The Ito Center’s mission is to promote the study of Japan at USC through transformative research

Our Projects

    Environmental Humanities Speaker Series

    This newly-established speaker series seeks to give a forum to Japan-inflected issues relating to the growing field of Environmental Humanities. Environmental Humanities encompasses a broad range of ever-evolving subfields including but not limited to climate justice, animal studies, ecocriticism, environmental ethics, posthumanism, and biosemantics. It seeks to acknowledge indigenous knowledge about biosystems alongside of more well-known “Western” and “Eastern” regimes of knowledge. Professor Christine Marran, long at the forefront of ecocritical research on modern Japanese literature, is the inaugural speaker of this series.

    Hapa Japan Database Project

    The Hapa Japan Project focuses on the study of mixed-race and mixed-roots Japanese people globally.

    Hybrid Japan Innovation Lab

    This lab is focused on generating innovative solutions to the question of Japan’s role on the global stage in the 21st-century. Featuring future-oriented visioning through exchange between Japanese and global thought leaders, we highlight three critical areas to Japan’s future: 1) cultural power (Bunkaryoku both in pop culture and the engagement of deep culture to the world), 2) Green Japan (leadership in ecological policy, product development, and philosophy of nature), and 3) Multiethnic Japan (towards coordinating a more open and immigration-friendly Japan to seriously tackle the demographic future emerging from the graying of society). Williams will produce a book-length manuscript both in English and Japanese titled “Hybrid Japan” and a website dedicated to these ideas that will include video recordings of all the workshops, lectures, and conferences held at USC around this theme.

    Japanese American Religion and Society Project

    Los Angeles is home to the largest concentration of Japanese Americans in North America, with Buddhist, Christian, and Shinto temples, churches, and shrines with over 100 years of history. This CJRC project explores the history and contemporary manifestations of Japanese American religiosity.

    Japanese Food Culture and Culinary Traditions Speaker Series

    Japanese cooking has made an indelible mark on global culinary culture. This newly-inaugurated speaker series will provide a venue for analyses of Japan’s rich regional and national Japanese food traditions, from the Nara Period to the present. Food Studies is an inherently interdisciplinary undertaking. Our intention is to sponsor events that showcase the work of one or more speakers and bring together researchers in the humanities, organic sciences, agriculturalists, environmentalists, and, of course, chefs. The inaugural lecture, in February of 2023, welcomed renowned Japan food historian Prof. Eric Rath, who presented on fermentation and the premodern origins of sushi, and Michelin star-winning Chef David Schlosser of Shibumi DTLA, who provided audience members with a sampling of narezushi from the famed Uoji Honten in Shiga Prefecture.

    LGBTQ Studies Speaker Series

    The purpose of this speaker series is to explore overlapping concerns of LGBTQ Studies, Japan Studies, and Japanese American Studies. We sponsor events that showcase the latest developments in research and activism, with an aim to foster candid, constructive, and mutually beneficial dialogue among all participants.

    Literary and Cultural Innovation From the Japanese and Asian Diasporas Project

    Explicitly transnational in orientation and interdisciplinary in scope, this project, curated by Kaya Press, seeks to gather together and present the finest, cutting-edge cultural innovations taking place throughout the Japanese and Asian diasporas. Programs will include book publishing, experiments with new technology, author readings, and interactive, participatory events designed to encourage a broader, critically engaged audience with the processes of cultural production.

    New Approaches to the Study of Premodern Japan Project

    The purpose of this project is to foster greater understanding of premodern Japan through methodological innovation, attentiveness to newly available historical materials, and creative combinations of existing disciplinary approaches. It also seeks to solidify its role as a hub for scholarly collaboration among Japan specialists worldwide by sponsoring symposia, workshops, and lecture series.

    The Project for Premodern Japan Studies

    Faculty Member: Joan Piggott

    The Project for Premodern Japan Studies of the USC College was established in 2003 to nurture and coordinate the study of premodern Japan at USC. Under Director Joan R. Piggott, Gordon L. MacDonald Professor of History, the mission of the Project is to build a premier program and a thriving community of scholars working in the premodern Japan field at USC. The priorities of the Project include the recruitment of leading faculty and graduate students in the field to multiple disciplines across the university. The Project serves as a center for the organization of the Summer Kambun Workshop; the development of a world-class premodern Japan research collection in USC’s East Asian Library; the coordination of a vibrant Visitor Series that includes speakers, workshops, and conferences; and a new Monograph Series under the USC College East Asia Studies Center imprint. Through the Graduate College and History Department the Project also provides fellowships for graduate study in premodern Japanese History.

    Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminars on the Comparative Study of Cultures

    Project Period: January 2013 ~ June 2014

    Faculty Members: 
    Duncan Williams, School of Religion
    Brian Bernards, East Asian Languages and Cultures
    Velina Hasu Houston, School of Dramatic Arts

    As an interdisciplinary collaboration, “Critical Mixed-Race Studies: A Transpacific Approach” undertakes two overarching scholarly imperatives: first, to trace the history and historiography of mixed race in academic, popular, and legal discourses of various countries of the Pacific Rim (North and Latin America, the Pacific Islands, and East, Southeast, and South Asia), with a primary focus on the United States and East Asia; and second, to identify and measure the impact of transpacific migration, settlement, and sociocultural encounter and interaction on these mixed-race histories and historiographies. The project involves a series of ten regular seminars, conferences, and lectures designed to encourage broad, interdisciplinary debate connecting different historical periods and seemingly disparate or far-flung regions of the world, such as comparative racial ideology in Europe and Japan, comparative antimiscegenation laws in the American South and Pacific Coast, and comparative plantation culture in Hawai‘i, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia.

    Contact the Ito Center

    USC Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture (CJRC)

    University of Southern California
    825 Bloom Walk, Ahmanson Center 130D
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-1481

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