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Japanese Studies at The Hebrew University

Academic Activities

Teaching about Japan at the Hebrew University

Prof. Meron Medzini (Japan’s Wartime History)

Dr. Nissim Otmazgin (Japan’s Modern History, Japan’s Politics and Foreign Relations, Japan-Southeast Asian Relations, Research Methods in Japanese Politics)

Dr. Kinneret Noy, adjunct professor, (Japan’s Traditional History, Noh and Kabuki theaters)

Dr. Helena Grinshpun, adjunct professor, (Japanese Society, Consumption & Culture in Japan)

Dr. Sigal Ben-Rafael Galanti, adjunct professor, (Japan After the War)

Dr. Shalmit Bejarano, adjunct professor, (Japanese Traditional Art)

Dr. Ayelet Zohar, adjunct professor, (Visual Culture in Japan)

Language Courses: Prof. Andrew Plaks (Japanese and Chinese Texts), Dr. Kumiko Yaiyama, Ms. Noa Oppenheim, Ms. Anna Wolfson, Ms. Nikki Littman.


The 10th Annual Conference of Asian Studies in Israel

This conference was held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on May 24-26, 2011. The conference was, to date, the largest event of its kind to be held in the Middle East, having had 175 participants from around the world and 45 panels on Japan, China, India, Korea, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia (for more information see


Thirty six of the papers in the conference focused on Japan, with 12 of the presenters having come from Japanese universities and research institutions. These include Toda Masako (Tokyo University); Mizuno Norihito (Akita International University); Mikami Takanoro, Namami Akiko, Inoue Mika (Hiroshima Shudo University); Porkarier Christopher, Erez Golani (Waseda University); Johns Adam (Rikkyo University); Etty Gissis (Gakushuin University); John Breen (Nichibunken); Ueda Kiyoshi (Hosei University); and Doron Cohen (Doshisha University). The conference was made possible with the support of the Japan Foundation.



International Conference on "Cultural Industry and Cultural Policy in East Asia"

The conference took place at the Truman Institute in June 2009, supported by the Japan Foundation, with three of the participants having come from Japan. An edited volume based on this conference, entitled “Popular Culture and the State in East and Southeast Asia” was published by Routledge in November 2011.


Methodological Workshop for Young Japan Scholars

In this workshop, which has taken place annually since 2008,  young Israeli scholars (especially PhD students) researching Japan meet to discuss ways to overcome their methodological difficulties and to develop the theoretical parts of their research. In May 23, 2011, the 4th methodological workshop was held with the participation of Professor John Breen (Nichibunken) as guest speaker.


Japanese Book Collection and Database

Thanks to the generosity of private donors and the Japanese Embassy to Israel, and with the support of the Freiberg Centre for East Asian Studies, we have been able to build a collection of more than 3,000 books in Japanese, focusing on the topics of Japanese history, society, and language. The books are available for our researchers and students at a designated section in the library. We hope to further expand the collection and purchase a few important Japanese language data bases.


Thanks to a special donation from the Dr. Polonsky Fund, we have been able to secure 2 years access to “Yomidasu Rekishikan「ヨミダス歴史館」. This important database enables students and researchers to look for research materials in the Yomiuri Shinbun publications starting from 1874.


Recent Lectures Given by Foreign Scholars

1. H.E. Mr. Takeuchi Hirohisa, Ambassador of Japan to Israel: "Japan's Contemporary Foreign Policy".

2. Barak Kushner, University of Cambridge: "Dealing with the Devil: Analyzing Postwar Chinese Trials of Japanese War Criminals".

3. Ishida Kunio, Nanzan University: "Israel and Japan's Middle East Policy, 1952-56".

4. Maruyama Naoki, Meiji Gakuin University: "Japanese-Jewish Relations in the Turn of the 20th century".

5. Hosoya Yuichi, Kieo University: "Japan's Foreign Policy Under Hatoyama: Where Does Japan Goes?"

6. Marco Pellitteri, London Metropolitan University: "Manga in Europe: Models, Strategies, and Identities".

6. Eri Hotta, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies: "From Tea to Co-Prosperity: The Making and Unmaking of Japanese Pan-Asianism"


Scholarships and Exchange Programs Available for our Students

1. Monkasho Scholarship: Every year, Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences awards special scholarships for 4-7 exceptional Israeli students to peruse post-undergraduate studies or research in Japan.

2. Beit Shalom Scholarship: Awarded every year to a student at our department to study Japanese for one year at Doshisha University in Kyoto in exchange for teaching Hebrew at the local "Beit Shalom" community once a week.

3. Shillony-Blum Scholarship: Thanks to the generous support of Mr. Jim Blum and a matching fund from The Louis Freiberg Centre for East Asian Studies, starting from 2012 we will offer a $8,000 USD  research scholarship for an advanced M.A student to peruse a few months of research in Japan (visit archives and libraries, conduct interviews, access data).

4. Shinyoen Prize: Awarded every year to 6-9 outstanding students in Japanese Studies in appreciation for their achievements, and as a way to encourage others to follow in their example. 

5. Soka University Exchange Program: As a part of an exchange program between the two universities, every year one of our students is awarded a one year scholarship to study Japanese at Soka University in Tokyo.




Social and Cultural Activities

High Schools Project

Every year, students from our department volunteer to go to high schools in Jerusalem and teach an introductory class about Japan: its geography, some history and culture, and a few words. The purpose of this project is to reach out to new layers of Israeli society and introduce Japanese culture and society through interactive presentations given by outstanding students from our department. The program was highly successful in the first year (2009-10), with eight participating high schools in Jerusalem. With the support of the Japanese Embassy, we almost doubled the number of students participating in this program in the second year (2010-11), in nine high schools in Jerusalem. This year (2011-12), the numbers have surged: twenty university students teach introductory classes about Japan in twelve highs schools and youth movements in Jerusalem in front of approximately 1,200 high schools students.


Israel-Japan Students Conference (IJSC)

For the past sixteen years, students from our department majoring in Japanese studies have met with Japanese students interested in the Middle East. The Japanese students belong to a cross-university organization called “the Middle East Club,” arriving in Israel after participating in similar conferences with students from Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. The conference is organized entirely by the students, who participate in the meetings and invest their time and resources for the purpose of formulating ties of friendship between Israel and Japan through direct communication between students.


Calligraphy Workshop

For the past four years, Professor Usuda Taigen, one of Japan's most renowned calligraphers, has arrived to the Hebrew University accompanied by 4 of his aids to lead a five-day calligraphy workshop for our students. All the materials are sent from Japan at his expense. In 2009, 45 students participated, in 2010, this number reached 64 participants. In November 2011, Professor Usuda and his students conducted a fourth workshop at the Hebrew University with 45 participating students. Professor Usuda’s latest workshop was supported by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs.




Woodblock Printing Workshop

Funded by Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs, in December 2010, Professor Noda Tetsuya, a well known Japanese woodblock print (ukiyo-e) artist and winner of numerous important prizes in the field, lead a one week woodprints workshop to 15 of our students. The workshop included both theoretical and practical lessons, for which the materials were sent from Japan.


Japan Day

Every year, our students have organized a special day full of events related to Japan: lectures, workshops (origami, sushi-making, Japanese flower arrangement (ikebana), calligraphy etc.), and performances (tea ceremony, traditional dance, martial arts). This day usually includes a special ceremony granting prizes to outstanding students.


"Nippon" Students Club

A special club initiated and organized entirely by students interested in Japanese contemporary culture. The students belonging to this club occasionally meet to discuss their common interest and exchange views. They also organize special movie screenings and lectures on topics related to Japanese animation, literature, cinema, and music.


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