The Institute was established in 2013 with the following objectives:
- To provide current and accurate information about developments in Japan that have international significance
- To explain the importance of Japan in both in Asian and global terms through dialog in the English language
- To promote the better understanding of Japan’s business, history, culture, society, and values among Asian and western nations
- To promote the understanding of the role of the Kansai region historically and in the present as a major engine of growth within the Japanese economy
- To produce high quality original research and reference documents that will assist in the promotion of the Institute’s objectives
- To disseminate the research results to the wider public beyond the academic community
- To provide when commissioned to do so, specialized reports for companies interested in establishing links within Japan or Japanese companies looking for links abroad.
Organization and Management
The director works with a group of key researchers from various selected fields to be consistent with iafor’s three guiding principles of facilitating inter-disciplinary research, raising intercultural awareness, and encouraging international exchange. The institute endeavors to promote lateral thinking among its researchers that in turn will generate original and creative insights into the questions and problems it tries to elucidate. Research teams and groups are assembled to reflect its principles.
Two broad categories of research form the structure of the research parameters of the institute. These may be described as geopolitical parameters and thematic parameters. These are not to be considered as necessarily exclusive of each other, but rather as complementary in a way that insights from one can be used to deepen or broaden perspectives developed in the other.
This term is used in a wider sense than that of McKinder’s original concept because it goes beyond military strategy to embrace economic and other thematic approaches. East Asia and the Asia Pacific region is a primary one since Prime Minister Noda intimated that Japan would join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) negotiations. Japan has moved into uncharted waters that have created a range of domestic responses. The complex relationship between Japan and China is a subject that western nations are dangerously capable of misreading, or ignoring, because there is lack of adequate insight into the workings of either country and even less into the subtleties of their interaction past and present. While there is no shortage of western advice to Japan, much of it is useless because it is based on western models that may or may not apply to Japan. The same may be said of China. Iafor sees a role for itself in helping to rectify and redress misperceptions and inadequate understanding.
The regions of East Asia, South Asia and Asia Pacific are not often clearly geopolitically defined or distinguished in the western mind. The term “Asia” is still used in the United Kingdom to refer to Pakistan and India, which should really be referred to as South Asia. The vague term “Far East” is still widely used in media to refer to China and Japan, whereas China Korea and Japan are East Asia. Southeast Asis as a term is seldom used in western reporting about Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. The Pacific Rim as an economic circle comprised of the west coast of the United States, Canada and several South American countries, along with Australia and New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia, plus the Philippines is seldom discussed as such. However, East Asia and Southeast Asia include two of the world’s largest three economies that also include more than a third of the world’s population.
Once this is recognized, the questions posed by these economic groupings individually and collectively give rise to the thematic issues that bring their interaction into focus.
This term refers to cross-sectional discussions that span problems requiring an interdisciplinary approach. Examples of this would be questions involving sustainability and energy, cross-cultural issues in education for a global age, regional trade and investment, and regional collective security. Four themes under examination at present are:
- Collective security in the Asia/Pacific region
- Environmental sustainability
- Conflict resolution and Mediation Studies in Asia
- Management Practice and behavior in global business organizations
This dual pattern has two merits. It encourages cross-fertilization of ideas, and it also facilitates the broadest possible level of discussion that specific and individual disciplines cannot conveniently handle. In this sense, iafor embodies a new paradigm of study and research. Universities are limited by budgets and by politics in their struggle to develop new disciplines and in recognizing where the problems of the future lie. While at one time, they could be viewed as possible agents of social change, the traditional models of discipline-based education, even at graduate level, inhibit adventurous or even risk-taking thought.
The military analogy would be that after World War I, three conventional fighting forces had been developed to cover land, sea, and air. But once the need for short-range aircraft to be close to distant theatres of war was recognized, the aircraft carrier was created to achieve this end. The submarine was also developed further, and the helicopter was introduced. These became decisive in World War II and thereafter. The point of the analogy is that each crossed the conventional lines of deployment demarcation in a way that opened up numerous hitherto unexplored possibilities.