/ Center for Japanese Studies

    Center for Japanese Studies (CJS) (1942)

    One of the many things that World War II taught Americans was the general inadequacy of their knowledge of critical areas outside their own country. Since the war the responsibilities of world leadership assumed by the United States have made more acute the need for Americans to acquire an understanding of the world around them. One result of this growing world consciousness has been an important new development in American higher education: the appearance of graduate training and research centers on the different foreign areas of the world. Such centers have been established in most of the major universities, the areas of specialization depending upon the resources and interests of each university. The University of Michigan’s Center for Japanese Studies is one such program.

    The University has for many years held a leading place among American institutions the curriculums of which have included training in the Far Eastern area. Some twenty years ago a small group of the faculty at Ann Arbor initiated the Program in Oriental Civilizations. Gradually, this broader program came to be more and more specialized on the Far East; the whole Orient proved to be too large a unit. By World War II the University had a nation-wide reputation in Far Eastern studies, and various area and language schools were assigned to it by the United States government. After the war Professor Robert B. Hall of the Department of Geography, under the auspices of the Social Science Research Council, made a survey of the foreign-area resources and interests of the different major universities of the country, recommending a plan for development on a national scale. He was instrumental in bringing the Center for Japanese Studies to Michigan in 1947 and has been its Director from the start.

    The Center for Japanese Studies was made possible by generous grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. To these a supplemental annual grant is made by the University. The Viking Fund has been most helpful in supplying equipment for research in the field. The General Library and private donors have assisted in building up a library of Japanese materials.

    The aim of the Center for Japanese Studies is fourfold: (1) to build at the University of Michigan a solid base in Japanese studies in terms of staff and library and other research and training resources, (2) to train a limited number of highly selected young men and women as specialists in the Japanese area, (3) to carry out a program of publication of research findings and research materials in the Japanese field, and (4) to maintain a continuing research program of investigation on the total structure of Japanese society.

    The Center for Japanese Studies has its administrative offices in Haven Hall. A library, reading room, seminar, and work rooms are on the fourth floor of the General Library. The library, one of the major Oriental collections in the country, now numbers some fifty thousand volumes of which eight thousand are in Chinese and the rest in Japanese. It offers facilities to students and staff for complete research in the Japanese area. The Center also maintains in Japan a field station in the city of Okayama. This station, equipped with living quarters, cars, office equipment, photostat machines, provides all the essentials to students and staff to conduct firsthand observational studies in Japan proper.

    The staff of the Center for Japanese Studies consists of thirteen experts in the Japanese area. Each of these men is a member of a regular department of the University at the same time that he participates in the integrated training and research program of the Center. The staff members and their specialties in 1954 were Ronald S. Anderson (Japanese and comparative education), Richard K. Beardsley (anthropology, Japan and North Asia), James I. Crump (Chinese, early Sino-Japanese relations), John W. Hall (history), Robert B. Hall (geography, Director), Donald A. Holzman (Chinese, Buddhist and Japanese thought), Max Loehr (Chinese and Buddhist art), James M. Plumer (Japanese art), Charles F. Remer (economics), Hide Shohara (Japanese), Mischa Titiev (anthropology), Robert E. Ward (political science), Joseph K. Yamagiwa (Japanese language and literature). Godfrey R. Nunn is cataloguer in charge of the Oriental Library collection, and Yotaro Okuno is in charge of the Center’s Japanese Library.

    The Center accepts for training graduate students who can demonstrate a keen interest in the Japanese area. In this regard the Center has been most fortunate in attracting a number of the best men who received long and intensive Japanese language training in the wartime schools of the armed forces. The Center is also able to provide fellowships for a limited number of able students. The student, on entering, studies the Japanese language to attain competence in handling research materials.

    He is required to complete a central integrated course, which extends through the academic year. In this he is given a broad and integrated view of Japanese society and of the Japanese land. He becomes familiar with the outstanding works on Japan in the different fields of interest. A program of specialized courses on Japan is laid out for each student according to his long-run interests. He is also required to participate in the continuing research seminar of the Center as long as he is on the campus. Here he uses research materials in the Japanese language, works with others on interdisciplinary research problems on Japan, is exposed to the entire range of Japanese bibliography, and absorbs something of the methodologies, points of view, and techniques of the several social science and humanistic disciplines. The master’s degree is given when this program is completed.

    The student then enters the program of the department of his major interest and there meets all departmental requirements for the Ph.D. degree. He, however, continues to participate in the Center’s research seminar. He ultimately chooses a Japanese subject for his doctor’s dissertation, but one which is completely acceptable to the department in question. For the better students a year or more of field work in Japan is arranged. This may be to secure data for dissertations or it may be a kind of internship after the work for the degree is completed.

    The Center carries an average of fifteen to twenty students in its program each year. Since its establishment the total number entering the program has reached nearly a hundred. Of these, forty-four have received M.A. degrees and eight Ph.D. degrees. The graduates have entered all walks of life. The largest number have gone into government service. Others have become teachers, journalists, and businessmen.

    As the research program of the Center is aimed ultimately at an understanding of the total structure of Japanese society, the work has had to be divided into a number of projects of manageable size. The central project involves a series of interdisciplinary community studies beginning at the small-village level. In this program close co-ordination is maintained between the Center in Ann Arbor and members in the field. Field teams study intensively certain selected communities.

    To record and make available the findings of field research, a cross-index file system is used which is a modified version of The Human Relations Area Files index adapted to the Japanese scene. All individual and group findings are recorded on 5 by 8 inch sheets, in triplicate, with notations for cross reference. One copy is filed in the Center’s laboratory in Okayama, one copy is sent to the Center’s library in Ann Arbor, and the third copy remains with the originator. All findings are available to all members of the Center. The Ann Arbor file is worked over by the research seminar and checked against existing literature, and criticisms and suggestions on it are sent back to the field. In Okayama the files are subject to constant discussion and are revised as new data become available.

    In addition to the community study program the Center has used certain other methods of approach to its basic research goals. Public opinion and background surveys have been carried out extensively. A large-scale historical project has accumulated all types of documentary materials for a reconstruction of the background out of which modern Japan has emerged. Finally, each of the Center members going into the field has undertaken a personal study within the range of his particular disciplinary competence. Up to 1954 sixteen students and nine faculty members have been in the field. The co-ordination of all these varied approaches, it is believed, will result in greater understanding of Japan and Japanese society.

    The Center publishes several scholarly series designed to aid the progress of Japanese studies in this country. The Center’s Occasional Papers, four issues of which have been published by 1954, make available the preliminary findings of the Center’s field workers. They also include selected translations of significant Japanese works. The Bibliographical Series, four issues of which have appeared by 1954, seeks to provide annotated guides to the basic Japanese research and reference materials in the standard disciplines.


    • Announcement, University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies. Univ. Mich. Official Publication, Vol. 53, No. 7 (1951).
    • Hall, Robert B.Area Studies: With Special Reference to Their Implications for Research in the Social Sciences (New York: Social Science Research Council, 1947), Pamphlet No. 3.
    • Hall, Robert B.”Japanese Studies at Ann Arbor and Okayama.”Mich. Alumnus Quart. Rev., LVII (1951), No. 14.

    Center for Japanese Studies(CJS) (1975)

    Interest in East Asia began at the University of Michigan as far back as the 1880s when President James B. Angell went to Peking as United States Minister to China. A few Japanese students arrived even earlier, in the 1870s, not long after the Meiji Restoration. One of the early Japanese students was Ono Eijiro who attended the University of Michigan in 1887 and received his Ph.D. in political economy in 1889. He was later to have a distinguished career as a scholar and financier, especially in his role as Governor of the Industrial Bank of Japan. The significance of Michigan in this regard was recognized in the mid-1970s with a generous endowment gift to the Center for Japanese Studies from the Industrial Bank of Japan.

    The first classes in Asian subjects were chiefly devoted to the Near East, but courses in East Asian languages were offered by 1935. In 1936 an Oriental Civilizations program emerged, growing out of a decision to foster interdepartmental studies conducted by specialists on Asia; it combined courses in Far Eastern and Near Eastern languages (including Japanese), anthropology, fine arts, geography, and literature. Summer institutes in Far Eastern Studies began in the same year. Though in the war years of 1941-45 regular students did not have full benefit of this program, its development was an important reason for the Army’s selecting the University of Michigan as its major training center for intensive Japanese language instruction. Professor Joseph K. Yamagiwa, Chairman of the Department of Far Eastern Languages and Literatures, played a major role in these developments.

    After World War II, academic concern with Japan did not slacken, but strengthened. In 1947 the University founded the Center for Japanese Studies to administer an interdisciplinary graduate training program. This was the first independent Center for the study of Japan at a major academic institution in the United States. It came to serve as a model for many other such centers which later were established at major American universities. The Center also served as a model at the University for the establishment of other area center programs. The receptive environment at the University of Michigan for this new kind of interdisciplinary activity opened a quarter century of growth that places this University among the two or three most distinguished and broadly developed centers of Japanese studies in the United States.

    At the same time, the University of Michigan’s distinction in graduate training has drawn consistently large numbers of exchange students and research scholars from Japan over a period of many years or even decades. The following sections review the character of Japanese studies supported at the University in the postwar period.

    The Center for Japanese Studies was established under the leadership of its first director, the noted geographer, Robert B. Hall. Its purpose was to facilitate multidisciplinary research and contact among specialists on Japan, to supervise graduate training in Japanese studies, and to promote research facilities such as the collection of Japanese research and reference works in the Asia Library. In the course of its development, the Center for Japanese Studies has acquired a clear identity in the United States and Japan. None of the academic staff, however, is attached exclusively to the Center; all faculty members hold primary appointments in various disciplinary departments and units: Anthropology, Asia Library, Economics, Far Eastern Languages and Literatures, History, History of Art, Law, Linguistics, Music and Ethnomusicology, Political Science, Public Health and Sociology. This institutional arrangement provides the bases for the widespread acceptance of Japanese studies in the scholarly community.

    Financing. Foundation grants have supported administrative expenses, some salary and library costs, and have provided lifeblood for research, student fellowships, visiting scholar appointments, and the other varied activities of the Center. Funds for the first fifteen years of operation came from the Carnegie Corporation; thereafter, the principal supporting grants were from the Ford Foundation, in the form of a ten-year grant, a five-year grant, and a three-year terminal grant. Government funds through the National Defense Education Act and the Office of Education have been important for student fellowship financing, and as supplement to other funded activities. This outside support spurred a remarkable growth in the number of high quality Japan-related professional staff in the 1960s. The University of Michigan came to have the greatest overall coverage of the Japan field in mainland United States as measured by the disciplines represented by our professional staff. Over the years, however, the University has come to bear a larger share of staff salaries and other related expenses including the development of a major collection in Japanese studies at the Asia Library. This collection totalled 140,000 volumes as of 1975 and represented the fourth largest university collection in the country.

    With the termination of institutional support from foundations in 1974, and a concommitant reduction in federal funding, an endowment campaign endorsed by the University became the immediate imperative for program stabilization. The 1974 endowment gift of one million dollars from the Japan Foundation provided encouragement to seek private gifts. The addition of endowment gifts from Japanese corporations in 1977 has contributed significantly to strengthing the program and to assuring future growth.

    The Instructional Program. Teaching and training have always been central to the Center’s functions. The Center administers an undergraduate and an M.A. program in Asian Studies (with Japan, China, and Southeast Asia as optional branches); within this program the Center has primary responsibility for a multidisciplinary seminar on Japan. Students in Japanese Studies choose from among approximately seventy-five other courses in the several departments, to complete their studies in the M.A., then enroll in a department to pursue the discipline of choice for the Ph.D., though continuing to receive guidance and support from the Center. The total number of students (graduate and undergraduate) enrolled in all courses approximates 500 annually.

    The Japanese Studies Staff. Helping to recruit and maintain an excellent staff in the several departments, for training and research on Japan, has been, and continues to be, a high-priority Center function. This is reflected in the wide range of academic fields represented and in the distinctions won by our staff members, present and past. The succession of Japan scholars who have passed through the University of Michigan can be said to have shaped the field in a profound fashion. In the humanities, Edward Seidensticker, (now at Columbia) has won celebrity as a translator and has been especially prominent in introducing the works of the Nobel prize winner Kawabata Yasunari to the Western world. In 1972, Professor Seidensticker won a citation from Mombushō, the Japanese Ministry of Education, for his contribution in bringing greats works of Japanese literature to the attention of the non-Japanese speaking world. Robert Brower, Chairman of the Department of Far Eastern Languages and Literatures, is one of the two principal American scholars and translators of Japanese poetry. As an outstanding Japanese musicologist, William P. Malm has published the basic works in English on Japanese music, and has been sponsored by the governments of Australia and Malaya on lecture tours among their respective universities. He also lectures widely in the United States.

    The Center has shown strength also in the social sciences. The late Emeritus Professor Robert B. Hall, geographer and founding Director of the Center, was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, the highest decoration granted by the Japanese Government to a foreign national, and the Second Order of the Sacred Treasure. He also received a citation from the Tokyo Geographical Society. John W. Hall, historian and Director of the Center before moving to Yale University, has won the Miki Award for International Understanding offered by Okayama Prefecture. He and Robert E. Ward, also Director before recently moving to Stanford University, are members of the United States Advisory Committee of the Japan Foundation; and Professor Ward’s distinctions in the United States including his serving simultaneously, in 1972, as president of the American Political Science Association and the Association for Asian Studies, after completing a term as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Social Science Research Council. The late Professor Richard D. Beardsley, one of two experts on Japanese prehistory and archaeology in the United States, served as Director of the Center for Japanese Studies and the Association of Asian Studies from 1961 to 1964, and again as Center Director in 1973-74. Professor Beardsley was the founding Director of the Far Eastern Prehistory Association in 1957, and co-authored the work Village Japan (1959), the result of a contemporary community study in Okayama Prefecture. The Michigan Okayama Field Station was, in fact, the first American research station to be established in Japan after the war and remains as a monument to early postwar social science research on Japan. Roger F. Hackett, historian, has served as Director of the Center (1968-71) and has been Acting Chairman and Chairman of the Department of History. During the 1960s he was editor for the Journal of Asian Studies, and in 1971 authored the major study Yamagata Aritomo in the Rise of Modern Japan.

    As the first wartime generation of Japan Scholars passes from the scene, the Center for Japanese Studies has actively recruited new and promising scholars. Many of these scholars are already on the way to leaving a mark on their respective fields. Professor Calvin L. French is a leading authority on Japanese painting and the author of In Pursuit of Western Culture: Shiba Kokan (Columbia University Press, 1974). Professor Luis Gomez, noted Buddhologist, has published several studies in textual criticism, tracing the development of Mahayana sects throughout East Asia. Associate Professor Gary R. Saxonhouse of the Department of Economics is thought by many experts in the field to be one of the most promising analysts of Japan’s economy. He has published numerous articles in the major journals of economics and Asian studies, and has participated in several bilateral conferences between Japanese and Americans concerned with the complex trade and communications relationships between the United States and Japan. Professor Robert E. Cole of the Department of Sociology served as Center Director from 1974 to 1977, and is Chairman of the Joint Committee of Japanese Studies of the Social Science Research Council. He is author of Japanese Blue Collar: The Changing Tradition, a participant observation study drawing on his experiences in Japanese factories. Professor Cole frequently serves as consultant to American industrial firms and labor unions.

    Research and Publications. The staff of the Center are noted among colleagues in Japanese Studies for their collaborative fieldwork projects. Their capacity for collaboration was fostered in part by their joint participation in major projects undertaken by the Center as a whole. The first major project was in Community Studies; the Center maintained a field station from 1950 to 1956 in Okayama City which was a base for all Michigan staff and graduate students doing research on Japan. The field station also served as a base for American researchers from other institutions. From this base, community studies were undertaken in a plains farm village, a foothills village, a mountain village, and a fishing village. The major results appeared in a basic multi-authored volume, Village Japan, as well as three other monographs published through the Center’s Occasional Papers series. The second major project, Political Modernization in Japan, extended from 1961 to 1966, and involved a series of studies which appeared in the six-volume series on Modern Japan published by Princeton University. In addition to these major projects, the Center has materially assisted individual staff research, and staff members have been extremely successful in winning grants from other sources in support of their research efforts.

    Early experience in collaboration among Americans has been subsequently applied to collaborative research with Japanese scholars. The earliest effort, more parallel than collaborative, grew out of the Okayama field station period, 1950-56, when Japanese scholars, forming the Inland Sea Joint Research Society, published three volumes of multi-disciplinary community research. Another example is found in the massive and comprehensive binational bibliography on the Allied Occupation, where a Japanese team compiled all Japanese works and an American team compiled all works in Western languages.

    Since the late 1960s the Center for Japanese Studies has engaged in a concerted effort to develop service and public activities that will both enhance training on Japan and heighten community awareness of the field. An expanding list of activities includes weekly colloquia, presentations, demonstrations and performances, film showings, and prominent lecturers. A more recent development, since 1972, is found in the Project on Asian Studies in Education. This is the pivotal organization for coordination of Michigan’s Asian Studies “outreach” to elementary and secondary schools, and to non-academic communities throughout and beyond the State of Michigan.