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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien


Prof. Harumi Befu, Stanford University

National Approaches to Japanese Studies

December 15 - December 20, 1989

While the history of research on Japan in foreign countries goes back to the 16th century, initial effors were rather modest. It was not until after the Meiji Restoration that more concerted efforts to study Japan were made abroad. And it is only after WW II that research on Japan has been conducted on all continents. By now thousands of researchers over the world are studying Japan.

Scholars of course take different approaches to studying Japan. These differneces are due to disciplinary, historical, personality and other differences. One of the salient differences arises on the basis of nationality. If we are creatures of our culture, as cultural anthropology instructs us, then it follows that scholars of different cultural backrounds would minifest different interests, different ways of thinking, different outlook, different world views, which should cause them to interpret differently what they behold, such as Japan. This logical conclusion, however, has never been put to empirical test. There has never been a close examination of this issue through comparison of data brought together by Japan specialists of different nationalities to see how and to what extent their respective research findings about Japan are different or similar, and if so, for what reason.

This symposium brought together Japan specialists from ten countries to discuss this matter. The results are published as volume 1 of the Monographien aus dem Deutschen Institut für Japanstudien in English.