vol.014 - New Asian studies in Asia アジアにおける新しいアジア研究

New Asian studies in Asia


Asian studies is being revitalized in Japan and going beyond conventional single country studies, noted Hirano Kenichiro, Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo and of Waseda, and Executive Director of Tokyo Bunko at the 7th Harvard-Yenching Institute annual roundtable held on Wednesday, 22 March, 2017 at the Tsai Auditorium , CGIS South, in Cambridge. To illustrate this point, in his presentation, Hirano touched upon the area studies program launched in 2006 at the National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU).


Initially, NIHU’s area studies began with an Islamic Area Studies Program and expanded to include a Modern China and a Modern India Programs. After more than a decade, NIHU’s area studies program now covers three key regions in Asia: Northeast Asia, Modern Middle East and South Asia. In Hirano’s views, these programs which are respectively run by a network of five or six selected universities, are practical and economical compared to establishing a single national institute dedicated for area studies.


That is not to say that Asian studies in Japan is without challenges. The tendency to emphasize Japan as unique compared to other Asian countries has separated Japanese studies from Asian studies. It is only in Japan that Japanese studies is considered as not being part of Asian studies. However, Hirano is not too pessimistic. He believes that Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and other Asian scholars who have received their graduate education in Japan may become a force in overcoming the challenge, as these scholars take active roles in education and research for Asian studies in Japan.


Hirano concluded his talk by emphasizing the necessity to develop new Asian studies in Asia in light of the increasing border crossing of ordinary Asians. “After all we do Asian studies for the sake of peace and well-being of ordinary peoples living in Asia”.


The Harvard-Yenching Institute roundtable annually brings together scholars from Asia to consider topics of Asia-wide significance, as explained by Elizabeth Perry, Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute in her opening remarks. The 7th annual roundtable invited four scholars from Japan, South Korea and China to discuss ideas about the revival and reinvention of Asian studies in Asia.


To view Hirano’s presentation see here:



KOSO Ayumi

Project Assistant Prof., Center for Information and Public Relations, NIHU
















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