The 13th Asian Conference on Psychology & the Behavioral Sciences (ACP2023), The 13th Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy (ACERP2023) and The 9th Asian Conference on Aging & Gerontology (AGen2023), held from March 31, 2023 to April 3, 2023 at the Toshi Center Hotel, Tokyo, Japan, has successfully concluded, reinforcing The International Academic Forum (IAFOR)'s commitment to the advancement of international, intercultural and interdisciplinary study, teaching and research.
This hybrid conference was held in partnership with the IAFOR Research Centre at the Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP) at Osaka University, Japan. This event exemplifies IAFOR’s internationalising mission, bringing together more than 350 delegates from 49 countries.
The conference was launched with a fascinating keynote from Yu Niiya, Professor in the Department of Global and Interdisciplinary Studies (GIS) at Hosei University in Tokyo, Japan, where she explored the concept of time in modern societies, highlighting its similarities to money in terms of investment, trade, and value perception. She also introduces the idea that time could be seen as a non-zero-sum resource, and discusses how perceiving time in this way leads to positive psychological and prosocial outcomes.
Day one of the conference continued with another keynote from Frank Ravitch, Professor of Law and Walter H. Stowers Chair in Law in Religion at the Michigan State University College of Law, who discussed the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of longstanding precedent on the separation of church and state in a case involving Christian prayer by a public school football coach, as well as recent Japanese Supreme Court decisions expanding the separation of politics and religion, highlighting the contrasting outcomes and exploring the reasons behind these differences.
After a short break, the plenary sessions continued with a panel discussion consisting of Frank Ravitch, Professor of Law and Walter H. Stowers Chair in Law in Religion at the Michigan State University College of Law and Brian Victoria, Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.
Moderated by Joseph Haldane, CEO & Chairman of IAFOR, the panel discusses recent global instances, including the Russia-Ukraine Christian Orthodox Church split and Sweden-Turkey tensions, as well as specific cases in Japan, illustrating the complex interaction between religion and state, with topics ranging from political associations of Japanese politicians with controversial religious groups to a court case in Kyoto questioning the allocation of funds to support religious activities in violation of the Japanese Constitution's religious freedom guarantees.
Following the panel presentation, Brian Victoria remained on stage for his keynote speech that delved into the evolution of the concept of "karma" in twentieth-century Japan, exploring interpretations by Rinzai Zen figures Shaku Sōen, D. T. Suzuki, and Uchiyama Gudō, along with references to Theravada tradition, ultimately revealing that both Mahayana and Theravada interpretations of karma differ significantly from the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Plenary day closed with a workshop presentation by James McNally, Director of the NACDA Program on Aging, and Kathryn Lavender, Manager of the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging (NACDA) team. The presentation started by highlighting the growing recognition of the value of public-use data for secondary research and its potential for cross-national studies before launching into a demonstration of how to use the NACDA database for personal research.
Days two and three were packed parallel presentation days held at the Toshi Center Hotel, before day four was held entirely online. Embracing the emergence of streaming capabilities, delegates participated in an interactive hybrid presentation during day three of the conference. Streaming in, Professor Perry Zurn, Associate Professor of Philosophy at American University, and affiliate faculty in the Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies, introduced a theory of curiosity as a relational practice, emphasising its role in connecting rather than simply acquiring information, discussing its significance in both humanities and sciences, its impact on education, and inviting participation from participants in Tokyo and online for discussions on its implications for the future.
The conference concluded on day five with an online keynote from Jan Spijker, psychiatrist at the Expert Center for Depression of Pro Persona Mental Health Care in Nijmegen, and a professor at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. Professor Spikjer discussed his recent NEMESIS survey results, which indicated a 26% psychiatric condition prevalence among Dutch adults in the past year, up from 18% twelve years prior, particularly noting increased rates of depressive, anxiety, and substance use disorders.
While formal presentations are the backbone of IAFOR conferences, the value of informal, yet intellectual, interaction among peers is not overlooked. Leading up to the conference, delegates were able to immerse themselves in the breathtaking spectacle of vibrant cherry blossoms in full bloom as they strolled through the picturesque Chidorigafuchi Park, where the delicate pink sakura petals create a captivating and serene atmosphere.
Delegates were also treated to a memorable conference dinner at Gonpachi Nishi-Azubu,which offered a unique culinary adventure that blends traditional Japanese ambiance with modern flair.
As we look towards future events, we are grateful to the speakers, participants, and Organising Committee for their commitment and contributions. For those who missed out, online catch-up options and high-quality recordings of plenary presentations are available on the official conference website.
ACP2023, ACERP2023, and AGen2023 have once again underlined IAFOR's vision - a vision of academia's potential for positive change, and of its responsibility to promote and generate innovation, by connecting and educating. We look forward to seeing you again next year!