15 Days in Japan
By Erdem Denk
Erdem Denk received a SYLFF fellowship as a master's student majoring in international relations at Ankara University, Turkey At present, he Is a Ph.D. candidate at Cardiff Law School, Cardiff University, where he is studying the utilization of international watercourses. In this article, he describes his experiences as the recipient of a Visit Japan Program award within the context of his academic career.
Mr. Erdem Denk standing In front of the akamon (red gate) of the University of Tokyo.
"The goal of establishing and maintaining the primacy of international law is crucial. Without the rule of law humanity cannot achieve the peace, freedom and security which will permit it to continue to develop a civilized society." - Professor Diego Freitas do Amaral. Then President of the UN General Assembly (Addressing the International Court of Justice on April 18, 1996)
When I decided to write my master's thesis on the legal dimensions of the Kardak/Imia Rocks dispute between Turkey and Greece, I noticed that there were similar disputes in other parts of the world. My brief study of them inspired me to make a comparative analysis between the most similar ones: namely, the Kardak, Senkaku/Diaoyu, and Spratly Islands disputes. The reason for my decision was simple: in international law, seeking common or similar approaches of the involved states is quite important, especially in cases where general rules are not well developed, because such approaches help us both to determine what the law is as actually applied in society itself and to recommend sound solutions. Indeed, in my thesis I was able to outline some common legal points of these three disputes. Nevertheless, my interest, especially in the Senkaku dispute, did not cease, in part because that dispute not only had some interesting points in common with the Kardak Dispute, but also because it was more complicated and therefore was attractive in terms of my academic interests. Thus. I thought that it would be very good if I would be able to read more articles written by Japanese and Chinese academics and more official historical documents. Therefore, when I first saw the Visit Japan Award notice of The Tokyo Foundation, I immediately started preparing my project with the kind help of Professor Masaharu Yanagihara of Kyushu University.
As I indicated in my application, I had two main objectives: to conduct further research regarding the Senkaku dispute, and to meet with various Japanese academics. Thus, I would have the opportunity to directly see a variety of international-law approaches in this very early stage of my academic career, in addition to learning more about the different aspects of the Senkaku dispute.
Before visiting Japan. I prepared a list of materials to be researched and a few keywords to be searched in the databases of libraries. I thought that this preparation would make me feel more comfortable in Japan, especially because I know only a few basic Japanese words that I learned from Japanese friends in Cardiff. During my research in Japanese libraries, I found not only the materials on my list, but also some other materials by using the keywords, in part because the Japanese libraries were well-catalogued and the librarians were very kind and helpful.
In addition, I met with a number of Japanese academics. We discussed the Senkaku dispute in particular and international-law studies in Japan in general. In addition to establishing ties with Japanese academics, I had the opportunity, thanks to this sponsorship, to become more familiar with international-law studies in Japan, which, along with China, is the main representative of Far East legal culture. As the practices, perceptions, and approaches of different legal cultures and societies are of major importance, especially as far as international law is concerned, it is beyond doubt that this wonderful experience will benefit my studies throughout my academic career. Indeed, the more perspectives one learns about, the more effectively one can examine and understand international law and international disputes. Furthermore, to examine different international disputes from different perspectives enables one to produce more-fair analyses, as I also have been trying to do in my Ph.D. studies at the Cardiff Law School concerning international disputes regarding rivers.
Thanks to these meetings, I also had the opportunity to compare Turkey, Japan, and the United Kingdom in terms of the textbooks recommended to undergraduate and graduate students, the most "popular" topics studied by academics, and the most influential lawyers and scholars in these countries.
In addition, during my stay in Japan, I visited very interesting historical, cultural, and religious places in Tokyo and Sapporo on weekends and at other free times. One Japanese family even generously hosted me for dinner, thanks to arrangements made by the Japan National Tourist Organization.
Although I resumed my Ph.D. studies in Cardiff after my visit to Japan. I tried to produce some written work using the materials I collected in Japan, because I thought it would be best to write something when my thoughts were fresh. I revised an article that I had written before the visit; it has been published in the Mulkiyeliler Bilrligi Dergisi (Alumni Journal of the Faculty of Political Science, Ankara University). Moreover, I was able to write another article in which I analyzed some geographical and quasi-geographical terms employed in relevant international agreements. My academic supervisor and colleagues are now reviewing that writing.
Having summarized the Japan-visit process, I now wish to emphasize some points in order to explain why I very much value and appreciate support such as that provided by respected foundations such as The Tokyo Foundation.
I definitely believe that increasing mutual understanding and cooperation, especially between the civil societies of different cultures and countries, will make it much easier to resolve all types of international disputes. In this context, academics, including beginners like myself, from different countries have a special responsibility. Their studies can encourage cooperation and mutual understanding by making clear that international disputes involving our respective countries are not unique and are not simply the result of the "hostile" approaches of our "enemies. " On the contrary, such disputes are quite common problems, in part because the relevant rules of international law are not always well enough developed, and it is up to us to develop sounder approaches for resolving such disputes. In other words, academics have the responsibility to seek and to suggest peaceful alternatives that will bring different societies and cultures together. This will not only foster and encourage the rule of law, both within our respective countries and throughout the world, but also will eventually make the world a peaceful place for all humankind. Promoting the rule of law in the international community is vital, for international law is the only tool available at present for maintaining a democratic international order all across the world. A democratic international order is the only means by which to stop both the "gendarmes" and "rogue states" in the international arena and to create a peaceful world. In this context, academic relationships, cooperation, and even collaboration between academics of different countries also are very important. Such interactions can both underpin mutual understanding and peaceful relations and also demonstrate that the idea of a "clash of civilizations" is nonsense.
Mr. Denk enjoying a Japanese "dream meal. "
Therefore, institutions and foundations such as The Tokyo Foundation, which are determined to support academics all across the world, definitely have great importance in promoting world peace. Their determination to encourage researchers from all across the world fosters and strengthens our belief that scientific research really is important and really makes a difference. We very well know that, thanks to such foundations, there still are institutions and foundations that sincerely value international cooperation and that contribute to international peace by investing in human relations rather than investing in carpet bombing, biological weapons, or suicide attacks.
In short, I feel honored and pleased to have been granted a Visit Japan Award by this distinguished foundation. I did my best to take full advantage of this great opportunity. Above all, it certainly has been my great privilege to be a member of the SYLFF Fellowship family since 1998. In closing, I wish to thank Professor Yanagihara of Kyushu University and the staff of The Tokyo Foundation's Scholarship Division for their kind interest and assistance before, during, and after my visit to Japan.