Tsuneo Akaha
Casa Fuente Building CF300J
(831) 647-3564

Professor Akaha is a native of Japan and first came to the U.S. as a high school exchange student. After graduating from Waseda University in Tokyo, he returned to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies at the University of Southern California (USC) and received his PhD in International Relations in 1981. Before joining the Institute in 1989 he had taught at USC, Kansas State University, and Bowling Green State University (Ohio). He teaches courses on human security, international migration, multiculturalism, East Asia, and Russia-East Asia Relations. He has authored or edited 11 books and authored over 100 journal articles and book chapters on topics ranging from human security and migration in East Asia to Japan’s relations with the U.S., Russia, China, and Korea. His co-edited book The U.S.-Japan Alliance: Balancing Soft and Hard Power in East Asia received an Ohira Memorial Award Special Prize.

Akaha has received many grants and awards, including a Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship, a Japan Foundation Professional Fellowship, and research grants from the U.S. Institute of Peace, Association for Asian Studies, Freeman Foundation, and Center for Global Partnership. He has also served as president of Asian Studies on the Pacific Coast. He has given invited lectures in countries including Japan, China, Korea, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkey, Canada, France, and Sweden.

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

Introduction to International Migration Policy

This course introduces students to international migration as an object of policy studies, various aspects of international migration as a social phenomenon, and policies designed to encourage, discourage, or otherwise affect the flow of people across national borders. Among the issues and aspects of international migration to be addressed in the course are: economic development; labor migration; human trafficking; gender; public health; demography and development; environmentally-driven migration; national and human security; refugee and internally displaced persons (IDPs); cultural and other issues of integration at migration destination. The course will also introduce students to international laws and other norms and frameworks pertaining to international migration and migrants, as well as international organizations and non-governmental organizations actively involved with international migration issues. A comprehensive understanding of these issues requires a multidisciplinary approach encompassing political science, sociology, economics, demography, language and area studies, environmental studies, and security studies. Illustrative examples of problems of migration, migrants, and policy responses will be drawn from various parts of the world. Students will develop skills in analyzing a variety of policy-relevant issues, including but not limited to: demographic, social, economic, political, and security factors in the migration process; dynamics of and policy responses to forced migration, the effectiveness of legal and policy instruments to regulate international migration, and national and human security implications migration across national borders.

Spring 2020 - MIIS

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The course introduces students to a range of key challenges Japan is currently facing as the nation tries to redefine its role in the fast-changing world. Politically, the world is transitioning from the post-Cold War euphoria about ideological victory of capitalism over communism (the so-called “end of history”) toward an uncertain future characterized by a defuse distribution of power, both hard power and soft power. Economically, globalization is being driven by technological revolutions, national and cross-border market expansion, and the massive and instantaneous international capital flows and is changing the distribution of wealth and development opportunities around the world. The changing political and economic power structures are contributing to a major shift in the distribution of military power, leaving no country in a position to assert a superpower status and raising questions about the sustainability of military alliances that were formed during the post-WWII and Cold War decades. Finally, the cross-national transmission of social values and cultural practices, e.g., in fashion, food, entertainment, arts, literature, and sports, is creating a new world of social innovations and cultural fusions that defy national borders. In the face of these sweeping changes, the Japanese are raising questions about their future: How much longer can Japan remain the third largest economy in the world? Can the Japanese people retain their identity as a peace-loving people under their pacifist constitution? Can they continue to believe that their country is characterized by ethno-cultural homogeneity? Can they continue to claim manga, anime, umami, and myriad other products of Japanese origin as “Japanese” cultural products when they become popularized and localized in other countries? How the Japanese answer these questions will help redefine Japan’s role in the world and how the country will relate to other key world powers. The class will study how the Japanese intellectuals are addressing these questions and what answers they are coming up with through individual reading and class discussion of a selection of Japanese writings about their nation’s relations with other relevant world powers, including the United States, China, Korea, Russia, Southeast Asian countries, and the European Union.

Spring 2020 - MIIS

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Migration takes various forms, ranging from unskilled and skilled labor migration, regular and irregular migration, temporary and permanent migration, refugees and asylum-seekers, internally displaced persons, to human trafficking and people smuggling. The aspects of migration one can study also range widely, from migrants' human rights and identities to national and human security implications, from economic and social impacts on the country of origin and the destination country to integration of migrants in the host society, from political to environmental drivers of migration to resource impacts in the destination country. In many countries internal migration may be as important as or more important than international migration. Moreover, effective migration policy cannot be sustained in isolation from other national policies, including those concerning economic development, demographic and population changes, national security, and foreign policy. In this seminar, the students will be introduced to (1) purpose and methods of comparative policy analysis; (2) major immigration challenges and policies addressing them, with illustrative examples from East Asia, Europe, and the Western Hemisphere. Each student will develop a comparative analysis of migration policies of two countries, located in two different regions, that share a similar migration policy challenge. The analysis will include a description of the migration policy challenge in the countries and their policies toward that problem, and an explanation of similarities and differences between the policies as well as an assessment of the policies’ effectiveness. The two-country comparison will be based on a theoretically informed comparative framework.

Spring 2020 - MIIS

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Human Security and Human Development

This course will critically examine the promises and limitations of “human security” and “human development,” two concepts adopted by the UNDP and other UN agencies as well as by a number of countries. Central to the examination is the question: What are the political and policy implications of a “people-centered” reconceptualization of security and development and how should nations address their major human security and human development problems? The course will review the evolution of the two concepts, their operational definitions, and the UNDP’s annual Human Development Report, which provides the Human Development Index (HDI) of most of the members of the United Nations. Each student will then select a country of interest to her/him and develop a report that gives illustrative examples of human security and human development challenges it faces, describes how it addresses or fails to address those problems, and provides recommendations for how it should. The students are free to choose a policy area of concern to them, e.g., standard of living, employment, health, education, environment, housing, movement (migration), culture, language, and faith (religion).

Fall 2019 - MIIS

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Seminar: Multiculturalism - Global Discourse and National Policy and Practice

The course will review the evolution of global discourse on multiculturalism as an approach to protect the rights of both majority populations and minority ethnic, indigenous, and migrant communities to their respective cultures. It will also examine national policies and practice in multiculturalism in selective countries. The underlying concern of this course is how to preserve cultural diversity in the increasingly globalized world in a way that is politically sustainable and morally and legally justifiable. After reviewing the evolution of global multiculturalism discourse, the students will conduct an in-depth analysis of multiculturalism policy and practice of selective countries from different parts of the world and incorporate their findings into a report to be submitted to an international agency such as UNESCO. The report will also include recommendations regarding norms, principles, and rules for further advancing the cause of multiculturalism at the global and national levels.

Fall 2019 - MIIS

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Meeting dates: March 25, 2019 – April 12, 2019

SPR:SEM: Advancing Opportunities for Migrant Workers

This course will introduce you to Salinas and Watsonville migrant communities, where you will interview migrant workers. Ask them what their needs are and what their most difficult experiences are. Help them find solutions to their troubles. You will help them improve their economic situation while preserving their culture and family ties. You will then analyze the results of the interviews, qualitatively and quantitatively. You can also practice your Spanish ability if you would like. You will improve your interviewing skills. Most importantly, however, how to connect with members of the human community.

Spring 2019 - MIIS, MIIS Workshop

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SEM: East Asia: Trade, Development and Diplomacy

East Asia is a dynamic region of great importance by virtue of its population size, economic dynamism, and political and security challenges. The impact of the region’s international relations is felt not only by the countries geographically located in the region but also by the rest of the world. The region is characterized by diversity in historical, civilizational, and ethno-cultural backgrounds, political systems, levels of economic development, and foreign relations, as well as global impact, making regional relations very complex and their management very difficult. This course will examine a broad range of foreign policy, trade, and security issues that present both opportunities and challenges to the regional countries and the United States.

A unique feature of this course is that it includes a field research trip to Tokyo and Beijing (March 16-24, 2019). The students will learn first-hand the perspectives of local experts on the regional issues the seminar addresses through guest-lectures, interviews, library research, and discussions with local university students.

In the first half of the semester each student will develop a research proposal on a topic approved by the instructors, collect information for the proposed research during the field trip to Tokyo and Beijing. In the second half of the semester the student will continue to research the topic, write up a research paper, and present it to an audience composed of both classmates and other interested MIIS students and faculty.

Spring 2019 - MIIS

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This course introduces students to international migration and its implications for human security of both the migrant and other impacted communities. Migration has been an important part of human history and today it is a global phenomenon with international, national, and local impacts around the world. The factors inducing people to move from one country to another or within their countries are myriad and include violent conflict, political persecution, discrimination and other forms of human rights violations, economic development and disparity within and between countries, socio-cultural changes, intra-company transfers, and skewed distribution of access to educational and cultural opportunities, as well as public health systems. The impacts of migration are equally varied, ranging from economic development, political and policy responses, perceived national security threats, socio-cultural changes, environmental and resource conditions, changes in income and economic opportunity distribution, and changes in individual, family, and community identities. Among the issues and aspects of international migration and human security that will be addressed in this course are: economic development; labor migration; human trafficking; gender; public health; demography and development; environmentally-driven migration; national and human security; refugee and internally displaced persons (IDPs); cultural and other issues of integration at migration destination. The course will also introduce students to international laws and other norms and frameworks dealing with international migration and migrants, as well as international organizations and non-governmental organizations actively involved with international migration issues.

Spring 2019 - MIIS, MIIS First Half of Term

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Areas of Interest

Akaha’s interests include international travel, photography, reading, and nature hikes. He is committed to promoting international cooperation in higher education and helped the Institute establish exchange programs with Waseda University. He has also served as an Open Society Institute-funded International Scholar to serve as an academic mentor to young professors in Russia (Saint Petersburg, Perm, Ekaterinburg), and Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek). He is also on the International Advisory Board for the School of Regional and International Studies of the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia and the Mongolian Development Research Center in Ulaan Baatar.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD & MA in International Relations, University of Southern California
  • BA in Political Science, Waseda University, Tokyo and Oregon State University

Professor Akaha has been teaching at the Institute since 1989.



  • Japan in Global Ocean Politics (1985) (author)
  • Russia and East Asia: Informal and Gradual Integration (2014) (co-editor and author)
  • The U.S.-Japan Alliance: Balancing Soft and Hard Power in East Asia (2010), winner of Masayoshi Ohira Special Prize (2011) (co-editor and author)
  • Crossing National Borders: Human Migration Issues in Northeast Asia (2005) (co-editor and author)
  • The Future of North Korea (2002) (editor and author)
  • Politics and Economics in Northeast Asia: Nationalism and Regionalism in Contention (1999) (editor and author)
  • Politics and Economics in the Russian Far East: Changing Ties with Asia-Pacific (1997) (editor and author)
  • International Political Economy (1991) (co-editor)
  • Japan in the Posthegemonic World (1990) (co-editor and author)

Editorial Board Member

  • International Relations of the Asia-Pacific
  • Asian International Studies Review

Articles/book chapters 

  • ​“Abe’s Gamble on Trump Threatens to Backfire: “ East Asia Forum, July 8, 2019.
  • “Trump–Abe meeting delivers mixed results,” East Asia Forum, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, April 26, 2018.
  • “International Migration and Human Security and Development in Mongolia,” Mongolian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 28 (2018).
  • “International Migration and Human Security and Development in Mongolia,” in Ch. Chuluun and S. Battulga, eds., Mongolia: History, Culture, Geopolitics, Foreign Exchange, Ulaan Baatar: Institute of Archeology and History, Mongolian Academy of Sciences and School of International Relations and Public Management, National University of Mongolia, 2017.
  • “From National Security to Human Security,” in Michael R. Auslin and Daniel E. Bob, eds., U.S.-Japan Approaches to Democracy Promotion, Washington, DC: Sasakawa Peace Foundation, 2017.
  • “Putin’s Russia and Today’s Japan: Attitudes and Challenges,” Global Asia, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Fall 2016) (with Anna Vassilieva)
  • ​“Russia and Japan: From Distant Neighbors to Future Partners,” in Victoria Panova and Artyom Lukin, eds. Russia and Japan: Looking Together into the Future, Vladivostok: Far Eastern Federal University, 2016.
  • “Hokuto-ajia Chiiki ni okeru Chiiki Togo Katei” (The regional integration process in Northeast Asia), in Taizo Iida, ed.,​ Hokuto-ajia no Chiiki Koryu: Kodai kara Gendai, soshite Mirai e (Regional exchange in Northeast Asia: From ancient times to the present and the future), Tokyo: Kokusai Shoin, 2015.
  • ​“The ‘Comfort Women’ Issue: The Moral, Legal, and Political Challenges in Japan-South Korea Relations,” in Mahendra Gaur, ed., Studies on Japan, Country-specific Study Project, Vol. 3, New Delhi: Foreign Policy Research Center, 2015. 
  • "Cause for Optimism in Russia-Japan Relations, East Asia Forum, Crawford School for Economics and Government, Australia National University, July 2016 (with Anna Vassilieva)​.
  • “’Comfort Women’: A Lasting Barrier to Japan-South Korea Reconciliation,”​​ Global Asia, Vol. 10, No. 3 (Fall 2015). 

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