Japanese Culture is global culture

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:38 am

A lot of elements of Japanese culture have become part of the great global mash-up, especially food culture and pop culture. But none, I think, will have the endurance of the little poem that could, the haiku.

Via Miriam Burstein, who’s usually more inclined to blog in script than in verse, comes word of an Academic Haiku Contest: summarize your research in a mere seventeen syllables! Unfortunately, the contest is ending shortly, but if anyone can dash off haiku, I image that our readers can. My own contribution was bilingual:

Yamaguchi no
Hawai deimin ga
Obon kaeri

I suppose you’d like it in English? Let’s see if I can translate it and maintain the Haiku form:

Obon dances bring
Yamaguchi emigrants
back from Hawai’i

[Obon is the a Japanese festival honoring ancestors, a time when families come together. Yamaguchi prefecture was a significant source of Japanese migration to Hawai’i]
“International Labor Migrants Return to Meiji-Era Yamaguchi and Hiroshima: Economic and Social Effects,” under review.

My entry may actually have come too late to count, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun over here. Update: In comments, Jim Gibbon says that there’s a few hours left, until 8pm EST (that’s 3pm, HST), so let’s show ‘em what we’ve got!

Weekend Update: Voting is open through Monday. He’s divided them into four categories so you can actually vote for four favorites! (OK, I’ve voted. Oddly, perhaps, I didn’t vote for my own haiku in the Social Science division. It’s the most technically correct haiku [the only one with a seasonal reference], but there was one I liked more. Go figure.)


Autobiographical Essays by Donald Keene

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 1:43 am

Yomiuri newspaper published a long series of autobiographical essays by Donald Keene which I somehow missed until today. Professor Keene is one of the most important Western scholars of Japanese literature of the past century and is still very active. Appropriately enough, his most recent work, published by Columbia University Press in 2006, is entitled Frog in the Well: Portraits of Japan by Watanabe Kazan, 1793-1841 (BF).

From the historian’s point of view, Keene’s own life and experiences are themselves of great interest. He served the US military as a Japanese translator and interpreter in World War II before resuming his academic studies after the war. Letters by Keene, Otis Cary and others published various as War Wasted Letters, Eyewitness to History, and From a Ruined Empire give us a fascinating look into the early postwar realities of Japan and East Asia. In these essays in Yomiuri Keene shares many more of his stories from his earliest childhood to his thoughts about old age.

I believe the essays were serialized in Japanese in the print version of Yomiuri (「私と20世紀のクロニクル」) but I can’t seem to find the full originals (Commentators in the Japanese blogosphere abound), so perhaps they are destined for publication in book form. You can find a full listing of the 49 essays in English here:

Chronicles of My Life in the 20th Century

Below I have excerpted a few of the passages in the articles that I read through this evening and found especially interesting…


Discover Nikkei

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 8:42 pm

I’ve been working on a project with the Japanese American National Museum for my seminar “Japanophilia,” and have gotten to know their amazing website Discover Nikkei. As Japanese studies expands beyond its traditional boundaries, resources like this one become increasingly valuable to teachers and students. The buzzword in recent years is, of course, transnational, and I can’t think of a better place to begin exploring what that means than this site.

Five sections serve as doorways into a huge array of content. The first tab, “What is Nikkei?” asks many of the questions that visitors are likely to have in mind, but the site doesn’t presume to answer them, which opens up the possibility that students can answer them themselves as they make use of the available resources. “Community Forum” contains articles and an extensive bulletin board, with posts in English, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese, which all visitors can register to access. “Real People” contains video interviews with Japanese Americans, ranging from Issei storytellers to Sansei entrepreneurs like Eric Nakamura, co-founder of Giant Robot. “Nikkei Resources” is an impressive Wiki with information on just about every Japan- and JA-related topic you can think of, including war brides, lesson plans, Japanese food, manga, and Nikkei Veterans. The last section, “Make History,” is in some ways the most exciting, because it allows users to upload content, create collections of data, “curate” online exhibitions, and in various other ways become knowledge producers and historians.

The students in my seminar are going to be researching gardens and nurseries in the L.A. area that exhibit Japanese design or that are the result of JA activities. Eventually, this content will be uploaded to the “Make History” section of the website, probably under the “Nikkei Album” subsection, where we will be able to curate our photographs and analysis into a mini-exhibition that will connect to a JANM exhibition planned for the summer.


アジア歴史情報センター (JACAR)

Filed under: — kuniko @ 11:34 am


Sorry for my long absence. The site looks good and fun.Thanks, Konrad!

I would just like to inform that Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR, アジア歴史情報センター)http://www.jacar.go.jp/ is coming to hold a workshop on March 20 (Tuesday) at the Knafel center at Harvard. Detail/logistics is being worked out right now and I would like to hear from potential audiences’ interests and suggestions. Let me know. As you may know JACAR offers a database of over 850,000 documents in 12 million digital images drawn from the Japan’s National Archives, the Diplomatic Archives, and the Institute of Self Diffense Archives, and is growing fast. An essential resource for Modern East Asian History. JACAR’s chief project administrator Mr. Shohei Muta will lead the workshop/s and looking forward to hearing from your feedbacks, questions, suggestions.

P.S. The day before, on March 19, we are planning for a hans-on workshop for JapanKnowledge http://na.jkn21.com.ezp1.harvard.edu:82/, another indispensable Japan research tool. The site is adding Shogakukan’s Nihon Kokugo jiten 「日本国語辞典」, 13 volumes of Japan’s version of the OED.


Some Japan News

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:05 am

Japanese Culture Minister offended though whether it was by the quality of the sushi or by the fact that it shared the menu with Korean food is unclear. Japanese culinary supremicism is not a new theme (nor is the fact-fudging about “Japanese tastes” necessary to support it), but what is interesting is that in Europe, where regions can claim the exlusive right to certain culinary labels, Japanese complaints about authenticity are clearly being taken much more seriously than they will here. I don’t care what they say: poke macnut sushi is a step forward.

It wasn’t history, so it didn’t make the carnival, but Adam Richard’s roundup of Anglophone information on Japan is a fantastic collection ranging from think tanks to podcasts. My next contemporary Japan class is going to have to make use of this, I think.

In spite of new evidence regarding Japanese war crimes, a Japanese director is planning a Nanjing Massacre Denial production (is there anything more tiresome than the prospect of a widely announced documentary project produced by a hard-core partisan on a subject the results of which are known in advance and easily rebuttable?) in response to the widely acclaimed pro-fact documentary. Naturally, China is disturbed. This comes in the midst of remarkably ambitious attempts to reach common understanding, though with caveats. It’s important work, though.


Asian History Carnival #11

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:33 am

Ando Momofuku Memorial: PhD Comics
Dave at Peking Duck has more.

There was one, and only one, usable submission through blogcarnival.com:

The Bizarre Jokester presents The Niihau Incident posted at Amazingly Bizarre

The rest of it was Kung-fu, vitamin spam and Feng-shui. I’m partially to blame, of course: Having failed to twist enough arms to produce a host, I put off announcing and begging for posts too long. As a result, I’m forced to do this more or less myself, with the stuff that I would have forwarded to whoever volunteered…. Needless to say, if I miss anything interesting, by all means nominate them. And, of course, if you’re interested in hosting, even in the distant future (which, in blogging terms, is six months or more), let me know. NOW, please.


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