Two prominent Japanese professors arrived in the United States Friday as part of an exchange program launched this semester between Yale and the University of Tokyo.
The initiative, dubbed the Todai-Yale Initiative for Japanese Studies and Related Humanities and Social Sciences, aims to bring visiting professors to the University to conduct research on Japanese studies and related social sciences to and pump up interest in a Japanese studies programs on campus.
Professors and University administrators said they are excited about the launch of the program, which they think will expand academic opportunities for students, but some undergraduates expressed concern that the new program is geared too much toward graduate students.
The initiative grew out of Yale’s membership in the International Alliance of Research Universities, a group of 10 universities in Asia, Europe, the United States and Australia launched in 2006 that seeks to encourage collaboration between member universities, Yale administrators announced on Friday.
The two professors, Junko Kato GRD ’92 and Takuji Okamoto, said they are excited to resume their scholarship at Yale and collaborate with Yale’s faculty on their research. Kato, who served as a visiting lecturer at Yale for a year immediately after graduating, specializes in Japanese comparative politics and political economy. Okamoto studies the history of physics in America and Japan and has written about electrical engineering and physics in Japan prior to World War II.
A third member of the University of Tokyo faculty, who studies Japanese election and voting behavior, will come to Yale in January.
Although some of the details of the program have not yet been worked out, Kato said he thinks it will be a success.
“I think that [the partnership] is a good opportunity,” he said. “Even though many things are still pending, it has great potential.”
Although Kato and Okamoto will initially focus on their research, they said they hope future visiting professors will be able to teach classes at Yale. Okamoto said the two professors would begin to teach graduate students before teaching undergraduates, and they are already planning to invite speakers to deliver lectures to graduate students.
Members of Yale’s Japanese studies faculty said they are enthusiastic about the opportunities for interaction with Japanese professors that the initiative presents.
“The partnership is a great opportunity for Yale undergraduate and graduate students to interact with scholars from the University of Tokyo,” Yale Japanese studies professor Edward Kamens said.
Kamens said visiting Japanese scholars may be particularly interested in many of the uncatalogued holdings in the Beinecke Library and the Sterling Memorial Library East Asian Collection.
Tuntex economics professor Koichi Hamada said he is also excited about the Todai-Yale Initiative, which he thinks will be beneficial to both schools because it will “improve the quality and quantity of academic information at both universities.”
But some Yale students interviewed said they doubt the new partnership will increase undergraduate interest in Japanese studies. Japanese studies major Michael Schmale ’08 said in an e-mail that the Todai-Yale Initiative is an encouraging gesture of collaboration between Yale and the University of Tokyo, but he said he thinks the program will fail to encourage students to take Japanese studies classes because of the lack of interaction between visiting professors and undergraduates.
University President Richard Levin said he is excited to begin a collaboration with a prominent Japanese university.
“The University of Tokyo is probably the leading university in Asia in terms of the quality of its scholarship and general reputation, and we’re very pleased to be a partner with them,” Levin said.
University of Tokyo President Hiroshi Komiyama first proposed the Todai-Yale Initiative, Levin said.