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Investigating the Various Issues of a Global Society from a "Japan-US" Angle

The Organization for Japan-US Studies (WOJUSS)

The first International Symposium, which doubled as the kick-off event for WOJUSS: "Japan-US Relations, 2008 and After: Policy Implications for Security, Economy, and Politics after the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election and Beyond" (June 2008)

"Research organizations", independently introduced by Waseda University, are the organizational framework meant to fulfill a general role, as well as to promote strategic research activity on the part of the university. In addition to the Comprehensive Research Organization (established in 2005) which ties on-campus cross-sectional collaborative research together (about 150 project laboratories), it has gradually established research institutes classified by strategic themes: the Institute for Nanoscience & Nanotechnology (2003), the IT Research Organization (2004), the Consolidated Research Institute for Advanced Science and Medical Care (2004), Organization for Asian Studies (2005), Organization for Islamic Area Studies (2008) and Organization for European Studies (2009).

Waseda University "Organization for Japan-US Studies (WOJUSS) (http://www.kikou.waseda.ac.jp/wojuss/)" was established in the midst of all this, in 2007. Over the past half-century, Waseda University has accepted 100 to 150 American exchange students every year. In addition, approximately 100 of the 539 universities and laboratories with which the University has contract relationships are American institutions. This cumulative track record of internationalized education and research forms the background of this latest establishment.

Professor Shiro Yabushita, WOJUSS Dean

Every facet of postwar Japanese politics, economics and culture has been greatly influenced by America. However, when compared to the strength and breadth of that relationship, the field of "America research" has a strong tendency to develop only in a limited field of humanities research, with its focus on history. While America is certainly an important research subject in the social sciences, such as political science, economics and business administration, up until now in Japan, it has been rare for those subjects to be connected to a large interdisciplinary territory such as America research.

In a break with convention, WOJUSS was established based on a strong problem consciousness of the necessity of establishing America research, or Japan-US research, as a comprehensive, interdisciplinary research territory. As the institute enters its third year, we spoke with Shiro Yabushita, a professor in the Faculty of Political Science and Economics and WOJUSS Dean, about the issues and feedback from activities as the institute begins to move towards its large goal.

Policy Recommendations Supported by Research

Outline of Research Activities at WOJUSS (click to enlarge)

The subject of "Japan-US research" which WOJUSS advances doesn't stop at the narrow definition of "Japan-US." "America" is defined as the larger American zone, including all of North America and Canada, of course, but also encompassing the Central and South American countries. "Japan" is taken to mean Japan in the center of East Asia, or Japan in the center of Asia as a whole. The academic fields covered by the research include not only the cultural sciences, but also the broader social sciences in general, business, science and technology, and technology transfer.

"We aren't simply researching the history and culture of America or of Japan-US relations. There is a strong desire to establish a new research territory within the larger context of how Japan and the US will commit to the world's security, to problems surrounding the environment and resources, to the further development of developing regions, to economics and business. Furthermore, I think it is our mission to draw a clear line between private sector think tanks and ourselves by conducting policy recommendations grounded in academic research." (Dean Yabushita)

At WOJUSS, in light of these ambitious efforts, five research groups have been set up to tie on-campus researchers and research projects together. These include (A), American society, politics, economics and culture, (B) Environment, resources and energy, (C) International cooperation, (D) Security, and (E) Global business. In addition to the participation and cooperation of more than fifty faculty members from all over the school, the project is proactively accepting participation in activities from off-campus organizations: other universities, research institutes, private sector think tanks and corporations, NGOs and NPOs.

Some research results have already been published in book form. Left: "The 2008 American Presidential Election - What is the Significance of Obama's Election?," written and edited by Takashi Yoshino and Kazuhiro Maeshima (Toshindo; August 2009), Right: "The Role and Challenges of Japanese NGOs in the Global Health Policymaking Process," written by Chika Hyodo and Yasushi Katsuma (Japan Center for International Exchange (Inc.); September 2009)

"We will select themes important to policy formation and, as we expand our academic research, we will simultaneously conduct policy recommendations. For that to happen, we must get standard theories in the various academic fields properly nailed down. Inevitably, if we don't have the participation of researchers who are developing their research activities on the front lines of each field, if we let ourselves get locked into the Japan-US framework, then this won't take shape." (Dean Yabushita)

Each of the five research groups has set a specific issue from current society as its theme and is developing its strategic research activities around this theme. For example, against a background of support from the Obama administration, Group A has taken up the theme of "The 21st-century American identity." Group C is developing the theme, "The Japan-US role in International Society's Drive for Sustainable Development and Millennium Development Goals," focusing on the three areas of international security, international education and sustainability, while Group E has narrowed their focus to the generation of and survival measures for university-launched ventures with "Composition of a Support Network for Global Niche Strategy Acquisition." Their strategic research activities are developing in line with these set specific themes. Some of the results of this research have already been compiled into books (see photograph).

Provision of an open public debate

The lecture presentation to which John V. Roos, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, was invited (January 2010)

At WOJUSS, all activities are conducted under the motto of the formation of "open places." The annual International Symposium, a lecture presentation to which illustrious guest speakers are invited is, of course, open door; however, as a rule, so are all the large and small research groups the organization hosts.

At the symposium, the goal is the generation of a place for discussion which is open to society at large. In January 2010, John V. Roos, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, was invited, and a lecture presentation was held on the theme of "The Unchanging Future Importance of the Japan-US Alliance (http://www.waseda.jp/jp/news09/100129.html)."
"As sensitive issues, including the Futenma airbase problem, mount up between Japan and the US, there is an important significance to provision by the university of a neutral place for discussion. It is important that academic discussion be deepened through such a place, and that it lead to the birth of new approaches to problem resolution and policy recommendation." (Dean Yabushita)

At the second annual international symposium of June 2009 (http://www.kikou.waseda.ac.jp/wojuss/achievement/sympo/090604.html), two panelists from China joined those from Japan and the United States. Taking the theme, "Global Political Economy and Japan, the United States, and China: Cooperation Under Conditions of Global Crisis," the debate centered on the world economy after the Lehman Shock, with Japan, China and the U.S. as its main axis. The papers presented at this symposium will be collected in "Global Political Economy and Japan, the United States, and China" (tentative title, Toyo Keizai Inc.), slated for publication in March 2010.

Second WOJUSS International Symposium, "Global Political Economy and Japan, the United States, and China: Cooperation Under Conditions of Global Crisis" (held in June 2009)

"We can no longer speak of the global economy or the Japan-US economy without including China. It is absolutely vital to actively request the participation of China in these activities." (Dean Yabushita)

Unique ventures are also being made. Both popular singer MISIA and art director Mitsuo Shindo have been recognized for their development of social contribution activities, and the two were invited to a speaking event, "Child AFRICA Special Lecture - MISIA and Mitsuo Shindo Speak on Art and Music," hosted in November 2009. The event was co-hosted by Waseda Institute for Global Health and Child AFRICA, the private organization established through Ms. MISIA's advocacy.

Generating Synergy through Organizational Cooperation

WOJUSS Office Staff and Dean Yabushita (center)

As the research subject of "Japan-US" in the narrow sense is surpassed and the territory widened, the amount of overlap between other on-campus research institutes and project research laboratories has increased. For that reason, in addition to collaboration inside the institution, external collaboration is encouraged, and emphasis is placed on the heightening of synergy.

"Synergy greater than 1 + 1 = 2 between the various projects. In Economics terms, we're exercising external effects. If we can't do that, there's no point to the existence of an organization like WOJUSS. One of the organization's missions is to create a research environment where one can set up collaboration and exchange with others, stimulate each other, learn together, and generate new things." (Dean Yabushita)

Another important issue is the broadening of activities into something which can facilitate student education and research. As one such effort, beginning in 2008, a business entrepreneur training program was implemented with the participation of Japanese and American graduate students, in which joint Japanese and American courses were held over the internet. In 2009, the Japanese and American students visited each others' countries and conducted workshops.

"Once, I myself went to a cooperating school with politics and economics colleagues and graduate students to conduct a conference. This year, WOJUSS members will visit Georgetown University in Washington D.C. to conduct the first "GU-Waseda Joint Seminar" with American students and researchers. Our school is particularly good at this sort of "party-crashing" type of "take-out" seminar (laughs), so we'll put even more effort into that from here on." (Dean Yabushita)

WOJUSS Organization Chart

Reflecting the research results in department and graduate school lectures is also an issue. For example, a course on "EU-Europe Integrated Research" is offered to all students by Organization for European Studies at the Open Education Center (http://open-waseda.jp/). A curriculum is provided for a minor (theme study) for undergraduates, and a drill (theme college) for graduate students.
"Eventually, I'd like WOJUSS to put together a similar curriculum, so that students with various majors will be able to learn about Japan-US research." (Dean Yabushita)

The organization's colossal efforts have only just begun. Even as it expands its research and educational activities and policy recommendation activities, it is ambitiously developing various activities to heighten its global presence.

Related Links

Waseda University Organization for Japan-US Studies

Comprehensive Research Organization, Waseda University

Organization for Asian Studies, Waseda University

Waseda University Organization for Islamic Area Studies

Waseda University Organization for European Studies

Japan-US Research Institute(American NPO) US-Japan Research Institute

Waseda University Organization for Japan-US Studies Project Research Institutes

Institute of Japan-US Studies

Waseda Institute for Global Health

Institute for Global Sustainability

Center for the Study of International Cooperation in Education

Center for Experimental Management

Waseda Institute for Global Governance

Waseda Institute for American Politics and Economics