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Research Activities-21st Century COE Program

Based on its original Shinto principles, Kokugakuin University has made great achievements in research and education, in the 120 years since its founding in 1882.
The 21st Century COE (Centers of Excellence) Program has been given the highest priority within the University’s 21st Century Research and Education Plan; the University’s aim within this program is to establish an institute to further the study of the basics of Japanese culture and disseminate the results of that research.
The religion of Shinto has been gaining increasing attention around the world. One of purposes of the new institute will be to promote high-level, international study of Shinto as a “basic culture” of Japan, and to publish those results globally, thereby qualitatively enhancing and stimulating the University’s overall structure of research. In addition, the institute will conduct advanced research on the origins and essence of Shinto, as well as on its actual status and function in Japanese history. By providing foreign researchers with research results (including interim reports), the institute will accelerate research delineating both the universality and particularity of Shinto and Japanese culture.
Since Japan’s entry into the modern period, most Western research on the Shinto aspects of Japanese culture has focused on so-called “classics” such as Kojiki (“Record of Ancient Matters”). At present, however, Harvard University, the University of London, and other leading institutions of higher education around the world are dedicating increasing attention to research on Shinto from a diversity of new approaches. Cultural and historical interest in Shinto is also growing in China, Korea and other Asian countries, and the number of researchers in these regions continues to increase. Sadly, however, a shortage of academic information on Shinto has prevented research from advancing as much as might be hoped. From this international perspective as well, the formation of this institute focusing on Shinto studies is to be welcomed.
As noted above, research in Shinto is becoming increasingly active both in Japan and around the world; it should be emphasized that an important expectation placed on the research into Shinto as a “basic culture” at the new institute will be to elucidate not only the particularity of Japan’s diverse and complex culture, but also the universal elements of that culture that can be appreciated throughout the world. For example, it is hoped that the research undertaken by the new institute will help uncover in Shinto core elements relating to the current theme of “coexistence of humans and nature”—a crucial topic around the world today, in that way stimulating even greater research, both in Japan and abroad, on the “basic culture” of Shinto that has existed since the prehistoric Jomon period.
In the context of this kind of global interest in and research on Shinto and Japanese culture, it will be essential for the institute not only to respond academically, but through that academic research to make an international cultural contribution by disseminating that spirit of Shinto that exhibits “tolerance and humility” yet without losing its sense of self-identity. It is that same Shinto—the basis of Japanese culture formed as the fi nal result of a wide diversity of domestic and international interactions—that represents the ideal of the University and this new institute. In that sense, research at the institute will possess not only academic, but also social and international signifi cance.