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University's father of Japanese studies honoured by Japanese government

X. Jie Yang, East Asian languages professor, collects prestigious Order of the Rising Sun Award

University of Calgary professor X. Jie Yang has received the Order of the Rising Sun Award from the Government of Japan. Photo courtesy of Professor Yang

By Heath McCoy

As the father of Japanese language and cultural studies at the University of Calgary, it was perhaps the greatest honour professor X. Jie Yang could have received last month when he received the Order of the Rising Sun Award from the Government of Japan.

Bestowed in recognition of his contributions to Japanese language and culture education and the promotion of Japanese studies in Canada, Yang said he was “greatly honoured” to accept the award. But the typically reserved and humble Yang was more interested in promoting the win not for himself, but rather as recognition for the University of Calgary and its outstanding East Asian Studies program.

Yang’s modesty aside, however, it has to be noted that he started the East Asian Studies program when he arrived at this university 25 years ago.

“Yes, I helped build the program over the past 25 years, and to receive this great recognition now, it is a big honour,” Yang says. “I am very proud to have contributed to a mutual understanding between Japan and Canada. Not many scholars in Canada have received this award and it’s very special to me.”

Born and raised in China, Yang studied Japanese language and literature at Beijing University before moving to Kyoto University for graduate studies, where he attained his Doctor of Letters in Japanese in 1989.

He came to the University of Calgary in 1991, whereupon the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies became the Department of Germanic, Slavic and East Asian Studies. Today, Yang resides in the Faculty of Arts' Department of Linguistics, Languages and Cultures, within which his Japanese and East Asian programs thrive.

Over a decade ago Yang initiated the Japanese Culture Studies in an Immersion Setting program, whereby every year up to 40 students visit and study in Japan for one month. Due to these achievements, the University of Calgary gave him the Award for Leadership in Internationalization in 2014.

Yang is one of 91 foreign recipients to receive the Order of the Rising Sun (Gold Rays with Rosette) as part of the Government of Japan’s Spring Imperial Decorations.