Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:16 am

Heard on a Prairie Home Companion Joke Show:

A couple goes to the theater, and afterwards the woman turns to the man and says “I don’t get Japanese theater!”
The man looks at her and says “What part of “Noh” don’t you understand?”

Attempts to upgrade hanko security [via].

Nanjing massacre deniers hit with defamation lawsuit in China. Being a Chinese lawsuit, it has no legal force in Japan as such, but it does raise interesting issues about liability when working with oral history and living testimony. [via] In other Nanjing massacre news, plans to make a movie about the atrocity. [via] They’re calling it a Chinese equivalent to “Schindler’s list”: They could make a thoroughly parallel film by focusing on John Rabe…. The plan is to debut next year on the 70th anniversary.

New book I want to read: Karen Nakamura, Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity [via and] Disability must be one of the last aspects of diversity which remains understudied in Japanese studies.

Weak: Japanese anti-Global Warming propoganda. Seems to me that a simple coastline revision would be dramatic enough….

English Teacher Imports Decline in Japan, for several years. About time?

Update: Ralph Luker’s catalog of women history bloggers includes a few of our own!


Sharing Syllabi: Japanese Women

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 8:51 pm
Smaller Volleyball Immortals

I saw the immortals overlooking the volleyball court on our recent visit to the Kona side of the island, and felt an affinity. The Waikoloa Hilton is like that. It’s a massive resort complex, complete with its own trams and boat shuttles, littered with art both ridiculous and sublime, much of it Asian in origin or theme. The odd juxtaposition of beach party atmosphere and cultural decor which triggered my professional interest was mitigated only by the fact that our four-year-old still won’t slow down much for art. It all seemed like such a metaphor for Asianists in the American academy…

Anyway, I thought I’d continue the series we started last year and talk about my one Asia-related course this semester: Japanese Women. This is the second time I’ve taught it, and I’ve arranged things quite a bit differently. (First syllabus here) Some things are the same: strong emphasis on primary sources for class discussion and secondary scholarship in the hands of students — reading, presenting, writing about. Like last time, it’s a large group (almost thirty) and it’s a mix of history majors, Japanese studies majors, women’s studies majors (the class counts for major credit in all three departments) and students taking the class out of general or specific interest; lots of juniors and seniors, and — unlike last time — a cadre of students who’ve had classes with me before.

Some of the material I’m using this time is the same: Murasaki’s Diary, As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, Hane’s Reflections on the Way to the Gallows, Bumiller’s Secrets of Mariko. I dropped Anne Walthall, The Weak Body of a Useless Women: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration because, as much as I liked it, it was hard for students to see through the politics and exceptional nature of the character to deal with the gender issues (I’m going to be teaching a Meiji seminar in the Spring, though, and I’m bringing it back then). I added two books to compensate: Smith/Wiswell’s classic The Women of Suyemura and the recently translated Women of the Mito Domain by Yamakawa Kikue. I’m more excited about the former than the latter, though the little bit of Yamakawa that we used as a ‘warm-up’ reading this week worked quite well. As much as possible, I like to use autobiographical writing, or first-hand observation. And, like last time, students get to write short papers, priming the pump for discussions, on each of these works.

What’s changed, more than anything else, is the structure of the class. Last time I interspersed student presentations of secondary scholarship and my own lectures with the primary source readings; this time we’re reading primary sources first, with some lectured background, followed by student presentations/discussions of secondary materials (either a monographic work or multiple article/chapters on a subject). What I’m hoping is that this will give students more time and better background before they select their topics and sources

One of the first assignments was to go on the web and see what kinds of information about Japanese women’s history they could find. The results were quite diverse. Some of it came straight from the google search, but there were some outlying items as well, and some high quality resources. I perhaps spent more time than necessary talking about how obsessive interests can be valuable resources for historians and other scholars, and the collective intelligence of the internet. Students did notice the distinct lack of material relating to medieval/early modern women (except geisha) and the odd martial fixation of some of the highest ranked sites. With regard to the big gap between classical and modern women, I am still struggling to find good primary sources which cover that period. I could assign some of the early Tokugawa literature or Noh drama, but I’d prefer some diaristic or autobiographical material, and I just can’t find much.

I might have other syllabi to talk about in the next few weeks. In addition to a upper-level seminar on Meiji Japan, I’ve just been tagged to teach a course in our US-China Masters program, on “Problems and Issues in Contemporary China”; I’ll be giving it an historical spin, of course!

In Memorium: Edward Beauchamp

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:18 pm

From the UH News:

Professor Emeritus Edward Beauchamp died Aug. 8 at the age of 72. Beauchamp joined the College of Education in 1969 and was a valued faculty member in both Educational Foundations and Curriculum Research Development Group for 32 years. He specialized in comparative/international education and the history of education.

In addition to his years of service to UH, Beauchamp was a Fullbright professor at Keio University, Tokyo and Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary.

I remember Beauchamp’s An American teacher in early Meiji Japan as one of the books I read my first year in graduate school — one of the first books I actually went out and bought that wasn’t a class assignment — as I fumbled around looking for a “hook” to study the internationalization of Meiji Japan.

A lot of his other publications, looking at our library records (our journal databases are down, at the moment, but references to noteworthy works appreciated), were edited volumes and documentary collections focused on the post-war era, on education, recent history, economics, international politics, and women’s issues. He also edited and annotated Richard Burton’s memoir of early Japan and coedited a volume with Akira Iriye on foreign employees in Meiji Japan. In recent years he edited Routledge’s East Asia series. As a result, he played a role in many a career.

I never met him; Hilo and Manoa are separated by ocean, not to mention an even vaster cultural gap. But his work bridged a lot of other gaps.


Defining Japaneseness: a miscellany

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:08 pm

This report (with followups here) suggests that Japan is no longer a “classless society” but I wonder to what extent the concept of class simply to mean “income strata” is useful?

This research by Mark J. Hudson and Mami AOYAMA, drawing heavily on the work of fellow WellFrogger Brian McVeigh, shows a fascinating diversity of opinions by young Japanese about their own ethnicity, by looking at their responses to a final exam question about same…. How do you grade that?

Mariko Tamanoi’s War Orphan chapter from Japanese Diasporas (Full Disclosure: I wrote chapter three) focuses on the nexus between nationality and identity, noting, for example, that Japanese repatriation services only work with orphans who wish to take Japanese nationality after repatriation, not those who want to retain Chinese passports.


More Yasukuni News

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:42 am

In a recent posting I summarized some recent developments related to the Yasukuni shrine issue in Japan. In addition to a steady stream of articles in the Japanese media about whether or not Koizumi or the most likely future Prime Minister Abe Shinzô will be visiting the shrine, etc. there has also been several new discoveries related to the history of the shrine.

1. Yutaka Shuichi and a friend of mine, Miyaji Yu wrote an article on Asahi’s scoop related to two 1956 documents discussing government policies towards the shrine. Their article shows that as late as 1956 the central government was considering a reversion to the prewar practice of choosing who to memorialize—the postwar constitution notwithstanding. The documents help clarify, at the very least, what kinds of cooperation between the government and the shrine were being considered.

Though a lot remains unclear about the inner workings of this process at the time, the article notes that the following year, 1957 (two years after the consolidation of the right and the formation of the LDP we might note) 470,000 names were memorialized in contrast to the decade since 1945 when only twice did the number exceed 100,000.

2. This Japan Times article claims that a document obtained by the writer Yamanaka Hisashi around 1980 shows that in July of 1944 Tojo Hideki, who was executed for war crimes and later memorialized at Yasukuni in 1978, ordered that ‘only military personnel and civilian military employees whose deaths “resulted directly from military service” should be enshrined at Yasukuni.’ Those who did not die on the battlefield were not to be memorialized. Though this contributes very little to the debate, it does add to the “irony factor” of people like Tojo, who certainly did not die on the battlefield, even if they are seen as “Showa’s martyrs” being memorialized at the shrine.

3. Since the memo regarding the emperor’s opposition to the enshrinement of war criminals came out, a former Yasukuni Shrine official Baba Hisao has made some interesting comments that are quoted in this Japan Times article (Free registration required). He claims that he remembers that during the period when Yasukuni was considering the enshrinement of the war criminals, there was opposition from the Imperial Household Agency and the shrine officials were told that the Emperor would stop visiting the shrine if the war criminals were included. The article also briefly discusses the question of whether visiting the shrine can every only be interpreted as going to “mourn” or includes, as has been the practice up to the end of the war, an “honoring” of the enshrined souls of the shrine.

Eloquent oddities

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:46 am

There aren’t a lot of good Japanese-themed quizzes out there….

You Are a Sarariiman!
Or “salaryman.” Whatever. Treadmill off, treadmill on. Most of the sleep you get is on Tokyo’s extensive subway system, since you are putting in 14 hour days. You’re a workaholic who works hard for no overtime. And vacations? Forget about it. You spend most of your trip hunting around for gifts to bring back all of your coworkers.
What’s Your Japanese Subculture?

Moving the other direction, from English to Japanese, a friend sent along this link to a collection of Jabberwocky translations. It’s been a long time since I could summon the mental energy to disagree with someone about their translation of nonsense verse, but apparently there’s a lot of views on the subject, all represented here. Quite a few of the translators appear to be relying on the Gardiner annotations, is all I’ll say, which is … a choice.

Though WWII remains unsettled between Japan and Russia, The Russo-Japanese War has finally ended for Japan and Montenegro.

Finally, in art news, three times. First, an interesting discussion of private art museums in Tokyo illustrates the power of individual collectors and non-canonical thinking. Second, though I can’t possibly get there for the exhibit, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Art of History is a lovely online experience, though I have mixed feelings about the “elegant mash-up” postmodern elements of the art itself. Some of it (including the Hirohito image) is chilling; others (e.g. Henry’s wives) are barely clever. Finally, Ansel Adams’ pictures of Japanese internment camps in the US are available online, fantastic documentation, not to mention photographs.


Asian History Carnival #6

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:26 am

The 6th Asian History Carnival will be hosted at Frog in a Well – Korea on August 8th! We are looking for good posts on Asian history posted around the internet in the past month or two. For more details, check out the Asian History Carnival homepage.

Please nominate postings for the carnival here. If you use del.icio.us to tag your links, another way you can nominate postings is to simply tag them “ahcarnival” (http://del.icio.us/tag/ahcarnival/) and I’ll look through the tagged postings when the time comes. The deadline for nominations is August 7th.

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