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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

German Institute for Japanese Studies

Research focused on modern Japan, in global and regional perspectives. Located in one of the important economic and political hubs of East Asia, Tokyo.

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Events and Activities

January 18, 2018

Politicians and Bureaucrats in Contemporary Japan: New Twists on a Tumultuous Relationship

In a state’s political system, the bureaucracy plays a pivotal role, as the efficiency of the government’s policies and the realization of the democratic principle are at stake. Since the 1990s, Japanese bureaucracy has been the target of growing criticism blaming it for administrative failures and an excess of autonomy from elected political power. In response to this criticism, a number of reforms inspired by the New Public Management movement were implemented at the beginning of the 21st century, such as the reorganisation of the ministries and the introduction of new recruitment and promotion methods.

After a brief review of these reforms, we will analyse how decision-making processes have changed in practice and how political-administrative relations during the last fifteen years have evolved.

January 25, 2018

Japan’s Industrial Policy toward Technology Transfers and Business History: Signalling and Administrative Guidance, 1950-1975

Post-war Japanese industrial policy has been both hailed and criticized by a diverse range of scholars, including economists, sociologists and historians. For some researchers, the Japanese government’s industrial policy was a major contributor to high economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s. Other researchers, however, hold the view that it was unnecessary for or even detrimental to growth.

This talk will discuss how a business history approach can fruitfully be applied to the analysis of industrial policy and present two preliminary case studies from the chemical industry as concrete examples of signalling and administrative guidance in the international market for technology transfers.

Picture Copyright: CC BY-SA 4.0 | wikimedia/Nanashinodensyaku


“Rural Japan Revisited” – Contemporary Japan Virtual Special Issue

This virtual special issue is dedicated to contemporary studies exploring a Japan beyond the country’s metropolitan areas. Over the past decades, rural Japan nearly vanished from the Western research agenda, as urban Japan had come to dominate the attention of most social scientists studying contemporary Japan. Particularly the cityscape of Tokyo, the epitome of the Asian mega-city, has shaped the popular cultural imagination of Japan from abroad to an extent that the countryside, if seen at all, acquires all qualities of a museum or cultural repository of the past. Yet it should not be forgotten that millions of Japanese continue to live in quite different social spaces, such as hamlets, villages, or rural towns in mountainous and coastal areas. Even though urbanization, consumption and media usage have left their imprint on everyday life, social values and behavior rules in even the most remote part of the country, there is ample reason to take the urban-rural divide as a meaningful line of distinction between the two structurally different and inherently distinct spheres of city and countryside.

This virtual special issue has been compiled as a reminder of the significance that life and living in regional Japan is having for an adequate understanding of contemporary Japan, the changing faces of the “rural imaginary” (Schnell 2005) and the plurality of lifeways in late-modern society.

December 7, 2017

Prisons and Forced Labour on Hokkaido

During the Meiji period the Japanese government built five prisons on Hokkaido. The inmates of these prisons largely contributed through agricultural and industrial work to the colonization and development of the northern island.

Drawing on historical sources such as prison year books and accounts of eye witnesses, this talk analyses the relation between prisons and settler society during Hokkaido’s colonization process. The research findings evidence how prison labour changed according to changes in local government.

December 1, 2017

From Flexible Rigidities to Embracing Diversity? Work-related Diversity and its Implications in Japan and Beyond

Are we about to witness fundamental changes to established work practices or just the addition of ‘non-standard’ options to a fundamentally outdated system? – Observers of recent work-related regulations of the Japanese government are divided on whether the country really is on its way to a place where women and other ‘atypical’ employees can shine, or whether the latter are just supposed to stabilize a system that always treated them as second-rate members.

In this panel, we bring together a German and a Japanese expert on diversity issues in order to evaluate current political and societal trends towards a more diverse work force and, by extension, a more diverse society. By contrasting insider and outsider perspectives as well as academic and practical views both speakers will provide the audience with new insights on the opportunities and risks growing diversity entails for Japanese companies, employees, politics, and the country at large.

November 30, 2017

DIJ International Conference: “From Flexible Rigidities to Embracing Diversity? – Work-Related Diversity and its Implications in Japan and Beyond”

This conference brings together international experts and scholars from several academic disciplines who analyze processes of work-related diversity in Japan and other advanced economies. By combining a range of approaches and by comparing countries and case studies, the conference seeks to lay the ground for a comprehensive empirical picture of the various facets of work-related diversity in Japan and beyond and how it affects and is affected by established work practices.

November 9, 2017

Outgrowing the “triple helix” – The effects of international cooperation on the emergence of Japanese regional high-tech innovation clusters

Regional economic disparities, rapid ageing, low GDP growth, and the increasing importance of science-based industries induced a major shift in Japanese innovation policy over the last decades. Regional innovation clusters with collaborative research between universities and surrounding companies at their core, promising radical high-tech novelties with the potential for start-ups, have become the target of recent policy efforts and subsidy programs.

Compared to “market-based” systems such as the Anglo-Saxon economies, Japan’s “coordinated capitalism” (e.g. Streeck, Yamamura 2003) is typically associated with institutional constraints on radical innovation, like a lack of venture capital or a rigid labor protection regime. This research demonstrates the onset of significant institutional changes in Japan’s innovation regime.

November 8, 2017

The transfer of knowledge between Germany and Japan in the late Meiji and early Taishō eras: A case study of Georg Würfel (1880-1936)

In the late Meiji era the system of hiring foreign contract workers (o-yatoi gaikokujin) to educate Japanese intellectuals came to an end. Instead of working at universities, foreign teachers were increasingly employed at university preparation schools (kōtō gakkō). In order to examine the German-Japanese transfer of knowledge in the late Meiji and the Taishō eras, this paper draws on an in-depth study of several German teachers living and working in Japan during this time. The research objective is to compare the situation of professors in Tokyo under the o-yatoi system to the situation of teachers at the new preparation schools.

This talk will focus on the example of Georg Würfel who came to Tokyo in 1906 as a missionary and stayed as a teacher in Sendai, Miyagi, until his death in 1936. While he is rarely ever mentioned by his contemporary fellow Germans in Japan in their writings, Würfel influenced several thousand Japanese students and he was often also their first contact with a foreigner.

Upcoming Events

January 18, 2018
  • DIJ Social Science Study Group
    18:30 ~ 20:00

    "Politicians and Bureaucrats in Contemporary Japan: New Twists on a Tumultuous Relationship"

January 25, 2018
  • DIJ History & Humanities Study Group
    18:30 ~ 20:00

    "Japan's Industrial Policy toward Technology Transfers and Business History: Signalling and Administrative Guidance, 1950-1975"


Our library will be closed from December 4, 2017 – February 12, 2018.

Call for Papers

Contemporary Japan
Issue 30, No. 1


DIJ Tokyo
Jochi Kioizaka Bldg. 2F
7-1 Kioicho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
102-0094 Japan
Where to find us

+81 (0)3 3222-5077
+81 (0)3 3222-5420


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☝️💡 We are happy to announce yet another #DIJStudyGroup already! The topic on January 25th: "#Japan's Industrial…

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💡 Our next #DIJStudyGroup on January 18th: "Politicians and Bureaucrats in Contemporary Japan: New Twists on a Tum…

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Mit diesem Video verabschiedet sich die Geschäftsstelle der Max Weber Stiftung in die Weihnachtspause und wünscht f…

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