Bridging Japan and South East Asia
Contributed in July, 2008

Cheah Yin Mei, James Cai and Amy Chow represented JUGAS (Japanese University Graduates Association of Singapore) at the 2008 Reunion Trip to Japan from 1st to 7th June. The Trip was sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and amongst the varied activities, we were not only introduced to the new plans that the Japanese government is forging to strengthen the relationships between Japan and its foreign students, but also the current and future developments in the Japanese political situation. We were also most impressed by Professor Taketoshi Nojima, who educated us on the physics of Origami and its potential application in technology. The challenge of folding the intricate origami patterns at the Tokyo Institute of Technology tied in with the visit to Shiroyama Industries was invaluable in educating us on the difficulties in applying theory to productisation. Of the varied activities, the most meaningful to us, was the exchange between the ex-foreign students, skillfully chaired by Mr Yani M.Jaya from our Indonesian contingent, and overseen by Mr Tsugawa from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We would like to selectively comment on some of the activities during our trip.

1. New Foreign Students Programme of Japan
On the morning of 3 June, we attended a lecture by Professor Tsutomu Kimura, former dean of Tokyo Institute of Technology and currently, the President of the National Institute for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation. The lecture touched on the new Japanese policy to increase the number of foreign students in Japan to 300,000. The attendees debated long and hard on the various challenges faced by this programme, some of which involved the lack of cohesion in the efforts between the Japanese government, its business network as well as its people. Whilst an education should inevitably become linked to a career after graduation, organizational structures in Japanese companies are not conducive to the hiring and retention of foreigners. The laws in the nation are not conducive to foreign skills obtaining work permits whilst the Japanese society is still, to a large extent, fairly closed to the foreign labour workforce. Nevertheless, we do understand the importance of this new policy and programme and will support it to the utmost of our ability.

2. Application of Origami Technology to Materials Recycling and Reduction
Professor Nojima’s inspiration to use this traditional Japanese skill as a potential technical breakthrough to address the energy crisis in the world today is most enterprising. We look forward very much to future development of this technology.

3. Former Foreign Students to Japan As A Bridge to Asia
On the afternoon of 2 June 2008, former Japanese students who participated in the Reunion 2008 Trip gathered at the Tokyo Prince Hotel with Mr Tsugawa and Ms Hamaguchi to introduce the activities of the various alumni in their home countries. Mr Yani M.Jaya from PERSADA chaired the meeting. During one of the discussions, a member of the Philippine delegation suggested an online mail group. This idea was overwhelmingly received, whereby James Cai from Singapore created as another communication channel between the various participants to this Reunion 2008 Trip and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.