About RIHN

Message from the Director-General


The Research Institute for Humanity and Nature (RIHN) was established in April 2001 as an inter-university research institute corporation to conduct integrated research in global environmental studies. Our mission is to conduct integrated research that will resolve global environmental problems, guided by our awareness that the global environmental problems find their roots in human culture. Environmental degradation can be understood as an imbalance in the interaction between human beings and natural systems, and our goal is to decide what must be done to establish a dynamic interplay that will be sustainable in the future. We will conduct solution-oriented research in search of the ideal interaction of humanity and nature, in addition to academic research spanning the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, while also considering regional characteristics and historical contexts.

RIHN has been part of the inter-university research institute corporation, the National Institutes for the Humanities since its incorporation in fiscal year 2004. Since fiscal 2010, under Phase II medium-term plans and targets, the future design initiatives were proposed, and we incorporated a system of conducting research by adopting the methods of design science. In October of 2010, we published the Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Studies, portions of which have now been translated into English in order to make RIHN’s completed research more accessible to an international audience. To reinforce our role and function as an interuniversity research institute corporation, in fiscal year 2012 the network-based Global Environment Repository Project was established to resolve global environmental problems, and we have been constructing the infrastructure that will allow it to be used by universities and research institutes throughout Japan. Beginning in fiscal 2014, we introduced an institutional collaboration project to conduct joint research based on agreements with universities and other organizations.

In addition, we are now collaborating in a large-scale international project, Future Earth, aiming for a sustainable global society through integrated global environmental studies. These initiatives have earned the RIHN respect for its research activities that have, until now, focused on Asia, and in September 2014, it was designated as the Asian hub for Future Earth.

This fiscal year is the final year of our Phase II medium-term plan, and we are now summarizing our Phase II research achievements while aiming for new achievements in global environment studies as we enter Phase III.


Research Structure

RIHN solicits, develops, funds, and hosts research projects lasting from between three to five years. Projects conduct high quality basic research; they are always multi-disciplinary and based on multiple methodologies. All projects are subject to a rigorous course of internal and external review. Proposals are developed over the course of 1-3 years (the periods of Incubation- and Feasibility-Study shown below), before entering 3-5 years of Full Research. Research projects are conducted within one of three structures.

Individual collaboration projects are proposed by Japanese or international researchers. Institutional collaboration projects are designed to facilitate close collaboration between RIHN and other leading institutes of environmental study in Japan. Initiative-based project proposals are generated within the institute itself. These proposals are formulated through a process of internal reflection of the strengths and weaknesses in current and past RIHN research as well as ongoing institute engagement with emerging themes in international research.

Individual Collaboration Projects, Institutional Collaboration Projects, Initiative-based Projects
  • 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 fi ve years. It typically involves a research team at RIHN and concurrent activity with collaborators overseas, several periods of fi eld study, workshops and presentations, and outreach or communication to relevant communities. FR projects are evaluated by the Project Evaluation Committee at several stages.

Research Facilities

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 Center for Research Promotion 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 multi-method; 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 Survery and Analysis Unit continues to develop new methods of data analysis and application. In conducting this research in collaboration with RIHN projects and universities and affiliated institutions throughout Japan, the division enhances the sophistication of experimental techniques and research information and promotes the shared use of facilities.