Shakespeare collaboration launched between Birmingham and Japan

The University of Birmingham and Waseda University, in Tokyo, have signed a new agreement to collaborate on research into the works of William Shakespeare. 

Delegates from Waseda, one of Japan’s most prestigious universities, visited Birmingham to launch the partnership with the School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies.

As the world marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016, the agreement will unite the University of Birmingham’s world-renowned Shakespeare Institute, in Stratford-upon-Avon, with Waseda’s Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum and the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Collaboration

Pictured above, from left, are Professor Norimasa Morita, Vice President for International Affairs, Waseda University; Professor Minako Okamuro, Director Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum; Professor Adam Tickell, Provost and Vice-Principal, University of Birmingham; and Professor Tim Softley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer, University of Birmingham.

The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum is a Waseda facility devoted to the history of performing arts and used for performances by artists from across the globe. It is named after Professor Tsubouchi Shoyo, a pioneer in modern Japanese literature and theatre, also known for translating Shakespeare’s complete works into Japanese. 

Joint research into theatre studies

Beyond collaboration on Shakespeare, the agreement also sees joint research into theatre studies, including the works of playwrights such as Samuel Beckett. 

Visiting Birmingham also gave delegates and their British counterparts the opportunity to discuss future collaboration across a wide range of other research areas, including robotics, linguistics, drama, and sport & exercise science. 

Both universities are contributing to a £60,000 collaborative fund, which will encourage close working between academics across the common research areas which have been identified.  

University of Birmingham Provost Professor Adam Tickell said: “The UK is one of Japan’s top research partners. It is important for both the University of Birmingham and our country to develop closer engagement with our counterparts in Japan, especially in areas of shared research strength. 

“I’m delighted that we have secured this collaboration with Waseda University. There is much common ground between us, particularly as the world’s attention focusses on our region and Shakespeare in 2016, and I look forward to other areas of joint research being developed.” 

Waseda University‘s Vice President for International Affairs, Norimasa Morita, said: “We are very much looking forward to expanding our research collaboration with the University of Birmingham, starting with a select number of academic areas and later developing other exciting strategic research partnerships. 

“In particular, I am very excited about the future activities that can be explored through a collaboration between the Shakespeare Institute and the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, which brings together expertise not only in traditional Shakespeare studies but also studies of the Bard in the context of world literature.” 

History of collaboration

The collaboration arose out of a British Council workshop last year which focussed on increasing UK-Japan collaboration in education and research. Professor Michael Whitby, the University of Birmingham’s Pro-Vice Chancellor and Head of the College of Arts and Law, visited Japan in October and held initial talks with representatives from Waseda University.

The two universities have worked together for some time and there is an active student exchange between Waseda and Birmingham.