Participation in the 1st General Meeting of the Japan-Russia University Association and the Japan-Russia Student Forum

May 2018 

The first General Assembly Meeting of the Association of Institutions of Higher Education of the Russian Federation and Japan (the 7th Japanese-Russian Forum of University Rectors) and a Japan-Russia Student Forum were held at Hokkaido University and at a hotel in the city of Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture, from Friday, May 18, to Sunday, May 20. When a Japan-Russia summit meeting was held in December 2016, a representative of Japanese institutions of higher education and a representative of Russian institutions of higher education signed a memorandum of understanding concerning the Association of Institutions of Higher Education of the Russian Federation and Japan, with the purpose of boosting exchanges among universities of Japan and Russia. The association was subsequently established in accordance with the memorandum. Following preparatory work by universities of the two countries, the association’s first general assembly meeting was held in Japan. The general assembly meeting was attended by about 160 people, with participants from 21 Japanese member universities, including the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and 11 Russian member universities, as well as participants from sponsor companies and universities having great interest in inter-university exchanges between Japan and Russia. The theme of the general assembly meeting was “Promotion of Human Resource Development for Japan-Russia Economic Cooperation and Personnel Exchange.” Within the framework of the general assembly meeting, three working sessions (on “personnel exchanges,” “health and medicine,” and “regional development”) and a Social Science and Humanities Forum were held, at which each member university was introduced and international exchange plans were presented. Furthermore, discussions were held concerning future measures for stimulating inter-university exchanges. Subsequently, a communique was prepared based on deliberations at the three working sessions and discussions at the Japan-Russia Student Forum. The president of Hokkaido University, a representative of Japanese universities, and the rector of Lomonosov Moscow State University, a representative of Russian universities, signed the communique. Moreover, it was agreed to establish a “committee for personnel exchanges between Japan and Russia,” a “student union,” and a “steering committee for specialized sections,” and to promote academic exchanges, especially among young researchers, collaboration across academic disciplines, and industry-university cooperation. Finally, by following the principle of holding a general assembly meeting every one and a half years, it was agreed to hold the next general assembly meeting in Russia in the autumn of 2019, with Moscow State University serving as the host.
From our university, Professor Kyoko Numano, Project Leader of the Inter-University Exchange Project (Russia), and Specially-Appointed Professor Shigeru Arai, who serves as a coordinator for the project, participated in the general assembly meeting. At the working session on “personnel exchanges,” Professor Numano gave a speech in Russian in which she mainly provided an outline of our university and our university’s efforts to promote the Inter-University Exchange Project.

Commemorative photo of participants (Professor Kyoko Numano is in the back row, fifth from left.)

The Japan-Russia Student Forum was held on Friday (May 18) and Saturday (May 19) as an event related to the general assembly meeting, and a total of 34 Japanese and Russian students exchanged opinions on how to further promote exchanges between the two countries. From our university, Daisuke Hyodo, a sophomore majoring in Russian Studies at the School of International and Area Studies, participated in the student forum. A meeting to present the outcome of discussions at the forum was held before the general assembly meeting on May 19. To prepare for this presentation meeting, he and other students worked late into the night on the day before the meeting. Furthermore, Japanese and Russian students deepened exchanges with each other by participating in an excursion, a reception, and other events.

The following is a report by Mr. Hyodo on the student forum.

May 30, 2018

Participating in the Japan-Russia Student Forum 2018

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
School of International and Area Studies
Sophomore, Russian Studies Major
Daisuke Hyodo

My name is Daisuke Hyodo, and I am a sophomore majoring Russian Studies. I participated in the Japan-Russia Student Forum held in the city of Sapporo on Friday, May 18, and Saturday, May 19. Japanese and Russian university students from various fields participated in the forum on the theme of promoting exchanges between Japan and Russia. We were able to have a meaningful time mainly through an excursion and discussions. Because the participating students had significantly different backgrounds, I came to realize that there are many aspects to Russia, such as its economy, medical care, and agriculture. Furthermore, we were able to share an awareness that promoting our international exchanges starts from understanding each other’s culture. It goes without saying that through these practical experiences, my awareness for the importance of English and Russian language skills as fundamental tools has increased.

As an excursion, we visited the Historical Village of Hokkaido on the morning on May 18. Hokkaido is a land that was developed under the initiative of the Japanese government in the Meiji era. I was able to learn the history of the land together with Russian students by touring preserved buildings and seeing exhibits. It was very meaningful that I was able to talk with Russian students in a friendly atmosphere through the excursion before the discussion session in the afternoon. (Please see Photo 1 and Photo 2.) All of the Russian students in my group were fluent in Japanese, and I talked with them mainly in English and Japanese. I realized through this experience that if Japanese students use the Russian language more actively, it becomes easier for them to break the ice with Russian students. Because this event is held under the title “Japan-Russia Student Forum,” the outcome of its discussions tends, unsurprisingly, to receive a great deal of attention. However, I feel that I learned history while walking and talking with Russian students, enabling me to experience an international exchange that can only be understood by those who have experienced it and to build relationships that will continue even after the forum. The excursion was initially scheduled to be at the end of the program, but it was moved up to before the discussion session. I believe that this arrangement was made to enable us to participate in the discussion session in a relaxed manner.

In the afternoon, we had group discussions. I felt that during the discussion session, the participants frequently focused on cultural differences between Japan and Russia. My group made a presentation on “mutual understanding between Japan and Russia,” in which we proposed that we should respect cultural differences between the two countries and share each other’s culture. (Please see Photo 3.)

Subsequently, two representatives were chosen from each group, and the representatives made preparations to give a presentation during the main forum session on May 19. Other students held discussions about the establishment of a student union. I was chosen as the representative of my group, and I talked with other representatives in order to merge the groups’ presentations into a single presentation.

Each group’s discussions had unique features, and therefore, it was difficult to condense them into a single presentation. The representatives’ discussions also ended up focusing on a student union. Finally, four students were selected from among the representatives, and they made a presentation during the main forum session. Because I was not chosen as one of the four, I did background work, such as preparing a PowerPoint file. This forum was attended by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and people in charge of promoting exchanges between Japan and Russia at various universities. We prepared our presentation thinking that we should draw their attention to the fact that establishing a student union will greatly contribute to promoting exchanges between Japan and Russia. As a result, I feel confident that this plan has received a certain level of recognition. We students are currently proceeding with this plan of establishing a student union. I am looking forward to its future development.

Photo 1: Excursion to the Historical Village of Hokkaido and engaging in international exchange Walking with Russian students while listening to the guide’s explanation.
Photo 2: Excursion to the Historical Village of Hokkaido and engaging in international exchange
Photo 3: Discussion on the theme of “mutual understanding between Japan and Russia”
We talked to each other about cultural differences between Japan and Russia with the aim of promoting mutual understanding.
Photo 4: Group photo of participating students after the forum (I am in the back row, far right.)