大学共同利用機関法人 人間文化研究機構 国文学研究資料館

A Message from the Director, Dr. WATANABE Yasuaki

2022kancho_caption.png Welcome to the National Institute of Japanese Literature( NIJL).
 The institute was founded in 1972, making this the 51st year since its establishment. This means that after the passage of over half a century, we are entering another new year of contributions to research in Japanese literature and other related fields. After a preparatory period, the NIJL began its library services in July 1977. Reflecting upon my own memories, only a year earlier, I had enrolled in my university’s Department of Japanese Literature and made my first visit to the institute, then located in Togoshi( Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo), on the advice of a senior. I remember my surprise at how easy it was to peruse—and even request copies of—texts and documents that I had only been able to access with great difficulty in the past. In the 40-odd years since, the range of materials offered by NIJL has dramatically expanded and the quality of its services has remarkably improved. In particular, the extensiveness of the institute’s databases is nothing short of astounding. Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening our very lives; it has placed significant constraints on our ability to research and access documents. Thus, it seems to me that the importance of such databases is a fact that is universally recognized now.
 The Database of Premodern Japanese Works has been a centerpiece among these databases. It was developed from the“ Project to Build an International Collaborative Research Network for Premodern Japanese Texts” (NIJL-NW Project), which the institute has taken a leading role in promoting since 2014. In March of this year, the Database was reborn as the Union Catalogue Database of Japanese Texts. The aim of this historical text network project, which is now within reach of being realized, is to produce image data for over 300,000 unique items, through collaboration with research facilities both in Japan and abroad. Building on this achievement, a successor project, titled“ Model Building in Humanities through Data-driven Problem-solving,” has been approved within the framework of the Ministry of Education’s 2020 Roadmap. This has led to the founding of the institute’s Center for Data-Driven Research on Premodern Japanese Texts last year. Going forward, we intend to chart a path how to effectively utilize these massive quantities of accumulated data. With such a goal in mind, we are pursuing a number of projects—on an international scale—in collaboration with various different fields, including the natural sciences. Such promotion of collaborative research, through the creation of a network of researchers spanning national divisions, is one of our institute’s chief tasks.
 No matter the type of information, it is ultimately us humans who use it, and also us humans who digest it, and make of it nourishment for our own intellect. As such, it holds no meaning to have treasures that are left unused.
 At present, many people are seriously asking what the humanities are good for. This is precisely why I believe our words and actions are necessary. For it is the classics that teach us how to keep our heads above water in a sea of information, the classics that show us the way forward when confronted with multiple different perspectives. Discovering previously unknown texts and documents from the past; bringing them back to life in the present by providing them in a manner that makes them accessible; demonstrating their value in a way that one and all can share—such is the mission entrusted to all those involved with premodern texts, and one in which it is our hope that our own institution will take the lead.

BACK TO TOP