What is JAAS?

The Japan Association for Asian Studies (JAAS) is an academic society that aims to promote area studies on Asia and disseminate the outcomes of these studies. JAAS members’ research areas cover East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, or the wider Asian region with a focus on politics, economy, law, history, society, international relations, and other fields of social science. The number of members exceeded 1,000 in the mid-1990s, making it the largest academic society related to Asian studies in Japan.

JAAS was founded on May 5, 1953. It is one of the oldest academic societies on Asia that were established in Japan after World War II. On that day, around 50 people gathered to hold a founder’s meeting at Gakushi Kaikan in Hongo, adjacent to the University of Tokyo, and on June 13, the Founding Prospectus of JAAS was finalized. The first convention was held at Keio University on June 27 and 28. Since then, JAAS has held two or three conventions annually. In 1954, the year following its founding, JAAS published the first issue of its quarterly academic journal, AZIYA KENKYU, or Asian Studies. All issues, from the first to the most recent, are currently available on J-STAGE. In 1994, it began publishing a newsletter for members, and in 2003, it established an academic award for young members, the JAAS Outstanding Paper Award, which has been presented annually. Since 2010, regular seminars have been held three times per year, with the aim of improving the level of young members’ research. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020–2022, JAAS continued to hold conventions and regular seminars in writing or online.

Since its first international symposium in 1989, JAAS has conducted international exchanges in Asian studies by inviting overseas researchers and collaborating with overseas academic societies including the Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils (AASSREC), the Korean Association of Asian Studies (KAAS), the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) of USA, the German Association for Asian Studies (DGA), the Asia Economic Community Forum (AECF) of Korea, and the Taiwan Association of Southeast Asian Studies (TASEAS). Since 2016, JAAS has regularly held international symposiums/Kashiyama Seminars, receiving grants from the Kashiyama Scholarship Foundation.

JAAS publications include 39 volumes of Gendai Chugoku Kenkyu Sosho (Contemporary Chinese Study Series), which were published from 1964 to 2001, four volumes of Koza Gendai Azia (Contemporary Asia Series), published by the University of Tokyo Press in 1994 as a commemoration of JAAS’s 40th anniversary, and three volumes of Gendai Azia Kenkyu (Contemporary Asian Studies), published by the Keio University Press in 2008, all of which represent the academic level achieved by Asian studies in Japan at their respective times.

JAAS was registered as an incorporated foundation in 1957 and reorganized into a general incorporated foundation on April 1, 2013, in accordance with the legal reform of public-interest corporations in Japan. It introduced a system for director changes based on biennial members’ votes before the reorganization, and democratic practices evolved after the reorganization. The new articles of incorporation established a Councilor Selection Committee that includes non-members, and stipulates that the Committee selects councilors based on the results of members’ votes; the Board of Councilors then selects directors and auditors based on the results of members’ votes. The Board of Directors, consisting of directors and auditors, takes charge of management as an executive body, while the Board of Councilors oversees the Board of Directors’ activities.

The number of JAAS members increased to approximately 1,300 at the end of the 2000s and has remained around 1,000 in recent years. Building on the achievements of predecessors over the decades, JAAS has continued its efforts toward the further development of Asian studies as an inclusive platform of area studies for researchers working on issues related to Asia.