Resource: Japan Foundation Directory of Japanese Studies

Although we have a number of articles about whether or not graduate school is right for you (maybe it’s not!) or how to choose a program, often the first question is simply where programs in Japanese Studies are. Even as a high school student, when I wanted to look into colleges or universities with Japanese Studies, I struggled to find that information somewhere other than word of mouth. Thankfully technology has improved considerably since then, and today’s resource is one of the best places to start looking.

The Japan Foundation, a leading source of funding and programming related to Japan dedicated to cultural exchange, for decades has published periodic reports on the state of Japanese Studies as a field, including its major areas of concentration, institutions, scholarly issues, and leading scholars. In 2011, they conducted surveys on these topics, and translated that information into a new Directory of Japanese Studies in the United States and Canada.

Partially updated in 2015, this directory contains an excellent (although not comprehensive) database of programs, specialists, libraries and museums, and doctoral candidates/recent PhDs in various areas of Japanese Studies. At the time of the survey, 1,693 specialists, 287 programs, and 88 libraries responded, making this list an impressive place to start exploring your interest in academic institutions.

As seen on the left, there are numerous ways to navigate your particular interests, whether you would like to search by type of institutional program, study abroad program, language course, or something very particular like a performing arts program. With each selection there are more specific ways to narrow your fields. For example, a search by location, with the fields United StatesMid-Atlantic Region returns 52 results, while further narrowing it to just Pennsylvania returns 19. Clicking on individual institutional entries pulls up a PDF with an overview of the program, including their faculty, past courses offered, doctoral candidates (if a university), undergraduate and/or graduate programs, certificate or study abroad programs, libraries, museums, outreach, general contact info, and more. Nearly an overwhelming amount of information!

Similar options are available for searching by specialist, whether it is through their location, discipline, historical period, language competence, geographic expertise, or other options. These search functions are also available for the recent PhDs and candidates page. Under the Libraries and Museums section, you can also find a very useful location-based search function, lists of museums and collections, Japanese collections holdings, major Japanese databases, and other excellent research resources that will surely send you down an internet rabbit hole.

There are, however, a number of drawbacks to the database. First and foremost, it is not keyword searchable, so you may find yourself using trial and error to find what you want if it’s very specific. Furthermore, the database is not regularly updated, (the last update being around 2015), and the ever-changing nature of institutions in both programming and faculty means that much of this information could potentially be out of date. You’ll want to use this data as a starting point, then check the individual programs’ websites to confirm the latest. Faculty often move to new institutions, some programs cease to exist (particularly MA programs at risk of being swallowed up through university processes), and new programs also get started at institutions that previously lacked them.

If you are looking for something very specific, such as a specialist working in a particular time period or geographic location, you should also read faculty profiles carefully. Though they include many helpful details like major publications, scholars’ research areas often shift over the years as their projects and passions develop, and they can also be quite broad in listing their interests and specializations. On the right for example, is a result from searching for someone with a specialization in Kamakura period history– note how many different periods and areas of specialty get listed in faculty profiles! And while one person might list themselves as interested or proficient in, say, the medieval, they may consider themselves more of an early modern scholar, and not intend to take on graduate students outside of their preferred time period. The information on the site is also self-reported, user-driven collection, so errors are possible in what you read. All of this to say, be discerning in what you take from the database, and if you have a serious interest and it could affect your future academic pursuits, double-check everything!

There are many more features, many ways this information is organized, and a great deal to see in the database, so take a look yourself and explore what the Japan Foundation directory has to offer as you consider your next educational move!

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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