|Between 35 and 40 people gathered for the event on the first day, Saturday 24th May. The session began with opening remarks from Professor Hideya Kubo, Director of the Center for Risk Research at Shiga University. Professor Robert Aspinall, Deputy Director of the Center, and Professor Philip Seaton of Hokkaido University, the Director of the Japan Branch of the British Association for Japanese Studies also said a few words of welcome to the speakers and other participants.
From 1:45pm to 3:45pm the Panel "Positioning Risk and Making Social Policies in Contemporary Japan" was held. Professor William Bradley of Ryukoku University chaired the panel and also opened it with a presentation entitled "Social Policies of Accountability in the Era of Neoliberal Risk". In this presentation he gave a theoretical analysis of different concepts of risk and how they related to neo-liberal assumptions about contemporary society and policy. In the second paper, Professor Mayumi Ishikawa of Osaka University talked about the "Risky Quest of Internationalizing Japan's universities". This was a very timely topic given the emphasis placed by the Ministry of Education on encouraging more Japanese students to go overseas and more foreign students to spend time in Japan. The third paper was given by Professor Scott North, also of Osaka University, who spoke on the topic of "Risks of Reforming Regular Employment in Japan". He warned about the dangers of reforming labour law in ways that could undermine the fairness of the system. Finally, Professor Tom Gill of Meiji Gakuin University talked about "Risk, the fear of risk, and the risk of the fear of risk: the bureaucratic response to radiation in contemporary Fukushima." In this presentation he spoke about his research in Iitate village in Fukushima Prefecture which was subject to evacuation orders due to high radiation, but which has now been deemed 'safe' by official measures of radiation, measures that are questioned by some of the residents.
At 4:00pm, the Keynote Speech, "A Nation at Risk? Globalization, nationalism, and the future of Japan" was given by Professor Koichi Nakano of Sophia University. This was a fascinating talk about the future direction of Japan under the rule of the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party). Professor Nakano talked about the collapse of the Left (the Socialist Party) and transformations that are currently underway with the Right - tensions between the 'Old Right' who have been in power for much of the postwar period, and the 'New Right' who are pushing a neoliberal agenda. The talk was followed by a lively discussion in which many members of the audience participated.