The history of “area studies” as an academic discipline remains to be written. When it is, it will have to begin with a little known, historically important Japanese institution in China. That institution, Tōa Dōbun Shoin (East Asia Common Culture Academy or, after 1939, College) in Shanghai, 1900–1945, was established to train young Japanese for business and government service related to China. The author focuses upon the area studies dimensions of this pioneering institution's training and research program. After identifying five requisites of area studies training and research, he moves on to examine the origins, raison d'être, and meaning of Tōa Dōbun Shoin's program and to chart the phases of that program's development through each of the five requisites. In important ways, the center's curriculum, facilities, research, and publications equalled or surpassed the best American post–World War II language and area programs.