Japanese Government Honours Professor Peter F. Kornicki
On Tuesday 6 March 2018, Ambassador Tsuruoka bestowed the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, upon on Dr Peter Francis Kornicki, Emeritus Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the promotion of Japanese Studies in the UK and thus to deeper mutual understanding between Japan and the United Kingdom.
Professor Kornicki is one of the leading scholars of Japanese Studies in the UK. Following his graduation from the University of Oxford in 1972, he studied at Tokyo University of Education, a forerunner of the University of Tsukuba, for a year as a Japanese Government Scholar before earning a D.Phil. (PhD) in 19th-century Japanese literature in 1979 at the University of Oxford.
Since 1985 he has lectured in Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge, while also serving as Head of the Department of East Asian Studies from 2012 to 2014 and Deputy Warden of Robinson College from 2008 to 2016.
For over 30 years, Professor Kornicki has served in Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge, making that institution one of the core universities for the subject not only in the UK but in Europe as well. His interests cover literacy in Japan and China as well as in Vietnam and Korea, for in all these societies Chinese ideograms had a major part to play in the written languages in the past. The main focus of his studies has been the role of books in society from earlier times up to the Meiji period, whether involving texts from the Chinese classics, published books or manuscripts. He is particularly renowned for his research on book culture in the Edo period.
In 1988 Professor Kornicki launched a project to compile a catalogue of early Japanese books in Europe, resulting in the publication in 1991 of Early Japanese Books in Cambridge University Library: A Catalogue of the Aston, Satow and von Siebold Collections. That work has been further expanded and, since 2011, has been published online as Union Catalogue of Early Japanese Books in Europe. The database currently has over 14,000 items.
As one of his final contributions to the field before retiring, he edited and wrote the Introduction to the seminal work Japanese Studies in Britain: A Survey and History, published in 2016, which is the first book to chronicle exhaustively the evolution of Japanese Studies in universities as well as related organisations across the UK. His new book, Languages, Scripts, and Chinese texts in East Asia, will soon be published by Oxford University Press.
His achievements as a scholar have been recognised highly not only in the UK but around the world. From 1997 to 2000 he served as President of the European Association for Japanese Studies. In 2000 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, and in 2013 he was awarded the Yamagata Bantō Prize by Osaka Prefecture.
In his speech Ambassador Tsuruoka paid tribute to Professor Kornicki for having enhanced the basis for evidence-based studies of Japan. For his part, Professor Kornicki addressed the gathering both in Japanese and English, thanking those who were present as well as those unable to attend the ceremony, including many librarians he had worked with. He promised to continue his endeavours as long as possible in the hope of promoting further research on Japan.