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Kabuki actor Nakamura Kyōzo performs “Shakkyō” for UCLA students in November 2019.

Ever since it was first established in 2014 as a collaborative project of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Waseda University in Tokyo, the Yanai Initiative has been working to realize a sustainable, equitable, globally interconnected future for the Japanese humanities.

As the steady decline of Japan’s population leads Japanese universities to welcome more students from abroad, humanities programs that have long played an essential role in the intergenerational transmission of specialized knowledge of Japan’s past have become small epicenters of globalization. Undergraduates from around the world show up on campuses across Japan eager to learn about Japanese literature, theater, film, art, and popular culture, but often without the basic linguistic skills they need to engage with materials in Japanese. So their universities create classes in English. Whole new departments are founded, staffed by professors capable of teaching nuanced, sophisticated classes in the increasingly ubiquitous global vernacular of English.

The Yanai Initiative was born of a concern about certain negative long-term effects this situation might have, and of an eagerness to build on the exciting potentials it holds out. If there is a risk that the value of knowledge and know-how accumulated over the course of generations within the Japanese academy may, little by little, be overshadowed in Japanese universities by other values, then let’s try to broaden the audience. Create more opportunities for scholars accustomed to working within relatively narrow lineages of transmission to share what they know with wider, more diverse groups of colleagues and students—and, at the same time, to learn a bit about modes of scholarship in other parts of the world. Counter one kind of globalization with another.

This is the core impulse that animates the Yanai Initiative’s activities. And while initially our efforts were directed primarily at academic programming and projects, over the years we have widened our focus to include not just research, but also the doing of culture—creating projects and programming intended for members of the general public..

As you will discover exploring this website, we have done, and continue to do, quite a lot. We host major academic symposia, support graduate student research, and create opportunities for scholars from different backgrounds and areas of the world to forge connections, even friendships. We have been helping to raise a new generation of literary translators of Japanese, and supporting important projects in literary translation. We organize events large and small relating to literature, performance, film, design, music, art, food, architecture. We create educational smartphone apps and other digital content. We work to make the Japanese humanities inclusive and equitable on a global scale.

UCLA

Michael Emmerich

Michael Emmerich

マイケル・エメリック

Director

Michael Emmerich is Tadashi Yanai Professor of Japanese Literature at UCLA, and has a joint appointment as Professor of Japanese Literature at Waseda University. A scholar whose work has dealt with premodern, early modern, modern, and contemporary Japanese literature, he is also the author of numerous book-length translations, the editor of two books for students of the Japanese language, and a prolific columnist for newspapers and magazines in Japan.

Elizabeth Leicester

エリザベス・レスター

Associate Director

Elizabeth Leicester joined the Yanai Initiative in 2022 as Associate Director. She brings over fifteen years of experience in managing the growth and expansion of academic programs, public outreach, and international partnerships, having previously served as Executive Director of the UCLA Asia Pacific Center. Elizabeth has a BA from Columbia University and an MA from Stanford in East Asian Studies, as well as a C. Phil. in Japanese History from UCLA. She has done research and translations on women and gender in early modern Japan and taught courses on East Asian history and culture.

Waseda

Michael Emmerich

Michael Emmerich

マイケル・エメリック

Co-director

Michael Emmerich is Tadashi Yanai Professor of Japanese Literature at UCLA, and has a joint appointment as Professor of Japanese Literature at Waseda University. A scholar whose work has dealt with premodern, early modern, modern, and contemporary Japanese literature, he is also the author of numerous book-length translations, the editor of two books for students of the Japanese language, and a prolific columnist for newspapers and magazines in Japan.

Toeda Hirokazu

Toeda Hirokazu

十重田 裕一

Co-director

Born in Tokyo. PhD. Toeda Hirozaku joined Waseda University in 2003 after previously working at Ōtsuma Women’s University. He has since served as visiting professor or researcher at many universities, including Columbia, UCLA, and Stanford. He has been awarded multiple prizes including the 26th Kubota Utsuho Prize and the 30th Higuchi Ichiyō Memorial Yamanshi Prize for Literary Research.

Yamazaki Sanae

Yamazaki Sanae

山嵜 早苗

Project Manager

Yamazaki Sanae is a Japan-based project manager for the Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities. Before joining the Yanai Initiative, she worked in systems engineering, marketing, and consulting. In her free time, she enjoys taking walks, doing yoga, and volunteering at sporting events.

Jōkō Yumi

Jōkō Yumi

上甲 由美

Project Manager

Jōkō Yumi has been serving as a Japan-based project manager for the Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities since 2015. In that time, she has helped facilitate many numbers of cultural events and programs, both academic and cultural. She feels that the lessons she has learned, the connections she has made, and the knowledge she has gained through this work have been some of the most meaningful of her career.

Edited by Michael Emmerich & Daisuke Miyao

04.1.24

Published by the Yanai Initiative

Now available for purchase!
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Edited by Michael Emmerich and Erkki Huhtamo

05.7.22

Co-published by the Yanai Initiative and the Japanese American National Museum

Copies may be purchased from the Yanai Initiative:
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By Kazushige Abe

07.27.23

Translated by Kerim Yasar

Published by Pushkin Press
with support from the Yanai Initiative

from Pushkin Press

By Kaori Fujino

07.27.23

Translated by Kendall Heitzman

Published by Pushkin Press
with support from the Yanai Initiative

from Pushkin Press

By Nishioka Kyodai

10.26.23

Translated by David Yang

Published by Pushkin Press
with support from the Yanai Initiative

from Pushkin Press

By Natsuko Imamura

10.26.23

Translated by Hitomi Yoshio

Published by Pushkin Press
with support from the Yanai Initiative

from Pushkin Press

By Enjoe Toh

02.29.24

Translated by David Boyd

Published by Pushkin Press
with support from the Yanai Initiative

from Pushkin Press

By Kumi Kimura

02.29.24

Translated by Asa Yoneda

Published by Pushkin Press
with support from the Yanai Initiative

from Pushkin Press