An intellectual journey at one of Japan’s most prestigious Universities

On December 17th the participants of the MIRAI 2016 Winter Program had the opportunity to engage with Japanese scientists and students to gain an inside perspective on Japanese foreign policy. The day was spent at a seminar at Waseda University in Tokyo where Professor Hidetoshi Nakamura was the Master of Ceremonies during the seminar. The seminar included lectures, by Professor Yuichi Hosoya of Keio University and Professor Tomonori Yoshizaki of the National Institute of Defense Studies. The day was concluded with a group discussion moderated by Professor Paul Bacon and Dr. Hikaru Yoshizawa, both of Waseda University.

Antonis Kyriakou shared his impressions of the Waseda University exchange.

At the first session, we explored the complex nature of territorial disputes and why history and national memory change from time to time. We analyzed the internal and external factors that influence territorial claims in the Sino-Japanese relations in particular and appreciated the rational of such a change. Emphasis was given on two main factors that influence the national memory and territorial claims between two neighbouring countries namely the shift in economic powers and the evolution of national politics.

At the second session we examined how European and Japanese policymakers can co-operate for safeguarding the protection and promotion of security in the international arena. We analysed the existing challenges of this scenario and made concrete proposals on how to overcome them at a regional and international level. Moreover, we stressed the importance of creativeness and openness between future leaders if we truly want to discover new methods of the peace-building process.

At the final session, students had the opportunity to challenge the context of those lectures in a spirit of a constructive dialogue and mutual understanding. What was particularly interesting was that the mixture of European and Japanese students had not only identified potential gaps in the aforementioned policy areas but more importantly they suggested new proposals to address those challenges. Although in some instances, European and Japanese students may have different views of the roots of those issues and thus different proposals, in the end dialogue and unity prevail.

This was an unforgettable experience for two main reasons, on the one hand participants had the opportunity to deepen the understanding on Japan’s foreign policy and on the other hand European and Japanese students had the opportunity to actively engage together, to address real life scenarios and exchange views on various topics.

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