16 October 2020
Born out of two pioneering initiatives
The Kyoto University Kokoro Research Center (KRC), founded in 2007, has its origins in two university initiatives. One is the Center of Excellence for Psychological Studies, which was launched in 2002 under the government's 21st Century Center of Excellence Program and implemented a series of wide-ranging interdisciplinary projects over the next four years. The other is the 2004 Kyoto International Culture Forum: "In Quest of Kokoro/Human Minds for This Planet", a multi-sector initiative that brought together cultural experts and humanities researchers from across Japan and beyond, and, through their dialogue, generated a variety of new insights and questions concerning kokoro, a word meaning "mind", "consciousness", "heart", "spirit", or "soul".
KRC's English name uses the Japanese word as it is without translation. The center's Japanese name, meanwhile, is Kokoro no Mirai Kenkyu Center, which literally means a "center for research on the future of kokoro". Director Toshio Kawai explains: "The name has the word mirai (future) in it because our mission includes envisioning the future of kokoro."
KRC main building
Unique research drawing society's attention
One of the key features of KRC is research involving organic collaboration across a broad range of academic fields, including neuroscience, cognitive science, cultural and social psychology, clinical psychology, Buddhist studies, aesthetics, and public policy studies. Many of these interdisciplinary efforts are centered on one of three areas: mind, brain, and body; emotion, communication, and interaction; and consciousness, values, and life. The scope of research was expanded in March 2012 with the opening of the KRC Collaborative MRI Research Facilities, which offer advanced functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) capabilities.
Research at KRC is project-based, and some of the approximately 30 projects taking place there each year are collaborations with external researchers, selected through open calls. Examples of the topics addressed by such undertakings include: brain mechanisms associated with honest and dishonest behaviors; possible use of AI simulations of communities and Japanese society in policy proposal development; influences of community and workplace cultures on kokoro; and neurodevelopmental disorders and psychotherapy aimed at strengthening the sense of self.
Many of the studies conducted at KRC address societal needs and take a long-term perspective. Because of this, the center constantly attracts contributions from businesses and foundations, resulting in a virtuous cycle where KRC uses the funds received to enrich its activities for the benefit of society, such as initiating new assistance programs and endowed chairs.
International collaboration is also thriving, most notably with Bhutan. In 2012, KRC established a department of Bhutanese studies, which has since been conducting comprehensive research on the country, focusing on Bhutanese Buddhism, in collaboration with local partners including the Centre for Bhutan & GNH Studies and Royal Thimphu College, both of which have a Memorandum of Understanding in place with the center.
KRC Professor Yoshinori Hiroi is advancing AI-based research into sustainable society in collaboration with industrial and governmental partners
Establishing a model for building businesses focused on serving society
Committed to being open to society, KRC is active in organizing public events, such as the Kyoto Kokoro Initiative symposia, as well as seminars and workshops for kokoro professionals — clinical psychologists, occupational therapists, nurses, and educators. Its next major focus will be on creating businesses based on community engagement activities, a unique effort for a university-affiliated research center.
KRC has consistently produced exceptional results while engaging with society and with the world at large, and while building a creative research space based on its expanding community. Going forward, the center is anticipated to further deepen its research on kokoro, shedding more light on the myriad issues surrounding it, and on the question of what can enrich our kokoro.
One of the Science of Kokoro Intensive Lectures, held for students and researchers
- Focused on integration and collaboration with other research domains, and exploring kokoro through an interdisciplinary approach
- Returning insights to society and industry in a multi-faceted manner
- Envisioning the future of kokoro with a long-term perspective
Kyoto University would like to ask for your help in ensuring that its kokoro research will continue to evolve based on unique ideas, unconstrained by external factors. Below is a link to a donation opportunity related to this article, and the University would be most grateful for your consideration of our request for support.