The National Institute of Japanese Studies, on 5 April 2013, held a conference of undergraduate and postgraduate research on Japan - Japan in Our Futures at the Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences (ICOSS), The University of Sheffield.
In popular understandings Japan has an uncertain future, eclipsed by the rise of its continental neighbours. While demographic, social, and political challenges undoubtedly exist, there are also signs that the future path Japan will take may not be so clear-cut. If we look at history, we see that Japan has often taken moments of crisis as opportunities for renewal, reimagining and even revolution. Looking around Japanese society today, we also see signs of change, both positive and potentially dangerous. Some of these include:
Signs such as these suggest that the future of Japan is a much more interesting topic than popular understandings would have us believe. As people who are studying about and researching Japan, we also expect our personal futures to be intimately tied to the future of this place that we have grown to love. So what is the future for Japan? In what directions will future research on Japan move? Does Japan have a future that we can be involved in?
Final year undergraduate, masters and doctoral students from across the UK were invited to Sheffield for the one-day conference to consider how Japan will feature in our futures, both as students of Japan and as potential future scholars. Students had theh opportunity to present 15-20 minute conference papers or poster presentations about their undergraduate or postgraduate dissertation research.
The day culminated in a ‘Question Time’-style panel of UK experts who answered questions about the future of Japan and Japanese Studies in the UK. This was followed by informal networking. The event was part of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Japanese Studies at The University of Sheffield.