The history of the academic discipline of Intercultural Communication in Japan began at the end of the 1950s, in convergence with the historical context of Japan devastated by war and the social context of a population struggling to navigate a new identity and way forward. Both Japanese and American scholars contributed to the establishment and development of the Intercultural Communication field over the decades. Three research questions were posed for this study: one, why did the Intercultural Communication discipline become established in Japan as the first place after the United States, two, what was it about Intercultural Communication that resonated with the Japanese and offered some solutions to current challenges, and three, how did an invisible college network of scholars form around the emerging field of Intercultural Communication and lead to its development and sustainable institutionalization. In-depth interviewing of both Japanese and non-Japanese scholars was the primary method for collecting data. These Four Generations of scholars were the invisible college; they actively taught, published, and established key institutions and academic associations. From these primary accounts, a coherent narrative emerged that tells the story of the discipline's development over fifty years all set against the backdrop of four historical periods and social contexts. I identified key figures beginning with Mitsuko Saito who, as a newly returned Ph.D. from the United States, started teaching communication courses at a unique university, International Christian University (ICU), newly established after World War II, in Tokyo. Through her connections in the United States, she brought a line of American scholars to ICU starting in the mid-1960s that ended in 2008 when the last in that line retired. Intercultural Communication offered responses to crucial continuing questions of identity and international relations. The invisible college was energized by events in each period: two pioneering conferences in the mid-1970s, in the 1980s a new university that required Intercultural Communication courses, a standardized Japanese term for the discipline by the early 1990s, an ambitious international conference in 1998, and recent graduate degree programs. All of these developments are evidence of the successful diffusion of this intellectual paradigm and its advancing institutionalization. Even as the Intercultural discipline spread to many schools and became a recognizable field of study, the assumptions and methodologies were still largely based on American precedents. From the early 1990s, scholars imagined and proposed indigenization or Japanization of the discipline. The degree programs unify all the threads of the field and add a unique environmental aspect. The study concludes with these reframing trends and new directions in research that are holistic, alternative, and include geopolitical aspects that offer responses to current challenges. Fifty years after both the introduction of Intercultural Communication to Japan and the publication of The Silent Language, the classic that established the field, it appears that Intercultural Communication in Japan has diffused to a sustainable level and continues its dynamic growth. It is an optimum time to both document its history and reflect on its legacy.
intercultural communication, diffusion theory, invisible college (network), Japanese identity, narrative paradigm, Japan, Inc., The Lost Decade, Global Soft Power, history of a discipline, biographical narratives
Level of Degree
Department of Communication and Journalism
Balas, Glenda R.
Rogers, Everett M.
First Committee Member (Chair)
Condon, John C.
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Wasilewski, Jacqueline H.
Research, Project, and Travel Grant and Student Research Allocations Committee
Kawakami, Holly Siebert. "A History and Development of the Intercultural Communication Field in Japan (1950-Present)." (2010). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/cj_etds/10