more than 60 years ago, the 05th Annual Meeting of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC) was held at Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1962. In the young history of the PIAC, this meeting was a breakthrough in many aspects. The first meeting to be held in the U.S.A., the first meeting of several to follow to be hosted by Indiana University, the meeting with the most international background of participants so far, the meeting to inaugurate the Indiana University Prize for Altaic Studies (colloquially known as PIAC Medal) and, according to historical records, the first meeting where speaking time had to be managed tightly in order to not run out of time.
The meeting received a high degree of international attention; reviews of the Proceedings published by Denis Sinor were written by no less than seven scholars.
It was also the first meeting that brought Western and Japanese Altaic studies together. So far, only one Japanese scholar, Jirō Ikegami, had participated in the 4th Meeting 1961 in Cambridge, UK, despite the Secretary General’s repeated attempts to invite more Japanese scholars.
Denis Sinor had expressed the need for more insight into the state-of-affairs of Altaic Studies in Japan in an invitation letter to Shirō Hattori who, together with Shichirō Murayama, finally accepted Denis Sinor’s generous invitation (air fare included!) to participate in the 05th Meeting in Bloomington in June 1962.
In the foreword of the said Proceedings volume Denis Sinor writes: “Particularly regrettable is the absence of Professor Hattori’s very detailed report on the Japanese contribution to Altaic Studies”, the inclusion of which in the proceedings had been the original plan in 1962.
Fortunately, Shirō Hattori contributed an exensive report on his participation at the 5th Meeting of the PIAC to the Japanese journal Minzokugaku kenkyū in the same year. That report is not only a chronological account of presentations given at the meeting; much more it is a deep reflection on the very nature of PIAC meetings, and, at least in a summarized form, an overview of important Japanese contributions to Altaic studies, which, according to Hattori, should and could not ignore Korean studies.
Besides the detailed and preciousy vivid renderings of linguistic debates which took place during that meeting, Hattori’s report also reflects many of the key points of Denis Sinor’s report on the 05th meeting with regard to the international sharing of research results, the need of abstract and translation services, etc.
As a scholar, Shirō Hattori found himself haunted by the consequences of World War II and the post-war situation, and his reflections to this effect unfortunately hold as much truth now as they did then.
April 19, 2023