The Reverend Professor Stuart D. B. Picken (1942-2016)
Order of the Sacred Treasure (瑞宝中綬章), M.A. (Hons), B.D., Ph.D. (Glasgow), F.R.A.S.
Cleric and Philosopher
It is with sadness that we inform our friends of IAFOR that the Chairman of the organisation, the Reverend Professor Stuart D. B. Picken, passed away on Friday, 5 August, 2016.
Stuart Picken was born in Glasgow in 1942 and enjoyed an international reputation in philosophy, comparative religious and cultural studies, but it is as a scholar of Japan and Japanese thought for which he will be best remembered, and as one of the world’s foremost experts on Shinto.
Picken entered University of Glasgow, Scotland aged 16, to study divinity and philosophy, and his studies culminated with a doctorate that looked at Christianity and the work of Kant. In 1966 he was ordained in the Church of Scotland, and began his career as a minister in Orkney.
However, his curiosity led him from isolated rural Scotland to the world’s largest city, and following a visit to Tokyo on a Rotary scholarship, Picken was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the International Christian University (ICU) in 1972. Here he turned his western theological and philosophical training to comparative religious and cultural studies of Japan, at a time when the country was emerging from the shadows of the Second World War.
His groundbreaking and controversial work on suicide in Japan made his name within the country, but it was his subsequent work on Shinto that influenced the rehabilitation of the religion at a time when it was dismissed in the west as pagan and primitive, or unjustly caricatured for its wartime associations.
As Japan emerged as an economic superpower in the 1970s and 1980s, and given his growing prominence as an academic, he was much in demand as part of a period where Japanese wanted to learn more about themselves as seen through the eyes of the west, and where western businesses were eager to learn from the all-conquering Japanese model. By then fluent in Japanese, Picken served as a business consultant to such corporations and also served as a consultant to various businesses, including Jun Ashida Ltd., Mitsui Mining & Smelting Corp., Kobe Steel, and Japan Airlines. During this period he was active in the St Andrew Society, when he founded the Tokyo Highland Games, which is still an annual event.
The author of a dozen books and over 130 articles and papers, Picken was to stay at ICU for 25 years, where he was a popular lecturer and mentor to both Japanese and visiting scholars, serving tenures as Chairman of the Division of Humanities from 1981-1983, and as Director of Japanese Studies from 1995-1997, as well as concurrently founding Director of the Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of Stirling, Scotland from 1985-1988. A keen amateur footballer, whose devotion to Japan was rivalled only with that he felt for Glasgow Rangers, and he continued to play into his fifties at ICU, encouraging many students to take up the sport.
He left ICU in 1997, and from then until 2004 was appointed the founding Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Asian Studies at Nagoya University of Commerce and Business, and the founding Dean of the Graduate School Division of Global Business Communication from 2002-2004.
Upon his retirement from his academic posts, he returned to Scotland to re-enter the ministry in 2005, as minister of the linked charge of Ardoch with Blackford, yet he continued his academic and Japanese interests as the Chairman of the Japan Society of Scotland.
Whether in his research or teaching, Picken devoted much of his life to increasing understanding between his adopted country and the west, and in 2007 he was recognised with the Order of the Sacred Treasure, an imperial decoration for his pioneering research and outstanding contribution to the promotion of friendship and mutual understanding between Japan and the UK. He also served as the International Adviser to the High Priest of the Tsubaki Grand Shrine, one of Japan’s largest and oldest shrines.
From 2009, he was the founding Chairman of The International Academic Forum (IAFOR), a Japan-based interdisciplinary research and events organisation, where he was highly active in helping nurture and mentor a new generation of academics, and facilitate better intercultural and international awareness and understanding, and in the years immediately preceding his illness, he continued to lecture throughout the world, in Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East.
He is survived by his wife, Hong Wen, and children, Fiona, Jeannette, William and Lynn.
The Stuart D. B. Picken Grant & Scholarship
Stuart D. B. Picken was a cherished friend and an inspiration to IAFOR and its community of supporters. In honour of Professor Picken and his dedication to academia, the ideals of intercultural understanding and the principles of interdisciplinary study, IAFOR has created the Stuart D. B. Picken Grant and Scholarship, an award supported by the Stuart D. B. Picken Memorial Fund. Awards will be made to PhD students and early career academics who are in need of funding to complete their research, and whose work demonstrates excellence in the core values of academic rigour, intercultural sensitivity and interdisciplinarity.