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Yasuto Yoshizoe
Professor of Economics and Statistics
Aoyama Gakuin University, Japan

The Japan Statistical Society (JSS) was founded in April 1931 as an academic society.

Before its foundation, Japanese scholars started to learn modern statistical concepts during the transition period from Tokugawa era to Meiji era, when modern political and social system was emerging. Early researchers learned ideas through several books imported from Holland. It should be recalled that Japan closed the country during Yedo era except for Holland, who played the role of a narrow window to European culture for Japan.

Even before modern statistical method was known, some systematic statistical surveys were conducted on population and crop yields. A nationwide population survey was carried out in 1721 by the eighth Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune, followed by periodical surveys, but they excluded samurai class and different from modern population census in some aspects. Also, some sampling surveys on crop yields were executed to estimate taxable output. Thus, it was natural that statistics books imported from Holland attracted some young lower-level officials. Among them was Koji Sugi, who later worked hard to establish official statistical system of Meiji government. He also conducted a tentative census in a region called Kahi-no-kuni.

After the Meiji restoration, developing statistics was vital for Japan who just started the long way of modernizing society and economy. Population census was proposed at least twice but failed due to financial problem and wars. The modern population census started in 1920, followed by successive censuses in every five years. Those who worked for population census promoted invitation of ISI Sessions in 1930 when the third population census was to be conducted.

When the 19th ISI Sessions took place in Tokyo in 1930, about 30 Japanese people attended the meeting. The majority of the Japanese attendants represented the government, and only a few academic researchers were invited. Those who the government called to attend were well established economists such as Hiromi Arisawa.

This occasion made young Japanese researchers recognize the importance of establishing an academic society in the field of statistics. It is not a coincidence that JSS was founded in 1931, just after the ISI Sessions in Tokyo.

Young statisticians asked Hiromi Arisawa to play the central role as one of the founders. Yuzo Morita was a young statistician who contributed to foundation of JSS. He seemed to be the first Japanese who studied statistics as a major subject. He stayed in Germany for a few years to study statistics. Before the World War II, most Japanese researchers visited European countries such as Germany, France and England. Morita became Director General of the Japanese government after the War, and held the position for ten years during the period of re-constructing Japanese official statistics. He is known not only as an academic statistician but also an official statistician.

The majority of the promoters of JSS consisted of economic statisticians, such as Morita and Arisawa, but mathematical statisticians soon joined JSS. Among those mathematicians was Ryoichiro Sato who studied in U.K. under E. S. Pearson and others. Sato was the first Japanese who studied statistical techniques of evaluating the effect of mathematical education methods.

Naturally, the development of JSS slowed down during the WW II period. Soon after the defeat, Japan started to restore official statistics recognizing the importance of objective statistics as the tool of policy-making.

Many statisticians contributed to the reconstruction of official statistics, through newly established Statistics Committee of the government. Statistics Committee was reformed as Statistics Council in 1951, and until it was re-organized as Statistics Committee in 2009, a number of JSS members helped develop official statistics, which supported the post-war rapid economic growth.

When the 32nd ISI Sessions took place in Tokyo for the second time in 1960, many academic researchers attended ISI meeting. Naturally, most of the attendants were members of JSS. This made a big difference from the first ISI Tokyo in 1931. The ISI Sessions took place for the third time in Tokyo in 1987. This time, the Japanese government and JSS played the central role in the invitation process.

Historically, JSS had strong relation with the official statisticians and the Institute of Statistical Mathematics (ISM). Some distinguished members of JSS/ISM include Kiyoshi Ito, Chikio Hayashi, and Hirotugu Akaike.

Today, JSS has about 1500 members, working in mathematical statistics, economic statistics, official statistics, and various other fields of applications. We publish Journal of JSS in English twice a year, and Japanese Journal of JSS once a year. The Japanese journal is designed to attract not only researchers but also teachers of statistics at high schools. We hold meetings twice a year, one of which is co-hosted by other academic societies related to statistics. We also plan to extend occasions of cooperation with those academic societies as well as academic societies abroad.

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