“Beyond Japan has quickly emerged as one of the best podcasts in Japanese studies. The podcast makes cutting edge research accessible to a broad audience.”Professor Bryan Lowe, Assistant Professor of Religion, Princeton University
Little over a year ago in March 2020, I had just begun settling into my role as Project Officer at the Centre for Japanese Studies, having organised a number of CJS Research Seminars and preparing for our annual Ishibashi Summer Programme which brought students from all over the world. As an early-career researcher, I had also enjoyed my first taste of networking with other academics at conferences and workshops and was keen for more. Halfway through my MA in Cultural Heritage & Museum Studies, I was most excited by the prospect of flying out to Okinawa to do my museum placement at Himeyuri Peace Museum for three weeks before conducting preparatory research for my thesis in Kyoto. There was much to look forward to, although this inevitably came to a stuttering, anticlimactic halt as events, plans and plane tickets were postponed and then cancelled as the full scale of the COVID-19 pandemic dawned upon us. As an international research centre, everything went into limbo and it was initially difficult to see how we could resume under such circumstances, not least of all the CJS Research Seminar Series. A solution, however, soon became apparent: rather than flying researchers out to Norwich, why not just give them a call?
“Podcast episodes have been helpful in teaching students at Sheffield more about the process of academic research, as the questions developed often asked details that are not apparent in published work”Dr Jamie Coates, Lecturer in East Asian Studies & Director for Undergraduate Studies, University of Sheffield
Having bought a studio microphone and set up a rudimentary home studio in my bedroom, the pilot episode of Beyond Japan was first recorded with our own Professor Simon Kaner in June 2020. Who could have guessed that first, brief 15-minute episode would spawn a series of 46 episodes with over 4,000 plays across 60 countries in its first year? The format came quite naturally, building on that most pleasurable aspect of academia: listening to academics passionately explaining research projects formerly only accessible in rigid, 25-page articles, often locked behind paywalls. Given the literally eye-watering amount of screen-time we have had to accustom ourselves to as all aspects of life went online over lockdowns, I wanted to provide a relaxing, easily digestible means of finding out about the latest research in Japan-related studies. I have also thoroughly enjoyed seeking out researchers whose work truly challenges preconceptions of what researching Japan entails; rather than limiting ourselves to stereotypical topics such as Hokusai, bullet trains and samurai, we have pushed the envelope to explore such subjects as cross-dressing escort services, prehistoric globalisation, and Japanese diaspora communities. With a weekly audience often exceeding 100 listeners, there is clearly appetite for this refreshing approach to Japanese Studies which we aim to sate with our upcoming second series starting this Thursday.
“I think Beyond Japan has a great series of interviews so far and it seems to me that there is really a demand for this kind of public research dissemination, not least among undergraduate and postgraduate students in Japanese studies.”Dr Aike Rots, Associate Professor in Asian Studies, University of Oslo
Looking back a year on, I have produced a full report on the successes of the Beyond Japan podcast to be released soon on the achievements of the series in its first year. We have also received warm words from previous interviewees, sharing how the series has helped their academic careers, contributed to teaching students and provided an accessible, public-facing means of disseminating research. We hope you enjoy the read and will be joining us again from Thursday for a brand-new series. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @CJS_UEA, or my personal Twitter @OllieMox, and subscribe to JapanInNorwich.org for the latest updates.
Project Support Officer, SISJAC
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