Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


The Role of the IPR in the Development
of Japanese Studies


Department of Japanese Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
SOKENDAI (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies)

Key words:

IPR, the Pacific War, E. H. Norman, G. B. Sansom, books on Japan

The Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR) was founded as a non-governmental academic organization in Honolulu in 1925. Attempting to improve relations among the countries in the Pacific Rim, it held international conferences every two or three years. It published numerous reports concerning diverse issues such as immigration, religion, and politics. In 1961, the institute was forced into dissolution under the strong influence of McCarthyism, and little attention was paid to it thereafter.

In 1993, the first international conference was held to reexamine and reevaluate the IPR. Consequently, many scholars became interested and involved, and began investigating issues related to the IPR. The majority of them, however, tended to focus mainly on the IPR conferences restricting the significance apportioned to the IPR to the fields of foreign policy and international relations.

This paper contends that the IPR had another key area of significance as well, arguing that even in the 1920s, the IPR played an indispensable role as a research institute. At the time, Japanese Studies was not a popular field of study in North America, and this state of affairs lasted until the outbreak of the Pacific War when, in order to understand their enemy nation, the US government began encouraging study of the subject. Prior to the war, the IPR had already published many books on Japan, and these amounted to 130 by the end of the war. Naturally, much of the research already conducted by the IPR was utilized when the US-led GHQ occupied a defeated Japan.

It should be noted, however, that the IPR was already engaged in promoting Japanese Studies well before the war, and thus contributing to the development of the discipline. For example, the organization was already conducting research on Japan at various universities, colleges, and other institutions in the late 1920s. Scholars of Japanese Studies such as E. H. Norman and G. B. Sansom were involved in this research, and it is worth remembering that influential books of theirs, such as Norman’s Japan’s Emergence as a Modern State and Sansom’s The Western World and Japan, were first published by the IPR. This paper outlines the wide activities conducted by the IPR in the fields of publication and academic engagement as well as conferences.