The Core session of the 2022 International Symposium of Asia Japan Research, “Asia Japan Research Beyond Borders: Global Sharing of Local Wisdom towards Human Longevity” was held on February 25, hosted by Asia-Japan Research Institute, Ritsumeikan Un

Coordinator: Prof. Hiroyuki Mori of the College of Policy Science, Ritsumeikan University
Opening Speech: Prof. Akio Tokuda, Vice President of Ritsumeikan University and Deputy Director of Ritsumeikan Asia-Japan Research Organization
Guest Speakers:
Prof. Tomohiko Yoshida College of Policy Science, Ritsumeikan University.
Title: “Smart & Shrinking Cities”
Prof. Satoshi Nagano College of Social Sciences, Ritsumeikan University
Title: “Gerontology and Social Technology”
Prof. Mariko Arata College of Gastronomy Management, Ritsumeikan University
Title: “Social Development and Science Technology for Food /Agriculture”
Commentator: Prof. Ari-veikko Anttiroiko, Faculty of Management and Business, Tampere University, Finland

On Friday, February 25, 2022, the Core session of the 2022 International Symposium of Asia Japan Research, “Asia Japan Research Beyond Borders: Global Sharing of Local Wisdom towards Human Longevity” was held under the title “Ritsumeikan and Meridian 180 as an International Policy Think Tank”.

The Coordinator Prof. Hiroyuki Mori opened the session and announced that it would be conducted in English with some Japanese as a concession to the large Japanese online audience, and simultaneous interpretations would be provided in Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese.

n his opening speech, Prof. Akio Tokuda explained that the key words ‘Beyond Borders’ express the fundamental orientation of Ritsumeikan University for peace, democracy, biodiversity, and creation. He went on to outline the beginning of Ritsumeikan one hundred and fifty-three years ago, the significance of Meridian 180 as a global forum, the fruits of this collaboration, and the importance of developing such a network for mutual understanding.

Professor Mori went on to describe Meridian 180 as an international policy think tank established as an international academic response to the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, He listed its global international conferences on Democracy and Truth, Data Governance, Diversity in Density, Innovations in Crisis and others. He introduced the three symposiums on Smart & Shrinking Cities, Gerontology and Social Technology, and Food and Agriculture beyond the Pandemic all hosted by Ritsumeikan University. The presenters then described the backgrounds and developments of these symposiums.

First, Prof. Tomohiko Yoshida. gave a lecture entitled “Smart & Shrinking Cities” emphasizing the importance of sharing local case studies and outlining the steps that lead to the holding of the online forum on smart and shrinking cities held in 2019 as a Meridian 180 project sponsored by Ritsumeikan university.

He gave a vision of a city-region where diverse, informed, and active participants could work in an accessible, transparent system of governance using open data sources that could share resources and findings amongst among people in different regions and discussed potential solutions to overcome the various barriers such as privatization and secrecy among private companies and governments. He mentioned numerous topics ranging from inter-generational social mobility and a new housing problems that arise with shrinking cities, to a case study on how Kyoto city was transformed by the deployment of Smart technology among ageing communities. He concluded by suggesting the need for opening channels of communication between domestic academicians and international academic societies to strength and broaden the policies of think tanks.

Second, Prof. Nagano introduced his talk on “Gerontology and Social Technology”, by stating that a United Nations report predicts that 16% of the world's population will be 65 years old or older by 2050. He emphasized “social technology” as an efficient way to address problems related to aging by making it easier to connect and share opinions with others. He proposed the advancing of technological literacy among the elderly as necessary to build communities in which older people play a more active role. He concluded by emphasizing that long-life wellness and the theory and practice of gerontology are life centered and cover a wide range of topics.

The last presenter, Prof. Mariko Arata in her speech entitled “Social Development and Science Technology for Food /Agriculture”, highlighted the range of activities related to the development of Food and Agriculture science. Food and Agribusiness Management is a thriving discipline that refers to the collective business activities in food and agricultural supply chains. She discussed how the traditional agribusiness may gradually be replaced by more community centered production and distribution of food and how local food systems are developing in relation to global food markets and agribusiness.

Finally, Prof. Ari-veikko Anttiroiko gave an insightful commentary on the preceding presentations, suggesting that to meet the challenges of today’s world we must quickly find the best framework for dealing with these pressing social issues by grasping the many common elements and dimensions they share, including both local and global dimensions, issues from technology, and whether to rely on government and businesses or local people for solutions. He agreed with the presenters that it was necessary to employ social innovation, local, people centered solutions and institutional or government intervention rather than just responding to market demands.

He commended Professor Yoshida's presentation on Smart cities for being holistic rather than technology oriented, and for including the social and structural phenomenon called the ‘shrinking city’ an issue that all developed countries must face. He stressed that sensitive issues such as what open digital platforms are supposed to do in concrete terms, and who are the stakeholders we want to involve, should be addressed carefully in order to realize the best possible methods. He felt that these issues are in the very forefront of a new era of research.

Regarding the second presentation by Professor Nagano he pointed that rather than only discussing the wellbeing of senior citizens, we should think of them as valuable human resources willing to contribute to society. Then we should consider the issues of technology literacy, intergenerational relations, and how to treat our senior citizens. Should we rely on a dynamic growth process or depend on institutional design? What activities do we need to create to make older people value creators and how can we open their connections and interactions with the wider society?

He commented that Professor Arata’s lecture locates the ultimate condition of human life where we all live in the global age but each of us are each living in our local societies. How should we understand the local food systems’ relation to the global food markets and global Agri businesses? He stressed that the communitarian development of food production and food distribution is an important issue that will need constant attention.