Masoud Daher’s book “The Development of Arabic Studies in Japan 1945-2016”: A Sympathetic Expression that Paradoxes with Western Orientalism

For many reasons related to the geo-political, economic and technological position that Japan occupied, especially after the Second World War, Arab studies on this country began to grow in quantity and quality, in close connection with Tokyo’s pragmatic policy to protect its economy, and in return, the number of Japanese Arabizers increased within the framework of Middle Eastern studies, sub or holistic. Their specializations were divided between issues of Islam and Islamic currents, the history of religions, the struggle of nationalities, cultural anthropology, political geography, and Arab history, in addition to philosophy, literature, translation, children’s books, music, arts and theater, then cities, rural areas, Bedouin and so on.
And the book of Dr. Masoud Daher “The Development of Arabic Studies in Japan 1945-2016” is an important academic contribution, and it can be unique in its character and content, in terms of its success in providing a comprehensive panel on the basic trends in Japanese Arabization during the period between 1945 and 2016, as well as from the point of view of that Arabization as a school Scientific research is still relatively unknown to the majority of Arab researchers.
The book is based on a systematic introduction that presented theoretical problems about the problems of cultural interaction between Arabs and Japanese, and the five chapters dealt with the following topics:
– Highlights on the emergence of Arabic studies in Japan during the time-limited period, 1945-2016
– cultural institutions and projects to promote Arabic studies in Japan,
– The role of translation in the positive interaction between the Arab and Japanese cultures,
– Japanese Arabization in the early pioneer stage, 1973-1993.
– The development of Arabic studies in Japan, 1993-2016,
The conclusion touches on the new horizons of Arabic studies in Japan.
The author also added seven appendices, lengthened and expanded in fact because they are about 100 pages, on the various fields of communication between Japan and the Arab world.
It is remarkable that the forerunners of Japanese studies chose to research Egyptian affairs, especially the Ahmed Orabi revolution, then translate the Holy Qur’an and some research on the personality and biography of the Prophet Muhammad, as Osaka University was the first incubator for teaching Arabic. It is also remarkable that this orientation towards the Arab world and Islamic culture was met with opposition from Japanese schools influenced by Western or Chinese Orientalism. In observing the impact of economics and international relations on Japanese Arabization studies, Daher stops at the effects of the Arab oil embargo in 1973 on the trend of scholars towards establishing specialized scientific and teaching institutions such as the Institute for Developing Economies, and adopting a policy of cultural exchange with Arab universities and scientific institutes. In the third chapter on the role of translation in the positive interaction between the Arab and Japanese cultures, Daher acknowledges the Arab failure in the field of translating Japanese literature into the language of Dhad, and at the same time enumerates the names of nearly 350 Arab authors whose works have been translated into Japanese.
In terms of its general outlook, the book seeks to highlight the precise scientific path of the development of Arab studies in Japan, and to address it based on its “distinctiveness from Western Oriental studies in looking at Arab culture and the principles of Islam,” says Daher. The study covered two stages in the gradual development of these studies:
1 – The stage of comprehensive Japanese studies on the Arab world on scientific and cognitive bases, with Japanese characteristics.
2 – The stage of using modern science and technology to develop good documentation of cultural relations between Arabs and Japanese.
In general, the study is unique in its field, as well as in the documentary material it provides on its subject.
It should be noted in this regard that the author relied on a number of Japanese researchers in preparing some of the book’s materials, especially the appendices, and was honest in attributing those materials to their authors.
The publisher stresses that the book highlights the role of the pioneering Japanese Arabists in doing justice to the history and culture of the Arabs despite the West’s neglect of them, and in that they studied in depth the political, economic and social problems, as well as the internal conflicts between tribes and sects in the Arab world. They also dealt with the problems arising from the Arab-Israeli conflict that has persisted since its early days in Zionist thinking, and the regional and international interventions that were numerous and wide-ranging throughout modern Arab history, but which increased with the recent Arab uprisings. For this reason, the book is a rich scientific record of the best theoretical statements produced by the Japanese Arabists about Arab problems, and their debate with Western Orientalism to refute its arrogant statements against Arab culture. It included an in-depth analysis of the methodology of the great Japanese Arabists through personal interviews conducted by the author with them, in order to benefit from the fruits of their work.
Since the author does not choose to align himself with a specific school of research, especially since his choice in the descriptive presentation of the fields of Japanese arabization does not require the adoption of theoretical foundations that allow the investigation of features of belonging to a concrete current, the work is the culmination of Daher’s long work on Japanese studies. It is known that he resided in Japan for a period of time, and was awarded by the Emperor of Japan the Golden Medal for the dissemination of Japanese culture, and among his many books there are books specialized in Japan, such as “Japan with Arab Eyes” and “The Contemporary Japanese Renaissance: Lessons Learned in the Arab World,” along with dozens of Scientific and press articles related to that country.
In view of the severe lack of sufficient documentation of the material of the book, in terms of the knowledge material and the writings of Japanese Arabists on basic issues in Arab history and culture, Islamic heritage, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and all this; The author adopted a comprehensive descriptive approach on his part, and included Japanese contributions written specifically for the study, and the choice seemed generally consistent with the requirements and conclusions of the research. In all of this, the author’s language was sound, accurate, simplified, and conveyed a good meaning, without complexity or elaboration. His method of direct presentation depends on presenting, explaining and building on the information in a smooth manner that fulfills the topic of the paragraph. Terminology is rare by virtue of the nature of the study, as it is a documentation of the achievements of Japanese arabization and not of philosophical or intellectual problems that surrounded its tracks.
The book may be accused of its lack of critical analysis of some phenomena of Japanese Arabization within the internal debates that afflicted a number of senior Japanese orientalists, especially during the era of the rise of Japanese imperialism, and the explosion of thorny questions about the civilizational and political identity of modern and contemporary Japan, in the contexts of the relationship with the outside world, east and west. In this regard, the author relied on a limited number of Arabic sources or translated into Arabic, and on a larger number in foreign languages ​​or translated from Japanese into foreign languages. Its contents have generally been conveniently harnessed.
“A unique study in its chapter in terms of the authenticity and comprehensiveness of documentation, the diversity of personal interviews, and the abundance of appendices prepared by Japanese researchers, especially for this book,” says the publisher, adding that Daher’s work “builds a solid foundation for understanding the structure of Japanese arabization and its role in providing a fair picture of Arab issues.” “An Arab academic study par excellence, which provided a knowledgeable material rich in documents, and fills a chronic shortage in the Arabic library. And the element of novelty in it is strongly evident through the participation of the pioneering Japanese Arabists who made direct translations from Arabic into Japanese.”

Dr.. Masoud Daher: “The Development of Arabic Studies in Japan 1945-2016”
Dar Al-Farabi, Beirut 2019
292 pages.