This paper examines shifts in the knowledge production policy agenda at Japanese research universities–a transition from discipline-based academic tradition towards interdisciplinary forms of knowledge production–through a case study of a leading interdisciplinary research institute. We examine this transition through the case of Tohoku University, one of seven ‘Designated National Universities’, and its flagship International Research Institute of Disaster Science. Documentary analysis revealed a renewed emphasis on interdisciplinarity, evident in restructuring towards a ‘blended hybrid’ model to reconcile the different institutional logics of diverse research traditions among its staff. Interviews with key stakeholders uncovered the internal dynamics of this process, its barriers and opportunities. We conclude with implications for Japanese higher education, arguing that a shift to ‘blended hybrid’ institutional forms is necessary but insufficient to maintain successful interdisciplinary research institutes. Success is contingent on simultaneous commitment to sustainable international connections and relationships with diverse external stakeholders.
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