How is education at Minpaku different from education at a conventional graduate school?
The biggest difference is that the number of faculty is larger than the number of students. The result is a research environment that no ordinary university can match. With the ratio of faculty to students three-to-two, supervision can be closely tailored to each individual student’s personality and needs. In both departments, moreover, the faculty are leading researchers in their fields, able to offer guidance based on the latest research trends. Additional differences include the wealth of material in Minpaku’s collections (660,000 documents, 340,000 artifacts, 70,000 video and audio recordings), the rich array of joint research projects and symposia that Minpaku organizes, and the opportunity to interact with outstanding researchers from around the world.
How do the two departments at Minpaku, the Department of Regional Studies and the Department of Comparative Studies, differ from each other?
For differences, please see the descriptions of the two departments. Note, however, that while the two departments differ in what they emphasize in their programs, they share many similarities, especially in their commitment to fieldwork as the primary form of research. There are close and constant interactions between the two departments. It is a special benefit of study at Minpaku that affiliation with one department does not bar having a supervisor affiliated with both.
The choices are limited to the Department of Regional Studies and the Department of Comparative Studies. Does that mean that all that is offered is cultural anthropology or ethnology?
Not at all. Both departments have brought together specialists in a wide range of fields, including archeology, folklore, architecture, information science, linguistics, music, museology, and conservation science. Students are able to conduct research in these fields as well. Since, however, the composition of the faculty changes from year-to-year, students unclear about the fit between their desired research topic and the current composition of the department should consult with the head of the department to ensure that appropriate supervision will be available.
Is it necessary to name the supervisor with whom you hope to work before taking the entrance examination?
It is not a necessary condition, but it is highly recommended. It will also be very helpful to contact the supervisor with whom you hope to work before applying to take the examination, to develop a tentative research plan before submitting your application.
What kinds of research support are available?
The research assistant (RA) system offers a variety of paid employment related to research. There are no internal fellowships, but assistance is provided in applying for external funding.
Is tuition waived during long periods of fieldwork?
Students are officially on leave while engaged in long periods of fieldwork. Being on leave does not reduce the total amount of tuition but does defer payment until after the student returns from leave.
For those wanting to get a Ph.D. as quickly as possible, is it possible to get the degree in only three years?
Since fieldwork is the core of research conducted by students at Minpaku, it is not normally possible to complete the degree in three years. We appreciate the desire to finish quickly, but believe that it is important to have the time to do the high quality research required for a Ph.D.
Can you apply to the Department of Regional Studies or the Department of Comparative Studies without a bachelor’s or master’s degree in cultural anthropology or ethnology?
It is possible to apply for admission without formal university-level study of cultural anthropology or ethnology. You should, however, have a clear idea of the research you wish to pursue and have spent some time closely reading the relevant literature. At a minimum, you should familiarize yourself with basic concepts concerning anthropology and fieldwork. Acquiring that knowledge will help you put together a successful application to the department of your choice.
What kind of supervision do students receive from the Department of Regional Studies and the Department of Comparative Studies?
These two departments use a unique combination of individualized and collaborative supervision. Each graduate student is assigned a supervisor and assistant supervisor with whom the student will work from matriculation to receiving their Ph.D. These two supervisors will provide most ongoing supervision. This is not, however, a closed seminar system in which students work only with their supervisors. Both the first-year seminar and thesis seminar are taught jointly by teams of four faculty members, who provide instruction related to presentation techniques as well as the substance of research. Faculty members other than those on the team in charge may also be asked to participate in these seminars. The department head also participates, and it is not unusual for students to have as many as ten faculty members commenting on their presentations, including their supervisors. Besides the student’s receiving supervision from a large number of faculty members, the chief merit of this approach is the cultivation of breadth of vision that is one of Sokendai’s primary goals.
Must students in the Department of Regional Studies and the Department of Comparative Studies always conduct long-term fieldwork? Can the fieldwork be in Japan?
Most students do long-term fieldwork. Depending on research objectives and content, it is, however, possible to select a different form of fieldwork. There have been, for example, cases in which the research topic permitted a series of short periods of fieldwork instead of a single, continuous long period. Research subjects are not confined to those outside Japan. Several students have completed Ph.D.s based on fieldwork in Japan.
Is it necessary to learn the local language of the region in which fieldwork is intended before being admitted to these programs?
It is, of course, an advantage to know the field language when you matriculate. This is not, however, a requirement for admission. This is not only because many languages are difficult to study before being admitted, but also because it may be necessary to broaden research to include regions whose languages the student has not yet studied. Particularly in the case of languages learned on-site, the usual pattern is to pick them up gradually during fieldwork.
If a student has already begun fieldwork for a master’s program, can the long-term fieldwork for the doctorate begin immediately after matriculation?
In principle, the first academic year of the program is reserved for preparation for long-term fieldwork. Fieldwork is not simply traveling to the locality to be studied. In addition, in most cases, the fieldwork required for a master’s degree differs substantially from that required for a Ph.D. That is why the first year after matriculation is spent working with supervisors to ensure the feasibility and appropriateness of the fieldwork plan, taking into account the results of previous research. The requirement that the research proposal must be presented at the end of the first year also helps to ensure more realistic planning.