September 4, 2008

Josef Kreiner (Day 2, Part 1 of the Afternoon)

Josef Kreiner (Special Professor, Center for International Japan-Studies and Planning and Strategy Center, Hosei University; Professor Emeritus, University of Bonn)

Japanese Collections in Europe: Their role within the Japanese Studies and their significance for the Formation of the Image of Japan
     More than 500.000 items of Japanese arts and crafts including ethnographic material are
kept in national, royal or private European collections today. Lacquerware, screens, armour and porcelain kept in cabinets of curiosities (Kunstkammern) since the 16th century, or kimonos highly esteemed as objects of eveyday life, inspired the imagination of the Europeans and fostered a very positive image of Japan in the past. Often these early collections developed to form the fundamental collections of many national museums in the 19th century. The collection of Engelbert Kaempfer for instance was one such early example of a Japanese collection to join the British Museum. But Japanese studies, when it was established as a "new" academic subject around the mid-19th century, was largely conceptualised as philology. A century later its paradigm finally changed towards a more sociological approach, but the value and benefits these vast collections represent for the Japanese studies, is still being widely ignored.
     This regrettable situation was first highlighted by curators from museums, libraries and
archives from all over Central Europe at an international symposium hosted by the Institute of Japanese Studies, University of Bonn, in 1980. This was the birth hour of the European Association of Japanese Resource Specialists (EAJRS) and led to a research project on Ainu and Ryukyu/Okinawan collections conducted by the University of Bonn. As a further step, ca. 60 European museums (excluding Russia and the CIS) participated at an international symposium sponsored by the Toyota Foundation Tokyo in Königswinter/Bonn in 2003, to report on their Japanese collections. It culminated in the two-volume publication of the „Japanese Collections in European Museums“ in 2005 (a third volume is in print) containing the overview of 300 Japan collections that currently exist Europe. At this workshop, a platform of cooperation between European museums including ethnographic collections named „European Network of Japanese Art Collections (ENJAC)“, was established. A second workshop in Prague followed in 2006. Currently the University of Zurich is preparing the third forthcoming symposium, focusing on collections of Japanese Buddhist art.
     This lecture will firstly illustrate the history and present situation of Japanese
collections in Europe. It will then attempt to analyse their importance within the Japanese Studies and touch on the topic of the formation of the European image of Japan.