Small Group Takes Aim at Big Issues Impacting Asia-Pacific Region
YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Shortly after 8 p.m. on a recent hot, humid summer night a small group of people take their seats in a local community center classroom just outside Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.
They are there to listen to an industry expert who has been invited to speak about the health of East Asian economies.
Topics and discussions during the meeting are wide-ranging and include the Japanese yen’s strength compared to other currencies, Chinese economic policy’s impact on other countries, and how places like India, South Korea, Vietnam and Australia will set new economic growth standards in the region.
As the night progresses and the lecturer opens the floor to discussion and debate, the conversation quickly jumps from one topic to another. Members voice their opinions on women’s roles in Japanese companies, how long Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party will remain in power, and other issues that aren’t necessary related to the lecturer’s original topic of the night.
Meeting on a regular basis and studying wide-ranging issues like these is exactly why the Yokosuka Asia-Pacific Regional Studies Group was founded as a Yokosuka Naval Base-registered private organization in August 2015, according to the group’s president, John Bradford. The organization’s official aim is to promote the study of strategic, diplomatic and legal issues affecting the Asia-Pacific Region.
The group’s size has already grown to more than 100 members in the past year, according to Bradford. Current membership in the group includes U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force personnel as well as staff from the Japan National Defense Academy, local universities, private industry and government.
“We are always looking for new members who want to gain a better understanding of what is happening in this part of the world,” said Bradford, who also serves as a U.S. Navy commander assigned to U.S. Seventh Fleet. “We work hard to promote open dialogue among all our members and provide world-class educational and mentorship opportunities.
“Yokosuka city's unique pool of regional expertise and rich maritime heritage is allowing us to create and enhance the status of the local area as an important security hub,” he said.
Meanwhile, back in the classroom and long after the lecture had officially ended, many linger as discussions continue in smaller groups. In one group, someone mentions that there might be a chance to sponsor and screen a documentary about 1950-era Japanese war brides at the local base theater.
The members are unanimously enthusiastic for this news as it seems important to understand the impact of the biggest influx of Asian women in U.S. history as they abandoned family, friends and country and crossed an ocean at the end of the war to marry a former enemy.
Someone else floats the idea of inviting American spouses to this possible screening as a way to introduce them to the studies group.
The conversations continue as members plan future opportunities and events, such as new seminars presenting world-class thinkers and community leaders, field trips to locations in and around Yokosuka, and the planning of networking and professional development sessions.
“The ripples of what we learn and discuss, and the impact of these meetings on the lives of our members and their various communities, is potentially immeasurable,” said Bradford. “We come here not only to learn, but to build relationships and networks between individuals and groups that will last a lifetime.”
The studies group has already formed numerous important partnerships and is working to increase both the number of partners and members in coming months, according to Bradford. Current partners include Temple University Japan’s Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies; the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies Young Leaders Program; and the Japan-U.S. Military Program
“Ultimately, we are looking to bring together, on a regular basis, a diverse group of individuals with different backgrounds and experiences to help us explore new solutions to some of the common challenges that we all face,” said Bradford. “It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an expert in any of these areas. The most important thing is that you come ready to learn and to share your ideas with our group.”
For more information on the Yokosuka Asia-Pacific Regional Studies Group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit them online at www.facebook.com/YokosukaAsiaPacificStudiesGroup.