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UBRJ Seminar "Boundarization and Frontierization of the East-West Border in Europe: the Case of Kaliningrad Oblast - the Russian Exclave in the EU"

2017.6.26 (Monday)


Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Small Meeting Room (401)

Jarosław Jańczak (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań & Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder))

For details, please contact: Jonathan Bull (j_e_bull*

Abstract is here >> pdf


At the tour of the Bolshoi theatre

On 27 April 2017, after discussion with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin told journalists that the two leaders had agreed to hold the "cross" year of Russia and Japan in 2018. It means that exchanges between Japan and Russia will increase in politics, economics and culture.

Ahead of 2018, Russian Seasons Japan 2017 started on 4 June. Russian Seasons is the title of Russian governmental projects that will introduce Russian culture all over the world. In Japan, chosen as the first country for these projects, more than 200 events will be held in more than 40 places.

Russian Seasons Japan 2017 opened with a performance of the Bolshoi Ballet. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also watched the first day performance of "Giselle". Then, prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, Svetlana Zakharova, visited the official residence of the prime minister.

In addition, this year is special for the history of Russian-Japanese ballet exchange because 60 years have passed since the first Bolshoi Ballet visit to Japan. Russian Seasons Japan 2017 started in a very festive atmosphere.

Luckily, I was able to watch the Bolshoi Ballet performance " Swan Lake" on 7 June 2017. It was a precious time for me because I love Russian ballet. I had waited and waited for the day when Olga Smirnova would dance the title role in Japan, because I had followed her from her Vaganova Ballet Academy school days. How I felt during her performance I can't express with only a few words.

After watching this splendid performance of the Bolshoi Ballet, I was also greatly impressed by the significance of the Bolshoi brand. The title name of the projects - Russian Seasons - is supposed to remind us of the theatre performance troupe "Saison Russe (Russian season)" that was under the direction of Sergei Diaghilev. The works of this troupe had, and continue to have, a considerable influence on art scenes all over the world. Perhaps, however, the contemporary Russian Seasons are more similar to the situation in the 1950s and 60s than Diaghilev's troupe. Diaghilev's troupe was under his personal organization. But Russian Seasons is sponsored by the government and is an example of Russia's 'soft power'. Even though the political relationships between Japan and Soviet-Russia in the 1950s and 60s weren't always calm, Japanese audiences always welcomed Soviet-Russian cultural organizations with enthusiasm.

Speaking at an event to mark a hundred years of Russian-Japanese ballet exchange, Valery Gergiev, the general director of the Mariinsky Theatre, reflected, "Artists can accomplish what politicians and diplomats can't". These are the words of someone who well knows the power of Art to influence society.

In the 1950s and 60s many cultural organizations came from Soviet-Russia to Japan, but few Japanese groups went the other way. This time, I expect that more cultural organizations from Japan will introduce Japanese culture to Russia over the next year. I believe that the effective introduction of Japanese culture can increase Japan's presence in the world.

Keiko Saito


Science Talk - 'The Allure of Border Tourism through photographs: Saito Masayoshi's Message from Wakkanai and Sakhalin'

When the southern half of Sakhalin (Karafuto) was part of the Japanese Empire, reaching the colony from the metropole was said to involve a difficult journey 'across the two salt rivers'. Traversing the first - the Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokkaido - has been relatively simple for travelers for much of the twentieth century. Crossing the second - the Soya Strait that separates Hokkaido from Sakhalin - has proved trickier.

For much of his day job, Saito Masayoshi could gaze across the Soya Strait to the faint outline of Sakhalin on the horizon. Following retirement as a city hall official, he was able to put down his pen and pick up his camera to cross the second salt river and discover what lay on the other side. He found, as he told an audience of 40 people at a Science Talk at Hokkaido University's 59th University Festival, something of the charm of the border.

In his forthcoming book, the photographs are described as revealing 'the Sakhalin of today where previously 400,000 Japanese once lived'.1 One of the most striking photos is of a stone torii gate that remains standing long after the wooden building of the original shinto shrine has disappeared. This perhaps encapsulates how memory of empire often forms around a recognizable facade while everyday structures get forgotten after their collapse. Other arresting images include remains of the factories of Oji Paper Manufacturing - the company that dominated the colonial economy and that provided a livelihood to so many of Karafuto's residents. In one photo that was on display at the university festival, children play in the ferro-concrete ruins suggesting how the residents of today's Sakhalin have found new uses for the island's Japanese past. What the women and men who made a living in the shadow of these factories' chimneys would make of such photographs is an unanswerable question. That Saito Masayoshi's images make you want to ask it is testament to how successfully he has captured what remains of the lives of those who succeeded in crossing the second of the two salt rivers.

1 Saharin ni nokoru Nihon (Hokkaido University Press, 2017) (in Japanese)


Kick-off Symposium "Thinking about the Present and the Future of Japan in a Global World"

To mark the opening in April this year of its new Center for Relational Studies on Global Crises, a 'kick-off' seminar was held at Chiba University on 1 June 2017. Following the keynote lecture, participants took part in a panel discussion under the heading 'How to Deal with Global Crises: from the viewpoint of Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East'. All three discussants were from the new center. Mizushima Jiro spoke about the challenges for democracy in Europe from the rise of populist politics, Ishido Hikari examined the impact of the Trump administration's 'America first' policy on Asia and Sakai Keiko addressed some of the factors motivating ISIS in the Middle East. The discussion was skillfully led by Oishi Akiko and involved a debate about the effect of arguments and language on contemporary politics.

Interpretation of global politics is an area to which a perspective from border studies has much to offer and UBRJ is looking forward to contributing to the Center for Relational Studies on Global Crises pioneering research.


UBRJ Seminar "German-Polish Bilingualism: Bilingual Language Education and Language Policy - an Example of Słubice-Frankfurt (Oder) "Twin Town""

Date & Time: July 20 (Thur) 2017, 16:30-18:00

Speaker: Dr. Barbara Alicja Jańczak (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland)

Venue:Room 401, Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University

Language: English
Contact: Motoki NOMACHI (mnomachi[at] ([at] should be @.)

Abstract is here >> pdf


Abe's Diplomacy at a Crossroads: The Hidden Side of the Japanese-Russian Summit

'Abe's Diplomacy at a Crossroads: The Hidden Side of the Japanese-Russian Summit'

Article by Akihiro Iwashita for The Diplomat


SRC/UBRJ Seminar "Is the latest US-Russia reset dead on arrival?"

Is the latest US-Russia reset dead on arrival?

Timothy J. Colton (Professor of Government, Harvard University and Distinguished Visiting Professor, National University of Singapore)

Before his successful election as president of the United States, Donald Trump was known for, amongst other things, cameo appearances in over 20 films and TV programs spread across the nineties and noughties. One popular show spanning these two decades that he didn't take part in though, was the medical drama ER (Emergency Room). Timothy J. Colton cut through the hubbub surrounding the 45th president's first 100 plus days in office to argue that while the supposed reset to US-Russia relations following Trump's election was not dead on arrival, the patient was on the emergency room operating table.

Placing the latest US-Russian presidential relationship in recent historical context, Professor Colton explained, reveals that Trump is but the latest in a long line of American presidents claiming to want to improve ties. Problematically however, events during first few months of the Trump presidency have introduced some irritants to the relationship. These include allegations of electoral shenanigans by Russia in America, and recriminations from Tomahawk missile attacks by the US in Syria.

Central to Professor Colton's lecture was the question of how to explain what such events mean for any reset. Using a rich selection of political cartoons drawn from a variety of American and Russian newspapers and magazines, he proposed four theoretical frameworks as being particularly useful. A systematic explanation would suggest leaders don't matter, hence, little improvement in the relationship. On the other hand, emphasizing leadership might indicate that limited experience in politics and a lack of advisory support meant that Trump didn't know what to do to improve ties. A third possibility was resistance - that the media, the Washington establishment, the national security complex, and Democrats and some Republicans were all working to hold Trump back. If Trump were to tweet his interpretation he would probably write something like this. For Professor Colton, however, the meddling factor held the greatest explanatory power. In this reading, Russian interference in the US election and the unplanned consequences that followed have made Russia too hot to handle - for now.

Professor Colton concluded his remarks by reminding the audience that the dark prognosis by some commentators of a new Cold War was misleading, and that areas for potential compromise existed including on arms control and over the Donbass Region in the Ukraine. When the two presidents meet for the first time, and if talks on these and other issues make progress, a workable narrative of 'strong meets strong' may offer the best hope for the patient moving out of the emergency room and, if not yet onto a ward, at least into intensive care.



Eurasia Border Review Vol.7 No.1 (Fall 2016) published

EBRvol7no1cover.jpgThe latest issue of Eurasia Border Review has been published by the Eurasia Unit for Border Research of Japan (UBRJ).

This issue includes contributions from scholars working in universities and research institutes in Japan, India and the United States. The topics addressed include the process of borderization along the Georgia-South Ossetian boundary, the changes to Turkey's border security since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War and the development of Russia-US relations in the Bering Sea Region. This edition also contains a Special Section on the 'Border and Gender Studies'.

All papers can be downloaded from here.

We are looking for articles and book reviews for the next edition due to be published later this year. If you are interested, please contact the editorial department (j_e_bull[at] (replace [at] with @).


Borderization in Georgia: Sovereignty Materialized
Edward Boyle

Rethinking the Insulator State: Turkey's Border Security and the Syrian Civil War
Kohei Imai

The Russian-U.S. Borderland: Opportunities and Barriers, Desires and Fears
Serghei Golunov

Special Section: Border and Gender Studies

Introduction to "Border and Gender Studies: Theoretical and Empirical Overlap"
Kimberly Collins

Re-victimizing Trafficked Migrant Women: The Southern Border Plan and Mexico's Anti-trafficking Legislation
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera and Jennifer Bryson Clark

Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors: Challenging the Citizenship Regime in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
T. Mark Montoya

Book Review

Reece Jones, Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move, (Verso 2016). 224pp.
Uddipta Ranjan Boruah


UBRJ Seminar "Transboundary Disasters: What Should Be Done To Restore the Aral Sea Region?

UBRJ Seminar "Transboundary Disasters: What Should Be Done To Restore the Aral Sea Region?

Dark tourism, illegal fishing and livestock farming represent just some of the many examples of how local people have strived to make a living in the Aral Sea Region - a location notorious for environmental catastrophe. This was one of the main messages from Chida Tetsuro's UBRJ Seminar.

Appointed as Associate Professor at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies from April 2017, Professor Chida's seminar was attended by over 20 people. Introducing his latest research under the heading "Transboundary Disasters", he explained how shoots of economic life were returning to the Aral Sea Region. Although a historian by training, Professor Chida combined analysis from geography and border studies to clarify how the settlement of different ethnic groups overlaps and causes various opportunities and challenges to economic development in the region.

Of particular interest were Professor Chida's insights into the resilience of local people; how the wrecks of boats were enabling 'dark tourism', how the return of water was supporting illegal fishing, and how the availability of land around the water was sustaining livestock farming. His presentation also suggested future possibilities for research. For example, while dark tourism is viable for people from Uzbekistan, its feasibility for those from Kazakhstan remains unproven. Also, a nagging doubt is the extent to which livestock farming can be relied on to revive the region's economy. Although these questions remain, Professor Chida with his concept of "Transboundary Disasters" has made an excellent start in finding ways to answer them.


Japan Border Review No. 7 published (Japanese language)


The latest edition of our Japanese-language peer-reviewed journal "Japan Border Review" has been published. This edition includes research based on archival documents, statistical analysis and oral history. Topics include a reassessment of Austria's role in the outbreak of the First World War, the construction of social and cultural boundaries in early Madras (present-day Chennai in India) and the current border regime in Europe. All papers can be downloaded from here.

We are looking for articles and book reviews for the next edition due to be published in 2018. If you are interested, please contact the editorial department (saitok [at] (replace [at] with @).


Austria-Hungary's Ultimatum of 23 July 1914 Reconsidered: The Background of Vienna's Decision-Making in the Memorandum of Friedrich von Wiesner


Boundaries of, in, and around Early Madras: Focusing on 'Christian Town' and 'the Portuguese'


Research Note

Politics of « Borderlands » in the European Union: Construction of a EUropean Immigration Control Regime and Tunisian Refugees after the Arab Spring

NAMBA Satoru

Research Material

The Evacuation Experience of an Okinawan in Colonial Taiwan Who Studied Abroad in the United States: ISHIMINE Chozo's Oral History

SUGANO Atsushi

Book Reviews

Takanori Oishi, Historical Ecology of Ethnic Boundaries: Cultivators and Hunter-Gatherers Living in Cameroon (Kyoto University Press, 2016) (in Japanese)

KONDO Shiaki

Tien-shi Cheng, Hiroyuki Onishi, Hiromi Komori and Teru Sasaki, eds., Passportology (Hokkaido University Press, 2016) (in Japanese)



Edward Boyle's report about the CAFS/NIHU seminar on February 5

Edward Boyle's report about the CAFS/NIHU seminar on February 5

  As informed before, the CAFS/NIHU seminar was held on February 5 in Fukuoka City, titled "Debunking the myths of Northeast Asia's borders." An assistant professor of the Center fro Asia-Pacific Future Studies, Mr. Edward Boyle, submitted an in-depth report of the seminar. You can dowload the report from here.


Akihiro Iwashita's paper for the U.S.-Japan Research Institute

Akihiro Iwashita's paper for the U.S.-Japan Research Institute

Research Activities, USJI Voice Vol.22
"December 2016 - What we can learn from the Abe-Putin Talks: how should Japan and the US deal with Russia?


February 5, 2017 CAFS/NIHU Seminar 「Debunking the myths of Northeast Asia's borders」

CAFS/NIHU Seminar 「Debunking the myths of Northeast Asia's borders」

Date: February 5, 2017
Venue: Kyushu University Nishijin Plaza
(2-16-23 Nishijin, Sawara-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken, 814-0002 Japan)

For details, please click here.


Slavic Eurasia Papers No. 8 "Soviet Identity Politics and Local Identity in a Closed Border Town, 1944-1991" Published On-Line

cover_Izotov.jpgSlavic Eurasia Papers No. 8 "Soviet Identity Politics and Local Identity in a Closed Border Town, 1944-1991" Published On-Line

  A monograph about the identity politics in the Soviet-Finland border region, Sortavala (in USSR), was published as the eighth issue of Slavic Eurasia Papers. The author, Alexander Izotov, is a PhD candidate and researcher at the Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland, with which UBRJ works in closer cooperation. The whole text can be downloaded from here.

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