2007: Japan Top Ten Year in Review

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 7:44 pm

OK, fellow bloggers and Japan-watchers, I’d like to propose that we participate in the mass hysteria that is the year-end-review list. What media stories from or about Japan deserve our attention this year?Here are my top 10, organized roughly in chronological order (for lack of a more meaningful schema):

1. Ando Momofuku (1910-2007, also Go Pek-hok), inventor of Instant Ramen, died January 7, 2007. His origins in occupied Taiwan, entrepreneurial rise in Taibei and later Osaka, and of course the growth of his business from a local salt producer to national noodle maker to international tycoon is a perfect metaphor for the history of Japan in the 20th century.

2. Matsuzaka Daisuke started training with the Boston Red Sox in February, 2007. His six-year, fifty-two million dollar contract with the team that would go on to easily win the World Series (with significant participation from Matsuzaka) is a sign of the huge growth in value of top-flight Japanese players who choose to switch to U.S. baseball.

3. The Institute of Cetacean Research, Japan’s pseudo-scientific cover program for ongoing commercial whaling, called off whaling for the 2007 season in late March because of a fire on the Nisshin Maru. This issue seems to never go away.

4. Matsuoka Toshikatsu, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in the Abe cabinet, committed suicide on May 28, 2007 amidst a financial scandal. Looking back, this was perhaps a small sign of the imminent collapse of the Abe administration.

5. On the same day, Mori Riyo was crowned Miss Universe, inspiring new scrutiny of the beauty pageant industry in Japan and a new representative abroad. Particularly fascinating was Mori’s claim that she has “a samurai soul.”

6. On July 16, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake off the coast of Niigata prompted worry about and international attention to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. The plant, which can contribute up to 6% of Japan’s electrical energy, was shut down to allow safety inspections, which are ongoing.

7. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo resigned on September 12, 2007. The son of Abe Shintaro and the youngest postwar Prime Minister, Abe had come under increasing pressure from a divided Diet as well as strong criticism after poor election results, and himself seemed to suffer from worsening health. His administration lasted for less than a year.

8. Multiple members of Kigenkai, a religious cult, were arrested for murder after the beating death of a female member in September. Kigenkai, which was founded in 1970 and claims to be a traditional Shinto organization, produces Kigensui, a purified water that the sect claims can cure illness and disease.

9. English conversation school Nova filed for bankruptcy on October 26, letting go of more than 4,000 teachers and leaving hundreds of thousands of paid students without lessons. Some commentators cited Nova’s huge spending on marketing and advertising as the root cause; others pointed to the government’s cuts to vocational education funding in 2003.

10. As of November 20, all foreigners entering or living in Japan were required to undergo fingerprinting. This will, logically, prevent terrorism.


Journals: Critical Asian Studies Vol 39 No 3

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 10:47 pm

Below is the table of contents for the september issue of Critical Asian Studies:

Critical Asian Studies
2007 ; VOL 39 ; PART 3   (2007/09/01) 
EALA Wiki Entry for this journal

Article Title: Submerged and submerging voices : hegomony and the decline of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in Gujarat , 1998 – 2001
Author(s): Whitehead , Judith
Page: 339-421

Article Title: The Limits of Protest and Prospects for Political Reform in Malaysia
Author(s): Nair , Sheila
Page: 339-368

Article Title: Robo Sapiens Japanicus : Humanoid Robots and the Posthuman Family
Author(s): Robertson , Jennifer
Page: 369-398

Article Title: Inequality for the Greater Good : Gendered State Rule in Singapore
Author(s): Yenn , Teo You
Page: 423-445

Article Title: Beyond Modern : Shimizu Shikin and “Two Modern Girls”
Author(s): Winston , Leslie
Page: 447-481

Article Title: IRAQ AND THE LESSONS OF VIETNAM : Introduction
Author(s): Gardner , Lloyd ; Young , Marilyn
Page: 483-498

Article Title: Book Review
Page: 499-503

About TOS Updates

Journals: Journal of Asian Studies Vol 66 No 4

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 10:19 pm

Below is the table of contents of the November issue of JAS.

Journal of Asian Studies
2007 ; VOL 66 ; PART 4   (2007/11/01) 
EALA Wiki Entry for this journal

Article Title: Law and Custom under the Choson Dynasty and Colonial Korea : A Comparative Perspective
Author(s): Kim , M . S . – H .
Page: 1067-1098


佐々木啓 – 戦時期日本における国民徴用援護事業の展開過程

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 5:35 pm

I just saw the table of contents for the December issue of 『歴史学研究』 and noticed that Frog in a Well contributor Sasaki Kei (see his postings here) has published an essay on his research on wartime labor conscription in Japan.

I am away from libraries where I can read the article at the moment but here is the English abstract available online:

The Development of Labor Conscription Support Projects in Japan during the Asian Pacific War: A Study of National Integration

This paper examines an aspect of national integration in Japan during the Asian-Pacific War through an analysis of the development of labor conscription support projects. Prior research on wartime Japanese society has mainly focused on cultural and welfare movements, or local communities. However, few of them have paid attention to the labor conscription system, which is very important to understand Japan’s total war system.

Firstly, this article establishes that national support projects for the conscripted people and their families were developed in various ways and on a wide scale from the middle of 1943. Though prior research has emphasized the irrationality of the system of labor conscription, we demonstrate that it actually based on an elaborate mechanism.

Secondly, we examine the realities of labor conscription support projects in Osaka Prefecture, where social workers (homen iin) appointed to the Conscripts Consultation Committee (Ochoshi sodan iin) mainly engaged in the projects, and explore the various aspects of interaction between the support projects with the populace. The “effects” of support projects did not necessarily coincide with what the state intended, and the projects served as a medium for the people to achieve their demands.


Japanese History Workshop, Part II

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 12:13 am

I recently returned from a week in Sydney, Australia, and am happy to report that it has incredible Southeast Asian food and fresh seafood, amazing parks, and the most beautiful coastline I have seen. Visit or emigrate to Sydney if you ever have the chance, seriously.


I had one day free before the conference began, and spent it exploring the Circular Quay area, the Botanical Gardens, and the Domain park area, as well as taking a tour ferry around the harbor. The flora reminded me of the range of plants you would find in southern California, while the fauna are unique: unusual squawking birds, flying squirrels nesting in trees, and terribly fit joggers everywhere.

The University of Sydney, or “Sydney Uni” in local parlance, hosted the workshop. The architecture of the campus, located in the hip and bohemian area of Newtown, is quite beautiful, reminiscent of British universities.


The workshop brought together senior historians of Japan and their graduate students from around Australia for three days, each of which began with a long lecture followed by a panel of papers. The scholarship on display was extremely impressive. As is true in the U.S., much of the work was in twentieth century history. Charles Schencking, for example, did his Ph.D. at Cambridge and is now, after the publication of his book Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, and the Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868-1922, settled at the University of Melbourne and training a number of graduate students. He and they are now working on various aspects of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Elise Tipton of the University of Sydney, one of the organizers of the workshop, is researching department stores of the 1930s. She has already published a study of the police in interwar Japan, (The Japanese Police State), the edited anthology Society and the State in Interwar Japan, and the textbook Modern Japan: A Social and Political History. Sandra Wilson of Murdoch University, who has previously published The Manchurian Crisis and Japanese Society, 1931-33 and Nation and Nationalism in Japan is working on a monumental study of Japanese nationalism and presented a fascinating paper on Japan as represented and performed at the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and Expo ’70 in Osaka. She appears to train many, many graduate students, several of whom gave papers at the workshop. Judith Snodgrass of the University of Western Sydney also continues her work on nationalism and religion in modern Japan, as first seen in her book Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition. Tessa Morris-Suzuku of Australian National University (perhaps the most widely known Australian historian of Japan) presented a paper on colonial Karafuto, one of many topics she is currently researching.

Premodern history was on display and clearly thriving as well, seen in papers by Olivier Ansart (Ogyu Sorai) and Matthew Stavros (medieval Kyoto), the primary organizer, both of the University of Sydney; Rebecca Corbett (early modern women and tea), one of their graduate students; Takeshi Moriyama (late-Tokugawa rural learning), a graduate student from Murdoch University; and Timothy Amos (the status of Danzaemon in Edo), of the National University of Singapore.

Although the purpose of the workshop was to bring Australian historians of Japan into contact with each other and with foreign historians, it was clear to me that their work is among the best in the field of English-language studies of Japanese history. Their undergraduate programs are clearly thriving as well, with enrollment in Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian languages easily outpacing all European languages. As an American college professor always working to recruit students into Japanese studies, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this a vision of the future, or simply a reflection of Australia’s relative proximity to Asia and growing economic and cultural ties with the region?


Asian History Carnival Coming Soon

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 6:26 pm

We will soon be hosting an Asian History Carnival at the Frog in a Well: China weblog on December 12th. Read more about the Asian History Carnival and how you can nominate posts for inclusion here. The carnival will include excellent weblog postings on Asian History written since October 10th, along with some related online resources. You can also easily recommend nominations by tagging them on del.icio.us with the tag “ahcarnival” (http://del.icio.us/tag/ahcarnival/).

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