The history of Japanese studies in Poland dates back to July 1919 when Bogdan Richter, a graduate of the Oriental Studies at the University of Leipzig, organized a course of the Japanese language at the University of Warsaw just after Poland regained independence. In 1922, Richter, Ph.D., established the Department of Far Eastern Culture at the Faculty of Philosophy, where he lectured on China and Japan. The first Japanese native speaker to teach Japanese at the University was Umeda Ryōchū (1926-1928). In the academic year 1933/1934 baron Mitsui Takaharu, on a visit to Poland with his wife, made a generous donation to the University. It enabled the Institute of Oriental Studies to fund a seminar on Chinese studies which also comprised Japanese studies courses. The supervisor of the seminar was Jan Jaworski with Witold Jabłoński as his assistant. One of their studends was Wiesław Kotański – future founder of Japanese studies in Warsaw and Poland, tutor of several generations of japanologists, and outstanding specialists in many acpects of Japanese culture, especially in its language and religion. It was thanks to him that in 1952 Japanese specialization was created within the Chair of Chinese Studies and later in 1957 an independent Japanese Studies major which functioned as Section of Japanese Studies, formally a part of the Chair of Chinese Studies, and later of the Department of the Far East (1975-1990). Starting with 1990, the Department of Japanese and Korean Studies was founded, and finally in 2015 the University of Warsaw established the independent Chair of Japanese Studies.
There are more than 200 students at the Chair Japanese Studies, at present. They are enrolled in three-year undergraduate courses (stationary and non-stationary) and in two-year postgraduate courses (stationary and non-stationary). Outstanding students can apply for scholarships in Japan, granted on the basis of several exchange programmes with Japanese universities. The first exchange agreement was signed with the renowned University of Tokyo in 1978.
With the help of donations by the Japanese government, by public and private institutions and by numerous individual donors, the library of the Section was greatly expanded. A donation by late Takashima Koichi, former president of Kyoei Steel, led to the establishment of the Takashima Foundation in 1993. The Foundation supports the development of Japanese studies at the University of Warsaw. Thanks to Mr. Takashima and his sister, Mrs. Kazuko, the Section also received a beautiful tearoom for the very traditional tea ceremony. Very important were two visits and lectures, in 2007 and 2010, by Sen Genshitsu, the 15th Grand Master of Urasenke – the leading tea ceremony school in Japan.
Japanese institutions have repeatedly acknowledged our Section’s share in research and in fostering the knowledge of Japanese culture in Poland. The Japan Foundation Award and the diploma of the Foreign Minister of Japan can serve as two prestigious distinctions to prove our worth.
The most memorable and important event in the history of the Japanese Studies Section was the visit of Their Majesties, the Emperor and the Empress of Japan, who met with staff and students in July 2002.