Japanese Studies

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Japanese Studies


the aggregate of disciplines that study the history, economy, politics, philosophy, language, literature, and culture of Japan. (For the development of the humanities and social sciences in Japan itself, seeJAPAN: Social Sciences and Literature.)

The study of Japan was initiated in the 16th and 17th centuries by Portuguese and Spanish missionaries, notably M. Barreto, J. Rodriguez, and F. Xavier. After Christianity was banned and the Japanese government sought to cut off all ties with the outside world, in the 1630’s, the Dutch trading post in Nagasaki was the only center for the study of Japan. The best known works of this period were a history of Japan by E. Kämpfer (1651–1716) and a description of Japan by P. von Siebold (1796–1866); both men were German physicians in the service of the Dutch company.

Information about Japan was brought to Russia in the 17th and 18th centuries by Russian sailors, by shipwrecked Japanese, such as Denbei, who had been saved by Russians, and through Western European countries, chiefly Holland. In the early 18th century, a school for the study of the Japanese language was established on instructions from Peter I. In the first quarter of the 19th century, original Russian works on Japan appeared: descriptions by I. F. Kruzenshtern and P. I. Rikord and a work by V. M. Golovnin that was translated into many languages.

In the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, as Japan embarked on a path of capitalist development, its relations with Russia, Europe, and the USA expanded rapidly. The study of Japan developed into an interdisciplinary field: Japanese studies.

Until World War I, British scholars dominated Japanese studies. The leading figure of the British school was B. Chamberlain (1850–1935), the author of studies dealing with the Japanese language and Japanese literature and culture. Another prominent scholar was W. Aston (1841–1911), who wrote on Shinto, Japanese grammar, and the history of Japanese literature. Chamberlain translated, and provided a commentary to, the historical work Kojiki; Aston performed a similar task with regard to Nihon-shoki. F. Brinkley (1841–1912) published a 12-volume work in 1901 and 1902 on the history, art, and literature of Japan and China. Several works were devoted to Japanese Buddhism (C. Eliot) and literary texts (A. Waley). J. Murdoch (1856–1921), the author of a two-volume history of Japan, came close to offering a materialist interpretation of events.

The leading figure in the German school of Japanese studies, K. Florenz (1865–1939), produced a work on the history of modern Japanese literature and translated Japanese Shinto myths. German scholars concentrated on the study of Japanese language and literature.

French scholars for the most part studied Japanese literature and art, although A. R. La Mazeliére wrote on Japanese history.

The first Japanologists in the USA were American missionaries. W. Griffis (1843–1928), the author of a work on Japanese history, is considered the founder of American Japanese studies. Works were also published on Japanese art (E. Fenollosa) and, in the first quarter of the 20th century, on current political problems (W. McLaren).

In Russia, the study of Japan and the Japanese language advanced after diplomatic relations were established with Japan in 1855. By the early 20th century the systematic study of Japan had been undertaken at the University of St. Petersburg and at the Oriental Institute (founded 1899) in Vladivostok. Works on Japanese history were written by V. Ia. Kostylev and M. I. Veniukov; these were followed by the works of T. Bogdanovich and A. A. Nikolaev.

In the first decades of the 20th century there emerged in Russia a group of outstanding Japanologists, with varied scholarly interests. D. M. Pozdneev wrote on the geography and history of Japan and China and on Russo-Japanese relations; in addition, he compiled the first Japanese-Russian kanji dictionary. E. G. Spal-’vin, a founder of the Russian linguistic school of Japanese studies, produced numerous language textbooks and handbooks and wrote on Japanese history, Confucianism, Japanese religions, and Japanese literature. E. D. Polivanov achieved renown in international Japanese studies for his contributions to Japanese dialectology and to the comparative linguistics of the Oriental languages. N. V. Kiuner, a geographer, wrote on Japan, China, and other countries of the Far East. In the prerevolutionary period, Russian specialists tended to examine the cultural history and spiritual life of Japan without regard for socioeconomic conditions.

The victory of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia marked a new stage in the development of Japanese studies. A Soviet school of Japanese studies emerged and developed. It was characterized above all by its study of the Japanese economy and the history, language, and culture of the Japanese people on the basis of Marxist-Leninist methodology. In the 1920’s, Oriental institutes were established in Leningrad and Moscow, with Japanese divisions in the appropriate departments. The Marxist-Leninist approach to Japanese studies was taken by leading Japanologists who had developed professionally in the prerevolutionary period, such as N. I. Konrad, a founder of Soviet Japanese studies, and by scholars who emerged after the victory of the revolution.

In their works of area studies, Soviet Japanologists sought to reveal the fundamental patterns in the development of Japanese imperialism; to shed light on the most important stages of the historical development of the Japanese people, notably the bourgeois revolution of 1867–68; and to describe the situation of Japan’s working class and peasantry. Important scholars were V. D. Vilenskii, Konrad, I. M. Maiskii (V. S. Svetlov), O. V. Pletner, Pozdneev, K. A. Kharnskii, and Kh. T. Eidus. Until the 1930’s, Soviet Japanese studies remained basically an interdisciplinary field.

The mid-1930’s witnessed increasing specialization in Soviet Japanese studies. Economic geography, represented primarily by K. M. Popov, and history became separate from Japanese area studies. E. M. Zhukov’s history of Japan from antiquity to the modern era became a landmark in the Marxist study of Japanese history. Philology was divided into independent disciplines: the study of language and the study of literature. Theoretical works on grammar were written by Konrad, E. M. Kolpakchi, Poliva-nov, and A. A. Kholodovich. Japanologists began studying the history of Japanese literature and undertook translations of classical works and the works of contemporary writers, especially the proletarian literature of the 1930’s; notable literary scholars were Konrad, A. E. Gluskina, N. A. Nevskii, and N. I. Fel’dman. By the 1940’s the Soviet Marxist school in Japanese studies essentially had been formed.

In Western bourgeois Japanese studies, interest in problems of the modern history and economy of Japan appreciably heightened after World War I, to some extent because of increasing conflicts between Japan and the USA and other capitalist countries. Such scholars as M. Kennedy of Great Britain, G. Bousquet of France, and T. Dennett and H. Quigley of the USA dealt with problems of modern and current Japanese history, the Japanese economy, and Japan’s role in international relations. Studies in cultural history were written by M. Renault, P. Noel, and R. Gastón in France, A. Slawik in Austria, and M. Visser in the Netherlands.

Works on certain problems in ancient, medieval, and modern Japanese history were published by G. Munro and L. Sadler in Great Britain and H. Bortón and J. Embree in the USA. Although these works did not transcend the limits of bourgeois methodology, they were rich in factual material. The works of progressive Canadian scholar N. Norman were also published.

After World War II, a new period in the development of international Japanese studies began. Japanese studies experienced a considerable upsurge in the USSR: several fields—economics, history, geography, cultural anthropology, philosophy, and art history—became totally independent, and new fields emerged— bibliography, historiography, and the study of sources. Most research was devoted to current economic and sociopolitical questions of Japan. Attention was directed primarily to the features of postwar Japanese economic development, the position and role of Japanese monopolies, the formation of the Japanese system of state-monopoly capitalism, and the place and role of Japan among the capitalist countries, in the world economy, and in international politics; prominent scholars in this area were A. I. Dinkevich, M. I. Luk’ianova, Ia. A. Pevzner, E. A. Pigulevskaia, and D. V. Petrov.

Problems of Japanese finance were dealt with by such specialists as B. N. Dobrovinskii, E. L. Leont’eva, A. I. Stadnichenko, Iu. S. Stoliarov, and M. V. Sutiagina. Studies of the Japanese economy were written by V. A. Vlasov, S. A. Debabov, and N. K. Kutsobina. N. M. Bragina, S. B. Markar’ian, and V. A. Popov wrote on the agrarian problem. V. V. Kovyzhenko, A. V. Komarov, and V. A. Khlynov investigated the situation of the working class, and L. P. Arskaia and V. V. Ramzes dealt with the middle strata.

Soviet Japanologists, notably Zhukov and Konrad, have published several original theoretical works devoted to the methodology of historical research with reference to Oriental studies. The governmental structure, political parties, and internal politics of Japan have been examined by such scholars as Iu. V. Georgiev, I. K. Derzhavin, I. I. Kovalenko, Iu. D. Kuznetsov, I. A. Latyshev, A. N. Romanov, and A. I. Senatorov. P. P. Topekha has written on the working-class and democratic movement. Problems of militarization have been dealt with by B. G. Sapozhnikov, S. T. Mazhorov, A. P. Markov, and A. S. Savin. A number of works have been devoted to Japanese foreign policy, including those of I. Ia. Bedniak, S. I. Verbitskii, D. I. Gol’d-berg, L. N. Kutakov, D. V. Petrov, B. A. Romanov, Sapozhnikov, and K. O. Sarkisov. Problems of Japanese commercial and economic relations have been studied by V. V. Aleksandrov, 1.1. Vasilevskaia, S. K. Ignatushchenko, I. A. Il’ina, M. G. Nosov, Iu. M. Cherevko, and A. M. Sharkov.

The study of all historical periods has been expanded. The collective monograph Ocherki novoi istorii Iaponii (Essays on Modern Japanese History) is a basic work on the subject. Studies on the democratic movement in the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th centuries have been published by Gol’dberg and G. D. Ivanova. Works have appeared on the Middle Ages. A. L. Gal’perin and L. V. Zenina have studied the late feudal period, and the peasantry of that time has been dealt with by D. P. Bugaeva, O. S. Nikolaeva, G. I. Podpalova, and I. G. Pozdniakov. Z. Ia. Khanin has written on Japan’s outcasts, A. A. Iskenderov on the history of the medieval city, and I. M. Syritsyn on the emergence of feudalism. Archaeological evidence served as the basis for M. V. Vorob’ev’s studies of ancient Japan. Studies of Russo-Japanese and Soviet-Japanese relations have been published by Kutakov, V. M. Konstantinov, A. L. Narochnitskii, B. A. Romanov, E. Ia. Fainberg, and Eidus.

Works have been published on the materialist philosophers of feudal Japan, contemporary bourgeois philosophy, and the development of social thought in Japan; scholars in this area include Ia. B. Radul’-Zatulovskii, K. A. Gamazkov, Iu. B. Kozlovskii, B. P. Lavrent’ev, B. V. Pospelov, and L. N. Shakhnazarova. The first books on the cultural anthropology of Japan and on Japanese religions were published by S. A. Arutiunov and G. E. Svetlov.

Scholars dealing with Japanese linguistics include I. F. Vardul’, I. V. Golovnin, A. A. Pashkovskii, N. A. Syromiatnikov, Fel’dman, and V. M. Alpatov.

Studies have been published on the literary, historical, and geographic classics of antiquity and the feudal period by A. E. Gluskina, V. N. Goregliad, V. V. Logunova, V. N. Markova, E. M. Pinus, K. A. Popov, and K. I. Cherevko. Specialists in modern Japanese literature include T. P. Grigor’eva, V. S. Grivnin, I. L. Ioffe, O. V. Moroshkina, K. Rekho, and N. I. Chegodar’. Markova and A. I. Mamonov have written on modern Japanese poetry. Konrad has published a collection of studies on various periods in the history of Japanese literature. Works on the theater and art have been written by L. D. Grisheleva, A. S. Kolomiets, and N. S. Nikolaeva. General works on Japanese culture have been written by N. A. Iofan, G. B. Navlitskaia, K. M. Popov, and N. T. Fedorenko.

Japanese studies is moving forward in the European socialist countries. In the German Democratic Republic, M. Ramming has written on philology, W. Hartmann on history, and I. Berndt on literary criticism. Japan scholars in Poland, such as the linguist W. Kotañski and the historians I. Tabaczynska-Zalewska and M. Nieziolowski, have made important contributions. Japanese studies is also undergoing development in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Rumania.

Interest in Japan has increased considerably in the USA and Western Europe since World War II, as Japan has taken its place among the most highly developed countries of the capitalist world. The USA, where the study of Japan has been encouraged by the government and subsidized by the Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford foundations, has become the leader in bourgeois Japanese studies. In postwar Japanese studies, such fields as history, economics, and literature have become separate disciplines, and scholars have focused on contemporary Japan.

From the 1950’s to 1970’s, numerous Japanologists emerged in the USA, among them T. Bisson, W. Lockwood, A. Grad, H. Kahn, and A. Kelley. Japanese politics and political parties have been studied by such specialists as R. Scalapino, J. Masumi, A. B. Cole, and G. O. Totten. Works on Japanese foreign policy have been published by such scholars as E. O. Reischauer, G. A. Lensen, and J. N. Westwood. Some books have treated the Soviet Union’s policy toward Japan in a biased manner.

In the postwar period, large works of general history that provide, to a greater or lesser degree, a socioeconomic analysis have appeared in the USA and other bourgeois countries, by such authors as Reischauer in the USA, G. Sansom in Great Britain, and F. Mariani in Italy. Specific historical periods have been dealt with by J. Hall, A. Craig, and C. Sheldon. Many new studies have been written on the Japanese language and classical Japanese literature and art, by C. Haguenauer and R. Schaeffer in France, K. Wenk, H. Hammitzsch, and H. Zachert in the Federal Republic of Germany, G. Scalise in Italy, and D. Keene in the USA. The study of Japan has begun in Australia (J. Stockwin and B. Key) and in some Asian and Latin American countries.

In the USSR, major centers for Japanese studies include the Institute of Oriental S’udies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (AN SSSR), the Institute of World Economics and International Relations of the AN SSSR, the Institute of the Far East of the AN SSSR, the Institute of Asian and African Countries at Moscow State University, the Oriental studies department at Leningrad State University, and the Far East State University. Modern Japan is dealt with in such periodicals as the journals Narody Azii i Afriki (The Peoples of Asia and Africa) and Problemy Dal’nego Vostoka (Problems of the Far East) and in the yearbook laponiia (Japan).

In Europe, there are centers of Japanese studies at the universities of London, Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, Hamburg, Bochum, Munich, Rome, Naples, Vienna, Louvain, Leiden, Geneva, Berlin, Prague, and Warsaw. In the USA, Japan is studied at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton and Stanford universities and at the universities of California, Michigan, and Hawaii. In Australia, research on Japan is conducted at the Australian National University and at the universities of Melbourne and Sydney. The principal publication devoted to Japanese studies, apart from general Oriental-studies journals, is the Bulletin of the European Association for Japanese Studies, published in Vienna.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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