Japanese Government honours Professor Richard Bowring

On 23 May 2013, Ambassador Keiichi Hayashi bestowed the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon upon Cambridge Emeritus Professor of Japanese Studies Richard John Bowring in recognition of his tremendous contribution to the development of Japanese studies, Japanese language education and the promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and the UK.
Professor Bowring has conducted most of his academic pursuits in close association with Cambridge University, which he first joined in 1965 as an undergraduate. At that time there were only five other people studying Japanese, but he recalls in his memoir that “this must have come as a bit of a shock to our lecturers, for whom one or two had been the rule, although we did not realize this at the time.” In 1984, he moved to Cambridge to set about creating a lectureship in Japanese Studies there and the following year took up the post of Professor of Japanese Studies. In the ensuing 27 years he served in various other posts, including Chairman of the Faculty Board of Oriental Studies from 1998 to 2000 and head of the Department of East Asian Studies from 2010 to 2012.
For almost three decades he has devoted himself to promoting Japanese Studies and Japanese language education in the UK, in the process making Cambridge University one of the country’s pre-eminent centres in this field. Moreover, during this period he has overseen a significant expansion in the number of academic staff engaged in Japanese Studies and Japanese language training at Cambridge from, as we observed, very modest beginnings.

Professor Bowring has also made it his mission to ensure that students and researchers at Cambridge have access to an impressive array of reference resources. He played a major role in fund-raising endeavours in both the UK and Japan, and the substantial sum which resulted went towards the establishment of an East Asia Research reading room at the University library and the expansion of the number of related publications housed there. In fact, the number of publications available to researchers has risen from around 100,000 when he arrived at Cambridge to approximately 650,000 today.

His research into Japanese culture and society by focusing on famous figures such Mori Ogai, Murasaki Shikibu and Fujiwara Seika has won him widespread recognition both inside and outside the UK, and over the years he has boosted understanding of these aspects of Japan throughout the English-speaking world. Furthermore, he has done a great deal to boost Japanese language education through his works An Introduction to Modern Japanese (1992) and Cambridge Intermediate Japanese (2002), textbooks used for Japanese language training in numerous universities and other institutions throughout Europe as well as in Australia.

On top of his activities in the UK, Professor Bowring has also conducted research at a number of universities in Japan. Through his longstanding interaction with researchers in Japan, he has contributed greatly to UK-Japan academic exchange.

In his speech, Ambassador Hayashi stated: “Throughout a long and distinguished career, Professor Bowring has made an immense contribution to promoting and expanding Japanese Studies and related academic pursuits in the United Kingdom, thereby helping to deepen mutual understanding and friendship between our two countries and peoples.”