2019 was a milestone year for ICAS. We moved to a beautiful new campus. We
celebrated our 15th anniversary with longtime friends and colleagues. We delved
into contemporary issues like cybersecurity, immigration policy, and LGBT equality.
2020 heralds the new decade, and with it, challenges that demand new and
There are pressing issues that we as a global community need to address. Climate
change. The rise of right-wing extremism. Protest movements around the world.
The impact of global health crises like COVID-19. In Japan, the ongoing question
of gender inequality. The legacy of the longest serving prime minister in Japanese
There are no easy answers. But as global citizens we must consider these issues,
and their intersectionality. To learn from one another and discuss issues together is
critical – and there is no better time to do so.
We hope you join us for the discussion.
Letter From ICAS
Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS)
Temple University Japan Campus
www.tuj.ac.jp |email@example.com | 03-5441-9800
The Institute for Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS) is a forum for intellec-
tual and cultural exchange operating under Temple University, Japan
Our mission is to provide a platform for academics, journalists, business
executives, students and others from all over the world to present inno-
vative ideas and stimulate debate. ICAS sessions are interactive: speak-
ers provide audiences with a starting point for discussion and likewise,
audience participants raise new ideas that shape our programming.
Notable Programs include:
To learn more, please visit: www.tuj.ac.jp/icas/the-institute.
• Evening Lecture Series, which features discussions, book
talks, film screenings, and other public events throughout
• Adjunct Fellowship Program, in which ICAS fellows facili-
tate speaking engagements with the Evening Lecture
Series, and share research & networking opportunities.
The Institute of Contemporary
Asian Studies (ICAS) at Temple
University, Japan Campus
The comments, opinions and statements expressed in ICAS events, lectures and publications are
solely those of the presenters, and do not constitute comments, opinions, or statements of ICAS, TUJ
or Temple University, which do not verify, sanction or endorse such comments, opinions, or
現代アジア研究所 (ICAS - Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies)
Dr. Aya Abe has been researching poverty in Japan for many years. At her Novem-
ber ICAS lecture, she described starting her career in poverty reduction initiatives in
neighboring developing countries. At the same time she was commuting through
Shinjuku and seeing the homeless living in the station. The incongruous sight led to her
interest in poverty in Japan, and when she could find few statistics on the issue, she
began to volunteer and conduct research herself.
Her lecture broke down research on poverty rates in Japan from the 1980’s to the
present, and described the impact poverty can have on children’s everyday lives.
“This is the reality of poverty in developed countries,” Dr. Abe explained. “You do not
see the poor on the street, but when they go home, they might be living in a house
with no electricity.”
Other examples included households with difficulty paying utility bills, rent, or food.
Poverty in Japan can differ from that in other developed countries by household
type. For example, single parents and single women tend to experience higher rates
of poverty in Japan than in other developed nations. The manifestation of poverty
also tends to be internalized in Japan, and can be closely linked with other social
phenomena such as hikikomori (acute social withdrawal).
The lecture was followed by a Q&A session.
Dr. Aya Abe of Tokyo Metropolitan University.
“Invisible” Child Poverty in Japan
Highlights from our recent program
The ICAS Evening Lecture Series would not be a success without the
help of our student team. ICAS student workers suggest topics, set up
the venue, provide A/V support, record and edit lecture videos, and
We are pleased to feature their photographs of Japan in this issue.
Sensōji Temple, Asakusa, Japan.
Photography by Josh Carrington, senior Communications major.
Mariko Akuzawa is a professor at Osaka City University specializing in the study of
human rights education and training. Akuzawa recently spoke at ICAS on her
research in a lecture titled “Changing Forms of Buraku Discrimination in Contempo-
Akuzawa sits down with Tin Tin Htun, who teaches Asian Studies at TUJ.
The following is a summary of select ideas from the interview.
In Conversation with
Highlights from our recent program:
On Buraku communities in Japan
There are 4,000 - 5,000 buraku communities all over Japan. They vary in size. Some
communities, like the one in northern Kanto, are quite small. One community only has
three or four households. Large communities are located in the Kansai and Kinki
regions; one has thousands of households.
The buraku community was discriminated against due to feudal-era assigned duties
that touched on death. The rest of the Japanese community did not want to do
these duties because during that time they did not have much scientific knowledge.
Death was something to fear.
On Buraku discrimination discourse
Discrimination is the action that the majority does. The responsibility to abolish discrim-
ination rests with the people who discriminate, not the minorities. This is my research
concern: how majorities recreate and continue discrimination. How should the
Japanese government deal with this issue? The answer seems clear. Legislate the
action of the majority of citizens. The majority always tries to find a reason to justify
discrimination against minority communities.
The reason for discrimination seems to be changing. Not just the feudal practice, but
for example nowadays discriminatory discourse against buraku seems to be getting
strong. My hypothesis is that it is because government policies became more liberal.
People were always told to be independent, to be strong in the free market of
society and to be very competitive, things like this. Under such circumstances, the
policy to protect vulnerable groups is normally perceived as an intervention in free
competition. Why are they being protected? I think this is the reason why some claim
a new kind of discrimination against buraku. It doesn’t sound discriminatory.
On depopulation in Buraku communities
Small, rural communities are still very traditional, but even in those, people have
been leaving. Many buraku communities are facing rapidly aging, small populations.
Some communities in the Kansai region, as far as I know, have already disappeared.
It is because only elders were living there and they all died. The younger generation
had already left. Because of the special measures law, the younger generation had
a good education have opportunities to work outside, so they left. Some of them
hide their identity.
In bigger Buraku communities, the one in Osaka for example, many non-Buraku
people are moving in. In the cities where transportation is convenient, people started
to buy housing, live there, mix. In that way, too, Buraku communities are disappear-
ing. Well, not disappearing, but they are living together with non-Buraku. Remote
areas though, are more traditional. People there still do not want to move into
Buraku communities. The situation is so different.
On learning community history
The Law on Special Measures for Dowa Projects was terminated in 2002. When we
had the Special Measures Law, people in Buraku communities were coming out and
proclaiming their identity openly. Coming out with their identity was the precondition
of receiving special measures or preferential treatment. Now that the law is gone,
there is no merit to proclaiming their identity, except for activists who are fighting
Now, I find people are quieter in the community, but the meaning of silence is differ-
ent in Buraku communities from silence outside Buraku communities.
In Conversation with Mariko Akuzawa
Mariko Akuzawa (right) and Tin Tin Htun (left) discuss Buraku issues.
On learning community history, continued
Some non-Buraku people said to me, “You should stop talking about the Buraku issue
so people will forget.” But that kind of silence is like sweeping problems under the
When people in the Buraku community keep silent, it’s not sweeping the problem
under the carpet. They are scared. They fear for their children, grandchildren and
future generations. Unfortunately, young parents are becoming very quiet. Nowa-
days they do not even tell their community history or their historical background to
Now the big problem is that young children do not know their background. They
have never been educated about their own community. What if they face discrimi-
nation in the future? Suddenly someone pointing them out and saying, “Oh, you are
Buraku.” It would be a shock to that person. I worry because the young generation
does not have any connection to the community which may protect them.
On human rights education internationally and in Japan
Human rights education starts with knowing your rights. Human rights. You have the
right to know. This is written in the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. Knowing your rights is empowerment. By knowing your rights, you are effec-
tively participating in society so that you can transform society, as well as participat-
ing in the decision-making process of whichever policy directly affects you. This is the
very basic concept of human rights education.
When we talk about human rights education, you know your rights as a citizen, as a
rights-holder. You also have to give human rights training to duty-bearers like public
servants or prosecutors, or those who are otherwise responsible. This is quite clear.
Rights-holders know their rights and they are responsible to duty-bearers, so the
combination makes society better.
In Conversation with Mariko Akuzawa
The whole framework of
human rights is changing.
On human rights education in Japan, continued
In Japan, that kind of rights-based approached is, I would say, non-existent. Instead,
the government emphasizes moral education as human rights education. Even the
slogan of the Center for Human Rights Education and Training in Tokyo is something
like, “promote mutual understanding” or “be kind to others.” A moral approach. It
doesn’t clarify the responsibility of duty-bearers at all. What our government says is
human rights education is not human rights education to me.
On the changing framework of human rights
The last thing I would add is that the framework of human rights is changing due to
the spread of internet use. I’m not only talking about Japan, but also around the
world because people are now so familiar with devices which easily connect to the
internet, social media, etc. So, for example, the freedom of expression is changing.
The whole framework of human rights, citizen vs. government is also changing.
Maybe not only the internet, but the government is shrinking in rural society. You
know, maybe we have to invent some new framework or perspective of human
rights in this world. But I haven’t found any solutions yet! [Akuzawa laughs.]
Mariko Akuzawa presents her research at ICAS on January 28, 2020.
In Conversation with Mariko Akuzawa
I am grateful and glad to be an ICAS fellow. From
2008 to 2014, I enjoyed my time as an assistant profes-
sor at TUJ and since then have worked as a Designat-
ed Professor in the International Education and
Exchange Center at Nagoya University. Today, I also
serve as an advisor to the university president with
duties related to education and internationalization.
Changing Demographics and
Higher Education in Japan
Spotlight on the ICAS Adjunct Fellowship
Matthew Linley, International Education
and Exchange Center, Nagoya University
In this brief piece, I seek to show the reader some statistics that might help them
understand how Japan’s most significant problems in higher education, as with all
spheres of life, are rooted in demographic change and its varying impact across
geographic regions. Also important to remember is the heterogeneity of institutions –
Japanese higher education institutions range from small private universities serving
local populations to the seven former imperial universities. Readers working in the
higher education sector may find what I say to be common knowledge, but I hope
others find it useful for understanding the challenges encountered by Japanese
1. Japan has 782 universities. By comparison, there are 43 universi-
ties in Australia, 94 universities in Canada, and 164 in the United Kingdom.
Most Japanese universities are private (77%), while 12% are public, and 11%
are national. The number of public and national universities has remained
stable since 1950, but private universities doubled between 1975 and 2011.
Tokyo has the most universities, 138, followed by Osaka with 55.
2. 1.2 million Japanese were 18-years old in 2018. This pool of
potential first-year students was down from a peak of 2.05 million in 1992 and,
by 2040, will drop to only 880,000.
3. Japanese universities enrolled 630,000 students in 2017. By
2040, however, they will enroll only 510,000, a decrease of almost 20%. The
reduction in enrollments outside of urban centers will be most extreme.
Although the enrollment capacity of universities in Tokyo should still reach
92.1% in 2040, in rural prefectures, it will be far lower. The lowest will be in Akita
(66.5% enrollment capacity), Tokushima (66.9%), and Niigata (68.3%). Universi-
ties can, however, increase enrollments by admitting more international
Mt. Fuji, Japan.
Photography by Bradley Meier, senior Asian Studies major.
4. Japanese universities enrolled 135,000 international students in
graduate schools (50,000) and university undergraduate programs
(85,000) in 2018. By comparison, Australia, which has a smaller population and
far fewer universities, had 399,000 international students in higher education. Rather
than universities, most international students in Japan are enrolled in Japanese
language institutes (90,000) with another large cohort in professional training colleges
5. Private universities enroll 83% of international undergraduate
students. Several private universities already use international students to compen-
sate for falling enrollment numbers. Most national universities still receive enough
undergraduate applicants, so the incentive to increase enrollments of international
undergraduate students remains weak. But many of these same schools do need
international students to make up for low numbers of Japanese applicants to gradu-
It is not surprising then that 63% of international graduate students study at national
universities. But even though Japan is well-known for its contributions to science and
technology, most international students study the Humanities or Social Science
(71.8%). Only 11.9% are in Engineering programs and a mere 1.3% are in the Sciences.
These proportions reflect the fact that many students choose Japan because of an
interest in its language, society, and culture. But it also suggests that rather than the
research-intensive national universities, it is private universities offering liberal arts
programs attracting most undergraduate international students.
6. 56.1% of international students attend university in the Kanto
region. More than half of all international students cluster around Tokyo, meaning
that they are unlikely to be a panacea for the 644 universities in other parts of the
country. Only 0.6% of the national share of international students, for instance, attend
university in Shikoku.
7. Only 6.6% of international students in Japan are not from Asia.
Inbound students to Japan continue to come from two countries. Over 60% of the
population is Chinese (41%) or Vietnamese (20%). Students from these two countries
also make up the most significant groups studying in the United States, but they do so
alongside substantial numbers from India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Mexico, and
Even though tuition and the cost of living in cities outside Tokyo remain low, Japan is
no longer a top ten destination country for international students. In 2001, it was the
sixth most popular destination for international students in the world but since then
has been displaced by countries such as China, Canada and Russia.
Reasons for this include growing competition for international students, the language
barrier, perceived difficulty in finding a job after graduation, no system for granting
permanent residency or citizenship after graduation, and a lack of English-taught
programs in high demand subjects such as computer science, medicine, and certain
Spotlight on the ICAS Adjunct Fellowship
To conclude, Japanese universities face immense challenges in adjusting to
the rapid fall in the population of university-age citizens. Let me finish by briefly
mentioning finances. In the FY2020 national draft budget, the general
account expenditure for science and education is 5.4%. This percentage is
similar to that for national defense (5.2%) but is overshadowed by social
security (34.9%) and national debt service (22.7%).
Despite these challenges, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science
and Technology (MEXT) and universities are exploring opportunities for new
policies and programs. Seven national institutions since 2018, for example,
obtained a new status as Designated National Universities, giving them great-
er flexibility to improve their research capabilities, create links with society,
and increase international collaboration. But the domestic and international
challenges faced by Japanese universities remain daunting. Given how vital
innovation is to economic growth, higher education in Japan should turn out
to be an issue-area of significant interest to ICAS in the upcoming years.
Spotlight on the ICAS Adjunct Fellowship
types of engineering. While global student mobility is higher than it has ever been,
international growth is slowing so prospects for a sudden increase in international
students, or greater diversity, is unlikely. Competition for international students in Asia
is also increasing as South Korea, Hong Kong, mainland China, and Singapore have
become more attractive destinations. Japanese universities' overdependence on
such a few countries for inbound students leaves many vulnerable to external shocks.
The event was dealing with a timely issue,
the presenters were excellent and their talks
and Q&A were thought-provoking.
- Feedback from "Narratives of Female
Academics in Japanese Higher
Education" on Sept. 18, 2019
Voices from ICAS Participants
A gathering of ICAS fellows, speakers and participants.
2019 marked the 15th anniversary of ICAS, which was founded in 2004 as the Institute
of Contemporary Japanese Studies (ICJS). Over the years, ICAS has held many
discussions, lectures and symposia.
TUJ faculty, ICAS fellows, former speakers, students and longtime friends joined in the
celebration at the beautiful new campus in Sangen-jaya. Economist Jesper Koll
kicked things off with a lively and humorous talk on “Lessons from Japan for Global
Leaders.” The reception featured good food and great conversation.
Here is to the next 15 years!
ICAS 15th Anniversary
& New Campus Celebration
Highlights from our recent program
Guests mingle at the reception.