The College of International Relations offers several courses taught by distinguished professors who are experts in their fields. Among these is Foreign Relations of Japan, featured in this article.
The course is taught by Distinguished Visiting Professor Mitoji Yabunaka, who is a former Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. During the course, which consists of 15 classes in the spring semester, the students review Japanese foreign policy and discuss in English problems and challenges facing Japan, including its relationships with China, North Korea, Russia, and the US. The course helps students understand Japanese foreign policy and actual diplomacy in today’s world, drawing on Professor Yabunaka’s diplomatic career spanning 40 years.
Drastic change is occurring in the world, and we have seen dramatic transformations. At the beginning of the semester, Professor Yabunaka gives some introductory lectures providing a history of Japanese foreign policy, then groups of students who have interests in specific diplomatic issues make presentations. This year’s topics included the Japan-US alliance under the Trump presidency, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and Japan’s immigration policy.
This course has no exams or reports for grading. Research on presentation topics and 100% class participation are essential, especially taking an active part in class debate on the key diplomatic issues. Students are expected to study the substance of such issues and articulate their own views in the class discussion.
Interview with Professor Yabunaka
We interviewed Professor Yabunaka to find out his views on the students of this college and his expectation for them.
Interviewer: It is said that young Japanese tend to be inward-looking. Based on your experience as a professor at this university, what do you think about that tendency?
Professor Yabunaka: Yes, this has long been said, but from my experience, the students I teach here are devoted to their studies. Normally I am based in Tokyo, and when I tell people that I give lectures at Ritsumeikan University, they often note that Ritsumeikan and its students enjoy a good reputation in Tokyo, too. I have been teaching at this college for seven years, and have found that the students are really outstanding and accomplished. The tendency of young Japanese to be inward-looking cannot be said to apply to them. Teaching such students who are eager to learn in a small class is very challenging and rewarding for me. They are responsive, too. In my lectures, students learn and think about imminent diplomatic issues and engage in spirited debates on the themes of the day. When I am walking around the campus, I come across many international students, and feel that this is a very diverse environment.
Interviewer: Would you tell me a little about your lectures?
Professor Yabunaka: I deliver these lectures to undergraduate students in English in the spring semester and in Japanese in the fall semester. Some Japanese students hesitate to speak out at the very beginning of the semester, but they get better and better each time, and eventually most of such students express their views and opinions more openly. It is also a pleasure to watch the growth of my students. I think the important thing is not language proficiency, but having one’s own opinions and expressing oneself to others.
I believe that participants in this course study issues, develop their own views, speak out in class, and thereby build up their personal capacity to compete in a globalized world.
Interviewer: Thank you so much for your time today.