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The Society for Emblem Studies

SES Japanese Branch

The Japanese Branch of SES has been holding a local meeting twice a year since 2008 in order to promote emblematic studies in Japan. At the meeting, two or three members and invited speakers read a paper on topics related emblems and visual culture. Currently we have more than thirty members who are specializing literature, art history, visual culture, philosophy, and pedagogy. Compared to people in the Western countries, we have less opportunities to access Renaissance emblem books in their original editions, but it does not hinder our emblem studies, thanks to the development of the digital archive.


Members have published books and articles related to emblems. First of all, Japanese translations of emblem books by Professor Hiroaki Ito should be mentioned. As I reviewed in
Emblematica, vol. 20 (2013), he translated Alciato (Augsburg, 1531 and Paris, 1534 editions) in 2000, and Otto Vaenius (Antwerpen, 1608 edition) and Daniel Heinsius (Amsterdam, 1601 edition) with useful commentaries in 2010. In 2018, he completed the laborious translation of Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia (Roma, 1603). Furthermore, his translation of Paolo Giovio’s Dialogo dell’ imprese militari et amorose (Lyon, 1574) was published in 2019, and Horapollo’s Hieroglyphica this year. Some members joined him in translating Companion to Emblem Studies edited by Peter M. Daly (AMS press, 2008) in 2013. In addition to translation works, he contributed an article on Kokan Shiba, the 18thcentury Japanese painter who copied Jan and Casper Luyken’s Het Menselyk Bedryff, to International Emblem: From Incunabula to the Internet: Selected Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference of the Society for Emblem Studies, 28th July-1st August, 2008, Winchester College (Cambridge Scholar’s Publishing, 2010, pp.264-282). Saburo Kimura, who specializes in early modern French art, has investigated art works by Japanese Christians in the early modern period, and one of the fruits of his research is ‘Qui est le modèle du «ROI DE NAGASAKI»? Sumitada Omura immmortalisé en France au XVIIe siècle’, Les Cahiers d’ Histoire de l’Art (11, 2013). Among literary studies focusing on emblems, ‘Devotional Emblems and Protestant Meditation in Hamlet’ by Misako Matsuda appeared in English Studies, 98.6(2017). Younger members are also preparing more works on emblems with enthusiasm.      

We welcome scholars from abroad, and have invited Professors Peter M. Daly and Michael Bath several years ago. Their lectures attracted more interest in emblem studies among students in Japan. If you are interested in our activities,  please contact: matsuda@seijo.ac.jp 

Misako Matsuda
Seijo University