Japanese Diaspora at ASPAC

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:33 am

As I mentioned here and here, I had some great discussions about the question of diaspora at ASPAC. The dividing line between Asian studies and Asian American studies is starting to blur, and I think that’s going to be very productive.

That was actually one of the main points of Jane H. Yamashiro’s lively talk on “The Japanese Diaspora?: Rethinking connections between people of Japanese ancestry”: that disciplinary boundary-crossing is productive, but that the very different origins, political and disciplinary stances of Asian Studies and Asian American Studies raise problems. Fundamentally, each views the question from a very different place, with a center of focus that affects the kind of issues which are possible to study and discuss. One example of the problem is in terminology: are people of Japanese ancestry who go to Japan “return migrants” or “foreigners” or “going to the homeland”? This is precisely what Yamashiro studies: the experience of Japanese Americans constructing a new identity as they live long-term in Japan, but the very naming of such an experience prefigures some of the answer: how can a first-time visit be a “return” unless identity is more ancestral than individual? And she explicitly rejects the term “diaspora” because, she argues, it fixes the center of the Japanese American experience in Japan instead of in America.



Vagaries of Honolulu

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:01 am
Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki

One of the things I always look forward to when I go to Honlulu is visiting the Okonomiyaki restaurant in the International Marketplace — there just aren’t many places in the US where you can get it, and it’s one of my favorite Japanese foods — but this trip was so quick and conference-intensive that I didn’t really have time. So I thought that I’d missed my chance, but when I got to the Ala Moana mall food court I discovered that Honolulu has two Okonomiyaki places.


Upcoming: ASPAC Blogging

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 6:43 pm

Later this week I’m going to be going over to Honolulu for ASPAC 2007, the Pacific Region Asian Studies conference. The program is here: I’ll be presenting a paper on Friday1 and doing the moderator/discussant thing on Saturday2 as well as some administrative stuff3 . I won’t be liveblogging anything, I don’t think (though there’s an internet-based panel discussion with some Chinese participants4 which would be appropriate!) but I’ll be doing my usual conference blogging during and after. There’s a lot of papers I’m looking forward to hearing and discussing: as always, an extra body would be most useful during these events!

  1. Leadership in Yamaguchi Prefecture in the Early Meiji Era []
  2. Panel 6B: Marginalizing Discourses in Japanese History []
  3. I’m a member of the board, if you can believe it, and rumor has it that they want me to take on more responsibility []
  4. Panel 3C: Internet Panel: Chinese Youth and the Internet (an Internet discussion from China) []


Ancient Japan Blog

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 12:09 am

I recently came across the Ancient Japan weblog. Looking through its archives, I see that it has been offering up interesting postings for over a year now and joins the few weblogs out there, at least that I have come across, which directly focuses on Japanese history. I sent off a few questions to the weblog’s author, Joseph Ryan, to learn a bit more about his website:

Q: What is the scope of coverage for the Ancient Japan blog?

A: The material appearing on The Ancient Japan Blog stretches from the Jomon to the Kofun period. Related to that time frame, I plan on posting reviews and purchase links for new books, updates on current Japanese archaeological issues (such as the Takamatsuzuka Kofun restoration), and personal research that I hope will spark exciting conversation.

Q: How did you become interested in the topic?

A: I originally became interested in Japanese history after a rather embarrassing incident at a local fabric store. I was in seventh grade at the time. I went to the store with my mother and her friend in order to buy some generic “Chinese” fabric for some curtains (I thought they’d look great in my room…). My mother’s friend asked me if I was interested in Japanese items as well. Truth be told, I didn’t know where Japan was on a map. I returned home that evening and read general descriptions of Japan’s geography, history, and economy in the Encarta Encyclopedia. Not surprisingly, the small, romanticized blurb on samurai caught my attention. There was no turning back at that point–I believe I bought all the Japanese-related books that Borders and Barnes and Noble had to offer. As to how I became interested in specifically ancient Japanese history, I was puzzled at the vague references to early Korean-Japanese relations and the relatively small amount of space devoted to the Yayoi/Kofun periods in the first book of Sansom’s /A History of Japan /trilogy. I suppose that was like hiding the Christmas presents from the kids–the less the kids know, the more they inquire. I suppose the small amount of researchers in the field, the effects ancient history had on the formation of Japanese society and government, and the overall challenge of peering through two thousand years of mist to a fascinating age keeps my interest alive.

Q: What do you think are the issues and questions related to the study of ancient Japan which those outside of Japan have most taken an interest to? Why?

A: Two words just popped into my head: Kofun and Yamatai. Why kofun? They’re mysterious, huge, and awe-inspiring manifestations of the rivalry between and the power of regional chieftains and Yamato Kings. Why Yamatai? Thanks to the annoyingly vague Wei Zhi, the location of Himiko’s chiefdom of Yamatai will provide fodder for research for generations of scholars to come. As more and more scholars realize that the path toward answering questions on ancient Japan is one of interdisciplinary cooperation, archaeological and traditional historical methods of analyzing these ancient problems are revealing more and more fascinating details. There are surely other topics that Western researchers have found interesting (such as questions surrounding race and origin), but the size, shape, and meaning of kofun, and the location of Yamatai strike me as most attractive to those outside of Japan. (It’s here that I’d like to plug Professor J. Edward Kidder, Jr.’s new book on Yamatai, Himiko, and the nature of Japanese society during the transition from the Yayoi to the Kofun period. It’s called Himiko and Japan’s Elusive Chiefdom of Yamatai: Archaeology, History, and Mythology.)

Q: What are other good resources online for those who might be interested in the study of ancient Japanese history?

A: I sure wish there was more online–it would save me a bundle not having to buy $80 monographs in order to get a prodding historical question answered! If people don’t know Japanese, it can be very difficult to find trustworthy, detailed information on the Internet. A list of appropriate websites would make this already long post too long, so please check out my new post here. It’s a work in progress.

Thanks to Joseph for his replies, and be sure to check out his links to useful websites on ancient Japan. It looks like the blog may become a group effort in the future. If you are interesting in joining the weblog as a contributor, leave a note introducing yourself here.


Encyclopedia of Shinto

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 12:13 am

I was just catching up on my reading of H-Japan postings, when I came across an announcement that I thought might be worth sharing with those who don’t subscribe to the mailing list. It announces the new online:

Encyclopedia of Shinto

Not only can its contents be read in English and searched online, but I was delighted to find that it has released the contents under a Creative Commons license (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs) that gives visitors the freedom to copy and distribute the material they find there if they provide attribution.

The Online Release of the Encyclopedia of Shinto
May 25, 2007

The 21st century Centers of Excellence (COE) Program at Kokugakuin University (Tokyo, Japan) is pleased to announce the completion, in March 2007, of the online version of its Encyclopedia of Shinto (EOS). EOS was compiled as part of the four-year (2002-2006) COE program entitled “Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture” (please see the address below).

The online EOS is a revised and translated digital version of the entire contents of the reduced-sized edition of the Encyclopedia of Shinto edited by the Institute for the Study of Japanese Culture and Classics (IJCC) at Kokugakuin University; it was published by Koubundou in 1999. The original encyclopedia is comprised of nine sections, three of which have been translated into English and published in print form (Section Two, Kami; Section Four, Shrines; and Section Eight, Schools, Organizations, and Personalities). Under the COE program, all nine sections have been newly edited and translated into English, and photos, audio, and video files have been created and linked to the text; the entirety is available on the web.

40 researchers both within and outside of Japan contributed to the translation and correction process, and around 30 staff members of the COE project were involved with editing and uploading the information. The Encyclopedia of Shinto is designed for anyone who would like to know about Japanese culture related to Shinto in English, and presents a wide range of material related to Shinto with clear academic explanations. It should also be helpful for Japanese people when explaining Shinto in international situations. EOS has been partially available on the web for some time, and has already been accessed many times. However, in light of its recent completion, we hope that an even greater number of people will be made aware of its existence and will use it frequently.

In the future, we plan to supplement and improve the content further, hoping to make EOS an even more accessible and reliable reference source.

The new online Encyclopedia of Shinto is a product of considerable expenditure and effort, and therefore we sincerely hope that you will make full use of it.

Inoue Nobutaka
Project Leader
Professor, Kokugakuin University

URL of the online Encyclopedia of Shinto: http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/
Questions should be directed to Inoue Nobutaka, Kokugakuin University


Japan in the Hall of Asian Peoples

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 12:32 pm

Over at my own blog Muninn I have posted an entry talking a bit about the portray of Japan and Korea in the “Hall of Asian Peoples” in New York’s Museum of natural history.

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