Dear Ms. Chairperson, Professor Abbiati,
Distinguished professors of the Department of East Asian Studies
Dear Dr. Loretti,
Dear participants, members of the EAJRS,
Welcome to the 17th Conference of the European Association of Japanese Resource Specialists, which is hosted this year by the Department of East Asian Studies of the Universita Ca’ Foscari di Venezia. At the request of the general meeting of last year, this year’s conference has no particular theme so as to accommodate the widest possible array of problems and issues, resource specialists and researchers are facing in their professional and scholarly pursuits. In the programme we have nevertheless tried to organise the presentations into nine sessions according to the field or general drift of their content. You will find that presentations on digital issues have been grouped in the earlier sessions, whereas presentations that relate to the traditional (for want of a better word) documentary resources or a particular topic of cultural historical importance have been placed in the latter sessions. Sometimes we have had to put a particular presentation in a less germane session due to the schedule constraints of the particular individual.
Needless to say that we are happy to have found a host in Venice, the city that was home to Marco Polo, who is particularly dear to the Japanese, if only for the fact that the way he referred to their country as Zipangu lives on to this very day in the different varieties of the word Japan in many Western languages.
The Ca’ Foscari university has almost 18.000 students. The university is named after the Foscari Palace, which is located along the Canal Grande, that Byron has called the most beautiful street in the world. The Ca’ Foscari University is the successor of the Royal Business School of Venice, which was founded by royal decree on August 6, 1868 by Luigi Luzatti, an economist and president of the Council during the Giolitti era together with Edoardo Deodatti. The school was based on the models of the schools of Antwerp and Mülhouse, which incidentally also served as a model for the present-day Hitotsubashi University. This model apparently combined economic disciplines with the study of languages. In the case of Ca’ Foscari the original scheme included the study of both Western and oriental modern foreign languages.
Although we call ourselves a European association, we have been very fortunate in having Japanese and American experts taking a strong interest in our activities. Participation from Japan, US and Canada has been limited in numbers, but has always been very expert and stimulating.
We all know that there are abundant resources in Japan, Northern America and Europe, but we have long tended to forget that China too holds considerable resources that are related to Japan. Japan related documents, paintings, drawings as well as objects and utensils have found their way to China both before and after the Meiji Restoration. Book traffic between China and Japan has an impressive history, and not only in the direction from China to Japan, but also vice versa. Although the history and topography of Chinese books brought to Japan has long been studied and written, and their present locations are well documented, it is only in recent years that efforts have been made to draw up catalogues of Japan related resources in Chinese collections.
At the same time, there remains a considerable amount of work to be done in Western Europe. A case in point is the Iberian Peninsula, where rich repositories of resources are to be found, as we learned two years ago in Salamanca. But even in Italy, many collections, although known, await further exploration, classification and study, a case in point being the Marega Collection at the Universita Pontificia Salesiana in Rome, about which we will be hearing a presentation during the conference.
As has been mentioned repeatedly in previous Newsletters, funding by the Japan Foundation has been a vital prerequisite to the activities and the survival of our association from the very beginning of its existence. Although in my greetings in former Newsletters, I have tended to be diffident about continued financial support from the Japan Foundation in the future, so far we have been enjoying continued support, including for this year’s conference. I am convinced that this is due to the recognition by the Japan Foundation of our unique mission, as well as of the sincere efforts made by participants to first draw on national or institutional financial resources before turning to the Japan Foundation.
Looking back to the Lund conference of last year, I am sure to represent everyone’s feelings when I say that it was a most fruitful and stimulating event, well organised and conducted in a congenial atmosphere and a charming city. We owe a great deal of debt to Mrs. Annie Troedsson, who unfortunately could not make it to Venice.
I have no doubt that the 17th conference will likewise be a very stimulating and rewarding experience .The conditions to realise this expectation are all in place, for our host, the Department of East Asian Studies, has been very co-operative and helpful in providing us with all necessary facilities. We owe a particular gratitude to its Director Prof. dr. Magda Abbiati, and the indefatigable Dr. Laura Moretti. We also thank them in anticipation for the reception they are offering us tonight in the library of the department at the Palazzo Vendramin.
I must not waste your time any further, but before I leave the floor to more worthy speakers, there are a few matters of practical concern that I need to share with you.
We have a request from the Japan Foundation. The Japan Foundation in cooperation with EAJS is presently conducting a comprehensive survey on Japan-related research in Europe, aiming to generate an overview of current research activities, to quantify the amount of effort invested in Japan-related research and to gain an initial idea of the qualitative aspects of the status of Japanese Studies in the various European countries. The survey is a follow-up to the 1999 survey and is to be completed in 2007. However, this time, it is being conducted online, in order to be able to keep the database up to date more easily. All researchers and institutions will be able to benefit from the survey, but only to the extent that everyone participates. Your cooperation as a Japan-related expert is very much needed!
As our contribution to this effort we will be mailing out questionnaires to our members. We appeal to our members who are based in Europe to cooperate by returning the questionnaires directly to the Japan Foundation us by the end of Oct. 2006.
Venice used to call itself La Serenissima. I wish you a most serene conference and a pleasant stay in this beauty cast in stone and sculpted in water.
W.F. Vande Walle