A typical Southern California day on the UCLA campus.

To create, preserve, and share knowledge—all this is a communal endeavor. And so, ever since it was first established in 2014, the Yanai Initiative has worked to bring together, from around the world, scholars, writers, artists, and others who engage, each in their own way, with the Japanese humanities.

Most often, we invite visitors to spend time on the UCLA campus. Over the years, we have hosted hundreds of individuals at various stages in their careers, and from all sorts of backgrounds. Some have visited for just a few days, coming to deliver a lecture or participate in a workshop or seminar; others have stayed for a full ten-week academic quarter.

Early on, most of our long-term visitors were professors and advanced graduate students based at Japanese universities. We have also welcomed, however—and continue to welcome—people active in other areas of the humanities, including writers, translators, critics, artists, musicians, designers, and architects. And since 2020, when the Yanai Initiative expanded its activities, we have broadened the geographical range from which our visitors come, as we strive to forge and sustain connections among scholars of the Japanese humanities around the world. At the same time, we have also begun hosting short-term visitors at Waseda University.

Helping to shape the future of the Japanese humanities by supporting M.A. students, Ph.D. students, and recent Ph.D. graduates is among the most important of the Yanai Initiative’s activities, and a crucial part of its commitment to fostering diversity in the field.

The fellowships we provide to current Ph.D. students are limited to those enrolled in the UCLA Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and the Waseda Graduate School of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. We also offer one fellowship each year for recent Ph.D. graduates from other universities around the world: the Yanai Initiative Guest Junior Researcher Fellowship / Research Fellow at Waseda. Applications for these fellowships are accessible through the "

" page in the menu to the left.

Participants in the Japanese-English Section of the 2023 BCLT Translation Summer School
Photo: Anita Staff

The future of Japanese literary studies as a global discipline depends, first and foremost, on the continued publication of powerful, engaging translations and retranslations of Japanese literature. This includes not only contemporary works, but also those from the modern, early modern, and premodern eras. It includes, as well, not just fiction, but also criticism and other nonfiction.

Translations make it possible for those who teach Japanese literature, and the Japanese humanities more broadly, to welcome into their classrooms students with no prior knowledge or experience of the Japanese language. They are one of the keys to a more diverse and dynamic future for this field. When the Yanai Initiative began expanding its activities in 2020, then, one of the first things we did was to begin working to shore up the ecology of translation from Japanese into English—dreaming, at the same time, of a time when we could work to promote translation into other languages, as well.

If we hope to ensure the availability, a decade or two from now, of a steady stream of translations from Japanese into English—or, eventually, into other languages—the first step is to cultivate the next generation of translators. In partnership with venerable organizations such as the British Centre for Literary Translation, the National Centre for Writing, and the American Literary Translators Association, the Yanai Initiative has been throwing itself into this task in a variety of ways: sponsoring summer schools and mentorships that allow translators to hone their abilities while forming valuable connections, but also joining with publishers to create opportunities for emerging translators to prove themselves, opening the door to future translation work. As always, we aim through these activities to expand and diversify the field.


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