Oscar Boyd

Conference "Open and closed societies: historical reasons and modern consequences of inequality in Japan and Europe"

Japan being an advanced state, the world's 3rd economy, and a member of the G7, is often set up as an Asian role model of a liberal and democratic society where the rule of law prevails and human rights are protected and guaranteed to all people. However, on a closer look, every society has its problem topics, and noticing them for the analysis and comparison with other countries with similar issues becomes a crucial starting point to move further in acknowledging and solving the issues of inequality in the modern world. 

The conference aims to focus on inequality in education and the labor market. It does that from the perspective of immigration and socially vulnerable groups of minorities and non-citizens by the example of Japan and the countries of the European Union. It aims to offer a platform for the scientific approach and further discussions about the minoritized communities in the multi-layered and divided society where human rights and equality are not always protected, and not everybody is enjoying the social benefits of the democratic society in the same way. The conference and workshop aim to focus on the historical and legal roots of these problems and bring forward multifaceted discussions that only the interstate comparison under the guidance of experts can provide. The issues mentioned above are discussed from an academic perspective, including interactive discussion methods and problem-solving approaches.


Questions and topics addressed at the conference and workshop include but are not limited to:

  • Historical reasons for the inequality in Japan and the EU countries:
    • Historical remnants of inequality and their influence and existence in the modern society
    • Inadequacies of the legislation (e.g., lack of anti-hate speech legislation)
  • Inequality and injustice in the educational system and labor market in Japan and in the EU countries:
    • Problems of immigration and foreign workforce, the necessity of foreign workers to meet the labor shortage and the disparity in the labor market
    • Problems with the educational system, access to education, and quality
    • Discrimination of ethnic minorities in Japan (e.g. the Ainu, the Zainichi Koreans) and social groups (e.g. hibakusha, burakumin) and in the EU countries (e.g. ethnic minorities and minoritized communities based on social status); xenophobia and racism
    • Seeking solutions and examples of good practices (e.g., the current refugee crisis in the EU has forced governments and NGOs to act decisively and efficiently)

Registration and Credit Points

For the listening to the presentations and participating at the workshops it is possible to acquire 1 ECT. If you wish to receive the credit point, please register here (deadline October 10th).


Day 1: October 13th

8.30-9.00 Conference registration - Lobby

9.00-9.30 Opening words (Dr. Elo Süld, Head of University of Tartu Asia Centre; Prof. Toomas Asser, Rector of University of Tartu;  H.E. Mr. Väino Reinart, Ambassador of Estonia to Japan (virtual)) - Room A218-A219

9.30-10.30 1st presentation - Historical background of Japanese migration, legislation, and current refugee policy (Sara Park, lecturer, University of Helsinki) - Room A218-A219

10.30-11.00 Coffee break - Catering area

11.00-12.00 2nd presentation - Diversity and integration of Europeans in Japan - the role of whiteness and conceptual issues (prof. Miloš Debnár, Ryukoku University) - Room A218-A219

12.00-13.00 3rd presentation - Exploring student agency in an ethnically and culturally divided society: the case of Estonia (Maria Erss, research fellow, Tallinn University) - Room A218-A219

13.00-14.00 Lunch - Catering area

14.00-15.00 PhD students' panel (Rennan Okawa, Osaka University; Kristjan Kaldur, University of Tartu) - Room A218-A219

15.00-17.00 Workshops for the MA students facilitated by Hanna Kerstina Kartau and Ilmar Branno - Room A206-A207.

The day is moderated by Mai Beilmann (Associate Professor of Empirical Sociology, Institute of Social Studies)

Day 2: October 14th

9.00-9.10 Welcoming remarks (H.E. Mr. Yukihiko Matsumura, Ambassador of Japan to Estonia) - Room A218-A219

9.10-10.00 1st presentation - Pandemic and socio-economic condition of Immigrants: experience of inclusion and exclusion in Japan (prof. Wako Asato, Kyoto University) - Room A218-A219

10.00-10.30 Coffee break - Catering area

10.30-11.30 2nd presentation - Transnationalism and Socio-Economic Integration in Japan: Chinese Minority and Nikkeijin (prof. David Chiavacci, University of Zurich) - Room A218-A219

11.30-12.30 3rd presentation - Tolerance for Socioeconomic Inequality — Evidence from Japan and Estonia (Joanna Kitsnik, Sophia University) - Room A218-A219

12.30-13.30 Lunch - Catering area

13.30-14.30 PhD students' panel (Mohammad Abu Sayed Toyon, Estonian Business School; Anastasia Sinitsyna, University of Tartu) - Room A218-A219

14.30-16.00 Workshops for the MA students facilitated by Hanna Kerstina Kartau and Ilmar Branno - Room A206-A207

The day is moderated by Tiit Tammaru (Professor of Urban and Population Geography, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences)

Here you may find the abstracts and bios of the speakers.


The conference is organised by the University of Tartu Asia Centre. In case of any questions or comments, please contact Ene Selart (

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