Professor Atsuhiko Wada’s Visit to UBC Libraries
by Tsuneharu Gonnami
On February 6-8, 2008, Professor Atsuhiko Wada of Waseda University’s School of Education visited UBC to conduct research on Japanese Collections in Canada. Professor Wada, who won the 2007 Award of the Japan Library and Information Society for his book, Shomotsu no Nichi-Bei kankei: Ritarashi shi ni mukete (The Japan-US relationship viewed from book circulation: toward [the] literacy history) (Tokyo: Shinyosha, 2007), is chronicling the post-war migration of Japanese books to the USA, where they found their way into the collections of various US institutions.
Who acquired these Japanese books, how and when were they delivered, and for what purposes have they been used? How was the habit of reading Japanese books originally formed in the environment of North America? As there is no appropriate single word to describe these issues collectively or holistically, Professor Wada created the term “Literacy History.” In The Japan-US relationship viewed from book circulation, Wada arduously traced the historical path of about a dozen major Japanese Collections in American institutions from a Literacy History viewpoint.
Having pioneered the field of Japanese-US relations with regard to Japanese libraries and their readers in America, Professor Wada is now looking to expand his research field to Canada. In the future, he hopes to publish a new book on Japan-Canada relations viewed from book circulation, or a revised version of his current book, which will encompass Japanese collections throughout North America.
When the Pacific War broke out on December 7, 1941, North American time, high officials at the US Ministry of Defense and Ministry of State were shocked to find that they had minimal library and information resources on Japan at their disposal and very few people in the USA who were able to read and analyze Japanese written materials. As this was a very serious national security issue in wartime, they promptly established Japanese language schools for both the Army and Navy, recruiting first-class university students with a talent for foreign languages, in order to quickly produce intelligence officers. Upon graduation, these information officers were dispatched to the front line of the Pacific Campaign where they engaged in questioning Japanese POWs and deciphering captured military information. In the post-WWII era, many of these military intelligence officers were transferred to the private sector and some became academics in the field of Far Eastern studies. The US Government provided rich scholarship funds for this area of research, which was a strategic area of interest to the USA during this tense Cold War period. Many Japanese Studies experts emerged in the USA as a result of this financial support. In addition, the above-mentioned Japanese Collections at major US institutions flourished in the post-war era, as did mutual exchange programs between American and Japanese intellectuals as well as library books. To draw a modern-day parallel, present conflicts in the Middle East have created a similar need for Arab language experts in the USA and the US government has once again set up generous scholarship funds to produce university graduates who are fluent in Arabic. Graduates of these intensive Arab language programs are immediately hired either by the US Military or by its subsidiary civilian military companies.
Professor Wada’s Visit to UBC
Professor Atsuhiko Wada’s visit to the UBC Libraries marked the first case study of his Canadian field research. The visit was hosted by Professor Emeritus John F. Howes, formerly of the Japanese Study Program in UBC’s Asian Studies Department, and I, Tsuneharu Gonnami, East Asian Librarian Emeritus, formerly of the Japanese Collection of the Asian Library at UBC. Professor Howes is one of former language officers who had undergone intensive training at the US Naval Japanese Language School at Boulder, Colorado during WWII. After the War he spent the first few years in the latter half of 1940s serving as a civilian at the General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander for Allied Powers (GHQ-SCAP) in Tokyo. In the early 1950s, he returned to the USA and began his MA and PhD in Japanese Studies at Columbia University. There, he studied Japanese history under Sir George Sansom and learned Japanese literature from Professor Ryusaku Tsunoda. As a Fulbright scholar, he went overseas in order to further pursue his graduate research on the history of Japanese Christianity in the Meiji period, studying at the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University. In 1965, he submitted his Doctoral thesis on Uchimura Kanzo (1961-1930), a representative Japanese Christian in Meiji Japan. His recent book entitled Uchimura Kanzo (1861-1930): Japan’s Modern Prophet, published in 2005 by UBC Press, was based upon his PhD thesis, but fully revised. When prominent Japanese writer Yukio Mishima visited New York for the first time in 1957, Howes, then a PhD candidate, was the one to show him around New York City. This event is described on pages 29 and 33 of Mishima Yukio mihapphyo shokan: Donarudo Kiin shi ate no 97-tsu (97 correspondents from Yukio Mishima to Donald Keene – not yet made public) (Tokyo: Chuo Koron Shinsha, 2001) (Chuko Bunko).
On the morning of Professor Wada’s arrival on February 6, 2008, I showed him around the Asian Centre (formerly the Sanyo Pavilion from the 1970 Osaka World Exposition), Nitobe Memorial Japanese Garden, The Institute of Asian Research, the Japanese Collection of the Asian Library, and other sites of interest. After that the three of us had lunch at the University Gathering Centre and Professor Howes gave him an overview of the various Japanese Studies Programs that have been offered at UBC from 1960 until the present day. As the author of Nitobe Inazo: Japan’s Bridge Across the Pacific, Professor Howes also talked about the interesting relationship between Dr. Inazo Nitobe and Dr. Norman MacKenzie, two eminent scholars and international public servants representing Japan and Canada, respectively, with regard to the Study of Japan at UBC.
Former UBC President Dr. Norman MacKenzie (1894-1986) was one of first to encourage Japanese Studies at UBC. In the 1920s he was the Canadian representative to the League of Nations (LN) and an intimate friend of Dr. Inazo Nitobe, who served the LN as Under Secretary-General at that time. Nitobe and MacKenzie maintained their friendship for many years via long-distance correspondence after both had returned to their home countries. Upon returning to Japan in mid-1920s, Nitobe was appointed as Chairman of the Japan Chapter of the Institute of Pacific Relations, a non-governmental international peace organization on Pan-Pacific affairs. In this capacity, he chaired and organized the 1929 Conference of IPR in Kyoto. MacKenzie was also an active member of the Canadian Chapter of IPR. In 1933, Nitobe stopped in Vancouver, BC on his way back to Japan after attending an IPR Conference in Banff, Alberta. Nitobe was working for better understanding between Canada and Japan by addressing public meetings in the interest of peace over the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately he suddenly fell ill and passed away in Victoria, BC on October 15, 1933. At that time MacKenzie was teaching at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. He immediately began collecting donations from many of Dr. Nitobe’s long-time friends in Europe and North America in order to construct a memorial monument in recognition of his friend’s distinguished international public services. The four-metre stone lantern, specially ordered and produced in Japan and erected on the UBC campus in 1935, contains a plaque with an inscription that reads, Nitobe Inazo (1962-1933). Apostle of Goodwill Among Nations. Erected by Friends. During WW II, the monument had been vandalized by hooligans. The memorial plaque of Nitobe was torn from the lantern and thrown into the nearby bush. This traditional Japanese stone lantern is now well preserved in the Nitobe Memorial Japanese Garden at UBC, which was initiated by MacKenzie and constructed in 1960 with the co-operation of the Japanese-Canadian community and others. Many visitors to the Garden have been impressed with an authentic Japanese garden landscape designed by Prof. Kannosuke Mori at Chiba University and also by Nitobe’s motto to become a “bridge over the Pacific.”
In the afternoon, the three of us – Professor Wada, Professor Howes and I – moved on to the Centre for Japanese Research located in the C.K. Choi Building of the Institute of Asian Research and continued to have our discussion on issues concerning Japanese Studies at UBC.
The second day of Professor Wada’s visit to UBC on February 7, 2008 was devoted to his documentation research of administrative historical materials of UBC Libraries in the University Archives, which are located at the newly-built Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKBLC) that was constructed in 2008 around the original UBC Main Library built in 1925. Wada seemed satisfied with the identification of the international exchange records between Canadian and Japanese Government Publications (JGP), as well as other acquisition records of old and rare Japanese collections.
In the evening, Professor Wada and I had dinner at a Japanese restaurant near UBC, where I outlined the history of the following Japanese Collections at UBC Libraries from 1959 to the present: a) The Japanese Collection including JGP of the Asian Library, b) The Japanese Legal Collection of the Law Library, c) The Japanese School Texts Collection of the Education Library, d) The Japanese Fine Arts Collection of the Fine Arts Division of UBC Library located at IKBLC, and e) The Japanese-Canadian Historical Collection and the Early Japanese Map Collection of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of UBC Library located at IKBLC. Due to time constraints, I could not explain all the details of each collection, so I referred him to my paper entitled Japanese Collections at UBC Libraries: A Retrospective Overview (1959-2002), Journal of East Asian Libraries, No. 131 (October 2003), pp. 51-67, and its Japanese version, Buritisshu Koronbia Daigaku Toshokan Nihongo zosho: Kaiko gaikan (1959-2002), Daigaku Toshokan Kenkyu, No. 79 (March 2007), pp. 53-61.
The Japanese Collection at UBC began in 1959 when the UBC Library became the Canadian Depository Centre for the Japanese Government Publications (332 volumes).
In 1960, the former private collections of two prominent British and Canadian Japanologists, Sir George Sansom (300 volumes) and Dr. Herbert Norman (400 volumes), were added to the UBC Japanese Collection. In 1961, Japanese books (about 400 volumes) of the Institute of Pacific Relations’ Library were also transferred to the UBC Japanese Collection. The Japanese Collection has grown from a mere 1400 volumes in 1960/61 to approximately 155,000 volumes as of 2008. The Collection has played an integral role in supporting various Japanese Studies in the field of Humanities and Social Sciences at UBC.
A librarian’s professional role is not limited to daily duties of collection development, technical processing work and reference services, but also covers extended research projects, such as preservation projects, compiling book catalogues and bibliographies and participating in multi-disciplinary symposia. On April 28, 1999, I was invited to a panel discussion organized by the Japanese Culture and Communication Program at Simon Fraser University, Harbour Centre, on eminent Canadian diplomat and scholar of Japanese history E. Herbert Norman (1907-1957), as part of the premiere screening of The Man Who Might Have Been: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Herbert Norman. As a custodian of Norman’s collection of Japanese books at the UBC’s Asian Library, I was honoured to discuss the bequest of his books, courtesy of his widow, Mrs. Irene Norman. Norman’s former private collection of Japanese books, as well as books by and about Norman in Japanese, are kept by the Asian Library, and E. H. Norman archival materials are housed at the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of UBC Library located at IKBLC. In 1948, when Norman was invited by Keio University in Tokyo to deliver a speech entitled Persuasion or Force: The Problem of Free Speech in Modern Society, he concluded with these words:
“The world is tired of war and force. Not only as between different classes in a nation, but as between nations themselves, force must give way to persuasion and reason if the world is not to retrogress fatally.”
It is evident, in light of current international conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel, that the world has not changed much since Norman was active in diplomatic service in the 1950s. We are still looking for a genuine world concept and a practical new order built on multi-culturalism and multi-lateralism to facilitate the co-existence of diverse peoples. This is a concept with which Canada has been experimenting domestically and externally over the past six decades. Though it has yet to be perfected, many of us are hopeful that peaceful co-existence will someday be realized. For librarians around the world who collect, preserve and supply products of human intelligence and creativity, the ultimate objective would also be to contribute to a multi-cultural world in which free distribution of knowledge and freedom of expression could be guaranteed.
On February 8, 2008, the last day of Professor Wada’s visit to UBC, he spent the whole day in the University Archives of UBC Library at IKBLC. Unfortunately, he did not have time to investigate the Japanese-Canadian Historical Collection and the Early Japanese Map Collection in the Rare Books and Special Collections Division. He may do so when he returns to Canada on a future research trip. Next time he also hopes to visit the National NIkkei Heritage Centre (Nikkei Place) in Burnaby, the Vancouver Japanese Language School located on Alexander Street and former Japan Town on Powell Street in downtown Vancouver. He also says that he would like to venture to other Canadian cities such as Toronto and Montreal when he makes his second research trip.
While he was here, I had the great pleasure to introduce Professor Wada to my two old friends, Yuzo Ota, Professor of Japanese History who has been teaching at McGill University in Montreal since the mid-1970s, and Norihiro Kato, Professor of Modern Japanese Literature, formerly at Meiji Gakuin University and presently at Waseda University. Professor Kato started his career as a reference librarian at the National Diet Library in Tokyo, from where he was dispatched to the University of Montreal in the late 1970s. Being a graduate of French Literature from the University of Tokyo and having a good command of French, Kato helped build up the Japanese Collection at the University of Montreal. He has also been active as a Japanese literature critic and was in charge of the Bungei Jihyo (Comments Column on Contemporary Literature) of Asahi Shinbun (one of five leading national newspapers in Japan) from April 2006 to March 2008.
Professor Wada’s term Literacy History, which I personally heard him define during his visit to UBC (see his Literacy History Association’s website: http://www.f.waseda.jp/a-wada/literacy), simply concerns the way of reading a book, for which of course there exists no standard methodology.
Novelist Keiichiro Hirano published a book entitled Hon no yomikata: suro ridingu no jssen (How to read a book: a practice of the slow reading method) (Tokyo: PHP Kenkyujo, 2006) in which he suggests a slow perusal of books. He introduces a practical method of reading magnum opuses of the world classics and has suggests to readers how to capture the essence of these great works. Hirano also encourages each of his readers to discover his or her own particular method of reading. I, as the writer of this paper, understand that this is literally creating the Literacy History, which Prof. Wada has been culminating.
During Japan’s Edo period (1600-1867), common people received their primary education in reading, writing and arithmetic at Buddhist temples. Also at this time, a lot of private lending bookstores that carried illustrated versions of the Tales of Genji and many other popular picture books were flourishing in big cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Christian missionaries from Portugal and Spain and Dutch Merchants from the East Indies Trading Company who came to Japan in the early Edo period were surprised to discover that the literacy rate among average Japanese citizens was higher than any other people in the world at that time. Missionaries’ reports to the Vatican and diaries of the Dutch Trading House in Nagasaki have recorded such impressive information pertaining to Japanese literacy and education. High literacy was one of the chief reasons why the country was able to successfully emerge as a modern state so rapidly after the Meiji restoration in 1868, when the national policy of seclusion was abandoned and Japan re-opened her doors to the world.
The current trend of contemporary Japanese literature is a sort of unification of literature and media arts. Readers can simultaneously enjoy text and imagery, such as anime, steel picture, drawing and graphics. Many hail this as a new revolution of Literacy History; however, it could also be argued that the afore-mentioned illustrated books were the harbingers of the current trend.
In times of peace, how one reads a book is entirely up to a reader and full comprehension is usually neither sought nor necessary. During the Second World War, however, officers of the US Navy and Army who were trained as language specialists were required to have a complete understanding of the seized Japanese information. Literacy History, therefore, distinguishes between reading in wartime and in peacetime. Even in peacetime, however, there are distinguishable differences between the “professional reading” of a librarian and the “pleasure reading” of a library user. At the present time, the relationship between a Japanese book and its foreign readers is, thanks to globalization and the development of communication technology, borderless. Professor Wada suggests a theory of an international relationship from the point of view of book circulation as a case study in Literacy History. This perspective has been missed in world discourse on issues concerning the global importance of books and reading.
The Literacy History Association of Professor Atsuhiko Wada at Waseda University recently launched a new annual serial entitled Journal of Literacy History; its first issue was published in January 2008. In my understanding, the academic significance of Literacy History research is to explore the historical relevance of books and reading. Aside from looking at books as the result of human creativity and intelligence, Literacy History investigates publication history, the reception of books by readers and the distribution of books to international audiences. Literacy History, with its many facets of publication, media, language education, cultural history of books, reading environment, and distribution of information, should be interactively interpreted and holistically analyzed beyond the current classifications of Literature, History, and Economics, Sociology, and so on, thereby leading to a new “discovery of knowledge.” Unsure about whether my understanding of Literacy History was correct or not, I made an inquiry to Professor Wada, whose response was, “Your interpretation of the significance of a research of ‘Literacy History’ would be satisfactory enough to me.”
I would like to also confirm that the significance of the Japanese Collections located abroad is in the representation of Japan as a country and in the communication of Japanese culture and science to foreign countries. As a Japanese librarian with a career spanning 40 years, I sincerely hope that the 2007 Japanese Library Award recipient, Professor Atsuhiko Wada, will continue to successfully conduct his research on Japanese Collections abroad and will also make additional contributions to the friendly character of the foreign languages reading environment, promoting a spirit of mutual respect and good will between neighbouring countries and helping to eventually establish a peaceful multi-cultural community in the world through the field of Literacy History.
Note: This is an English and revised version of my original Japanese report on Prof. Wada’s research visit to UBC Libraries, which appeared in Vancouver Shinpo (February 14, 2008, pp. 18-19), Japanese Weekly Newspaper.
Tsuneharu Gonnami was formerly with the Asian Library, University of British Columbia. He retired in 2003 as East Asian Librarian Emeritus.