vol.020 - Interview Series “New Minpaku Director-General Kenji Yoshida” インタビュー・シリーズ②『吉田憲司国立民族学博物館新館長』

Interview Series

Kenji Yoshida

Director-General, Minpaku


At the National Museum of Ethnology (“Minpaku”), Professor Kenji Yoshida began his term from April 2017 as the new Director-General, following the retirement of Ken’ichi Sudo who served in that position from the 2009 through the 2016 academic years.

Along with celebrating the 40th anniversary of its opening in 2017, Minpaku has also completed a comprehensive 10-year program of renovations of the permanent exhibitions in its main building. The President of the National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU) asked the new Director-General about his vision regarding how to utilize the ethnographic resources which Minpaku has continuously accumulated (artifacts, audio-visual materials such as photographs and movies, research papers, etc.) to realize a so-called “intellectual forum” that will serve a great variety of people as an arena for intellectual exchange, discovery, and collaborative work.

Interviewer: Narifumi Tachimoto

President, National Institutes for the Humanities


1. Ambitions as the New Director-General

(Tachimoto) Professor Yoshida, since taking up your post as the new Director-General, you have conducted a completely new reorganization of the make-up of the research divisions, haven’t you?


(Yoshida) Yes, we have made it into an organization with four research divisions. The Department of Advanced Human Sciences provides leadership in theoretical research on the basic fields of human science, and the Department of Cross-Field Research takes as its base the fieldwork conducted in various regions worldwide while striving to establish anthropological regional research from a new perspective that transcends regions. These two are what we could call the basic divisions. Then as applied divisions, there are the Department of Modern Society and Civilization, which takes up the challenges humankind is facing from a diachronic viewpoint spanning man’s past and future, and the Department of Globalization and Humanity, which approaches these same challenges from a global perspective. Further, there is the Center for Cultural Resource Studies, which disseminates internationally information on the cultural materials that Minpaku has accumulated through these research activities, and promotes the sharing of that information as a common resource of humankind. All of these are developing their research activities through an international network, in collaboration with universities and research institutes both in Japan and abroad, and further with the people of the societies where research and collection of materials have been carried out, namely the source community itself.

Making this reorganization substantive and not merely in name is the primary task that I believe is for me to carry out.


(Tachimoto) Would you say that what we see in this reorganization is Minpaku’s posture as it grapples with cultural anthropology?


(Yoshida) As in the old days, fieldwork or intercultural exchange are no longer monopolies of cultural anthropology. While making cultural anthropology unmistakably our pivot foot, on top of that we must unite with related fields, and promote studies in a manner that attracts other researchers.

(Tachimoto) While I can imagine you have confidence in yielding results as a consequence of this reorganization, I would also like to ask about your ambitions as Director-General regarding how to achieve Minpaku’s mission.


(Yoshida) Forty years have passed since its opening, and Minpaku has accumulated 345,000 artifacts, making it the largest collection in the world for a museum specializing in cultural anthropology built from the latter half of the 20th century on. From the time of its founding, when Professor Tadao Umesao took office as Minpaku’s first Director-General, we have been striving to become “one of the top-class museums in the world,” and I believe that has come about.

However, in terms of disseminating information, there is still much to be done. In order to become top class in making information available to all parts of the world, first of all there is the problem of language. Our database is the largest item we have in terms of resources, but until now many of the database of Minpaku’s artifacts and so forth are accessible only in Japanese. Work has already begun on making this database bilingual in Japanese and English. As a task to take up in the future, I would very much like our resources made available worldwide by providing a multilingual database.


2. New Developments in the Utilization of Cultural Resources


(Tachimoto) As a means to disseminate Minpaku’s resources internationally, you have begun to build an Info-Forum Museum. What kind of information will Minpaku be sharing through this project as it greets its 40th anniversary? Could you explain to us in simple terms?


(Yoshida) While Minpaku was able to finish comprehensive renovations of the exhibitions in its main building in March 2017, these exhibitions are already progressing to the next new level. We will continue to update the contents of our exhibitions on a regular basis. At the same time we will be developing and building a system over the next several years that will enable all users and researchers to extract freely the cultural resource data that Minpaku is still continuing to accumulate, based on their interests and using the exhibitions as a point of entry, to link up with further research. Also, in parallel with this, the project we will be advancing is the Info-Forum Museum.

The Info-Forum Museum aims to share information consisting of Minpaku’s store of artifacts, and audio-visual materials such as photos and movies, not only with researchers and users both domestically and abroad, but also with the people of the societies that originally produced these materials, or if they are photographs, the people of the regions where those photos were taken, in other words with members of the source communities. Then the knowledge gained thereby will be added collectively to enrich the database in the hope that it will lead to new collaborative research and exhibition, and community activities.


(Tachimoto): So you are making a digital data bank. In concrete terms, how will you be advancing the project?


(Yoshida): Minpaku has already implemented, in Taiwan and South Korea, the practice of taking exhibited artifacts back to their places of origin, the exhibitions of returned materials. In addition to instances of people from the source communities providing new information when returning these artifacts, or photos and movies taken there in the past, there are also cases of people from the source communities coming to Minpaku and enriching the data of our resources. This type of collaborative activity leads to new discoveries in contexts where people encounter things or other people, and new discussions or challenges emerge thereby, and we aim to implement thoroughly this ideal format of “the museum as forum” not just in the museum’s exhibitions, but also in the museum’s accumulated cultural materials, and further in anthropological research.


(Tachimoto) What is the new way of thinking in this project?


(Yoshida) Whether for collaborative research, or research with a special focus, I think the attempt to disseminate information together with members of the source communities has been absent previously. I believe that with researchers receiving various perspectives they themselves lack, through feedback from the people of the source communities, new kinds of things not previously seen will emerge.


(Tachimoto) As small units such as single villages were previously the main objects of cultural anthropology, the Info-Forum Museum may have considerable impact for such villages. However, Minpaku’s exhibitions are organized on the basis of much wider regions. How do you link the two together?


(Yoshida) Cultural anthropology today does not study only small-scale societies. While the objects on display were collected in particular ethnic villages or towns, the fruits of our research activities advance our understanding about the entire globe. We regard the permanent exhibitions we have newly made as platforms for global inquiry. Accordingly, I would like for all of Minpaku’s users to take the exhibited objects as their point of entry, and through projects such as the Info-Forum Museum, extract information as much as they like from our accumulated ethnographic resources. Then by reconfiguring that information in their own particular ways, for researchers I believe this should enable them to develop new lines of research, and lay users should be able to build up their understanding of the world in accordance with their own interests.

I myself have been conducting fieldwork in a small village in southern Africa for these past thirty-five years, and through that village I have witnessed developments in the culture and religion of the entire African continent. For example, taking the questions I felt in that village as starting point, then going around to all of the countries in southern Africa, I have found myself in the bind of chasing down developments in Christianity for modern-day southern Africa as a whole.


(Tachimoto) So, Minpaku is currently planning new developments for its exhibitions. What would be the difference in terms of ideals with the other NIHU museum, the National Museum of Japanese History (“Rekihaku”) that displays Japanese history in systematic fashion?


(Yoshida) Like Rekihaku, Minpaku also has exhibitions on Japanese culture, and speaking just in terms of the size of the exhibition gallery, the Japanese exhibition is the largest among the exhibition areas at Minpaku. So when Rekihaku opened, there actually was some debate about whether Minpaku’s Japanese exhibition had become unnecessary. However, Minpaku’s exhibition on Japan is after all made with the intention of looking closely at Japanese culture in a global context. So from the start, the intent and direction are different from the manner of Rekihaku, which is to know one’s own history by digging further and further down into it.

Taking Japan as the point of origin, I think that only by having both the perspective of Rekihaku which digs further back along the diachronic axis, and that of Minpaku which looks across the globe in synchronic fashion, do we get to see the world in its entirety. It is a great strong point that two organizations with such differing directions are in Japan, and that distinguishes them as well from the ideal of the national museum group of the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage, which the Tokyo National Museum and Kyoto National Museum are part of.


(Tachimoto) Both Minpaku and Rekihaku take their exhibitions very seriously. Exhibitions are but a small part of our activities, yet for some reason when we are evaluated on to what extent Minpaku has made use of its cultural resources, our value as research institutes gets measured in terms of the number of visitors and so forth. What place do exhibitions hold for you at Minpaku?


(Yoshida) Minpaku was established as one of the inter-university research institutes. We have always stressed to others that we maintain exhibition facilities as one pathway for publicizing our research activities. By making the fruits of research public we open up a point of contact with society, and our research gets improved through the critical evaluations received thereby. In that sense, exhibitions are extremely important as an activity which supports the endeavors of research.



3. Anthropology and the Study of Human Cultures


(Tachimoto) Originally, academics were a means for procuring answers to the problems confronted by humans and thus improve our wellbeing. But for the problems of humankind in the 21st century, as a study of human cultures, how can cultural anthropology contribute?


(Yoshida) Minpaku’s Special Research Projects, under the unified theme of “Modern Civilization and the Future of Humankind: Environment/Culture/Humans,” are truly a re-inspection from an anthropological perspective of the problems which modern civilization is facing. In concrete terms we are taking up themes such as the environment, food, cultural clashes, cultural heritage, and also minorities and population issues.

I believe we are currently witnessing a turning point for civilization. It has been the practice until now for those who have been held as central to rule unilaterally over, or to study in unilateral fashion, those who have been taken as peripheral, but already this situation is no longer permissible. Everywhere on earth, between those who have been regarded as central and those who have been regarded as peripheral, mutual contacts and entanglements including things both creative and destructive have taken place. In the midst of such happenings, a kind of narrow-minded nationalism has been raising its head. In such a time as this, much more than previously the wisdom of anthropology, which has sought to gain an empathetic understanding of the Other’s culture, will become all the more vital in my view. Instead of taking the distinctive quality of such an era as problematic, rather we should utilize it to the fullest extent. The concept of the “Info-Forum Museum” and also the ideal of anthropology are to provide a platform that seeks out new directions through collaborative debate and research by making Minpaku’s cultural resources available across borders.


(Tachimoto) The inter-university research institutes were set up to contribute to universities and other research institutes, but not all humanities fields are part of NIHU. In the midst of debate as to whether there are not even more important humanistic fields, what is the significance of Minpaku’s existence, as a research institute for cultural anthropology, within the inter-university research institute scheme?


(Yoshida) NIHU has institutes focusing on Japanese culture such as Rekihaku, the National Institute of Japanese Literature, and the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, along with Minpaku and the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature which take the entire world as their object of study. We are first able to truly see ourselves when we confront the Other, and the opposite also holds true. NIHU has a complement of institutes that research both Self and Other. That is NIHU’s greatest strength, of which I feel it can be proud. I think Minpaku exists as one of the research organizations bearing a core component of that endeavor to understand the human condition.

When universities accumulate collections that reflect their researchers’ fields they build university museums, but they are unable to have a facility like Minpaku that can look out over the entire world. Minpaku has a lineup of researchers, research areas, collections, and exhibitions based on its design of surveying the world as a whole. This kind of facility is unique in Asia, and only one of a very few worldwide. There are other ethnological museums in Asia, but they are museums and research institutes taking the peoples of their own countries as their subject of study, and no other institute exists that surveys the entire world.

Minpaku is now building a virtual museum on the Internet, which will enable free extraction from universities or from home of cultural resource data using the exhibitions as an entry point. Materials that cannot be uploaded to the Internet because of copyright or other issues will be converted into portable videotheque format to be available for loan. I believe it is Minpaku’s mission as a Japanese inter-university research institute to become a global hub for the accumulation and dissemination of cultural resources covering the entire globe.


(Tachimoto) As Minpaku has an extremely large collection of such cultural resources, I would very much like to see greater success and energy in sharing those materials.

Professor Yoshida, thank you very much for your time today.



vol.020 - インタビュー・シリーズ②








人間文化研究機構長 立本 成文



1. 館長としての抱負

(立本) 吉田先生がこの4月に館長に就任されて、まず、研究部の体制を完全に新しく改組されましたね。


(吉田) はい、4研究部体制にしました。人類科学の基礎分野の理論的研究を先導する「人類基礎理論研究部」、世界の諸地域におけるフィールドワークを基礎にしつつ、地域を超えた新たな視座から人類学的地域研究を打ち立てようという「超域フィールド科学研究部」。この二つがいわば基礎部門ということになります。そして応用部門としては、人類が直面する課題に対して、過去から未来を見通す通時的な視座から挑戦する「人類文明誌研究部」と、同じく人類が直面する課題に対して、地球規模の視点からアプローチする「グローバル現象研究部」があります。さらに、それらの研究活動を通じてみんぱくに蓄積された学術資源情報を国際的に発信し、人類共有の資源としての共有化を進める「学術資源研究開発センター」があります。いずれも、国内外の大学や研究機関、さらには研究や資料収集の直接の対象となった社会の人びと、すなわちソース・コミュニティの人びとと連携し、国際的なネットワークを通じた「協働」のもとで研究活動を展開していきます。



(立本) この改組で見えてくるのは、やはり文化人類学に取り組む民博の姿なのでしょうか。


(吉田) かつての文化人類学が売り物にしていたフィールドワークや異文化交流は、人類学の専売ではなくなってきました。われわれは文化人類学というものを間違いなく軸足としてもちつつ、さらにその関連分野を融合し、研究者を巻き込むような形で研究を進めていきます。

(立本) 今回の改組は結果が出るような手応えをお持ちだと思いますが、民博のミッションを遂行する上での館長としての抱負を伺いたいと思います。


(吉田) 開館から40年たって、民博が蓄積してきた標本資料は34万5000点になり、20世紀後半以降に築かれた文化人類学に特化した博物館のコレクションとしては世界最大のものになりました。梅棹忠夫初代館長が創設の頃から「世界第一級の博物館を目指す」と言っていたのですが、そうなったのだろうと思います。






(立本) その国際的な発信の方法として、民博では民博ではフォーラム型情報ミュージアムの構築に着手しておられますね。この事業では開館40周年を迎えた民博の何を発信するのでしょう。わかりやすく教えてください。


(吉田) 民博は、今年3月に本館展示の全面改修を完了することができましたが、これらの展示も次の新たな段階に進みます。展示内容の不断の更新は、今後も続けていきますが、同時に民博に今も蓄積され続けている学術資源情報を、展示を糸口にして利用者・研究者の皆さんの関心に応じて自由に引き出せるようにし、さらなる探究につなげていくシステムを今後数年かけて開発、構築していきます。そして、それと平行して進めているプロジェクトが、フォーラム型情報ミュージアムです。



(立本) デジタルデータバンクを作るということなのですね。具体的にはどのように事業を進めていくのでしょうか。


(吉田) 民博は標本資料等を里帰り展示の形で実際に現地にもっていって展示するという活動を、台湾や韓国ですでに実施しています。標本資料や、過去に現地で撮影された写真、動画をもっていって、現地の人々に新たな情報をつけてもらうこともありますし、現地の人びとに民博へ来ていただいて情報をつけてもらうこともあります。この活動は、人とモノ、人と人がそこで出会うことで発見があり、そこから新たな議論や挑戦が生まれていく、という「フォーラムとしてのミュージアム」のありかたを、博物館展示だけでなく、博物館の学術資源の蓄積や、さらには人類学の研究活動にまで徹底させていくものといえます。


(立本) この事業で新しい考え方は何でしょうか。


(吉田) 共同研究にしろ、特別研究にしろ、常に研究対象であるソース・コミュニティの人と一緒に発信していくという取り組みは、今までになかったと思うのです。研究者にはないようなさまざまな視点を、ソース・コミュニティの人たちからフィードバックしてもらうことで、今までにない新しい何かが生まれてくると思っています。


(立本) 文化人類学の研究対象は、一つの村のような小さな単位が主流をしめていましたので、フォーラム型情報ミュージアムはその村にとってはインパクトがあるかもしれませんね。しかし民博の展示はもっと広範囲の地域別の展示となっています。どう結び付けるのでしょう。


(吉田) 現在の文化人類学は、小規模な社会だけを対象にしているわけではありません。展示しているのはある特定の民族の村や町で収集してきた資料ですが、研究活動は世界全体をカバーしています。われわれが新しく作り上げた地域展示は、世界探究のためのプラットフォームだと考えています。ですから、民博を利用する皆さんには、展示資料を糸口として、フォーラム型情報ミュージアムなどのプロジェクトを通じてわれわれが蓄積してきた学術資源情報を、どんどん引っ張り出してもらいたいのです。そして自分なりにその情報を再構成することで、研究者であれば自分の新しい研究に展開していけるだろうし、一般の方であれば自分の関心に沿って世界に対する理解を作っていっていただけると思います。



(立本) 民博は、展示の新たな展開を今、構想されているわけですね。人文機構のもう一つの博物館、日本の歴史を体系的に展示している国立歴史民俗博物館(歴博)との在り方の違いは何でしょう。


(吉田) 民博にも歴博と同じように日本文化の展示がありまして、展示面積だけでいうと、民博の展示場の中で日本展示が一番広いのです。ですから歴博ができた時、民博の日本展示は要らないのではないかという議論も実はありました。でも、民博の日本展示はあくまで世界の中の日本文化を見つめようという意図で作っているものです。歴博のように自分たちの歴史をどんどん掘り下げて知ろうというのとは、意図と方向性がそもそも違います。



(立本) 民博も歴博も、展示を非常に大事にしていますね。学術資源を活用するということでは、展示はわれわれの活動のごく一部なのですが、なぜか入館者数などで研究機関としての価値を測られてしまいます。民博にとって展示はどのような位置づけなのでしょう。


(吉田) 民博は大学共同利用機関として設立された機関です。あくまでも、民博に蓄積された学術資源を社会へ公開する回路の一つとして展示施設をもっているのだという点を外に向けてもいつも強調してきました。研究成果を公開することで社会との接点ができ、そこから批判を受けることで私たちの研究は鍛えられます。その意味で研究活動を支えるものとして、展示は非常に重要な活動だと思っています。





(立本) 学術は本来、人類が抱える問題に対する答えを導き出し、よりよく生きるためのものですが、21世紀の人類が抱える問題に、人間文化の学として、文化人類学はどのように貢献できるのでしょうか。


(吉田) 民博の特別研究は、「現代文明と人類の未来―環境・文化・人間」を統一テーマにして、まさに、現代文明が直面している課題を人類学の立場から再検証しようするものです。具体的には環境、食、文化衝突、文化遺産、それからマイノリティ、人口問題などのテーマを取り上げていきます。



(立本) 大学共同利用機関は、大学等研究機関に貢献するためにつくられていますが、人文機構には人文学のすべての専門分野がそろっているわけではありません。今はもっと重要な人文系の分野があるのではないか、という論調もある中で、文化人類学の研究所として民博が大学共同利用機関に存在する意味は何でしょうか。


(吉田) 人文機構には、歴博、国文学研究資料館、国立国語研究所、国際日本文化研究センターのように日本の文化に焦点を当てている機関と、民博や総合地球環境研究所のように世界を対象にしている機関があります。我々は、他者を見ることではじめて自分が見えてくるということがありますし、その逆もあります。人文機構は、そういう自他の研究の組織をワンセットで持っています。それが、人間文化機構の一番の強み、誇れるところだと思います。民博は、そうした人間を知るための一番根幹の部分を担う研究組織の一つとして存在していると考えています。




(立本) 民博は非常にたくさんの学術資源を持っておられるので、ぜひそういう面をもっとうまく、強力に発信していただきたいです。