Professor FUJIKAWA,Takao 《Western History》

Interviewer/Planner: Satomi Kawamura (2nd year specializing in Comparative Literature), Rei Amano (2nd year specializing in Comparative Literature)

Ambitions Towards Research

fujikawa_takao.jpg Amano : What was your motivation for studying Western History?

Fujikawa : I’ve always liked history, which is why I decided to study it, but I knew that all the kanji would be too difficult for me if I chose Eastern History… [ laughs ]. I’ve never been good at reading the historical documents of Japanese History, and all the words looked the same to me. Kanji is my weakness, so that is why I decided on Western History.

Kawamura : And why did you specifically choose Australia?

Fujikawa : I was originally interested in the diplomatic history of Europe. However, if you look closely, European history is quite repetitive and wasn’t intriguing enough for me. I changed my research topic to the Yellow Peril, and while advancing my research, I noticed that out of all the areas that were affected by the Yellow Peril, Australia’s historical research was the least progressed. That is how I gradually drifted towards research on the “White Australia Policy.” I’ve also studied much Western history…Rather than basing my research off of Western history from a Eurocentric perspective, I wanted to change my point of view and see Western history from the perspective of Japan. Australia does not come into the picture when you only focus on the West, but when you focus on Japan’s connection to Western history, you can start to see the relations between Australia, the U.S., Canada, etc. This is where I wanted to change the way of looking at history. When seeing the West from the perspective of Japan becomes standard, the history that we see will also become standard, and we will look at the Eurocentric perspective and think how strange it is. I wanted to change how we see history. I must say, it was pretty hard, though, considering there isn’t much research on Australia to begin with. There was hardly any previous research, nor were there any references on research or researchers, and I could barely find a path that could lead me to my studies. I had to start with one and work towards ten. I ended up having to contact professors around the world, connecting me to the next professor who led to another professor. I only decided to become a researcher in the latter term of my doctoral program, when I went to go study abroad.

Student Life

Kawamura : What were you like as a student? I heard that you were part of the soccer team in high school.

Fujikawa : I liked baseball better [ laughs ]. However, I knew that I’d have to buzz my hair if I joined the team, and I could not be bothered with having to go to the barbers that often. That is why I decided on the soccer team, where long hair is okay. I was always reading during my second year. I probably read most of the political magazines, art and literature magazines, and newspapers at the time, and even a bit of classical Japanese literature. Back in high school, I had already read all of the history books that they usually assign to you in the general education programs of universities. By the time I was at the university, I already knew all the information that the professors were teaching, which is why I started reading Western history books in English. I wanted to be able to read English quickly. I was raised by my single mother and was always working part-time jobs, which is why I had to use my time wisely. When it came to language, I spent the least amount of time focusing on it and learning it. Once I cleared English, I moved on to French and German. In my first year, for the language classes alone, I took seven classes per week; in my second year, I took eleven, and I always made sure that I would finish my review in about 30 minutes because I had my part-time jobs to consider. I worked as a cram school teacher and a private tutor about five to six times a week. I did not have time to join a team or any clubs at the university. I’ve always made sure to use my time wisely for the limited amount I have, and I still do. I guess it is my policy.

Interacting with Students

Amano : I heard that you also spend much time interacting and working with students. What do you do with your students?

Fujikawa : Recently, I’ve been working on World History in Anime . I wrote it with my students. It is written here…In reading A Dog of Flanders or Heidi, Girl of the Alps , I wanted to see if I could connect the background of the stories to the actual historical background. I have been getting post-graduate students to participate, and I am thinking of writing a variety of books. Of course, it is faster to get it done on my own. However, for a book to be published, you need professional help. Moreover, I’ve been able to experience the editing process along the way. I have to say, it is great for students who have only written dissertations during graduate school to understand it. I do it mostly for the students.

A Message to the Students

Kawamura : Lastly, could we get a word from you to the students?

Fujikawa : Literature majors do not have the same knowledge or skills as science majors, so it is important for them to work hard on thinking about things that people would not normally come up with or about how to overcome certain things from a variety of viewpoints. It is important to build those skills in the four years you have at the university. Students will have to learn how to mold, develop, and make use of their surroundings, because what we acquire is not specific. When you set your goals, try to come up with ways to achieve steady results and to fail, which comes as a huge shock. Of course, it is. You might lose confidence, and you might try to work on it harder, or you might move on to something new. The takeaway, though, is that you set these goals, and you gain much experience in the process of achieving the goal. Try to get out of thinking that all you need to do is accomplish the tasks given to you. You have to start finding your own ways of creating things, becoming independent. Moreover, if you manage to find your own personal way, you will develop the skills that will allow you to deal with and overcome the obstacles that will come at you in the future. You begin to understand and adapt. Literature majors have an advantage because they are surrounded by a variety of objects and people who have different opinions [A1] . These skills you acquire along your path will become a great benefit to you, as much as they will benefit society. You may not be able to learn specific scientific knowledge or skills as a literature major, but I want you to think about what I’ve said and how to tackle your studies every day. As a last note, I would very much think it appropriate for students to read The World History of Racism .

An excerpt from Introduction of Osaka University School of Letters, 2012-2013. The interviewers’ years are presented as they were at the time of the interview (October 2011).