The Asiatic Society 
of Japan

Next lecture: Monday, October 16, 2023 18:00 JST
2023 ASJ Young Scholars’ Programme   


Monday, October 16, 2023 18:00 JST
2023 ASJ Young Scholars’ Programme

The Young Scholars’ Programme was initiated by the Society on 20 November 2006, at the suggestion of the Honorary Patron of the Society, 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. From 2021 the Young Scholars’ Programme was held for the first time online, allowing young scholars to participate from all over the world. The ASJ Young Scholars selected this year are as follows - Ms. Lise Bénézet, Ms. Clara Momoko Geber-Mérida, Dr. Marianna Lázár and Ms. Kuniko Matsui. Please see the brief biographies and abstracts for the presentations below. The Asiatic Society of Japan is very honoured to host this special online event showcasing the research of young scholars from around the world. The Young Scholars’ Programme is a very important part of the Society’s activities and it is hoped that as many members as possible can attend.  
The Asiatic Society of Japan is deeply appreciative of the Hugh E. Wilkinson Foundation for its contribution to support the Young Scholars’ Programme. Professor Hugh E. Wilkinson was President of the Society from 2003-2005.  

* ‘Wandering in darkness: Death in Izumi Shikibu’s poems (Xth-XIth century)’
Ms. Lise Bénézet

Brief bio  
Ms. Bénézet received her BA in Japanese Studies in 2018 and her MA in Japanese Studies in 2021 from Université Paris Cité. She is currently enrolled as a third year PhD Candidate in Japanese Studies at the Université Paris Cité, France under the academic supervision of Professor Daniel Struve. From October 2021 - April 2023 she was engaged in research at Osaka University as a Japanese Government sponsored research student on a MEXT Scholarship.

A lady of the court famous for her numerous love affairs which defied the social conventions of her time, Izumi Shikibu (Xth-XIth century) was a woman writer whose originality and poetic skills inspired poets even long after her death, from Saigyô (1118-1190) to Yosano Akiko (1878-1942). Her poems come in various forms from thematic series and one hundred poems sequences to poetic diaries and poetic exchanges with other members of the Court.  
If love is the main subject of Izumi Shikibu’s compositions, grief and Buddhism are also very present. Indeed, death comes to all and greatly affected her life. Though the death of a mere ox under a heavy load is enough to move her, the poetess writes mainly about her own death and the death of her loved ones, that is, her two princely lovers and her daughter. This presentation will attempt to demonstrate how, in her poetry, Izumi Shikibu evokes death with a rich variety of images and associated feelings.

* ‘Embracing the Generational Change: A Study of onnashokunin in the District of Arakawa, Tokyo’
Ms. Clara Momoko Geber-Mérida

Brief bio  
Ms. Geber-Mérida is currently a lecturer and a second year PhD candidate in Japanese Studies under the supervision of Professor Matthias Zachmann at Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. She received a bachelor’s degree (BA, 2017) and master’s degree (MA, 2019) in Japanese Studies from the University of Vienna, as well as a master’s degree in Cultural Management (MAS, 2020) from the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna. She also obtained a master’s degree in East Asian Art History (MA, 2022) from Freie Universität Berlin.

There is a small district in Tokyo that proudly names itself “monozukuri no machi” – City of Manufacturing. The name is no exaggeration: in 1982, the “Regulation for the Protection of Monuments in Arakawa” was adopted, which ensures the support of individuals who practice what is called “traditional Japanese art craftsmanship” (dentō kōgei) of the “Edo period that is being transmitted today.” As a result, there is currently a total of forty-five chosen art craftspeople (shokunin), who are active as “Bearer of Traditional Art Craftsmanship Techniques.” Strikingly, most of Arakawa’s established craftspeople are men, as only five out of forty-five shokunin are female. One reason for the scarcity of women is that art craft techniques were passed on within the family through the “head of the household” hereditary system and guilds. This tradition goes back to the Edo period (1603–1868), when workshops were mostly family businesses and handed down to the eldest son.  
Nowadays, female shokunin and apprentices in Arakawa still face hurdles that are peculiar to their gender. Two rounds of interviews revealed that they possess a very personal view on their trade and objects that sets them apart from their male counterparts. Indeed, working as a female shokunin has a certain irony to it: They make “traditional” objects in an industry that traditionally excluded them. However, there is the promise of a future shift in the gender balance of this industry, as the majority of young people now in training are women. This has serious implications on how they not only envision and situate their role as bearers of centuries old techniques, but also as entrepreneurs, teachers, and educators, as well as wives, sisters, and daughters of established male art craftspeople.

* ‘Examining the tradition of the Four Gods belief in Japan: Focusing on the role of ceremonial banners’
Dr. Marianna Lázár

Brief bio  
Dr. Lázár is a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Oriental Languages and Cultures, Department of Japanese Studies, Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church, Budapest, Hungary. She received her PhD in intercultural history as a MEXT doctoral student at the Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, at Ryūkoku University, Kyoto.

Dr. Lázár's interdisciplinary research includes examining the origin and development of the Four Gods belief (四神思想) in East Asia, focusing on the artistic, cultural, social and political-ideological development of the belief in ancient, medieval, pre-modern and modern Japan. Her research includes an in-depth study of the mural paintings of the Four Gods (四神壁画) of the Takamatsuzuka Tomb and Kitora Tomb (Asuka, Nara prefecture, Japan) in an intercultural context of ancient Chinese, Korean and Japanese (mostly funerary) art; and analyzing the cultural-historical factors (e.g., Korean immigrants, Japanese envoys to Sui and Tang China, Chinese Daoist cosmology and philosophy, site divination methods etc.) that might have supported the introduction of the belief into the culture of the Japanese imperial court.  
Dr. Lázár will also examine the relationship between the Four Gods belief and Japanese aristocracy (both imperial and feudal nobles), and focus on the development of sacred ceremonial items called ’shijin-ki” or shijin-boko” 四神旗・四神鉾 (flags or banners with sculptures on top) representing the cardinal deities as multivalent signs in different time periods of Japanese history. Based on Chinese, Korean and Japanese textual study, picture study and fieldwork in several prefectures of Japan, she will explore and examine how and why the role and the representation of the Four Gods changed gradually from ancient times to modern days.

* 'Suda Kokuta’s abstraction in the 1950s-60s: Dōgen’s Zen revived in Japanese avant-garde art'
Ms. Kuniko Matsui

Brief bio  
Ms. Matsui received her BA in English Studies from Sophia University, Tokyo, a Graduate Diploma in the History of Art from The Courtauld Institute of Art and an MA in the History of Art and Archaeology (Distinction) from SOAS, University of London, in 2022. She is currently a fellow of the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage in Japan.

Suda Kokuta (1906–1990) produced almost solely abstract paintings in the 1950s and 1960s, combining a modern artistic idiom and various concepts drawn from traditional religion, philosophy and culture. His creative endeavour was unique yet also reflected the tendency of mid-20th century Japan – many modernists reinterpreted their indigenous past as inspirational sources, which could in a way be understood as a reflection of Japan’s collective anxiety over the looming threat of cultural homogenisation while the country underwent rapid Westernisation.  
In the case of Suda, the source of inspiration was wide-ranging; his art was supported by multidimensional theoretical concepts, notably Zen philosophy and metaphysical questions, children’s art, and prehistoric sources. Especially noteworthy was his engagement with the 13th-century Zen monk Dōgen’s treatise, Shōbōgenzō (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye). With a close analysis of Suda’s engagement with the Sōtō Zen master Dōgen’s philosophy, this study will reveal another aspect of ‘modern Zen art’, differentiating his art from the mainstream global Zen boom of the 20th century. In other words, Sōtō Zen has not been much discussed in the dominant discourse of ‘modern Zen art’ in which Rinzai Zen has been generally referred to largely thanks to modern thinkers like D.T. Suzuki. This case study aims to challenge the view that Japanese abstract art was a mere derivative of its Western counterparts by demonstrating that Suda’s works were rooted in very different conceptual origins.  

Upcoming Online Lecture Programme

JST 2023.10.16
2023 Young Scholars’ Programme  

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

JST 2024.1.22
Dr. Ayaka Jimbo
’Fukudenkai – the most traditional and globally orientated social welfare house in Japan’

2023 YOUNG SCHOLARS' PROGRAMME - application closed

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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