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On retirement

Nichibunken Days

John Breen (Professor)
March 12, 2021

I arrived at Nichibunken 12 years ago. Time has flown by, and retirement now awaits. This is a major fork in the road. I have colleagues who look forward to retirement, but I do not. Sadness accompanies all thoughts of leaving Nichibunken. I had good times and bad times, to be sure, but the good outweigh the bad by far.

My main job here was editing the academic journal, Japan Review. Building on the work of my illustrious predecessor, and ever-reliant on the great staff of the Publications Department, I devoted myself to nurturing the journal. The journal was my introduction to scholars across the globe and to some outstanding scholarship. The journal, it is now clear to me, has a vital function as the hub of a global network of Japan scholars: authors, referees, reviewers and readers are the nodes of the network. I am confident that under my successor the network will continue to grow.

Japan Review: The latest issue.

Japan Review: The latest special issue.

I devoted much energy to the task of editing, but I had time to avail myself of Nichibunken’s unparalleled research environment. I have pursued three related research paths since joining Nichibunken: the modern history of the Ise shrines, the modern history of the Japanese monarchy, and the modern history of Kyoto. To be more precise, I explored the dynamic transformation of Ise from the most popular site of pilgrimage in the land into the modern monarchy’s Great Mausoleum; from a new, ritual studies perspective, I tracked the modern manifestations of the monarchy. And I investigated the vital role of the Three Great Festivals in the modernization of the city of Kyoto. I presented the results of my research to audiences in America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia. I am grateful to Nichibunken for helping me disseminate the results  of my research far and wide.

Professor Breen speaking on the “Japanese Monarchy and the Rites of Succession” at the symposium, “Emperor and Imperial Succession,” Rekisaikan, Kyoto, 9 November 2019.

I also very much enjoyed my contact with PhD students from Sokendai. I had the pleasure of tutoring three students, and was able to read essays, articles and theses of others, too. I learned much from them. I shall continue to lend my support to Sokendai’s PhD students, albeit from afar. I look forward greatly to the outcomes of their multidisciplinary, internationally-oriented work.