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June 2005 Issue
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NASA astronaut to launch Japanese conference

 Asian Studies

One of Japan's leading scientific minds will headline a major Japanese studies conference being hosted by the University of Adelaide's Centre for Asian Studies early next month (July).

Former Japanese and NASA astronaut Dr Mamoru Mohri will be the keynote speaker at the Japanese Studies Association of Australia conference being held at the University from Sunday, July 3 to Wednesday, July 6.

Dr Mohri is no stranger to Adelaide, having obtained his PhD from Flinders University in 1976, and heads an international contingent of Japanese experts coming for the conference.

President of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia and conference convenor Professor Purnendra Jain, a Professor in the University's Centre for Asian Studies, said it is the first time in the conference's 28-year history that it is being held in Adelaide.

"The theme for the conference is 'Japan - Negotiating the 21st Century'," Professor Jain said.

"We will have speakers from around the world who will examine Japan's place in the world, and what challenges it faces now and will face in the future."

Dr Mohri is now retired as an astronaut, but is currently the executive director and CEO of Japan's National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation and has research interests in the sciences of vacuums, surfaces and microgravity.

His keynote address, which will be held in Bonython Hall at 9am on Monday, July 4, will consider the challenges facing Japan in the areas of technology, education and communication.

Dr Mohri said he has fond memories of his time in Adelaide in the 1970s and is looking forward to returning to the city.

"I learned far more than I anticipated," he said. "I interacted and experienced life with new people, from a wide variety of cultures, all within a new environment.

"I learned that I could not just survive by accepting these challenges, but thrive and develop into a more complete person."

The total number of delegates expected to attend the conference is between 200 to 250, with delegates coming from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the UK, the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Korea and India.

Professor Helen Hardacre, Professor of Japanese Religions and Society at Harvard University and Professor Kumiko Torikai, an expert in intercultural communication at Tokyo's Rikkyo University, will be the two plenary speakers.

The Japanese Ambassador to Australia, along with a number of Japanese officials and diplomats, will also be attending the conference.

Story by Ben Osborne

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Dr Mamoru Mohri (left) and fellow astronaut Janice Voss undergoing training prior to their Space Shuttle mission in 1999
Photo courtesy of NASA

Dr Mamoru Mohri (left) and fellow astronaut Janice Voss undergoing training prior to their Space Shuttle mission in 1999
Photo courtesy of NASA

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