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Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies


The Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies is a research center serving scholars in all disciplines whose main area of study focuses on premodern Japan. 

The Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, founded in 1968 at the University of Pennsylvania and now located at Columbia University, is an international liaison and research center designed primarily to serve European and American scholars in all disciplines whose main area of study focuses on premodern Japan. The overall purpose of the Institute is to encourage both individual and collaborative research especially on neglected aspects of Japanese civilization relative to the medieval period (primarily, but not exclusively the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, 1185-1600), centuries which, until the 1970s, had received scarce attention by Japanese and Western scholars alike.

The aims of the Institute are:

  1. To identify European and American scholars conducting basic research in medieval Japanese studies, to encourage communication among them and to raise funds and take initiatives that will facilitate advancements in their basic research.
  2. Specifically, to organize and encourage colloquia, conferences, and other collaborative efforts, either independently or in conjunction with other organizations or networks of scholars so as to facilitate close contact among Japanese and Western scholars and students working in all disciplines of premodern Japanese studies, and in so doing, to encourage research especially on aspects of medieval Japanese society as yet inadequately studied.
  3. To re-locate medieval Japanese illuminated manuscript books and scrolls that found their way into foreign collections before scholars in Japan could study them, so as to catalogue, photograph, and publish such primary source materials.
  4. To create archives of microfilm and other photographic copies of illuminated medieval religious and literary texts held outside of Japan and usually inaccessible to scholars so as to provide a library center for the study of these materials.
  5. Currently, to carry out the on-going "Imperial Buddhist Convent Research Survey Project," established in 1993, which is designed to locate and make available to scholars worldwide information about as well as heretofore unexamined documents from convent archives, so as to resurrect the lost history of religious women in Japan.
  6. Since 2000, in conjunction with #5 above, to initiate and carry out, with the cooperation of Japanese and American foundations, much needed historical restoration and conservation of the few Imperial Buddhist Convents of Kyoto and Nara still extant, their buildings, gardens, historical documents and art treasures contained therein.
  7. Since the late 1990s, the Institute has devoted considerable effort to developing the one area of Japanese humanities almost totally missing from Western academia: classical Japanese music. To this end in 2006 it joined forces with the Center for Ethnomusicology of the Music Department at Columbia University to establish a Gagaku-Hōgaku Music Curriculum and Instrumental Training Program, the only one of its kind in the USA. It supports as well a Mentor-Protégé Program whereby promising gagaku student musicians at Columbia are sent to Tokyo for intensive instrumental training for six weeks each summer.

The facilities of the Institute are available to all scholars and students of premodern Japan from any academic institution. Scholars who are supported by their own research funds are welcome to spend extended periods of time using the archives of the Institute. Letters of inquiry should be addressed to Director, Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, 509 Kent Hall, MC 3906, 1140 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027.


  • Professor Emeritus of Japanese, Director in East Asian Language and Culture