Finally signing the Sweat Room wall
Dr. Mikihiro Moriyama was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1960. He first came to Leiden for a year in 1988, and then stayed from 1992 to 1995 and was back again in June 2003 for his PhD. 'I’d never heard of the Sweat Room until I heard about it at a Leiden alumni meeting in Jakarta. When I visited Leiden in August of this year, I contacted the Leiden Alumni Office. So I finally wrote my signature on the wall.‘
You’re in Leiden now. How come?
I have been coming to Leiden University Library for my research every August since 2013. I am writing a book on print culture in the Dutch East Indies, and the Library has one of the best Indonesian collections in the world, especially the collection of indigenous language materials from the colonial period that I need for my research.
While I was studying in Osaka and Bandung at the beginning of 1980s, I already knew I really wanted to come to Leiden University to continue my study of Indonesian literature. This was because I considered Leiden University to be the centre of Indonesian studies in the humanities and wanted to do the research for my dissertation under the supervision of well-known professors and scholars.
I really enjoyed life in Leiden because of the friends I made. I studied Dutch together with Indonesian students, which was a bonus because I learnt more about Indonesia too. When I started my doctoral research, I was lucky that many of my peers were also doing doctoral research on Indonesia, in literature and history in particular. The friends from that time are something I now treasure. I’m still in touch with them despite them being dotted all around the world.
What was your research about?
My research was on Sundanese (one of the indigenous languages in Indonesia with about 30m speakers nowadays) publications from about 1850, the print threshold in the Sundanese language. I tried to explore people’s consciousness and perception of language and texts in Sundanese once modernity had permeated their society. I would still like to describe the cultural life of Sundanese people in the Dutch East Indies period.
My dissertation was published in not only English but also Indonesian, both in 2005. I am so glad that Indonesian students and scholars were able to appreciate the result of my research through the Indonesian translation. I am pleased that I could give the results of my research back to the Indonesian people who have supported my research for such a long time.
Leiden, an international environment for students and scholars
I still use the Dutch I learnt to communicate and read documents from the 19th century. More importantly, I learnt how to present and discuss a paper in the international academic arena. During my time at Leiden University, I had a number of opportunities to attend international seminars and conferences and make acquaintance with a number of academics in the world. Leiden is a wonderful place that provides an international environment for students and scholars.
Which project are you most proud of?
As I mentioned above, I am proud of the two books that originated from my dissertation. They took almost 15 years to produce. I received one of the most prestigious academic awards from JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) for academic achievement in 2006.
School of multiculturalism
After I retire, I want to set up a school of multiculturalism in my birthplace. Japanese and foreign children would be in the same class and would learn languages, not only English and Japanese but other languages too. They’d also be exposed to different values from one another’s cultures and would learn from sharing these cultural values. The school would be open to everyone: children, adults and the elderly. The elderly could teach about the local history and customs.
How come you didn’t sign your name on the wall of the Sweat Room until now?
I’d never heard of the Sweat Room [it’s a tradition for all graduates and PhDs to sign their name on the wall of the Sweat Room, ed.] until I met Carel Stolker (Rector Magnificus of Leiden University) and Marrik Bellen (Director of KITLV-Jakarta and Permanent Representative of Leiden University Library in Jakarta) at the 50th anniversary of KITLV-Jakarta. They told me about it, and I made an appointment with the Alumni Office of Leiden University during my visit this month in Leiden. I like the idea of signing the wall as an alumnus of Leiden University. By chance, I am here in Leiden again this summer!
Do you have a tip for students?
Don’t complain! Do your best wherever you are!
Digital Sweat Room
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