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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:22 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #89: March 31, 2003

Japan Forum: The International Journal of Japanese Studies

Journal Name: Japan Forum: The International Journal of Japanese Studies: March, 2002, Vol.14, No.1
Print ISSN: 0955-5803, Online ISSN:1469-932X


Japanese postage stamps as social agents: some anthropological perspectives (pp1-19)
Douglas Frewer
By relating the stamp issues made during the period 1937-89 to the changing Japanese political environment, this paper identifies themes in their designs which involve attempts by government to redefine Japanese national identity and Japan's desired role in the world. The paper suggests why certain other themes, which might have been expected to be prominent, were virtually missing from these stamp issues. The roles of politicians, civil servants and artists/designers in the creation of designs are described. The problems of analysing images on stamps for their social significance, involving theories of symbolism and semiotics aswell as of the anthropology of art, are briefly explored and the choices made for this analysis of their apparent themes are explained.
Before the extent and nature of their social agency can be properly assessed, this research needs to be extended to include assessments of how the users of these postage stamps, both in Japan and abroad, interpret and act on their designs. It is also noted that, as a result of stamps becoming a part of material culture, there is a different social agency in their collection which further research may show results in new forms of social bonding.

Japanese postage stamps: propaganda and decision making (pp21- 39)
Hugo Dobson
This article examines how the Japanese government and its people attempt to instrumentalize postage stamps as a tool of propaganda to promote their own political ends. Traditional explanations of the Japanese decision-making process have stressed the élitist nature of the decision-making process in the form of an iron triangle comprising the bureaucracy, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and big business (zaikai). While acknowledging the importance of these three poles, this article points to other sources of influence and highlights a number of ideological battles fought out on the face of a postage stamp, including daijin kitte (ministerial stamps) which have endorsed the home-towns or electoral districts of various ministers of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MOPT), and stamps reflecting Japan's security milieu in the post-WWII period. The aim of the article is to demonstrate that the Japanese government and its people are sensitive to the images chosen to appear on the face of postage stamps and that a plurality of actors seeks to exert an influence on the decision-making process.

Politicizing travel and climatizing philosophy: Watsuji, Montesquieu and the European tour (pp41- 62)
Christopher S Jones
This article seeks to locate the geo-social philosophies of Montesquieu and Watsuji Tetsurl within the distinct traditions of travel writing in Enlightenment Europe and early twentieth-century Japan. Both men exhibit common concerns for the nature of nation and nationalism, politicizing travel as a means of exploring Otherness. However, L'Esprit des Lois (1750) and Fˆdo (1935) offer qualitatively distinct philosophical responses to the question of the relationship between climate and socio-political identity. While Montesquieu places humankind within an objective environment which acts upon the physical bodies of individuals, Watsuji suggests that the relationship between people and their climate is more essential: mankind exists in a climate, or not at all. It is suggested that these distinct philosophical systems reflect the environmentwithin which they were conceived: philosophy does not merely describe climate, but is itself modelled by it. In the case of Watsuji, the interdependence of travel, climate, philosophy and politics is seen to have disastrous consequences in the context of Imperial Japan. Finally, the article asks some questions about the significance of politicizing travel and climatizing philosophy in today's world of globalization and environmental change.

'Shall We Dansu?': Dancing with the 'West' in contemporary Japan (pp63 - 75)
Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni , Michal Daliot-Bul
In this article we offer a reading of the film 'Shall We Dansu?' as a cultural text which sheds light on the intriguing theme of the various ways in which things Western and the 'West' as a cultural concept are played with in contemporary Japan. Social dancing has been regarded, from the time of its introduction to Japan in the 1930s, as a Western social skill. While ballroom dancing often has the qualities of 'alternative realities',we argue that in Japan one of these alternative realities is an imagined 'West', which exists in Japan through various social practices. Following the colorful characters of the film we look at specific aspects of the ways in which the 'West' is imagined, exoticized, manipulated and played with in contemporary urban Japan.

When Sartre was an erotic writer: body, nation and Existentialism in Japan after the Asia-Pacific War (pp77 - 101)
Doug Slaymaker
This article explores the manner in which Jean-Paul Sartre's philosophy of existence is equated with the carnality of post-war Japan as expressed by writers such as Tamura Taijirl(1911-83), and understood to be of a piece with post-war Japan's 'literature of the flesh' (nikutai bungaku), and the ramifications of this. This cross-fertilization of images is crucial to understanding the intellectual terrain of post-war Japan because, in the late 1940s, Existentialism was a critical element, especially in relation to issues of identity in the post-war milieu. The fictions of Tamura Taijirland Jean-Paul Sartre were read as complementary parts of a post-war project to restore dignity to the individual via carnality. This article explores the reception of Sartre's work, the background for this specific Japanese reading of his fiction in the late 1940s, and looks closely at the work of Tamura Taijirlin order to explicate these overlaps.

The gendering of Japanese literature: the influence of English-language translation on concepts of canon in the West (pp103 -125)
Angela Coutts
Ideas about what constitutes the canon of Modern Japanese Literature have been greatly influenced in the West by English-language translations. This article explores the gendering of the canon through an analysis of the numbers of works by men and women translated in the five major anthologies of modern Japanese literature. It emerges that there is a significant neglect of translation of the works of women from 1868-1945, thus creating an impression in the West that women did not make a significant contribution to Japanese literature prior to the Second World War. The gendering of the canon is explored further in an analysis of the ways in which writing by Japanese women is marginalized and stereotyped in the West. It concludes with a survey of the impact that anthologies of writing by Japanese women in English-language translation have had on re-shaping perceptions of the canon of modern Japanese literature in the West.

Murakami Haruki's postmodern world (pp127 - 141)
Fuminobu Murakami
We can point out two dominating ideologies in modernism: 'strongis-good' and 'love-is-beautiful', both of which over-value progress and romantic love. Although in the modern period these ideologies have long been highly regarded, in late capitalist society their negative effects have increasingly become apparent. Apart from the obvious ecological pollution that modernist developments have caused, the concept of rational progress inevitably requires that everyone progress in the same direction. Furthermore, apart from the empathic identification which exists between loving people, love also causes discrimination against the 'stranger'. Highly sensitive to these negative aspects, many of Murakami Haruki's narrators and characters experience emotional and rational detachment both from themselves and from the events taking place around them. These characters display a paradigm shift from modernism to postmodernism, from an obsession with evolution and love to an indifferent egalitarianism based on fairness or justice without force. Focusing on these points, this article analyses four of Murakami's novels - A Wild Sheep Chase, The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Norwegian Wood and Dance Dance Dance - and attempts to show that their themes are directly related to postmodernism, the resistance to modernism and the search for utopia. At the same time, it discusses criticisms of issues such as rationalism and discrimination.

Japan Forum (2002)
Copyright ©2002 BAJS

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