caring about the responses of guests, and looking into issues pertaining to work. Shifting from “physicist to hotel proprietor” is my proudest achievement in life.     SGRA Kawaraban 590 in Japanese (Original) (Khim Maung Htwe /Proprietor of Hotel AKIMOMI)   Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale
  • Song Han “My Thoughts on “GENGOH” “

    The hot topic right now (as of March, 2019) is the title of the new imperial era (“GENGOH” 元号). With the change in the name of the imperial era, there will be a huge impact on Japanese society. I, as a specialist of Chinese literature, am interested in the news which reports that Japanese classical literature is being studied as a source for the name.  In the past, it was a usual practice to select the name from Chinese classical literature. According to sources, however, “Kojiki (古事記)” and “Nihon Shoki(日本書紀)” (both about the birth of Japan) have been taken up vigorously for discussion this time.Some people say that this is nonsense because both “Kojiki” and “Nihon Shoki” are based on Chinese classics. As such, people may say that no matter what the name of the new era will come from Chinese classics. Others say that such arguments are nonsense and that it is important to take the name from Japanese classics. It seems that the point in this dispute is the uniqueness of Japanese culture. I, as a foreigner, am not in a position to join this controversy. However, I would like to share my thoughts because the culture of the imperial era system came from China. The era name is a numbering system (calendar era) which takes one year as a unit, just like AD (Anno Domini) or the Christian Era, which we are using commonly now.  According to research by Zhao Yi (趙翼), a historian of the Qing Dynasty (19th century), “建元”, which was enacted by Emperor Wu of Han (漢の武帝) in BC 140 and which was the first era named in East Asia. Emperor Wu of Han was one of the most prominent absolute monarchs in Chinese history, and it is said that the resolute ruling system established in the Han dynasty unified the kingdom. You may think I am digressing from the topic of the name of the imperial era in Japan, but this actually has a lot to do with it.  In the year BC45, Julius Caesar established the Julius calendar. This naming meant that the ancient nation dominated not only land (space) but also time. It was essential for farmers to follow the calendar for farming. In ancient times, a nation itself could calculate and declare the calendar every year. As such, the era name was a symbolic system to dominate time in a country. It is easy to understand the importance of the calendar in the Three Kingdoms Period (Wei (魏), Shu (蜀), Wu (呉) )in ancient Chinese society (3rd century).   ― details of the history of the Three Kingdoms are omitted ―The oldest era name in Japan is “Taika”, established during the rule of Emperor Koutoku.  It is well-known because of the Taika Reform (大化の改新) (AD 645).  Because top-level people at the time understood well the meaning of naming an era, through this Japan expressed itself to the world as an independent nation for the first time. After Taika, era names have continued though there have been discontinuations for short periods. When I think of the new era name against this background and history, I am deeply interested in what it will be. In ancient Japan, it was as an expression of being an independent nation that the era name was adopted from Chinese classics. However, it is now considered as undignified by some intellectuals to have an era name taken from Chinese classics. Individuality, which has been considered as unchanging despite the passing of time, may change in meaning depending on the values of the time. The era name is not limited to Japan and we can say the same of the cultures of other nations. There is no human that does not desire themselves, their communities, their society, or their country to be essentially unique and original. Anybody can try to argue against this, but people (including myself) may unintentionally show their nationalistic attitude in doing so. When we analyze the individuality of cultures, we may be able to say that Iraq, Syria and Egypt - countries which were the cradle of culture - are particularly original . Or, perhaps it is Africa, as the birthplace of all human beings, that has originality. I will stop this dreary discussion here. But, being given this opportunity, I would like to add one more dreary saying by Ryunosuke Akutagawa: “Culture is a match-box. It is ridiculous to handle a match-box seriously. But, if you handle it carelessly, it will be dangerous.”  SGRA Kawaraban 591 in Japanese (Original)  (Song Han / Associate Professor (Japanese Literature), Ferris University)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sonja Dale