Kobe University, founded in 1902 as Kobe Higher Commercial School, celebrated its 120th anniversary last year. The Research Institute for Economics and Business Administration (RIEB) originated from the Commercial Research Institute. It was established 17 years later in 1919, and was feted for its centennial in 2019. The Commercial Research Institute, the predecessor of the RIEB, was founded through donations made by the Kanematsu Shoten in commemoration of Fusajiro Kanematsu, the founder of the Kanematsu Shoten, now Kanematsu Corporation. The creation was celebrated by the entire school and was reportedly expected to support the movement, heated at the time, to expand Kobe Higher Commercial School to a university. The RIEB is still the only research institute attached to Kobe University. On campus, it is sometimes simply called the “Institute” for short.
Do you know how many national university-affiliated research institutes related to economics and business administration exist in Japan? There are five, including the Institute of Social Science at the University of Tokyo, the Institute of Economic Research at Hitotsubashi University, the Institute of Economic Research at Kyoto University, the Institute of Social and Economic Research at Osaka University, and the Research Institute for Economics and Business Administration at Kobe University. Among these, the RIEB has the longest history. Moreover, it is the only research institute specializing in both economics and business administration. During its long history, the RIEB has maintained the highest level of research and has made numerous significant research contributions. According to the international ranking in economics of Research Papers in Economics (RePEc), the RIEB ranks fourth in Japan (as of January 2023) despite its small size. This level of achievement beyond its size suggests that the RIEB conducts cutting-edge research activities comparable to those of economics-related departments at the seven former imperial universities and other institutions researching economics.
Kobe University has the RIEB in addition to the Graduate School of Economics and the Graduate School of Business Administration. It is well known among the researcher community as a university that is exceptionally resourceful in this field of study. Moreover, the relationships among departments are extremely close and cooperative, which I regard as characteristic of the social science departments of Kobe University. For example, a traditional study group called the Monetary Economics Seminar of Kobe University has been led in turn by professors from the Graduate School of Economics, the Graduate School of Business Administration, and the RIEB. The Monetary Economics Seminar of Kobe University has existed from 1963 to the present. Its representatives in the past have included Prof. Masahiro Fujita from the RIEB, and subsequently, Prof. Ryoichi Mikitani from the Graduate School of Economics: the father of Mr. Hiroshi Mikitani of Rakuten, Inc. Subsequently, Prof. Kenichi Ishigaki from the RIEB, Prof. Seiichi Fujita from the Graduate School of Economics, Prof. Ryuzo Miyao then from the RIEB, Prof. Toshiki Jinushi from the Graduate School of Economics, Prof. Kenya Fujiwara from the Graduate School of Business Administration, and Prof. Nobuyoshi Yamori from the RIEB served as representatives of the Monetary Economics Seminar of Kobe University. Looking back on the history, our great predecessors from the Graduate School of Economics, the Graduate School of Business Administration, and the RIEB represented the Seminar, clearly demonstrating that professors from the three departments have been operating this traditional study group cooperatively. Such cooperation among departments to maintain high levels of research activities represents one aspect of the great appeal of Kobe University.
A characteristic of the RIEB is its high level of research activities in the field of economics and business administration conducted in cooperation with other departments. In recent years, it has been expanding its research areas in response to current demands and conducting studies in the form of “multidisciplinary co-creation and collaboration.” The Center for Computational Social Science (CCSS) established as an in-house center in 2017 has by now become an organization that is independent of the RIEB, which promotes core research of all departments. Computational social science is a new research area of analyzing socioeconomic phenomena based on big data and rapidly developing calculation techniques of recent years. It represents a compound field at the core nexus of three fields: social science, data science, and computational science. The refereed international academic journal, Journal of Computational Social Science (JCSS), for which Prof. Takashi Kamihigashi, the Director of the CCSS, serves as the Editor in Chief, was first published in 2018 by Springer as the world’s first refereed academic journal specializing in computational social science. Numerous articles have been contributed from around the world. The CCSS is becoming an international research center for this new field of study.
Other important roles of the RIEB include collecting, organizing, and conducting analytical research of literature, information materials, and data and making them available for public use. The RIEB has received donations (partially deposited) of the Hirooka family documents and is currently making a digital version and preparing them for public release. The Hirooka family documents are a group of historical documents passed down in the Hirooka family, prominent business magnates who prospered during the Edo through Showa periods. The Hirooka family started a rice milling business in Osaka and developed a financial business, which prospered to the level of Mitsui, Sumitomo, Konoike, and other magnates by the 18th century. In the Meiji period, the Hirooka family founded Kajima Bank and Daido Life Insurance Company. Since then, they have led the Japanese financial market. The historical documents preserved in the Hirooka family having such a background are extremely important in the research of financial history. Results of their analysis have been published as Goushou No Kinyuushi (Keio University Press, 2022) written by Dr. Yasuo Takatsuki. The book has been receiving positive reviews from newspapers and other media. The development and publication of such valuable materials are expected to contribute to research of the history of economy and business administration in Japan to an even greater degree in the future.
The RIEB will enhance its strengths such as the promotion of advanced research, development of studies in “multidisciplinary co-creation and collaboration,” and organization of historical materials while striving harder to expand and extend itself into a research center representing Kobe University embracing the principle of “harmony between theory and reality.”
April 1, 2023
Shigeto Kitano, Director of the RIEB
(Research Institute for Economics and Business Administration)