The Road to Tokyo 2020: Access to sports for the disabled in Japan and The Netherlands

The next edition of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is going to take place in 2020, Tokyo, Japan (Tokyo 2020). In the run-up to this major sports event, various sports organizations have taken up social responsibility projects, among others the Netherlands Olympic Committee and Netherlands Federation for Sports (NOC*NSF). LeidenAsiaCentre has been granted access by the NOC*NSF to their social inclusion project aimed at the Tokyo 2020 Games. This project targets access to sports for disabled persons in Japan.


LeidenAsiaCentre has been requested to provide a scholarly interpretation of the Japanese context with regard to social issues surrounding disabled persons and sports. In this context and in consideration of the project participants’ goals, the question the proposed research attempts to answer is: How is access to sports for disabled persons institutionally configured and influenced by dominant discourses on disability in Japan, and how do social projects targeting social inclusion in sports for disabled persons function in this context?

The Game Changer project is initiated by the NOC*NSF, the main partner of the LeidenAsiaCentre in this project. Several Japanese organizations such as the Japan Sport Council and local municipalities have expressed a desire to restructure their sports’ institutions based on what is perceived as the ‘Dutch model’. The Game Changer project’s main aim and slogan is to “use sports to change society” (supōtsu wo tsūjite shakai wo kaeru). Combining visits from Dutch experts and Paralympians to Japan, and reverse trips of Japanese government officials to Dutch sports facilities, the project aims to “share knowledge” for the improvement of sports access for disabled athletes.


This project grants insight into which factors will or will not initiate change towards social inclusiveness for disabled persons in Japan, specifically within the context of access to sports. The project contains two programs divided geographically: the Japanese program and the Dutch program.

The first stage of the research projects focuses on the mainstream discourses on disability dominant in Japanese society, and for comparative measure when appropriate in Dutch society. The second stage consists of an historical contextualization of policymaking and disability in Japan. This project will run up until the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, and will include yearly reports and conferences open to the general public.


Anoma P. van der Veere


Europe and China

In 2016, the Leiden Asia Centre conducted a research project on China and the Netherlands. The focus of the project was the increasing impact of Chinese students, tourists and companies on the economy and society of the Netherlands. Chinese are the second-largest nationality among foreign students in Dutch higher education. Every year, about 250,000 Chinese tourists visit. Chinese investments are rapidly rising, including some very large takeovers, particularly in the past few years. As there was very little existing literature at the time, the project was explorative and mainly descriptive in nature with a view to provide information to Dutch stakeholders. With the information from the reports on our project we are now in a position to propose a new project with a broader scope and sharpened focus.


This follow up project will consist of two different sub-projects that will be carried out simultaneously, namely:

  1. Strategic impact of Chinese investment in Europe
  2. Impact of China on research, innovation and academic freedom in Europe

The Chinese Communist Party is again tightening its grip over China’s political system and society. In addition, there are indications that the engagement of Chinese institutions and individuals with foreign partners is increasingly tied into a strategic approach coordinated by the authorities in Beijing. Understanding the scope, inclusiveness, objectives and further development of this vision is urgently needed in Europe, if we are to develop an adequate response to China’s impact on our continent. It will not suffice to state that we should or should not be worried and conclude that we should either try to close the door on China or, alternatively, not interfere and let things take their own course. Either response is based on preconceptions and a lack of an empirically grounded understanding of the nature of China’s strategic vision of Europe. This project aims to conduct the research needed to provide this understanding.

The general questions that inform this project are:

  1. What are the objectives, scope and strategy behind the attempts of the authorities in Beijing to tie together the multiple engagements of China and Europe?
  2. To what extent is this strategy effectively implemented?
  3. To what extent are the interests of the EU and European stakeholders aligned or not aligned with the objectives of the emerging Chinese plan for engagement with Europe?
  4. What measures can the EU and European stakeholders take to maximize the benefits and minimize the liabilities of their engagement with China’s European strategy?

The sub-projects will each have their own research questions, approach, staff, stakeholder sounding board and budget, all of which will be described in more detail below. The projects will be carried out simultaneously and at the end of the project will lead to joint publications and dissemination events. Research will be conducted between January and June 2018. Reports will be written in July and August 2018 for presentation and dissemination as publications and through a public conference and several closed stakeholder events in September 2018.


January 2018 – September 2018


Part 1:

Prof Dr Frank Pieke
Frans-Paul van der Putten (Clingendael)
Matt Ferchen
Tianmu Hong
Jurriaan de Blécourt

Assessing Europe-China collaboration in Higher Education and Research
Part 2:

Prof Dr Frank Pieke
Annemarie Montulet (KNAW)
Ingrid D’Hooghe
David Pho (University of Twente)
Marijn de Wolff

Stagiair: Joris van Schie


Assessing China’s Influence in Europe through Investments in Technology and Infrastructure. Four Cases.

Resolving labour shortages? The digital transformation of working practices in the Japanese service sector

This project will explore the degree to which the so-called ‘digital economy’ including automation and robotisation is able to resolve problems associated with the shortage of labour in the Japanese service sector (food). Japan is particularly well-suited for such a study due to its combination of being one of the advanced industrial democracies that has experienced the ageing population and the labour shortage issue most acutely, and also due to it having an advantage in terms of the relatively advanced development of its digital economy. The service sector is particularly relevant in this context, as it tends to be labour-intensive. In 2012 over 75 percent of the Japanese workforce was employed in the service sector generating nearly 70 percent of the country’s GDP.


The main aim of the project is to demonstrate how the advancement of the digital economy in the service sector has changed working practices and the working environment, and seeks to identify whether the advancement of the digital economy will propose a solution to the challenge of labour shortage in the long-term.


This project will focus on the food industry within the service sector. This industry is chosen due to the importance not only to the Japanese economy but also to the Dutch economy.

Stage One. Chart the recent growth of the new digital economy, including automation, digitisation and robotisation in the service sector (food industry).

Stage Two. Analyze related changes in employment relations: the digital economy’s positive impact upon workstyle including co-working with robots, increased efficiency in the workplace, and the digital economy’s negative impact upon workers including enhanced control and monitoring on labour, blurring divisions between work and life, and a further increase of precarious labour (part-time workers), with subsequent implications for inequality and the ability for workers to consume.

Stage Three. Identify the socio-economic implications of advancing technology in the case of Japan (solution to labour shortages, change in the work-life balance, varieties of working style, polarizing income and inequality, resultant stagnating consumption, and long-term implication on Japan’s macro economy).

The study will be fine-tuned in meetings with partners from Dutch society during the first half of 2018.


January 2018 – July 2019


Dr Saori Shibata



Corporate Social Responsibility in Asia: Case Studies of CSR regulation and execution in the construction and textile sector

According to the Global Slavery Index (GSI), workplaces in Asia are responsible for over 2/3 of global slavery and human trafficking. Not only are these numbers staggeringly high, they also allude to labour issues related to slavery and human trafficking, such as poor work safety.
To try and ensure that tragedies do not occur and that international agreed standards are respected, many corporations have so called Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies, which vary per company in length, detail and topics.


This project aims to analyse the functioning of CSR in value chain responsibility in Asia, both on paper and in practice. This research aims at analysing case studies about the current state of CSR in South and East Asia, its best-practices and shortcomings, and what is needed for more effective and efficient CSR in the region.
This research, a joint effort of LeidenAsiaCentre and Mondiaal FNV, will focus on the policies of first tier suppliers/manufacturers, and, where possible, also second. Mondiaal FNV is not only expert in CSR regulations, it also has researchers and monitors in Asia, creating a hands-on research project with accessible source material.


To narrow the scope, this research will focus on two case studies within two sectors notorious for labour violations; construction and textile industry.
1. CSR and chain liability in regional projects in South Asia under the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank and the WorldBank
This pillar will focus on construction projects in South Asia set up by any of the above-mentioned banks, with a specific emphasis on project bids won by companies from Japan, China and South Korea. Many of the projects that the ADB, the AIIB and the WB finance, are won in bids by corporations in East Asia. East Asian presence in South Asia is enormous, so projects executed by East Asian companies will be one of the key prerequisites when picking case studies for the construction pillar, as these are often also the largest projects.
2. CSR and chain liability: the case of North Korean-made textiles/garments both within the country and abroad
The second pillar is a clear defined case study, which delves into the product chain of North Korean-made textile products, which are often sold as ‘made in China’. The garments are both made within North Korea, but also in Chinese factories that employee North Koreans. This case will investigate CSR responsibility in particular meeting international human rights obligations as laid out in the OECD guidelines for multinationals/UN Guiding principles.

Both pillars will regularly hold expert meetings, and a joint final conference open to the public, to discuss findings and implications.


This project is executed in collaboration with Mondiaal FNV, read more information about them on their website.


January 2018-March 2019


For this project, we have vacancies. Please check our website.


Remco Breuker

Leiden Network for Japanese Constitutional Research

Constitutional revision is again on the political agenda in Japan, with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe announcing that he would like to see revision by 2020. There are perhaps good strategic reasons to place revision on the table. The constitution’s Article 9 was written after the Second World War to limit Japan’s military capability. However, strategic developments, including China’s increased naval activity and North Korea’s nuclear program have, according to revisionists, made Japan’s military restrictions obsolete. Despite this focus on strategy in broader public debates, Abe has made it clear in his writings that he also sees revision as connected to a sense of national pride and identity.
Aligned against revision, meanwhile, is an array of intellectuals and activists either keen to preserve the pacifist elements of the constitution or concerned that Abe’s approach to constitutionalism erodes the rule of law. While constitutional revision looks more likely than ever before, it is hardly a foregone conclusion.


This project proposes to highlight the topic of debate on the constitution in Japan by establishing a Leiden Network for Japan Constitutional Research.

It will aim to encourage debate on Japan’s constitution from a number of perspectives, to provide access to resources on constitutional practice and revision that are not yet available in English, to facilitate research into the domestic implications of the constitutional debate, and to bring into focus the significance of this debate for the political authority of human rights in Asia.

  1. Field research in Japan, leading to the publication of peer reviewed articles

As well as strengthening network connections, the researchers will be conducting research focusing on the impact debate on the constitution is having on rights and freedoms in Japan. The aim is to publish findings in at least two peer reviewed articles, submitted by the second half of 2019.

  1. A symposium, currently scheduled for early 2018, and a second symposium with many of the same speakers in Asia in 2019.
  2. The development of a website and online database for English resources on the constitutional debate.

In order to improve the availability of historical and contemporary sources in English on the constitution of Japan, we will establish a database including such features as an interactive timeline and access to translations of primary sources and articles on the constitution.


January 2018- end 2019


Dr Erik Herber

Dr Bryce Wakefield


Aging Japan: Leading the way into the future

September 15 is Japan’s ‘Respect for the Aged’ day in honor of its elderly citizens. This year Japan celebrated this day on September 19. Not such a bad idea as Japan is the world’s leading aging society. And since this phenomenon is seen as a forbear of a global trend, LeidenAsiaCentre aims at launching a study on aging in Japan. Together with a number of partners from society we are currently identifying our research focus and are able to start with the project early 2017.


Japan is the global leader in aging. It was labelled ‘aged society’ already in 1994, when its share of citizens over 65 exceeded 14 percent – the highest in the world at the time. Twenty years later, the percentage of people older than 65 has for the first time surpassed 25 percent. Currently one out of eight Japanese is older than 75,1 and predictions indicate that by 2030 nearly one-third of Japanese will belong to the elderly category.

This rapid demographic shift is not an isolated Japanese phenomenon, but rather a forbear of the future global trend. Never before in human history has our planet contained so many people older than 65, and the number is expected to almost triple by 2050. Declining fertility combined with the rising life expectancy, which are chiefly responsible for the rapid population aging currently underway, are most pronounced in OECD countries, but similar tendencies can also be observed in the developing regions.


How will individuals overcome the restrictions aging imposes on their quality of life? How will families cope with aging relatives? How will the growing numbers of elderly citizens affect public institutions and their budgets, private firms and their economic prospects?

What challenges will aging societies face and what innovations and solutions will prove most effective to deal with them? These are questions that are becoming increasingly poignant, but quite impossible to answer. Do the solutions that are currently being proposed actually work in real life?

This project will offer such empirical evidence from the most advanced ‘silver market’ in the world – Japan. The analysis will focus on the use of high-tech home care solutions, from remote-care services to robots, exploring the daily interactions of elderly with technology. The speed and intensity of Japan’s demographic change, along with the flexibility of the market and the innovative capacities of Japanese companies, offers a unique opportunity to explore the everyday reality of a hyper-aged society. The data acquired through this project will be a valuable asset for the Netherlands and the rest of the world, who will face a similar reality sooner or later.

This project is executed in collaboration with the German Institute for Japanese Studies, read more information about the project on their website.


Explore the everyday reality of a hyper-aged society, a valuable lesson for the Netherlands and the rest of the world, who will face a similar reality sooner or later. Knowing more about the Japanese approaches can serve as a source of inspiration for finding ways to cope with the elderly care elsewhere. Solutions that have proven themselves in Japan may also open up new opportunities for stakeholders outside of Japan.


German Institute for Japanese Studies, IMDI, RvO, Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), KPN. Academic cooperation : Prof. Jennifer Robertson (University of Michigan), Dr. Susanne Brucksch (German Institute for Japanese Studies), Dr. Florian Kohlbacher (The Economist Corporate Network North Asia) and Johan Hoorn (VU, Social Robotics)


January 2017-May 2018


Kasia Cwiertka


Anoma van der Veere


Pam van Ipenburg