Asian Studies Toolbar

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 12:36 am

A recent exchange on H-Asia mentioned the Asian Studies Toolbar, which I first read about in March of last year when the maker, John Noyce (“a librarian turned writer/historian”), wrote about it on the same list. At the time I was very disappointed to read that it only worked on Windows. However I just successfully downloaded and installed it on Firefox running on my iMac, and it is AMAZING. It allows instant searches of a variety of Asian engines and blog aggreggators, it lists hundreds of Asian academic and popular journals, newspapers, and other sources as live RSS feeds, and it even includes blogs related to Asia – including the three flavors of Frog in a Well. Links to online atlases, image banks, and other sources really make this a useful tool.


Calendar converter

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 1:23 pm

Some of you may know about this tool already, but I just discovered Matthias Schemm’s wonderful NengoCalc, an online or offline converter of Japanese and Western dates.

Converting premodern Japanese dates to the Western calendar is extremely tricky because the years were not coterminus until Japan’s adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1873. So, to cite a well known example, Tokugawa Ieyasu was born on the 26th day of the 12th month of the 11th year of the reign period Tembun. Most of Tembun 11 corresponds to 1542, but not all of it. As NengoCalc nicely informs us, Ieyasu was born on January 31, 1543, which happened to be a Wednesday.

Thanks Matthias!


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


Asian History News Dump, March 2007

This is a “dump”: all the Asia related stuff I’ve saved over the last…. two months? Anyway, nobody else has blogged about it, so I thought I’d toss it out there. I hope to resume more … measured blogging soon.
[Crossposted at all three Frog Blogs; sorry about the irrelevant stuff.]


Sino-Japanese Studies Journal Online

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:43 pm

I am happy to announce the completion of a project that I have been working on in my spare time for about a month now: the digitization of the Sino-Japanese Studies Journal. The full journal is available online and downloadable as PDFs at ChinaJapan.org:

Sino-Japanese Studies Online Journal Archive

This biannual Sino-Japanese Studies Journal was created in 1988 by Joshua A. Fogel, now Canada Research Chair in the History of Modern China at York University and the leading scholar in North America in the field of Sino-Japanese studies. In Professor Fogel’s words:

From the start, SJS was conceived as a journal devoted to studies of China and Japan together, irrespective of discipline or time period. For many that would take the form of comparative Sino-Japanese research, while for others that meant actual Sino-Japanese interactions. Everyone involved has been committed to fostering this sub-field which at once covers both the China and the Japan fields while, at the same time, examines where these two meet.

It includes articles and translations in a range of fields: literature, history, contemporary politics, art history, etc. Its last (temporarily we hope) issue came out in 2003.

In 2004 Professor Fogel agreed to my proposal that we put the whole run of this journal, which had articles by many leading scholars but a limited circulation, online as PDFs with full Open Access. He approved, but there was a long delay when I realized that issues with the various formats of the available journal files meant that most of the journal would need to be scanned. I finally returned to this project in February, and finished the scanning and processing of the documents this week.

The PDFs were OCRed (text recognition) but the accuracy was only moderate. I did not go through and fix all of the OCR errors and the OCR engine was English only. However, using Adobe Acrobat, or through Google, the majority of the roman character contents of the journal issues can be searched.

I hope that the availability of this journal online will get much greater exposure for many of these articles. Even a number of current hot button topics, such as the Nanjing massacre (See articles by David Askew and Yang Daqing via the author index) and Japanese gas warfare and drug trafficking in China (See Andrew Markus and Bob Tadashi Wakabashi’s articles, for example) are addressed in numerous articles.

There are a lot of articles on intellectual history, on Edo period relations between China and Japan, reviews of historical works by Japanese and Chinese scholars, and other interesting pieces such as Fogel’s discussion of Japanese terms for China, Wixted’s discussion of reverse Orientalism or Zhao Jing’s discussion of Japan’s Communist Party reaction to the Tiananmen incident.


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.


Announcement: East Asian Libraries and Archives Wiki

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 5:21 am

The Frog in a Well project is expanding. While we hope our three bilingual collaborative weblogs dedicated to the study of East Asian history will continue to develop and add more contributors, I would like to announce a new project that we are hosting here, the East Asian Libraries and Archives wiki, or EALA:

The East Asian Libraries and Archives Wiki

This wiki will serve as a central collection site for information about archives, libraries, museums, etc. in East Asia that are of potential interest for anyone doing research on or in East Asia. It will also include sections dedicated to other kinds of resources but its primary focus it to provide researchers with a good starting place and reference for information on sites they may be visiting. While many archives have websites, my experience has been that they vary significantly in quality, convenience, organization, and speed of access. Also, visitors to archives can often provide extremely useful information to future visitors that may not be of the kind you are likely to read on the archive’s official homepage. The two most important aspects of each archive entry will be: 1) Basic reference information that will help a researcher plan ahead for their visit and easily find links to more details 2) Provide a place where researchers may record their personal experiences in the archive. As a wiki, anyone will be able to edit the individual entries, update information that might be out of date, and record their own experiences.

The East Asian Libraries and Archives wiki was originally founded in 2003 and originally hosted in a similar form at Chinajapan.org. It was inspired by the Chinese archives website at UCSD which hosts a range of useful, if somewhat outdated information for students and scholars wanting to do research in the archives of China.

I hope that other students and scholars of East Asia will share some of their experiences and, as they conduct their own research will consider updating information available. You may read more about the site here, and there are numerous help files on how to edit and create pages on the site here. The wiki has links to a blank archive form (PDF, Word, and wiki formatted text) for convenient note taking on your visit. I have posted a few entries from my time in Japan, which I added to the original site in 2003-4. To get an idea of what kind of information entries can include, see for example the entries for International Library of Children’s Literature, the Ōya Sōichi Library, and the Yokohama Archives of History.

While it is off to a slow start, I would also like to take this opportunity to introduce the Frog in a Well Library, or the 文庫, where we will host various primary documents related to the history of East Asia: The Frog in a Well Library


Thanksgiving Vacation and Homework

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:17 am


Over Thanksgiving weekend, my family and I went over to the Waikoloa Hilton. My son loves the boats and trams, and there’s nothing like watching dolphins play. The pools are great and the food, though pricey, is good.

But the fun part, for me, is their immense collection of Asian and Pacific art. Most of it is arranged along a mile-long “Museum Walkway,” and one evening after my son was asleep, I went out and walked the mile with my digital camera. Conditions were not ideal: a lot of the collection is under glass, and the hallway is narrow enough that larger pieces were sometimes hard to fit in the viewfield; as a result there’s a lot more pictures at an angle than I’d like. I went back the next day to see if I could get better non-flash shots, but the oddities of light and shadow on glass actually made it harder to get most things. Short of convincing the hotel to let me shoot a catalog for them, this is the best I’m gonna get.

I was pondering how best to archive and share these pictures, and I finally decided to set up a Flickr account (I had to upgrade, since I’ve got about a gigabyte’s worth of material and that would take about 50 months to upload on the free account). I haven’t gone through the whole collection yet, but you can see a nice sample of about a dozen pictures here. The collection ranges from South Pacific to Asia, with a bunch of Western stuff thrown in for good measure; eventually my goal is to have the whole collection uploaded and sorted into sets. If anyone sees something here that they want more of, let me know and I can start there….

Also, in the category of sharing great collections of images, if you aren’t on H-Asia you might not have seen this: “The Section of Japanese Studies of the Department of East Asian Studies of the University of Vienna is pleased to announce the opening of the internet database: UKIYO’E CARICATURES 1842-1905” There’s a lot more than just caricatures, and the images aren’t very heavily annotated (though they did transcribe the texts, which is a nice touch), but it’s worth noting.

Update: I’ve been rooting around Flickr — well, OK, I just plugged “Japan” into their group search box — and came up with a whole bunch of Japan-related collections: Japanese Archaeology, Japanese 20th Century, Buddhism in Japan, the very mixed Japan-Hawai’i Connection, and the deliberately mixed Japan: Old and New. Timesink!


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!

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