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Report: 5th Japan Foundation / BAJS Post-graduate Workshop

February 4th 2016 saw the return of our annual Post-Graduate Workshop, the fifth organised by the Japan Foundation in collaboration with the British Association for Japanese Studies (BAJS). This year’s workshop, hosted at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury in London, was attended by a full house of 40 postgraduate students in Japan related fields representing a record number of 22 universities across the UK. The workshop was a great opportunity for these emerging researchers to receive practical advice on their research from senior academics, and to network with fellow postgraduate students.

During the day four PhD students presented their research and received constructive comments and questions from fellow-postgraduate students and senior academics in discussion sessions chaired by BAJS President Professor Caroline Rose.  The four presentations were chosen from a number of excellent and diverse proposals, and covered topics ranging from disaster mental health in Japan (Ben Epstein, UCL), technology and Japan in the British press (Christopher Hayes, Cardiff University),  ‘Expressive’ women and Western attire in Japanese cinema (Lois Barnett, SOAS, University of London), and child guidance centres in Japan (Michael King, University of Oxford).

The workshop also featured several practical sessions by BAJS committee members and senior academics who provided practical advice on real problems affecting emerging Japanese studies researchers. Dr Susan Townsend (University of Nottingham) gave some excellent advice on carving academic and career opportunities outside ‘East Asian studies’ departments, drawing from her own experience as a Japan specialist working in the Department of History at the University of Nottingham. Later in the afternoon, to tackle some of the challenges faced by students using Japanese language in their research careers, Dr Thomas McAuley (University of Sheffield) and Dr Luli van der Does-Ishikawa teamed up to lead a very enjoyable and practical session which explored how to use social media to promote your research and raise your profile in Japanese academia using Japanese language.

Responding to feedback received during last year’s event which identified securing postdoctoral positions as a key challenge for emerging researchers, this year’s workshop introduced a panel session featuring three early career researchers and lecturers in Japanese studies who were able to offer career advice from recent experience. Dr Jonathan Service (University of Oxford), Dr Gitte Marianne Hansen (Newcastle University) and Dr Ruselle Meade (Cardiff University) each introduced their individual career paths, and then took questions from the audience in an interactive panel discussion. Dr Hansen and Dr Meade had participated in our very first post-graduate workshop as PhD students in 2012, and it was inspiring to have them participate four years later as established lecturers!

Early Career Development Panel Discussion:


The workshop finished with a session on ‘Funding your Research’ with presentations from Susan Meehan (Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation), Chigusa Ogaya (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science),  Rory Steele (Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation),  and Julie Anne Robb (Japan Foundation) introducing the wide range of funding programmes available to researchers in Japanese Studies.

All sections received great feedback with one participant commenting that they ‘really enjoyed the positive, constructive and non-combative atmosphere’, and another noting that ‘all aspects of the event offered valuable insights from the PhD presentations, through to the funding options to career considerations’. Another participant commented that ‘I have just started my PhD, and I thought this workshop would help me to familiarise myself with the opportunities of funding open to PhD candidates in Japanese Studies in the UK. Moreover, I wanted to attend the workshop to listen to the presentations, which I found deeply inspiring!

The event was followed by a networking dinner reception, generously funded by BAJS.

Thank you to all participants and speakers for making the workshop such a great success.  We hope to see you again next year!