No.080 - Professor Josef Kreiner Wins Fourth NIHU International Prize in Japanese Studies

Professor Josef Kreiner Wins Fourth NIHU International Prize in Japanese Studies

The National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU) is pleased to announce Dr. Josef Kreiner, Professor Emeritus at the University of Bonn and visiting researcher of the Hosei University Research Center for International Japanese Studies (HIJAS), as the winner of the fourth NIHU International Prize in Japanese Studies.

An expert in Japanese ethnology and folklore studies, Dr. Kreiner has significantly contributed to the international development of Japanese studies through his experience as the first chair of the European Association for Japanese Studies (EAJS) and as founding director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies (for details, see “Achievements and Reasons for Awarding,” compiled by screening committee chair NOE Keiichi). NIHU is looking forward to engaging with Dr. Kreiner at the award ceremony and commemorative lecture to be held at the Japan Academy in Ueno, Tokyo on January 20, 2023.

This is the fourth award offered since NIHU established the prize in 2019 with the support of the Kuraray Foundation. We have been fortunate to receive plenty of recommendations from outstanding scholars both from within Japan and abroad, allowing for satisfactory screening of candidates. NIHU is deeply grateful to those who understand and cooperate with our goal in awarding the prize. The screening does, however, hope to see nominations of and grants of the award cover a diverse range of scholars in terms of gender, region, and other factors. We sincerely appreciate your kind consideration.

Text: WAKAO Masaki, Executive Director, NIHU


Achievements and Reasons for Awarding

Dr. Josef Kreiner has engaged in the study of cultural anthropology and Japanese studies for decades, and his achievements have culminated in numerous works written and edited in Japanese, English, and German. The results of his research fall in the categories of the ethnography of the Nansei Islands (islands between the southern edge of Kyushu and Okinawa), Japanese studies, and the history of anthropology. In each of these fields, he has published pioneering studies. Particularly notables are his interests in Okinawan and Ainu culture and his counterargument to the conventional “Japan as a monoculture” notion known for disregarding regional differences.

All of Dr. Kreiner’s scholarly achievements are based on careful fieldwork. His book Nansei shotō no kami kan’nen [The Concept of God in the Nansei Islands] (Tokyo: Miraisha, 1977), co-written with SUMIYA Kazuhiko, is grounded in long-term field study conducted in the Amami Islands of Kagoshima Prefecture. A classic still cited today, this work laid the foundation for studies on the Nansei Islands. His another books, Sekai no Okinawagaku: Okinawa kenkyū gojūnen no ayumi [Okinawa Studies of the World: Fifty Years of Research on Okinawa] (Tokyo: Fuyō Shobō, 2012), examines where Okinawa stands in the context of the history of anthropological studies. The work has drawn attention to its endeavor to understand Okinawa by combining fieldwork and a review of preceding literature.

Based on his experience studying the Nansei Islands, Dr. Kreiner also expanded his focus to Japan as a whole. Die kultorganisation des japanischen dorfes [The Cult Organizations of Japanese Villages], the doctoral dissertation he has submitted to the University of Vienna in 1968, was highly acclaimed for its fresh approach to studying Japan predicated on previous studies conducted by Japanese and overseas scholars. Generally speaking, Dr. Kreiner’s studies between the 1960s to 1970s introduced socio-anthropological approaches into Japanese studies and established them as methodology.

Another essential aspect of Dr. Kreiner’s achievements is his outstanding competence as an organizer. While teaching at the University of Bonn, he directed both the Institute for Japanese Studies and the Institute of Oriental Language Studies, after which he served as the founding director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies, laying the groundwork for the development of Japanese studies in Europe. Also worthy of special mention is the major contribution he made during this period to the realization of Japan-related exhibitions in European museums. He worked as a guest curator for “The Beauty of Japan: The Soul of Japan,” a 2003 exhibit held in Bonn, which attracted more than 100,000 visitors.

After playing a leading part in the founding of EAJS, Dr. Kreiner was selected as the first chair of the association and served in the post from 1975 to 1979. The first-ever international association of scholars and researchers on Japanese studies to be created, today EAJS has more than 1,400 members from 50 countries. Through these activities, Dr. Kreiner has significantly influenced younger scholars from the world over, many of whom have gone on to secure important positions in Japanese studies. In such ways, Dr. Kreiner is distinguished for his contributions as an educator.

It is the screening committee’s pleasure to announce that Dr. Kreiner has been selected as the fourth recipient of the NIHU International Prize in Japanese Studies. We applaud his unrivaled qualities described above, as a scholar, in social engagement, and in contributions to education.


Award Ceremony and Commemorative Lecture of the Third NIHU International Prize in Japanese Studies (Japanese only)

Related Article:

No.077 - Award Ceremony and Commemorative Lecture of the Third NIHU International Prize in Japanese Studies