Frog in a Well nominated for best Asian group blog

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 7:10 pm


Asia Blog Awards has nominated Frog in a Well for Best Asian Group Blog in a new edition run by AsiaPundit. Vote here!


Google Books: PDF Download Feature

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:15 pm

The Google Books project is an exciting new chapter in the world’s digitization of printed materials together with the Gutenberg project. I have blogged at Frog in a Well – Korea about some old English-language works on Korea that are available for download in text form from the latter. On my own weblog I have expressed some frustration with the limits imposed by Google Books on the viewing of works which are not protected by copyright here.

There has been a recent piece of news about the Google Books project which was announced on the Google Books own weblog here at the end of August. Many books that can be found on Google Books, which are out of copyright (or rather, which Google has decided to treat in that manner), can now be completely downloaded in PDF format.

Some notes about this feature:

1) The downloaded work is an image PDF, usually 1-15MB in size. The text metadata for each book is not in the downloaded document. This means you cannot search for text within the document once it is downloaded, but must return to Google Books in order to search the contents.
2) Some books which a) are no longer protected by copyright b) Google recognizes as no longer being protected by allowing you to browse an unlimited number of pages from the work are strangely not available for download. For example, Miyakawa, Masuji’s My Life in Japan, published in the United States in 1907 can be fully viewed online and is not protected by copyright, cannot be downloaded as of today. The same goes for Bushido, the Soul of Japan: An Exposition of Japanese Thought by Inazô Nitobe published in 1905 (the 10th edition)
3) Many of the old books, especially those which cannot be downloaded despite their lack of copyright coverage, have huge “Image Not Available” error messages where the pages should be. Strangely, you can still search the text metadata for these books and return results. Clicking on the search result pages, however, will simply show “Image Not Available.” Other books have some pages missing but some showing.
4) As I have discussed elsewhere, some books which cannot possibly be covered by copyright are only shown in “snippet mode” and in some cases, searching their contents returns completely unexplainable and mistaken results. For example, the 1910 Highways and Homes of Japan by lady Kate Lawson is bizarrely shown only in snippet mode and as this snapshot shows, searching for “Japan” within the book gives completely wrong results.
5. The page images for tables of contents are in many cases hyperlinked. You can click directly on chapter titles in the table of contents to jump to that chapter.

How to search for books related to Japan that are out of copyright:

The easiest way is to search for something specific on the Google Books web site. However, that will return mostly results that are still protected by copyright. See this excellent summary of copyright protection at Cornell for how to determine roughly if something is protected that was published in the United States. All things published in the United States before 1923, regardless, are now in the public domain, no exceptions. There is no reason Google should restrict access to those materials insofar as it assumes visitors are viewing the content in the United States (its website says as much in its warning to those outside the US).

IN TITLE – If you want to search for something in the title, either use the “Advanced Search” link or simply precede your search with “intitle:” For example: intitle:Japan or intitle:”Jinrikisha Days in Japan”

BY DATE – To restrict yourself to the period when all books are in the public domain, you can specify a date year range using “date:” So for example: date:1800-1922. You can also specifi “Full view books” in the advanced search page to see only results in books that can be fully viewed.

So searching for books with Japan in the title, published from 1800-1922 can be found by entering: intitle:Japan date:1800-1922

Some examples of books that can be downloaded, found merely through searching for Japan in the title, some of which you might recognize:

The Awakening of Japan by Kakuzô Okakura 1904

Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn 1894

The History of Japan: Together with a Description of the Kingdom of Siam, 1690-92 by Engelbert Kaempfer, Simon Delboe, Hamond Gibben, William Ramsden 1906 (at least this edition of it)

China and Japan: Being a Narrative of the Cruise of the U.S. Steam-frigate Powhatan, in the Years… by James D. Johnston 1860

Working Women of Japan by Sidney Lewis Gulick 1915

China Vs. Japan by the New York Chinese Patriotic Committee 1919

Japan by the Japanese: A Survey by Its Highest Authorities edited by Alfred Stead 1904

A Diplomatist’s Wife in Japan: Letters from Home to Home by Hugh Fraser 1899

A Handbook for Travellers in Central & Northern Japan: Being a Guide to Tōkiō, Kiōto, Ōzaka… by Ernest Mason Satow, A. G. S. Hawes 1881

Japan and the Japanese by Talbot Watts 1852

Hildreth’s “Japan as it was and Is”: A Handbook of Old Japan by Richard Hildreth, Ernest W. (Ernest Wilson) Clement 1907

Japan and the California Problem by T. (Toyokichi) Iyenaga, Kenoske Sato 1921

Grandmamma’s Letters from Japan by Mary Pruyn 1877

Problems of the Far East: Japan, Korea, China
By George Nathaniel Curzon 1894


Escaping the Binaries of Meiji Modernity

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 11:29 pm

I gave a talk at the “Promoting and Resisting Westernization in Meiji Japan” symposium this past weekend at Scripps College in Claremont, CA. The symposium, associated with the opening of an exhibition titled “Chikanobu: Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints,” was a lot of fun and included a diverse mix of art historians, historians, and religious studies scholars. The dominant analytical themes were, not surprisingly, “nostalgia,” taken from the catalog and exhibition, and “resisting and promoting Westernization,” taken in part from William Steele’s opening lecture on the “Civilization and Enlightenment” critic Sada Kaiseki.

The proceedings included a few surprises for me, one of which was that the basic opposition of promoting and resisting Westernization, as if Westernization were a coherent and tangible thing, went relatively unchallenged. This seems a bit like piling one problematic binary structure on top of another. I think the organizers intended the name of the symposium to become fodder for analysis, but instead the idea that Westernization and tradition stood in stark contrast, and that people alive during Meiji could be categorized as either promoters or resisters (what I like to think of as the “cheerleader” vs. “rebel” model of Meiji ideology), didn’t really endure much sustained probing. (Maybe we were all too busy looking at the woodblock prints, many of which I hadn’t seen before.)

Today I was back in the classroom teaching “Modern Japan” and I found myself remembering the way that this binary had been taught in my undergraduate days: as a pendulum of public opinion, swinging back and forth between pro- and anti-Westernization. This was a clear and easy hermeneutic to follow when I was 19, but it seems to me now that for many in Meiji the reality was a hybrid culture that emerged from shifting engagement with new ideas, technologies, and people from all over the world. When Kyoto held the first domestic exposition or hakurankai in 1871, it was engaging in a practice that had been learned, in some ways, from the phantasmagoric International Expositions that had been held in Europe and that would soon also be held in America, to be sure. But as Peter Kornicki has shown in his 1994 Monumenta Nipponica article, ample domestic precendents existed. Wannabe industrialists as well as tea masters organized that event, and both were trying to make sense of recent political changes and new socioeconomic opportunities. Of course the dialectic of “bunmei kaika” and “tradition” was an important part of Meiji discourse, but weren’t both of these ideas fundamentally part of Japan’s modernity and thus not really in opposition?

This is, I know, an old debate, but I’m wondering how people deal with this in the classroom? How, when you have to cover a period of time like 1868 to the present, or 1600 to 1945, or however you structure a course on Modern Japan, do you devote ample time to teasing out these lived complexities?


AHC Call for Posts, plus

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:04 am

Roy Berman, the MutantFrog himself, will host the next Asian History Carnival at Mutant Frog Travelogue on the 18th. Get your nominations in to him directly (roy dot berman at gmail dot com), through blogcarnival.com or with del.icio.us tags. Remember, if you don’t submit anything, we may pick the worst thing you ever posted publicly….

A few other news notes:

Japan is the final resting place of … Jesus Christ? Maybe he was looking for the lost tribes of Israel

Slightly Expurgated government documents, our own, in this case, because we don’t want to admit yet what we were doing in Japan in the sixties

Everyone’s got an opinion: Latest (and loudest?) contributors to the debate over Hiroshima? Methodists v. Episcopalians: Episcopalians apologize and theconservative Methodists use FrontPageMag to object.


That 9.11 Incident

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:36 am

Of course I remember 9/11/01. You don’t forget the day when you think you’re watching a rerun of a terrible accident — how quickly they got footage, you marvel briefly — and realize that you’re actually watching an atrocity in progress. You don’t forget the day when a student’s cell phone gets a text message that a plane has crashed on the Mall in DC (one day when you don’t care about them text messaging in class, and you don’t forget the relief that it wasn’t true, either). You don’t forget the day when you watch people die on TV, while your 8-month-pregnant spouse checks insulin levels.

I really did try to have class that morning. It was my Modern Japan class, and I tried — oh, how I tried — to talk coherently about terrorism in Japanese history. Nothing wrong with current events, if you can relate it to the course material, right? I talked about the bakumatsu assassination campaigns, about the right-wing assasinations and coup attempts of the ’30s; I honestly don’t remember if I got the Great Treason Incident in there or not, what with text messages and sharing what little we knew, and all. I do remember running out of things to say and dismissing them early, and being grateful when the president of the college cancelled classes for the remainder of the day. I went back to my office, called the college chaplain to see what was going on with regard to our small but noticeable Muslim student population (Everyone was fine: Cedar Rapids has the oldest mosque west of the Mississippi river and the local Muslim community is quite well integrated and respected), and went home to my pregnant wife.

It was a shocking event, to be sure. But it wasn’t quite such a surprise. It wasn’t all that long after I’d read Tom Clancy’s excreable Debt of Honor a book whose only redeeming feature (I’ve read quite a bit of Clancy’s work, and I find it wildly inconsistent in quality, which is why there’s always hope about a new one) was the ending — yeah, I’m gonna give it away — in which a businessman/pilot steals a jetliner, talks his way into the DC air traffic patterns, and obliterates a Joint Session of Congress, Tokkotai-style. (If you want to know how the immortal Jack Ryan solves the problem, you have to read Executive Orders, which is considerably more exciting and interesting and plausible….) Obviously, anyone teaching Japanese history has had to wrestle a bit with the issue of suicide attacks — human bullets, shattered jewels, divine winds, etc. — and they had been increasingly common in the Middle East of late.

Being Jewish, I have that slightly-greater-than-average-American-interest in Middle Eastern affairs, and that slightly-greater-than-average-paranoia about violent, hostile forces. Not only wasn’t the 9/11 attack not the first large domestic terror attack, it wasn’t even the first large, Islamist, domestic terror attack on the World Trade Center. The Taliban had long since destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas (nothing like destruction of cultural property to get an historian’s attention), not to mention imposing strictures on Afghani women that would make Draco blanch. US interests had been attacked overseas, the bombing of the Jewish center in Argentina proved the reach of anti-semitic violence (recently revealed to be al-Qaeda related, even) outside of the Middle East.

What changed for me, five years ago? As an historian, very little. The market for Asianists got a bit tighter, as the market for MidEast and Islamic specialists got better. I stopped having to work so hard to explain the terror of the Cold War, the potential of sudden death and the existence of ideologically and politically hostile entities on a world-wide scale. Changes in Japan since then have been subtle, and mostly not at all linked to our own national trauma. Hardly anyone, still, has made any substantial links between Japan’s history of suicide attacks and terrorism with our current situation, but I don’t see there being all that much to say about it except to suggest that people would be less surprised if they paid attention. I remain convinced that paying attention to historical evolution and forces is one of the best ways to anticipate problems and sometimes even to find solutions. Airport security changes have rarely affected us — though our 7-month-old got randomly selected for special screening, and they really did pat him down.

Historians really don’t do anniversaries (though we try to remember our spouses and parents as appropriate). The press does, because it’s easy to count by years, or fives, or tens, or twenty-fives, or hundreds, and then they come talk to us or to people who were directly involved [via], and we get an odd sort of retrospective and update. Historians don’t care about even numbers: for us, the “Sixties” ended with the Vietnam War, and both the 18th and 19th centuries were “long” ones; every “20th century” course I’ve ever taken started in 1890. But outside of the journalistic need for a “hook” to look back, there’s nothing special about five years.

There’s nothing all that special about 9/11, either…. yet. What meaning 9/11/01 will have, its historical import, is still up in the air, no matter how much anyone claims that it must mean this or that, that things have or haven’t changed as a result. 9/11 was the largest act of terror to strike the United States, just as the Holocaust was the largest anti-semitic genocidal event, but neither of them stands alone and to focus all our attention on those events of such distinctive scale to the exclusion of myriad “smaller events” before or since is historically stunted, or dishonest. That so many people were so shocked by the event, and have yet to put it in anything like proper context or perspective, suggests to me that historians — not alone among scholars, but perhaps uniquely — have a long way to go in inculcating (recovering) our long-term vision, our sense of complexity of the world, our experience — indirect but nonetheless real — with cultural and ideological and technological change and conflict.


Self-intro: M.G. Sheftall

Filed under: — M.G. Sheftall @ 9:13 am

Mina san, konnichiwa.

My name is M.G. Sheftall. I’m an ex-pat NY’er (attended and Stuyvesant High School and Fordham University there) living in Japan since 1987. I am currently an associate professor at Shizuoka University in Hamamatsu City, Japan and a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies at Waseda University.

First of all, I must say I’m happier than a kaeru during tsuyu to be joining the official posters’ lineup here on Frog in a Well. I’ve been a lurker on this site for quite a while now, and am familiar with many of the bylines around here from various books and articles I’ve read over the years (and coincidentally, I’ve just recently finished Brian McVeigh’s magisterial Nationalisms of Japan, which I cannot recommend highly enough to students of the collective ways and mores of the residents of our favorite archipelago). I’d also like to say that I’m very much looking forward to interacting with you all from hereon out on a regular basis, and I hope I’ll be able to overcome innate cognitive shortcomings and temperamental proclivities to contribute more than politically incorrect irreverence and obtuse, misanthropic observations to these proceedings (although I can’t make any promises, especially once classes start up again next month). Yoroshiku. 

Some personal background info towards the tiresome yet nevertheless de rigeur “How did you end up in Japan?”: 

Japan has been a personal obsession since I was a preschooler — literally. The details of this nascent Orientalism are convoluted and possibly Freudian, involving a Japanese exchange student babysitter, a viewing of You Only Live Twice with my dad in 1967, and finding my grandmother’s awesome National Geographic stash shortly thereafter. Things became progressively monomaniacal after I watched Tora! Tora! Tora! in 1970 and decided that my goal in life was to become a Zero fighter pilot. Needless to say, the Imperial Japanese Navy security clearance background check and citizenship requirements posed ultimately insurmountable obstacles, but I think we can all begin to see the pattern forming here.

In spite of the numerous distractions and temptations that came with the territory of a “dazed and confused” 1970s New York City adolesence, a bud of J-longing remained safely sequestered in my youthful bosom, glowing and intact, merely waiting for the right circumstances under which to reach full blossom. However, fate was to intervene with yet another impressionable cinematic experience that, in this particular case, detoured me quite catastrophically from my destined path in Japan Studies: a viewing of Apocalypse Now at the Ziegfeld Theater — bolstered in effect by consideration of the financial circumstances of a household facing two additional sets of tuition bills just a few more years down the line — somehow convinced my fragile eggshell 17-year-old mind that I should turn down Columbia University in favor of a tuition-free education at West Point via an appointment to the Academy from Congressman Bill Green (R/NY) in January 1980. So-o-o, it was goodbye Donald Keene, hello M-16.

Although there were many aspects of the soldier’s life I enjoyed (e.g., firing automatic weapons; experiencing temporary ego death in the testosterone-fueled, cadence-chanting, buzzcutted anonymity of The Group), and others for which I displayed a natural ability (I shined a mean shoe, for instance), it eventually became clear to all involved that my talents might be better applied in an endeavor other than the profession of arms. After two years at The Point, the Academy and I reached the amicable — if perhaps a tad premature — decision to part ways, leaving me free to meander back home to Manhattan neither with my shield nor on it (sticking to the allegory, the Spartan in a similar situation might have opted to fall on his sword, but I am an innate self-preservationist), and I enrolled at Fordham University in the Bronx a few months later. Alas, there was no Japanese Studies program at this fine Jesuit institution, but I opted for something I thought sounded almost as exotically intriguing and considerably more timely — a concentration in Islamic/Middle East Studies as a Poli Sci/International Relations major.

One thing led to another at Fordham, some roads led nowhere, and none (thank God) led to Baghdad, but a fortuitous phone call from an ex-roomie landed me in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan in February ’87, a few months shy of my twenty-fifth birthday, and I’ve been a Nihongo and kanji freak pretty much since stepping off the 747. My on-topic professional research activity from about the mid-90s on was decidedly job-oriented, concentrating on culture-specific (or at least culture-salient) affective variables in the context of the Sisyphean realities of Japanese EFL. Anyone who has 1) “done the Eigo/Eikaiwa thing” for any length of time and 2) has a working knowledge of Japanese cultural studies should readily understand how this particular research interest – nudged in my case by concurrent initial encounters with Karel van Wolferen, Ian Buruma, Bruce Stronach and Harumi Befu — eventually led me to focus on Japanese cultural/national identity issues.

I wound up in the Japanese national university system as a full-timer in Spring 2001 all set to continue in this vein…then 9/11 happened and everything, as the saying goes, changed. Several stunned months of insomniac BBC and CNN viewing and sobering ruminations on the dialectic of national/ethnic/religious identity and ideologies of self-sacrifice eventually led me to Googling “kamikaze” one day in January 2002 and stumbling onto a veterans’ association of kamikaze survivors (yes, as oxymoronic as that may sound, there actually are some) based in Setagaya, Tokyo. I have been studying and observing the history, rituals and pedagogical activities not only of this association but of the entire Japanese subculture of kamikaze collective memory ever since. A book, BLOSSOMS IN THE WIND: HUMAN LEGACIES OF THE KAMIKAZE, resulted from the first three years of this research. This was published in English by NAL Caliber in 2005 (paperback in 2006), and a J-translation will come out from Bungei Shunju some time next year.

My dissertation at Waseda is a continuation of work on this theme, after anthropologist Anthony F. C. Wallace’s classic “Revitalization Movement” concept, aiming to model veteran-centric collective memory formation in traditionally exclusivist sociopolities that have experienced catastrophic military defeat and subsequent foreign occupation. My methodology owes much to the substantial literature in this field dealing with the experience of the post-Civil War American South, especially the work of C. Vann Woodward, Rollin Osterweis, Gaines Foster and Charles Reagan Wilson. Partly in acknowledgment of this methodological debt, but more importantly because I just love the way it reads, the title of the dissertation will be Gone With The Divine Wind: the Kamikaze in Japanese ‘Lost Cause’ Mythology, 1945-Present.

Additional (but very much related) research interests for me are: military influence in the formation of Japanese national identity from Meiji to the present (I’m a big Yoshida Yutaka fan, btw); Yasukuni issues (2006 has been a great year for these!); popular Japanese attitudes towards — and interpretations of — modern history, particularly regarding the Asia-Pacific War; the relationship of culturally-patterned masculinity and formalized violence; depiction of the Asia-Pacific War in popular culture/media; (as per the above paragraph, the numerous and endlessly fascinating) parallels between the cultural, ideological, pedagogical and psychological mechanisms of dealing with the aftermath of defeat in postwar Japan and post-Civil War American South (my ancestors on both sides of the family were Confederates, so there is an element of personal interest on my part in exploring this aspect of the respective collective experiences of both my ancestral and adoptive cultures), et al.  


A quick personal profile:

Family: Married, two sons (eight and three years of age, respectively).

Currently listening to:  Station-to-Station, by David Bowie; The Sand Pebbles soundtrack (Jerry Goldsmith, RIP)

Currently reading: Kudakareta Kami by Watanabe Kiyoshi (a kind of Rosetta Stone of postwar J-veteran trauma; now I can see why Dower thought it was worth devoting six pages of “Embracing Defeat” to…Powerful stuff!)

Favorite Japanese movies: Yojinbo; Kumo no Bohyou yori Sora Yukaba (hands down the best kamikaze movie ever made)

J-turn-ons: Hokusai woodblocks; hanabi; the gracious art of tatemae displayed in consideration of others’ feelings; winsome smiles; the Imperial Palace o-hori walkway near Chidorigafuchi, at night, under cherry blossoms; prewar J-Art Deco (Waseda campus has some nice examples, btw); crisp autumn breezes; Nihonshu and oden on winter nights

J-turn-offs: requests for personal anatomical data, particularly from strangers; any and all comments/lines of questioning about chopstick/Nihongo ability and/or edible/inedible Japanese foods; Nihonjinron genre (comedic value aside); self-serving, obsequious tatemae; just about any building erected in Japan since about 1965 (although I do like the Asahi Beer corporate headquarters); 95% of J-television programming; tsuyu and summer weather in Central Japan

前世 existences: Post-Impressionist painter; Chuushingura co-conspirator; Greek hoplite; Egyptian architect.


Dewa, mina san, yoroshiku onegaishimasu.


History Carnival #38

“For both nations and inviduals have sometimes made a virtue of neglecting history; and history has taken its revenge on them.” — H. R. Trevor-Roper “The Past and the Present: History and Sociology” (1969), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 197.

Welcome to the September 1, 2006 edition of history carnival. I’m finally hosting a carnival with a number as high as my age! In honor of the quotes meme making the rounds, I’m going to use my personal quotation file as, um, decoration around the rich collection of material in this carnival. As usual, I’m making up categories as I go along: anyone who treats them as strict or comprehensive cataloging gets what they deserve!


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