I am honored to assume the post of President of the Japan Association for Asian Studies (JAAS) from June 2021. I look forward to fulfilling my responsibilities over the next two years.
JAAS promotes academic research related to Asia and offers a platform for presenting those results to stimulate research exchange. The strengths of this Association are its wide spatial scope that covers Asia as a whole, including East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, and its inclusiveness that embraces a range of disciplines in the social science, including politics, economy, society, law and history, as well as diverse approaches, both theoretical and empirical. I hope to apply these strengths toward further stimulating JAAS activities that are viewed as beneficial to all our members.
JAAS was founded in 1953 out of a strong desire among its founding members during the early post-war period to create a platform that was distanced from politics and that allowed members to freely engage in Asian studies as academic and empirical research. That was nearly 70 years ago. The first 30 years were an establishment period as an association, during which membership grew from the original 50 members to over 500 members in line with the growing interest in Asian studies in post-War Japan. The next 30 years were a growth period: the Association journal introduced a peer review system, conferences and study meetings were institutionalized, the JAAS website was launched, international exchange began, and the JAAS Annual Award for the Best Article was established. Although the Association lost government funding and corporate membership revenues, it successfully shifted to a self-sufficient structure where membership fees covered operating expenses, with its membership exceeding 1,300. In the Association’s 60th year, JAAS filed its Articles of Incorporation to become a General Incorporated Foundation, the structure that governs the organization today. I want to express my heartfelt respect for my predecessors and all JAAS members for their tireless efforts over the years toward unceasing reforms.
From that 60th year, however, this Association appears to have entered into a maturity period. JAAS membership has turned to decline at a pace that mirrors a decrease in the number of graduate students in Japan, which began in the 2010s, particularly in the social science. Recognizing the need to shift its focus from quantitative expansion to qualitative progress, JAAS took various steps, such as consistently having panel sessions at conferences and international symposiums funded by the Kashiyama Scholarship Foundation.
Moving forward, in what I believe is an extension of those efforts, I want to further promote qualitative progress for JAAS activities by engaging in the following three initiatives. The first is to make conference programs attractive by effectively leveraging the strengths of the Association. The second is to develop collaborations with other domestic or overseas associations to expand the scope of discussion. The third is to proactively promote a hop-step-jump approach among younger members by encouraging them to present their papers at regular study meetings, then at a conference, and finally to submit an article to the Association journal. And on the 70th anniversary in 2023, I want to create an opportunity for JAAS to show an international standard of contemporary Asian studies through which we can review Asia’s past and search its future.
I hope all members will take an active part in JAAS activities and present their research results, while submitting their ideas and proposals aimed at further vitalizing the Association.