The University Record, October 22, 1997

Japanese Studies marks 50 years

Shamisen music performed by Takahashi Chikuzan II is one of the highlights of the Center for Japanese Studies' 50th anniversary celebration. Photo courtesy Center for Japanese Studies


By Rebecca A. Doyle

"Shhh!" said the government to the University in 1943.

The hundreds of American soldiers walking the streets of Ann Arbor "furiously writing invisible Japanese characters in the air" had caught the attention of the local media, who were catching on to what the government apparently thought of as a militar y secret--the presence of the Japanese Language School at the U-M.

By the end of World War II, more than 1,500 American soldiers had been trained in the language, and, with the language program as a base, the U-M founded the Center for Japanese Studies--the first program of its kind in the United States--in 1947.

The Center celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Historical documents and many photos are on display at the Bentley Historical Library this month, notes Center Director Hitomi Tonomura. Several special musical events also highlight the anniversary celebration. Shamisen music is offered by artist T akahashi Chikuzan II Nov. 7 at the Kerrytown Concert House and jazz pianist Keiko McNamara will perform Nov. 8--to close a celebration symposium--in the Museum of Art.

Initially a center for graduate study, including field work in Okayama, Japan, the Center began its undergraduate study program in the early 1950s. An expanded library, cross-cultural conferences and a joint "think tank" in response to the oil crisis of the 1970s occupied the Center during the next two decades. Joint automotive studies between the United States and Japan in the 1980s and the booming Japanese economy brought national attention to Japan, significantly increasing the number of publicat ions and lectures. In its 50 years, the Center has contributed much to the 236,000-volume Asia Library, the Asian Art Archives, the Japanese Art Slide Collection, prehistoric artifacts in the Museum of Anthropology, works in the Museum of Art and recordi ngs in the School of Music Library.

In the 1980s, to balance business and economics with arts and humanities, the Center began a film series, which has this year doubled the number of films shown in honor of the anniversary celebration.

Focusing this year on male idols of the Japanese cinema, films are shown at 7 p.m. Fridays in the Natural Sciences Auditorium.

Also in honor of the 50th anniversary, the Center has scheduled a symposium titled "Japan in the World; the World in Japan" Nov. 6­8 at the Alumni Center. Speakers include some of the original scholars at the Center for Japanese Studies and family me mbers of those scholars, as well as those who studied at the Army Intensive Japanese Language School.

The Center also sponsors a noon lecture series in the fall and winter terms in the Lane Hall Commons Room.

For a complete list of activities, films and topics of the noon lecture series, check out the Center's web page at http://www.umich.edu/~iinet/cjs/.