Dear Friends and Colleagues, members of EAJRS,
The passage of time is relentless. It goes on threading its string of days, months and years at breakneck speed, and before we know it we are witnessing the unwinding of yet another year. Each year Christmas decorations seem to grow a little more exuberant than the previous year, belying the claim that we are going through a deep recession. In 2012 Japan luckily remained spared of any major natural disaster, but it did experience a fair measure of political turbulence. While it no doubt would be exaggerated to speak of the end of an era, the end of 2012 at least marks the end of three years of DPJ rule. The general election of 16 December returned the LDP, in alliance with the Kômeitô, to power. A new government, led by Mr. Shinzô Abe, is ushering in the new year. I wonder what stance the new government will take in regard to the funding of cultural and scientific exchange. The previous government's jigyô shiwake caused considerable headache.
At any rate, leaving government aside, 2013 will confront us with enough challenges. The community of Japanese Studies needs to respond to the challenges posed by the increased funding for Chinese and Korean Studies, while within the field of Japanese Studies itself the various expressions and genres of popular culture are commanding ever larger interest from students. Moreover, many scholars and librarians who started their professional careers in the period of fast expansion of Japanese studies, during the seventies and eighties, are now nearing the retirement age. A new generation has to take over, and needs to adapt to the new conditions and take on the new challenges. It is one of the missions of the EAJRS and related bodies to assist young scholars and professionals in Japanese resources in facilitating that transition. Access to the culture and the society of modern Japan and the building of new networks in these areas are some of the tasks lying ahead of us.
We are no longer librarians, but resource specialists and/or information specialists. This means that increasingly, these specialists need to be fully incorporated into the research units they are serving. They are active and irreplaceable members, and this is has thus far not been fully recognized. External reviews of research performance will increasingly have to look at the presence and performance of these information specialists when assessing research output. Scholars and specialists need to realise this more keenly than they have hitherto. Our activities can no longer remain outside the parameters of professional review and remain unrewarded. Looking back on the Berlin conference, everyone will agree that it was a resounding success. We heard a series of fascinating presentations, were shown a fine selection of rare books at the library and enjoyed an instructive tour at the Museum für Asiatische Kunst in Dahlem. Also the visit to the Mori Ogai Gedenkstätte, although we did not attend in great numbers, was most enjoyable. There was much opportunity for exchange and networking, and the vendors’ hands-on workshop was felt by everyone to be a meaningful and rewarding experience. The conference offered us the opportunity to welcome more participants from countries in Eastern Europe, as well as to get to know the situation in Germany itself better. Thanks to the funding of the Japan Foundation we were able to invite two speakers from Japan for the Nagasakigaku session, as well as five resource specialists from hitherto underrepresented countries. Moreover, we had a pleasant time during the traditional dinner in the Alter Krug in Dahlem, and were regaled at the Japanese embassy by His Excellency, Mr. Takeshi Nakane. We express our sincere gratitude to all of our members for joining us in such great number and for the contributions all of you made both in scholarly and convivial terms. A first-time Japanese participant at the conference in Salamanca once remarked that he was particularly charmed by the atmosphere of "book lovers," which pervaded the conference. I considered that a compliment and I believe that we have been able to keep that convivial mood alive throughout the subsequent conferences, certainly also in Berlin. We take this opportunity to thank the entire team of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin for their fine organisation, hospitality and generosity. Special words of thanks are due to Ms. Ursula Flache and Mr. Christian Dunkel from the Japanese Section. I also want to pay tribute to our loyal and resourceful (in various meanings) participants from Japan and Northern America. Over the years they have made a tremendous contribution to the quality as well as the conviviality of our conferences. EAJRS has roughly the same age and the same size as the North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources (NCC), and in the spirit of like-mindedness we have built a strong partnership over the years.
What has the New Year 2013 in the offering? The first event on the agenda will be the third Japan Specialist Workshop, organised jointly by the National Diet Library and I-House library, to be held in February 2013. EAJRS has been supporting this initiative, which has been acclaimed as a highly instructive and enriching learning experience. The 23rd EAJRS conference will be held in Paris, a city which, needless to say, has a lot to offer both in terms of academic resources and historical beauty. For a couple of years we had been hoping to be able to hold our conference in Paris, and 2013 is bringing us the fulfilment of that hope. The dates proposed by the Paris hosts are 18 September through 21, 2013. Do not forget to mark them in your diary. We apologize if these dates are inconvenient for some institutions who have their induction week in that time frame, but these were the only available dates.
We trust that hosting the conference in Paris will provide an extra incentive for resource specialists and scholars from France to attend in great numbers. Preparations are in full swing with Antony Boussemart coordinating an organizing committee, which includes Pascal Hurth (Bulac: Bibliothèque universitaire des langues et civilizations), Masako Hasegawa (Guimet museum), Nathalie Cazal and Kaoru Baba (College de France), Véronique Béranger (Bibliothèque nationale de France), Yoshinori Ichikawa (Maison du Japon - Cité universitaire internationale) and Yasuko D’Hulst (EHESS: Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes en sciences sociales).The overall title chosen for the conference will be “Preservation and transmission of the Japanese Cultural Legacy in Europe – the 24th EAJRS Conference, Paris 2013.” Just as we had a special session on Nagasaki studies in Berlin, the Paris conference will host a special session on Ryukyu studies, a field that would seem to have taken on added significance in recent years. Detailed information on the programme, accommodation and logistical matters will be made available in the course of January.
As you can see, we have something to look forward to in 2013. I hope to see you all in Paris. In the meantime, on behalf of the board of the EAJRS, we wish you and all who are dear to you a happy and fruitful New Year 2013.
W.F. Vande Walle Chairman EAJRS