After returning to Japan, I wanted to introduce the Maison du Japon to the world and planned to publish a diary introducing my time spent as Director. I diligently kept a diary everyday from about 6 months after assuming the post of Director. Excerpts from this diary were published in November 2010 under the title of Scent of Bodhi Trees—15 Months at the Maison du Japon (Chuo University Press, 256 pages; Photograph 1). Along with horse chestnut and sycamore trees, bodhi trees can often be seen lining the streets of Paris. There were many large bodhi trees in the Cité Internationale Universitaire and the English-style gardens of Montsouris Park, which is located on the opposite side of the Cité Internationale Universitaire. In June, small yellow flowers bloom on the bodhi trees and a sweet aroma fills the air. I wrote the following introductory remarks for my diary: “There were times when I wandered with a tired heart while shuffling my legs. At those times, I was refreshed by the fragrant scent of bodhi tree flowers suddenly wafting down from above me. Without such good luck, I never would have been able to fulfill the busy duties of Director at the Maison du Japon.”
In fact, during the 2 years that I served as Director of the Maison du Japon, I was unable to engage in any studious activities, not to mention research on Rousseau. The only other task which I managed was to periodically submit articles to the Yomiuri Shimbun introducing newly-published French literature. My diary is filled with details on lectures and events held at the Maison du Japon, French society, and memories of films, opera, literature, concerts and travel which I enjoyed in my private time. Only after returning to Japan was I finally able to immerse myself in my specialty of French intellectual history, particularly the study of Rousseau.
2012 marked the 300th anniversary of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (born in Geneva), who is my area of expertise. In autumn of 2008, about 6 months after I had returned to Japan, my mentor Professor Yoshihiko Kobayashi proposed that I hold an event to celebrate the anniversary in Japan. I teamed up with Professor Nobutaka Miura (Department of French Literature in the Faculty of Letters), who is a respected friend of mine from when I studied abroad in Paris in my younger days. Together, we worked to realize our vision of a “Year of Rousseau.” Although Professor Miura does not specialize in Rousseau, he has the experience of organizing numerous symposiums as Senior Director of the Maison Franco-Japonaise. In particular, in 2005, he had just recently held a successful international symposium to commemorate the 200th anniversary for the birth of Tocqueville, who is known for his work Democracy in America. We decided to hold a similar international symposium for Rousseau in Tokyo. However, how should we hold the symposium and what content should be included?
There was much to be done. The first step was to gather information. For example, we analyzed the type of work done in recent years by researchers from French-speaking countries and other foreign countries. We also investigated the types of events which were being prepared throughout the world in 2012. Beginning from the summer of 2009, we gathered various kinds of information by speaking with young Japanese researchers who specialized in Rousseau and were studying abroad or had just returned to Japan. From September to October of 2009, we traveled to Paris and requested cooperation by meeting directly with prominent researchers in Rousseau and 18th-century history who were born in France or Geneva. We continued such networking right up until the symposium. In March 2011 (the time surrounding the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the accompanying nuclear disaster), I was staying in Paris together with Professor Miura. From September 2011 to March 2012, Professor Miura was teaching at the University of Geneva. In his spare time, he actively gathered information in Geneva and other regions which were growing excited in anticipation of the anniversary of Rousseau’s birth. In February 2012, I also visited Geneva. Furthermore, in June, both Professor Miura and I participated in a large symposium held in Geneva and Ferney, which gave us the opportunity to speak with many researchers.
The next step was to decide on a theme and framework for the symposium. Why was Rousseau important now? What aspects of Rousseau’s philosophy need to be examined? Although many themes were proposed, we eventually focused on examining Rousseau’s contributions to the mechanisms and establishment of modern society. It was then that we devised 3 pillars for the symposium: Rousseau in literature, Rousseau in political philosophy, and reception of Rousseau.
We began by setting the symposium period for 3 days in mid-September, 2012. We also decided that about 12 to 15 Japanese and foreign speakers would speak (although the actual number of speakers turned out to be much greater). Next, the Chuo University Institute of Cultural Science played a leading role in organizing the Research Society on Rousseau and the Modern Age. The society actively held study meetings to prepare for the symposium. However, we were faced with the problem of finding sponsors and funding. Eventually, we settled on the 3 sponsors of Chuo University, the Maison Franco-Japonaise and the French Office at the Maison Franco-Japonaise. We also set the 3 cooperating groups of the Ishibashi Foundation, the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Now, where would we find the 4.5 million yen needed to hold the symposium? Fortunately, funds were provided by the organizations listed above, including Chuo University approving the issuance of funds for holding an international academic conference. Inviting researchers from Europe to stay in Japan for a 1-week period would cost around 350 thousand yen per person, depending on the period. Ultimately, we decided to invite a total of 9 researchers from France and Switzerland, which alone resulted in expenses of more than 3 million yen.
Beginning from January 2010, we held a total of 11 study meetings. In addition to researchers from Japan, we also invited French instructors from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, the Université Paris Diderot, and other institutions. An academic symposium entitled “A Comparative Intellectual History of Rousseau and Chomin” was held by the Chou University Graduate School of Letters as an important pre-event. We made reservations for the venue and purchased hotel/airline tickets. Preparations were proceeding steadily.
For the 3 days from September 14 to 16, 2012, an international symposium to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Rousseau’s birth was held at the Chuo University Surugadai Memorial Hall and at the Maison Franco-Japonaise Hall in Ebisu. All 3 days were a great success thanks to presentations by a total of 26 speakers, including 17 Japanese researchers and 9 researchers from French-speaking countries. President Fukuhara gave an opening address at the reception held on the first day, while the final day of the academic event was concluded with a performance of Rousseau’s opera Le devin du village. We received many messages of warm thanks from foreign researchers who we invited from France and Switzerland. Indeed, as an academic gathering related to the French language, the symposium surpassed other recent events in terms of both quality and quantity. Special thanks must be given to the outstanding contributions made to the symposium by Chuo University. Nearly 4 years of work had ended in great success.
I did not want the focus on Rousseau to stop once the September 2012 symposium had ended and the “Year of Rousseau” has passed. Indeed, thanks to the symposium, I was able to establish conditions for continually promoting research on Rousseau. After the symposium, presentations were given by many researchers from the Rousseau Research Society, a joint research team at the Chuo University Institute of Cultural Science. Also, in 2013, I used a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research to invite 2 prominent scholars from France. One of these scholars was Bruno Bernardi, a leading researcher on the political philosophy of Rousseau. Bernardi came to Japan in January and gave 6 lectures over an 8-day period in Tokyo and Kyoto. I have especially fond memories of his presentation given around a kotatsu table at the Chuo University Hayama House. The presentations given by Bernardi in Japan were published as Political Philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau—General Will, Sovereignty of the People and Republics(Keiso Shobo, February 2014; 230 pages, Photograph 4).
The second scholar was Bruno Viard, who is also a native of Marseille. Viard came to Japan in November for 10 days, giving a total of 5 lectures in Kyoto, Tokyo and Beppu. In addition to Rousseau, Viard’s presentations covered a wide range of themes including 19th-century philosopher Pierre Leroux and author George Sand, as well as prominent sociologist Marcel Mauss, who is famous for his work The Gift. Viard’s presentations have yet to be translated.
However, the most noteworthy writing published after the symposium is a collection of recorded theses. The collection contains the essays of 25 speakers (1 speaker withdrew from the project), 9 of which came from French-speaking countries. Editing such an inclusive work was no easy task. Since the collection was to be published in Japanese, it was necessary to translate the 9 theses written in French. We also encountered difficulties when searching for a publishing company and raising funds. Fortunately, a publisher specializing in political science agreed to publish the book at an exceptionally low production price. Subsidies were also received from Chuo University, the Chuo University Research Association on French Language and Literature, the French Embassy to Japan, and the Seki Memorial Foundation for Science. Thanks to all the support, the book was successfully published at the end of April 2014, about 1 year and 7 months after the symposium ended (Rousseau and the Modern Age—Recurrence of Rousseau & Recurrence to Rousseau (Fuko Publishing, April 2014; 426 pages, Photograph 5).
There is truly no end to Rousseau. After publishing the collection of documented essays, we invited Céline Spector from Bordeaux for a 9-day period in mid-June. We held a series of 4 lectures featuring a critical introduction of Rousseau interpretations by the modern political philosophers Charles Taylor, Jürgen Habermas, and John Rawls. Even after the “Year of Rousseau,” it seems that my days will continue to revolve around Rousseau.