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The academic discipline and subject of Japanese Studies (in its linguistic-philological orientation also "Japanese Studies"; in the broadest sense formerly also Japanese Studies , today Japanese Studies from English Japanese Studies ) deal with the research and teaching of the language and culture of Japan in the historical development . The aim of the research discipline Japanology, supported by various methodological and theoretical disciplines, especially the humanities and social sciences, and the subject based on it, is a differentiated and at the same time holistic understanding of the Japanese language and culture.

Since the country opened up to the West in 1854, especially after the Russo-Japanese War (1904/05) and especially after 1945, Japan has moved more and more into the focus of Europe, America and finally the entire world. “Japanese Studies” or “Japanese Studies” or “Japanese Studies” means very different things from case to case. Focal points can be, for example, premodern culture and history, modern culture and history or politics and economics. Since Japan is largely explored through its linguistic evidence, practical training in modern everyday language and the media plays an important role. At some institutes there is also a classical linguistic-philological language training including the premodern language levels and various language and writing styles since the 8th century including the East Asian "Latin", the classical Chinese written language .

History of German-speaking Japanology

One of the founders of Japanese research towards the end of the 17th century was the German explorer Engelbert Kaempfer . Another “pioneer” of Japanology was Philipp Franz von Siebold , who, like Kaempfer, was active in the Dutch service ( Dutch East India Company ) in Japan. Emerging from Oriental Studies , academic Japanology established itself as an independent academic discipline towards the end of the 19th century, in the German-speaking area first in Vienna ( August Pfizmaier ) and Berlin ( Seminar for Oriental Languages ). Karl Florenz took the first chair for Japanese Studies in 1914 at the Colonial Institute of what later became the University of Hamburg .

In the First World War, Japan and Germany faced each other as war opponents. This explains why the two countries' external relations - including cultural ones - hardly played a role in the 1920s. A rapprochement only took place again under National Socialism. In the 1930s, a comparatively large number of Japanologists entered into a close relationship with the National Socialist system, which can also be seen in the subject matter and language of Japanese works from this time: In many cases, the aim was to strengthen the " Berlin-Tokyo axis " and the similarities between to positively highlight Japanese and German racism and nationalism . So was z. B. Shinto , which was reinterpreted as a nationalist ideology in Japan at the time, was also an important topic in German-speaking Japanology.

After the Second World War, German research on Japan concentrated again on politically harmless topics, in particular on research into traditional art and culture in Japan. That is why one occasionally spoke of a “tea house Japanology”. Even today, some of the German Japanologies can be assigned to this tradition-conscious branch. It is to the merit of classical Japanese science, among other things, to have opened up sources and, in particular, to researched the premodern culture of Japan. With the spread of Japanese studies at universities at home and abroad, especially in the United States of America , sub-disciplines of the humanities and social sciences have developed in Japanology, the spectrum of which today covers all important areas of cultural, religious, socio-political and economic life in Japan past and present.

A paradigm shift took place during the transition from classical Japanese studies to modern Japanese studies . This began at American universities when practical knowledge about the war opponent was needed. The philological analysis of premodern Japanese culture took a back seat. The methodology of various theoretical and comparative disciplines ( literary studies , linguistics , history , religious studies , philosophy , economics , political science , sociology , etc.) began to be applied to Japan more than before . The image of the Japanologist changed: from a generalist and interested layperson, who, in the positive case, had gained many years of personal experience in the country and covered a wide range of topics, to a specialist who acquired in-depth knowledge of a small area of ​​Japanese research. In the Federal Republic of Germany this transition is partly connected with the political and climatic changes of the late 1960s. At the same time, the economic upswing in Japan took place, which brought questions about the origins and problem areas of modernity to the fore.

Japanese studies in the German-speaking area today

About 40 professors teach the subject at 20 universities in the German-speaking area (Berlin FU & HU, Bochum, Bonn, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Erlangen, Frankfurt, Halle, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Cologne, Leipzig, Munich, Trier, Tübingen, Vienna, Würzburg, Zurich). In the case of a master’s degree, the standard period of study is nine semesters. In Germany there are currently around 5000 students studying Japanese Studies. Around 600 start their studies every year and around 90 students (about 75 percent women) complete their studies with a master's degree or doctorate, today also with a bachelor's degree (BA, for the subject of Japanese studies first introduced in Tübingen in 1993) or master's degree (MA). As for other philologies, the same applies here that the graduates after the final examination or after the doctorate are not yet qualified for a profession outside of the university. Participation in in-house training in companies, training in the diplomatic service, library service, etc. enables a good transition into professional life. Under such conditions, the professional opportunities here as in the other "regional science" subjects outside of Europe ( Arabic studies , Sinology , etc.) good, provided that experience was gained in Japan during the course (at least 1 year to obtain a BA). Alternatively, studying law, economics or another “practical” subject can be combined with studying Japanese studies.

Scientific Associations

Scientific Conferences

  • German-speaking Japanologist Days (every 3 years)
  • Conferences of the EAJS (every 3 years)
  • Annual meetings of the Association for Social Science Research on Japan


  • Klaus Kracht : Japanese Studies at German-speaking Universities, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 1990; ISBN 3-447-03064-X
  • Klaus Kracht u. Markus Rüttermann (Ed.): Outline of Japanology. (Izumii. Sources, Studies, and Materials on the Culture of Japan, Volume 7) . Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2001; ISBN 3-447-04371-7
  • Sepp Linhart : Japanese Studies Today. States - circumstances. University of Vienna 1993; ISBN 3-900362-13-0

Web links

Wiktionary: Japanology  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Werner E. Gerabek : The Würzburg doctor and natural scientist Philipp Franz von Siebold. The founder of modern research on Japan. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 14, 1996, pp. 153-160.