The Japan Academy was established on 15 January 1879 in the Meiji Period for the purpose of advancing education and science in Japan. It was originally named the “Tokyo Academy.” In the preceding Edo Period, government-operated research and education institutions, such as the Shogunal National Academy (Shoheiko) and the Institute for Researching Foreign Books (Bansho-Shirabesho), had already been established and were functioning as a form of academy and university. Crossing into the 19th century, Japan opened itself up to exchange with the West and embarked upon a path of modernization. Seeking to derive reference from European models of education and culture, the government established the Tokyo Academy.
In 1906, the Academy was renamed the Imperial Academy and its functions expanded to a scale on approximate par with academies in the United States and Europe. In addition to providing reports and proposals in response to government inquiries, in 1911 the Academy established the Imperial Prize to recognize and encourage superb creative research.
At the same time, the Academy convened general meetings in which the latest scientific advances were introduced and reported. Compiling such state-of-the-art information, it issued bulletins and published papers and disseminated them both within Japan and to the wider international community. While working in these ways to contribute to the promotion of science, the Academy also joined the Union Académique Internationale (UAI) and set about on a vigorous program to promote international academic exchange, thus taking upon itself the weighty role of representing Japan’s academic community both at home and abroad.
Under the occupational regime following World War II, the Academy was renamed “The Japan Academy” (Nippon Gakushi-in), and placed it within the Science Council of Japan. After serving as an attached institute of the Council for some time, the Academy was reinstated to its independent status via the enactment of the Japan Academy Law in 1956. As an institution that affords preferential treatment to highly distinguished academics in the interest of advancing science and scholarship, the Japan Academy has since carried out a wide-ranging program that includes awarding prizes, publishing journals, collecting and compiling historical documents, and conducting exchanges with overseas academic institutions.
In 1974, the Academy’s newly constructed assembly hall was inaugurated. In January 1979, a ceremony to commemorate the Academy’s 100th anniversary was held in the hall. This juncture spurred the addition of new components to the Academy’s program as Japan’s center of profound scholarship, including holding public lectures and conferring such awards as the Duke of Edinburgh Prize and Japan Academy Medal. In October 2017, the 89th General Assembly of the UAI holds a General Assembly in Japan.
As we strive to carry out these programs in the time-honored tradition of the Japan Academy, I wish to request your greatly appreciated support and cooperation.
The Japan Academy