I've heard two variants, 東学 and アジア研究. Is there any difference between them?

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    Can you show an example where 東学 means "Asian Studies"? – broccoli forest Mar 26 at 10:29

東学【とうがく】 may literally mean "Eastern Studies", but in actual usage, it refers specifically to Donghak, a movement in Korea that started in 1860. The English Wikipedia article describes it as "an academic movement", whereas the Japanese Wikipedia article calls it a 新宗教【しんしゅうきょう】 or "new religion".

Meanwhile, アジア研究【けんきゅう】 just literally means "Asia(n) research / Asia(n) stud(y|ies)".

So unless you really want to confuse the heck out of people, don't use the term 東学 to refer to "Asian Studies".


There are differences between 学{がく} and 研究{けんきゅう} that may help to understand how these are used.

学{がく} is used for an academic field of study or a class in school or university. For example, 生物{せいぶつ}学{がく} is "biology" and 学{がく}生{せい} is "student". In this respect 学{がく} is used like "-ology" to mark a field of study or expertise (but more broadly than in English1). A field marked with 学{がく} can be taught or learned (so it uses the same kanji as "learning" 学{まな}ぶ).

研究{けんきゅう} is used for research such as academic research and graduate studies. For example, 生物{せいぶつ}研究{けんきゅう} is a "biological research" and 研究{けんきゅう}者{しゃ} is a "researcher". This cannot be taught but is the subject of a study or investigation (or doing "research" 研究{けんきゅう}する).

In this respect, アジア学{がく} or アジア研究{けんきゅう} both mean "Asia studies" (the study of and research of Asia2 respectively). However, these are both very vague so "I'm studying Asia" would only be understood in the context of people already knowing what you study (culture, wildlife, business, etc). It would be recommended to be more specific, for example:

アジア文科{ぶんか} or アジア文{ぶん}学{がく} for Asian literature

アジア文化{ぶんか}研究{けんきゅう} for research of Asian culture

アジア人類{じんるい}学{がく} for study of Asian anthropology

You should not use 東{とう}学{がく} in this context as it has a different meaning3.

Note 1. My expertise is in the STEM fields so I may have terminology of the Humanities wrong. However, any fields of study or research can be described with 学{がく} and 研究{けんきゅう}.

Note 2. Japan does not view itself as part of (mainland) Asia in many contexts, アジア is often used to refer developing countries in South East Asia in Japanese.

Note 3. 東{とう}学{がく} literally means "study of the East" but is not a field of study. It's a religious movement based in Korea, similar to how western religions use terminology for learning such as "scientology" or "enlightenment".

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