SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Liu Jie “Japanese Studies” as “Shared Wisdom in Asia”

Japan, China and Korea, three countries in East Asia, are facing difficulties since 1970’s in regard to ‘understanding of histories’ and ‘territorial issues’.  While Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was being established, we can expect economic cooperation utilizing financing power. Japan, however, remains wary of transparency and publicity of AIIB in which China took an initiative.  70 years have passed since the end of the war, but a lack of mutual ‘’trust’ in Asia has greatly undermined political relations and cast dark shadow over people’s sentiments. In order to establish stable relations in this area, it is indispensable to bring about mutual trust, and we have to work out common ‘wisdom’ as a prerequisite. What is asked of intellectuals who have important responsibilities in these countries is to build a cross-border ‘shared space of ‘wisdom’.


In East Asia where people are not yet released from restrictions of histories, it will not be easy to build ‘shared space’ in the field of studies like “Chinese Studies” , “Japanese Studies” and “Korean Studies”. It is very important that each country is studying other countries in their own context. For example, the gap between an image about Japanese modern history by Chinese and Korean scholars and that of Japanese scholars became bigger in these 30 years.  Chinese Studies are now very active and the stagflation of Japanese Studies in East Asia badly affects international relations in this area.


The problem exists in the Japanese side. First of all, in Japan, Japanese Studies in Asian studies were excluded and were shut in “Japanese Space”. It affected also Japanese Studies in the world and “uniqueness” of Japan resulted in being strongly emphasized. Needless to say, it is quite obvious that Japan has concerned with every fields in the development of Asia starting from wars and revolutions, modernization of society and economy, and cultural spread and development since the 19th century. Real Japanese Studies should broaden their horizon and step into Asian Studies .


There are problems too in Japanese Studies by China and Korea. For example, in China, many students have studied abroad in Japan, America and Europe since the end of the Qing dynasty to the age of the Republic of China. What they studied were courses that would be useful for the modernization of China. They tried to find what historical factors prevented China from achieving modernization. And they concentrated their efforts in re-explanation of Chinese histories, thoughts and cultures using the study system of the West. On the other hand, Chinese intellectuals have greedily absorbed a concept of modern ‘wisdom’ through Japan.  They have never shown any interests in the studies of Japan and the West. Due to this, “Japanese Studies“ or “Asian Studies” in real meaning, have never been accomplished.


The second wave of Chinese scholars to study abroad which started in the 1980s followed these traditions. Students who specialized in social science were interested in modern history, politics, societies and economy of China. The number of students who intended to take up Japanese Studies were very few.  Chinese studies in public organizations for education and researches in Japan were sufficient and offered good surroundings to foreign students.  There was a tradition in Japan called “Sinology” (Chinese Study) led by Konan Naito and Naoki Kano before the War, which became “Chinese Studies” after the War. “Orient Academy” which was established in 1947, as a nongovernmental society, is still playing an important role in the development of Asian Studies in Japan and the civilization of countries of the East. Most of the scholars of the Japan Association for Asian Studies (JAAS) are researchers of Chinese studies.  It is an urgent issue for universities in Japan which are positive in accepting foreign students to encourage Chinese and Korean researchers of Japanese studies.


Power of “shared wisdom” is necessary for the realization of reconciliation of the histories in East Asia and, at the same time, for restoring confidence among people to establish a stable cooperation. We cannot ignore the significance of encouraging Japanese studies that would lead to “shared wisdom”. Modern Japan has pursued a complicated way, together with Asian countries. Success and failure which Japan has experienced shall be sublimated to common property of Asia and it would result in overcoming of history. After the War, Japan experienced such a lot of problems as environmental issue, issue on aging population, energy problems and natural disasters.  Japan have accumulated ample knowledge. It goes without saying that it is meaningful to direct such experience toward Asian common property. What Asia is asking for now to the present Japanese studies are “Experiences by Japan” both of failure and success.


Then, how to establish “Japanese Studies” as “Shared Wisdom in Asia”?



We have to overcome ‘histories’.  In order to do this, first of all, conversations among researchers of ‘National Histories’ of China, Japan and Korea would be necessary. Interchanges among researchers for ‘National Histories’ contribute to ‘Asian histories’ which they can share, and to create an environment of ‘Asian Studies’ in Japan that would result in adopting Japanese studies in it.



Japan, as a leading part, has to establish a platform of Japanese studies and bring it up to be shared in Asia. A lot of materials necessary for Japanese studies are surely gathering in Japan. A base for Japanese studies which aims not only at ‘Japanese Culture’ but for merging humanities and social science will be necessary. Though it is necessary to cooperate and tie up in various fields, it will be important to start from utilizing existing results of researches.



We have to aim at owning information jointly. A study by “Japan Center for Asian Historical Records” is contributing to Japanese studies in the world. Not only historical records but also outcomes of Japanese studies which have been accumulated until now would be necessary to be translated into multi-lingual versions and be distributed in various ways.


Building of a network for Japanese studies in Asia. There are many organizations for Japanese studies in Asia. But there are no systems which provide international cooperation among them. To provide such networks and bases for joint researches, Japan has to exert effort to play the role as focal point and provide leadership for it.




(Professor, Graduate School of Social Science, Waseda University)


*This essay was prepared for the SGRA Forum #49 “Searching for New Paradigm of Japanese Studies” held on July 18.



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Mac Maquito


SGRA Kawaraban 466 in Japanese (original)