About RIHN

Message from the Director-General


The Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN) was established in April 2001 to conduct integrated research in the field of global environmental studies. In 2004,RIHN became one of the original members of the National Institutes for the Humanities (NIHU), as an Inter-University Research Institute Corporation.

Environmental degradation can be understood as an imbalance in interactions between human beings and natural systems. Our mission is therefore to conduct solutionoriented research aimed at exploring how interactions between humanity and nature ought to be. RIHN conducts interdisciplinary research spanning the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, and transdisciplinary research that involves collaboration with various stakeholders in society.

Since its establishment, RIHN researchers have formulated creative projects to address social needs in diverse fields of environmental interaction. For instance, under RIHN’s Phase II Medium-Term Plan and targets, the Futurability Initiatives were formulated in 2011 in order to advance from “science for science” to design-science. The RIHN Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Studies was published in the same year, providing a single point of access to the diverse research outcomes of RIHN’s first decade. The institute also promoted a network-based Global Environmental Repository in support of its role as an Inter-University Research Institute Corporation. Following an external review of research activities and organizational structures, in fiscal year 2014 we reformed the ways in which we conduct and promote research projects. At this time we also began collaborating in the international research platform Future Earth, which aims to realize a sustainable global society through integration of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary environmental studies. In fiscal year 2015 RIHN was appointed as the Regional Center for Future Earth in Asia.

Fiscal year 2016 marks the beginning of our Phase III Medium-Term Plan. We have launched a new set of Research Programs, a Core Program, and the RIHN Center in order to organically integrate and support the Research Programs. With a new structure in place, we are determined to pursue our mission even more vigorously through enhanced collaboration within our institute, across our diverse research community, and with society in general.


Orientation and Structure of RIHN in Phase III

In 2016 RIHN will initiate its Phase III Medium-Term Plan, with the following three goals

  • Promotion of environmental studies that elucidate the interaction between humanity and nature and critically examine the future potential of human culture, based on the accumulated body of RIHN research and the results of global environmental research in Japan and abroad;
  • Promotion of solution-oriented global environmental studies involving close collaborations with stakeholders, starting from the research community;
  • Contribution to problem-solving by applying research results in support of, and participation in, on-site multi-stakeholder arrangements in society.

RIHN’s priority issues and areas of research are the following:

  • Exploration of the future potential of localities and of the Earth, centered on issues in modern society that are at the root of global environmental problems, including climate change, ecosystem degradation, rapid urbanization, changing population composition, depletion of resources, diversification of disaster risk.
  • Developing research globally, but with the Asia Pacific region – a hotspot of global environmental problems – as a core focus area.

Organizational Structure

The overall structure of RIHN consists of four Programs and a Center. The programs are to guide the development of global environmental studies by organically integrating RIHN research results, while the Center provides their operational foundation, helps RIHN engage in two-way collaborations with society, and at the same time is the locus of capacity building activities.

RIHN Programs

RIHN research is organized into Programs and Projects, rather than preexisting academic disciplines or domains. Three Research Programs and one Core Program each include multiple projects which carry out research in line with the Programs’ thematic foci. The bundling and integration of Projects within the Programs is expected to facilitate the production of synthesized results at a level not possible otherwise. Programs are subject to annual review by the External Research-Evaluation Committee whose members include domestic and international researchers (See RIHN Project Trajectory on page 7 & 8). RIHN endeavors to improve its research by making good use of the review results, while respecting the independence of each program.

Research Programs

Research Programs are organized around three themes identified in the Phase III Medium-Term Plan. In addressing environmental problems, technological and institutional developments are important, but RIHN recognizes that these need to build on the foundation of people’s awareness, value systems and culture. The programs collaborate closely with society in developing and proposing options that contribute to the transition of society.

Program 1: Transition to a society that can flexibly deal with environmental changes

This program proposes specific options for planning the transition to a society that can flexibly deal with anthropogenic environmental changes, such as global warming, air pollution, and with natural disasters.

Program 2: Fair use and management of diverse resources

Taking tradeoff s into account, this program provides multifaceted options to stakeholders involved in production, distribution, and consumption of resources, in order to realize fair use, optimal management,

Program 3: Design of wellbeing-enhancing living spaces and life styles

In collaboration with local governments and residents, this program provides feasible options to realize enhanced prosperity through the dynamic interplay between life-worlds and rural and urban residential environments.

RIHN Project Trajectory : Research Project

RIHN Project Trajectory : Research Project
  • Incubation Studies (IS) are proposed by individual researchers to the RIHN Project Review Committee. If approved, the researcher is granted seed money to prepare a proposal for Feasibility Study.
  • Feasibility Studies (FS) allow the study leader a period to develop a proposal for Full Research. In the transitional
  • Pre-Research (PR) period, the project leader formally assembles the team, establishes MoUs necessary for collaboration with other institutions and makes other preparations to enable Full Research.
  • Full Research (FR) lasts from three to five years. It typically involves a research team at RIHN and concurrent activity with collaborators overseas, several periods of field study, workshops and presentations, and outreach or communication to relevant communities. FR projects are evaluated by the External Research-Evaluation Committee at the beginning (selection) and the end (final evaluation).

Core Program

Based on the mission of RIHN and in order to realize the strategies and policies formulated by the Council for Research Strategy, the Core Program undertakes research on an ongoing basis. During Phase III, the Core Program will develop concepts and methodologies to solve global environmental problems in collaboration with society.

RIHN Project Trajectory : Core Project

RIHN Project Trajectory : Core Project

RIHN Center

Within the structure just described, the RIHN Center is to play the roles described below. See pages 38-39 for detailed description of the Center's divisions.

Collaboration with the Core Program

The Center will identify and propose Core Projects designed to make continued use of research conducted by the Programs by analyzing and enhancing its foundations (including identification and refinement of key research methods, devices, resources, and data) while also promoting collaboration within and between RIHN and its research partners.

Collaboration with the Academic Community as an Inter-University Research Institute

The Center will facilitate the role of RIHN as an Inter-University Research Institute and operate as an international research networking hub by promoting collaborative research with domestic and international institutions as well as contribute to capacity building and education.

Cooperation with Diverse Stakeholders

The Center will guide and promote transdisciplinary research processes involving domestic and international stakeholders in the entire research process, from problem identification to solution development, while also reflexively developing the methods of transdisciplinary scholarship.



Research rooms on the RIHN campus are designed to provide a sense of openness. The design concept is to allow implemented projects to be loosely interconnected as they occur in one large curved space 150 meters in length. The facilities help external researchers as well as RIHN research staff to meet one another, since they are designed with the maximization of shared use in mind. At the center of the main building, a library and computer room are located for the convenience of many users, and three common rooms are provided for casual discussions. On the basement floor, a cluster of fully functional laboratories has been designed with emphasis on convenience for shared use, as with the research rooms.

The separate RIHN House is a guesthouse. The assembly hall and a dining lounge located to the left of the house entrance serve as meeting spaces for the RIHN staff as well as for guests.

Appropriately for an institution researching the global environment, RIHN is housed in a tile-roofed building suited to the Kyoto landscape, where as many as possible of the trees already on the site have been retained. Lighting and air-conditioning also employ the latest designs to minimize the building's impact on the environment. The design has won acclaim, receiving awards from the Illumination Engineering Institute of Japan, the Japan Institute of Architects, the Green Building Award from MIPIM Asia, and the Architectural Institute of Japan.


RIHN researchers work across the breadth of global environmental studies. If the diverse knowledge they produce is the warp, then the unifying weft is provided by field measurement, laboratory analysis, data and information management, and academic and social communication of research progress and results. In maintaining and supporting RIHN research capacity to collect and analyze data and to communicate research in numerous professional and public fora, the RIHN Center enhances our collaborative research around the world and contributes the kind of integrated knowledge that can solve global environmental problems.


RIHN research projects are multidisciplinary and multimethod; in common they share the need for high quality physical observation and chemical and biological analysis of the surface environments of the earth. As a national institute, RIHN houses eighteen basement laboratories designed to address this need. There are state-of-the-art laboratories dedicated to microscopic, DNA and stable isotope analysis. Additional facilities include two fieldwork preparation rooms for storage and maintenance of observational and sampling equipment, three low-temperature rooms for organism and ice core storage, three incubator rooms for storage of organisms requiring specific temperatures, and a clean room in which samples can be processed in a contamination-free environment.

>> Website of the laboratories


RIHN research projects conduct a variety of studies around the world and collect a diverse range of samples that contain valuable information that will help illuminate human-nature interactions. Stable isotope and DNA data in particular can give very precise descriptions of how materials and species interact, change, and move through time and space. In addition to maintaining state-of-the-art laboratories, the Laboratory and Analysis Division of the RIHN Center continues to develop new methods of data analysis and application. In conducting this research in collaboration with RIHN projects, universities and affiliated institutions throughout Japan, the division enhances the sophistication of experimental techniques and exchange of research information, and promotes the shared use of facilities.