The humanities are the disciplines that study human culture and society. Culture and society widely vary depending on a host of factors, including natural environment, historical context, relations with neighboring groups, and the internal circumstances of groups. Transcending all the differences in time and space, however, we all are human beings. Our cultures and societies therefore exhibit both diversity and universality. That diversity and universality, which are the result of human efforts over the course of time to deal with the factors around them, are the distillation of wisdom. What is distilled there is not just wisdom, but also human folly—war, discrimination, destruction of the environment, and so on. These negative aspects of humanity, too, are part-and-parcel of culture and society. The study of the humanities covers the entirety, including the negative aspects.
For culture and society, there cannot possibly be only “correct” ways of doing things or only “right” answers. Every culture or society has its inherent value. The humanities do not seek a single answer. Their objective is to explore how diversity and universality arise, reveal the cultural and social structures not visible on the surface, and the cultural and social structures of the past not visible from the perspective of the present, thereby promoting mutual understanding and empathy.
The results of research should be made available not just in a single language like English but in other languages. In the case of research on regional cultures and societies, especially, the most suitable language for their description may be the one used in that region. The use of English is most effective to share research results widely, but this does not mean English is superior to other languages. Description in the local language may assure the higher quality of a document.
Not only research results but also data on culture and society should be made publicly available in various languages. A massive amount of data accumulated through research done so far has regrettably not been placed within easy access to the public. Technological, financial, and other factors have made that difficult, but in the recent years the situation has been improving.
The mission of inter-university research institute corporations like NIHU is to provide researchers at universities and research institutes in Japan and abroad with the large-scale facilities and vast data and information that would be difficult for individual universities to maintain, so that they can efficiently collaborate in research. The six research institutes under the umbrella of NIHU each have accumulated experience in providing public access to their own vast data and conducting collaborative research. NIHU seeks to achieve a broader and deeper understanding of human culture by providing systematic access to databases in the humanities and enhancing research on the diversity and universality of human culture. These achievements should then be made accessible not only to the community of researchers but also to broader public. We look forward to your continued support and goodwill.
National Institutes for the Humanities