The Institute for Research in Humanities was established in January 1949 by merging the Institute of Humanistic Studies (人文科学研究所; established in 1939), the Institute of Oriental Studies (東方文化研究所) and the Institute of Occidental Studies (西洋文化研究所). While following on from the achievements of these three organizations, the new Institute is promoting comprehensive studies of diverse cultures and societies in the world.

Institute of Oriental Studies

The Institute of Oriental Studies, the oldest of the three organizations, was established in 1929 under the name of Kyoto Institute, Oriental Studies Academy. The Academy had two institutes, one in Tokyo and one in Kyoto, both founded through subsidies from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After its opening, the Kyoto Institute was staffed by only four researchers and four assistants, working in a space rented from Kyoto University’s Faculty of Letters. It was led by Naoki Kano. In November 1930, the Institute moved to a new building, completed at 50 Kitashirakawa Ogura-cho, (now 47 Higashi-ogura-cho). This building, currently used by the Center for Informatics in East Asian Studies (CIEAS), was designed in the Spanish Romanesque style by the architect Kenzo Tohata. He designed the building based on a concept suggested by Kosaku Hamada, a councilor of the Kyoto Institute. Even today, the white building is attracting the public’s attention with its unique design.

In April 1938, the Kyoto Institute became independent and was renamed the Institute of Oriental Studies. By that time, it had over 30 staff members, including researchers, deputy researchers, assistants, and contracted staff. They conducted research in six groups: Classic Confucian Writings & Literature, Religious Studies, Astronomy & Calendar Studies, History, Geography, and Archaeology. The Institute of Oriental Studies was led by Bunzaburo Matsumoto and subsequently by Toru Haneda.

Institute of Occidental Studies

The predecessor of the Institute of Occidental Studies was Deutsches Forschungsinstitut, a private organization founded in 1934 at 1 Yoshida Ushinomiya-cho. In 1946 it was reorganized into the Institute of Occidental Studies, where several contracted researchers conducted research in studies of British, American and German, and other Western cultures. Following Japan’s defeat in World War II, the occupation forces took over the facility together with over 3,000 books on German and other cultures. As a result, the Institute was obliged to halt its activities. When the occupation forces returned the facility, it was donated to Kyoto University (to the Institute for Research in Humanities). The building, designed by Togo Murano, was an architectural monument of the Showa era (1926-1989). Regrettably, however, it was demolished in 1974 due to various problems primarily related to maintenance.

The Institute of Humanistic Studies

The Institute of Humanistic Studies was founded in 1939 as an institute attached to Kyoto University with the aim of promoting the comprehensive study of East Asian cultures. In 1940 the Institute established a research system to cover studies of industrial economics, sociology, education, and history of cultural interaction. One professor, five associate professors, and 13 part-time researchers were engaged in research activities there, with support from Kyoto University’s faculties of Letters, Law, Economics, and Agriculture. These researchers worked in a wooden two-story building, located northwest of the University Library on the Main Campus (the building has since been demolished). Successive directors of the Institute were Sukema Ojima, Masaaki Kosaka, and Takeo Abe.

Merger of the Three Organizations and Establishment of the Institute for Research in Humanities

A movement toward the merger of the three organizations started towards the end of 1946. In 1947 the Board of Directors of the Institute of Occidental Studies decided to dissolve their organization and contribute all its facilities and assets to Kyoto University. Risaburo Torigai, the then president of Kyoto University, held discussions with Toru Haneda, the then director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, and began working to merge the Institute of Humanistic Studies, the Institute of Oriental Studies and the Institute of Occidental Studies. In April 1948, the Institute of Oriental Studies, then governed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, became affiliated to the Ministry of Education (which also governed Kyoto University). On November 20, 1948, three members representing each of these organizations held a joint symposium, which heralded the upcoming merger. In 1949, the new Institute was officially inaugurated; the English name originally was Research Institute for Humanistic Studies, this was changed to the current denomination Institute for Research in Humanities during the term of Professor Yutaka Tani as director of the Institute. At this time, it comprised 11 research sections with 11 professors, 14 associate professors, and 19 assistants. Subsequently other sections were established, namely Social Anthropology (1959), Western Thought (1964), Japanese Culture (1969), Contemporary Chinese Studies (1975), Comparative Cultures (1978), History of Religions (1980), Comparative Sociology (1981), Japanology (1985), and the History of Languages (1988). The Comparative Sociology and Japanology sections were led by visiting professors from outside Japan. In addition, the Documentation Center for Oriental Studies was established in 1965.

In 1979, the 50th anniversary of the Institute of Oriental Studies was celebrated on November 9 and a commemorative publication, The 50 Years of the Institute for Research in Humanities was issued.

Restructuring of the Institute for Research in Humanities

In April 2000, the Institute for Research in Humanities radically restructured its organizations as a response to changing social needs. The previous research sections were reorganized into five research divisions and an attached research center. To keep in step with the times, the Institute continued its restructuring; in April 2006, for instance, in cooperation with the Italian School of East Asian Studies and the Kyoto branches of l’Ecole Française d’Extrème Orient (EFEO), it established a new facility named the International Center for Humanities Studies. In April 2007, together with the National Institutes for the Humanities (part of the Inter-University Research Institute Corporations), the Institute established another facility: the Research Center for Modern and Contemporary China.

To facilitate research and operational activities, at the Institute for Research in Humanities, research divisions are grouped into two departments: Humanities and Oriental Studies. The members of these departments are required to participate in joint projects, while at the same time pursuing their own research. The tradition of joint research has a long history, originating at the Institute’s predecessors, the Institute of Oriental Studies and the Institute of Humanistic Studies. After the integration of the three organizations and the restructuring of the new organization, however, such research began to play an even more important role in promoting interdisciplinarity and mitigating the negative effects of excessive specialization.

History of Facilities

As its main facility, the Institute for Research in Humanities initially used the building of the former Institute of Oriental Studies in Kitashirakawa. After the occupation forces returned the building of the Institute of Occidental Studies in Higashi Ichijo, this was used as a branch facility. The main facility housed the administrative office, research rooms for Oriental studies, and a related library; the branch office housed research rooms for Japanese and Western studies and related libraries. In the autumn of 1975, the branch in Higashi Ichijo was reconstructed into a new four-story building.

In May 2008, the Institute for Research in Humanities relocated its main functions to a building on Imadegawa Street, in the northern section of the Yoshida Campus.

Successive Directors of the Institute for Research in Humanities

The first director of the Institute for Research in Humanities was Takeo Abe, who began his service upon the establishment of the Institute in 1949. Directors who succeeded him are listed below.

Shigeki Kaizuka April 1, 1949 – March 31, 1955
Zenryu Tsukamoto April 1, 1955 – March 31, 1959
Takeo Kuwabara April 1, 1959 – March 31, 1963
Shikazo Mori April 1, 1963 – March 31, 1967
Kiyoshi Yabuuchi April 1, 1967 – March 31, 1969
Shikazo Mori April 1, 1969 – March 31, 1970
Kenji Kawano April 1, 1970 – March 31, 1974
Tatsusaburo Hayashiya April 1, 1974 – March 31, 1978
Kenji Kawano April 1, 1978 – March 31, 1980
Mitsuji Fukunaga April 1, 1980 – March 31, 1982
Shunpei Ueyama April 1, 1982 – March 31, 1984
Mitsukuni Yoshida April 1, 1984 – March 31, 1985
Seizan Yanagida April 1, 1985 – March 31, 1986
Minoru Takeuchi April 1, 1986 – March 31, 1987
Yujiro Ozaki April 1, 1987 – March 31, 1989
Yutaka Tani April 1, 1989 – March 31, 1991
Tadao Yoshikawa April 1, 1991 – March 31, 1993
Takashi Sakagami April 1, 1993 – March 31, 1997
Yuzo Yamamoto April 1, 1997 – August 31, 1999
Shoshin Kuwayama September 1, 1999 – October 31, 2001
Takashi Sakagami November 1, 2001 – March 31, 2003
Tokihiko Mori April 1, 2003 – March 31, 2005
Bunkyo Kin April 1, 2005 – March 31, 2009
Naoki Mizuno April 1, 2009 – March 31, 2011
Shigeki Iwai April 1, 2011 – March 31, 2013
Shinichi Yamamuro April 1, 2013 – March 31, 2015
Ryoichi Inami April 1, 2015 – March 31, 2017
Hiroshi Takagi April 1, 2017 –

As of April 1, 2017