comparative politics international relations Japan-related research

JPOSS #25: “Field Research When There’s Limited Access to the Field: Lessons from Japan”

The twenty-fifth session of the Japanese Politics Online Seminar Series (JPOSS) took place on January 27, 2022. Daniel M. Smith (Harvard University) chaired the seminar and moderated the question and answer session.

Kenya Amano (University of Washington), Melanie Sayuri Dominguez (University of New Mexico), Timothy Fraser (Northeastern University), Etienne Gagnon (University of Tokyo), Trevor Incerti  (Yale University), Jinhyuk Jang (Pennsylvania State University), Charles T. McClean (University of Michigan), Austin M. Mitchell (Tohoku University), Sayumi Miyano (Princeton University), Colin Moreshead (Yale University), Harunobu Saijo (Duke University), Diana Stanescu (Stanford University), Ayumi Teraoka (Princeton University), Hikaru Yamagishi (Yale University), Charmaine N. Willis (University at Albany, State University of New York), Yujin Woo (Waseda University), Charles Crabtree  (Dartmouth College) presented their paper which identifies recent issues researchers have had conducting fieldwork in Japan due to the COVID-19 pandemic and discuss potential solutions to overcome these challenges.

Amano and colleagues discussed several logistical challenges that the current pandemic poses for conducting fieldwork in Japan specifically, but which could apply to other contexts: (1) the availability of research visas in the target country; (2) limitations placed on travel by home institutions and/or funders; (3) opportunities to work with local sponsors and network; (4) ethical restrictions to in-person contact; and, (5) changing entry restrictions both in their target country and at research locations (i.e., archives, libraries, and university facilities).

To overcome these logistical challenges, Amano and colleagues offered several recommendations. First, they offered strategies for conducting interview-based research remotely.

Second, Amano and colleagues talked about how researchers can leverage observational data that has been less frequently used.

Third, Amano and colleagues examined the trade-offs of pivoting research designs to include observational and experimental public opinion surveys.

During the Q and A session, participants offered further insights on these potential solutions and pinpointed other strategies that researchers working on might deploy to overcome challenges conducting fieldwork in Japan. Both the presenters and participants also pointed out how these strategies for conducting fieldwork in the age of COVID-19 can be applied by those researching other contexts.

This event attracted several participants and produced an engaging Q&A session. The organizers would like to thank the presenters, discussants, and participants, as well as the staff at the Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations, who provided administrative support. We look forward to seeing you at the next session of JPOSS: