“Japan in Transition” conference starts today

Nora G. Hertel

This weekend, Lawrence welcomes an impressive lineup for the “Japan in Transition” conference. Prominent figures in Japanese studies from around the country are traveling to Lawrence to present papers, participate in panel discussions, and listen to keynote speakers.
The headlining speaker is Takakazu Kuriyama, a former Japanese ambassador to the United States who studied at Lawrence as a special student for the 1954-55 academic year.
Other keynote speakers include Bob Wakabayashi of York University and Michael Schneider of Knox College.
The conference is sponsored by several organizations — including Lawrence University — dedicated to exploration of and education on Japan and Japanese culture.
Other sponsors include the Kikkoman Foundation, Japan Study, the Japan Foundation and the Henry Luce Foundation.
Lawrence’s involvement in the conference can be tied to the reception of a grant for the East Asian studies department. Associate Professor of Chinese Jane Parish Yang served as a co-director of the grant.
She views the conference as “a nice follow-up to our four-year $1.5 million Freeman Foundation grant,” which was awarded from 2002-2005.
The topics to be discussed at the conference include art, anthropology, political science, history and culture. The issues span recent and long-term developments and the cultural spectrum from national traditions to foreign policy.
Presentations and discussions all center, however, around one mission statement. The organizers have clearly stated, “The purpose of this multi-disciplinary conference is to explore Japanese cultural and social issues that can shed light on the traditional heritage of Japan and its possible implication on the transition of today’s Japanese societal values.”
Current events, like the debate over gender and imperial succession, Sino-Japanese relations, and changes that may result from the recent implementation of the youngest prime minister will be explored in the keynote addresses.
Guests may also choose to attend three different workshops, presided over by Lawrence faculty members Jane Parish Yang, Mark Frazier and Brenda Jenike.
The conference begins Friday, Oct. 13 in the Wriston Art Center with a welcome reception and a display of Lawrence’s permanent collection of East Asian woodblock prints.
The opening address by Kuriyama will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will take place in the Wriston auditorium.
Workshops and the second keynote address will take place Saturday in Science Hall. The conference will conclude in Science Hall on Sunday with the last workshop and speaker session, as well as a farewell reception.
The “Japan in Transition” conference is a forum for reputable academics in East Asian studies. Professor Yang is pleased to share her own academic paper “with several colleagues and receive helpful feedback.”
As a conference to promote understanding and to share knowledge, Lawrence students are encouraged to take part in the events. Yang expressed, “I hope Lawrence students and faculty take advantage of this opportunity.”
The conference promises to take a holistic approach to examining the present state of Japan and the direction the country is heading.
In hosting the event, Lawrence continues a tradition of encouraging and facilitating cultural understanding between the United States and a Japan “in transition.