The Asiatic Society 
of Japan

 150th Anniversary Year

ASJ Young Scholars Programme 2022
Closing date for nominations: JST 2022.8.15

Next lecture (online): JST 2022.9.26 18:00
Dr. Anne Nishimura-Morse,
Senior Curator of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The Asiatic Society of Japan

2022 Young Scholars’ Programme (YSP)
-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 myriad of connections with the world.

The Young Scholars’ Programme was initiated in 2006 with the support of the Society’s 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 it will take place online on Monday, October 17, as part of the Society’s 150th anniversary celebration.

The closing date for nominations this year is midnight on Monday, 15 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 note-paper 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, consisting of up to two non-Japanese and two Japanese scholars), will be selected to give a presentation for 20 minutes each. Candidates will be notified of the selection results at the end of August.

* For further details, please e-mail the ASJ Office at, and title your e-mail “2022 Young Scholars’ Program.” 


JST 2022.9.26 18:00 (online)

Lecture by Dr. Anne Nishimura-Morse,
Senior Curator of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
‘Constructing a History of Japanese Art: The Formation and Evolution of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Collection’

Synopsis. In 1906 Okakura Kakuzō, then serving as an Advisor for Chinese and Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, declared to the Director, that the Japanese collections should completely illustrate the history of Japanese art for the benefit of the Western world. Okakura’s view of history was unsurprisingly very much a product of the late nineteenth century. It drew upon European and American attitudes towards a classical past, as had been espoused by his associate Ernest Francisco Fenollosa and Fenollosa’s teacher Charles Eliot Norton. Okakura’s view also incorporated the importance of lineage as promoted by traditional schools of Japanese artists. For Okakura, this history was a history of the Fine Arts, as had been constructed by the West, and primarily privileged works that were created in the service of Japan’s elites, religious and political. Following this outline, the MFA acquired holdings of Buddhist painting and sculpture, ink paintings dating from the Nanbokuchō period onward, and more than eight hundred images from the Kano school.   

However, the Boston collection was not shaped exclusively by Fenollosa and Okakura’s notion of history. At different moments other collectors, such as the Bostonians William Sturgis Bigelow and Denman Waldo Ross, contributed to the development of the holdings, bringing their own interpretations of what constituted “Japanese art.” Furthermore, during the last thirty years the Museum has had to reevaluate the legacy of the nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century curators and collectors in order to present the complexity of the field of Japanese art in the context of social history as well as the traditions promoted by Okakura. This lecture will examine the role of the Boston collection in shaping a history of Japanese art, both in the United States and Japan.   

Brief Biography. Dr. Anne Nishimura-Morse is the William and Helen Pounds Senior Curator of Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A graduate of Radcliffe College, Dr. Morse received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. During her more than thirty-five-year tenure at the Museum, Dr. Morse has organized many critically-acclaimed exhibitions such as Drama and Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World 1690 – 1850 (2006) and Takashi Murakami: Lineage of Eccentrics (2017). She was also responsible for In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3-11 (2015), which was awarded the Japan Photographic Association best foreign exhibition of the year. From 1992 through 2006 in collaboration with teams of scholars from Japan, Dr. Morse completed a fourteen-year project to re-catalogue the Museum’s renowned collections of Japanese painting and sculpture—the largest of such holdings outside Japan. The surveys have resulted in numerous publications, including a two-volume, bilingual catalogue raisonné this past spring, and in exhibitions, including Japanese Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at the Tokyo National Museum in 2012 and Art and Power: From Pharaohs to Daimyōs currently at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art (July 22-October 2 2022). Dr. Morse has taught at Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, and Harvard University and this academic year she has been appointed as a Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan. In 2019, she was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette.  

Online Lecture Programme for 2022  

JST 2022.9.26
Dr. Anne Nishimura-Morse,
Senior Curator of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 
 ‘Constructing a History of Japanese Art: The Formation and Evolution of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Collection’ 

JST 2022.10.17
2022 Young Scholars’ Programme
Applications are welcome. Please see details, above. 

JST 2022.11.7
Mr. Ernest Higa,
Domino’s Pizza
 “Understanding the cultural differences between Japan and the US for business opportunities” 

JST 2022.11.7
Dr. Halle O’Neal,
Co-Director of Edinburgh Buddhist Studies at Edinburgh University

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