Leiden University Fund.

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Applications Granted

This page shows project summaries and activities which have previously been approved by the IAAF, to give you an idea as to what the IAAF has contributed to in recent years.


This book and exhibition consist of more than 100 of the finest works by renowned Japanese artists from the heyday of Japanese printing (1765-1865) in a comprehensive overview of the classic printmaking themes: heroes, beauties, actors and erotic art. The woodcuts form layered puzzles with subtle iconography and symbolism that refer to stories from Japanese history, literature, mythology, fashion, folklore and rumor from everyday life in the Edo period. Some works involve secret advertising or circumventing the censorship laws.

The exhibition was made in collaboration with Master's students from Leiden University and on view in the Sieboldhuis from January to April 2023, and the book of the same name was released in February 2023. IAAF contributed to the printing of the book.

In 'The Deshima Diaries, 1641-1660 - The Dagregisters Kept by the Chiefs of the Dutch East India Company Factory in Nagasaki, Japan' you can read about how Dutch merchants struggled with the strict restrictions imposed on them, but it also contains writings that shed surprising light on social and economic life in Nagasaki and beyond.

The Ailion Foundation provided financial support for both the regular and open-access publication of the book. This contribution helped to ensure the widespread dissemination of valuable knowledge and insights.

The Leiden University Libraries are in the process of making the previously unpublished diaries and letters of the chief of Deshima, the island where the Netherlands traded with Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868), available. Johan Wilhem de Stürler went on the Dutch mission to Edo (modern-day Tokyo) in 1826 with Philipp Franz Von Siebold. These diaries and letters serve as a source of information about the ins and outs of the Netherlands and Japan during the Edo period. For this project, the Ailion Foundation contributed to the first phase of transcribing, inventorying and transferring the diaries and letters to the University Libraries of Leiden.

Congresses, symposia, and cultural events

Starting from the second half of 2021, a folding screen created by the Japanese artist Kawahara Keiga can be admired in the ‘Japan room’ of the Museum of Ethnology. The folding screen clearly depicts the island of Deshima in Nagasaki Bay and connects all the objects of the Japan collection. To make the folding screen and the special collection accessible to a greater public, the museum has developed an application with the support of IAAF. This app uses augmented reality so visitors can get closer to the folding screen, in the museum as well as from home. Text, spoken word, video material, photos of related objects and 3D scans have been used, which the user can rotate to create a complete remote experience. More information about the Deshima Experience can be found here.

Yokoo's World is an upcoming documentary about Japanese artist Tadanori Yokoo by filmmaker Koert Davidse. It investigates whether there is a connection between the poster that the Japanese artist designed at the age of 29 (and that made him famous) and the most recent painting he made at the age of 84. It is less known in the West that the artist started painting in the 1980s. This documentary attempts to fill this gap in knowledge about this Japanese artist. The recordings for the documentary are scheduled for early 2022. More information about Koert Davidse and the documentary can be found here

Nishukan is an exchange project for Dutch high school students in which they immerse themselves in Japanese culture, history and literature with the aim of promoting cultural relations between the Netherlands and Japan. This is done on the basis of an exchange, where sixteen students from Corderius College in Amersfoort go to Japanese host families in Tokyo. In preparation, the participants follow lectures on Japanese literature and the historical relationship between the Netherlands and Japan and they become acquainted with the Japanese language.

To raise awareness of Japanese art, Leiden University organized the artist-in-residence programme. For this program, several artists with a specialization in Japanese art came to Leiden to give workshops. These were open to Bachelor and Master students of Leiden University and the Royal Academy of Art students. In the workshops, students learned the technique of the artist in question and made works of art in that style. The final artworks of participating students were displayed in an exhibition in the East Asia Library of Leiden University.

Research projects

When a person passes away, conducting a funeral to pray for the dead by family members and friends has been a worldwide custom since ancient times. In Japan, it is common to invite Buddhist priests to conduct funeral rites. This presentation by Ph.D. candidate Suzuki discusses the general characteristics of the Buddhist view of life and death in comparison to other religions such as Christianity and Hinduism, as well as modern views on life and death. Subsequently, it will consider the features and significance of the funeral rites and views on life and death in the Shingon tradition. Funeral rites in Shingon Buddhism are demonstrated and at the end of the lecture, sūtras and shōmyō, which are actually chanted at funerals, will also be demonstrated.

This joint Yale-Leiden digital research project is centred on a unique early eighteenth-century Japanese manuscript acquired by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Books Library in 2017 (working title: Shudō tsuya monogatari). Set in 1714 in Northeastern Japan, the anonymous work details a samurai same-sex love affair that takes a tragic turn. The result of this project can be viewed on its own webpage from the beginning of 2024.

PhD research

My project, Tracing Shumi: Politics and Aesthetics in Modern Japanese Literary Discourse and Fiction, traces the concept of shumi (趣味) in late 19th and early 20th century Japanese literary discourse and fiction. The word shumi was introduced in the 1880s as a translation word for the notion of 'taste'. However, my project aims to show how the word operated beyond a mere translation of an idea. Instead, I demonstrate how shumi was used to rhetorically frame the ways in which people were supposed to behave, sense, and consume and which actors and institutions benefited from such discursive frameworks. Yet at the same time, this dissertation argues that the language of shumi also undermined the very ideological structures it sought to engender. Ultimately, Tracing Shumi, sheds light on how modernity unfolds in the intersection of politics and aesthetics, beyond a limited imagination of politics entirely in terms of power and of aesthetics solely in terms of beauty, in a specific moment in Japanese history.

This PhD project originally focused on the representation history of the twelfth-century general Minamoto no Yoshitsune. The discovery that only Yoshitsune, but also other warriors often appeared in early modern picture books for children and greatly inspired pioneering authors of youth literature in the Meiji period (1868-1912) led to the formulation of new and exciting research questions. What was the function of this new literary genre during Japan’s modernization and nation-building process, and what was so appealing about rewriting and visualizing warrior legends for children?

The superimposition of modern Western definitions of children’s (or youth) literature on Japanese publications have obscured both the existence of many books for children as well as the discourse on youth literature in modernizing Japan. The dissertation that resulted from this project shows how in the late nineteenth century, authors and publishers found in children’s literature a legitimate and effective way to vie with the Ministry of Education over the minds of young citizens. They started to mould historical figures, who often had become national icons, into exemplars of their own liking. Most belligerent was the author Iwaya Sazanami (1870–1933), who found in the adventures of young Yoshitsune and other warriors a remedy to the perceived timidity of (male) Japanese children, according to him caused by strict teachers and old-fashioned parents. Moreover, adaptations of warrior legends for children salvaged popular Edo period plots and iconographies that were in danger of extinction in the new literary landscape.

The Japanese empire slowly expanded its territory through imperial conquest from 1868 until 1942. One of the key characteristics of Japanese imperialism during this time was the friction existent in the rhetoric, policies and practices of the empire and its subjects which was simultaneously explicitly assimilationist and discriminatory. With this project I will focus on the question as to how, within this context, both indigenous and migrant youths in the colonies were mobilised for the Japanese empire and why some distinct differences existed between these mobilisations. This project will contribute to the field through its comparative analysis of two territories of the Japanese empire, Karafuto (southern Sakhalin) and the Nan’yō Guntō (Micronesia), which have received little attention within the extensive body of academic literature on Japanese colonialism and imperialism. I will provide an answer to the aforementioned question by focusing on formal and informal education through an analysis of a broad spectrum of primary sources, whilst simultaneously providing new perspectives on the various forms of Japanese imperialism(s), the varied means of and motivations for youth mobilisation in the early 20th century and the tensions between social and geographic mobility and local rootedness in modern nations and empires.

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