The best class I had in college was a seminar on Japanese foreign policy. It was a real eye-opener – an intellectual ‘Black Ship’ that awakened me to the exciting world of international politics. In my course on Japanese foreign policy I try to bring some of the intellectual rigor and enthusiasm that my former mentor inspired in me.
Naturally, the course involves lectures and a fair amount of reading covering the basic facts about modern Japan's foreign relations. This is the basic knowledge for any meaningful research, and it should be common knowledge for anyone wishing to be a ‘bridge’ between Japan and other countries. But beyond these basic facts, there is a surprisingly wide field, open to questioning and investigations, and this is where things get really interesting. I require students to write two papers, one on historical subjects, and the other on contemporary issues. Writing papers is wonderful for developing critical thinking; it also allows students to explore little-known subjects and discover the joys (and pains!) of independent research.
Each time I teach the course, I discover more questions that I encourage students to take up in their papers. Of course, many students come up with topics of their own, and pursue them under my guidance. They write on diverse subjects, from the frozen land of Siberia to the Pacific Islands of Palau, and from the struggles of the Meiji era to the latest scandals of the day. I encourage students to include how their family members have been involved in Japan's foreign relations. Students interview their relatives, dig up diaries kept by their great-grandmothers, and often come away with a deeper understanding of their families, and a greater awareness of themselves. This personal dimension to international relations brings students to a whole new understanding that international relations is not only foreign wars and diplomatic negotiations far removed from their personal lives but is also intertwined with their lives and those of their parents and grandparents in the relationship between Japan and the world.
Looking into the history of Japan's foreign relations deepened my understanding of the multiple factors shaping Japan's foreign policy in the contemporary world. I especially appreciated the rare opportunity that the course allowed, encouraging me to explore Japan's foreign relations with countries that I normally would not look into.
Graduate pursuing advanced studies in International Security
Before coming to Japan I had taken many political science courses but they all focused on Europe or the United States. Professor Anno's course gave me insights into Japan's past and present relations with countries as diverse as the United States, China, and North and South Korea.
Former exchange student interning in France's Home Office
This course was uniquely rewarding because I could investigate Japanese foreign policy from a Japanese perspective. I learned how Japanese foreign policy developed from being based on the fringes of the old Sino-centric and Euro-centric world orders to that of a great military power, to a country that rose from the ashes of World War II to become one of the world's largest economies.
Former exchange student interning in United States Embassy of Japan