Even though Japanese language is a school Leaving Certificate subject in Ireland, Japanese Studies has not traditionally been a major presence at the university level. The increasing interest among young people in Japanese popular culture (in manga and anime especially), combined with some acquaintance with the language, provides an opportunity to engage university students in the study of other aspects of Japanese society and culture, as well as history and religions. A first initiative in this area will be to hold a series of workshops on ‘Infusing Japanese studies into the curriculum’, in which teaching staff learn from experts in their fields how to introduce ideas and materials from Japan into courses they already teach—as a prelude to introducing new courses on Japan after their competence has developed.

To strengthen this initiative the Institute will apply to relevant programmes of the Japan Foundation that provide funds for more advanced language training than is currently available at UCC, as well as for staffing and visiting professorships (initially in disciplines such as history and sociology and art history). Since the Japan Foundation’s staff enhancement programme provides funding for 50% of the salary, matching funds will be sought from other sources such as the Nippon Foundation.

The new Institute will incorporate the zazen group that has been meeting at UCC informally for the past two years, and will use their activities as the basis for a research project into the effects of contemplative practice that will be conducted by scholars from the Schools of Philosophy & Sociology and of Applied Psychology.

The School of Asian Studies has been expanding its offerings in Japanese language, and the Boole Library has been augmenting its holdings of books in Japanese studies as well as Japanese films on DVD (in both cases with support from the Japan Foundation). The development of the Institute will encourage further progress in this area. We are also in the process of establishing institutional partnerships with universities in Japan in order to facilitate exchanges of students.

Research Networks beyond UCC

Scholars in Ireland who are pursuing research in Japanese studies will benefit from being associated with the Institute, while the Institute will be enhanced in turn by their contributions. Other scholars in Europe who work on Japan are often the only people in their Department who do so, and would therefore welcome more interaction with colleagues in Japanese studies. Through visiting speakers series, conferences and workshops, the Institute will develop a network of collaboration with interested parties.

European sources of research funding (such as the Framework Programmes and Humanities in the European Research Area) are realising that they need to expand their traditional focus on European integration and identity to a concern with the place of Europe in an increasingly globalising world. There will thus be greater opportunities for EC-funded research projects by consortia that include institutions beyond Europe, and the Institute will take advantage of this development to attract funding for research that involves collaboration with colleagues at universities in Japan. 

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