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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #180: December 24, 2004

Japan Forum: The International Journal of Japanese Studies

Journal Name: Japan Forum: The International Journal of Japanese Studies: November, 2004, Vol.16, No.3
Print ISSN: 0955-5803, Online ISSN: 1469-932X


In search of the real: technology, shock and language in Murakami Haruki's Sputnik Sweetheart (pp361 - 383)
MICHAEL FISCH (Columbia University)
Murakami Haruki's novel Sputnik Sweetheart(2001) is concerned with the condition of language and its restoration. For Murakami, as well as other contemporary Japanese thinkers, anxiety over the condition of language and communication was brought to the fore by the nearly consecutive occurrence of violent events in the winter of 1995. The shock of these events was compounded by the already weakened state of national confidence as a result of the economic collapse. The following argument traces Murakami's attempt to imagine a transformation and recovery of language that is predicated on an encounter with achiragawa(the other side). I argue that Murakami's depiction of this encounter draws on a certain psychology of shock as a condition whereby mechanisms of disavowal are short-circuited and that which has been repressed in the unconscious or split off from awareness is allowed to surface momentarily. In this theorization, shock is a particularly modern phenomenon born of the effects of a technologically mediated existence. In its capacity to reveal that which has been obscured by habituation and adaptation to the conditions of everyday life, shock is a dangerous yet liberating moment of encounter with a real.

Keywords: Murakami Haruki, Sputnik Sweetheart, Achiragawa, Shock, Technology, Modernity, Disavowal

Abe Isō and New Zealand as a model for a 'new' Japan (pp385 - 400)
MASAKO GAVIN (Bond University)
With the rise of capitalism, the 'labour problem' became a serious issue for intellectuals in Japan. Although the national economy expanded rapidly at the turn of the nineteenth century, Japan's workforce was still heavily dependent on 'farmers' whose condition was only worsened by the land tax revision of 1873. The government policy of fukoku kyōhei ('enrich the country, strengthen the armed forces') benefited capitalists in the form of zaibatsu (business and industrial magnates collaborating with the government), but impoverished the majority. This had the effect of widening the gap between the affluent and the poor. As redundant farmers flowed into the cities and worked in a wretched environment for low wages, many intellectuals were concerned about their well-being. They were motivated by various considerations, including humanitarian and Christian beliefs. Some embraced socialist ideas and recognized the need for reform. Abe Isō (1865–1949), known as the father of early socialism in Japan, was one of those who became concerned about the prevailing poverty and its impact on society. A professor at the TōkyōSenmon Gakkō (the present Waseda University), he was one of the important intellectuals of the second generation of the Meiji era (1868–1912). At the formative stage of embracing socialist ideas, he came to see New Zealand as a paragon, a country whose policies on the relief of social hardship provided an ideal model for Japan. This study examines his belief that New Zealand had much to offer the 'new' Japan.

Keywords: Socialism, Social Problems, Society, Capitalism, Labour Problems, Poverty, Co-operation Among Employers And Employees, New Zealand Model, Unfair Distribution Of Wealth, Strikes, Utopia

Ideological transformation: reading cannibalism in Fires on the Plain (pp401 - 421)
ERIK LOFGREN (Bucknell University)
In 1953, Ōoka Shōhei (1909–88) published 'Nobino ito', an essay in which he problematizes his powerful 1951 novel Fires on the Plain, a work whose central theme of cannibalism has received relatively muted treatment in the critical literature. 'Nobino ito' functions as what Gérard Genette terms a paratext, but in so doing serves a crucial function in explicating the critical treatment of cannibalism in Fires on the Plain. This treatment illuminates the trajectory of two competing ideologies operative in the immediate post-war period: those of national guilt and of national victimhood. As the latter came to assume an increasingly hegemonic place in the discourse of war responsibility, the discussion of cannibalism in Fires on the Plain underwent a transformation that was visible, not only in the critical writings about the novel, but in further presentation of it, such as Ichikawa Kon's 1959 adaptation of the novel for film. This article suggests one way we might conceptualize this process as part of a larger discourse on Japan's self-defined position in the post-war era as a unique victim.

Keywords: Cannibalism, Censorship, Nobi, American Occupation, Ōoka Shōhei, Victim Consciousness, Pacific War

Temporary workers, women and labour policy-making in Japan (pp423 - 447)
CHARLES WEATHERS (Osaka City University)
This case study of the making of the Revised Temporary Worker Law (1999) seeks to update our understanding of the labour policy-making process. The analysis indicates that government officials continue to play an effective role in guiding new labour legislation to enactment, but that the policy-making process is better suited to deregulation (liberalization) of employment practices than to reform of fundamental problems, such as the low status of non-regular and women workers.

Keywords: Temporary Workers, Policy-making Participation, Policy Deliberation Council (shingikai), Gradualism, Liberalization

Otaku consumption, superflat art and the return to Edo (pp449 - 471)
This paper addresses the use of Edo as a trope for Japanese postmodernity in the 1980s and 1990s and its transformation at the turn of the millenium in order to better situate Japanese visual artist and theorist Murakami Takashi's 2000–1 exhibition,'Superflat'. Is Murakami's 'Superflat' – which links contemporary anime and anime-influenced art to the works of Edo-period artists Kano Sansetsu and Katsushika Hokusai–merely another expression of the Edo boom of the 1980s and 1990s? Or does it present a different use of Edo from that which came before? In order to address this question, this article looks at the works of Ōtsuka Eiji, Ōkada Toshio and Karatani Kōjin, a group of writers to whose works theorist Azuma Hiroki links Murakami's genealogical endeavors, and takes up Azuma's critique of these writers and Murakami himself. Finally, turning to Nara Yoshitomo's and Murakami's works themselves, seen through the lens of Azuma's arguments in his recent The Animalizing Postmodern, this article argues that their art–and in turn the Superflat itself–is guided by a logic of compositing that is far more informed by contemporary modes of digital imaging than by the mode of appropriation and quasi-historization that characterized the use of Edo in Japan's postmodern 1980s and 1990s.

Keywords: Superflat, Murakami Takashi, Edo, Nara Yoshitomo, Otaku, Anime, Azuma, Ōtsuka, Karatani, Ōkada

Lifelong learning in rural Japan: relevance, focus and sustainability for the hobbyist, the resident, the careerist and the activist as lifelong learner (pp473 - 493)
ANTHONY RAUSCH (Hirosaki University)
This paper examines lifelong learning in contemporary Japan, considering first various conceptual, policy and practical aspects before contextualizing the reality of the relevance, focus and sustainability of lifelong learning in a rural Japanese setting by detailing lifelong learning as directed by Aomori Prefecture, Hirosaki University and in a special program of Hirosaki City. On the basis of this contextualization, the paper concludes by proposing that the lifelong learning sector that is emerging in Japan can be organized on the basis of four overlapping orientations: one based on personal interest for the 'hobbyist' as lifelong learner, a second based on the lifestyle and contemporary issues concerns of the 'resident' as lifelong learner, a third through meeting the knowledge and skills needs of the'careerist'as lifelong learner and the fourth through a specialized themes curriculum for the 'activist' as lifelong learner.

Keywords: Lifelong Learning, Adult Education, Education, Rural Japan

Japan Forum (2004)
Copyright ©2004 BAJS

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