After the birth of Translation Studies (TS) in the late 1970’s and their rise after 1990, a broad notion of TS has become popular among researchers and students in the West. TS have their roots in Europe. Throughout the UK, for example, they are now established in centres and courses. From Europe, the movement has expanded over the world. TS are now also gaining acceptance as an academic discipline in China, Korea, India, the USA, and Canada. However, interestingly, it seems Japan has been reluctant to join this enthusiasm. It is well known that Japan is often called a “translation superpower”, and has produced enormous amounts of translations. The history of Japan, one could say consists of translation. Naoki Sakai even went further and pointed out that actually awareness of Japanese as a national language (kokugo) has arisen only as a result of translation around the Meiji time (1997). However, translation is still considered a secondary product among most Japanese academics; and it has never become fully accepted as a proper subject of study on its own.
In this talk, I will analyse what the obstacles are for Japanese scholars to develop TS in Japan, sum up developments in the last ten years, and outline the current situation, to see how TS in Japan could develop and link with Japanese studies in other countries from here on. As an illustration of possible new developments in Japanese TS, I will explain how historic translations were important for the identity of the Ainu ethnic minority in modern Japan.