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The Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies sponsors ongoing workshops to deepen research, training, and collaboration among Harvard faculty, students, scholars, and institutional partners. Workshops bring together groups on a one-time or repeating basis and have contributed to a range of outcomes – from scholarly publications to conferences, to new initiatives.


The Heredity of Desire: Love and its Literary Contestations Across Boundaries of Tradition and Modernity

Date: December 13, 2019
Location: Harvard University

Workshop Organizer: David Atherton, Harvard University

Love and desire: we experience them with such immediacy, even as we recognize that their contours are shaped by moment, representation, and cultural norms. They occupy a central place in Japanese literature from the earliest poetry, but over the centuries, their representation in various genres also challenged conceptions of literature, gender, and morality. This workshop examined the contentious centrality of emotion, desire, and love in Japanese literary writing across the early modern-modern divide, focusing on their capacity to generate critical debates and to inspire complex gendered representations. Motoi Katsumata examined the reception of the (in)famous Heian poetess Ono no Komachi during the Edo and Meiji periods, drawing upon an array of genres to examine how her legendary reputation as a cruel beauty intersected with changing discourses of sexual morality to ignite debates over her sexual and literary virtue. Daniel Poch explored the clash between early modern and modern conceptions of "literature" within the novels of Natsume Sōseki, asking what consequences the intersection of the modern novel with older, didactic conceptions of literature held for Sōseki's representation of love, desire, and emotion (ninjō). Together, their papers asked us to rethink our understanding of the divide between Japanese tradition and modernity–both on the page, and in the heart.


Using the Japan Digital Disasters Archive in the Classroom
A Workshop on Teaching about Japan and about Disasters Digital Research

Date: December 6-7, 2019
Location: Harvard University

Workshop Organizer: Andrew Gordon, Harvard University

The Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies invited high school and college faculty as well as librarians in public or private libraries to a two-day workshop on using the innovative Japan Disasters Digital Archive for teaching on contemporary Japan.

The compound disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown of March 11, 2011, was unprecedented both in its magnitude and scope.

  • The earthquake and tsunami took nearly 20,000 lives and left over 2,500 missing.
  • The nuclear meltdown displaced several hundred thousand Fukushima residents from their homes.
  • The nuclear disaster sparked a major reassessment of the safety of nuclear power in Japan and globally. Study of the disaster and its aftermath offers a unique opportunity to engage students in learning about Japan and timely issues of significance far beyond Japan.

The 2011 disaster was also unprecedented in that a vast portion of the record and memory of the disaster was born digital and can only be accessed online. The Japan Disasters Digital Archive (JDA) is a cutting-edge digital collection for the record and memory of this event.

This workshop offered participants the chance to learn of the full range of functions and pedagogical uses of the archive, and to engage a wide range of important issues facing contemporary Japan and the world:

  • Cultural and artistic responses to the disaster
  • Sources of disaster resilient communities
  • Politics and policies of recovery and rebuilding
  • Long-term demographic trends
  • Politics of energy policy
  • Impact of long-term exposure to low but elevated radiation levels


The Idea of Antiquity in Modern Japanese Religious Culture   近現代日本の宗教文化と「古代」

Date: November 1, 2019
Location: Harvard University

Workshop Organizer: Helen Hardacre, Harvard University

Meiji Japan, while advancing toward modernization, at the same time turned its sight toward “Antiquity.” The most representative example of this particular outlook can be found in the Meiji Restoration motto “go back to the times of Emperor Jinmu,” which defined the aims of the new Meiji government. However, how did those post-Meiji Japanese concretely conceive their country’s antiquity, and what kind of images did they associate with it? As an attempt to answer this question, this workshop discussed the conception of antiquity based on the work of two prominent Japanese authors: Kokugaku scholar HIRATA Atsutane, who lived in the last period of the Tokugawa Shogunate and had a notable influence both in post-Meiji Shinto theology and in policy for enlightenment of the people during that time; and ANESAKI Masaharu, the scholar who laid the foundations of modern religious studies in Japan. This workshop also explored the different ways in which Antiquity has been represented artistically in different eras, from Edo period ukiyo-e paintings to contemporary Japanese pop culture. Through these approaches, this workshop discussed how “antiquity” was understood, imagined, and transmitted within Japan’s contemporary religious culture.



Prince Shōtoku: The Secrets Within

Shotoku Poster

Date: May 28, 2019
Location: Harvard University

Workshop Organizers: Rachel Saunders, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Associate Curator of Asian Art
Angela Chang, Assistant Director, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies

A gift of Walter C. Sedgwick ’69, the sculpture of Shōtoku Taishi at Age Two is not only one of the best-known and well-loved objects housed at the Harvard Art Museums, but also the oldest extant image of the putative father of Japanese Buddhism in the world. This sculpture is valued for both its aesthetic qualities and its mysteries within – a cache of 70 dedicatory objects, or nōnyūhin, discovered inside its hollow body cavity, undisturbed since their insertion some 700 years ago. Offering a unique opportunity for sustained and repeated examination, the entire ensemble has drawn intense interest from a wide range of scholars, spanning the disciplines of religion, art history, history, and conservation science.

This study day workshop, led by Dr. Rachel Saunders, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Associate Curator of Asian Art at the Harvard Art Museums, deepened the understanding of this important Buddhist icon. Coinciding with the exhibition opening at the Harvard Art Museums, the study day workshop featured presentations by Harvard faculty and several invited scholars, as well as a collaborative in-gallery conversation with Harvard graduate students.

Study Day Exhibition Workshop
Morning session I: Cultic Power in Early Japan
Morning session II: Reliquaries in Context
Afternoon session I: Sacred Paper
Afternoon session II: The Words Within: Interpreting “Shōtoku”
Closing Remarks by Melissa McCormick, Harvard University
Closing Discussion

Exhibition Opening Lecture

Open Gallery


What is IIIF? Having Fun with IIIF and Japanese Images

Date: October 11, 2018
Location: Harvard University

Workshop Organizer: Katherine Matsuura, Japan Digital Research Center, Harvard University

This hands-on, interactive workshop, supported by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and led by members of DARTH and Japan Digital Research Center, introduced participants to the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) and open-source IIIF image viewer Mirador. Together these tools support and enhance scholarly research for the web, digital exhibits, as well as course teaching materials.

Participants worked with a variety of digitized images (with special attention to Japanese demons, ghouls, and ghosts) located at Harvard and partnering IIIF institutions around the world. Topics included:

  • Core concepts of IIIF and why they are important
  • Retrieving IIIF images and importing them into a Mirador viewer
  • Learning how to use IIIF for creative projects


Myth and Ritual in Ancient Japan 「古代日本の神話と儀礼」

Daijōkyū, image courtesy of Kokugakuin University Museum

Date: September 20, 2018
Location: Harvard University

Workshop Organizer: Helen Hardacre, Harvard University

This workshop brought together five scholars from Kokugakuin University for presentations and discussions regarding enthronement ritual in Japan. Documentation attesting to the performance of these ceremonies originated in the late seventh or early eighth century, supported by archaeological evidence. The ceremonies took shape through the ancient period, arriving at a stable form that endured until the end of the medieval period, when warfare and social unrest put an end to large-scale imperial ritual, including the Daijōsai, the most elaborate segment of enthronement ritual. Revived during the seventeenth century, the ceremonies were greatly changed in the Meiji period, when Chinese and Buddhist elements were eliminated in favor of a purely Shinto format.

The presentations explained the structure of enthronement ritual, also introducing influential interpretations that link these rituals to the study of myth and literature. In addition, significant works of art depicting enthronement ceremonies, held at the Museum of Shinto, were introduced and discussed.