History and Purpose

The Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture (NIRC) was founded as a component of Nanzan Gakuen by the Society of the Divine Word in 1975 as a center for inter-religious dialogue and ecumenical research on religion in accordance with the guidelines of the Vatican II Council. The Institute was incorporated into Nanzan University four years later with the intent of serving as the university's liaison to the international academic community. For almost half a century, the Institute has hosted scholars from around the world to engage in dialogue on religion and related issues as well as utilize its substantial library of materials on religion and philosophy.
As the first director of the NIRC Heinrich Dumoulin proposed in his opening address, the mission of the Institute is to foster a mutual understanding of cultures through tolerance and respect and by recognizing that we are all "bound together in solidarity." To achieve this goal, the Institute oversees academic projects that advance inter-cultural approaches to study of religion.

A significant component of this goal has been the promotion of interreligious dialogue. The NIRC has organized symposia on topics ranging from Buddhist-Christian dialogue on experience and language to Pentecostalism and Shamanism in Asia. These symposia, over of dozen of which have been published, bring together scholars from various institutions and research backgrounds to dialogue on religion. Furthermore, from 1982 to 2005, the NIRC played a central role in organizing the Inter-Religio, a network of Christian organizations aimed at promoting interreligious research and dialogue in Eastern Asia. The papers delivered at the Inter-Religio can be downloaded from the Institute website. Although the Inter-Religio conference has been discontinued, the Institute's mission of promoting interreligious dialogue has continued through the establishment of the Roche Chair for Interreligious Research at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture. Inaugurated in 2005 through an endowment from by Robert Roche, the Roche Chair is awarded to senior scholars whose research has contributed to interreligious dialogue.
As numerous publications on the subject attest, the NIRC is a world-renown center for the study of Japanese Philosophy. Beginning with the research of Jan Van Bragt and further expanded by James Heisig, the Institute has been instrumental in the development of an international field of Japanese Philosophy. The Institute continues to be a global leader in the study of Japanese Philosophy with regularly scheduled workshops for early-career scholars and talks by experts in the field.
The NIRC is also known internationally for its publications on Japanese Religions. In addition to the Bulletin and Shohō, which include accounts of annual research activities and academic articles from associated researchers in English and Japanese respectively, the Institute has also been home to the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies (JJRS) since 1981. A leading journal in field of Japanese Religions, the JJRS is published through this website and can be accessed from most databases such as JSTOR and ATLA. The Institute also publishes a book series, the Nanzan Library of Asian Religion and Culture, with the University of Hawai'i Press. Information on other book series such as the Nanzan Studies series as well as Japanese translation series are also available on our website. 
The global pandemic spawned by COVID19 has required scholars to change they conduct research and connect with each other. To adapt to the needs of NIRC researchers and visiting scholars, the Institute organizes online and hybrid events on a regular basis. The Institute has also undergone a change in staff, as the previous generation retires, and new members have taken an active role in planning and management. These staff include post-doctrinal researchers who, thanks to the Van Bragt Scholarship Fund, have been able to share their research with NIRC members and help establish new networks of scholars in Japan and abroad.
Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, ca. 1980