Friday, August 16, 2013

Tokyo Trip

I visited Tokyo and Beijing for research field trip last week. TTokyo was my first destination where I had secured two interviews at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ). I met with Mr. Shoichi Ito first, and we spent over one and half hours discussing my research topic. He gave many insightful comments and answers regarding why Japan has been relatively not successful at diversifying their oil-suppliers compared to China. My second interviewee was Mr. Takato Ojimi, the President of Asia-Pacific Energy Research Center (APERC). This was arranged at the last-minute as my original interviewee, Dr. Ken Koyama, had to cancel the interview for personal reasons. Mr. Takato Ojimi is not an expert on oil trade and security, but was able to complement the research by providing general overview of energy policy in the Asia-Pacific region and sharing his extensive experiences in the government-business relationship.

IEEJ where I had interviews is located at the top two floors of this building.

I had one free day, and decided to visit the Yasukuni Shrine where individuals who have died while serving in the Japanese military since the Meiji restoration are commemorated. Political symbolism and meaning attached to the shrine has often caused huge uproar both in Japanese domestic politics and its relations with neighboring states whose sufferings during the Japanese colonial rule and military expansionism are still vividly remembered.

front gate of the Yasukuni Shrine 

Yasukuni Shrine

Somewhat contrary to my expectation, the shrine itself was a quiet place where the political messages associated with the temple were barely noticeable. They were not difficult to find, however, as the temple runs a museum (Yushukan) that exhibits various military artifacts and documents from the wars Japan had participated between the Meiji Restoration and the Pacific War. I had to disagree with the ways the museum explains the origins of the wars or major historical events (Nanjing Massacre, for one), but it was good to get a sense of what the Yasukuni Shrine is about and how Japanese far right tries to remember its deeply controversial past.

Outside the Yushukan

the ground floor, Yushukan.

Human torpedo(!) used during the WWII

Garden at the backyard of the shrine 

Overall, a well-balanced trip, it was. Hopefully, I will have another chance to visit Japan and get to know other aspects of the country. 

Inwook Kim 
PhD Student, Political Science
Summer Field Research Fellow, Sigur Center 

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