A Short Report on Philippine Studies in Japan

by Yoshiko Nagano, PhD Professor of International Relations & Asian Studies         Faculty of Human Sciences, Kanagawa University, Yokohama                           (November 2012)

We are happy to report that Philippine studies in Japan, particularly among junior scholars have progressed significantly in the past decade.

If we look at Philippine studies in Japan from the aspect of undergraduate education, the two major institutions first established in the early 1990s are the Filipino language departments in the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and Osaka University (formerly Osaka University of Foreign Studies). Both departments are producing a large number of students who have a command of Filipino language with some understanding of Philippine society and culture.

On the other hand, when we look at graduate studies on the Philippines, it might be safe to say that there is no such institution that could systematically handle both research and education on the scholarly level. Most graduate students or scholars engage in their studies and research in various universities throughout Japan while teaching or studying within their respective disciplines. The number of faculty members and graduate students who are currently conducting research on Philippine studies, I approximate, might be just over one hundred. During the 1990s, the nationwide network of Philippine studies in Japan linking senior scholars, young scholars and graduate students did not yet exist.

However, in 1995, the Graduate Student Philippine Studies Forum of Japan was established under the initiative of Mamoru Tsuda of the Osaka University of Foreign Studies in order to link young scholars and graduate students.

This situation has changed gradually since 2002, however. With the persistent encouragement of Professor Belinda Aquino of University of Hawaii at Manoa, a dozen senior scholars in Japan got together in July 2002 to organize a conference of Philippine studies in conjunction with the series of international conferences of Philippine studies that has taken place since the early 1980s. I happened to take initiative as coordinator of this group that was named the Philippine Studies Conference of Japan (PSCJ). We decided that the first international conference of Philippine studies should be held in November 2006. The formal PSCJ organizing committee was organized in November 2004 after it was approved by the Board of the International Committee of Philippine Studies Conferences during its meeting at the 7th ICOPHIL in Leiden, the Netherlands in June 2004.

With the initiative of organizing the first PSCJ in 2006, we sought to establish a link between senior and junior scholars scattered throughout Japan. A network of junior scholars and graduate students did exist in the form of the Graduate Student Philippine Studies Forum of Japan which was organized and held annually since the mid-1990s. The number of junior scholars or graduate students who attended this forum was not so large, approximately 20 to 30 participants. However, with the objective of organizing a future conference of Philippine scholars, a number of senior scholars joined in this graduate students’ gathering in 2003, giving comments and suggestions to the papers delivered by junior scholars. This lively interaction between senior and junior scholars and graduate students increased attendance at the Graduate Student Philippine Studies Forum of Japan. Participants counted around 80 to 100 during the most recent gathering held last July 2012 at the Center of Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University under the name 17th Young Scholars’ Philippine Studies Forum of Japan. Now, not only do Japanese graduate students attend this forum but also Filipino graduate students who are studying in Japan as well as young Filipino scholars who came over from Manila in order to participate.

Hence, the very first Philippine Studies Conference of Japan (or PSCJ) was held in November 2006 in Tokyo. About 15 panels were organized by the PSCJ organizing committee and approximately 20 scholars were invited from the United States, the Philippines and other Asian countries. Nearly 70 papers were read by the registered pool of participants comprised of over 150 scholars with 30 to 40 student volunteers. We should also note here that at the conference reception, Ambassador Domingo L. Siazon gave an impressive speech, in spite of the Philippine Embassy in Japan’s overlapping schedule with the Philippine festival in Tokyo which was being held at the same time.

The characteristics of PSCJ were as follows—due to our limited organizational capacity, we adopted a policy to not have a universal “Call for Papers.” All the scholars from abroad who read papers participated on an invitational basis. This policy was linked to our primary motive for this first conference: to encourage Japanese junior scholars and graduate students to read papers in English at international conferences. To this end, PSCJ: 2006 was set on a different footing and direction when compared to conferences held in the United States or the Philippines, where the first language of most of scholars is English. In Japan today, many scholars read papers in English; however English is still the second language for most of us. This should be taken into consideration, particularly regarding this conference in Japan. It should not just be patterned after other conferences abroad, but should seek to invent a new type of conference that serves our needs within. While maintaining harmony with the interests of topnotch scholars abroad, we can then we seek to enhance Philippine studies at the international setting. The program and paper abstracts of PSCJ: 2006 are available from the following URL:

http://www.d1.dion.ne.jp/~zmackey/PSCJ112.html

We are also happy to report that the torch of PSCJ: 2006 was passed on to the next generation. The 2nd PSCJ was held four years after in November 2010 at the University of Tsukuba campus. The convener of PSCJ 2010 was Nobutaka Suzuki and he successfully organized the conference which had 15 panels, about 60 to 70 papers, and  one hundred scholars and students in attendance, including participants from abroad. The program and abstracts of PSCJ: 2010 is also available from the following

URL: http://www.d1.dion.ne.jp/~zmackey/PSCJ.html

What comes next? The 3rd PSCJ. Again here, we are happy to report that preparations for this is underway through the initiative of two scholars at Kyoto University Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Hiromu Shimizu and Carol Hau. They are planning to host the 3rd PSCJ sometime in January or February 2014. The steering committee made up of mid-career scholars has already been formed; some of them attended ICOPHIL-9 at East Lansing in October 2012. As far as I know, they are preparing a conference with around 15 panels, following the patterns of the 1st and 2nd PSCJ. If you are interested in PSCJ: 2014, please kindly contact Carol Hau at caroline.sy.hau@gmail.com.

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One thought on “A Short Report on Philippine Studies in Japan

  1. I realize that my comment comes 5 years after you wrote this article, but I only today discovered it through the new blog.

    “… PSCJ: 2006 was set on a different footing and direction when compared to conferences held in the United States or the Philippines, where the first language of most of scholars is English. In Japan today, many scholars read papers in English; however English is still the second language for most of us. This should be taken into consideration, particularly regarding this conference in Japan. It should not just be patterned after other conferences abroad, but should seek to invent a new type of conference that serves our needs within. While maintaining harmony with the interests of topnotch scholars abroad, we can then we seek to enhance Philippine studies at the international setting.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with your point of view on how Japanese scholars taking part in international conferences should be considered when English is their second language. I hope that steps will be taken to “invent a new type of conference” for this purpose. I have been in Japan for 48 years and recognize the difficulties with which some Japanese scholars must contend.

    Like

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