Other Information - About Japanese Folklore Studies

About Folklore Studies

What kind of discipline is folklore? It's not easy to answer this question simply. Depending on the era, the nation and the individual researcher the shape of our discipline changes. In this corner we hope to offer the various viewpoints of researchers who have been engaged in folklore research.

Inaugural Article "What Folklore Means to Me"

written by SHINOHARA Toru

Inter-University Research Institute Corporations, The National Institutes for the Humanities

When asked about my research, I usually reply that it is "ethnic research about humans and their natural relationships". However, when asked the difference between folk culture and folklore studies, there is nothing for it but to explain in the following way.

When one says folklore studies, it is generally believed it is carried out by a group of strange people who collect those things close to one's person that have continued from long ago and who also hold the belief that the older the thing, the greater is its value. As well, folklore is not seen as more than a supporting science of history, as a result of the large number of amateurs involved in folklore who have not accepted the academism of the discipline and because, in this word dominated world, the reception of "tradition" as curious and bothersome.

Aside from the aforementioned problems with institutionalizing the discipline of folklore, if one were to attempt to categorize human research - human culture, society and history, within the general category of social science (there is no necessity for incorporation in the natural sciences), one could create yet more subcategories of history, geography, political science, sociology and economics. Recently one such category was similarly made for anthropology. However, even if human culture, society and history are joined and such a category created, there are things left behind. To these topics, it is necessary to add miscellany and even more subcategories. I believe that it is this miscellany that defines folklore studies. I think that the academic domain of folklore is in that group of things which fall out of the established gathering of culture, society and history. These leftovers only increase, never decreasing, as humans continually do things that have never before been done.

Even when different things are brought from these organized categories, one probably does not feel as though he has understood human culture, society and history at all. It is exactly because of this that the complimentary field of folklore studies should be used to consider these unexplained parts of human culture society and history, and just as natural that there is no discipline to this study. Devotees of common academism believe that within a field, the object and method of study should be regulated, and it is not understood that folklore studies is a field which employs a problem-finding method, rather than a problem-solving one.