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Oriental Studies – Japanese Studies

Japanese studies in Poland date back in their origins to July 1919, when Bogdan Richter, a graduate of Oriental Studies at the University of Leipzig, organized a Japanese language course at the University of Warsaw just a few months after Poland regained independence. In 1922, he established the Department of Far Eastern Culture at the Faculty of Philosophy, where he lectured on China and Japan. The first Japanese native speaker to teach Japanese at the University was Umeda RyochO (1926-1928).

In the academic year 1933/1934, Baron Mitsui Takaharu, on a visit to Poland with his wife, made a generous donation to the University. It enabled the Institute of Oriental Studies to fund a seminar on Chinese studies which included some Japanology courses. The supervisor of the seminar was Jan Jaworski, with Witold Jab+onski as his assistant. One of their students was Wies+aw Kotanski – the future pioneer of Japanese studies in Warsaw and Poland, tutor of several generations of Japanologists, outstanding specialist in many aspects of Japanese culture, especially Japanese language and religions.

Prof. Kotar’lski created an independent Section of Japanese Studies in 1956, at first a unit of the Department of Chinese Studies, then of the Department of the Far East (1975-1990) and finally, starting from 1990, of the Department of Japanese and Korean Studies (since 2015, Chair of Japanese Studies).

There are more than 200 students at the Chair of Japanese Studies at present, enrolled in three-year first-cycle courses (stationary and non-stationary) and in two-year second­ cycle courses (stationary and non-stationary). Outstanding students can apply for scholarships in Japan, granted on the basis of several exchange programmes with Japanese universities. The first exchange agreement was signed with the renowned University of Tokyo in 1979.

With the help of donations from the Japanese government, public and private institutions and numerous individual donors the library of the Section was greatly expanded. A donation made by the late Takashima Koichi, former president of Kyoei Steel, led to the establishment of the Takashima Foundation in 1993. The Foundation supports the development of Japanese studies at the University of Warsaw. Thanks to Mr. Takashima and his sister Mrs. Kazuko, the Section installed a fine traditional tea ceremony room in the Library of the University of Warsaw, honoured in 2007 and 2010 by visits and lectures of Sen Genshitsu, the 15th Grand Master of Urasenke- one of the main schools of Japanese tea ceremony.

Japanese institutions have repeatedly acknowledged the contribution made by the Warsaw University Section of Japanese studies to research and fostering the awareness of the Japanese culture in Poland, more notably by presenting us with the Japan Foundation Award and the diploma of the Foreign Minister of Japan.

The most memorable and important event in the history of the Chair of Japanese Studies was the gracious visit of Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress of Japan, who met with our staff and students in July 2002.

The Chair of Japanese Studies conducts research in the following fields:

  • Japanese literature
  • History of Japan
  • Japanese traditional and popular culture
  • Japanese culinary culture
  • Japanese religion and philosophy
  • Aesthetics and art of Japan
  • Japanese language and linguistics
  • Classical Japanese language
  • Japanese theatre
  • History of Polish-Japanese relations
  • Political and social issues of Japan

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