Japan’s four Inter-University Research Institute Corporations make available—to researchers at public and private universities and research institutes in Japan and overseas—large-scale facilities and repositories of materials and information that would be difficult for individual institutes to maintain. Serving as “centers of excellence” (COEs) in their respective areas of scholarly research, they are in a position to facilitate effective collaborative research.
The National Institutes for the Humanities is one of these corporations. Founded on April 1, 2004, NIHU was initially made up of five inter-university research institutes in the humanities: the National Museum of Japanese History, the National Institute of Japanese Literature, the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, and the National Museum of Ethnology. On October 1, 2009, the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics became the sixth institute to join NIHU. While conducting basic research to fulfill their respective founding purposes, these institutes interact in a complementary fashion, transcending the frameworks of previous scholarship. They make up a comprehensive interuniversity research complex in which study in the humanities is informed by the perspective of study of the natural environment.
NIHU is dedicated to the advancement of basic research on culture and its extensions in time and space, including empirical study drawing on vast repositories of cultural materials and theoretical study integrating the perspectives of the humanities and social sciences. It also aims to be a global center for comprehensive scholarly research in the humanities, endeavoring to open up new research fields, including collaboration with various fields of the natural sciences.
The six member institutes, each serving as a center for nationwide research exchange, are kept accessible to the researcher community. They actively cooperate and collaborate with universities and research organizations and take initiatives in facilitating multifaceted joint research projects and shared use of research results.
Some of the NIHU institutes—the National Museum of Japanese History, the National Museum of Ethnology, and the National Institute of Japanese Literature—are equipped with museum functions and exhibit facilities. Taking advantage of their distinctive functions, they exhibit research data and achievements in a coordinated manner. The NIHU institutes also issue printed publications and use their information technology capabilities to make the information they generate available in and outside Japan, thereby contributing to the broader advancement of scholarship.
As we have entered the twenty-first century, the workings of nature and man are interacting with each other with great rapidity on a global scale, and many difficult problems have arisen as a result. In the face of these serious challenges, NIHU reaffirms the importance of humanities research, which is fundamental to all areas of learning.