vol.001 - Grief of Local People 現地の苦悩

Grief of Local People

When series of major earthquakes first struck Kumamoto Prefecture, I was in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China. I was there to speak about the Northeast Asia Area Study project, which the National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU) began promoting in April 2016, and encourage participation in joint global research. I believe that local researchers must be engaged to proactively participate in research.

Because I had been requested by Inner Mongolia University to lecture, I took the opportunity to speak about the introduction of the NIHU project in one of my lectures. The research project features a system, in which five institutes addressing different issues all work together. The National Museum of Ethnology (MINPAKU), one of institutes that make up the NIHU, acts as the center base. The specific area of research it focuses on is nature and civilization as seen through the movement and exchange of people, goods, and systems. Research is carried out with cooperation with the National Museum of Japanese History (REKIHAKU), another museum in the NIHU. The Slavic-Eurasian Research Center of Hokkaido University is in charge of international politics and tackles research on international relations which aim to establish an inter-regional cooperation structure. Cooperating with the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN) of NIHU, the Center for Northeast Asian Studies of Tohoku University conducts research on cultures and policies related to environmental issues and regional resources. The Center for Far Eastern Studies of Toyama University is in charge of research on the evolution of international specialization and the sustainable use of natural resources, with the aim of achieving sustainable economic development. Focusing on historical identities, the Institute for North East Asian Research of the University of Shimane Prefecture conducts research on the creation of modern space and its influence in cooperation with the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (NICHIBUNKEN) of NIHU. As described above, this is a program in which the five institutes collaborate and promote comprehensive area study by sharing and addressing specific issues, such as international relations, economic cooperation, environmental issues, cultural complexes, and historical perceptions.

In accordance with their interests, local researchers will be able to appear their research results as international members of the teams of each institute. Likewise, by setting out research issues in an organized manner, local researchers will be able to cooperate with research as one of the bases of the international network. 

One example is the comprehensive research of Huhutog. Huhutog means “blue flag” and was the name of the Mongolian newspaper published in Manchukuo (the “puppet state of Manchuria” in China). It is known that Japanese people were also heavily involved in editing the newspaper. In Japan, researchers create digital copies of the newspaper and examine the details of its foundation and other matters primarily through official documents, while local researchers are able to share and read articles related to various subjects, including agriculture and livestock farming and literature. By focusing on a group of particular documents, a variety of research fields come to the surface, and this enables Japan and local areas to cooperate with each other. After careful discussion, a specific example of this research has emerged.

Jilin University also hosted an academic exchange where modern social history researchers gathered from various universities in the northeastern part of China. At this academic exchange, I introduced articles from my previous research results that was related to modern social history, and once again highlighted the NIHU program. Changchun city, where Jilin University is located, was once called Shinkyo and served as the capital of the puppet state of Manchuria. As a result, cooperation with Japanese researchers might be essential in conducting research on modern social history of this area. I felt the great expectations local researchers held for assistance from Japan. There is no real need to provide funds to China, a country whose GNP has surpassed Japan’s and now ranks as the world’s second largest economy. What is essential is the sharing of information.

Incidentally, one student asked me a question after I introduced the program in Hohhot. He asked how he would able to deal with the environmental issues his hometown faced in the wake of regional development. The environmental destruction of the grass reminds me of a demonstration that took place in 2011. Nomads started an opposition movement because they were no longer able to graze as a result of the severe deterioration of the natural environment in areas near where the mines were developed. One of the trucks trying to control the protesters ran over members of the crowd and killed one pastoralist. The news of this incident triggered demonstrations in Hohhot and even Beijing. Since then, the Chinese government’s surveillance of research on environmental issues has become incredibly tight, and research must now be conducted with extreme care. As a person who lives outside China, I must refrain from recklessly instigating students.

These demonstrations have been quelled, but similar incidents are taking place in other places. In fact, during my visit a series of scenes from skirmishes taking place in Jarud Banner unexpectedly appeared on people’s mobile phones. Jarud Banner is a region in the northwest of Tong Liao city in which people were forcibly relocated due to the development of coal mines in Holingol. When I visited there in 2013, the smog in the surrounding areas was really bad. However, the impact of pollution is only not limited to the air, and unfortunately has many damaging and serious consequences. There have been cases in which naked lambs without any hair and goats with one eye being born. Pictures of policemen holding back pastoralists who stood up demanding the truth were distributed through WeChat in China, but the distribution of information from the area then stopped. According to rumors, in addition to road blocks, the information network is also believed to have been intercepted. 

It is a social disaster when traffic routes and information networks are cut off, even when there are no earthquakes. What can we do for the grieving people who live in areas suffering from social disasters? The natural limits of all research are what compel me to be a researcher who at least understands the grief of the local people.


Executive Director, NIHU










人間文化研究機構 理事 小長谷 有紀