Center for Japanese Studies Fall 2021 Events

September 24, 2021

The Audibility of Strangers: Music and Disparate Japanese Communities in Prewar "White Australia" Audibility of Strangers Event Photo
September 7, 2021
Hugh de Ferranti, Professor, Institute for Liberal Arts, Tokyo Institute of Technology

Infamously, the first set of laws enacted by Australia’s newly-minted federal parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act of December 1901, which in iterations from then until the 1960s became known as the White Australia Policy. That Japanese gained broad exemption from the policy until the late 1930s is a fact that remains as little known today as the existence of prewar Japanese migrant communities in disparate regions of the continent—the tropical north and northwest, and Sydney. The exemption given to many Japanese individuals was a result of geo-political and commercial factors, but prewar notions of middle-class Japanese as the most assimilable of Asian peoples point to a more complex engagement with some sectors of Anglo-Celtic settler society. Evidence for amicable relations between Japanese and indigenous peoples moreover complicates the host-migrant dichotomy, for in much of “monsoon Australia” whites were flatly outnumbered. In that old Australia of racial hierarchy and pervasive discrimination, music was a rare opportunity for intercultural experience in particular circumstances. From the 1890s through 1930s, songs and dances were shared and exchanged with Torres Strait Islanders with whom Japanese worked in remote areas, while in civic and domestic settings various music genres were deployed in displays of Japanese cultural sophistication and cosmopolitan accomplishment.

This study presents evidence for musicking from diverse sources, including oral history accounts offered by elderly persons of Japanese heritage in both Australia and Japan. The research has been undertaken in the context of a group project on music among the Tokyo region’s newcomer migrants, in relation to which it constitutes a historical case study of Japanese as a minority in a place and time of default mono-culturalism and prejudice. In Japan where bureaucratic sloganeering and tentative intercultural initiatives coexist uneasily with embedded practices of exclusion, the literal and figurative audibility of racial strangers is hard won, as it was in old Australia.

Watch the recorded talk here:

Tokyo Institute of Technology

[Aspects of Japanese Studies] Nepali Migration to Japan and Korea: Converging Ends, Diverging Paths, and Contrasting EffectsKeiko Yamanaka
September 16, 2021
Keiko Yamanaka, Continuing Lecturer, UC Berkeley

Japan and South Korea hold the same goal of preventing unskilled foreigners from settling down while implementing different immigration policies. This paper documents the migration experiences of Nepali workers in the two countries from the early 2000s to the late 2010s to explain the divergent paths and contrasting effects of the converging immigration policies adopted by the two states. In Japan, Nepali migrants relied on existing social and business networks to cross borders and work as skilled cooks and Japanese language students. With a growing contingent of dependents, the Nepali population there is halfway through building a semi-permanent resident community. In South Korea, predominantly unaccompanied Nepali males arrive as sojourning laborers under the state-run Employment Permit System, which guarantees transparency, fairness, and equality in migration and employment. However, in reality it functions as a global labor rotation scheme for small employers at the lowest tier of the segregated labor market. In contrast to the host country’s goals, Nepali migrants persevere in a lonely life, dreaming of the day they return to the homeland with a large sum of money. The paper ends with a discussion of possible solutions to the contrasting effects of the divergent paths taken by each county.

Watch the recorded talk here:

Institute for South Asia Studies, UC Berkeley
Center for Korean Studies, UC Berkeley

1990s Experimental Film in Japan: Women’s Anarchic Visions of the Everyday Life of Ants
October 20, 2021
Film Screening
Wakae Nakane, Ph.D. Student, University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts
Miryam Sas, Professor, UC Berkeley

The early 1990s saw a surge in the participation of women filmmakers working in the Japanese experimental film scene at an unprecedented scale, bringing them into a circle that had previously been almost exclusively male. Access to affordable equipment and better-developed infrastructure, including platforms such as Image Forum and Pia Film Festival, encouraged women’s active participation. Departing from the formal exploration and abstract structuralism that had long dominated the male realm of filmic experimentalism, these creators shifted toward experiments centered on the materiality of the everyday, the body, and the cityscape. A new anarchic playfulness and emphasis on experimental narrative served the filmmakers’ articulations of various concerns, from issues of identity, familial dynamics, and sexuality, to pervasive social alienation. These rarely seen films—by Yuko Asano, Hiromi Saiki, Yukie Saito, Mari Terashima, and Utako Koguchi—direct our attention to the ritualistic nature of women’s lives by critically and playfully interrogating the performativity and constructed nature of the everyday.

—Wakae Nakane

Wakae Nakane
Wakae Nakane is a PhD student in cinema and media studies at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, whose research interests include Japanese film and culture and feminist theory and historiography.

Miryam Sas
Miryam Sas is a professor of comparative literature and film and media at UC Berkeley.

The Life of Ants
Ari no seikatsu
Yuko Asano, Japan, 1994

The Night When Water Comes Down
Mizu no furu yoru ni
Yukie Saito, Japan, 1992

The Place Which Isn’t Necessarily Wrong
Anagachi machigatteru tomo ienai kū
Japan, 1996

Green Bug
Mari Terashima, Japan, 1991

A Dandelion, Rosaceae
Bara-ka tanpopo
Utako Koguchi, Japan, 1990

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Xenophobic Nation?: The Politics Behind Japan’s Notoriously Strict Refugee Policy Nicholas Fraser
October 26, 2021
Nicholas A. R. Fraser, John A. Sproul Research Fellow, UC Berkeley
John Lie, Professor, UC Berkeley

For decades, Japan has produced consistently asylum low recognition rates—among the lowest in the developed world. Thus far, Japan-focused scholarship has attributed Japan’s restrictive immigration and refugee policy legacies to widely held xenophobic beliefs that Japan should not accept permanent immigration because doing so would erode that country’s traditional monocultural identity. However, to date, no studies have closely examined Japan’s process through which refugee claims are decided (referred to as refugee status determination or RSD procedures), nor have they carefully examined Japanese attitudes toward asylum-seekers and resettlement refugees. Drawing on his doctoral research and a recently published article John A. Sproul Research Fellow Nicholas A. R. Fraser explores this topic. His research shows that Japan’s strict asylum policy is the product of bureaucratic politics, and that the Japanese public is more supportive of hosting refugees than politicians, pundits, and previous scholarship would have us believe.