Happy New Year from Prof. Yasushi Kosugi, the Director of AJI.

Happy New Year! I am looking forward to seeing you and collaborating with you this year.

In 2021, we received a lot of warm support and cooperation from you all. We are very grateful to you for your constant help with our endeavors. Thanks to your warm backing, we were able to develop a variety of activities in spite of the corona situation. Thank you so much.

Looking back on last year, there were a lot of developments. Above all, we can say that the whole university has entered the fourth stage of our research advancement and begun a new epoch. In our R 2030 Challenge Design, a variety of policies and strategies have been formulated, aiming at becoming a Next-Generation Research University, and we will steadily implement these policies and strategies in the fourth stage of our research advancement.

One of the most noteworthy activities of the Institute last year was the "International Symposium Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of Asia-Japan Research" held in February. This was the fifth anniversary of the establishment of Ritsumeikan Asia-Japan Research Organization and its subsidiary, the Asia-Japan Research Institute, in December 2015. Besides sessions to report research progress in humanities, social and natural sciences, the symposium provided an opportunity to have a vision of these past 5 years and the next10 years. It was not only the fifth anniversary of the organization, but also of a new research area called "Asia-Japan Research", and I was happy to feel the growth of this research field under the Ritsumeikan brand. From this year, we will continue this tradition by holding an annual international symposium every February.

From 2019 to 2020, the Institute launched 2 journals in English and 1 journal in Japanese, creating a place for those engaged in Asia-Japan Research around the world to publish their research results and to inform about ongoing research projects. In all three journals, we have established a system for ensuring the content of research papers (and research notes) through a strict double-blind peer-review system. Last year, all three journals were registered with J-STAGE, making it possible to contribute constantly and smoothly to the development of science.

We ask for your continued support and look forward to receiving your papers. Please utilize each of our three respective academic journals for your purposes according to their particular publication patterns and characteristics as suits your requirements.

Last year, we also launched the AJI Books series. We have only published in English so far, though we plan to publish in Asian languages (including Japanese, of course). We were able to publish four books within the last year (all in English last year). Based on research projects and meetings at the Institute, this program aims to disseminate the latest research as much as possible.

As a project to demonstrate the university's unwavering commitment to contributing to society in the wake of the coronavirus disaster, the "Post Corona Social Proposals Public Research Program - Visionaries for the New Normal -" was solicited within the university. Our Institute also applied for a project called the "Diversity of Pandemic Response in Asia: A Comparative Study of Social and Ethical Views in the Post-Corona Era", which was adopted last September. We are now actively engaged in this project and we will be sharing our achievements with you later.

There was also a big move in training young researchers last year. First, in April, the Next-Generation Researcher Development Program in collaboration with the Graduate Schools was launched. This program encourages researchers who have obtained degrees in the field of Asia-Japan Research (and related fields) from our graduate schools to further refine their research capabilities in order to become full-time researchers and educators. Last year, two researchers joined the program and are now actively conducting their research and disseminating its results.

In the area of fostering young researchers, last year the entire university launched the NEXT Fellowship Program for graduate students in doctoral programs. Our Institute is also participating in this program as a fostering center. For the Institute, the development of graduate students has been conducted through the Asia-Japan Research Promotion Program, so this direct involvement in graduate schools is a new step. By doing so, I hope to firmly establish a “seamless path” for career advancement, from graduate school to the post-doctorate researcher program and on to being professional researchers.

Next, let me tell you our plans for this year.

First of all, our Institute serves as the Japan secretariat for Meridian 180, a forum in which experts (both researchers and practitioners) exchange opinions in multiple languages from a global perspective and provide advanced knowledge internationally as well as policy recommendations. As part of these activities, we host one forum every year.

Last year, following previous themes such as "Smart and Shrinking City" and "Gerontology and Social Technology", we held a forum and an international symposium on "Food and Agriculture: Beyond the Pandemic", which was warmly received,

This year, we are planning to publish an English-language e-book summarizing the results of our first theme, "Smart and Shrinking Cities," in collaboration with the Buffett Research Institute, the Meridian 180 headquarters, and the library at Northwestern University. The editors and authors are actively preparing its publication now and you can look forward to seeing it soon.

In addition, as a forum discussion, we plan to hold multilingual workshops in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English on the theme of "Gendered Transformations under the Pandemic in East Asia" from January to February. Meridian 180 advocates multilingualism for a truly global age, and we are excited to experiment with a new style forum using this multilingual format.

The Program for the Promotion of Asia-Japan Research also endorsed three new projects starting in April. We are currently preparing for the kick-off of each project at our three campuses.

We will continue to focus on publishing three academic journals and the AJI Books series, and there are many international research meetings that are already in their preparatory stages.

We are also planning various other activities to promote the globalization of our university and our Institute. I will let you know as soon as each plan is finalized.

We are also planning a large-scale version upgrade of this website itself.

Your continued support and encouragement for our Institute will be greatly appreciated.

Yasushi KOSUGI
Director, Asia-Japan Research Institute
Ritsumeikan University
(January 1, 2022)