About Us

N.B. This text was written in 1994.


The Netherlands Association for Japanese Studies (in Dutch: Het Nederlands Genootschap voor Japanse Studiën) was conceived in Zurich, in the margins of the first conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies which was held in that city in September 1976. The then Japanese Minister to the Netherlands, Kaneko Kazuo, one might almost say, herded together all Dutch participants of the conference into one of the many restaurants of this city, and here, under the influence of the spirit of unity and integration prevailing at the conference, and mellowed by the excellent food and wine, it was decided that we would establish an association for Japanese studies. It was no coincidence that Minister Kaneko took this initiative. For some reason the integration of Japanese studies in the Netherlands stood high on the agenda of the Japanese Embassy at that time. Not only Minister Kaneko, but also his superior, Ambassador Takashima Masuo, were greatly interested in this project. They had been pushing for it already for some time prior to the events in Zurich, and were also very helpful during the next several stages.

The next step on the road that led to the eventual founding of the association was taken in September 1976, when (in the words of Dr. W.H.M.Creemers, written in his preface to Philipp Franz von Siebold, A Contribution to the Study of the historical Relations between Japan and the Netherlands (The Hague, 1978), a "small group of people concerned with Japanese studies in the Netherlands agreed" that organising a lecture series might perhaps be a good catalyst to precipitate cooperation between the scholars involved in Japanese studies. This lecture series was duly held in the first half of 1977, and the results (the above mentioned booklet Philipp Franz von Siebold) were eventually published, with a subsidy of the Japanese Embassy and edited by Dr. Creemers, who was at the time himself employed at the embassy.

The final step, the official founding of the NGJS, took place at a meeting held in The Hague on June 30, 1977. The first board was composed of Prof. Dr. F. Vos (President), Prof. Dr. J.H. Kamstra (Vice-President), Drs J.A. Stam (Secretary), and Drs W.J. Boot (Treasurer).

Apart from the persuasive powers of Ambassador Takashima and Minister Kaneko there were good reasons to establish an association of this nature. In the middle seventies, an interest in Japan spread to all Dutch universities and the number of scholars and students had risen considerably. What used to be a very small, select group within the department of Chinese and Japanese Studies at Leiden University, where everybody already knew everybody and where consequently no need for further integration was felt, had suddenly branched out to a number of universities and museums, and also scholars who had no Japanological background were moving into the territory. It seemed worthwhile and useful to get all these scholars together in one group, for the exchange of information and research results, and for better coordination. In this aim the association has been successful. Membership is at present at circa seventy-five persons, and nearly everyone with a serious interest in any aspect of Japanese studies has become a member.

The nature of the association has always been that of an association of scholars. As the by-laws phrase it, "those who are active, within the Netherlands, in the field of Japanese studies in the broadest sense, and who through their activities and/or publications have shown themselves to be in concord with the aims of the association are eligible for membership therein". The aims of the association, also stated in the by-laws, are to stimulate interest in Japanese studies through organising lectures and symposia, and to stimulate research on Japan through raising funds and furthering publications. In practice we distinguish between a programme of lectures intended for a general public, which is organised in cooperation with the Netherlands-Japan Association, and workshop-like activities (reports on research in progress) intended only for the members of the NGJS.These are generally attached to business meetings that are held twice yearly. As a rule, the results of the lecture series should be published, and in the beginning this happened quite regularly. After the von Siebold volume we published Japan in Transition. Some views on the impact of the Meiji Restoration on the modernisation of Japan (Leiden, 1978/79), Modern Relations between Japan and the Netherlands (Leiden, 1981), and Women in Japanese Literature (Leiden, 1981). Mainly due to financial and editorial problems, later lecture series have not been published, at least not under the aegis of our association.

In the scholarly field, we have started our own series of monographical publications, called Nipponica Neerlandica, in which so far we have published M. Forrer, Eirakuya Toshiro, Publisher at Nagoya. A Contribution to the History of Publishing in nineteenth Century Japan (1985), Erika G. de Poorter, Zeami's Talks on Sarugaku. An annotated Translation of the Sarugaku Dangi, with an Introduction on Zeami Motokiyo (1986), W. Kuitert, Themes, Scenes, and Taste in the History of Japanese Garden Art (1988), and F. Lequin, The Private Correspondence of Isaac Titsingh, vol. 1 (1990) and vol.2 (1992). The series is published by Gieben Publishers, Amsterdam.

The association also has some funds to sponsor research in the specific field of the historical relations between Japan and the Netherlands and Rangaku. These funds, and the generous assistance of The Japan Foundation, enabled us to organise, together with the Yƍgakushi Gakkai and the Nihon Igakushi Gakkai, a joint Japanese-Dutch conference in this field, called "The Second Symposium on the Historical Relations between the Netherlands and Japan."

That, at this place where habit makes him expect a peroration of the retro- and prospective kind, the reader finds nothing of the sort, may be taken as an indication of the fact that seventeen years is in no sense a lustrum, and that, in our view, mada mada ichidanraku wa tsuite inai.

W.J. Boot

h.t. president of the Association