A successful BAJS Conference in Sheffield

The School of East Asian Studies welcomed over 200 Japanese experts to Sheffield in September for the triannual British Association for Japanese Studies Conference.

BAJS conference 2018

Initial feedback from the delegates has named this as the best BAJS conference ever and said that SEAS has set a new standard for the Association.

The School of East Asian Studies welcomed over 200 Japanese culture, politics, economics, business and society experts to Sheffield earlier this month for the triannual British Association for Japanese Studies Conference (BAJS 2018).

Titled ‘Crisis, what crisis? Continuity and change in Japan’, BAJS 2018 brought scholars from across the globe together for 3 days to explore the past, current, and future state of Japan. 2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which ‘returned’ governance of the country to the emperor and ushered in Japan’s modern era, so this was an ideal year to reflect on Japan’s tumultuous modern history and consider its place in the world.

The conference was opened with a Keynote address from Professor Mōri Yoshitaka (Tokyo University of Arts) and Professor Gennifer Weisenfeld (Duke University) who both explored cultural and social responses to crisis from different perspectives.

Professor Mōri explored the very concept of crisis, looking at how these have been defined and discussed in Japan’s natural environment, economy, culture and politics, while Professor Weisenfeld took a different perspective, examining the variety of responses to the historical crisis of wartime air-raids, or the fear of them, by the state and private companies.

Their presentations were followed by a mediated discussion to draw out and compare the themes from these different approaches.

Over 150 papers presented over 46 sessions with topics ranging from Japanese politics and international relations in the 21st century, to family and diversity in contemporary Japan.

This year’s BAJS conference featured a number of innovations with the inclusion of several new components: a research film series, a student poster session and a musical performance by Dr Yuiko Asaba at the opening reception.

Dr Asaba has performed internationally and recorded award-winning albums both as a solo artist and as a collaborator. As a researcher, she is fascinated by tango in its transnational contexts and is now completing a monograph on tango in Japan. She was awarded a PhD in Music by Royal Holloway, University of London in 2017, and is currently working there as a visiting lecturer.

As a way to celebrate the excellent research undertaken by Japanese studies students, this year’s conference included a student poster session.

The session was open to students at all levels of study and a number of high-quality posters were submitted. Out of the 3 prizes on offer, we are very proud to say that two students from SEAS were awarded prizes for their excellent posters. PhD student Georgia Thomas-Parr won a prize for her poster Shōji in Crisis? Undergraduate student Oliver Moxham also received a prize for his poster War Memory and ‘Camouflage Tourism’ in Kyoto.

Being able to present my research to a conference full of top academics I'd previously only known as names on reading lists was an absolute honour. I'm nonetheless very proud of this achievement, and feel encouraged in pursuing my research further.

Oliver Moxham

BA Japanese Studies and History, research poster prize winner

A research film series 

This series ran alongside the conference panels this year to give delegates the opportunity to engage with research in an alternative way to traditional paper presentations. The series showcased four films during the three-day conference and included a Q&A session with each film director.

The films shown were:

  • Tokyo Pengyou, exploring the story of a young Chinese musician in Japan and his struggle to find his place in the world
  • When Cinema was King, traces the living memories of the ‘golden age’ of film culture in postwar Japan
  • Children’s Tears: Searching for Japanese Fathers, unveiling the hidden history of children born to Eurasian mothers and Japanese fathers in the Dutch East Indies when they were occupied by the Japanese during World War II
  • Michiko: A Child Born of War, a short animated film telling the story of a child born to a Chinese mother and Japanese father in the second Sino-Japanese War (1937-45)
  • White Out, a combined work of art and anthropology, examining gendered responses to crisis.

Dr Thomas McAuley, Chair of the Conference Committee for SEAS, says, "A team of people at Sheffield worked for a year aiming to make the 2018 BAJS conference a success, and I’m very pleased that all these efforts have been rewarded.

We attracted more delegates than for any previous conference; we were able to have speakers from all over the world, ranging from full professors to students, delivering high-quality presentations on a very wide range of topics, and demonstrating the vibrancy of Japanese Studies today; and we also showcased Sheffield’s excellent facilities and environment.

Initial feedback from the delegates has named this as the best BAJS conference ever and said that SEAS has set a new standard for the Association. This was only possible due to the hard work of the conference team and everyone who took part.

We are convinced that the conference has allowed people to expand their international networks, enthused them with new ideas, and will lead to many profitable and rewarding collaborations in the future."

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