The Asian Studies Conference Japan (ASCJ) was founded in 1997 to promote interdisciplinary scholarly exchange in an English-language format and to broaden communication among Japan-based scholars of Asia. Some 150 scholars attended the first meeting, held at the Ichigaya campus of Sophia University on October 18, 1997. The program consisted of two panels, followed by a business meeting and a reception. The founding committee members were Asian Studies scholars based at universities in the Kanto region: Hitotsubashi University, International Christian University (ICU), Meiji Gakuin University, Sophia University, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and Toyo Eiwa University.
Although ASCJ was founded independently of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), the Board of Directors enthusiastically supported its activities, and in March 1999 accepted ASCJ as its first regional conference based outside North America. Peter Duus of Stanford University gave the keynote address for the 1999 conference as incoming president of the AAS. Since then, a representative of the AAS Board of Directors has attended the ASCJ annual conference and a representative of ASCJ regularly attends the AAS Council of Conferences.
Since its earliest days, ASCJ has attracted a diverse and lively group of scholars from inside and outside Japan. Participation has grown steadily from the 150 who attended the inaugural meeting to more than 400 in recent years. It is one of the largest of the AAS regional conferences. The program, too, has expanded. Since the fourth meeting in 2000, the conference has been held over two days and the number of sessions has increased from two to well over 40. Programs of all past conferences are archived on the ASCJ webpage. ASCJ has especially encouraged active participation by graduate students enrolled at Japanese universities, some of them presenting in English for the first time. A prize is awarded annually for the best graduate student paper presented at the conference.
ASCJ aims to widen participation by keeping registration fees at a modest level. This in turn has meant that program preparation, registration, and onsite organization have owed much to volunteer work by committee members and student assistants and support from their universities. For the first nine meetings, ASCJ was held at Sophia University’s Ichigaya campus. The conference secretariat was based at ICU. Meiji Gakuin University hosted the ASCJ web page. Since 2006, meetings have rotated among several universities, including ICU, J. F. Oberlin, Meiji Gakuin, Rikkyo, Sophia, and Waseda.
The growing complexity of registration (and reliance on an out-of-date fax machine to process credit card payments) led ASCJ to seek the assistance of a conference support agency from 2014. Despite this bow to 21st century efficiency, ASCJ’s original volunteer spirit and commitment to friendly and informal academic exchange are unchanged. Also unchanged from the inaugural conference is the tradition of providing coffee, tea and donuts to help conference participants enjoy stimulating conversations with friends new and old.
Founding Executive Committee, ASCJ
Yoshiko Ashiwa, Hitotsubashi University
John Clammer, Sophia University
Linda Grove, Sophia University
Junko Koizumi, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
Kate Wildman Nakai, Sophia University
Robert Seward, Meiji Gakuin University
Patricia Sippel, Toyo Eiwa University
M. William Steele, International Christian University
David Wank, Sophia University
Linda Grove, 1997-2002
David Wank, 2003-2006
Michael Watson, 2007-2012
M. William Steele, 2013-2015
Mark Caprio, 2016-2020
Christopher Bondy, 2020-present