The Ohara Institute for Social Research was founded on February 9, 1919 in Osaka by Magosaburo Ohara(1878-1943). Ohara, a wealthy industrialist from Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, was an exodinary, public-spirited entrepreneur. His business interests included the Kurashiki Cotton Spinning Company(KURABO), and he also established the Ohara Art Museum and the Kurashiki Institute for Science of Labour. Magosaburo became a Christian under the influence of Juji Ishii (1865-1914), founder of the Okayama Orphanage, and he supported Ishii's work. Upon his spiritual mentor's death, Ohara established the Ishii Memorial Aizen'en (a Settlement House) in Osaka.
Direct involvement in these charitable activities, however, had shown Ohara the limitations of voluntary philanthropy. He saw the need for systematic research into social problems and established the institute that still bears his name.
Professor Iwasaburo Takano, of the Economics Faculty, Tokyo Imperial University, was the Institute's first director. Many outstanding scholars joined the staff, including Tamizo Kushida, Yasunosuke Gonda, Tatsuo Morito, Hyoe Ouchi, Samezo Kuruma, Kozo Uno and Shintaro Ryu.
The staff's pioneering research into neglected and controversial areas like the labour movement, social issues and Marxist economics were published in the Institute's Journal, Pamphlet and publication series. Shortly after its founding the Institute began to publish the Japan Labour Yearbook.
In addition to research and publication, the Institute collected publications and primary materials. Staff members acquired extensive materials on socialism and labour in Germany and England.
Upon termination of financial support from Ohara in 1937, the Institute's building, grounds and about 70,000 volumes from its collection were sold to the Osaka prefectural government.
The Institute moved to Kashiwagi, Tokyo and operated on a reduced scale until the end of World War II. Publication of the Japan Labour Yearbook was suspended with the 1941 issue. Translation of the twelve-volume Selected Classics on Statistics became the Institute's main project.
Japan's surrender on August 15, 1945 brought sweeping changes to the Institute. At first, it was difficult to revive the research and publication projects. The Institute's building and much of its collection had been destroyed in an air raid on May 24, 1945, although fortunately, rare books and original documents housed in an earthen storehouse were not burned.
Also, the Institute's bank accounts were frozen. A further impediment was that Institute members were soon involved in outside activities. In late 1945, Hyoe Ouchi returned to Tokyo University Economics Faculty where he became a leader in revitalizing the institution.
In 1946, Iwasabro Takano became president of the Japan Broadcasting Corporation(NHK), and Yasunosuke Gonda assisted him as a standing member of NHK's board of trustees. Tatsuo Morito was elected to the Diet, and in 1947 was appointed Minister of Education in the Katayama Cabinet.
The task of reconstructing the Institute fell to Samezo Kuruma. An office was rented in the Seikei Building in Surugadai, Tokyo and the Institute resumed operations. However, runaway inflation rapidly undermined the Institute's financial resources. At that crucial juncture a merger was arranged with Hosei University. In 1949, the Ohara Institute for Social Research was dissolved, and staff and collection moved to new quarters on the Hosei campus.
In 1951, in order to obtain additional outside financial support, the Institute became a private foundation, the Hosei University Ohara Institute for Social Research. The Institute finally had adequate funding and was able to hire staff and restart its programs.
Under the leadership of Director Kuruma, publication of the Japan Labour Yearbook and other activities were resumed.
In 1968, the first volume of the Marx Lexicon of Political Economy was published. The project was based on index cards compiled by Dr. Kuruma over decades of scholarly study of Marx's work. Seijiro Usami and many outside scholars worked on the fifteen-volume series, which was completed in 1985.
In 1969, to commemorate the Institute's fiftieth anniversary, publication was begun of Historical Documents of the Japanese Social Movement. The project makes available in usable form the publications and primary source materials of the prewar social and labour movement in the Institute's collection. Approximately 200 volumes have been published to date.
Cataloging of the Institute's books and materials was begun in the campus late 1950s. Progress was slow but in April 1971 the collection was opened for public use at the Azabu Annex, Minato-ku, Tokyo.
The Institute has continued to add to its collection on social and labour topics, acquiring an average of 6,000 volumes a year, approximately two-thirds by donation. In 1985, the 70,000-volume collection of Professor Itsuro Sakisaka, an eminent Marxist scholar, was donated to the Institute.
In March 1986, the Institute changed its status from an independent foundation to an integral part of Hosei University and moved from the Fujimi campus to the university's new Tama campus.
Economics and Social Science faculties had relocated to Tama and requested the Institute to join them. Since the move from Osaka to Tokyo in 1937, the Institute had been cramped for space, especially shelf space to properly store and utilize its growing collection. At Tama the Institute finally has ample library, research and administrative facilities. The staff can now increase their efforts to expand the collection as a special library and resource centre on labour.
To commemorate the Institute's sixtieth anniversary, the staff compiled Chronological Tables of Social and Labour Movements. Three volumes were published in 1986, followed by a separate volume in January 1987 with a summary of sources and topical index (its up-dated edition was published in two volumes in 1995).
A distinctive feature of the Ohara Institute is the breadth of its activities. In addition to its function as a library and document collection open to the public, and its regular editing and publishing projects like the Japan Labour Yearbook, Monthly Journal of the Ohara Institute for Social Research, the Historical Documents of the Japanese Social Movement, it also conducts research and surveys.
Topics of current projects include the Aging Society, union revitalization and organizing efforts, the decision-making process of labor policies, and the history of the Harmonization Society (Kyochokai). Findings are published in the Institute's Working Papers and Journal.
As a bibliographic information centre, the Institute prepares various bibliographic aids useful to scholars and researchers. These include the "Bibliography of Labour Publications," which is published in the Monthly Journal of the Institute.
In the last ten years, the institute has spent much of its resources on constructing one of the most comprehensive databases in Japan of labor and social publications and on digitalizing primary materials' images of historical value. We made the database and digitalized images open to the public through its own website (started in 1996).
To commemorate the Institute's Eightieth anniversary, the staff complied the 100 year history of Japanese Labor Unions in 1999. This encyclopedic book records the history of labor unions and social movements in Japan from 1887 to 1999 in a single volume (851 pages).