Center for Japanese Studies Spring 2021 Events

February 28, 2021

[Aspects of Japanese Studies] Archaeology and Landscape in Japan's Kofun Period: Examining the Past to Protect the FutureSpring 2021 Event Image 1
February 17, 2021
Anna Nielsen, UC Berkeley Student

The Japanese archipelago, with its rugged landscapes of mountains and rivers, is prone to many unexpected catastrophes involving water, including floods, typhoons, and tsunamis. In the Kofun period (about 250-550 CE), early state-level societies developed increasingly complex mechanisms to prevent or mitigate natural disasters that threatened them.

Using both traditional and cutting-edge techniques to peer into the past, we can explore several intriguing questions. How did ancient people develop new technologies to control water and build the first centralized polities in the Japanese archipelago? In what ways can we see traces of the past in the modern landscapes of Japan? How can we apply what we learn to environments we see around the world? And most importantly, how can knowledge of the past help us understand and prevent water-related natural disasters that occur today?

Basketry and Plant Use in Prehistoric Japan: Continuity and Change in the Production and Use of Rural Japanese BasketsSpring 2021 Event Image 2
February 18, 2021
Kazuyo Nishihara, Kyoto University

What can basketry tell us about relationships between people and their environments? Join archaeologist Kazuyo Nishihara for a discussion about basketry and plant use in prehistoric Japan during the Jomon period (approximately 16,000-2500 years ago). This presentation will explore the importance of traditional ecological knowledge and the ways people utilize local knowledge to steward their environments in a mutually beneficial way. Recent land stewardship discussions have drawn more attention within and outside the academic community, as has been seen in the conversations regarding Native American basket weavers. Likewise, weavers in Japan have been managing their surroundings in similar ways. Archaeobotanical studies, which seek to understand human interactions with plants through archaeological evidence, suggest that people in the Jomon period in Japan may have influenced their environment by selectively nurturing raw materials for basket making. Learn about these studies as well as the parallels and differences between the application of archaeological knowledge in Japan and North America.

Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

[Aspects of Japanese Studies] The Spiritual Foundation for Settler Life: Generational Consciousness and Japanese American Literature, 1917-1925Spring 2021 Event Image 3
February 24, 2021
Andrew Leong, UC Berkeley

Generational terms such as “Issei” (first-generation) and “Nisei” (second-generation) did not appear to be in common use in Japanese American immigrant society until the late 1910s and early 1920s. Through closer examination of a digitized corpus of Japanese-language newspapers, we can see how educated immigrant elites began to propagate generational concepts in newspaper editorials starting around 1917. We can also observe the crucial role that newspaper literary contests in 1924 and 1925 played in popularizing and solidifying the use of generational terminology.

Watch the recorded talk here:

[Ten Years Since 3.11 - Part 1] Coping with Disasters: Disability, Vulnerability and New TiesSpring 2021 Event Image 4
March 11, 2021
Mark Bookman, University of Pennsylvania
Mayumi Fukunaga, The University of Tokyo

March 11 of this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami followed by the Fukushima Nuclear Power Accident. The triple disasters hit socially and economically marginalized people particularly hard, including food producers, people with disabilities, families with young children, and evacuees from Fukushima to large cities without adequate compensations. As a research center that studies people, culture, environment, language, and society of Japan, it is critical that we will not only forget the damage caused by the earthquake but also focus on the structural problems behind the 3.11 disasters. We are pleased to host a series of talks that highlight problems, efforts and new ideas since March 2011.

On March 11, we invite two speakers to learn about individuals and groups who have faced various difficulties and challenges when coping with the aftermath of the 3/11 triple disasters. Mark Bookman will focus on the issue of disability after 3/11, and Mayumi Fukunaga will discuss challenges that mothers and children who evacuated from Fukushima are experiencing.

5:00-5:10 Introduction
5:10-5:40 "Disability and Disaster Risk Management: Why Everyone Wins When No One is Left Behind" (see abstract)
- Mark Bookman
5:40-6:10 "Some Snapshot Notes on Efforts to Stay Alive between Disasters" (see abstract)
- Mayumi Fukunaga

[CJS-JSPS Symposium] Agroecology, Sustainable Food Production and Satoyama: Contributions of Japanese Case Studies to the Discussion of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Environmental ConservationSpring 2021 Event Image 5
March 19-20, 2021

This symposium highlights the contributions of Japanese case studies to the current discussion of food safety, environmental conservation, and resilience using the theories and methods of agroecology and related subfields. Agroecology initially started during the 1980s as a discipline of natural science, specifically as the study of ecological phenomena in crop fields for alternative agricultural practice. Today, agroecology is defined as an interdisciplinary research field, with an emphasis on establishing both scientific and social foundations. In this conference, scholars from North America and Japan will present contemporary and historical case studies on agroecology, traditional ecological knowledge and regional landscapes in Japan and other parts of the Pacific region.

Please go to the conference website for more details on speakers, panels, and abstracts:

JSPS San Francisco
Department of Anthropology
Archaeological Research Facility
Berkeley Food Institute

[Aspects of Japanese Studies] Re-imagining the Lost Written Culture of the Ōmi Capital: Insights from MokkanSpring 2021 Event Image 6
March 30, 2021
Marjorie Burge, University of Colorado Boulder

The existence of the short-lived seventh century capital at Ōmi (667-672) has long been the subject of intense scholarly interest, largely due to its great distance from the court’s traditional home in the Asuka region. While the capital at Ōtsu on the shore of Lake Biwa only lasted five years, in eighth century works such as Kaifūsō (751) and Man’yōshū (c. 759) it is remembered as the site of the beginnings of literary culture in Japan. However, nearly all of the allegedly myriad works produced during the court’s tenure at Ōmi were lost in the aftermath of the Jinshin War of 672. This talk will evaluate the historical understanding of the Ōmi capital as an “origin” of Sinographic literary culture in Japan through an examination of mokkan (inscribed wooden strips) found in the vicinity of the former capital and in the larger Ōmi region that date to the late seventh century.

Watch the recorded talk here:

Decolonizing Ethnographic Fieldwork Methods through Collaborations between Local Residents and College Students: The “e-Satoyama (sustainable landscape) Project” in Kenya and Japan with an Emphasis on the Concept of Global TojishaSpring 2021 Event Image 7
April 1, 2021
Shinya Konaka, University of Shizuoka

The tradition of ethnography originating in the West has been decolonized through the last hundred years. From the end of the last century to the beginning of this century, the asymmetrical dichotomy between investigator and informant, human and nature, subject and object, donor and recipient has been questioned more radically from the perspectives of postcolonial studies, ontology, and Anthropocene-related sciences. This presentation explores the possibilities of connecting arguments on critical ethnography in the West to the two Japanese concepts of tojisha [the parties concerned] and satoyama [a border zone between mountain foothills and villages], with a focus on two cases of ethnographic education: the first case in Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan, and the second case in Narok County in Kenya. These project cases illustrate how these projects, as a “hybrid agency” of both cultures, urged participants to act and inspired Japanese undergraduate students who were initially less motivated. A project-centered ethnographic approach does not presuppose a description of the “different culture” but seeks common solutions to global issues, leading to the gradual dissolution of the asymmetrical dichotomy that exists in both education and ethnography.

Center for Global Studies, University of Shizuoka

[Aspects of Japanese Studies] The Evolution of Kabuki to the Traditional Performing ArtsSpring 2021 Event Image 7
April 14, 2021
Jihye Kim, Osaka University

In spite of its 400-year history, it has been only a short time since kabuki has come to be considered a traditional performing art. During the early years of the Meiji period, a number of kabuki plays portrayed the blooming of modern civilization and kabuki became a target of reformation in the heat of modernization. In particular, the reform of kabuki play scripts was progressed by intellectuals after the Theater Reform Movement in 1886. However, at the same time, there were initial attempts to canonize kabuki plays by central figures in the kabuki industry such as kabuki actors, Ichikawa Danjūrō IX and Onoe Kikugorō V, from the 1890s to the early 1900s. By tracing the discourse for the reformation of play scripts and the moves for canonization conducted by actors, we can see how kabuki began to be situated as a classic.

Abenomics: An AssessmentSpring 2021 Event Image 8
April 19, 2021
Panel Discussion
Takeo Hoshi, The University of Tokyo
Phillip Lipscy, University of Toronto
Nobuko Nagase, Ochanomizu University
Hideaki Miyajima, Waseda University
Steven Vogel, UC Berkeley

This panel will take stock of the Abenomics reform program, now that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s historic term (2012-20) has concluded. What worked, what failed, and how and why? Takeo Hoshi (University of Tokyo) and Phillip Lipscy (University of Toronto), the editors of a new book on The Political Economy of the Abe Government and Abenomics Reforms, will survey the record, followed by chapter authors Nobuko Nagase (Ochanomizu University) on Womenomics, Hideaki Miyajima (Waseda University) on corporate governance reforms, and Steven Vogel (UC Berkeley) on labor market reforms.

UTokyo Center for Contemporary Japanese Studies

[Aspects of Japanese Studies] Harnessing the Afterlife: The Cross-Cultural Iconography and Funerary Significance of the Fujinoki Tomb’s Gilt-Bronze Saddle (6th Century CE)Spring 2021 Event Image 9
April 26, 2021
Carl Gellert, Seattle Central College

The research presented in this talk approaches the examination of archaeological remains from an art historical perspective, relying on a combination of material, iconographic, and textual analyses as a means of exploring the mortuary traditions of Japan’s prehistoric Kofun period.

The 1985-1988 excavations of Japan’s Fujinoki tomb resulted in the unexpected discovery of an extensive collection of preserved grave-goods. This assemblage represents one of the most intact and materially lavish assemblages to have been recovered from a Late Kofun period (500-600 CE) tomb, and provides a unique glimpse into the funerary culture of Japan’s sixth-century Nara Basin. Prominent among the artifacts excavated from the site are the remains of a gilt-bronze saddle. This saddle, adorned with embossed and engraved images of mythological beasts, arabesques, and geometric patterns, derives from saddle manufacturing and visual ornamentation traditions linked to various regions of the Japanese archipelago and East Asian mainland. In this talk, I explore several of the iconographic motifs found on this work, discussing their symbolic meaning in comparison with similar imagery from contemporaneous mortuary sites in China, Korea, and Japan. By considering the arrangement of the gilded saddle among the other grave-goods interred at Fujinoki, I explore the possible meanings that this work would have held within sixth-century funerary beliefs, suggesting that the saddle was intended to assist the deceased in their transference to the afterlife, their soul conveyed to the cosmological realm astride a heavenly horse.

[Ten Years Since 3.11 - Part 2] Deprivation of Hometown: Evacuees 10 Years after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant AccidentSpring 2021 Event Image 10
April 28, 2021
Reiko Seki, Rikkyo University

The "loss and transformation of hometown" experienced by the evacuees of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident has become a key issue in the lawsuits against TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co) and the Japanese Government. According to Takehisa AWAJI, lawyer and Emeritus Professor of Rikkyo University, this “loss and transformation of hometown” is a violation of the "right to a peaceful life as a comprehensive life interest", in other words, a violation of human rights. It is important to note that "loss" and "transformation" are the central components of “homelessness of the mind” as a result of modernization (Peter L. Berger, et al.). “Loss” and “transformation” are also inseparably related to the depopulation and decline of a local society or community.

In this presentation, I name the irreversible and absolute damage caused by the nuclear power plant accident as “the deprivation of hometown (the stolen hometown)." Using the results of my own field research, I describe the actual damages in detail. A “hometown” consists of a unique natural environment, social relations, history and culture. “Deprivation” is a situation in which people are cut off from their hometowns, which are the basis of their production and livelihood. “Loss of hometown” means that people are no longer able to produce their own food and other necessities in a self-sufficient manner. Under this circumstance, community-based and blood-based social relationships for self-help and mutual aid are torn apart, and the continuity of the history and culture of their hometowns, including traditional cultural heritage, rituals and folk events, is endangered. For evacuees, this is a violation of their right to "life": it implies a loss of identity and a deprivation of the normal daily routine of the "living rooted in the land".

From this perspective, I would like to discuss the situation of the evacuees' deprivation of their hometown, which has not been restored even 10 years after the nuclear power plant accident.

[Aspects of Japanese Studies] Carved Alive: Buddhist Tree-icons (tachikibutsu) in Japan and "Eco Art History"Buddhist Tree-icon
May 11, 2021
Gregory Levine, UC Berkeley

This short talk introduces Buddhist icons carved into standing and usually living trees in Japan (tachikibutsu), a practice that appears to begin in the 8th century and draws upon the worship of numinous trees. Tree-icons, to give them a name, trouble notions of "Buddhist art" and art history's anthropocentrism. Art history anthropocentric? Isn't this a given? But what if we seek to give the trees in tree-icons their due, allow them to make claims upon human-made images? How might this contribute to larger discussions about human-non-human relationships and ecology? Is there an ecological art history? What would this demand of us and perhaps make possible?