From the Director

Message from the New Director-General

INOUE Shōichi
July 31, 2020

Taking up the position of Director-General as of April 2020, I look forward to your kind consideration and goodwill.

I started out in the field of engineering, aspiring to become an architect, and I am among those who turned to the humanities after completing my undergraduate and graduate education. Perhaps because of this background, I tend to think about Japanese culture through the lens of architecture. When I consider the townscape of Ginza, for example, I immediately note how all the buildings project individuality and distinctive taste. Almost none of them suggest any attempt to coordinate in terms of color or shape with their surroundings. One cannot help thinking that today’s Japan respects above all the egos of architects and landowners—that the Ginza townscape was created by a society that pays no attention at all to the harmony of the whole.

Yet Japanese are often described as inclined to groupism, as prizing harmony and cohesion at all times, and as easily swayed by the prevailing mood or their immediate situation. These are the main traits widely attributed to Japanese. But as a person trained in architecture, my view is quite the opposite: Is it not the European townscape where you see the individual submerged in the group?

My arguments about points like this are likely to provoke surprise and dismay among my humanities colleagues. Still, if I have a strong point, perhaps it is that I have an academic background that is rather different from many other Japanese studies scholars. I sometimes count myself fortunate that it releases me from conventional ways of seeing things. I would like to make Nichibunken a place where we can embrace and savor the divergences that ensue from encounter with disparate fields of endeavor.

We at Nichibunken have long extended various benefits to Japanese studies scholars from overseas. But we do not think of such cooperation as working only one way. The reports brought from other countries are a tremendous stimulus. The value of such other ways of seeing things quite often earns our admiration. Our international activities are geared, in fact, to cultivation and pursuit of such fresh perspectives.

I hope I shall be forgiven if I seem to justify my own unconventional perspective in the name of international exchange.

Director-General INOUE Shōichi

Director-General INOUE Shōichi