The reason for choosing Japan to conduct research
My field of study is Buddhism in Japan, so Japan is the source of the original material of texts, buildings, art object and communities of people, as well as the location of the most learned scholars in the field.
Thanks to the JSPS fellowship I have been able to publish several articles and to develop a new area of research. My previous work has concentrated on the history of the revival of Soto Zen in the Tokugawa period, but my new area of research concerns the relationship between the professional Buddhist clergy and the laity as enacted in the taking of precepts. To understand this requires actually observing these ceremonies and talking to participants, something that cannot be done outside of Japan. Thanks to this fellowship I have developed a new theory of contemporary Japanese Buddhist lay practice.
Advice to new fellows
Whatever ones field of study, I think that one key to making the best use of one's time in Japan is to have a balance between a disciplined focus on the main project and a readiness to respond to unexpected opportunities in a flexible manner. It is easy to get distracted by the richness of the opportunities in Japan, and one needs to be strict about spending enough time on the main project. However, some of the best parts of being in Japan cannot be predicted and cannot easily be entered into a final report. But these more human and unexpected aspects can be of more lasting value than the "main work", and we need to be open to following events as they unfold around us.