Dear EAJRS members, dear friends,
I am writing this message on the morning of New Year’s Day. All is quiet on the human front of ambition and contest. Most of the revellers are still asleep, no traffic jams, no queues. Quietness is all around. I hope that you have spent a pleasant and peaceful Christmas and end of year, and have safely and happily made the transition into 2016.
The year we have just seen off was less than quiet. It was a memorable year, although, admittedly, we say this of every year. All self-respecting media have aired reviews of the past year. They all seemed to concur that 2015 was the year of terrorist attacks, the war against ISIL, the migration crisis in Europe, but, to relieve the dismal picture a little, also of COP21. At the United Nations climate conference in Paris, the world agreed to keep global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (°C) compared to pre-industrial levels. The major challenge will be how to reconcile this target with demographic growth. According to current projections, the world population will continue to grow until at least 2050, when it may reach the staggering figure of 11 billion. Even with a temperature less than two degrees higher than pre-industrial levels, the ecological footprint of such number of people will be immense. I do not see how the present standard of living many of us enjoy now can ever be enjoyed by such number of people. Back in 1970 British folk-rock musician Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, sang “When you crack the sky, scrapers fill the air, Will you keep on building higher, 'til there's no more room up there?(…) I know we've come a long way, We're changing day to day, But tell me, where do the children play?” I found these words prophetic even back then, but the question is more pressing than ever.
But enough of this speculation about the future. Let me follow the example of the media and look back to 2015 from the limited viewpoint of EAJRS.
The EAJRS Leiden Conference marked the start of the second quarter century of its voyage. The unprecedented number of participants we registered augur well for the future. The success was in no small measure due to our keynote speakers, prof. Shinji Mine, from Mie University, and Ms. Fuyuko Matsukata, from the Historiographical Institute at Tokyo University. In addition, we were lucky to receive generous funding and/or logistic support from the Japan Foundation, the Isaac Alfred Ailion Foundation, Leiden University, in particular its department of Japanese Studies, the Netherlands Association for Japanese Studies, the Leiden University Libraries, the Leiden Institute for Area Studies, the Siebold Museum, Brill Publishing, and the Bibliotheca Thysiana. Arjan van der Werf once again showed himself a most alert and efficient secretary, while Nadia Kreeft played a monumental role as local organizer. If the Leiden conference has turned out to be a towering success it is in the first place thanks to her. The conference was also an occasion to get to know the situation in the Netherlands itself much better, while on a more personal level it gave me the opportunity to meet a few old Leiden-based friends, which gave the conference an additional touch of congeniality. There was much opportunity for exchange and networking, and the vendors’ hands-on workshop was once again felt by everyone to be a rewarding and instructive experience. There was only one regret, or rather an embarrassment of riches: we had received so many proposals for presentations that we had to turn down almost half of them. If this problem, if ‘problem’ it is, reoccurs in the future, we will have to adopt a dual system of presentation formats: the traditional presentation, and the poster presentation.
What do we have to look forward to in the year 2016? The EAJRS will continue to support a number of initiatives it has been supporting in the past. We have requested the National Institute of Japanese Literature to extend the much appreciated kuzushiji workshops. The EAJRS Conservation/Preservation Working Group is continuing its activities in the new year, with among others a lecture by Prof. Akio Yasue for the next conference of the Arbeitskreis Japan-Bibliotheken on 26 February 2016 at the University of Leipzig. On the working group’s website (http://koshohozon.wix.com/eajrsconservation) you can read about the issues, activities and projects it is concerned with.
In September the 27th EAJRS conference will be held for the first time in Bucharest. The title chosen for this edition is: “International Cooperation between Japanese Studies Libraries.” This title, chosen with the situation of smaller libraries in mind, is generic enough to allow for contributions from a wide array of viewpoints. The Japanese Language and Literature Department, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Bucharest will act as host, and Steluta Maxim, librarian at the Library of the Japanese Language and Literature Department will act as local organizer. Do not forget to mark the dates in your diary: from 14 through 17 September 2016. We hope the proposed dates are compatible with your agenda. Detailed information on the programme, accommodation and logistical matters will be made available in due course.
We are eagerly looking forward to the conference in Bucharest, and we hope to see you in great numbers in that fascinating venue. There remains much to be done to further the cause of EAJRS, and we count on your continued support and dedication. 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 2016.
W.F. Vande Walle, chairman EAJRS
Leuven, 1 January 2016