Former President of the ASAA, Emeritus Professor Purnendra Jain, has been awarded the highest Japanese honour open to an academic. In a ceremony held in Adelaide on Friday 26 March, Consul-General Shimada Junji awarded Professor Jain the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon in recognition of his “contribution to promoting academic exchanges and mutual understanding between Japan and Australia”.
The award would normally have taken place in Tokyo, but in the era of COVID-19, Mr Shimada personally transported the medal and the script from Japan to Adelaide. This new arrangement had the happy consequence of enabling the ceremony to take place in the presence of Professor Jain’s family, colleagues, friends, many former students and the University of Adelaide’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jennie Shaw, who paid her own public tribute to Professor Jain.
The trajectory and impact of Professor Jain’s contribution to Japanese Studies is visible in his authored books and many associated scholarly articles wherein he developed a new field of scholarship; one that pioneered the study of Japan’s local government and both its internationalisation and its interaction with national-level policy making. This scholarship is grounded in a career spent conducting micro-level field-based research, travelling from the top end of Japan (Hokkaido) to the southernmost part, even including Okinawa. He has interviewed local leaders (mayors and governors), business associations and non-party organisations to interrogate their role in connecting their localities to cross-border communities—sometimes in association with the national government and at times bypassing or even in opposition to the national government. His 11 edited books reflect his broader contributions to and leadership role in Japanese Studies, with a more conventional focus on national politics and international affairs.
His passion for studying Japan and Japanese language began in the 1970s in Delhi when he was working in the Indian Civil Service, after which he studied in Tokyo and then did his PhD at Griffith University in Brisbane. In 1995 he was appointed Japan Foundation Founding Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Adelaide, and now holds the title of Emeritus Professor.
Professor Jain is currently in receipt of a Senior Visiting Fellowship at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, developing collaborative projects on Japan and South Asia. He is also separately writing a book on Japan’s Engagement with “Broader Asia” and the Indo-Pacific.
Professor Jain was President of ASAA from 2010–2012, and Convenor of the 18th Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia, July 2010.