Japanese Studies at Oxford

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto

Japanese has been taught as a degree subject at Oxford since 1963. The course started with only one lecturer, but the field has shown a dramatic expansion in both staff and student numbers since then. Oxford is today a major national and international centre for the study of Japan. The University currently has sixteen senior faculty members and three full-time language instructors engaged in research and teaching in fields related to Japan.

Undergraduates reading for the degree of B.A. Honours in Oriental Studies (Japanese) currently number about sixty, and there are usually ten or so graduate students in Japanese in Faculty of Oriental Studies at any one time.

There are two centres for the teaching programme in the University, The Oriental Institute, and the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies:

The Oriental Institute

The Oriental Institute is centrally located close to the Ashmolean Museum. It is in this Institute that the core curriculum of language classes for the B.A. Honours degree in Japanese Studies is taught, and it is where the teachers of Japanese from the Faculty of Oriental Studies have their offices. There is a lending library of basic Japanese literary and historical texts, translations and monographs in Western languages on pre-modern Japanese history, Japanese literature, theatre, and linguistics. Other fields in Oriental Studies such as Sanskrit, Korean, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, and Turkish share the same building. There is a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.

The Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies

The Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies was established in 1981 with a generous endowment from the Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., and since then it has become one of the top British – and indeed European – centres for the study of modern Japan. It forms part of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies in the University’s Social Science Division and contributes to several of the degree programs offered by the University at both the undergraduate and graduate level. It is also fully integrated into St Antony’s College, which treats it as one of its area centres.

The present building was opened in 1993. It includes a 150-seat lecture theatre, shared between the Institute and the College, other teaching rooms, offices for academic staff and visitors, and residential accommodation for a Visiting Fellow. The Institute also houses the Bodleian Japanese Library, the University’s research collection of Japanese books. Academic staff of the Institute contribute to teaching for the B.A. in Japanese, and teach options on Japan for undergraduates reading Modern History, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (P.P.E.), and Anthropology/Geography, as well as supervising graduate students in several faculties.

The University possesses a large research collection of books in Japanese and about Japan in western languages. The University's Ashmolean Museum has a fine collection of Japanese art, particularly strong in the field of ceramics.

There are three main libraries in Oxford with material relating to the Japan field.

Woodblock print of a kabuki actor

Woodblock print of a kabuki
actor, by Toyohara Kunichika
(1835-1900), 1869.

Bodleian Japanese Library

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, combining Bodley's extensive holdings on Japan with the residual collection of the former Nissan Institute Library, houses the University's principal collections in the humanities and social sciences which relate to the history and culture of Japan from dawn of her civilization to the present day.

A significant collection of works on Japan on the history and social sciences in Japan since the Meiji Restoration has been built up; the Library, comprising about 120,000 volumes, offers one of the best research collections for Japanese studies in Europe.

Oriental Institute Library

This library houses the basic teaching collection for the B.A. programme in Japanese Studies. It is a lending library.

Eastern Art Library

The Eastern Art Library, housed in the Sackler Library, contains the University’s research collection on Japanese art, in both Japanese and Western languages.

Research Centre for Japanese Language and Linguistics

The Research Centre for Japanese Language and Linguistics, located at 41 Wellington Square, was established in March 2009 within the Faculty of Oriental Studies to function as an umbrella for research activities related to Japanese language and linguistics through the University. The Centre serves as a forum for publicizing teaching, lectures, seminars, 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 hosts the Verb Semantics and Argument Realization project, which investigates verb semantics and argument realization through pre-modern Japanese. This project involves the construction of an extensive electronic database of representative texts from the 8th to 17th century, which will form the basis for the descriptive and analytical work of the project. More information about the  Oxford corpus of pre-modern Japanese texts can be found on the http://vsarpj.orinst.ox.ac.uk/.

The Centre welcomes academic visitors to the University who work within Japanese linguistics. The Centre's membership consists of staff and graduate students from the Faculty of Oriental Studies, the Faculty of Linguistics, and our visiting scholars. The Centre also has a membership of external affiliates who have a connection with the Centre and its members, for example through joint research projects.