‘Heidelberg Is My Spiritual and Academic Home Away From Home’
Dr Jotaro Kuno, historian and Japanese scholar at Doshisha University in Kyoto/Japan
Several research stays at the Institute for Japanese Studies and the University Archives; a HAIreconnect stay at the Institute for Japanese Studies in the summer of 2019
You returned to Heidelberg in the summer of 2019 for a HAIreconnect stay – why did you apply for a fellowship?
As a historian, I am currently investigating academic relations between Heidelberg and Japan. Since Heidelberg had a significant influence on the academic development of modern Japan, I would have had to come here for research even without the HAIreconnect programme. When I attended the Research Alumni Network conference in Kyoto in April 2018, I learned about the HAIreconnect programme, which seemed to suit my purposes perfectly, so I submitted my application. And Prof. Judit Árokay of the Institute for Japanese Studies, who had invited me several times as a visiting researcher, supported my application.
What were your experiences in Heidelberg?
I found and evaluated a wealth of material on former Japanese students that was very valuable for my research. I also frequently consulted with my colleagues at the Institute for Japanese Studies or with other Japanese researchers and was able to launch a new joint project with some of them. For myself and for my research, it was a valuable experience to share ideas – subject-related and otherwise – with researchers and students from other countries. Heidelberg also became my home base for trips to various cities like Munich, Vienna and Paris, where I toured museums and churches. I especially enjoy European art, so that was a lovely experience.
What did you like best about your stay, and where do you see room for improvement?
Heidelberg is my spiritual and academic home away from home. The staff at the institutions who supported me in my work were very nice and always willing to help. And the Old Town, with its historic ambiance and picturesque surroundings, offered an ideal research environment. As for improvements, it would be great if visiting researchers, even if they are only staying in Heidelberg for three months, were able to borrow books from the library, instead of just viewing them on site.
How did your career continue after your time in Heidelberg?
I am currently an associate professor at a Japanese university, but I intend to continue my research with the valuable experience I gained at Heidelberg University.
How do you rate the German scientific community compared to your home country or other countries in which you have conducted research?
In the German university system, students can acquire comprehensive knowledge not just in a major subject, but also in a minor one; that is different from Japanese universities. Also, institutes can freely choose what kind of research they want to pursue, which allows for more efficient and more wide-ranging investigation. In my opinion, that is one reason why research in Germany is more original and more creative.
How important do you think international exchange is for scientists?
I think that historians in particular should be open to this experience, because international exchange allows you to see your own history, culture and ideology from an outsider’s perspective. That is what makes international exchange so important in my eyes.
How do you rate the opportunities offered by the Research Alumni Network – do you make use of them?
I would like to continue using the network for my research, because I think it offers an excellent opportunity to broaden my horizons. I have also agreed to become a Research Ambassador for the HAI network.
What are your plans for the future as a Research Ambassador for Heidelberg?
I am planning to give a lecture at Kyoto University – with the support of the Heidelberg office in Kyoto and Heidelberg Alumni Japan (HAJP) – in which I want to present my research at Heidelberg University and its findings.