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Campus Now

Midsummer Issue (Jul.)

A WASEDA Miscellany

YANG Daqing

Waseda's Appeal

YANG Daqing
Associate Professor,Faculty of Social Sciences

Roughly two years ago I first heard about the opportunity to teach in a new program at Waseda University for one year. As an innovative project, the Contemporary Japanese Studies Program (CJSP) challenges me to design new courses based on my own research. Ultimately, however, it is Waseda University itself that convinced me this is an opportunity not to be missed.

First, it is Waseda's faculty. A now-deseased Waseda historian, with whom my former American professor had studied with decades earlier, had generously sent me his books; other Waseda professors had generously shared their time with me when I was conducting dissertation research in Tokyo more than a decade ago; one of my classmates in a graduate school seminar in the U.S. is now a full professor at Waseda; since 2004 I have been working with a Waseda professor on a joint research project; in fact, it was a Waseda professor who took me?then a graduate student?to the U.S. National Archives and the city that has become my hometown! These encounters are not purely personal or accidental; they speak volumes to the impressive international profile of Waseda's faculty. Needless to say, I have also realized the internationalized staff has been working hard to maintain and expand Waseda's international ties.

Then, it is Waseda's long association with Asia. As any historian of modern Japan-Asian relations knows, from the late 19th century many students from China, Korea, and other parts of Asia flocked to Japan to study modern science, law, medicine, engineering etc. Among prewar Japanese universities, Waseda was one of the most popular for Asian students. Many Chinese graduates from Waseda went on to play prominent roles in China. Fast-forward to the 21st century, Waseda once again emerged as a leader in internationalization of higher education in Japan with its School of Internal Liberal Studies and Global 30 programs. Every time I walk on or near campus, I hear many foreign students from speaking in Japanese or in their own languages. Being at Waseda is experiencing the cutting edge of regional integration and globalization.

Last and perhaps most attractive for a historian like me is Waseda's fabulous library. Over the past two decades, I have repeatedly taken advantage of its superb collection of Japanese-language books, pamphlets, and journals related to Japan-Asian relations. Other well-known universities (e.g. Harvard, University of Tokyo) may well have more books or rare manuscripts, but the user-friendliness of Waseda library is unmatched. To be sure, there are still a few remaining oddities?the lack of standardization of newly acquired foreign-language books is one?I find the Central Library particularly well-thought out, down to the bright colors and layout maps in the B levels. It is a cliche that books and other print materials are on the verge of being replaced by all things digital. However, a library is more than just a physical space to store, check out and return printed materials. It is the exciting interface between individuals and knowledge that cannot be replaced by the internet. The Waseda Central Library shows why.

The people, the outlook, and the resource?they are what make Waseda so appealing.