Oxford has enjoyed a long, rich and fruitful history with Japan. The first Japanese book arrived at the Bodleian library in 1629, and the first Japanese students arrived to study at Oxford in the late 19th century. Tomotsune Iwakura, the third son of Tomomi Iwakura, then Minister of the Right in Japan, was among the first. He was followed by many others, including Tsuda Umeko, founder of Japan’s first private women’s school of higher education, who studied at St Hilda’s College.
The University has enjoyed close links with the Japanese Imperial Family, dating back to the 1920s, when His Imperial Highness Prince Chichibu studied at Oxford. More recently, Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako both studied at the University.
Oxford’s relationship with Japan has grown from strength to strength as the University has expanded its study of Japan, collaborated with Japanese scientific institutions, educated talented Japanese students and received major gifts from Japanese supporters of the University’s work.
As a mark of the importance with which Oxford holds its relationship with Japan, one of the University’s three international offices is based in Tokyo. In addition, Oxford University Press have had an office in Japan since 1957, and OUP Japan today employs over 50 staff, publishes ELT and academic materials, and offers teacher training and ELT consultancy.
Great thinkers come together for the first Kyoto Prize at Oxford event
The first annual Kyoto Prize at Oxford event took place on the 9th and 10th May 2017, with lectures from all three 2016 Kyoto Prize laureates at the Blavatnik School of Government.
Japanese has been taught at Oxford since 1909, and as a full undergraduate degree subject since 1963. Today, Oxford is recognised as one of the leading universities in the world for Japanese studies, regularly placing near the top of international rankings for the subject.
The sub-faculty of East Asia Studies is part of the Faculty of Oriental Studies. The teaching for language classes for the BA degree in Japanese Studies takes place in the Faculty and graduate students also study in the sub-Faculty. There are currently 15 Japan-focused academics and language instructors associated with the Faculty. Through its focus on Japanese language, literature and history, the Faculty of Oriental Studies provides the essential linguistic and cultural framework required for the detailed study of Japan.
The Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies was established in 1981 and is part of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies. It focuses on social sciences and the study of modern Japan. The Institute runs an MSc and an MPhil programme, organises the Nissan Seminar series and the Graduate Seminar in Japanese Studies, and also organises workshops. It also hosts international visitors and has published over 70 volumes in its Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies Series – the largest Japanese studies publication series in the world. Researchers at the Nissan Institute examine the diversity of Japanese society and the social changes that are accompanying economic and demographic shifts in the country. The Nissan Institute’s strength in the social sciences complements the Faculty of Oriental Studies’ expertise in the humanities, covering both historical and modern Japan.
In March 2009, the Research Centre for Japanese Language and Linguistics was established at Oxford. The Centre functions as an umbrella for research activities related to Japanese language and linguistics throughout the University and serves as a forum for publicising teaching, seminars, lectures, and other activities of interest to Japanese linguistics, and as a point of access to information for prospective graduate students interested in Japanese language and linguistics. The Centre welcomes academic visitors to the University who work within Japanese linguistics.
In addition to these dedicated centres for the study and teaching of Japan and the Japanese language, a number of research projects related to Japan and Japanese Studies are currently running in departments across the University.
For example, the Climate Change and Ageing Population project within the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing explores conflicts and convergences between climate change and the ageing population in the UK and Japan. According to the UN, half the global population resident in cities will be over the age of 60 by the year 2050, and many of the conveniences that address age-related changes (automobiles, elevators, air-conditioning) are also highly dependent on energy. By linking together these two drivers, this project aims to develop flexible responses to the combined challenges of climate and demographic change.
Libraries and Museums
The Bodleian Japanese Library was opened to readers in April 1993 in the newly constructed building of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies. The Library houses the University's principal collections in the humanities and social sciences which relate to the history and culture of Japan. It combines the Bodleian’s extensive holdings on Japan with the residual collection of the former Nissan Institute Library. The Library, comprising about 120,000 volumes, offers one of the best research collections for Japanese studies in Europe.
There has been Japanese material in the Ashmolean's collections from the earliest stages of the Museum's history. A pair of Japanese zori, described in an early inventory as ‘sandals made of twigs', was part of the original Tradescant collection; the foundation of the Ashmolean Museum given to the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole. Highlights of the Japanese collection include woodblock prints, Buddhist sculpture, sword furniture, netsuke and inrō, and lacquerware for both export and domestic markets. The Pitt Rivers Museum's Japan collection includes Noh masks, netsuke, arms and armour and everyday objects.
Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences
The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and its 8.3 metre Subaru Telescope, located in Hawaii, are an important international resource. In 2008, a fibre multi-object spectrograph (FMOS) was installed on the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii to assist the study of galaxy evolution, dark energy, and early cosmic expansion. Oxford’s astronomical instrumentation group played a leading role in the international collaboration that designed and made this important instrument.
Oxford also has collaborations with Japanese scientists working in particle physics. Oxford physicists are creating laserwires for the Accelerator Test Facility at KEK (Japan’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation), and for the proposed International Linear Collider.
Oxford collaborates with the Institute of Statistical Mathematics to strengthen their relationship in the fields of data assimilation and statistical machine learning, through maintaining collaborative contact, facilitating staff and student exchange, and establishing and promoting a Network of Evidence (NOE) in the shared research field.
In May 2014 legendary business leader Dr Kazuo Inamori gave his first lecture in Europe, at the Sheldonian Theatre, entitled "Rebuilding Japan Airlines, the Inamori Way". Dr Inamori told a packed audience how he took on the monumental task of turning around Japan Airlines, Japan’s national carrier which had just gone bankrupt. Within three years the airline was successfully re-listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and became the most profitable airline in the world.
In May 2017, the inaugural Kyoto Prize at Oxford, founded by Dr Inamori, was held in the Blavatnik School of Government. The Blavatnik School's Inamori Forum space is named in his honour. Dr Inamori also delivered a lecture entitled “From a society of greed to a society of altruism”. The Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Lord Patten of Barnes, welcomed him to the prestigious Chancellor’s Court of Benefactors, a formal recognition of his generosity to the University.
Oxford has links with the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, working together on Japanese linguistics, including collaborative research and staff/student exchange. All of our undergraduates studying Japanese spend the second year of their four-year undergraduate degree at Kobe University in Japan for extensive language study, combined with the study of civilization, culture and history.
Globalization and its discontents are of prime concern in the world today, yet few grasp that its key ideas have a deep history, which should resonate in the present. The Global Nodes, Global Orders: Macro and Micro histories of Globalization project attempts to historicize and re-conceptualise globalization, bring the key disciplines together, and better understand its intimate mechanics and implications for the present. Led by James Belich in Oxford, it brings together leading scholars from Oxford, Princeton, Osaka, Kolkata, Leiden and Konstanz.
Along with eight other research-intensive universities, Oxford and the University of Tokyo are members of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU). Together, they are tackling major research projects, offering a Global Summer Programme to one another’s students, and taking action on critical university issues such as campus sustainability.
Members of the Nissan Institute have joined colleagues at the Saïd Business School in Oxford, EHESS Paris, Freie Universität Berlin, and Waseda University Tokyo to create an advanced research and training network. Entitled Understanding institutional change in Asia: A comparative perspective with Europe (INCAS), the network is funded under the EU Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions Rise Program, and runs from 2015-19. They will bring their particular focus on liberalization and financialization from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Japan is of particular interest given significant changes in corporate governance and its regulation over the past couple of years, in part designed to dismantle some of the distinctive features of the post-war high growth era, and relatedly, changing political balances in policy making. These changes will be explored comparatively, both with other Asian countries, and with European countries. The goal of INCAS is to create and transfer knowledge on comparative institutional change within the network and beyond it.
Oxford is highly fortunate to have had the support of a number of leading Japanese organisations in setting up some of its cutting edge research centres. Nissan supported the creation of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies; Nomura, a large Japanese multinational organisation, support the Nomura Centre for Mathematical Finance which was established in 2001; and the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education in Tokyo supports the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics set up in 2002 in the Department of Philosophy.
Today there are more than 100 Japanese nationals enrolled as students at Oxford University. The majority are full-time graduate students, and of these over half are studying courses in the social sciences.
There are several scholarships available specifically to Japenese students or those studying Japanese. The Daiwa Anglo–Japanese Foundation awards grants to individuals, institutions and organisations to promote links between the UK and Japan. The Kobe Scholarships offer two full scholarships for nationals of Japan who are applying to start any full or part-time master’s or DPhil course at Oxford. The scholarships are funded by a donation to St Catherine’s College, and one of the scholarships is tenable only at St Catherine’s College. The Nissan Institute offers two partial scholarships for the MSc/MPhil in Japanese Studies; one is for Home/EU students worth £10K and one for overseas students worth £20k. The Scott Family Scholarship, offered by St Anthony's, is for students of a one-year (MSc) or two-year (MPhil) degree in Modern Japanese Studies and is worth £9,000. The Aso Group Scholarship is for students with Japanese as a first language; preference is for students from Fukuoka Prefecture. The Daiwa Scholarships in Japanese Studies are for postgraduate Japanese Studies in either Japan or the UK. The Stockwin Scholarship in Japanese Studies is available to students who wish to carry on to the 2nd year of the MPhil in Modern Japanese Studies. Sasakawa studentships (each worth £10,000) are available for postgraduate students in Japanese studies. The studentships are open to students of any nationality, but applications from UK nationals are particularly encouraged. ESRC studentships in Japanese Studies are available on the Area Studies Pathway.
The Oxford University Japanese Society (OUJS) is a student run society which aims to introduce and promote the enjoyment of Japanese culture and provide an interface between Japanese students in Oxford and those with an interest in Japan. The society runs social and cultural events relating to Japan, in addition to providing Japanese language classes for its members.
With 34 Japanese citizens among the University’s academic staff, Japan ranks among the top 25 largest sources of academic talent at Oxford.
Professor Takehiko Kariya
Professor Kariya is Professor of the Sociology of Japanese Society, and a Fellow of St Antony’s College. He is also currently the Director of Graduate Studies for the master's programmes in Modern Japanese Studies. He came to Oxford in 2008 from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Tokyo, where he had been a professor of sociology of education until 2009. Professor Kariya‘s main research interests revolve around social stratification and social mobility, the social changes of Postwar Japan, and social and educational policies.
Professor Kariya studied for his BA and MA at the University of Tokyo, and moved to the United States for his PhD in Sociology at Northwestern University.
Professor Mari Sako
Professor Sako is Professor of Management Studies at the Saïd Business School, co-director of the Novak Druce Centre for Professional Service Firms, and a Professorial Fellow of New College, Oxford. Her research focuses on global strategy, Japanese business, and outsourcing. Professor Sako is currently investigating the way in which cost pressures are contributing to the outsourcing and offshoring of legal services, and how this impacts the way law firms operate.
Professor Sako's academic career began at Oxford where she read Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). She then studied for an MSc in Economics at the London School of Economics and an MA in Economics at Johns Hopkins University, before completing her PhD at London University in 1990.
Approximately 1500 Oxford alumni live in Japan today. Many are active in the joint Cambridge & Oxford Society, Tokyo, and in the Oxford Alumni Club of Japan. Both societies hold a number of informal social events each year.
Our many distinguished alumni include ambassadors, politicians, business leaders, academics, senior officers of top universities, journalists, and heads of international organisations. Five members of the Japanese Imperial Family, including His Imperial Highness Prince Chichibu, Crown Prince Naruhito, Crown Princess Masako, and Prince Akishino, were educated at Oxford. A sixth, Princess Akiko, niece of the Emperor, recently completed a doctorate in Oriental Studies. Oxford has also educated a number of prominent Japanese public figures including:
Politics and government
- Hiroharu Koike, former Japanese Ambassador to the Netherlands
- Dr Takashi Omori, APEC Economic Committee Chair and Policy Advisor to the Japanese Cabinet Office
- Dr Yuki Allyson Honjo, Senior Vice-President, Fox-Pitt
- Haruhiko Kuroda, current Governor of the Bank of Japan, former President ot the Asian Development Bank
- Miyuki Suzuki, President of Cisco Japan, former CEO of Jetstar Japan
- Professor Akira Ariyoshi, Hitotsubashi University
- Professor Harumi Goto-Shibata, Professor of International History, Tokyo University
- Akifumi Ikeda, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Toyo Eiwa University