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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #100: June 9, 2003

Japanese Studies

Journal Name: Japanese Studies: May 2003, Vol. 23, No. 1
ISSN: 1037-1397 (Paper), 1469-9338 (Online)


Globalization Theory from the Bottom Up: Japan's Contribution (pp 3-22)
HARUMI BEFU (Stanford University)
Received theories of globalization are mostly spun out of armchair speculation without hard empirical data. They also tend to be Western centered. Based on a considerable amount of empirical, ethnographic data made available by fellow Japan specialists, several concepts have been identified to help account for Japan's globalization. For example, some cultural products tend to maintain their authenticity while others are easily creolized. At times, claimants of 'authenticity' fight a tug of war with creolizers. Cultural similarity is an important but incomplete explanation for the heavier density of Japanization in Northeast Asia, but Japanization, as synonym for Japan's globalization, is going on throughout the world. As Japan 'Japanizes', that is, 'creolizes' the West, this Japanized West is diffused to the rest of Asia in the Asianization process. Most of these and other concepts discussed in this paper are applicable without, or with slight, obvious modifications to an analysis of globalization from other centers such as the United States, Great Britain, or China. The study of Japan's globalization can offer useful ways of understanding globalization elsewhere and thus contribute to the general theory of globalization.

An earlier version of this paper was presented as a Keynote Address at the Biennial Conference of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia, Sydney, July 2001.

Media Politics and Reified Nation: Japanese Culture and Politics under Information Capitalism (pp 23-42)
YUMIKO IIDA (Center for Philosophy, University of Tokyo)
This paper analyzes the significance of the emergence of media-led populism in contemporary Japan as exemplified in the so-called Koizumi phenomenon, the primary efficacy of which lies in the successful articulation and circulation of images of the popular leader, rather than the actual implementation of policies. By locating this form of politics in the immediate context of global capitalism led by advanced media technology, the paper problematizes the ways in which the national cultural space has been dehistoricized in past decades into one that merely hosts divided and alienated individuals, reduced to passive receptors of the boundless flow of information. In this media-permeated space, individuals are typically deprived of subjective status as autonomous and critical agents, and are instead constituted as objects of the omnipresent gaze of cyber-culture. What emerges in this cultural environment is a new idealist epistemology--what Julian Stallabrass calls 'hi-tech Hegelianism'--in which the dialectical distinction between appearance/image and content/meaning are transcended. Reflecting these penetrating changes at the level of subjectivity, cognitive parameters, and the ways in which national hegemony operates in this space, present Japanese society is plagued with a number of political difficulties, such as the erosion of the democratic subject and the weakening power of the law and democratic institutions under a climate of idealism that prioritizes mood and feelings over critical reason and ethics. The paper issues a warning that we may be witnessing the advent of something similar to what Hannah Arendt observed in the former USSR of the 1930s--the transformation of a democratic nation into one reconstituted by the abstract images represented by a popular leader. In the midst of advanced information technology redefining every facet of human life, a reification of phantom images of Japanese nation seems to be underway once again, eroding the content and processes of democratic polity, just as hi-tech Hegelianism displaces history with virtual reality.

In view of the unparalleled misery which totalitarian regimes have meant to their people-- horror to many and unhappiness to all--it is painful to realize that they are always preceded by mass movements and that they 'command and rest upon mass support' up to the end. (Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism, 301)

The Social Significance of English Usage in Japan (pp 43-58)
JACKIE HOGAN (Bradley University)
English-derived vocabulary in Japan serves both referential and pragmatic functions. It is used to label the world and to shape it in particular ways. This paper examines the ways speakers in one rural community in Japan use English-derived lexical items to manage personal impressions and social distance, to negotiate socially sensitive topics, and to express subtle approval or disapproval of the West and Western cultural influences in Japan.

The Reception of the Heike Monogatari as Performed Narrative: The Atsumori Episode in Heikyoku, Zato-Biwa and Satsuma Biwa (pp 59-85)
ALISON TOKITA (Monash University)
The Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike) is a formative legend in Japanese history, which as a literary classic has had an enormous impact in Japanese cultural history. With multiple extant texts, reception studies of the Heike are complex. Furthermore, the Heike is also a performance art, a musical narrative generally called heikyoku. Because of the power and importance of the story, the key episodes of the Tale crossed over into other performance genres such as the noh, bunraku and kabuki theatres from medieval to contemporary times. This paper looks at reception of the Heike in the sense of its re-creation in different performance contexts, and examines one of the most frequently received of the episodes, the Atsumori episode, in three genres accompanied by the biwa. It concludes that oral narrative, while relying on verbal and musical formulae, has the maximum flexibility through the direct input of the performer in shaping the narrative in the performance situation. In the genres where the text is fixed, musical flexibility may remain because of limited musical notation. Where the musical realization of the narrative performance becomes fixed and permanently notated, the performer has no more than interpretive possibilities. The implication for reception theory is that a powerful epic cycle such as the Heike with its multiplicity of contexts and realizations, both textual and performance, calls for a new kind of approach, as the concept of the 'work' is so fluid.

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