The 2017-2018 Academic Year sees the 150th anniversary of Japan’s 1868 Meiji Restoration, an epochal political revolution that sparked Japan’s remarkable modernization, dramatic cultural transformation, and rapid emergence onto the global stage. To mark this historic date, the Centre for Japanese Research, the Department of History, the Department of Asian Studies, and the Asian Library at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC will partner to present a year-long series of events convening scholars of Japan from around North America to interrogate Japan’s position in global history along with the place of the Meiji Restoration in Japanese historical pedagogy.

The Meiji at 150 Project will be comprised of several series of events and projects. Firstly, the Meiji at 150 Lecture Series will bring a number of high-profile scholars of Japanese history to UBC over the course of the academic year. Starting in September, speakers will be brought to UBC to deliver public lectures. An additional speaker will also be invited to deliver the 8th Annual Department of History Burge Lecture.

Secondly, the Meiji at 150 Workshop Series will convene three workshops assembling historians, art historians, anthropologists, artists, curators, and graduate students from universities around North America and Japan to engage emerging methodologies and topics in Japanese studies. The first workshop in January 2018, entitled PhotographyModernityJapan” asks how photography as a medium can enable a different way to think of modernity in Japan. The second workshop, entitled “Built Japan: Environment, City, and Empire” will provide the first extended application of the spatial history methodology to the study of modern Japanese history. Scholars of Japanese urbanism, architecture, and geography will gather in February 2018 to survey how attention to the built forms and spaces of the Japanese empire – its architecture, materials, and natural and built environments – can lead to new historical understandings. Finally, the third workshop, in March 2018, “Gendering War and Peace in Modern Japan” welcomes scholars of Japanese history and literature to consider the transwar positionality of women and children, resisting the tendency to see 1945 as a breakpoint and instead analyze longer-term developments in years of both war and peace.

Thirdly, the Meiji at 150 Digital Teaching Resource will invite select scholars to produce “visual essays” to produce an open-source teaching aide utilizing underused collections at the UBC library. Each essay will pair visuals and illustrations with historical narrative and interpretive analysis, highlighting materials from the extensive archival collections in the UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections. Selected themes and topics will address modern Japanese history and connections between Japan and Canada, while targeting specific resources and collections at UBC. Part of this initiative includes the partial digitization of photograph collections and materials.

Finally, the Meiji at 150 Podcast Series hosted by Tristan Grunow will highlight the recent research and pedagogical approaches of specialists of Japanese history, literature, art, and culture. Topics covered will range from the position of the Meiji Restoration and Meiji Period in each scholar’s research, to how they view the significance of the Restoration in Japanese and global history, and finally to how they teach the Meiji Period in their classrooms.  The companion Meiji at 150 Student Podcast, meanwhile, spotlights students studying Japanese history on the UBC campus.  Students discuss selected aspects of Japanese culture and share their research findings, thoughts, and passion for anime, manga, food, music, literature, film, sports, and other facets of Japanese society and popular culture.

The Meiji at 150 Project will lead to increased collaboration between scholars at universities across Canada, Japan, and the United States, strengthening UBC’s ties to Japanese studies programs around the region in disciplines including, and beyond, history, as well as magnifying the presence of UBC and UBC’s Japanese collections in the field of Japanese studies in North America.

The Meiji at 150 Project is hosted by the Centre for Japanese Research, Department of History, and Department of Asian Studies with the cooperation of the Museum of Anthropology at UBC and the UBC Asian Library and would not be possible without the generous financial support of the Consulate-General of Japan in Vancouver, The Japan Foundation, Toronto, and the UBC Faculty of Arts.

For more information about the Meiji at 150 Project, contact us below.