Tuesday, September 26, 2017

On Friday, May 19, the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies hosted an international gathering of Japan Center directors to discuss the present and future state of Japanese studies. Scholars and administrators from across the US and abroad, representing both newly established and venerable research centers and funding agencies, discussed major challenges and opportunities facing institutions focused on the study of Japan.

The symposium was divided into four panels, focusing on questions of methodology, organization, collaboration, and funding. Following opening remarks by Hitoshi Abe, Director of the Terasaki Center, the first panel was led by Dana Buntrock (Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at UC Berkeley) and included presentations by Jason Webb (Associate Director, Itō Shinsai Center for Japanese Culture and Religion, USC), Theodore Bestor (Director, Reischauer Institute, Harvard University), with comments by Prof. Michael Thies of UCLA’s Department of Political Science. A major point of discussion was the distinction between disciplinary-based research (such has become the norm in the social sciences) and area studies (which continues to be an important basis for knowledge production in the humanities and other disciplines), and how to bridge the divide between them.

The second panel, also moderated by Buntrock, focused on questions of organization, and included presentations by Indra Levy, Associate Professor of Japanese Literature at Stanford University and Executive Director of the Inter-University Center for Japanese Studies and Michael Lucken (Director, Paris Center for Japanese Studies), with comments by Prof. Mariko Tamanoi of UCLA’s Anthropology Department. The discussion centered on various organizational models, including the consortium model represented by the IUC, which is administered by a group of 16 universities, including UCLA. The IUC represents an exemplary model of how various institutions came together to build the essential infrastructure for an entire academic field.

The third panel, moderated by Chris Nelson, Professor of Anthropology at University of North Carolina and Director of the Triangle Center for Japanese Studies, focused on questions of collaboration and featured Yuko Kaifu, President of the Japan House Los Angeles, Ken Tadashi Oshima, Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Washington, with comments by Prof. Bill Marotti of UCLA’s History Department. Kaifu described the concept and plan behind the Japan House Los Angeles, part of a new, government-funded global project to disseminate cultural knowledge about Japan.

The afternoon’s last panel, again moderated by Nelson, focused on crucial funding issues, and featured Carolyn Stevens, Director of the Monash University Center for Japanese Studies, and Hara Hideki, Director of the Japan Foundation Los Angeles Office, with comments by Prof. Michael Emmerich of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at UCLA. Stevens provided an overview of the state of Japanese studies at Monash University at Australia, while Hara talked about various projects of the Japan Foundation and his optimism about the future of Japanese studies.

Closing remarks were provided by Seiji Lippit, Associate Director of the Terasaki Center.
In addition to the presenters and commentators, participants in the forum included members of the Japanese American community in Los Angeles as well as UCLA faculty and alumni.

This is the third such gathering hosted by the Terasaki Center. Five years ago, on the occasion of its 20th Anniversary, the Center hosted a gathering of U.S.-based Centers, and followed that with a gathering of directors from around the world, including Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Past meetings have led to various collaborative ventures, including a joint fellowship program between UCLA, the IUC, and the Japan Business Association, as well as various academic exchanges.

Following the Director’s Forum, the Terasaki Center hosted a Pre-Opening Reception for the newly-built Terasaki Research Institute in Westwood Village. More than 200 guests, including scholars, students, and community members, gathered to hear a presentation by accomplished producer and composer Kunihiko Murai, who discussed his storied career in the international entertainment industry, including his work with such prominent Japanese groups as Yellow Magic Orchestra. The evening ended with a live performance of the hit song written by Murai, “Wings to Fly.”