Thank you very much Professor Gerbert. Your mention of Ryounkaku and the House of Electricity made me feel quite nostalgic. Asakusa was, and still is, a very important place for misemono (spectacle) literature. I hope that you will carry out fieldwork in Asakusa. Since you seem to like the downtown atmosphere, I will recommend it to you.
Our next speaker is Professor Caroli from University of Venice.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm teaching Japanese history at the Department of East Asian Studies of the University of Venice. It is a great honor for me to participate in this symposium to celebrate the inauguration of the project.
My deep thanks to Meiji University and Taito Ward for their efforts to realize this symposium. I would like to express my gratitude in particular to Professor Itoda. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Sepp Linhart. He encouraged me to participate in this project and contacted the organizers.
As Professor Itoda mentioned, thanks to the collaboration between Meiji University and the University of Vienna over the last six years, a series of symposia were held on some significant research themes, and four volumes of collected papers have been published so far. This should be highly commended.
Another commendable thing about the symposia is that presentations were given in Japanese when held in Tokyo, and in German when held in Vienna, so that the audience was able to understand the contents of the presentations. I think this is critical for Japanese studies to take hold and flourish outside Japan.
My first visit to Japan was more than 20 years ago. At that time I took a picture of Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate). Every time I come to this ever-changing city I visit new buildings, but I always try to take a walk in Asakusa to enjoy the centuries-old atmosphere. In the Meiji and Taisho periods, when there were no entertainment districts in Shinjuku, Shibuya and Marunouchi, Asakusa was a major entertainment district for intellectuals who lived in the Yamanote district as well as for upper and middle class children. Today Asakusa is a place where we can see the remnants of the Shitamachi (Downtown) culture of the Edo period.
For a scholar studying Japanese history, Asakusa is certainly an interesting place. Protecting cultural heritage means not only buildings and art, but also memories of the past. In other words it is important to protect traditional culture, including worship and customs, foods and languages. Here I will quote a passage from a book of French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs. He studied collective memory as a social phenomenon.
He said: "The past is not to be protected, but it is to be reconstructed. The aim of education on local history is not the restoration or reproduction of the past itself, but it is essentially the reconstruction of the past for the sake of the present". In short: "Memory connects the past to the present but cannot be kept forever. For this reason, it is necessary to explore into the past thoroughly and bring the findings over to the present."
Professor Itoda said that he was worried about the decline of Asakusa. To stop that from happening I think that the area needs to look back on its past. In fact, the aim of the International Asakusa Studies is to preserve its still thriving cultural uniqueness by exploring what is left of its past and conducting research from a variety of perspectives. To this end, it is necessary to get ideas through cultural exchange between different local communities, instead of trying to facilitate a uniform culture across the world. In the age of globalization, I think this is very important. In this regard, I agree to and support the concept, idea and aims of the project.
Another aim of this project is to introduce the results of our studies to the world. This is a very important point. By doing so we can contribute to successful internationalization, through cultural exchange between different local communities and through mutual cultural understanding.
There is one more important thing. You need to draw foreign researchers' attention to Asakusa. In particular it is crucial to attract the interest of young people studying the Japanese language and Japanese history, and to create a relaxed and natural atmosphere here.
Professor Itoda said that Asakusa provides continuity from Edo to Tokyo. I believe that if Japan scholars all over the world cooperate that continuity will continue and lead to the success of the project. Thank you for your attention. (Applause.)
Thank you very much for the inspiring suggestions from the historian's point of view. I was particularly impressed by the professor's hope that young international researchers will choose Asakusa as a subject for study. This is the ultimate objective of the project. Thank you for your kind cooperation.
Our next speaker is Professor Winkel from Leiden University in the Netherlands.