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Report: The Japan Foundation/British Association for Japanese Studies PhD Workshop 2024

On Friday 2nd February, we hosted our 13th JF/BAJS Postgraduate Workshop at the University of Sheffield.

This year, we were joined by 27 PhD students from universities all over the UK. Our attendees all research a wide range of topics, and it was illuminating to hear what current postgraduate students are interested in studying. Seven academics also joined us for the day’s events: Dr Jamie Coates, Prof Jennifer Coates, Dr Thomas McAuley, Dr Martyn Smith and Dr Anna-Viktoria Vittinghoff (University of Sheffield); Dr Christopher Hayes (Teesside University); and Prof Peter Kornicki (University of Cambridge).

The morning kicked off with welcome speeches from Dr Thomas McAuley, director of Learning and Teaching at the School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield; Prof Peter Kornicki, president of BAJS; and Mr Shin-ichi TANAKA, director of the Japan Foundation. They each reinforced the importance for exchange and communication to enhance the future of Japanese Studies.

Then, all students and academics moved to separate seminar rooms, where they would spend the morning in groups based on their areas of study. Each student had the opportunity to present their research to the others in their group. The attendees presented on their research for 10 minutes, and then they had time after their presentation to answer a few questions from their peers and the academics assigned to facilitate.

Topics this year were varied as always, covering law, literature, history, art, linguistics, to name a few. After each presentation, the groups fed back to one another asking questions, making suggestions. It was heartening to see the students getting so involved. The participants ranged from PhD students in their first years to those in their final years. This range in experience meant that everyone was able to contribute different types of input.

After the morning session we enjoyed a long lunch break, where the students mingled, networked, and discussed their research in depth with one another, as well as with the academics who were in attendance.

We then moved on to the afternoon session, which consisted of two excellent talks.

First, Prof Jennifer Coates, Professor in Japanese Studies at the University of Sheffield and Honorary Secretary of the British Association for Japanese Studies, delivered her talk, Intercultural Superpowers for Academia. Prof Coates spoke about her experience in working abroad in Japan after her PhD, the advantages of moving abroad, and how this experience can provide ‘intercultural superpowers’ that can be utilised upon returning to your home country.

The second lecture on the Current Academic UK Hiring System was delivered by Dr Thomas McAuley. Dr McAuley gave useful insights into the current situation within academia, the recruitment environment, navigating job advertisements, preparing applications and how to tackle interviews. It was highly informative and useful for those interested in how to get a job in academia post-PhD.

After the academic talks, we had a tea and coffee break where, again, students were able to network with one another.

After this break, we entered our final session for the day. This was a Q&A with the attending academics, where students could ask questions about both the theme of the workshop, as well as more general questions and concerns that they could raise regarding Japanese Studies.

Finally, there were talks about funding opportunities within Japanese Studies from the Embassy of Japan in the UK, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, the British Association for Japanese Studies, and the Japan Foundation.

The day ended with a well-deserved drinks reception and canapes.

The Japan Foundation would like to thank the British Association for Japanese Studies for their collaboration in co-organising this event with us, as well as the academics who attended for giving up their valuable time. We would also like to thank the University of Sheffield for their hard work and assistance in hosting the event.

Thank you to the funding institutions (The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, The Embassy of Japan in the UK) who spoke in the final session, and to Nikkei Europe LTD for joining us and setting up a booth. A special thank you to the students for participating in the day with such enthusiasm. We hope to see many of you again at next year’s workshop!