The Asiatic Society 
of Japan

Next lecture: JST 2023.6.19 18:00
Prof. Junko Kitanaka

“Against New Healthism: The Rise of the Tojisha Movement and the Debates Around the Prevention of Dementia in Japan”   


JST 2023.6.19 18:00
Prof. Laura Moretti,
Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Human Sciences, Faculty of Letters, at Keio University, Tokyo

“Against New Healthism: The Rise of the Tojisha Movement and the Debates Around the Prevention of Dementia in Japan”

“Healthism” originally conceptualized in the 20th century (Zora 1977, Crawford 1980) refers to an ideology that equates being healthy with living well, both physically and morally. By new healthism, what I want to call attention to is a novel dimension of healthism more specifically concerned with achieving a “healthy brain” (Kitanaka 2020). Arising in the era of hypercognitivized “brainhood” (Vidal and Ortega 2017), new healthism signifies a preoccupation with cerebral health, intensified by the global mental health movement that increasingly weaves together nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle choices with neurobiological disorders. It is finding its impetus particularly through the intensifying global move towards early detection, intervention, and, whenever possible, prevention of such psycho/neurobiological diseases. In Japan, which is currently the world’s leading superaging society, new healthism can be found in the government’s rhetoric of preventing dementia, sometimes with a combative tone. Yet, there are increasing oppositions from people living with dementia (or tojishas). They worry that such a militaristic approach to dementia would not only stigmatize those who are already living with this disability but also create an illusion of self-control and unrealistic expectations, which they think might ultimately lead to an obsessive and unhealthy negation of aging—and death itself. Drawing on five-year-fieldwork on the grassroots movement by Japanese dementia experts, families and tojishas, I trace these competing debates around new healthism, how tojishas have come to question prevention, and how they instead call for an alternative vision of health and society based on what can be called “neurobiological empathy,” which seeks to cultivate desire for coexistence with a radical difference. 

Brief Biography: 
Junko Kitanaka is a professor of medical anthropology in the Department of Human Sciences at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan. Her book Depression in Japan: psychiatric cures for a society in distress (2012, Princeton University Press) has won five awards including the American Anthropological Association’s Francis Hsu Prize in 2013. The book has been translated into French, Japanese, Persian and Korean (and parts of it in Chinese). She has been featured in global media including New York Times, The New Yorker, and BBC, CNN, and Danish, German, and French national TV. She is a member of Japan’s Science Council and has served on numerous journal editorial boards including BioSocieties, Medical Anthropology Quarterly and Cultural Anthropology. Her articles include: “The social in psychiatries”, with Ecks, S. and Wu. H. Lancet, 28 May 2021; “Depression”, Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology, with S. Ecks. 2021, and “Depression as a Problem of Labor”, Sadness or Depression?, J. Wakefield & S. Demazeux eds. Springer, 2016. Her work on dementia, preventive psychiatry, and the neuropsychiatrization of the lifecycle has appeared as “In the Mind of Dementia”, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 34(1), 2020, which has been translated into Spanish. 

Online Lecture Programme for 2023  

JST 2023.6.19
Prof. Junko Kitanaka,
Department of Human Sciences, Faculty of Letters, Keio University
“Against New Healthism: The Rise of the Tojisha Movement and the Debates Around the Prevention of Dementia in Japan” 

JST 2023.9.11
Prof. Shelagh Vainker,
Ashmolean & Associate Professor of Chinese Art at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford University
“Rethinking the Ceramics of Song Dynasty China, CE960-1279”” 

JST 2023.10.16
2023 Young Scholars’ Programme
Applications are welcome, please see further down on the webpage for details.  Final submission date is JST 15 August, midnight. 

JST 2023.11.20
Mr. Masato Miyazaki
On a theme regarding Japan and/or Asia in the field of international finance.


Call for Papers

The Asiatic Society of Japan (ASJ) is Japan's oldest learned society, with its inaugural meeting in Yokohama in 1872. Inspired by the Royal Asiatic Societies of their day, ASJ's founders coordinated activities "to collect and publish information on subjects relating to Japan and other Asiatic Countries." Yet they intentionally differentiated ASJ from these affiliated societies at the outset by having established a "Society for scholarly gentlemen" rather than a society of scholars. The founders and earliest members were pillars of Japan's modernization and industrialization at the dawn of the Meiji Period. Physicians, engineers, barristers, missionaries, military officers, professors, and diplomats numbered among them, including Dr. James Hepburn, Sir Ernest Satow, Basil Hall Chamberlain, and William Aston. Today, the Society serves members of a general audience that have shared interests in Japan and the country’s of myriad connections with the world.

The Young Scholars’ Programme was initiated by the Society in 2006 at the suggestion of the Honorary Patron, HIH Princess Takamado, to give researchers at doctoral level the opportunity to present their research on Japan and/or Asia and answer questions on it in English. This year’s event will be held on Monday, 16 October. It will be held either entirely online or hybrid, so young scholars from around the world are encouraged to apply.

The closing date for nominations this year is midnight on Monday, 14 August. All nominated candidates (to be first selected by a university professor or other nominator) should submit the following:

a) A provisional title for their presentation
b) Details of their field of research
c) A CV or brief biography
d) A formal letter of recommendation on headed notepaper from his/her academic
supervisor supporting the application*

* Candidates may submit their materials directly to the Asiatic Society of Japan, via e-mail, to However, the letter of recommendation should be submitted to by the academic supervisor (not the candidate).

☆ Certificate of Recognition from the ASJ Board and HIH Princess Takamado, the Honorary Patron of the Asiatic Society of Japan
☆ Research award of 50,000 yen, courtesy of the Hugh E. Wilkinson Foundation
☆ Article to be submitted to the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, the Society’s
annual journal

A maximum of four young scholars (up to age 35, although consideration will be given to those up to age 40) will be selected to give a presentation for 20 minutes each. Candidates will be notified of the selection results at the beginning of September.

  * For further details, please e-mail the ASJ Office at, and title your e-mail ‘2023 Young Scholars’ Programme’

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