Talk at the Donald Keene Center for Japanese Culture, Columbia University

On April 10, 2017, KUBS’s Edward Boyle gave a talk for the Donald Keene Center for Japanese Culture, Columbia University, in New York. Entitled “Writing Japan’s Territory into the World: the cartographic creation of the Ezochi”, the talk built on the final chapter of his PhD thesis to examine the mapping of Karafuto into the Japanese state body. The talk focused on the person of the Shogunal Astronomer Takahashi Kageyasu, who in 1809 wrote a treatise on the geography of the area to Japan’s north, in which he sought to confirm the correspondence between an island the Japanese termed Karafuto and one marked as Sakhalin on foreign maps of Japan. Through his investigations, Takahashi was able to confirm that these two islands were indeed the same, and was thus able to represent the southern half of the island as Japanese territory on the “Outline Map of Japan’s Frontiers” that he produced soon afterwards.

The talk looked at the process through which Japanese authority over an amorphous barbarian space came to have demarcated territorial limits, and how this extension of claims was influenced by interaction and cartographic exchange with other polities. The fixing of the territory of the ezochi was made possible through the incorporation of this region to Japan’s north into a wider geographical context, which came to provide Japan with ‘natural’ limits. Takahashi’s finished map suggests a Japanese cognition of the linear borders we associate with the modern nation state, while the subsequent history of Sakhalin, both on the map and as a territorial possession, suggests that an insular understanding of a Karafuto existing as part of a more extensive island continued to exist right into the twentieth century, in a manner that suggests important continuities in the manner islands were envisaged within Japan’s political imagination.

Some astute questions from the audience focussed on the value of notions of territoriality to the analysis and the importance of Karafuto at the time, which drove the process of mapping that Takahashi represented. The beautiful furnishings of the Donald Keene Center provided the perfect surrounding for a talk focused on the place of Japan in the world, and the presenter would like to offer a hearty thanks to the organizer, Dr. Max Moerman, for putting it together.

Serghei Golunov’s report on the panel “Cross-Border Networks and Cooperation I: Europe, Euroscepticism, and Russia” (Annual Conference of the Association for Borderlands Studies, San Francisco, April 12-15, 2017)

The panel took place on April 15. There were three presentations: “Russian cross-border cooperation: In search of an efficient model” by Serghei Golunov, “Alternatives to border walls” by Katarzyna Stoklosa and Gerhard Besier, and “EU, Russia and the changing neighborhood” by Joni Virkkunen. The panel was moderated by Christophe Sohn (Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research).

Serghei Golunov’s presentation was devoted to analyzing development of post-Soviet Russia’s cross-border cooperation policy. The presenter didn’t find this development particularly successful, as Moscow is reluctant to give regional governments enough powers to cooperate with neighbors being afraid of regional separatism and misusing these powers for customs and tax fraud. Russia rejected any real cross-border regionalization promoted by the EU while adopting its experience of joint funding for cross-border infrastructural and other projects. Small powers of regional governments at Russia-Belarus and Russia-Kazakhstan borderlands makes these governments capable largely just to lobby their regions’ and large enterprises’ interests in Moscow and before foreign partners. The important difference between Russia-Belarus and Russia-Kazakhstan cases is that cross-border cooperation discourse is not promoted by central governments in the first case and not promoted in the second case. Some elements of the Chinese cross-border cooperation models are valued in Russia: though Moscow is reluctant to empower selected regional governments, it tries to establish special economic zones and free ports in Far Eastern regions. However, it is unclear if these zones can become efficient.

Katarzhina Stoklosa’s (University of Southern Denmark) and Gerhard Beiser’s (Sigmund Neumann Institute) presentation reported interim results of an ongoing project. The main question to be dealt with is whether a working alternative way to erecting border barrier do exist, taking into account the ongoing refugee crisis. Walls are understood both physically and metaphorically. Speaking about the metaphorical dimension, it is important that barriers for immigrants’ integration into European societies are still high, and, in particular, that immigrants and their descendants rarely reach the level of political elites.

Joni Virkkunen (University of Eastern Finland) largely focused on clashing Russian and the EU’s influences in the post-Soviet space. While the EU, slowly reacting to emergent challenges, tries to find its foreign policy identity and advocates normative approach to human rights, Russia tries to restore its influence in the post-Soviet space and strengthens its normative power more tolerable to authoritarianism and human rights abuses. The Eurasian integration project potentially can be combined with the Greater Eurasia project with Chinese participation. While Ukraine and Moldova can be considered to be contested neighborhood, Russia prevails in Central Asia. The EU’s positions are weaker and it tries not to irritate authoritarian regimes and to cooperate with respective countries in areas of common interests, such as energy, development, trade, and border management. The presenter asks whether emphasizing these priorities and turning a blind eye to human rights violations undermines the EU’s ideological principles and identity.

Centre for Strategic Studies Roundtable, Victoria University of Wellington

A Roundtable on Russo-Japanese relations was held in the New Zealand capital of Wellington on March 30. It was hosted by the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, regularly ranked among the top 50 in the world in the social sciences and humanities. The twenty-five or so people in attendance included members of the Japanese Embassy, the Mexican Ambassador, ex-Foreign Ministry officials, and members of the Centre, guaranteeing a lively session. The main presentation by Professor Akihiro Iwashita was a version of an off-the-record talk he had given at Sasakawa USA’s offices in Washington DC at the end of February, analyzing the results of the Abe-Putin summit that had occurred in December of 2016. The talk argued that as it was to be held in the Prime Minister’s Residence, expectations for the Summit had been fanned by the media ahead of time, with little attention paid to Russia’s position going into the talks. Consequently, the results of Abe’s diplomacy have appeared relatively paltry in comparison to the optimism felt prior to Putin’s arrival.


The Roundtable was moderated by Alexander Bukh, an expert on both the Russo-Japanese and Japan-Korean territorial issues, and a regular visitor to our Center. It is anticipated that this roundtable will provide an opportunity for increased cooperation with colleagues in New Zealand, including among the policy world as well as across academia.


Public Lecture at the University of Auckland (29 March 2017)

Professor Akihiro Iwashita gave a talk at the School of Social Sciences at the University of Auckland in New Zealand on 29 March, as part of this Center’s mission to promote border studies research in the Asia-Pacific region. The talk was entitled “Japan’s geopolitics from the perspective of border studies: Challenges and prospects”, and following a brief explanation of some fundamental concepts for the study of borders, sought to analyse the various problems that Japan currently faces from the perspective of the changing situation in the Northeast Asian region. The talk also sought to point to the opportunities available for joint research to be conducted across the boundaries existing between other maritime regions, like Oceania, and the prospects for such studies being undertaken with New Zealand. 

Despite the talk’s contents being sufficiently explosive to set off the university’s fire alarm, necessitating a brief break in proceedings, the audience all returned to engage with the speaker in a spirited debate. The talk provided an opportunity for Professor Iwashita to sum up the results of the JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research project that he led on reshaping research on international relations through border studies, which concluded recently. Our Center looks forward to working with the University of Auckland on this agenda in the future as well.

Centre for Strategic Studies Roundtable

Professor Akihiro Iwashita will take part in a Roundtable, moderated by Professor Alexander Bukh,  at the Centre for Strategic Studies, Victoria University of Wellington. The Roundtable will focus on “Japan-Russia Relations under Abe and Putin: Implications for the Asia-Pacific Region”, and will take place from 2pm on Thursday 30 March 2017.

Further details on the Roundtable are available HERE.

USJI Seminar, Washington D.C.

On February 28, Professors Iwashita and Boyle organized a seminar in Washington D.C. entitled “Asia and the world as seen by border studies: Implications for US-Japan Relations” under the aegis of the biannual USJI Week organized by the US – Japan Research Institute. 

A report on the Seminar is available HERE.

Policy Forum in Washington DC

Asia and the world as seen by border studies:

Implications for US-Japan Relations

Policy Forum held as part of USJI Week



February 28, 2017


10:00 – 11:30 at the

USJI Office Seminar Room
2000 M Street, Washington DC 20006



With the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, borders are back on the policy table in a big way. Pledging to raise the barriers to entry that exist for flows of both people and products from overseas, the opening weeks of Trump’s time in office have already demonstrated how the desire to reinforce the state’s ability to patrol its putative borders has resulted in broader effects throughout the territory of the United States. In many instances, such effects are felt far from the actual physical borders of the state. All of this is no surprise to border scholars, whose concern with the political effects of broader border processes is now more essential than ever to understanding the course and potential fallout from this newfound concern with shoring up the edges of the nation.

Borders provide both a nexus between national politics and foreign policy and a means of thinking across this artificial divide, allowing us to consider the connections between issues traditionally split between these two spheres.  Our Washington meeting will hear from a number of border policy experts on the outlook for US borders following the elections, and the implications of this for Japan and Asia. Not only are the broader patterns of border politics in the United States equally applicable to Asia, whose states also struggle with the question of how best to maintain and manage national boundaries, but the relations of Japan with its neighbours and the United States are shaped by perceptions of the border. This panel will demonstrate the interrelated nature of global border politics, and seek to highlight the implications for US-Japan relations stemming from border attitudes and policies at play in the US, Japan, and wider region