Financier of the first Institute of Japanology
The financier of the first Japanology institute from 1938, Baron Takaharu Mitsui of Tokyo, was a member of the House of Mitsui, one of the largest and oldest merchant and industrialist families in Japan, dealing in commerce, mining, engineering, banking, insurance and transport. Today he is celebrated primarily as an important philatelist or stamp expert.
In the 1930s, he not only funded a Japanology institute in fascist Austria, but in Nazi Germany and fascist Italy too (the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis), as well as in cities such as Budapest and Prague.
In April of 1943, at the express wish of the German Embassy in Tokyo - i.e. the Berlin Foreign Ministry – Takaharu Mistui was named an honorary member of the Academic Senate in recognition of his funding of the German-Japanese Cultural Institute in Tokyo and Chair of Japanology at Vienna University.
In 1945, when National Socialism had come to an end, his honorary title was revoked by the University. The Mitsui Trust was broken up and Takaharu Mitsui, although was not convicted of war crimes, had to answer for the forced labourers and their deaths in his mines.
In 1965 he was invited to Vienna as an honorary member of the Academic Senate once more, to take part in the University’s 600th anniversary celebrations. The new Department of Japanese Studies was founded shortly beforehand and his portrait hung in its seminar room (today it is in storage).
Source: Herbert Posch, private archive, photographed at the Department of East Asian Studies (Japanese Studies)
Photo © UniWien