Mutual Images Research Association
WHAT Is IT All About ?

What we do


MUTUAL IMAGES RESEARCH ASSOCIATION is an independent research association that brings together academics from different countries and fields of research. We believe that cultural diversity and multi- and inter-disciplinarity encourage dialogue and highlight new perspectives. Our research association has two main areas of academic activity:


  • Mutual Images Journal:

We are the creator, publisher and host of this open-access, peer-reviewed academic journal, registered under the ISSN 2496-1868. The first volume was published in summer 2016, the second in winter 2017, and since then, two volumes per year are issued, in spring and autumn.


For more information on Mutual Images Journal, please click here.


  • Organising events:

Since 2013, MUTUAL IMAGES RESEARCH ASSOCIATION has organised an annual international workshop every spring, looking at the "mutual images" between, mainly, Japan and Europe. Called "MUTUAL IMAGES", it is held alternately in Japan and Europe at different hosting universities. To date, three of the workshops have been held in Japan (Konan University, Kobe University and Nagoya University) and three in Europe (Université François-Rabelais de Tours in France, Aarhus University in Denmark and Cardiff University in the United Kingdom). Since its inauguration, our annual workshop has had a constantly growing number of participants and attendants.


In addition, other one-time workshops are organised throughout the year with partner institutions. In November 2017, MUTUAL IMAGES co-organised a workshop at Aoyama Gakuin University, Japan Pop Goes Global: Japanese Pop Culture on Aesthetics and Creativity. 


To see our upcoming events, click here

To see what we did in the past years, click here



Why “mutual images”?


The name of this association comes from an expression used by Akira Iriye in the title of his publication Mutual Images: Essays in American-Japanese Relations (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975). Several academics have since focused on explicating those “mutual images”, especially regarding Japan-U.S. interactions. 


What images are we talking about? We are referring not only to iconic, iconographic and visual cultures, but also to the ways general ideas about foreign cultures and nations are conceived, built and circulated abroad. These are sociological and, in wider terms, political aspects of the process of image-building that we should also take into account in our studies of mutual images. However, the word “image” immediately brings to mind the visual. When we are asked to think of the images of a culture, we see before our eyes paintings and frescoes, buildings, churches and temples, streets and squares, films and animation, comics and classical literature, artists, musicians and pop stars, fashion, video games and new technologies, politicians and people of public interest. These exercises in visualising the various aspects of a national culture, when applied to Japan, give life to numerous strong images in our minds. But this process is also effective in the reverse direction: mutual images implies that Japanese thinkers, artists, writers and ordinary people have formed over the decades and centuries many images of foreign cultures through their own lenses. Hence, the bi-directional purpose of these workshops is to study the way mutual representations have been formed and their historical, aesthetic and social outcomes.


The cultural relationship between Japan and other cultures raises many questions, all equally important for understanding the past and the present, as well as preparing for the future. These questions are essentials for researchers, both Japanese and foreign, working on Japan. 



Our philosophy and goals


The philosophy from which MUTUAL IMAGES RESEARCH ASSOCIATION was born clearly underpins our main mission: to investigate the mutual cultural influences between Japan and other cultures. From the beginning, our aim has been:


1/ To give young researchers and postgraduate students the same opportunities as established scholars. Our events are free, and we strive to make everyone feel valued. We do not use titles, nor do we disclose participants’ positions within universities. At our events, participants will not know if the person sitting next to them is a Masters student or a tenured professor. Experience is always valuable, but many younger researchers hesitate to talk after, contradict or even ask questions to a professor.


2/ To be researchers on Japan, but not Japan Studies researchers. One of our earliest talks was on the topic: “How do you do research on Japan without speaking Japanese?” There is a difference, and we acknowledge the usefulness of having a grasp of the language. But we also recognise that it is not necessarily at the center of everyone’s research focuses. Participants may similarly have come across Japan as just one possible case study in your research, without it being the main subject.  MUTUAL IMAGES' events are inter- and multidisciplinary workshops; you may need to explain basic concepts from your field. We do not expect participants to have full knowledge of all aspects of Japanese language, history, society and culture. But MUTUAL IMAGES' workshops are also beneficial for information exchange.


3/ To be a workshop and not a conference. It is important for us to make the most of this experience, and that participants stay engaged for the whole duration of the event. These workshops are like a camping trip, where everyone lives together for two days to be productive and share ideas. Many projects have emerged from discussions at our workshops, with or without the direct involvement of MUTUAL IMAGES. Looking at the schedule and book of abstracts, you may note straight away which papers are “useful” to you. You may be surprised to find that many more papers relate to your own research and that, all together, they allow us to think critically about the theme of the workshop. Workshop themes are carefully deliberated; it is the goal of the workshop to rigorously explore the selected topic (papers on unrelated themes are not accepted). We have a discussion session at the end of each workshop as a space to link all the papers, disciplines and interests. This session is a vital component of our workshop and a fruitful end to a productive, intensive two days. It also helps build up further feedback. During all discussions, we encourage constructive criticism, the emphasis being on “constructive”. As it is a workshop, we expect works in progress, attempts at presenting new theories and new insights. We strive to work together toward improvement.


4/ To use the workshop as a step toward publication. We started publishing Mutual Images Journal in 2015. It is an open access, peer-reviewed journal with two volumes per year. Every spring, we publish an issue on the theme of the workshop, including some of the papers presented and others related. All participants from the workshop are welcome to submit their reworked paper for publication in the next spring. Please note that the submission must be a reworked and extended version of the paper presented.



Who we are


MUTUAL IMAGES RESEARCH ASSOCIATION was created in 2012 by three academics who share an interest in the “images” of Japan, as well as past and present cultural exchanges between Japan and Europe. Every spring, the association gathers academics from different countries for our workshop. 


In 2014, MUTUAL IMAGES was registered as an official scholarly and non-profit association with the Préfecture du Rhône, France. It follows the French law of the 1st July 1901 regarding associations. 


Since 2015, MUTUAL IMAGES widened its fields of interest to three programmes: “Japan Focus”, “Asia-Europe Exchanges” and “Global Interactions”.

In 2016, the association established the peer-reviewed and open-access Mutual Images Journal, with its first volume being published in summer 2016.





Dr. Aurore YAMAGATA-MONTOYA, president
Maxime D
ANESIN, vice-president in charge of events
Dr. Marco P
ELLITTERI, vice-president in charge of publications
Dr. Fabio Domenico P
ALUMBO, secretary
Jamie T
OKUNO, treasurer

Mutual Images Research
association Board
vICE-President in charge of publications
vICE-President in charge of events
Where Committed Minds Reunite

Workshops. Lectures. Networking. Publication.