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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Area Studies: Methodological Approaches

Research focus since November 2020

Head of Research Group: Nora Kottmann

Since the founding of the DIJ in 1988, scholars from various disciplines have been researching modern and contemporary Japan. Sociologists, political scientists, economists, historians, anthropologists and scholars from the humanities work on a wide range of topics and use a variety of methodological approaches of qualitative and quantitative research. In addition to classical qualitative methods such as interviews (from narrative to standardized), group discussions, (participatory) observation and discourse analysis, the repertoire also includes quantitative methods such as text mining, quantitative content analysis, secondary analysis of large data sets and the conduct of nationwide surveys.

Comparative perspectives as well as multi- and interdisciplinary approaches are already central to our research activities. The new and explicit research focus on methods and methodologies in Area Studies, however, allows us to systematize these perspectives and approaches and to position them more clearly in our research agenda. Here, one main focus is on the question of how methodological discussions can stimulate and advance contemporary interdisciplinary research. The second main focus is on the question of whether, and if yes, how methods – including corresponding debates on underlying theoretical perspectives as well as concrete approaches – (can) shape the future of interdisciplinary research. In addition, the focus on methods and methodologies enables us to link the other two DIJ research foci, namely ‘Digital Transformation – Discourses, Strategies and Processes’ and ‘The Future of Local Communities in Japan – Risks and Opportunities in the Face of Multiple Challenges’, as well as the second research agenda ‘Japan in Transregional Perspective’ and the various individual research projects and to enter into a constructive exchange with each other. Key questions that this exchange opens up include: Which methods are suitable for researching foreign or transcultural contexts? Which methods are suitable in times of blurring national and disciplinary boundaries and digital transformations? How can we deal with new situations – for example, the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications? And: Can an exchange on methods facilitate and advance interdisciplinary cooperation?

In so doing, we aim at actively contributing to research on current issues and discussions in the field of Japanese Studies and beyond and to offer a platform for exchange and discussion that combines research on/in Japan with research from other regional studies and/or the disciplines. In order to further institutionalize this exchange, the DIJ offers various event formats such as lecture series on various up-to-date topics, study groups and DIJ forums. A collection of relevant literature in the library is currently under construction.

A collection of links to articles and videos related to 'Methods in Times of the Covid-19 Pandemic', which is updated on a regular basis, can be found here. (last update March 26)

Information on our related lecture series 'DIJ Method Talks' can be found here.

Related Research Projects

Comparing Comparisons

Conceptual history using digital methods

Handbook Project Studying Japan: Research Designs, Fieldwork and Methods


June 17, 2021
DIJ Method Talks
Worshipping the Kami at a Distance: World-Wide Shinto and the Global Pandemic

May 26, 2021
DIJ Method Talks
Mental mapping: Rediscovering and reframing a geographical method for mobility patterns