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2017.1.30 - Report on CAFS/NIHU Symposium ‘Crisis in Northeast Asia’


On Saturday 27 January 2018 Kyushu University hosted the final symposium for its Center for Asia-Pacific Future Studies (CAFS). The English title – Crisis in Northeast Asia – indicated the dominant theme of the day which was assessing the challenge to the region posed by North Korean missile testing. The Japanese title, however, offered an alternative nuance by including the word kiro – suggesting a critical turning point. The difference between the two titles reflected the variety of arguments put forward: some speakers emphasised the high level of danger in Northeast Asia while others were more sanguine about the future.

              In their opening remarks, Watanabe Koichiro (Vice-President, Kyushu University) and Jekuk Chang (President, Dongseo University) praised the work done by CAFS during the previous three years. Following his remarks, Professor Chang took his place on the Special Symposium panel to discuss the ‘North Korean problem’. Skilfully chaired by Izumi Kaoru (Faculty of Law, Kyushu University), the other participants included Mimura Mitsuhiro (Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia), Jong Seok Park (CAFS) and Ko Il (Shimane University). The four panellists outlined to what extent they thought that a ‘threat’ existed. Views diverged over merits of American foreign policy in the region and the long-term causes of North Korean actions. Drawing the panel’s attention to factors other than diplomacy, Professor Izumi encouraged lateral thinking. He warned of the risks of strident Japanese media coverage and asked about how civil society might respond to current events. Encouraged by the Chairman’s opening up of the discussion, the panel received many questions from the audience. Some of the most interesting focussed on what role China and Russia might play in influencing North Korean policy.

              After the Special Symposium, the first panel tackled the question ‘The US-Japan-China-Russia Security Nexus? David Wolff (Slavic-Eurasian Research Center (SRC), Hokkaido University) began with a critique of the state of foreign policy making under President Trump. Noting that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference had already made considerable progress uncovering evidence of wrongdoing, Professor Wolff warned that Trump might be tempted to instigate a conflict over North Korea to distract from events at home. The second speaker, Serghei Golunov (CAFS), analysed Russia’s ‘eastern pivot’ to China, Japan, South Korea and Turkey. He argued that this move had partly rebalanced the respective economic importance of the EU and China. Nevertheless, it had failed to lead to an economic breakthrough with several important Asian partners. Masuo Chisako (Graduate School of Social and Cultural Studies, Kyushu University) then discussed the role of North Korea in Sino-Japanese relations. In her opinion, over the last five years Sino-Japanese relations had improved because of the need to engage over the North Korean issue. When North Korea is a global level issue such cooperation becomes increasingly necessary. As a result, Professor Masuo explained, there was now a chance for Japan to improve its bilateral relations with China but this opportunity would not last for long. Akihiro Iwashita’s (CAFS/SRC) paper concluded the session. His point was that Russia was able to take a relatively flexible role in Northeast Asia in a way that was not possible in Europe. Consequently, although Russia is often missing from analysis of the region, the country frequently has an important role to play in international issues.

              CAFS final contribution to academic debate was the panel ‘Future-proofing Northeast Asian Security’. Chairman Yabuno Yuzo (Kyushu University) encouraged a disciplined approach to a topic that proved tricky for the panellists to explain. Beom-Shik Shin (Seoul National University) spoke of the need to look for solutions to the Northeast Asian security problems by using academic theory that takes the region on its own terms. Too often, he suggested, academics use theory based on European experience to analyse Northeast Asia. Paul Richardson (Birmingham University) outlined how he saw the main players in Northeast Asia dealing with future security threats. Sato Takeshi (Shimane University) invited the audience to consider the role civil society might play in improving the security situation and Miyawaki Noburu linked the discussion to current debates in Mongolia. Several incisive interventions from the audience improved the panel’s coherence.

              Professor Iwashita delivered the closing remarks by thanking the CAFS staff and the translators for their hard work. He reflected on the achievements of CAFS and explained that he was going to carry the Center’s main achievements with him in his future research.



Forthcoming UBRJ /NIHU Seminar


Dr Ed Pulford (JSPS Fellow/SRC) and Assel Bitabarova, a doctoral candidate at Hokkaido University will present some of their recent research at the forthcoming UBRJ seminar. Details are as follows:


Ed Pulford - 'The limits of Koreanness: Korean encounters at a three-way border'


Assel Bitabarova - 'Between nationalization and transnationalization: the politics of belonging among Dungans in post-Soviet Kazakhstan'


Date: 22 February 2018 (Thursday)

Time: 16.00-18.00

Place: Room 403 (Large Conference Room), Slavic-Eurasian Research Center


Anyone interested is welcome to attend.

For further information please contact Jonathan Bull (j_e_bull[at]



USJI-Kyushu University seminar

On 26 February 2018 the seminar ‘Russia in the US-Japan Alliance? Beyond Chinese and North Korean Challenges’ will be held in the US-Japan Research Institute Office Seminar Room, Washington DC, United States.

SCHEDULE (outline):
10:30 – 10:35 Opening Remarks (Correa Cabrera)
10:35 – 10:40 Panel Objectives (Boyle)
10:40 – 11:45 Panel Discussion (Participants & Commentator)
11:45 – 12:00 Q & A

For further information, please click here.





2017.12.27 [New Publication (in Japanese)] by Akihiro Iwashita (ed.) ‘Border Tourism: Making regions through tourism’ Hokkaido University Press (2017), 250 pages.

As the editor pithily puts it, in Japan people have a tendency to imagine the country’s borders as a site for military fanatics or spies rather than a destination for tourism. Japan’s foremost exponent of Border Studies, Akihiro Iwashita, steps back from his academic research to consider how ‘border tourism’ can contribute to economic revitalization in several borderland regions. Along with five other main contributors, Iwashita takes his readers on a guided tour around some of the leading locations for border tourism (Fukuoka-Tsushima-Busan, Sakhalin-Wakkanai, Okinawa/Yaeyama-Taiwan and the Ogasawara Islands). As several of the authors emphasise, there are different kinds of border tourism. One of the most appealing is the tour that crosses an international border. However, there can also be ‘non-border crossing’ tours that go as far as the border to give an insight into life in the borderland. The import of border tourism, however, is its potential to encourage the reimagining of borderlands as ‘gateways’ rather than as ‘dead ends’.

In his introduction, Iwashita gives a sense of why border tourism caught his imagination: it offered a rare chance for an academic to work with a variety of people from a range of backgrounds including the media, the tourism industry and local government. Building networks among these actors has been a fundamental part of Iwashita’s role.

Yasunori Hanamatsu reveals how border tourism centring on Tsushima Island has the potential to introduce Japanese tourists to different views of history. Yoshihiro Takada makes a similar point about Japanese who he accompanied on visits to Sakhalin. For this reader, with an interest in Japan’s recent history, the insight that border tourism could provide new ways of looking at ‘national history’ was particularly inspiring. Ryu Shimada gives an important reminder of the practicalities of ‘successful’ border tourism – in particular the need to find well-organised tourism companies to develop attractive tours. Koji Furukawa provides a chapter explaining the academic background to border tourism and its place within the field of border studies.

In addition to the authors mentioned above, the book contains 16 vignettes. Those contributing include journalists, local government administrators and tourism professionals. While all give a glimpse into what makes border tourism such an interesting project to be involved with, the piece by self-described ‘local journalist’ Terumi Tanaka was especially thought provoking. She stresses how border tourism has the potential not only to contribute as part of an economic ‘project’ but also as a peace project, too. Peace education (heiwa in Japanese) has been a key tenet of Japanese society for much of the last 70 years. As political times change, some commentators have identified increased scepticism towards the value of peace education. Border tourism, therefore, could provide another way of ‘doing’ peace.

Contents (Main chapters only)

Introduction – The start of Border Tourism – the inside story (Akihiro Iwashita)

Ch. 1 – Connecting Fukuoka/Tsushima and Busan (Yasunori Hamamatsu)

Ch. 2 – Ties across the Sea of Okhotsk from Sakhalin to Wakkanai (Yoshihiro Takada)

Ch. 3 – The Yaeyama, Okinawa to Taiwan challenge (Ryu Shimada)

Ch. 4 – Ogasawara – imagining the border (Akihiro Iwashita, Hironobu Yamagami, Yasunori Hamamatsu, Masayoshi Saito and Koji Furukawa)

Ch. 5 – Questions raised by border tourism (Koji Furukawa)

Ch. 6 – Roundtable discussion – behind the scenes of a border tourism tour


2018.1.27 CAFS/NIHU Symposium ‘Crisis in Northeast Asia’

On Saturday 27 January 2017 the Center for Asia-Pacific Future Studies (CAFS), Kyushu University will hold the seminar ‘Crisis in Northeast Asia’ at Kyushu University Nishijin Plaza from 12:50 to 18:30 (doors open at 12:30).


Anyone interested is welcome to attend.


‘Between Asias: inter-regional spaces’ – report on workshop held at Nishijin Plaza, Kyushu University, 16 December 2017

Since 2013, when Xi Jinping announced China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, debated has raged about how best to understand the meaning of this puzzling phrase. As Edward Boyle (Kyushu University) emphasised, OBOR involved the repackaging of a series of pre-existing initiatives. Now academics, journalists and policy-makers discuss OBOR as if it were the only game in town. One aim of the workshop ‘Between Asia: inter-regional spaces’, therefore, was to piece together new ways of thinking about the region. In particular, he challenged the participants to examine ‘connectivity between spaces’ and furthermore to explore ‘countries experience of being within that space’.

Session 1 focused on ‘Connectivity at the Sino-Indian Interface’. Sara Shneiderman (University of British Columbia) spoke about the devastating effects of the two earthquakes that hit Nepal in 2015. Using an anthropological approach, Shneiderman explained how the conservative elements of the state have used post-earthquake relief work as a means to regain control that had been lost during the Maoist insurgency. She also discussed how the various relief efforts have increasingly involved cross-border relationships with several countries, but especially China. Mari Miyamoto (Keio University) followed and added to the evidence that for countries at the ‘interface’ of Sino-Indian geopolitics, strategic engagement with these two powers is evermore tricky. Miyamoto’s presentation identified the border spat at Doklam in June 2017 as a recent example of how Bhutan’s government has had to tread lightly in its diplomatic relations with India and China. The session finished with Marie Izuyama’s (The National Institute for Defense Studies, Japan) commentary on the presentations. Among several insights, she pointed the speakers and the audience towards considering whether, or not, the relationship between India and China was becoming more competitive as the ‘buffer’ between the two vanishes.

The second session – with its title of ‘Security at the Sino-Indian Interface’ neatly followed Izuyama’s perspective. Prashant Kumar Singh (Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, India) argued that the India-China relationship represented a ‘fault line in Asian space’. Citing tensions between the two over the OBOR and Chinese support for Pakistan, the speaker suggested that perhaps the time had come for the idea of ‘the quad’ - meaning greater cooperation on security issues among the leaders of India, the US, Japan and Australia. Osaka University’s So Yamane added to the previous speaker’s remarks about the growing importance of ties between China and Pakistan. Yamane reminded the audience that even an issue as seemingly intractable as the conflict over Kashmir could provide grounds for optimism if the countries involved recognised that they might derive economic benefit from the arrival of OBOR. Nevertheless, as Yamane’s nuanced analysis mentioned, such an optimistic reading coexists with the more pessimistic view of entrenched national interests.

Some of the ways different actors have understood being ‘in-between’ was the topic of the third session. The session began with Yukiko Hama’s (Tsuda University) analysis of the concept of ‘Eurasianism’. Popular among intellectuals in the first half of the twentieth century, the term experienced a revival in the 1990s. Hama identified different groups of actors (some are radical right figures with anti-US sentiment, others are academic political philosophers interested in promoting dialogue with China) who have used the term to reconceptualise different regions of Europe and Asia into an overall construct as ‘Eurasia’. The second presenter was Umut Korkut from Glasgow Caledonian University. He introduced his work on political discourse in Turkey on ‘in-betweenness’ and argued that the Turkish government often likes to present itself as a ‘bridge’ between ‘East’ and ‘West’. The ambiguity of a term like ‘in-between’ is what makes it so appealing to politicians who are able to use it for different purposes such as debating migration diplomacy and devising a Turkish-African partnership. Mark Turin’s (University of British Columbia and Yale University) presentation finished the session. He gave a linguistic analysis of how language categories such as ‘Tibeto-Burman’ are misleadingly used a way of conveying ethnic characteristics. No group or person can speak ‘Tibeto-Burman’ (it is a language group and not a language as such), but the term gets pressed into service to imply cohesion in ancestral origin. Country and language do not align – there will always be examples of those ‘in-between’ such as the large number of people whose first spoken language is in the Tibeto-Burman category but who do not live in either Tibet or in Burma.

The workshop concluded with a roundtable on ‘Reconceptualising Interstitial Spaces and China’. Chaired by Akihiro Iwashita (Kyushu University and Hokkaido University), the discussants (David Wolff (Hokkaido University), Mitsuhiro Mimura (The Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia, Japan) and Ed Pulford (JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow)), and the audience engaged in a lively conversation about China place in Asia’s Interstitial Space. Wolff provided a historian’s perspective by proposing that China had largely succeeded in eliminating the Russo-Chinese borderland. In effect, China had sacrificed this borderland to remove an ‘endless source of friction’. The leadership in Beijing are now able to turn their attentions elsewhere (such as the South China Sea). Mimura countered that contradictions internal to Chinese society might mean that the country posed less of a challenge to the rest of Asia than is often argued. Pulford then encouraged the audience to think about some of the similarities between Chinese who feel as aggrieved as people living outside of China about the Chinese Communist Party’s engagement with neo-liberal economics. Could there, the discussants suggested, be a fruitful way of thinking about China as the central space between the lines of Asia? Were concepts such as ‘post-colonial’ and ‘post-socialist’ meaningless in this part of the world? Was South Asia a term that needed more attention in any future debate? The fact that the workshop was raising such questions by its end suggested that the organisers’ had achieved their aim of thinking about Asia in new ways, including as an inter-regional space.




2017.12.1 UBRJ Seminar on ‘Cooperation under the One Belt One Road and the Eurasian Economic Union’

Presenter: Professor Yonghui Li (Institute of East European, Russian and Central Asian Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)


Date: 1 December 2017 (Friday)

Time: 17.00-18.30 Place: Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Small Meeting Room (401)

Enquiries to: Jonathan Bull (


Please note this presentation will be in Russian.





Forthcoming seminar at Center for Asia-Pacific Future Studies (CAFS)

On 16th December the seminar ‘Between Asias: inter-regional spaces’ will be held at Nishijin Plaza, Kyushu University.





US-Japan Research Institute (USJI) – Next year’s event

From 27th February to 2nd March 2017 the USJI held a series of research projects . The event will be held again in 2018 on the subject of Russia and Northeast Asia.




2017.11.11 JIBSN Borderlands Research Network Japan Tsushima Seminar

On Saturday 11 November the Tsushima City Kōryū Centre hosted the JIBSN Borderlands Research Network Japan Tsushima Seminar. The title of the seminar – ‘The Changing Border/Borderlands: tourism and the population problem’ – proved popular and over 50 people attended. In their introductory remarks, several speakers referred to borders not as the ‘end’ of Japan but as the country’s ‘gateway’.

The first session focused on the development of border tourism in Rebun, Wakkanai, Gotō, Taketomi and Tsushima. Some of the most successful measures to develop tourism included building relations with nearby towns and cities on the other side of the border. Wakkanai looked to Sakhalin and Gotō turned to Cheju to encourage tourists to go to and fro across the border and boost the local economy. The seminar’s relaxed atmosphere encouraged the exchange of ideas between the ‘old hands’ at border tourism and the ‘newcomers’. For example, Rebun joined JIBSN this year and was keen to hear from the others about how they have made the border work for them in their tourism planning. Several of the speakers used the idea of the gateway to suggest that tourists do not always have to ‘pass through’ for border tourism to occur. For many Japanese tourists going to the borderland is the purpose of their trip rather than ‘border crossing’.

The different kinds of border tourism indicated some of the flexibility in local government thinking in how to attract more visitors. Such flexibility is vital for tackling the problem of Japan’s declining population, as the speakers in the second session explained. The aging of the population is also a problem that confronts local governments across Japan. Nevertheless, there are specific problems for border regions. Often, in the recent past, people have been able to move back and forth across the border more easily, helping to sustain the local economy. The loss of such freedom of movement has, in many cases, reduced the number of jobs for local people and forced many of the young to move elsewhere in search of work. The message of the second session was that considering population policy as it applies to the borderlands is more likely to provide effective solutions.

The closing discussion provided an opportunity for all of the participants to consider some of the fundamental changes in Japanese society that are likely to become increasingly necessary over the next few decades. One is encouraging more women to participate in local government politics as a way of building strong communities. Another is rethinking what a ‘Japanese identity’ means at a time when greater immigration seems more likely.





2017.10.29 Report on NIHU International Symposium “Migration, Refugees and the Environment from Security Perspectives”

The Center for Northeast Asian Studies, Tohoku University and the Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University (NoA-SRC) organized an international seminar at Tohoku University, Sendai on 29 October. Almost 50 people attended the seminar which consisted of two sessions and a general discussion.


Akihiro Iwashita (Hokkaido University) chaired the first session titled “Migration and refugees in Northeast Asia”. The speakers included Naomi Chi (Hokkaido University), Mitsuhiro Mimura (The Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia), Yuji Fukuhara (University of Shimane) and Serghei Golunov (Kyushu University). The three papers each focused on a specific location in Northeast Asia and analysed how migration affects issues of security.


Professor Chi presented her findings from 10 years of fieldwork interviewing women from China, Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam. Professor Chi is interested in these women’s experiences of being ‘marriage migrants’ and ‘domestic and care workers’ in Japan and Korea. Her argument was that both societies could do more to protect these women’s human rights. Professors Mimura and Fukuhara did a joint-presentation that also relied heavily on interviews. This time, the voices the audience heard about were those of North Korean men working on building sites in Mongolia and these men’s employers. Professor Mimura contextualised the details of Professor Fukuhara’s detailed fieldwork by placing these workers’ experiences in the framework of Mongolian-North Korean relations. The paper revealed how these worker’s experiences are increasingly influenced by international politics – in particular, the pressure exerted by the United States for Mongolia to reduce its support for North Korea.


The third paper moved away from interviews in person to consider the words of Russian politicians and officials as reported by that country’s media. Professor Golunov identified how Russian perceptions of Chinese migrants exist between two poles that he called ‘alarmism’ and ‘utilitarianism’. Although some politicians have resorted to critical portrayals of Chinese migrants as a threat to the nation’s security, others have taken a pragmatic approach favouring encouraging such migration as a boon to the economy. He concluded with the insight that as China’s economy becomes stronger, migration for Chinese is becoming less attractive. Furthermore, migration to China for Russians is actually becoming more appealing, who are enticed by the higher wages. Professor Jong Seok Park (Kyushu University) as commentator provided several new points for the panellists and the audience. These included a discussion about the role of ‘agency’ in women’s migration decisions and a questioning of the terms used to describe North Korea.


Following lunch, Jusen Asuka (Tohoku University) chaired the second session on “Migration, refugees and the environment”. The first speaker was Nina Hall (Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Bologna, Italy). She spoke about how international organisations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have adapted their mandates to meet the challenges of migration caused by climate change. John Campbell (University of Waikato, New Zealand) followed Professor Hall. He introduced his research on the threat posed by climate change to people living in Kiribati. While not central to his presentation, Professor Campbell’s view that the United Kingdom as the former colonial power should do more to acknowledge its responsibilities to the Kiribati people caught the attention of the audience. Benoit Mayer (Chinese University of Hong Kong) gave the last presentation of the seminar. He argued that rather than discuss climate change as a discrete factor contributing to migration, academics and policy-makers should think about the ‘climate-migration nexus’. Using the example of international law, Professor Mayer examined how climate change was one of many causes of migration that are entangled and cannot be separated out. The session concluded with comments by Kentaro Ono (Honorary Consul of the Republic of Kiribati in Sendai). He made a plea for academics not to apply the label of ‘climate refugee’ to the people of Kiribati. Instead, he urged the panellists to think of new terms that emphasised ‘migration with dignity’.


Following the two sessions, the symposium finished with a general discussion. Mr Ono’s argument provided the starting point for a debate about how to counter ignorance in Japan about refugees. More specifically, an international student asked what policy-makers might do to assist people in a country such as Bangladesh where the state has limited resources. The panellists conceded that there are no simple solutions but warned against thinking only about migration as a security issue. As the title of the symposium stressed ‘security perspectives’, this reminder of the importance of a humanitarian approach to migration and refugees was welcome. Akihiro Iwashita gave the closing remarks in which he thanked the staff of Tohoku University for their hard work in organising such a successful symposium.




Seminar on ‘Russia’s turn to Asia: between expectations and reality’ held at the Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw

On 6 October 2017 researchers from Japan and Poland participated in a seminar at the Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw. An initiative of the head of the centre – Adam Eberhardt – the seminar is held at regular intervals with the SRC. This seminar was the third so far and was organized by Marcin Kaczmarski who was a 2016 Foreign Visitors Fellow at the SRC. There was a dynamic discussion on not only the seminar theme of Russia but also on Chinese policy in South East Asia and Japan’s response. The small number of participants meant frank views could be exchanged in ‘off the record’ discussions, especially about the situation in Russia.

The seminar was part of the research achievement of the following projects: ‘Reconstructing International Relations through Border Studies’ (Principal investigator: Akihiro Iwashita, Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research A), ‘New developments in Sino-Russian relations’ (PI: David Wolff, Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research B) and National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU) Area Studies Project for Northeast Asia Slavic-Eurasian Research Center Hokkaido University.

The program was as follows:

Joint OSW-SRC seminar: Russia’s turn to Asia: between expectations and reality
Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw, 6 October 2017
6 Oct., Friday
9.45 – 11.45 Session I
Russia-China relations: between the marriage of convenience and the alliance in all but name
Chair: Adam Eberhardt
Introductory remarks (10 min each followed by discussion):

  • Chisako Masuo (Kyushu University) Beijing and Moscow: Global Affinity and Regional Rivalry upon China's Ascendance
  • Marek Menkiszak (OSW), Moscow’s perspective on relations with China
  • David Wolff (SRC), Russo-Chinese Relations: Lessons from a Long History
  • Marcin Kaczmarski (OSW), Beijing’s perspective on relations with Russia

12.30-14.30 Session II
East Asian politics between Russia and China
Chair: Akihiro Iwashita
Introductory remarks (10 min each followed by discussion):

  • Witold Rodkiewicz (OSW), Kremlin's Policy in Asia: Diversification manqué.
  • Akihiro Iwashita (SRC), An Epitaph to the Northern Territories Issue: A New Era of the Japan-Russia Relations? 
  • Szymon Kardaś (OSW),
  • Keiko T. Tamura (Kitakyushu University), Emerging China and Southeast Asia:  ASEAN at a turning point?  

(Akihiro Iwashita)




Border Studies special lecture held at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland

 On 3 October 2017 Professor Jarosław Jańczak (a 2017 Foreign Visitors Fellow at the SRC) organized a special lecture on Border Studies at his home institution. Akihiro Iwashita attended and gave a lecture with the title ‘Transformed Border in the Borderless World: The Case of Asia’. Over 50 graduate students and faculty were in the audience meaning there was close to a full house. The main message of his lecture was that humans can’t live without borders. Rather than dream of borderless society they should learn how to manage life with borders. In response, a student from Catalonia questioned this view and a lively discussion ensued. Europe’s continuing problems with borders mean that the importance of comparative work with Asia is going to increase in the future. UBRJ looks forward to continuing to work with Professor Jańczak and Adam Mickiewicz University.

(Akihiro Iwashita) 



Akihiro Iwashita’s talk at King’s College London now available for viewing


Please click here .



Update about the forthcoming symposium ‘Migration, Refugees and the Environment from Security Perspectives’ to be held at Tohoku University on 28-29 October 2017



For the latest information, please follow this.


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