Welcome to the 18th conference of our European Association of Japanese Resource Specialists, hosted by the Istituto Giapponese di Cultura of the Japan Foundation in Rome. The conference has no restricted overall theme, but wants to deal with all matters that concern resource specialists and researchers, in the first place and traditionally those using primary resources, but in point of fact any person doing scholarly work in a Japan related field has a lot to learn at our conference.
When one leafs through the programme, you will notice abbreviations, such as DB and JK, typical for the Japanese propensity for abbreviations, but also indicative of the importance of digitalization and database for our profession. Accessibility of Japanese resources through digital media has been and continues to be one of our major topics. Developments are so fast, that if you go back to a conference programme of a few years ago you will be struck that many presentations have become outdated in the meantime or at least need a serious update. Somewhat more impervious to change are the presentations that introduce special collections and holdings, usually of an antiquarian nature. A third category of topics we have traditionally featured are those dealing with art history. This year we have a few presentations on art objects, and I am glad art is back in our midst, for during the last few years art seemed to be fading from our programme. A few years ago there was a parallel endeavour to establish a European Network of Japanese Art Collections (Enjac), but the site now seems to have disappeared from the screen. Speaking of networks, a fourth category is the construction of networks, an important element in our day-to-day activities. Networks by their very nature tend to be volatile, as is proven by the just mentioned Enjac, but some of our members have been dynamic in building and maintaining some of these networks, and that is certainly something to follow up in the future. In the framework of the networks we must tackle the problem of open sources versus proprietary databases, in order to keep the flow of information payable in the future. In this connection the representatives of European institutions are scheduled to hold a brief meeting with a view to establish a European consortium, on Friday evening, on the eve of the presentation on AsiaPortal by a representative of NetAdvance Inc.
Another matter that is likely to come up during this conference is the intended slashing of the staff at the Library of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm. European members have probably all received mails on this matter. The noted sinologist Prof. Malmqvist has sent a signal of distress into the world. Hopefully our protests can help turn the tide.
In the programme I also see a category of items of a more mundane nature such as tonight's reception, and the traditional dinner of tomorrow night. The reception tonight is courtesy of the Istituto Giaponese di Cultura, the dinner tomorrow night is your own treat. Go-ryôshô-oki kudasai.
As I also pointed out on previous occasions, we still fail to attract a sufficient number of participants from Eastern European countries, although this year there seems to be some improvement in that area, since we are welcoming two participants from Poland. In the previous Newsletter I also made reference to the need to keep abreast of recent developments in our field in China, Taiwan, Korea and Vietnam as well, and I expressed the hope that in the near future our conference would also be able to attract some participation from Chinese and Taiwanese institutions and libraries. We have also made some progress there, since this year we are welcoming a specialist from Taiwan, who is making a presentation on Japanese resources in Taipei.
Another task we have set ourselves is the exploration of possible joint initiatives with American organisations of resource specialists. A proposal for a joint conference has been circulating, and some of our members have been actively promoting the idea. However, we still have to work out a concrete plan.
Another project that has been in the works is, as already mentioned, the establishment of a European Consortium to subscribe to the Japan Knowledge Databases.
Last year the UK Japan Library Group took the initiative of organizing what was called the ‘Tenri Antiquarian Materials Workshop for Overseas Librarians’ in collaboration with the North American Co-ordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources, the National Institute of Japanese Literature, the National Institute of Informatics (NII), and Tenri University Institute of Library and Information Science. The Group successfully applied for financial support to the Japan Foundation, and the workshop could be held this year in June, the first leg in a three-year step-up scheme. The association was happy to see that all European applications could be honoured (partly thanks to the generous transfer of a few slots from the North American Co-ordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources), and that participants represented a fairly wide distribution of European countries, although Germany was perhaps a little underrepresented.
While funding by the Japan Foundation has equally been vital for the activities of our association, members have made consistent efforts to draw on other regular financial resources within their own institutions and countries, thus reducing our reliance on funding by the Japan Foundation. I believe that precisely this fact has been appreciated by the Japan Foundation and that this has been a strong stimulus for it to continue funding the association, including this year’s conference.
Looking back to the Venice conference of last year, I am sure to represent everyone’s feelings when I say that it was a most fruitful and stimulating event, well organized by our host, the Department of East Asian Studies, Universita' Ca' Foscari di Venezia. I have no doubt that the 18th conference will likewise be a very stimulating and rewarding experience. Rome has a long tradition of relations with Japan and is home to a host of precious collections, we could hardly find a more appropriate venue. Moreover, our host, the Istituto Giapponese di Cultura (Japan Foundation) in Rome, has seen to it that all necessary arrangements have been made and that all facilities are in place. We owe a particular gratitude to Prof. Kazufumi Takada, Director of the Istituto Giapponese di Cultura, Mr. Omori, vice-director, Ms. Ikuko Kaji and Mr. Sergio Levi.
I hope you all got your copy of the Newsletter, graciously compiled as always by our association's secretary Paul Wijsman. Since the Newsletter was printed, a few alterations have come up. That is how fast we move. You will find the latest update of the programme as of yesterday evening, added in the folder you have all received. The folder was graciously prepared by the Istituto, especially Ms. Ikuko Kaji, Mr. Sergio Levi and Ms. Fiorella Guglielmi. In the Newletter you will find as always the minutes of the general assembly of last year’s conference and the programme as well as the abstracts of the presentations scheduled for this year’s conference. Let me remind you that there is of course no need to wait for this printed Newsletter to keep abreast of the latest changes. You can always check the website. Some members are more frequent visitors as other, but I appeal to you all to use it as much as possible as a forum.
Incidentally, you will find an internet point downstairs in the hall, behind the folding screen.
For some reason, one of the best known English proverbs known by the Japanese is:
When in Rome do as Romans do.
I suspect this has a lot to do with the Japanese educational system, although the Japanese equivalent sounds quite different
Gô ni ireba gô ni shitagae.
Although Romans may not like it to have their city called Gô, now we have the opportunity to live their proverb in the flesh.
We wish you all a stimulating conference.
W.F. Vande Walle