Message from the President
"The Roles and Tasks of the Business History Society of Japan"
Minoru Sawai, Nanzan University, President of the Business History Society of Japan
In January 2017, I took office as the President of the Business History Society of Japan (BHSJ), replacing my predecessor Takeo Kikkawa. I resolve to do everything possible to develop this large society with 812 members. I ask for your kind cooperation in my future endeavors.
Business history is a branch of learning in which the history of business administration, other related organizations, and key players are the subjects of focus. In addition, business history includes academic activities related to the neighboring fields of economics, business science, historical studies, and economic history.
In 1985, the BHSJ published a memorial book titled, Keieishigaku no Nij ûnen: Kaiko to Tenb ô (Twenty Years of Business History Studies: Retrospect and Perspectives), by the University of Tokyo Press. In the preface of this book, Keiichir ô Nakagawa, the President of the BHSJ, reflected on the past two decades stating, "In the year of establishment of the Business History Society of Japan, the T ôkaid ô Shinkansen (bullet train) was inaugurated, the Tokyo Olympics were held, and Japan became an IMF Article 8 nation after which it became a member of the OECD." At that time, Japanese manufacturing was in full swing. At the end of the 1970s, the book titled, Japan as Number One: Lessons for America, had become a bestseller.
As one of the characteristics of the study of business history in Japan, it is possible to point out the accumulation of industrial business history studies. In fact, many business historians were involved in the writing and editing of company history, which is an inevitable reflection of the importance of manufacturing in contemporary Japan. By the 1980s, many business and economic history studies on Japanese-style management or the Japanese-style economic system had emerged.
After headlines such as "Japan Lost One Decade" or "Japan Lost Two Decades" emerged, the pessimism regarding the future of Japanese firms, manufacturing, and economy became widespread in the country. However, these discussions lacked rational proof and neglected the significance of historical processes and the efforts of key players. It is important to note that business history does not support such vague discussions since business historians place considerable importance on the subject in the organization, the relation between the subject and the organization, and the relation between various organizations.
More than 30 years have passed since the publication of the society's book in 1985. Two questions arise: 1) Have we consciously continued the efforts to enlarge the targets of "business" history as much as possible? And 2) Have we consciously improved and developed the tools for effective historical analyses? Moreover, in this era of Japan's declining birth rate, aging population, and unexpected disasters, such as the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, it has become increasingly important to foster the consciousness and pursue the subjective dialogue between the past and the present. Hence, the BHSJ provides the arena where these academic discussions can be exchanged.
In pursuing the goals set by my predecessors, I would like to prioritize the following three: 1) promoting research globalization, 2) promoting informatization, and 3) providing support and information to younger generations.
Regarding the first priority, the BHSJ has placed particular importance on exchanges with business history societies and researchers around the globe. At the First World Congress on Business History, held in Bergen, Norway in August 2016, Japan occupied the largest share in terms of the number of participants per country. Since it has been determined that the Second World Congress on Business History will be held in Tokyo in September 2020 (just after the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics), it is crucial that we begin preparations as soon as possible.
Various activities, including the continued hosting of the Fuji Conference, the publication of Japan Research in Business History (JRBH) (an academic journal in English) and the hosting of bilateral conferences on business history with counterpart societies in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, and Thailand represent our objectives. In addition, these activities were mainly promoted by the Fuji Conference and International Communication Committees as well as the JRBH. The 50th International Conference on Business History at Bunkyo Gakuin University in 2014 conducted sessions in English for the purpose of internationalizing the annual meeting held in Japan. The policy of setting an international conference on business history every other year was realized by the 52nd International Conference on Business History at Chuo University in 2016.
Regarding the second priority, research circumstances have dramatically changed and the amount of digitalized information is becoming larger by the day. Thus, numerous Japanese business historians have benefited from accessing the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records and National Diet Library Digital Collections. Moreover, university bulletins are rapidly changing from paper-based to digital formats. On the other hand, for business historians, the search for primary sources is a seemingly endless task. It is important for us to surveil that the flood of digitalized materials does not bring forth a new gap in research circumstances. The BHSJ also discusses the best ways of dispatching information.
Regarding the third priority, it is important to provide support and information to younger generations. Parallel to the retirement of baby-boomers, academic societies are facing a decrease in the number of members. Additionally, the sharp decline in the college-age population, symbolized in the "2018 Problem," is certain. As a result, academic fields have been competing with one another to acquire graduate students who will most likely be the core members of such societies in the future. Moreover, it is important to support younger generations by allowing them to give presentations at annual meetings after which their research can be peer-reviewed and published in, for example, Keieishigaku (Japan Business History Review).
The BHSJ also encourages younger researchers to give presentations at local committee meetings as well as at international conferences to increase the possibility of finding colleagues with similar interests. Furthermore, although it is difficult to write and publish an academic article in another language, the BHSJ finds it important for young researchers to expand their skills by preparing articles, for example, in English, and submitting them for consideration at international conferences.
Finally, we resolve to devote all of our energies to the development of the study of business history, with the support not only from the BHSJ members but also from people outside of the our organization. We would appreciate your continued understanding and support.January 1, 2017Minoru Sawai