The head of the Japan Foundation (to whom I, like so many, owe thanks) has made some comments on the state and future of Japan Studies. It’s his job, after all.
Ogoura has divided up the issue into “trends” and “recommendations.” First, the Trends:
- The transition from “area studies” to interdisciplinarity, and increasing integration of Japan into studies of global phenomena through comparative approaches.
- The lack of economic or military threat from Japan means that there’s less policy-driven interest. There’s a corresponding shift, which Ogoura calls a separate trend, towards studies of the Middle East and China, both of whom represent significant ongoing policy issues, though the importance of the Japan-US relationship remains a valuable tool in pushing Japan studies.
- Finally, the ever-popular academic-commoner “gap,” though pop culture studies might fill the role that dignitaries like E.O. Reischauer used to fill, bringing people into interest in Japan and to more substantial Japanese studies courses.
Then come the recommendations, mostly targeting “foundations and grant-issuing institutions” and which assume that the trends listed above are necessarily bad things….
- Encourage young people to follow their interests into deeper study, instead of just sticking with what interests them.
- Encourage comparative, international, transnational and other broader scholarship rather than sticking with an orthodox and limited view of Japanese Studies
- Link university and High School programs, to broaden the minds of manga/anime-infected youth towards “real” Japanese culture and history.
- Without a hint of irony, he then goes on to recommend “courses that focus on subjects of greater interest to young people, such as sports, fashion and food” preferably with cool show-and-tell cultural events.
As you can imagine, I’m not entirely sure that this analysis hits the mark. What do you think is the future of Japanese Studies, and what would you like to see groups like the JF putting effort into?