The Asiatic Society 
of Japan


Next lecture (online): JST 2022.5.16 18:00
Professor Richard Irving


JST 2022.5.16 18:00 (online)

Lecture by Professor Richard Irving

‘Several New Insights into the Life of William Adams – The English Samurai’

Lecture Abstract. Over the last ten years or so, much has come to light to warrant a re-write of the history of William Adams. Evidence in surviving probate archives proves that he was indeed trained as a mariner and not a shipwright as previously suggested. The precise role he played in the Armada campaign can now be identified; and the original charts he used to navigate to Japan can be used to trace his route there. His marriage to a Japanese lady (Oyuki) clearly occurred many years earlier than had been formerly surmised, and his earliest ship-building activity can now be placed in the context of natural disasters Japan suffered in the early 1600s. Contemporary Spanish and Dutch records can be accessed to assist understanding of why he became the English Samurai and why he was so trusted by the Shogun, then Ōgosho, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Careful examination of topographic maps and cadastral surveys also reveal the true extent and layout of his estate at Hemi. 

Dr. Irving was closely engaged with a series of excavations carried out from 2017 – 2019 near the summit of Sakigata Hill in Hirado, where William Adams was believed to have been buried. Skeletal remains recovered, 400 years-old, are now confirmed to be those of Adams. His talk will address this ‘re-discovery’ of remains in the context of eleven other individuals unearthed nearby; making this location likely to be regarded as one of the most significant late 16th - early 17th century burial sites ever discovered in Japan. 

Please see the following links for information about Dr. Irving’s books on William Adams – (Japan) (UK) 

Brief Biography. Dr. Richard T. A. Irving graduated from Sheffield University in 1976 with an honours degree in Geography and Japanese Studies and then spent a year at Kyoto University researching rural depopulation. This study became the backbone for his PhD, which he also completed at Sheffield. He then worked for the museums service at Kirklees in West Yorkshire, initiating various local heritage projects, before heading to the Far East again, in 1985. Dr. Irving spent ten years teaching in the Department of Geography and Geology at the University of Hong Kong, where his research focused on the changing landscape of the north-west New Territories. In 1995 he became Professor at the School of Policy Studies, Kwansei Gakuin University, in Hyogo Prefecture, teaching courses on population problems, rural issues, and the geography of Japan. Dr. Irving retired in 2019 and has returned home to Combe Down, near Bath, where he is President of the local Heritage Society. 

During the 25 years Dr. Irving spent in Japan he often wondered about the type of landscape William Adams saw when the English adventurer first arrived in the country, over 400 years ago. His travels around rural Japan regularly covered the same ground as Adams, from old Edo to Hirado, and his research has revealed fascinating new detail about the life of the English Samurai. He was directly involved in the excavation of Adams’ grave in 2017 and has subsequently published four volumes on the life and times of William Adams. Dr. Irving is presently working on the fifth and final volume in the series. 
Online Lecture Programme for 2022  

JST 2022.6.20
Dr. Shoko Suzuki, 
Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University and the director of the group for AI and ethics at the Japan Science and Technology Agency
‘The Ethics of AI – from the perspective of “Dynamic Harmony” ’ 

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
Young Scholars’ Programme. Please see details below. 

The Asiatic Society of Japan
2022 Young Scholars’ Program (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’ Program 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.” 

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