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The Japan Center

The Japan Center

The modern field of Japanese studies includes the collection, observation, and analysis of information about Japan in the broadest sense. As an interdisciplinary subject it asks and examines questions from a variety of perspectives including linguistics and literature, history and religious studies, sociology, political science, economics, and legal studies. Due to the increasing specialization and depth of knowledge in the field of Japanese studies, individual areas of research have become increasing independent of one another. No one scholar can thus boast a comprehensive grasp of all the contemporary research in this field.
Knowledge of the Japanese language provides an indispensable foundation and prerequisite for serious scholarly work on Japanese culture and society. This knowledge must include familiarity with both current colloquialisms and with older forms of the written language including unusual forms like, for example, kanbun (a “hybrid Chinese” which has been adapted to Japanese sentence structure). These older forms of written language dominate Japanese sources into the first half of the twentieth century.
In Munich, scholars in the field of Japanese studies focus on the following sub-fields:

  • Japanese history from its beginnings to the present, especially cultural history, the development of historiography, legal history, the history of socially marginalized groups, self-representation of Japanese culture, intellectual and ideological history;
  • Japanese literature from its beginnings to the present with a focus on modern and contemporary literature; literary studies as a subfield of cultural studies;
  • Religious and intellectual history of Eastern Asia up to the present, with a focus, however, on pre-modern Buddhism;
  • Economics and business in modern and contemporary Japan;
  • Society, politics, and the state;
  • Culture and everyday life in modern and contemporary Japan;
  • Japanese urban and architectural history.

Scholars in the field aim not only to describe and analyze the diversity and productivity of Japanese culture in those areas outlined here (and to incorporate this new knowledge into the curriculum) but also to make this information available for the comparative study of international cultures: research in the field thus seeks to place Japanese culture in its East Asian and even global contexts rather than emphasizing its uniqueness to the point of mystification. International notions and stereotypes of Japan which emerged with the increasing importance of Japan as an economic and financial player at an international level are corrected and clarified with scholarly contributions within the disciplines of history, social studies, religious studies, and literature which draw on examples taken from the historical, economic, social, religious, and artistic development of Japan to counterbalance the European and Western bias predominant in these fields.