Sasakawa Studentship Programme Playing Major Role in Promoting Japanese Studies in BritainLondon event brings together scholars from around the world

The Sasakawa Studentship Programme (SSP), a joint scholarship program operated by The Nippon Foundation and its partner organization The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, held an event at SOAS University of London on November 10 to bring together award recipients to present their research. The Britain-based, Japan-specialist researchers gave SSP high marks, noting with gratitude that the program has been playing a major role in promoting Japanese studies in Britain.

Award recipients presenting their research

With British universities facing critical financial difficulties, The Nippon Foundation provided support to establish 13 teaching positions in contemporary Japanese studies at 12 major universities for five years, from 2009 through 2013, to promote and maintain Japanese studies at these universities. Of these 12 universities, 10 maintained the positions after the five-year period ended, and these instructors are playing a key role in educating general students and specialist researchers in contemporary Japanese studies. Building on this success, a scholarship program was launched in 2014 for students pursuing graduate degrees in Japanese studies, and over the program’s four years to date, roughly 70 top-tier researchers have received support for their work.

Participants listening to the research presentations

The event at SOAS was attended by 49 award recipients, of whom 36 presented their research. Several professors from universities including the University of London, the University of Sheffield, Cardiff University, and Newcastle University also participated and provided feedback to the researchers making presentations. The presentations dealt with a wide range of topics, including “Japan as a ‘Normal Nation’: The Abe Government and the Utilisation of Strategic Narrative in Contemporary Japanese Politics,” “The Spirit of the Washington Conference: Britain, Japan, and the United States, 1921-25,” “The Causes and Motivations of the Involvement in the Hate Activities by the Members of Zaitoku-kai,” “Determinants of Sino-Japanese Policy Escalation on the Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands Dispute since 2010,” “Underground music in post-war Japan: bodies, nostalgia, and the quest for identity,” “That bar life. Learning and the business of service at a gay bar in Shinjuku Ni-chome,” “‘Being LGBT’ in Japan: an ethnographic study of an emerging category,” and “Tohoku eating habits, social change and post-disaster micro-economics.”

Participants at the reception

Many academic advisors in the field of Japanese studies, from universities including the University of Cambridge, the University of East Anglia, the University of Edinburgh, The University of Manchester, the University of Leeds, the University of Oxford, and King’s College London, attended the reception that followed the presentations.

One feature of British universities offering programs in Japanese studies is that they attract students pursuing master and doctorate degrees from around the world. At this event 24, or roughly half, of the participating award recipients were from 12 countries outside the United Kingdom: France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Russia, Romania, Indonesia, China, the United States, Japan, and New Zealand. This reflects the global top-tier quality of the Japanese studies programs at these universities, and also means that after completing their studies, these students can be expected to deepen understanding of Japan outside Britain, as they take up teaching positions or other specialist activities in their home countries or in third countries.

Dr. Christopher Hood, of Cardiff University and president of the British Association for Japanese Studies (BAJS), praised the program, noting, “It would have been impossible to produce this many outstanding researchers without the support of both The Nippon Foundation and The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation. Japanese studies in Britain have emerged from a crisis situation with the support of these foundations, and are now able to make significant strides going forward.” Dr. Helen Macnaughtan of SOAS University of London added, “The term ‘Sasakawa scholar’ is becoming as well known as ‘Fulbright scholar’ at British universities.

Tatsuya Tanami, Special Advisor of The Nippon Foundation, speaks at the reception

Stephanie Santschi, an award recipient who has obtained a doctorate from the University of East Anglia, expressed her thanks. “My research topic was the later years of Katsushika Hokusai [a famous woodblock print artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries], and I was able to participate as a member of the organizing committee for the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum earlier this year. That was thanks to this program.” Joey Soehardjojo, from Indonesia, explained, “Being in the U.K. made it possible to do comparative studies that I could not have done in Indonesia or in Japan. Without this award, I would not have been able to research hiring and organizational management by Japanese companies in Indonesia.

Brendan Griggs, chief executive of the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, noted, “Japanese studies in the U.K. have made great progress over the past 10 years, which I believe is in large part thanks to the support of the two foundations.” Minister Shinichi Iida of the Japanese Embassy added his endorsement: “I sincerely hope for the further development of Japanese studies in the United Kingdom.”

Representing The Nippon Foundation, Special Advisor Tatsuya Tanami said, “I was greatly impressed by the excellent presentations covering many different aspects of Japan,” but also made a request: “Please do not be shinnichika but chinichika – do not be Japanophiles but Japanologists. A shinnichika is one who loves Japan and all things Japanese, but a chinichika is a Japan specialist who may admire many aspects of Japan but will view Japan critically when he or she sees fit. I hope that all of you, who have come from a variety of countries to study Japan in the United Kingdom, can act as Japan experts in the future, as friends who are able to criticize each other.”

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