University of Oxford Japan Office
Oxford University has enjoyed a long, rich and fruitful history with Japan. The first Japanese book arrived at the Bodleian library in 1629, and the first Japanese students arrived to study at Oxford in the late 19th century. Tomotsune Iwakura, the third son of Tomomi Iwakura, then Minister of the Right in Japan, was among the first. He was followed by many others, including Tsuda Umeko, founder of Japan’s first private women’s school of higher education, who studied at St Hilda’s College.
The University has enjoyed close links with the Japanese Imperial Family, dating back to the 1920s, when His Imperial Highness Prince Chichibu studied at Oxford. More recently, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako both studied at the University.
Oxford’s relationship with Japan has grown from strength to strength as the University has expanded its study of Japan, collaborated with Japanese scientific institutions, educated talented Japanese students and received major gifts from Japanese supporters of the University’s work.
As a mark of the importance with which Oxford holds its relationship with Japan, one of the University’s three international offices is based in Tokyo. In addition, Oxford University Press have had an office in Japan since 1957, and OUP Japan today employs over 50 staff members, publishes ELT and academic materials, and offers teacher training and ELT consultancy.
Japanese has been taught in some form at Oxford since 1909, and as a full undergraduate degree subject since 1963. Today, Oxford is one of the leading universities in the world for Japanese studies and was recently ranked as one of the top five departments for Japanese studies in the world. There are currently sixteen senior faculty members and three full-time language instructors engaged in research and teaching in fields related to Japan.
The study of Japan at Oxford takes place in three centres:
East Asia Studies
The sub-faculty of East Asia Studies is part of the Faculty of Oriental Studies. The teaching for language classes for the BA degree in Japanese Studies takes place in the Faculty and there are ten or so graduate students studying in the sub-Faculty each year. The University currently has sixteen senior faculty members and three full-time language instructors engaged in research and teaching in fields related to Japan. Through its focus on Japanese language, literature and history, the Faculty of Oriental Studies provides the essential linguistic and cultural framework required for the detailed study of Japan.
Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies
The Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies was established in 1981 and is part of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies. It focuses on social sciences and the study of modern Japan. The Institute runs an MSc and an MPhil programme, organises the Nissan Seminar series and the Graduate Seminar in Japanese Studies, and also organises workshops. It also hosts international visitors and has published over 70 volumes in its Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies Series – the largest Japanese studies publication series in the world. Researchers at the Nissan Institute examine the diversity of Japanese society and the social changes that are accompanying economic and demographic shifts in the country.
The Nissan Institute’s strength in the social sciences complements the Faculty of Oriental Studies’ expertise in the humanities, covering both historical and modern Japan.
Research Centre for Japanese Language and Linguistics
In March 2009, the Research Centre for Japanese Language and Linguistics was established at Oxford. The Centre functions as an umbrella for research activities related to Japanese language and linguistics throughout the University and serves as a forum for publicising teaching, seminars, lectures, and other activities of interest to Japanese linguistics, and as a point of access to information for prospective graduate students interested in Japanese language and linguistics. The Centre welcomes academic visitors to the University who work within Japanese linguistics.
In addition to the dedicated centres for the study and teaching of Japan and the Japanese language, a number of research projects related to Japan and Japanese Studies are currently running in departments across the University.
For example, the Climate Change and Ageing Population project within the Oxford Institute of Ageing explores conflicts and convergences between climate change and the ageing population in the UK and Japan. According to the UN, half the global population resident in cities will be over the age of 60 by the year 2050, and many of the conveniences that address age-related changes (automobiles, elevators, air-conditioning) are also highly dependent on energy. By linking together these two drivers, this project aims to develop flexible responses to the combined challenges of climate and demographic change.
- East Asia Studies
- Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies
- Research Centre for Japanese Language and Linguistics
Libraries and Museums
The Bodleian Japanese Library was opened to readers in April 1993 in the newly constructed building of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies.
The Library houses the University’s principal collections in the humanities and social sciences which relate to the history and culture of Japan. It combines the Bodleian’s extensive holdings on Japan with the residual collection of the former Nissan Institute Library. The Library, comprising about 120,000 volumes, offers one of the best research collections for Japanese studies in Europe.
At Oxford’s Botanic Gardens, the Impey collection of Japanese botany is funded by a donation from the Impey family in memory of Oliver Impey, who is best remembered as the former Assistant Keeper of Japanese Art at the Eastern Art Department of the Ashmolean. Impey was awarded the Koyama Fujio Memorial Prize in 1997, and was also an enthusiastic member of the board for Oxford’s Botanic Garden for many years. Botanists are planning a forthcoming expedition to Japan to acquire plant material for the Impey Collection, which will promote the biodiversity of Japan and which will subsequently be used in all aspects of the Garden’s Education Programmes.