Geographically, Japan and Southeast Asia are the closest of neighbors. Academically and intellectually, though, they are oceans apart.

Until recently, Japanese academic interest in Southeast Asia was low; conversely, Southeast Asian research on Japan was meager. In the last few years, however, the number of scholars coming to Japan to conduct research, to study, or to lecture and participate in seminars has increased dramatically. Many are involved in the sciences, but a growing number are involved in the social sciences and humanities. The number of Japanese scholars doing work on Southeast Asia has also risen.

Despite the increasing number of Southeast Asian scholars coming to Japan, there has been no mechanism for them and the Japanese scholars interested in Southeast Asia to meet regularly to exchange research results, and to provide a forum for the discussion on issues of mutual interest to Japan and Southeast Asia.

It was to fill this gap that the Japan - Southeast Asia Forum was established. Inaugurated in August 1988 as an informal clearinghouse to enable concerned Southeast Asian and Japanese scholars to discuss research interests and intellectual concerns pertinent to the region, the forum has held monthly discussion meetings ever since.

The forum has three main aims:

The Forum activities are supported by the Toyota Foundation and the International House of Japan. Program Director: Tatsuya Tanami from International House of Japan, and Chairman: Teruo Sekimoto from University of Tokyo.

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