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Greetings from the Director

INOUE Shōichi

Director-General
INOUE Shōichi

The International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken) was founded in 1987. Devoted to interdisciplinary and comprehensive research on Japanese culture from an international perspective, it is an inter-university research institute supported by government funds.

Until now, the study of Japanese culture has for the most part been pursued within Japan, and has largely been led by scholars born and bred in Japan. In this sense, we might regard Japan as the home of research on Japanese culture. This is not to say that there are no scholars of Japan active overseas. On the contrary, overseas scholars have contributed a not insignificant volume of research. The study of Japan overseas has frequently served, moreover, as a stimulus to research here in Japan. It has at times served to reposition research, which has a tendency to become insular and introverted.

This is precisely why we aim for the internationalization of research. The diverse forms of research conducted overseas have the latent potential to invigorate research in this country. We have always sought to expand opportunities for international exchange with this expectation in mind.

Every year, we at Nichibunken invite ten or more scholars from overseas to join us. The team research projects we undertake at Nichibunken, too, have a quota for overseas participants. We also have numerous opportunities to host international research symposiums here, and our faculty have regularly travelled abroad to participate in meetings on Japanese cultural studies. We work with foreign research institutes to organize venues for joint discussion.

At Nichibunken, we refer to these endeavors as “research support activities.” But it is not that we are simply supporting the endeavors of overseas scholars. Rather, we believe that such activities have the potential to enrich the research on Japanese culture being pursued within Japan. This is precisely why we have devoted ourselves to the creation of a place for international research. I myself have benefitted greatly from participation in such opportunities.

The study of Japanese culture carried out in the nineteenth century in Europe and America was often called “Japanology.” It no doubt acquired that name because it was not bounded by disciplines. Research today, when it pertains to Japan, tends to be pursued in separate fields, and present-day scholarship, whether in Japan or overseas, has moved beyond the realm of Japanology.

But the Japanologists of the past had virtues that today’s researchers have lost sight of. They had a vision that is lacking in research that is constrained by disciplinary frameworks. They had a breadth that is missing when research is divided by fields of specialization, as is the case today. We have long treasured the legacy of Japanology. That is why, since its founding, Nichibunken has advocated a “new Japanology,” and emphasized interdisciplinary and comprehensive research.

INOUE Shōichi, Director-General
April 2020