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Meet Our Fellows: Akira Nakamura

Fellow Spotlight

By: Akira Nakamura

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1. What inspired you to become a university professor?

For long, I wanted to become a journalist. That was one of the major reasons why I came to the U.S. in 1963. I did my undergraduate at the U.C. Berkeley. When I graduated with a BA, I found that research and other academic works were both exciting and interesting. Unfortunately, I did not receive these incentives when I was a liberal art student in one of the Japanese schools. For this reason, I appreciate the academic atmosphere in the United States. I finally decided to go forward and try to get my PhD in political science. I was a research assistant and graduate student in the School of Political Science, University of Southern California. I completed the course and submitted a dissertation in 1973. By then, I had already decided to become a university professor rather than a journalist. I returned to Tokyo in 1973 and started my teaching career in Japan at Meiji University, one of the oldest schools in the country.

2. What is your favorite class you have ever taught or taken and why?

I enjoyed teaching city politics. One of the reasons is that I was born and grew up in central Osaka, the second largest city in Japan. The town is known to have a great number of small and medium-sized industries. Panasonic, Sharp and Suntory all originated in Osaka. In my lectures, I usually induced a comparative method and compared New York, London, Peking, etc. In this regard, I ought to mention that one of the books that has impressed me so much is City Politics (1963) by Edward C. Banfield and James Q. Wilson. Mass.: Harvard University Press.

3. What advice would you give to those interested in pursuing economics or political science as a career?

I do not know if my experience would help prospective researchers to choose their major research interests. When I finished my undergraduate studies, I visited one of the professors' offices to consult about my future career. He told me that I must avoid two subjects: one was public administration, and the other was business administration. He further noted that these were those who would not have a theoretical mind. However, later, when I was preparing for my dissertation, I had to do a number of interviews with officials. Another professor suggested that, in interviews, I should tell public servants that my research was from the point of view of public administration and not political science. He recommended that I hide my specialization as a political scientist. Those comments were contradictory, but the two seem to be reflective of reality in one way or another.

4. If you could have dinner with 3 people, who would they be and why?

I would very much like to dine with Guy Peters, Christopher Hood and Pan Kim. I have known them for a long time. These are my immediate mentors and friends. Discussing and exchanging views with them would often stimulate my research interests. In fact, I have conducted the research and published a number of books with these esteemed scholars.

5. What is the best movie you have seen?

The best movies I have ever seen include “Mid-night Cowboys,” “Graduates,” Sofia Rogen’s “Sunflowers,” and “Bohemian Rapsody.”

6. What is your favorite hobby or activity that you enjoy doing in your free time?

I swim at least three times a week.

7. Who in your life has been an influential mentor or inspiration for you?

One of my most inspiring professors was the late Professor TAOKA Ryoichi of Kyoto University. He was previously a judge of the International Court of Justice. He had an Order of Cultural Merit from the government of Japan. Another is Professor George O. Totten, ill. of the University of Southern California. He earned a B.A. in Columbia and a Ph.D. from Yale University. He was the interrogation officer of the US Army during the war. He later became one of the leading specialists in Japanese studies and published a list of books and articles mainly on the Socialist Party and Japanese socialism. He was one of the committee members for my dissertation at the USC.


About Akira Nakamura

Akira Nakamura is currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Meiji University. He was formerly Dean of the Graduate School and Vice President of the University until his retirement in 2011. He received his B.A. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1966. He subsequently obtained a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Southern California in 1973. In 1986, he was the research fellow at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. and the visiting professor at the University of Victoria, Canada. Until 2012, Nakamura was the Vice President of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences (IIAS, Brussels) and a former chair of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) in the United Nations. He was the member of both the Board of Governance and the international editor of Public Administration Review. In 2006, Nakamura was awarded the honor of “Johan Mangku Negara” from the government of Malaysia. Likewise, he became the first Asian to have delivered “the Brabant Lecture” at the annual meeting of the International Institute of Administrative Sciences held in Bali, Indonesia in 2010. In the same year, he developed to be one of the founding members and the first president of the Asian Association for Public Administration.

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