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Academic Staff

Dr. Janet Borland
BA, BSc, MA, PhD Melbourne

Assistant Professor

Email: borland@hku.hk

Janet Borland

Janet Borland is an award-winning historian of modern Japan whose research focuses on fundamental relationships between people and the natural and built environment. Her first book, Earthquake Children: Building Resilience from the Ruins of Tokyo (Harvard University Asia Center, 2020), won the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities First Book Prize for 2020, and the prestigious 2020 Grace Abbott Book Prize for the best book published in English on the history of children, childhood, or youth. Earthquake Children was also shortlisted for Australia's top history prize, the 2021 NSW Premier's History Awards, General History Prize.

Janet’s second book, Endangered Icon: Japan’s Quest to Save the Red-crowned Crane, is a social, cultural and environmental history covering the twentieth century. This work is supported by two research grants: a twelve-month Japan Foundation Fellowship held at the University of Tokyo covers the prewar component, and a three-year grant awarded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council General Research Fund covers the postwar component. By identifying Japan’s successful strategies to save the endangered crane and its habitat, her findings will inform global efforts to launch multifaceted recovery and conservation plans for other threatened species.

In addition to articles published in leading journals such as Japanese Studies, Modern Asian Studies, Urban History, the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, and Environmental History (forthcoming), Janet has presented her research at international conferences and invited seminars in the areas of Japanese history, Asian studies, disaster studies, international education, history of childhood, and architectural history. In 2012 she was awarded the Scott Opler Emerging Scholar Fellowship for her paper presented at the 65thAnnual Meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians.

At HKU, Janet has actively developed synergies between her research, teaching, and knowledge exchange activities. Her research-led teaching philosophy inspired her to pioneer the Young Leaders Tour of Japan field trip to Fukushima, Miyagi and Tokyo, a unique experiential learning course in the Faculty of Arts. By partnering with Mitsubishi Corporation and connecting with local businesses in Japan, Janet has enabled students to gain firsthand experience of the recovery and reconstruction initiatives taking place in Tōhoku following the 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. 

Janet won the 2021 Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award for her project, “Lessons from Japan: Empowering Children, Promoting Disaster Preparedness, and Helping Communities Recover.” In recognition of her effective and innovative teaching, Janet was awarded the 2017 Arts Faculty Teaching Excellence Award and the University of Hong Kong 2018 Outstanding Teaching Award.

Research Interests
Modern Japanese history
Environmental history of Japan
Red-crowned Crane (grus japonensis)
Earthquakes and post-disaster reconstruction
History of children and youth
Architectural history of Tokyo

Earthquake Children: Building Resilience from the Ruins of Tokyo. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2020.

Peer Reviewed Articles
"Small Parks, Big Designs: Reconstructed Tokyo's New Green Spaces, 1923–1931." Urban History 47, no. 1​ (2020): 106-125. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0963926819000567

“Objects of Concern, Ambassadors of Gratitude: Children, Humanitarianism, and Transpacific Diplomacy Following Japan’s 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake.” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 13, no. 2 (2020): 195-225. Co-authored with J. Charles Schencking. https://doi.org/10.1353/hcy.2020.0035

“Voices of Vulnerability and Resilience: Children and their Recollections in Post-Earthquake Tokyo,” Japanese Studies 36, no. 3 (2016): 299-317. https://doi.org/10.1080/10371397.2016.1246058

“Makeshift Schools and Education in the Ruins of Tokyo, 1923,” Japanese Studies 29, no.1 (2009): 135-147.

“Lessons From History for Today and Tomorrow: Disaster Prevention and Education in Japanese Schools Following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake,” Education Without Borders Conference Proceedings, Abu Dhabi, UAE February 2007, 259-268.

“Capitalising on Catastrophe: Reinvigorating the Japanese State with Moral Values through Education Following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake,” Modern Asian Studies 40, no. 4 (2006): 875-907.

“Stories of Ideal Japanese Subjects From the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923,” Japanese Studies 25, no. 1 (2005): 21-34. https://doi.org/10.1080/10371390500067645

JAPN1011 Introduction to Japanese Studies
JAPN2090 Growing Up in Japan: Youth, Culture and Society
JAPN2094 Japanese Studies Internship
JAPN2096 Young Leaders Tour of Japan Field Trip
JAPN3035 Revolutionary Origins of Modern Japan
JAPN4003 Japan: Earthquake Nation

Contact Details
Office: 537, 5th Floor, Run Run Shaw Tower
E-mail: borland@hku.hk
HKU Scholars Hub: http://hub.hku.hk/rp/rp01486

Japanese Studies HKU