How time flies. On June 6, 2015, a memorial gathering was held at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), Kyoto University for Pak Igarashi Tadataka, and was attended by 100 people, including former colleagues, friends and students, reminding us of his generous, sober, and decent character.
Pak Igarashi left behind a substantially large book collection (approximately 10,000 books), showing the wide range of his intellectual as well as academic capacity. Languages in the collection vary from English, Bahasa Indonesia, Basa Sunda, Japanese, Korean, and Dutch. Demography, ethnography, and anthropology all figured heavily in the early stages of his main research interests. Looking through the collection we can learn something of his intellectual journey which started with Korean ethnology and demographic transition near North and South Korean border villages. Unfortunately, the results of research from that period did not bear any fruit due to the political and territorial conflicts that existed between the North and South.
After a bitter departure from Korean studies, his intellectual journey moved to the Kikai Islands in Southern Kyushu, Japan. This period was one of his most productive as an academic. After working as a researcher in the Kikai Islands, he obtained a tenured post at the National University of Gunma as an Associate Professor. It was there that he undertook a new mission to conduct research in a Sundanese village, West Java, Indonesia through a demographic survey with his boss and colleagues. Several years later, he was offered a post at CSEAS, Kyoto University, and directly dispatched to the liaison office in Jakarta. Since then, he spent most of his career developing the office, and devoted his time to building an Indonesian library collection. He was eventually promoted within Kyoto University which offered him new opportunities to produce publications and further his career. However, an increase in administrative tasks and attending to endless visitors from Japan meant he could not devote himself to his main task, research. During his stressful assignment, his sole retreat would be purchasing old books for the library collection. Of course, his contributions in running the liaison office were significant, and he received special recognition for his efforts.
I met with Pak Igarashi at the CSEAS Jakarta liaison office during this period in the mid-1980s, and he was enthusiastic to contribute to the library collections for CSEAS, which would eventually compete with many prominent libraries as such housed at Leiden, Cornell and Australian National University (ANU). Very frequently, he met with several rare second-hands book sellers (I do not remember the exact names) from Pasar Senen, Jakarta. His main priorities were toward the library collection, but some rare books were taken by him, if two copies were available. It is for this reason that we can find duplicate copies of books in both Pak Igarashi’s and CSEAS’s library collections. When the book-sellers offered a price for rare books, he never haggled over the price. This was because of his lack of awareness of the cost (or a talent to bargain but I am not sure). Yet importantly, Pak Igarashi had the ability to defuse tense situations with a nice smile and by being himself. Therefore, the more he bought without bargaining, the more book-sellers tried to procure rare books and periodicals from other book sellers. This good circulation greatly contributed to the development of the library collection at CSEAS.
Fig.1 Palolo worms
In the collection we can find many Dutch books and periodicals from the United East Indian Company period as well as post-independence Indonesian books of great value. When I was a visiting fellow at ANU in Canberra, he sent emails asking for a photocopy of the Palolo worm (Palola viridis) in the Dutch periodicals held at the National Library of Australia (Fig. 1). His enthusiasm for old books and periodicals seemed to border on the obsessive. Pak Igarashi’s younger brother told me that their father was an odd collector of rare old stamps. On the surface, a stamp may have a similar appearance, yet the detail of printing colors or lines can vary from version to version. His father was fascinated by such subtle differences, and his collected stamps could sometimes trade at extraordinarily good prices. Of course, he had no intention to invest money in rare books, but he may have inherited his eccentric behavior to collect books from his father.
His long intellectual journey was nearly completed through his exploration of the link between astronomy and the harvest of Palolo worms. The harvest happens on just one night a year, a week after the first full moon between the months of October and Novemeber on the Luna calendar. It triggers a natural phenomenon and the Palolo worms spawn in the coral reef mainly in the South Pacific and Northern coastal regions of the Java and Sunda archipelago, Indonesia. Pak Igarashi frequently visited to observe Palolo emerging in Bali or Lombok. The local people tried to fish and eat the Palolo, a kind of sea caviar, rich in protein. His last seminar, which dealt with the result of his long standing research on the links between the Lunar calendar and the rising of Palolo, was fascinating and held a couple of months before his sudden and unfortunate death in November 2014.
He never believed in any Christian God, Islamic Allah or Buddha. However, I hope that Pak Igarashi is somewhere, carrying on his uncompleted research using the collections he left behind at CSEAS, Ritsumeikan, and Nanzan University Libraries. Rest in peace Pak Igarashi, you are now free from the short-sighted pressures of “Publish or Perish.”