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Creating New Trends in Research in Japanese Studies—the Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences to Launch the Global Japanese Literary and Cultural Studies Course (Global-J)

Kimiko Kono
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

At Waseda University's Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences, a new doctoral course titled "Global Japanese Literary and Cultural Studies" (or Global-J for short) will start on September 21, 2018. Waseda University has been a leading institution in both Japan and the world in humanities such as Japanese culture, literature, history, philosophy and the arts. In recent years, we have heard people voice their concerns about the "crisis of the humanities." In order to make the necessary transition, many are exploring new ways to approach the humanities of the future. These trends often fall into one of two categories: the interdisciplinary approach and international approach. The goal of the newly established Global-J course is to create new trends in research and education in Japanese studies as part of the activities of the Global Japan Studies, which aims to achieve true academic globalization, based on the Waseda Goes Global initiative "Waseda Ocean."

International research network in Japanese studies

In the past, research surrounding Japanese literature and culture has mostly been carried out in Japan. As a result, research findings and journal articles have mostly been produced in Japanese. Since entering the modern era, research on the subjects of Japanese literature and culture has been carried out overseas, but with the exception of a few well-known scholars and their work, most of the research papers produced in foreign languages very rarely reach Japan. The language barrier is one aspect of this. Not many Japanese researchers have published their own studies in foreign languages, and not many of the studies written in Japanese have been translated. Furthermore, although it is important to recognize the value of Japanese studies conducted overseas by crucial partners who have a strong understanding of Japan, it has been rare for those studies to be tied effectively in coordination with Japanese studies conducted in Japan, and produce new opportunities for new dialogue and collaboration.

However, in recent years, traditional trends in academia have started to change dramatically. Researchers have been interacting more with each other, and in international academic conferences and symposiums held through mutual invitations with overseas researchers, there have been important advancements in the network platform that allows Japanese studies researchers from all over the world to collaborate. In addition, as more non-Japanese students from overseas coming to Japan to study, and more Japanese students studying abroad, students who specialized in Japanese studies under multiple environments have become experts in research methods and theories that are common overseas, as well as the traditions of Japanese studies conducted in Japan. This has served as the driving force behind new discoveries in the appeal and possibilities of Japanese studies, and its further advancement.

International Symposium “Rethinking Authorship in East Asia and Europe”(March 2017, at Columbia University)

A lecture on kyogen at "An Evening of Kyogen in Los Angeles" (May 2017)

Anticipating these trends, the Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences began offering a double degree program in Japanese studies in collaboration with Columbia University in 2008. Furthermore, since the 2014 academic year, the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities has been conducting collaborative efforts with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), such as mutual exchanges between teaching staff and students. The Global-J course that will soon be held was designed based on this collaborative system developed with prominent American universities.

In the Global-J course, education and research will be conducted in a hybrid format in both Japanese and English, and is built on the tradition of Japanese studies conducted in Japan and the accumulation of this research. The objective is to train people that can spread the research studies and findings of Japanese studies, including literature, history and the arts on a global scale, in both Japanese and English. To build the leadership system for achieving this objective, academics from prominent universities outside Japan are invited through the JA (Joint Appointment) system and other initiatives. In addition, together with the overseas academics newly hired through Waseda Vision 150 and the current teaching staff, they will offer research guidance and coursework as a unified body. Moreover, in order to develop immediate assets that can contribute to research and education in Japanese studies on an international scale, the Global-J course has made coursework in both Japanese and English mandatory, and have included a double degree program with Columbia University and an exchange program with UCLA in the curriculum. Furthermore, research and educational activities offered in the Global-J course are supported by the Ryusaku Tsunoda Center for Japanese Culture, which is part of Waseda University's Research Institute for Letters, Arts and Sciences. They will also help to proactively promote and disseminate research news. Today, the demand for academics who can teach Japanese studies in English is suddenly on the rise in both Japan and overseas. The Global-J course will answer these needs and aims to help develop human resources that can drive the future of research and education in Japanese studies.

Poster for the International Workshop "Japanese Theater, Publishing Culture, and Authorship" (March 2018, at Columbia University)

Ahead of the start of Global-J, the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences began offering an English language degree program called Global Studies in Japanese Cultures Program (JCulP) in 2017 as part of the School of Culture, Media and Society. A master's course for the Global-J course is also being planned for the 2021 academic year. In addition to the resources allocated to both the hard and soft approaches in Japanese studies traditionally conducted at Waseda University, collaboration and cooperation with overseas universities and researchers will help foster mutual interactions, produce unexpected results and create new trends. We will continue to accelerate our efforts to make further advancements in Japanese studies.

Kimiko Kono
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Kimiko Kono is an expert in Japanese-Chinese comparative literature, and ancient Japanese and Chinese literary studies. She graduated from the School of Literature I in Waseda University in 1987. She completed the Doctoral Program at Waseda University's Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 2004 and earned a Ph.D. in Literature. She was a full-time lecturer and an associate professor at Waseda University's Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences before assuming her current post in 2012. Notable publications include Nihonryoiki to Chugoku no Densho (The Nihon Ryoiki and the Traditions of China) (Bensei Publishing, 1996) and in joint editorship, Nihon “Bun” Gakushi I: "Bun" no Kankyo—"Bungaku" Izen (A New History of Japanese “Letterature” Vol. 1The Environment of Letters—Before Literature) (Bensei Publishing, 2015).