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Drake professor selected for U.S.-Japan program

Photo from Drake University

Drake professor Mary McCarthy was selected to be one of fifteen participants in the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future program.

McCarthy is an assistant professor of politics and teaches courses on Asia and world politics, including “The Government and Politics of Japan” and “Japan and the World: Issues of War and Memory.” She says the program will enrich her teaching of these classes.

“I will be able to incorporate the knowledge gained from this program into my teaching, elevating the learning of my students, many of whom go on to careers in politics and international relations,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy became interested in Japan after learning Japanese in high school and taking a trip there through a Tokyo-New York High School exchange plan.

“I loved Japan and it has seemed like a second home ever since,” said McCarthy.

The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation and The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership fund the program, which is a networking opportunity for Japan specialists like McCarthy. In order to participate, she had to send in a personal statement, curriculum vita and two professional letters of reference.

According to the announcement of the program, the U.S.-Japan Network for the Future’s goal is to use the networking of experts involved to create a new generation of scholars interested in U.S.-Japanese policy.

Over the course of the next two years, McCarthy will meet regularly with the other participants. She will also conduct independent research; produce opinion pieces and blogs about U.S.-Japan relations and policy issues; and publish a policy paper. The activities will include a workshop in Washington, D.C. in January; a meeting in Washington, D.C. in June; an autumn retreat in Montana; and a study trip to Japan in June 2013.

McCarthy plans to use this opportunity to look at Japan’s foreign relations and how its national identity is affected by domestic policies. She is particularly interested in how Japan’s treatment of war crimes from World War II affects current relations between Japan, the U.S., China and South Korea

These issues include Japan’s refusal to acknowledge “comfort women.” Comfort women are defined as young women from occupied areas of Asia and the Pacific Islands whom were taken into sexual servitude by the Japanese military. McCarthy will also examine Japanese government officials, including the country’s previous Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, visiting the Yasukuni Shrine.

According to BBC News, the Yasukuni shrine is a Shinto shrine that honors 2.5 million Japanese who died in wars since 1869. Those honored include soldiers, war nurses, students who entered battle and citizens who committed suicide at the end of World War II. Fourteen class A war criminals are also honored at the shrine. In Shinto tradition, the dead are transformed into “kami” or deities, making it a place of worship as well as remembrance.

“An investigation of these cases will contribute to a deeper understanding of what factors keep history issues on the table for governments, and when and why domestic politics influence foreign policy,” McCarthy said.

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