Assistant Professor

Borland, Janet

Japanese Studies
PhD The University of Melbourne
MA The University of Melbourne


Janet Borland is an award-winning historian of modern Japan whose research focuses on fundamental relationships between people and the natural and built environment. Her first book, Earthquake Children: Building Resilience from the Ruins of Tokyo (Harvard University Asia Center, 2020), won the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities First Book Prize for 2020, and the prestigious 2020 Grace Abbott Book Prize for the best book published in English on the history of children, childhood, or youth. Earthquake Children was also shortlisted for Australia's top history prize, the 2021 NSW Premier's History Awards, General History Prize.

Janet’s second book, Endangered Icon: Japan’s Quest to Save the Red-crowned Crane, is a social, cultural and environmental history covering the twentieth century. This work is supported by two research grants: a twelve-month Japan Foundation Fellowship held at the University of Tokyo covers the prewar component, and a three-year grant awarded by the Hong Kong Research Grants Council General Research Fund covers the postwar component. By identifying Japan’s successful strategies to save the endangered crane and its habitat, her findings will inform global efforts to launch multifaceted recovery and conservation plans for other threatened species.

In addition to articles published in leading journals such as Environmental History, Japanese Studies, Modern Asian Studies, Urban History, the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth and Journal of Material Culture, Janet has presented her research at international conferences and invited seminars in the areas of Japanese history, Asian studies, disaster studies, international education, history of childhood, and architectural history. In 2012 she was awarded the Scott Opler Emerging Scholar Fellowship for her paper presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians.

At HKU, Janet has actively developed synergies between her research, teaching, and knowledge exchange activities. Her research-led teaching philosophy inspired her to pioneer the Young Leaders Tour of Japan field trip to Fukushima, Miyagi and Tokyo, a unique experiential learning course in the Faculty of Arts. By partnering with Mitsubishi Corporation and connecting with local businesses in Japan, Janet has enabled students to gain firsthand experience of the recovery and reconstruction initiatives taking place in Tōhoku following the 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. 

Janet won the 2021 Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award for her project, “Lessons from Japan: Empowering Children, Promoting Disaster Preparedness, and Helping Communities Recover.” In recognition of her effective and innovative teaching, Janet was awarded the 2017 Arts Faculty Teaching Excellence Award and the University of Hong Kong 2018 Outstanding Teaching Award.

Tel. No.




537, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus

HKU Scholars Hub


Region and Language

Research Area

Modern Japanese History, Environmental history of Japan, Red-crowned Crane (grus japonensis), Earthquakes and post-disaster reconstruction, History of children and youth, Architectural history of Tokyo

Key Publications



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