● From the Director
● Ideals and Purposes
● History of CNEAS
Seventeen years have now passed since the founding of CNEAS. In October 1981, I took two years off from university to study in Ulan Bator, in what was then called the Mongolian People’s Republic. What I witnessed there was the different world of the Soviet socialist system and the Mongolian people at that time were full of confidence in the future according to socialism. Then in June 1989, while I was studying at what is now the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing, I was witness to the Tiananmenan Square Incident. That incident, it seems to me, which coincided with the visit to China of Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, was symbolic of the history that would follow. The tragedy at Tiananmen Square may have been one of the growth pains from which Northeast Asia was born.
The spasms kept up after that for quite some time. When I visited Mongolia in the summer of 1993, socialism had become a ruin. The psychological hurt the people were suffering from the collapse of the economy, the dire shortage of goods, and the breakdown of the socialist system was the same as was being experienced in Russia. Mongolia after its recovery quickly established deepened relations with Japan and is now one of the most pro-Japan countries in the world. Japan’s relations with Russia as well have been steadily improving, as seen in the signing of scholarly exchange agreements between the Tohoku University and the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and other Russian universities and the advance of exchange.
The Mongolia to which I traveled to study seemed very far away thirty years ago. But today, we can visit both Mongolia and China without visas to discuss research with our research collaborators there. For the past five years, I have regularly visited Novosibirsk in Siberian Russia for the “Japan Asia Lectures Series” given by the CNEAS. When I realized that Novosibirsk could be reached within four and a half hours from Beijing, I couldn’t help thinking of the difference from the distance I had felt two or three decades before. I realize I am traveling in a Northeast Asia that is emerging ever more clearly as the years go by.
Northeast Asia’s cultural diversity will never fade, no matter how accessible the region becomes-the stylish European-style townscapes of Siberia, the nomadic lifestyle of the peoples of the Mongolian steppes, the bustle of China’s great metropolises, the Chinese farmers who live as if an integral part of the land. In places where such diverse cultures meet, friction is bound to occur, but diversity is part-and-parcel of this region; Northeast Asia is emerging not into homogeneity but as based on diversity, and that is the event we are seeing take place now. Today we enjoy an environment in which we can consider the problems that arise from that diversity together with local researchers and residents of various parts of the region. This is a truly exciting and momentous development.
|Director, OKA Hiroki|
The foremost purpose of CNEAS is to establish and broaden frameworks for regional understanding in Northeast Asia. The period since 1996 when CNEAS was established has indeed been one of substantive progress in the formation of regional frameworks in the region, which consists of Siberian and Far Eastern Russia, China, the Korean peninsula, Mongolia, and Japan. With links forming in economic development between China on the one hand and Japan and Korea on the other, with redefinition of Russia and Mongolia as Asian-Pacific states and the building of their ties with East Asia, and with the emergence of mechanisms for coordinating relations mainly between China and Russia, Northeast Asia today is incomparably more tightly knit than it was in the days of the Cold War.
In Japan, the old bilateral frameworks of relations-seen in terms of Japan-China, Japan-Russia, and Japan-Korea ties-have yet to be overcome and awareness of Japan as part of Northeast Asia is still not well developed. Conventional views of the region in terms of North Asia and East Asia, however, can no longer accommodate the current circumstances. For Japan, we believe, establishment of the concept of the Northeast Asian region is an urgent matter.
CNEAS pursues research themes based on a shared awareness of the tasks faced by local societies in Northeast Asia. The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 was a case that showed academia the needs of local communities in their most urgent form. Even without the event of a major disaster, local societies have shown in various ways how scholarly research is needed, and academics need to maintain ties with local societies so that they will be attuned to such needs. The important thing is that the needs in area research must not be motivated simply by scholarly inquiry but should be sought within local societies themselves-the days are over when scholars of so-called advanced nations can engage in unilateral studies of “other cultures.”
Today the emphasis in area research is on practice. Caught up in the process of economic growth, Northeast Asia is currently experiencing dramatic changes. Bewilderment at such changes often creates serious divisions in society. These divisions rear their heads in various forms-environmental issues accompanying development, inter-ethnic strife, globalization and resistance to its forces, conflicts over territory, and so forth. These issues, we believe, must be shared and approached through the various frameworks for exchange and consultation in Northeast Asia that have already come into being as increasingly close ties have formed among countries and areas within the region. How will the heritage of local culture be evaluated? What needs to be preserved? What needs to be changed? How to deal with both the positive and negative legacies? These are the kinds of issues that Northeast Asian area studies must grapple with.
CNEAS therefore seeks to consider local culture in terms of the values of what local society should preserve, that is, as cultural heritage, working together with local researchers and residents. The study of local areas is not about manipulating or administering local culture; it means considering, along with local people, what culture local residents want to transmit and create. Scholars engaged in such research must be keenly sensitive to cultural diversity. Especially in this era of globalization, we are required to consider how best cultural diversity can be maintained. Using the diverse languages of the region-Chinese, Russian, Korean, Mongolian, as well as English-the staff of CNEAS engage in scholarly research together with the region.
What is called for in area studies is of course not limited to the realm of the society and culture of local residents themselves. The mountains and rivers of the region form the environment that give meaning to the livelihood of the people who reside there. In that sense, the natural environment, too, must be the object of area studies. Area studies requires the interdisciplinary approach not because of the subdivision of scholarship but because of the diversity of regional environments and comprehensiveness of their meanings.
Again, CNEAS, in association with research in all manner of fields in the humanities and sciences, seeks to examine the region from diverse perspectives. Today we benefit from advanced specialization and the accumulation of vast results of past research. The interdisciplinary nature of area studies is by no means a denial of the achievements of specialized research, but encourages mobilization and use of such achievements for deepened understanding of the region. Through liaison among researchers in the humanities and sciences and study of Northeast Asia by scholars each in their own field of expertise, it will be possible to gain a better perspective on the diverse problems of the region.
For researchers in area studies, moreover, it is crucial to pay close attention to each other’s research results. Just as we are studying other areas, those in other areas are studying ours. We are tasked today, as members of the research community of Northeast Asia, with pursuing area studies that is bidirectional. This policy of CNEAS is the embodiment of the spirit of Tohoku University education, the mottoes of which are “openness,” “respect for applied learning,” and “priority on research.” That is precisely the approach of area studies.
We at CNEAS are dedicated to building a fabric for understanding of the region of Northeast Asia.
With the collapse of the Cold War structure and the globalization of economies and information that occurred as the twentieth century drew to a close, a broad consensus formed among Japanese of the increasing importance of mutual understanding, collaboration, and coexistence with Siberia, China, the Korean peninsula, and other neighboring areas. Tohoku University, recognizing the importance of Siberian resources and science and technology, has organized a total of six missions to Siberia since 1991. It also signed an agreement on academic exchange with the Siberian Branch of the Russian (then Soviet) Academy of Sciences in 1992.
These experiences demonstrated the urgent necessity for deepened understanding of the dynamisms of the region surrounding Japan and, in May 1996, the Center for Northeast Asian Studies was founded as an inter-departmental teaching and research facility affiliated with Tohoku University. Presenting the new regional concept of Northeast Asia covering North Asia, East Asia, and Japan, the CNEAS founding objective was to facilitate interdisciplinary and holistic research through collaboration between social sciences and humanities and natural sciences, focusing on issues related to the Northeast Asian region's history and culture, nations and states, and ecology and environment.
CNEAS is Tohoku University's first humanities-led research institute. With the Research Institute of Japanese Culture (set up in 1962 as an affiliate of the Faculty of Letters) as its core, CNEAS was organized through cooperation with the faculties of letters, science, engineering, and language and culture. At the time of its establishment, the faculty of CNEAS were divided up among three Tohoku University separate campuses in different parts of the city, but in 1999 all the research facilities were together on the Kawauchi Campus.
The CNEAS organization at its outset consisted of three basic area-studies divisions (socio-cultural exchange, formative process, and environment) and two divisions for visiting scholars (cultural and socio-economic policy research and resource and environmental assessment), with 26 instructors and five visiting scholars (of whom two were non-Japanese). Its research system included both humanities and sciences in each division. Following the transformation of national universities into independent administrative institutions in Japan in 2004, CNEAS made major changes in April 2007, creating the Basic Studies department (nine research divisions with full-time faculty members), the Research Projects department (now nine research units), and the Research Coordination department (two research-supporting divisions, one office). In April 2009, the Collaboration Office was opened, creating a center for improving CNEAS research project planning and information dissemination functions and for promoting partnerships with other humanities and social sciences divisions of the university. These changes promote the steady pursuit of basic research by individual scholars as well as respond flexibly and on a case-by-case basis to interdisciplinary projects involving many researchers and to scholarship in practical or applied fields.
As an area studies organization on Northeast Asia, CNEAS facilitates broad interaction among researchers in various countries and regions through the "foreign scholars" (gaikokujin kenkyuin) program of MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) and various academic exchange agreements. In May 1998, CNEAS opened a liaison office in the Akademgorodok academic city adjacent to Novosibirsk, Siberia's largest city.
In addition to the rather fluid structure of the Research Projects department, CNEAS also has a system for joint research in order to encourage group studies by multiple teachers and to build networks among researchers at Tohoku University and other institutions in Japan and overseas. The results of research are published in Tohoku Ajia kenkyu [Northeast Asian Studies], the interdisciplinary, refereed journal CNEAS launched in 1997, and other scholarly journals and books. CNEAS also promotes the publication of research results through its "Northeast Asian Study Series" (begun in 1998) and "Tohoku Ajia Kenkyu Sentah Sosho" [Monograph Series for the Center for Northeast Asian Studies] and "Tohoku Ajia Kenkyu Shirizu" [Northeast Asian Study Series] (both begun in 2001).
Large-scale research projects conducted at the CNEAS include the "Study of Publishing Culture in East Asia" (2000-2005) and "Development and Application of New Research Methods on Earth Surface Phenomena Accompanying Volcanic Eruptions" (2002-2006), both funded by Scientific Research on Priority Areas grants-in-aid from MEXT, the "Performing Arts Culture at the Ching Dynasty Court" (2008-2012), funded by Specially Promoted Research grants-in-aid from MEXT, and the "Development of Wearable SAR-GPR for Landmine Detection" (2002-2007), funded under the Japan Science and Technology Agency program for Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology.
The results of such research projects have contributed not only to scholarship but also to society. Specific examples of international contribution include developments of technologies based on electromagnetic-wave research for underground water monitoring in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, and for landmine detection for civilian use in strife-torn regions, as well as observation and study of volcanic eruptions in Japan and overseas. CNEAS has also organized a Disaster Prevention Science Research Core Group aimed at protecting local people and societies from disasters through the promotion of practical disaster prevention science. The Group has launched far-reaching activities such as consciousness-raising about disaster prevention at the local level and measures for document preservation in times of disaster. CNEAS also undertakes projects aimed at documentary and archival preservation in East Asia through research on publishing culture. These and other activities are part of the CNEAS's wider efforts to assure the usefulness of its research to society.
CNEAS was involved in the establishment in 2004 of the Japan Consortium for Area Studies (JCAS),a nationwide organization of universities, research institutes, NGOs, and other groups engaged in area studies. In 2005 CNEAS helped to establish the Northeast Asian Studies and Exchange Network (NEASE-Net)for promotion of exchange among the research institutions and think-tanks of various types related to the Northeast Asian region. Through such organizations, CNEAS has established closer ties with other universities, research and education institutions, and private-sector organizations.
|Previous Directors of CNEAS|
|YOSHIDA Tadashi||11 May 1996-31 July 1999|
|TOKUDA Masanori||1 August 1999-31 March 2001|
|YAMADA Katsuyoshi||1 April 2001 - 31 March 2005|
|HIRAKAWA Arata||1 April 2005 - 31 March 2007|
|SEGAWA Masahisa||1 April 2007 - 31 March 2009|
|SATO Motoyuki||1 April 2009 - 31 March 2013|
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