Minato-ku Citizen's University
"Changing Japan: Five Perspectives on Japanese Society Today"
Jointly hosted by Minato Kissport Foundation and TUJ

Tuesdays and Thursdays, November 9, 11, 16, 18, & 25
18:30 - 20:00
TUJ Mita Hall Rooms 5F (Access)
2,500 yen for the series *
(Bank transfer prior to the first session necessary. Non-refundable. TUJ will notify bank account details by e-mail.)

* Since the intent is that participants complete study of the topic by attending the entire series, the full fee will be charged regardless of how many lectures are actually attended.
50 (First-come, first-served basis)
To Register
Registration is closed as it has reached seating capacity.

Lecture 1

Tuesday, November 9
The Politics of Japanese Popular Culture
Kyle Cleveland, Associate Professor of Sociology

Japanese popular culture has had a profound impact on Japan's image abroad, as mass media (film/anime, manga,), and design aesthetics have enjoyed enthusiastic international reception. With Japan's economic and political prospects in relative decline, popular culture has become a major export commodity and a useful way for Japanese politicians to assert their interests through cultural, rather than economic means. But if pop culture is politics by other means at the level of state politics, for the cultural innovators who create content, the focus is inner-directed and disassociated from the conservative institutional goals of its proponents. For Japanese youth, especially, popular culture is an accessible and meaningful form of political engagement, but often as a vehicle to express subversive ideas that inhabit a parallel universe from mainstream culture. This lecture will address the significance of Japanese popular culture for foreign policy "values diplomacy," and discuss the varied meanings and uses for which it is employed in Japan and abroad.

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Lecture 2

Thursday, November 11
Turning Art into Tourism: A New Economy of Art for Rural Japan
Noriko Murai, Assistant Professor of Art History

Contemporary art has arguably become hot in Japan in recent years. One new approach to promoting contemporary art and cultivating an audience has been to bring together the rural and the cosmopolitan in what one might call "contemporary art tourism." The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, inaugurated in 2000, has selected the hitherto untouristed region in Niigata as the site to stage the "world's largest" showing of international contemporary art. The Setouchi International Art Festival has followed suit this summer. While the idea of large-scale international art fairs has been a staple in the world of contemporary art, and is often combined with the promotion of the host city's local tourism as in the case of the famous Venice Biennale, the recent Japanese cases are interesting for their attempt to revive de-populating and commercially sluggish communities in provincial Japan through art. This session discusses the impact of this new form of exhibition venues on rural areas as well as on the production and consumption of contemporary art.

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Lecture 3

Tuesday, November 16
Japan's Virtual Berlin Wall
Robert Dujarric, Director, Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies

More than 20 years have passed since the Berlin Wall fell, yet Japan remains shut out from the rest of humanity by its own wall. This invisible barrier serves as much to prevent inbound flows as outward ones. As a result:

  • Very few men and women of influence - in the realm of ideas, business or government - are from foreign backgrounds.
  • Tokyo, unlike other great metropolises, has no cosmopolitan flavor.
  • Very few Japanese work overseas as educators, business executives in the employ of non-Japanese firms, or as officials in international organizations and NGOs. At the same time, the numbers of foreigners in Japan remains low.
  • This intangible forcefield harms Japan by locking Japanese ideas within the boundaries of the wall and keeping outside influences at bay.

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Lecture 4

Thursday, November 18
The Politics of East and West — A Comparison of Politics in Britain and Japan
Tina Burrett, Professor of Political Science

The title of this lecture pays homage to Kipling's oft-quoted line "East is East, and West is West and never the twain shall met". But the theme of this lecture could not be further from the spirit of the quotation. Political institutions and culture in Japan and Britain share a number of important characteristics. Most significantly, Britain and Japan are both parliamentary democracies, with the largest party in the Lower House forming the Government, and the head of that party becoming Prime Minister. In both countries political parties often hold power for long periods (in Japan, the LDP held power for most of the post-1945 period, while in Britain, the Conservatives were in Government continuously from 1979 to 1997, and Labour from 1997 to 2010). In both countries, political decision-making rests on foundations of strong elite consensus and control. The similarities between Britain and Japan, however, extend beyond the political field; both are important financial centres, with an aging and increasingly urban population. Furthermore, both are key allies of the United States, and have changed Prime Minister within the past year.

Although the result of different systems and circumstances, similarities between the two countries suggest important lessons can be learnt by comparing and contrasting political processes in Britain and Japan. Current debates on the political systems at work in both countries acknowledge the need for constitutional reform and a re-balancing of the powers of central government vis-à-vis Parliament and the citizens it represents. In keeping with these debates, this lecture will compare British and Japanese political practices with the aim of identifying ways to improve accountability, legislative scrutiny, and government oversight in both countries.

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Session 5

Thursday, November 25
An Outsider on the Inside: A Foreigner's Perspective on the Crisis in Japanese Higher Education
Bruce Stronach, Dean, Temple University, Japan Campus

As one of the few people to have held senior administrative positions in both American and Japanese universities, and the only foreigner to have been president of a Japanese public university, Bruce Stronach has a unique perspective from which to access the current crisis in Japanese higher education.

The word crisis is appropriate because Japanese universities today face challenges in an increasingly global higher education market caused by a declining population base, declining government funding, a lack of competitiveness, central ministerial control, outmoded admissions systems, and a lack of professional administration. Dr. Stronach's talk will address these challenges and propose some solutions by which Japan can improve its universities and increase its international competitiveness.

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