Our Future, more or less

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:43 am Print

The head of the Japan Foundation (to whom I, like so many, owe thanks) has made some comments on the state and future of Japan Studies. It’s his job, after all.

Ogoura has divided up the issue into “trends” and “recommendations.” First, the Trends:

  • The transition from “area studies” to interdisciplinarity, and increasing integration of Japan into studies of global phenomena through comparative approaches.
  • The lack of economic or military threat from Japan means that there’s less policy-driven interest. There’s a corresponding shift, which Ogoura calls a separate trend, towards studies of the Middle East and China, both of whom represent significant ongoing policy issues, though the importance of the Japan-US relationship remains a valuable tool in pushing Japan studies.
  • Finally, the ever-popular academic-commoner “gap,” though pop culture studies might fill the role that dignitaries like E.O. Reischauer used to fill, bringing people into interest in Japan and to more substantial Japanese studies courses.

Then come the recommendations, mostly targeting “foundations and grant-issuing institutions” and which assume that the trends listed above are necessarily bad things….

  • Encourage young people to follow their interests into deeper study, instead of just sticking with what interests them.
  • Encourage comparative, international, transnational and other broader scholarship rather than sticking with an orthodox and limited view of Japanese Studies
  • Link university and High School programs, to broaden the minds of manga/anime-infected youth towards “real” Japanese culture and history.
  • Without a hint of irony, he then goes on to recommend “courses that focus on subjects of greater interest to young people, such as sports, fashion and food” preferably with cool show-and-tell cultural events.

As you can imagine, I’m not entirely sure that this analysis hits the mark. What do you think is the future of Japanese Studies, and what would you like to see groups like the JF putting effort into?



皆さん、はじめまして。斉川貴嗣(Saikawa Takashi)と申します。


まずは簡単な自己紹介。現在、早稲田大学大学院政治学研究科の学生(博士課程)です。専門は国際関係論なのですが、理論研究ではなく歴史研究を行なっています。具体的には、両大戦間期に活動を展開した知的協力国際委員会(International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation)を研究対象としています。この委員会は、1922年に国際連盟の一機関として設立され、当時の世界的な知識人が数多く参加しました。教育交流、文化交流など現在で言えば国際交流を実践した機関で、その理念や活動は今のユネスコに継承されています。私としては、この委員会に非西洋諸国の知識人や政府がどのように関わったのかということに興味があり、特に当時の日本と中国の関与を調べています。日本では新渡戸稲造、田中館愛橘、姉崎正治、中国では呉稚暉、林語堂などの知識人が関わっていて、これら人々の思想研究も行なうつもりです。先月から今月にかけて4週間ほど、ジュネーブの国際連盟アーカイブスに研究調査に行ってきました。結構面白い史料が見つかりましたので、早いうちに何らかのかたちで成果を示すことができればと考えています。



Denis Twitchett and the Cambridge Histories

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:05 pm Print

Denis Twitchett, author of the groundbreaking Financial Administration Under the T’ang Dynasty and a strong guiding force behind the Cambridge History series for China and Japan, has passed away. [via]

The Cambridge History series has sometimes struck me as an odd duck sort of publication — I think I’m channeling one of Berry’s reviews here — a mix of “state of the art” and “timeless reference” which never quite succeeded at either. But they remain very powerful tools for students, especially graduate students, in getting a baseline on a period or a topic. They remain particularly useful, I think, as syntheses of material and findings that is otherwise only found in monographs, because most of it hasn’t been integrated into most textbooks on Asia.

I’ve never had very good luck assigning the chapters — the Japan histories, anyway — to undergraduate classes, but they have been good for students doing research.


Recent Downtime

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:45 pm Print

I want to apologize for the recent few days of instable contact with Frog in a Well and some downtime. I’ll expand this post with more of an explanation later but in the meantime, I hope that things will gradually get back to normal around here. We have moved web hosts and I’m still ironing somethings out. Leave a comment here or email me at konrad [at] lawson.net if you continue to have problems with some feature of the weblogs here, I will try to work out any remaining issues this weekend.


Monumental Repatriation

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:52 pm Print

A Korean stone memorial commemorating victories over Hideyoshi’s armies has been returned [via]

After decades of negotiations, the Bukgwan Victory Monument was driven through the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas on its circuitous journey back home. Because communist North Korea does not have formal relations with Japan, South Korean diplomats secured its return and then turned it over to their estranged neighbor.

It marks the first time that Seoul has formally intervened on Pyongyang’s behalf to recover a cultural relic, and could set a precedent for the future.

It’s good to see a cultural icon returned, but it raises all kinds of interesting and troubling issues. First, of course, is the location of the piece

Although the stone tablet was less valuable than some other artworks, its presence at a shrine that honors the souls of 2.5 million military dead including those convicted of war crimes was particularly rankling to Korean activists. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun took up the cause during a meeting last year with Japanese President Junichiro Koizumi.

“There were a lot of psychological factors with this monument. It was about an embarrassing and humiliating defeat for the Japanese, and I think they wanted it hidden away,” said Kang Kyung-hwan, director of the Cultural Heritage Administration’s international division.

Toshiaki Nambu, the head of Yasukuni Shrine, told the media that his board never contested the return of the monument. “The monument is not ours. We are only keeping it temporarily and planning to return it,” Nambu was quoted as saying

Which has to qualify as one of the most bald-faced lies ever uttered, given that Koreans have been trying to arrange repatriation for 27 years. This is not the end, though,

This is only the starting point for a national movement to recover all that they stole from us,” said Choi Seo-myeon, the scholar, now 76, who found the pilfered monument at Yasukuni after a lengthy search.Choi and his fellow Korean scholars say the Japanese were as bad as the Nazis in Europe: Imperial forces plundered treasures during an occupation that ended only with Tokyo’s surrender to the Allies in 1945.

The items range from the exquisite — celadon vases, bronze Buddhas, gold jewelry — to the macabre. Among the latter are as many as 100,000 noses and ears that Japanese samurai sliced off Koreans as trophies during a brutal 7-year war in the late 16th century. The body parts were buried in a mound in Kyoto.

When Japan and South Korea normalized diplomatic relations in 1965, the Japanese returned more than 1,300 items. About 1,700 more have come home through private negotiations. Korean collectors have bought back some pieces on the open market, and some Japanese citizens have donated pieces. But Koreans say it is only a fraction of what remains missing.

One of the interesting questions at this point has to be whether there might be distinction, on repatriation, between items taken by governments (and their agents) by force or by seizure laws later deemed illegitimate versus those held in private hands and acquired through purchase, even under adverse economic conditions. If the latter distinction isn’t made — and the legal situation now is considerably less friendly to the export or purchase of culturally significant achaeological finds — then there will have to be a massive global repatriation out of Western museums. I’m thinking, for example, of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, which has some astounding collections based in no small part on purchases made in the 19th century, when Japan was at an extreme economic disadvantage to the West.

[Crossposted to Frog In A Well: Korea]


A Break With Tradition

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:07 am Print

I’m going to break with Frog In A Well tradition this once, and comment here on something that has almost nothing to do with Asian history. I could easily make comparisons and connections, mind you, but my focus is not on that at the moment. I am also going to be somewhat less restrained than usual.

It has been pretty widely reported, at this point, that a warehouse associated with The Holocaust History Project (THHP) was deliberately firebombed a few days ago. This is just the latest, if you’ll pardon the term, salvo in a pattern of harassment towards THHP and its supporters which includes cyber-attacks via virus/worm/zombie and personal harassment and cyberstalking.

Orac has organized a bloggerly response to this: linking to THHP in a mass show of support. I think that’s great, obviously, but I feel increasingly, since I heard about this event, that it’s not enough.

This was perpetrated by an organized group, with high levels of technical skill and the intent to do harm. That the result was only “property” damage ignores the fact that the attack was clearly intended to deprive THHP of vital resources — economic and archival — and to terrorize THHP supporters into abandoning their educational mission. Educational mission: just like my own educational mission, just like the educational mission of many of my readers. This attack is an attack on all clear-thinking, fair-minded scholars and teachers.

I want to ask a question, and I want other bloggers to ask this question, and I want newspapers to ask this question, and I want politicians to ask this question, until we have a very, very good answer: Where is the FBI, Homeland Security, national media?

Why is this not being treated as a terrorist event?

I know, as Dave Neiwert points out that there’s no direct evidence yet. But shouldn’t the presumption be in favor of a vigorous response?


Symposium Commemorating the Completion of the Occupation Period Magazine Article Database

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:40 am Print

The Prange Archive online magazine article database for the occupation period was an absolutely essential tool for me in my most recent research project. If you are in Tokyo in April, you might want to attend some of these great looking talks, which includes a speech discussing the database by the project’s founder, 山本武利, and one panel with 鶴見俊輔 as commentator:

■占領期雑誌記事情報データベース完成記念 講演会・シンポジウム■





 コメンテーター 鶴見俊輔




Asian History Carnival #3 Is Up

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:30 am Print

over on the China side


思想なき追憶はどこへ行くのか 「大和ミュージアム」の感想

Filed under: — sasaki @ 1:22 am Print


 この度「井の中の蛙」に参加させていただくことになりました佐々木啓(Kei SASAKI)と申します。
 日本の埼玉県(Saitama Prefecture)というところに住んでおります。





 2月末に広島県に徴用関係の資料調査のため出かけてきたのですが、そのついでに同県呉市にある大和ミュージアム(Yamato Museum)を観てきたので、その簡単な紹介と感想を述べたいと思います。

 大和ミュージアムとは、別名「呉市海事歴史科学館」(The Kure Maritime Museum)といって、近代日本において代表的な軍港として栄えた呉市の運営する博物館です(2005年4月に開館)。この博物館は、呉の歴史や科学技術について展示、紹介するのが基本なのですが、目玉の展示物は、なんといってもアジア・太平洋戦争中世界最大の戦艦と呼ばれた「大和」の模型です(全長23メートルぐらい、実物の10分の1の大きさ)。 







 大和ミュージアムは「我が国の歴史と平和の大切さを認識していただく」ことをその趣旨として掲げております(同ホームページ)。たしかに展示から「戦争の悲惨さ」は分かりますので、転じて「平和の大切さ」を知ることもできるかもしれません。しかし、そうした戦争が起こるに至った経緯や仕組み、考え方の誤り、「大和」の乗組員を死に至らしめた国家や社会、人々のあり方を問わないまま獲得される「平和の大切さ」というのは、一体どれほどの意味があるのでしょうか? 「平和」を大切にしたいのであれば、どのようにして「平和」が脅かされ、戦争に至ったのか、その経験をこそしっかりとつかむべきだと思うのですが。











The Case of Taiwa Shinron

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 7:00 am Print

In addition to preparing for my oral exams, the most significant project I have been working on recently involves research on the early US occupation period in Japan and especially the postwar fate of Japan’s pan-Asianism. The sources I have looked at so far are almost exclusively early occupation period magazines and journals, all of which were under censorship by SCAP authorities. Despite the obstacles that a system of censorship poses for a research project like this, I found what I believe to be some interesting discoveries.

1) Wartime language, symbols, and stock phrases almost completely disappear in the early postwar publications of Japan, including those calling for political, economic, and spiritual union with Asia.

2) A significant number of intellectuals who supported Japanese imperialism and pushed for pan-Asian unity during the war, both from the “left” and the “right” join together with many old-fashioned “liberal” internationalists whose voices largely drop out during wartime to support a brief but significant movement supporting world federalism. In other words, a broader transnational idealism persists into the early postwar period and is at its strongest up until the outbreak of the Korean war.

The second of these two is where I think I have something important and original to say and I will try to make time to post more about my research in this area here at some future point. The first of these, however, you might call my, “Duh!” thesis. It seems fairly obvious that in the aftermath of war, with the wartime regime fallen into almost universal disrepute, with US propaganda and occupation censorship in full swing, and with the left at its most powerful in decades, wartime language and symbols are not going to be in vogue. By making use of the wonderful Prange collection of occupation period magazines, complete with US censorship documents and the actual censors comments and markings on the original submissions, I can confirm that whether due to self-censorship or some other reason – there are few articles which even try to submit something using any of the familiar wartime expressions.

However, there is at least one very interesting exception to this that I came across which, after much feedback, I have decided to drop completely from my writing on this topic. This is the case of an obscure Ibaraki prefecture publication that goes by the name of Taiwa Shinron (大和新論)and it is interesting to me because, while it is quite representative of the kind of early postwar global-oriented “transnational idealism” I have found to be so strong at the time, it continued to use the now discredited idiom of Japan’s wartime empire.

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