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I almost didn't check Chris Bradford's Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior Buy Tindamax Without Prescription, out of the library when I saw it, but some instinct told me that it was something I should read. Perhaps it was the realization that Young Samurai was the first book in a series -- oddly, though, Tindamax schedule, there was no information on the other books (( As near as I can tell from the websites, the second book is coming out in the UK shortly, with the third book scheduled for next year and a TV deal in the works, but nothing on the US side about when the sequels might be available here, Tindamax street price. )) -- and therefore likely to have some serious publicity support from the publisher. Perhaps it was the realization that the publisher was Disney/Hyperion, Cheap Tindamax, which more or less guarantees a pretty substantial distribution and readership. Perhaps it was the hope that I might find, finally, some historical fiction worth recommending...., buy generic Tindamax.

The book is about a young English boy who's shipwrecked in Japan in 1611, and gets adopted by a samurai family, while being stalked by the ninja pirates who killed his father and crewmates, Buy Tindamax Without Prescription. So it was a bit Karate Kid and a bit of the story of Will Adams (more Samurai William than Shogun); nothing surprising, really, Tindamax online cod, but all a bit familiar. Aside from fairly predictable ahistorical elements, (( ninja, yes, Tindamax interactions, and wakou pirates (who are also ninja) off the coast of eastern Japan in 1611, and the post-Enlightenment attitudes of the protagonist )) commonplaces of martial arts fiction, What is Tindamax, and the implausible interpersonal relationships, nothing out of the ordinary.

I was about halfway through the book, though, Tindamax description, when I realized what I was reading: it was the scene where Jack, the young Englishman, Tindamax blogs, shows up at the school of his adopted father/patron -- a formidable warrior -- and all the students are introduced to the instructors at a big banquet. I put down the book, walked into the other room and said to my wife, "It's Harry Potter in Japan!"

[spoilers, buy Tindamax without prescription, of course, under the fold]

"That's too bad, Tindamax gel, ointment, cream, pill, spray, continuous-release, extended-release, " she said, "since you liked Harry Potter so much." She's right: I read all the books, but never stopped complaining about them. Buy Tindamax Without Prescription, In fairness, my chief complaint about the Harry Potter series was Rowling's failure to develop a remotely plausible social or historical context for the action; Bradford has adopted an actual place and time, so he should have a perfectly workable milieu, if he doesn't muck it up. (( He certainly has educational aspirations [PDF] )) I also thought that Rowling dragged the story on interminably; Bradford only has a trilogy planned, Tindamax pharmacy.

What elements does it share with Harry Potter. The characters and narratives are so structurally similar that I'm surprised it took me so long to see it: orphaned boy enters new cultural world, Tindamax dose, discovers new skills for which he has a natural talent, attracts the ire of a mysterious and dangerous enemy who has some connection to himself, defeats his enemies with the aid of his fellow students, has a mentor/protector who's the only person powerful enough to defeat his nemesis and they have a history of conflict, Tindamax samples, a female friend who is also better-informed and ambiguously interested, a school with multiple instructors (introduced, Tindamax over the counter, as I said, at a big banquet), class and purity-based discrimination, and contests of skill which are ultimately decided by the good character -- and preternaturally appropriate skills -- of the protagonist, Tindamax from canada. I could go on.

Some of the similarities are more or less coincidental: class and ethnicity are common forms of prejudice, certainly present in Japan as much as England, and some martial arts schools did have specialist instructors, and all of them had hierarchical systems, Buy Tindamax Without Prescription. Using the immensely successful Rowling series as a model isn't really a flaw, Buy cheap Tindamax, I suppose: "fish out of water goes to school" is a literary frame that allows the author to educate the reader along with the protagonist in an almost naturalistic way. But the nemesis/mentor pair, the orphan with a mixed blessing from deceased parents protagonist, the tight circle of misfit/nerdy friends and allies, online Tindamax without a prescription, the unlikely triumphs from first principles and good character, the secret/conspiracy that stretches over multiple books, Buy Tindamax from canada, even the climactic inter-school trial of skill are all there. Rowling should be proud: she's spawned a genre.

I have historical and cultural issues as well, most of which can be summed up as the result of placing later practices too early, real brand Tindamax online. Most of the dojo Buy Tindamax Without Prescription, scenes are like that, depicting 20th century martial arts ettiquette (but, very oddly, glossing over the sempai-kohai seniority structure). The cultural role of the Imperial institution as depicted isn't plausible until Mito School thought develops in the late 18th and early 19th century. (( The social connections to the Imperial house are flat-out absurd: one daimyo is described as a "second cousin to the Imperial Line" (183), Tindamax mg, which boggles the mind almost as much as the idea that the Imperial sigil is the "sun" instead of the chrysanthemum. An imperial official shows up to officiate at the inter-school contest later, which culminates in a race to Kiyomizudera, which is the resting place for a magical sword which is Japan's great protection against danger, Tindamax duration. Yeah. )) The female characters, and Jack's egalitarianism, are really only possible in a 21st century rewriting of the history, Buy Tindamax Without Prescription. (( Yes, Order Tindamax from United States pharmacy, samurai women learned how to fight. Mostly with dagger and spear, and the incessant invocation of Tomoe Gozen as a feminist heroine clearly comes out of 21st century concerns. The idea that a 17th century Englishman with a naval background would be surprised or discomfited by the concept of classes is just a bit of a stretch, Tindamax photos, too. )) There's an odd bit when the characters are explaining sohei warrior monks to Jack: they are simultaneously supernatural practitioners of incomparable skill (201) and overweening power-mongers who are obliterated by Oda Nobunaga in his apparently justified attempt to take Kyoto. Buy Tindamax Without Prescription, (164-165) There are several places where practices are described as "Japanese" when they are distinctly samurai class issues. Tindamax for sale, It's an historical hash.

The language of Bushido is a little anachronistic, but not as bad as the actual Japanese which is used in the book, which is thoroughly modern, my Tindamax experience. I understand why, more or less, Tindamax coupon, but there are times when more accurate renderings might have been more dramatic: For example, the Japanese students use the late 19th/20th century gaijin as a derogatory term for Jack, but the Japanese of the time would have been more likely to use an actually derogatory term like yabanjin [savage, barbarian] or nanbanjin [Southern barbarian] or ketoujin [hairy chinese barbarian] or komojin [red-hairs], Tindamax natural. (( and the use of "gaijin-lover" as an epithet for Jack's female friend just doesn't ring true. Even as foolhardy and dense as the mean kids in this book are, they would be unlikely to accuse the daughter of their teacher of being an outcaste among prostitutes, and she'd be unlikely to take it as calmly as she does, Buy Tindamax Without Prescription. Akiko is an odd duck, Tindamax no rx, though, who practices pearl-diving in her spare time (without revealing anything), but takes samurai ettiquette very seriously. ))

One of the odder aspects of the book is that the head of the school, Tindamax use, and Jack's adopted father, is explicitly modeled on Miyamoto Musashi, Tindamax price, coupon, the great swordsman and strategist, but Bradford changes his name -- Masamoto -- and alters significant components of his history, including, most notably, Tindamax overnight, the fact that Musashi only ran a school for a short while and certainly wasn't a big fan of Bushido as it developed later. Conveniently, Tindamax dangers, Musashi's school-running days were right around the time that Jack has shown up, which was just in time to see the famous duel involving the oar. (( though Bradford's version is much longer than any other I've read, and the oar is a stopgap measure rather than a premeditated decision: these are the kinds of changes he's making )) Bradford's Masamoto is, Tindamax results, like Musashi, a two-sword master with a side-speciality in throwing things, Tindamax forum, but doesn't seem to have the philosophical side of the historical swordsman. Buy Tindamax Without Prescription, He does, however, have a complicated relationship with his sons. The eldest, Tenno, was killed by the ninja master Dokugan Ryu; the younger, discount Tindamax, Yamato, is trying to fill the gap, Tindamax brand name, but failing, and his struggle -- along with Jack's outsider issues -- forms the emotional core of the book. (( The names almost drove me to drop the book in the first few chapters. The idea of naming a child "Emperor" or "Japan" made me worry that the whole book would be like that, where can i order Tindamax without prescription. The ninja master's name is translated in the book as "Dragon Eye" though "One-eyed Dragon" is much more accurate. Also, the green eye clearly means that Dokugan Ryu is of foreign origin, though nobody mentions it and we'll have to wait for book three to find out for sure, Buy Tindamax Without Prescription. ))

Do I have any good things to say about it. Tindamax cost, Well, it's a quick read, broken up into 44 chapters, and the writing is pretty good, Tindamax from mexico. The ethical and personal lessons learned are worthwhile; though the reiteration of those lessons by Masamoto gets heavy-handed, it certainly sounds like many a "martial arts is about character" lecture I've heard and read. I can't say, though, that I've found an historical fiction which pleases me, though.

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AHA Blogging Day One: Between Naps

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:20 pm Print
They call it a "red eye flight" for a reason. I really hope that none of the panelists at "Unstable Bodies, Unsettled Movements: Sport, Performance and Nation in Japan" took my nodding off personally: I really did want to hear what they had to say. (If anyone went to the Historians in Public roundtable and wants to share, I'd be grateful, by the way: that was my second choice.)

Aside from hearing the panelists, I got to meet not one, but two of my fellow Frog-bloggers: Dennis Frost, who was on the panel, and Michael Wert, who was in the audience with me. Tomorrow I get to hang out with Cliopatriots (being emeritoid, myself) and find out who won the Clios for last year! I love it.

The panel really was interesting, more so than I -- who can be a bit skeptical of cultural studies type topics -- was expecting. Our own Dr. Frost (congratulations!) talked about the remarkably career and tragic death of Kinue Hitomi, and how public discourse around her career and death both highlighted "woman problem" anxieties and also gave a huge boost to sports medicine, and to the medicalization of women's issues. The incompetence and perfidy of her Mainichi Shinbun boss and supposed sports doctor Kinoshita deserves special mention: it takes a huge dose of chutzpah to claim on the one hand that there was no medical connection between Kinue's competitions, her gender, and her death, and on the other that what's needed for women athletes is more sports medicine (in spite of the fact that having a doctor along didn't help her one bit).

Following the theme of self-contradicting dicta, Rebecca Nickerson talked about women's physical education scholar and advocate Fujimura Toyo, who apparently blamed the poor health and posture of her contemporaries (she was active in the Taisho era, mostly) on bunmei (civilization) and incompetent physical education programs. She was particularly down on tight-obi'd kimono -- which she considered an aspect of a distinctively Japanese modernity, along with physical education and compulsory classroom attendance -- arguing that the Genroku-style loose obi and a healthy rural lifestyle -- Ainu were considered very healthy, apparently -- were the key to proper posture and health. Looser, western style clothes and moderate western style calisthenics were her keys to a uniquely Japanese healthy women's lifestyle..... I was struck by the parallels to the agrarian nationalists of the same time period, who create a sort of fantastical idyllic, authentic and pre-modern past, then invoke the instruments of modernity and Westernization to try to force society back into that shape.

Paul Droubie's talk on the scientification of athletic training in the run up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics raised all kinds of great issues. That the program was partially successful (16 golds, but blanks in track and swimming) raised hackles, mostly by those who were in favor of better and more "scientific" methods. He argued that application of those technical methods of improvement to normal people would be sharply resisted, but athletes, in their capacity as national representatives, do not entirely own their bodies and as such were "fair game."

Finally, Valerie Barske presented a great wealth of material on the use and abuse of Ryukyuan dance to construct Okinawan identity, from the Edo period up to the "Wakanatsu Kokutai" event celebrating the reversion of Okinawa (half of it, anyway) to Japanese control in 1973. The most surprising section, to me, was the way in which the US admnistration in Okinawa used (and dramatically altered) Ryukyuan dances to bolster Ryukyuan identity, presumably to reduce the sense of connection to Japan and create a stronger case for continued stewardship. The Okinawans then turned that around in 1973 to use their traditional and modernized dances to present themselves as politically unified and equal to the rest of Japan, while culturally and ethnically distinct.

At least, I'm pretty sure that's what they were talking about! Any errors I'll chalk up to jet-lag, and my co-bloggers can correct me (and fill me in on the post-paper discussion, which I missed entirely) at their leisure. I rounded out the day with Fish and Chips (They were fantastic, but I better get some BBQ soon!), and now it's time to rest up for tomorrow's adventures.


Arita Drug & Rubber Goods, Kobe?

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:39 am Print

An astute student in my Japanese Women class sent me this link [very adult content] with the thought that I might use it.... to stimulate.... class discussion! I'm actually quite intrigued... by the historical context and puzzle it presents. For those of you who wisely refrained from clicking through on first link, it's a catalog of sexual devices and medicinals, bearing the imprint

Arita Drug & Rubber Goods Co.
Export and Import
1 Motomachi St.
Tel. Sasanomiya (3) 1465

There are a wide variety of offerings here, from self-pleasuring devices to all sorts of odd stimulating condoms, to medicinals offering freedom from disease, and heightened pleasure. Well, no surprises there. Japanese attitudes towards sex have always been a bit more free than Western ones, and the sex-toy business seems to have been in full swing (sorry) worldwide by the early 20th century.

Two things strike me as odd, though, and make me wonder if it might not be harder to put this into the context of Japanese sexual history than it appears on first .... blush? (sorry, it's hard to stop. I'm much more discreet in the classroom, I promise) First the entire catalog is in English, except for the drawing of the Arita establishment itself which has a number of signs in Japanese.... all of them attesting to the fact that it's a drugstore, but not hinting at the other products offered therein. The huge English sign at the top of the building, however, reads "Sex Store." What this suggests to me is that these products were primarily marketed to non-Japanese buyers; the location of the shop in Kobe reinforces that, since it was the site of a substantial American/European merchant population. It could also be targetted at "sophisticated" and educated Japanese, of course.

Second is the question of provenance. The hosting site Rotten.Com claims that this is from the 1930s. Based on the prices (no, I don't know that much about the Japanese or American sex toy markets; I'm just guessing) and production values it seems plausible, but only for the early '30s (also because a shop importing from and marketing to foreigners might well have come under pressure in the late '30s to find other lines of products). There's no copyright, nor do I know enough about the products offered to date the materials that way. (there is the nagging doubt in the back of my mind which says "this might not be authentic at all" but I don't have any specific evidence to support that)

My initial impression, then, is that this document speaks not to the sexual freedom of interwar Japan, but that it does perhaps say something about the foreign community in Japan, and perhaps about the internationalization of industrially enhanced (?) sexuality. But I need more context on that....


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!

The Earliest

"Chronology, so the saying goes, is the last refuge of the feeble-minded and the only resort for historians." -- Joseph J. Ellis

Geological History (and souvenirs): John McKay recounts a visit to an erratic rock and discusses the geology, the glory of seeing natural history in situ, and the tragedy of souvenir hunters.

Jared Diamond gets another look at Salamander Candy.

Jim Davila at PaleoJudaica takes us on a photographic tour of Vindolanda "an early Roman fort near Hadrian's wall which is important for its Latin epigraphic discoveries. Vindolanda is also the setting for Barabara Bell's Minimus books -- Latin primers for children."

Military Lives

"Historical awareness is a kind of resurrection." -- William Least Heat Moon

Grant Jones presents a WWII hero and Tim Abbott presents his grandfather's story as a US Navy Surgeon in the South Pacific at Walking the Berkshires

Sayaka presents a discussion of the historical documentary ari no heitai [ant soldiers], about Japanese revisionism about the war in China, particularly the post-1945 anti-Communist campaign

Only Two Rs relates a discussion between military historians about soldiers past and present.

Miland Brown explains that "Falling into Aztecs hands in war time was a not a good idea...".

Lively Discourses

"And this is a matter of which no historian can afford to be simply a dispassionate chronicler and analyst. However great his intellectual and moral detachment, in the last resort he is committed to the values, and to the society, that enables him to remain so detached. He is a member of the polis and cannot watch its destruction without himself being destroyed." -- Michael Howard The Lessons of History (1989), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 187.

Brett Holman sent me Dan Todman's A step too Farr? was one of many discussions [Ed. Roundup by Brett Holman] of the proposed posthumous pardon for WWI deserters.

Trillwing's excellent post about one woman in science history at The Clutter Museum included a lament for the paucity of female history bloggers. Ralph Luker responded with a remarkable collection of women history bloggers which spurred much discussion. Here goes: I'm disappointed at the paucity of Asian History Bloggers outside of Frog In A Well....

As Ralph Luker says, "Donald Rumsfeld already has nominations for the next Bad History Carnival from Derek Catsam, Kevin Drum, Hiram Hover, and John Prados." I suspect we'll miss Rumsfeld when he's gone. I'd like to find out.

Orac took some time away from his vacation to strike back at an anti-Darwinist argumentum ad nazium posted at Respectful Insolence. Sergey Romanov also got his licks in, as did a few other folks.

An Artistic Interlude

"Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children. Life is the other way around." -- David Lodge, British Museum (1965)

Callimachus reveals his boring old postcard collection. His description, not mine; I'm the one who picked it for the carnival!

Another one I'll admit to: John McKay's brief history of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

word into art 4 at Verbal Privilege is a dramatic demonstration of the power of modern art when it uses historical material and themes (see more here). The final piece in that post is stunning; even if (especially if) you have doubts about politically engaged modern art, look at it.

Brett Holman suggests David Tiley's art, life, terror, the fascinating tale of a women whose artistic talent allowed her to survive the Holocaust and then go on to become a Disney animator, but whose art is being held [that's carefully chosen words, there] by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.

Teaching, teaching, teaching

"A bashful person cannot learn, nor can an impatient one teach." -- Hillel

Dave Fagg's iHistory Podcast Project deserves a serious look for anyone interested in new technology teaching tools.

In honor of the new semester, Alan Baumler and I discuss our history syllabi. This is an ongoing series at Frog In A Well, and we'd love to see more folks join in: there's lots of syllabi on the web, but not a lot of discussion of syllabi content and course organization. There should be more.


"I wonder why we hate the past so." -- W.D. Howells to Mark Twain
"It's so damned humiliating." -- Twain's reply

Scott McLemee suggests YouTube as an Oral History archive. Why not: some scholars already use eBay as a source of manuscripts, etc.

Martin Rundkvist raises a more troubling issue: E-mail migration and the loss of data.

Jennie W. of American Presidents Blog shares some of Lucy Hayes’ Civil War Letters and pictures.

Natalie Bennett's Diarist Lady discusses Touching the King's Evil, in great (historical!) detail.

Kevin Levin's discussion of Ken Burns in the classroom was worthwhile.

Alan Baumler shared a fascinating Han-era document we've both used in class.

Language and history

"If the evidence that existed always spoke plainly, truthfully, and clearly to us, not only would historians have no work to do, we would have no opportunity to argue with each other." -- John H. Arnold, History: A Very Short Introduction, p.13.

How should historical fiction writers deal with archaic terminology? Carla explains her common-sense approach

Amanda McCloskey presents an etymology of biliary atresia, drawing on folklore, comparative linguistics, history and medicine.

Speaking of etymologies, Callimachus does a brief examination of fascism and it's modern applications. Popular topic these days: Shertaugh guest-blogs on it at Eric Muller's place.

Violent Death

"If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past." -- Baruch Spinoza

sepoy sent along Martyrification, a brief history of a woman sniper and her memorial.

Nene Adams is doing a series of crime recapitulations, including a fascinating example of blood libel stymied by forensic pathology and a contemporary of Jack the Ripper.

David Noon presents Nat Turner's Uprising saying, "for professional and personal reasons, my blog has been reduced to a daily recounting of horrific anniversaries -- this entry, I think, is one of the better ones in the series.... It also happens to coincide with the day Bernard Lewis stupidly predicted the world would be cast into a lake of fire...." I can't improve on that.

Scholarly Life

"Education is when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get when you don't." -- Pete Seeger

Ralph Luker shared a piece of his own research, a lovely example of how a simple footnote can be an education if you take it seriously and do it right.

Tim Burke offers a dilemma of historical writing from his own work in You Can’t Tell the Players Without a Scorecard (also here), and discusses the dynamics of the end of Apartheid. Finally, in a challenge answered by far too few (I'll get to it after this carnival is up, really!), he asks about the cleavages and battlefields of our respective subfields.

Finally, Brian Ulrich waxes nostalgic for the "cutting edge" scholars of the past

Politics, of course, means bad history

"At a certain point one ceases to defend a certain view of history; one must defend history itself." -- E. P. Thompson

Konrad Lawson examines George Will's Yasukuni essay and finds it historically lacking. I thought the concluding point comparing Yasukuni visits with the Confederate flag issue was good, though. In related news, Yasukuni's got fiscal issues and PR problems, to boot.

Another Damned Medievalist found Creationist Beowulf, apparently a common element in hard-line Christian homeschooling

Sergey Romanov takes on The Ugly Voice denial videos at Holocaust Controversies. When he's not doing that, he's going up against David Horowitz, whose web projects have featured a hard-core Holocaust denier (and don't miss the George Soros debate, either).

Speaking of the Nazis, apparently some people can't tell the difference between an opportunism and conspiracy. Happens all the time.

Thoroughly Unclassifiable

"Children who tell adults everything are trying to make them as wise as they. Just as children who ask questions already know why the sky is blue and where the lost kitten has gone. What they need is confirmation that the odd and frightening magic which has turned adults into giants has not completely addled their brains." -- Richard Bowes, "The Mask of the Rex."

Mum to Laura guestblogs at Autism Street and attacks pseudoscience by using blindness as a metaphor for autism. It's an interesting exercise in counterfactualism as satire.

Joe Kissell presents a geographic absurdity, a group of islands off of Newfoundland which are French territory. As usual, I have another ITOD post which I think is worth reading, particularly for the mystery.

Until Next Time!

"Not only are there no happy endings, there aren't even any endings." -- Neil Gaiman, American Gods (2001: 483)

In sad news for the Carnival (a minor side effect of momentous happy news in real life), Caleb McDaniel, after hosting HC #37 is going out of blogging on a high note, while he embarks on fatherhood and assistant professorhood. There'll always be space for him in the HC!

That concludes this edition. If you think you can do better, volunteer to host an upcoming edition. Or just submit blog articles to the next edition of history carnival, to be hosted at Cliopatria (Update: The High Cliopatriarch Himself, Ralph Luker, will host!), using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our index page or our very own homepage.

"History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives." -- Abba Eban

Many thanks to those who submitted their own posts, those who submitted other folks' work, and those bloggers who I've shamelessly selected on my own authority.

Technorati tags: , .


Sharing Syllabi: Japanese Women

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 8:51 pm Print
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!


Homosexuality in Japan: The Meiji Gap

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:00 am Print
The effects of Meiji reforms on women have been pretty well documented: the continued legality of prostitution, including indenture; the consolidation of male power within family law and politics; the rise of the "Good Wife; Wise Mother" cult of femininity, education; etc. There's been relatively little research that I'm aware of which really takes the male experience of Meiji all that seriously, separate from the general "Japanese" experience. One of the areas in which that's really obvious, even to my students, is sexuality. How quickly can the closet door close? One of the as-yet unstudied oddities of Japanese history is the shift in male sexuality from the Tokugawa to Meiji eras. As an example of the state of the field, here's a recently published translation of a Japanese article from about two years ago:
Although there are many literary and artistic representations dating from the Edo period (1603-1857) which describe sexual acts which took place between men using terms such as danshoku and wakashu, at that time participating in such acts did not designate a specific type of person and so these records cannot be read as part of the history of 'gay' or 'homosexual' men. The so-called 'birth' of the homosexual took place in Japan in the Meiji (1858-1912) and Taisho (1912-25) periods when participating in same-sex sexual acts came to be understood as the result of a personal disposition, but almost no first-person narratives survive from this time. The only records which remain from this period are case studies and analyses from a genre of sexology publications dating from 1900 which treated 'homosexuality' as one example of 'perverse sexuality.' There are also some articles and reports about cross-dressing male prostitutes who existed before and after World War II, but these reports, are also 'about' homosexuals and do not represent their own voices. However, this period of silence in which there were no records created by homosexuals themselves began to change in 1950 with the appearance of magazines such as Amatoria which took sex as their theme.
The near-total silence of Meiji sources is quite remarkable. It's not like all the samurai just disappeared, and there's a great deal of continuity in social, family, consumptive and cultural practices between Tokugawa and Meiji. I'm quite sure that the influence of Western sexual taboos is very strong in this regard, but it's somewhat surprising that the deliberately transgressive and sexual "I-novel" writings of the Meiji and Taisho eras, for example, contain no (as far as I know) considerations of homosexuality. It's possible, I suppose, that the "Tokugawa" traditions of male-male sexual practices are really "early-mid" Tokugawa practices, which had mostly died out by the 19th century, but that's a question for someone who knows the literature better than I. It's also possible that the silence in the sources is a temporary thing, a result of our research interests, but there are people actively studying sexuality in Japan and it strikes me as odd, but not at all dispositive, that so little has been found.


Because we must…

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 10:12 pm Print
If it isn't ninja, it's geisha. Yes, the weekend following the 64th anniversary of Pearl Harbor is the perfect time for "spectacularly unfortunate metaphors about male eels and female caves and one regrettably brief catfight in a kimono." I admit, I didn't read Memoirs of a Geisha when it came out, hit the bestseller lists, etc. I haven't read it yet, but I know I should. Not just to nitpick at the book and movie (which I won't see this weekend, though I might over break if opportunity presents), though that might indeed be fun, but because its popularity is something which we will have to take into account when we teach for the foreseeable future. Anyway, the New York Times review from which the above quote is taken has a pretty good synopsis of the film and background, and pretty much comes to the conclusion that it's a film that works visually much more than narratively. The job of a movie reviewer is twofold: explain what does and doesn't work about the movie so you know if you want to see it; be entertaining. For both, it's hard to beat Dargis' concluding paragraphs:
Mr. Marshall can't rescue the film from its embarrassing screenplay or its awkward Chinese-Japanese-Hollywood culture klatch, but "Memoirs of a Geisha" is one of those bad Hollywood films that by virtue of their production values nonetheless afford a few dividends, in this case, fabulous clothes and three eminently watchable female leads. Although it's always a pleasure to see these three in action, and there's something undeniably exciting about the prospect of them storming the big studio gate, the casting of Ms. Gong and Ms. Zhang ends up more bittersweet than triumphant. Ms. Zhang, for one, shows none of the heartache and steel of her astonishing performance in Wong Kar-wai's "2046." ... Ms. Gong's hauteur and soaring cheekbones work better for her character, a woman of acid resolve. Although there are moments when Hatsumomo comes perilously close to Dragon Lady caricature ("I will destroy you!"), the actress's talent and dignity keep the performance from sliding into full-blown camp. But even the formidable Ms. Gong cannot surmount the ruinous decision to have her and Ms. Zhang, along with the poorly used Mr. Yakusho, deliver their lines in vaguely British-sounding English that imparts an unnatural halting quality to much of their dialogue. The. Result. Is. That. Each. Word. Of. Dialogue. Sounds. As. If. It. Were. Punctuated. By. A. Full. Stop. Which. Robs. The. Language. Of. Its. Watery. Flow. And. Breath. Of. Real. Life. Even. As. It. Also. Gives. New. Meaning. To. The. Definition. Of. The. Period. Movie.
For slightly less breathless period pieces, Sour Duck has a review of a Taisho art exhibit (but missed the complementary Meiji works), which looks like fun, and runs almost until Christmas.


The Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace

Filed under: — tak @ 3:06 pm Print
Following KML's post about the new museum on sexual slavery that is reported to open on August 1, found some links that I thought might deserve a separate post. "The Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace," as it was reported by Japan Times, is the translation of アクティブ・ミュージアム「女たちの戦争と平和資料館」. The site, which is only in Japanese, can be found here. For those who are in Tokyo, a museum opening event will be held on July 31. There is some information in English about this museum, by way of a notice on the passing of Yayori Matsui, a journalist, activist, and a key person behind the museum. The museum site is part of Violence against Women in War - Network Japan (The Japanese page is here.) VAWW-NET Japan is an organization dedicated to ending violence against women during war and is currently positioning the museum as a node to connect to other such centers of information and activism in other Asian countries. Here's another piece of news that I'm sure some readers here will already know about. In 2000 they organized the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal, known as Women's Tribunal 2000 (in English, Japanese). But earlier this year Asahi Shinbun reported that some government officials clandestinely interfered with the tribunal and attempted to discredit VAWW-NET Japan. This report was based on a disclosure from a producer at NHK. For more on this, see VAWW-NET Japan's blog. This post in English (here) has a good summary of the history of this scandal.


Updates: Textbook and Constitutional revision

The Tri-national textbook I wrote about here has been published. The South Koreans, at least, are taking it pretty seriously [via Ralph Luker], with national distribution in the works. The Constitutional revision question I wrote about here has expanded, apparently, to include the gender equity clauses, which are being blamed by social conservatives for "promoting egoism... collapse of family and community ... a plunging marriage rate, an anemic birthrate and increasing delinquency in schools." (OK, I followed it pretty well up to the last one: anyone who wants to explain to me the connection between gender equality and educational disorder is welcome to try) Non Sequitur: A virtual gallery of Japanese Manhole Covers [via Ralph Luker] reveals some extraordinary public art. Now, can anyone tell me how this began, or why Japan does this and nobody else, as far as I know, does? Or is the US the only country whose underground access portal covers are boring? History Carnival #9 is a rich collection (in spite of finals, it's been a fine fortnight), including Craig's essay (it's much to substantial to be just "a post") on Karate, which Sharon Howard graciously (and accurately, I think) calls "one of the outstanding posts of the month." I will be talking about historians in cyberspace at ASPAC, and I'm grateful that I have so much to work with.

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