Reflecting on my time as President of BAJS

Today, my time as President of the British Association for Japanese Studies (BAJS), came to an end. It has been one of the most enjoyable roles that I have had during my time as an academic. While COVID-19 got in the way of being able to do some of things that I would like to have done, overall I have overseen many different activities. Many of these activities were a continuation of the role from before I took over, but there have also been changes which I helped bring about. None of this, of course, could have been possible without the work and collaboration of others around me, particularly Mara Patessio (the Executive Secretary of BAJS), the various BAJS Council members of the years, external organisations that BAJS works with, and the BAJS members and colleagues. I am extremely grateful to all of them.

Here are just some of the things that I have been involved in during the past six years:

  • The establishment of the new Executive Secretary role.
  • Establishment of SOAS as the institutional home for BAJS correspondence, etc.
  • Oversaw the introduction of new constitution for BAJS.
  • Helped bring closer working relationship with the British Association for the Teachers of Japanese (BATJ)
  • Increased the BAJS profile in sponsoring events such as speech contests.
  • Signing the latest contract with Taylor & Francis in relation to Japan Forum, which is what brings in the vast majority of BAJS funds and allows BAJS Council to support BAJS activities – primarily trying to support PGR student and ECRs.
  • Appointment of the new Japan Forum team, bringing in a system to make it easier for people from outside the main Japanese Studies universities to get involved.
  • Streamlined working, such as the funding of John Crump funds, which also allowed more students to be funded.
  • Launched the BAJS podcast.
  • Representing the community to write letters to the Japanese Ambassador over COVID & border issues (see Letter to the Japanese Ambassador in London and Another Letter to the Japanese Ambassador in London – the second of these led to some changes in the Embassy that helped the students).
  • In terms of BAJS Council, having more decisions done by email freeing up meeting time for blue sky thinking.

Originally, I had planned to do five years as President (once the new Constitution was in place, where one term is three years and the President can do two terms), as I didn’t necessary want to create a precedent of the President feeling as though they should do two terms and see out both terms, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant that stability was appropriate.

There is more I wish that I could have done, such as reaching more “lone scholars” in Japanese studies outside the main Japanese studies centres, but reaching such people is not easy and, again, the pandemic meant that it became harder to do certain tasks.

I have very much enjoyed my time as President (as I did my other times on Council over the years) and it was a role I had always aspired to (much more than being a Head of School or something more senior at a University), and just hope that others feel that I have done a reasonable job. My best wishes and wishes of good luck go to the new President and BAJS Council.

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