PGF honors Dr. Tetsuo Yamaori, Director General or the International Research Center for Japanese Studies. Dr. Yamaori, is a scholar of religion and is particularly interested in comparative religions and civilizations. He is past President of the Hakuho Women’s College, former Director of the Kyoto University of Art & Design Graduate School as well as a professor emeritus of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, the National Museum of Japanese History, and the Graduate University of Advanced Studies.
Dr. Yamaori has guided the Nichibunkan not only in its efforts to research and gather insight into the Japanese culture and way of life, but has expanded that effort to cross cultural boundaries and build bridges of understanding. Like PGF, the Nichibunkan strives to build cultural insight and respect so that we, as global citizens, can meet in an atmosphere of dialog based in self awareness.
Dr. Yamaori is an author of many books, including Kindai Nihonjin no Shukyo Ishiki (Religious Awareness of Modern Japanese); Rinshi no shiso (Critical Problems in Facing Death); Nihonjin no shukyo kankaku (Religious Sensibilities of the Japanese); Aku to ojo (Evil and Rebirth); and Kindai Nihonjin no biishiki (Ethics and Poetics of Modern Japanese). He has also made comments on a wide range of issues, such as the AUM Shinrikyo religious cult, organ transplants from brain-dead people, and on the remarks of former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.
The International Research Center for Japanese Studies, called Nichibunkan, was established in 1987 as an inter-university research institute to provide comprehensive international and interdisciplinary research and to support scholars of Japanese studies from around the world.
Dr. Yamaori’s Introduction to the International Research Center for Japanese Studies
The Center was established in May 1987 as an Inter-University Research Institute under the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture (Monbusho). The Center was founded to foster comprehensive international and interdisciplinary research and to support scholars of Japanese studies from around the world.
It is highly unusual for a country to have a national institute that makes research into its own culture its purpose. Our establishment of this kind of institute came about as a result of a number of considerations. In the fifty years after World War II, Japan’s rapid development made it the focus of a great deal of attention from other countries. Japan entered the ranks of the leading industrialized nations and began to take a regular part in international summit meetings. Misunderstandings of the thought and values of the Japanese people arose fairly often, however, and Japanese culture was not very well understood. This contributed to the rise of unnecessary friction with other nations. Because of this, there was a growing recognition of the need to show Japanese culture in a way that would be comprehensible to people in other countries, and also to encourage cooperation with Japanese studies researchers around the world. On the other hand it was clear that past studies of Japanese culture tended to stress the singularity or “uniqueness” of Japan, and had the shortcoming of being difficult for non-Japanese to understand or accept. We felt strongly that we needed comprehensive research on Japanese culture that would communicate satisfactorily across borders. Nichibunken was founded as one response to these perceptions.
In the fourteen years since its foundation, the Center has sponsored a wide variety of research activities, including seminars, team research projects, and international symposia, all of which have engaged both foreign and Japanese scholars. The results of these research efforts have been presented to the scholarly community in numerous publications and public lectures. In addition, we began several years ago to admit graduate students for advanced study, thereby involving ourselves in the training of young researchers in Japanese studies.
In the fiscal and academic year beginning April 1, 1998, we established a unit called the Office of Research Exchange to make our exchanges of information and cooperation with overseas institutions of Japanese studies and foreign scholars more systematic and coordinated. In 1999, we set up an Office for Virtual Resources to carry out technically specialized research on development of systems and methods aimed at facilitating new research on Japanese culture using digitized visual image materials, databases, and other information systems resources. In 2000, we augmented our publication and information dissemination capabilities. In order to communicate news of trends in scholarship in Japan and abroad, and also the results of our research – and to convey these things in the form and style that are widely accepted in international academic circles – we added to the Office of Research Exchange staff. In 2001, to provide new applications for research on written materials such as important historical documents, we have just completed an expansion of the Office for Virtual Resources.
In the future, the Center will work to promote cooperation in endeavors in the field of Japanese studies and to encourage reciprocal cultural understanding with other nations. Going beyond old barriers between the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, the people who work at Nichibunken will continue, I hope, to add to the body of truly interdisciplinary research.