The study of Japan at Oxford University started in St. Antony’s college in the 1950s and the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies was established there in 1981, making it the sixth oldest of the colleges seven centres.
The Institute is located in the grounds of St. Antony's and consists of offices for staff and academic visitors, teaching rooms and a 150 seat lecture theatre. It also contains the Bodleian Japanese Library which is one of the principal collections on Japan in the UK. The Institute also runs MSc and MPhil graduate programmes.
The academic study of Japan was well established in Oxford University at the end of the 1970s when the Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. decided to provide a generous endowment which resulted in the creation of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies in 1981. The Nissan Benefaction initially provided funding for a political scientist, an economist, and a modern historian. In the 1990s a social anthropologist and another economist, were added to the complement and in 2007/2008 two sociologists. This strength in social science complements the focus on pre-modern history, Japanese language and literature that is found in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
The second endowment from Nissan, received in the early 1990s, not only funded the expansion of posts but also financed the construction of the Nissan Institute building in the grounds of St. Antony's College. This comprises of: offices for the institutes staff and academic visitors, teaching rooms and a 150 seat lecture theatre. It also contains the Bodleian Japanese Library which is one of the principal collections on Japan in the UK being particularly strong on social science.
Members of the institute contribute both to the undergraduate teaching in their departments and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies as well as supervising doctoral students. The institute has a long running Graduate Research Seminar which meets weekly during term-time providing an arena for discussion and exchange of ideas among graduate students studying Japan irrespective of their discipline of college affiliation.
In 2007 the institute launched a Masters Programme in Modern Japanese Studies that provides an intensive, advanced language programme plus options about Japan which are taught by members of both the Oriental and Nissan Institutes. The Programme has an explicitly academic focus and aims to train students such that they can go on to undertake doctoral research.
From its start in the 1980s the institute has organised a series of Nissan Seminars in Japanese Studies. It runs weekly in Michaelmas and Trinity terms and takes place on Fridays from 5.00 p.m. - 6.30 p.m. and in Hilary term it is held on Thursdays from 2.00 p.m. - 3.30 p.m. Each week we invite speakers with a national and international reputation in Japanese studies to present a paper about their current research. Members of the general public are welcome to attend.
Also, since the 1980s the institute has been responsible for the publication of two series about Japan. The Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies Series has now published more than 100 volumes making it the largest single series of academic work on Japan anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, the institute has also produced an Occasional Papers Series which has been used to enable papers first presented in the Seminar Series to reach a wider readership. The last paper published in this series was in 2010 and it is hoped to relaunch the series sometime in the future.