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Caption: Japan and its regional and global interactions from an interdisciplinary perspective are the subject of two recent books.

Japan in the spotlight

Two books comprehensively examining Japan’s international relations from many angles provide a thorough analysis of a notoriously complex dynamic

Two books edited by an Osaka University researcher shine an interdisciplinary light on the complex and sometimes bewildering subject of Japan’s international relations. The books are published at a significant juncture in Japan’s history with the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in 2015 and the recently increased agitation between Japan and its neighbors. They address, among other subjects, the experiences of Japanese–American soldiers in the Korean War, the personalization of Buddhist funeral practices after the collapse of the ‘bubble economy’, and the integrating effect on the region of Asian popular culture such as manga and animation.

Both books were edited by Yoneyuki Sugita, a history professor at Osaka University’s Graduate School of Language and Culture. The first book — Japan Viewed from Interdisciplinary Perspectives — evaluates the history and future of Japan from a wide range of perspectives under three broader themes; globalization, Japan’s relations with its Asian neighbors and its relationship with the United States[1]. Under these subjects, chapters look at President Obama’s foreign policy focus on Asia, Japan’s development aid to Myanmar while the country was being ostracized by the West, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum’s role in settling disputes and providing trade security for Japan.

The second book — Toward a More Amicable Asia-Pacific Region — considers how Japan might contribute toward realizing a more peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region[2]. It addresses questions such as “Is a strong regional power needed to stabilize the region?”, “How should countries in the region deal with the problem of disputed islands?” and “What role has the nuclear crisis in North Korea played in Japan’s relations with the United States?” It evaluates the continued dominance of the United States in the politics and security of the region and recommends that countries seek a mediating position regarding sovereignty in territorial disputes. It asserts that the United States has used the nuclear crisis to foster a greater dependence on it by Japan.

The books were the result of a series of international symposia hosted at Osaka University in 2014 and 2015 on Japan and its interactions with the world. Authors include Japanese and foreign specialists in sociology, history, Japan studies, religious studies, economics and international politics. The chapters were also informed by extended discussions between the contributors prior to and during the symposia. “This discussion was very valuable for helping the presenters turn their papers into chapter manuscripts,” says Sugita.

Sugita has several more symposia and publications in the pipeline, including books about Japanese overseas development aid and a proposed direction for Japan’s security which is not reliant on the United States.

Related link

Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University

img_p_sugita.png Professor Yoneyuki Sugita
Graduate School of Language and Culture
Osaka University

1. Sugita, Y. (ed.) Japan Viewed from Interdisciplinary Perspectives: History and Prospects Lexington Books (2015). [ISBN-13: 978-1498500227; ISBN-10: 1498500226]

2. Sugita, Y. (ed.) Toward a More Amicable Asia-Pacific Region: Japan’s Roles University Press of America (2015). [ISBN-13: 978-0761866787; ISBN-10: 0761866787]

Japanese studies; international relations; interdisciplinary; Asia–Pacific; international symposium; international politics

This research project was supported by the Osaka University International Joint Research Promotion Program, which aims to further enhance research quality and promote globalization at Osaka University through advanced research with overseas collaborators. Professor Sugita jointly conducted this research primarily with the following researchers: Senior Research Fellow Bart Gaens, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Finland Professor Laura Hein, Northwestern University, United States Director Marie Söderberg, European Institute of Japanese Studies, Sweden Senior Lecturer Nissim Otmazgin, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel Professor Paul Midford, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

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