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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #242: July 31, 2006

Japan Forum: The International Journal of Japanese Studies

Journal Name: Japan Forum: The International Journal of Japanese Studies: March, 2006, Vol.18, No.1
Print ISSN: 0955-5803, Online ISSN: 1469-932X


The Mineaiki and discourses on social unrest in medieval Japan (pp1-21)
Morten Oxenboell (doctoral candidate in History at Copenhagen University)
Historians of medieval Japan have for decades discussed the characteristics of the groups referred to as akuto ('evil bands') in documents dating from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In this article I will give an introduction to one of these documents, the Mineaiki, which has often been taken as an eyewitness account of the behaviour and physical appearance of these alleged bandits. I give a translation of a portion of this text and discuss how this portion has been used by various historians to explain the phenomenon of akuto. I then present some alternative explanations of what we can and should deduce from the information given to us in the Mineaiki based on information derived from other contemporary sources. I argue that the groups described in the text as bandits more likely were local residents who had been mobilized through self-defence organizations at the village level or by the generals of the emperor Go-Daigo. Although the text does not give a 'true and fair' picture of these groups, an analysis on a discursive level can be valuable for an understanding of how the intellectual elites of the time perceived these new social movements and upheavals.

Keywords: bandits, akutō, Harima, social conflict, rhetoric, Hōsōki

New Zealand through a Japanese glass 18691944 (pp23-43)
Ken Mcneil (lecturer in Japanese language and Asian Studies at the University of Waikato)
This article surveys travel and other literature to trace the Japanese discovery of New Zealand. The literature is viewed as a kind of contact-zone literature, in which New Zealand is a place where, at least psychologically, Japanese expansionist ambitions encounter British expansionism. Themes taken up in the article include, in order of appearance, British colonial enterprise as an object lesson; views of new-world social structures; the anxiety of empire; increasingly critical views of ignorance about Japan; and the place of the white South Pacific in a Japan-led Co-Prosperity Sphere. The article concludes with a special focus on representations of the Maori and how these reflect developing Japanese views of Japan's place in the Pacific.

Keywords: travel literature, nationalism, imperialism, contact zone, South Pacific, Maori

From polling station to political station? Politics and the shinkansen (pp45-63)
Christopher P. Hood (Director of the Cardiff Japanese Studies Centre, Cardiff University)
More often than not, discussions of the development of the shinkansen ('bullet train') in Japan focus on the Joetsu Shinkansen between Tokyo and Niigata, Tanaka Kakuei and pork-barrel politics. This article aims to offer an objective analysis of the building of the shinkansen lines and stations and the intervention of politicians in their construction from the 1950s to the present. It begins by considering the development of railways in Japan from the Meiji era through the early post-war years and argues that lessons learned from this past were far more important than pork-barrel politics not only when it came to construction of the Joetsu Line, but also in relation to the decisions to construct other shinkansen lines. By focusing on the facts and the logic of railway construction in Japan, it attempts to separate the history of the shinkansen from the various myths surrounding this 'symbol' of modern Japan and to lay a basis for more focused and revealing inquiry into the operation of pork-barrel politics in that country.

Keywords: shinkansen, bullet train, politics, construction, railways, symbolism

Minstrelized girls: male performers of Japan's Lolita complex (pp65- 87)
Sharon Kinsella (lecturer and an assistant professor at the University of Cambridge and Yale University)
There may be a useful parallel between the intense male cultural interest in and production of girl (shojo/gyaru) characters in modern Japan, particularly in the last two decades of the twentieth century, and the phenomenon of blackface minstrelsy in the north-eastern states of America in the mid-nineteenth century. Between the 1840s and the 1880s white vaudeville entertainers, including a high proportion of Irish men, blacked up with greasepaint, or burnt cork, and adopted comically outsized 'Negro' costumes, in which they performed songs, dances, comic dialogues, japery and narrative skits to white audiences. Staged minstrelsy was accompanied by the circulation of plantation songbooks, minstrel theatrical reviews and classical, abolitionist novels. Critics have suggested that this racial cultural language was integral to the emergence of American popular culture. In Japan, reportage, novels, films, animation, pornography and comics about girls have dominated professional and amateur cultural production and news reportage to such a degree that it is not possible to separate the epochal expansion of the media industries in the 1980s and 1990s from the driving attraction to these cultural caricatures. Most contemporary female impersonation by writers, directors and artists in Japan has been indirect: mediated and reproduced through the press and lens rather than through theatre. This article will use the example of blackface minstrelsy as one means to help us think more about the deeper nature of male cultural production and consumption of girl characters in Japan.

Keywords: minstrelsy, Lolita complex, female impersonation, girls, shōjo, kogyaru

Regional egoism as the public good: residents' movements in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s (pp89-113)
Simon Avenell (Department of Japanese Studies, National University of Singapore)
This article returns to anti-pollution and anti-development protest in Japan during the 1960s and 1970s. It argues that these movements are best understood as mobilizations for 'autonomy' rather than 'democracy'. Doing so provides for two assertions about citizen activism in post-war Japan. First, the template of autonomy reveals a common thread in the seemingly divergent strategies of citizens' movements over the post-war period. Rather than a stage on the way to democratic pluralism, anti-pollution and anti-development activism emerges as but one attempt to deal with the rationalization and standardization demanded by post-war capitalism and the state. Second, the template of autonomy encourages a dialogue between ideational and institutional explanations of post-war citizen activism and civil society. Activists' experience of development as a colonization of the life-world fashioned their strategic and ideological response far more powerfully than any commitment to 'democracy'. Hence, this article moves away from the flawed assumption that grassroots citizen activism represents (or should represent) everything 'good' and 'democratic' in Japanese civil society.

Keywords: citizens' movements, civil society, pollution, autonomy

To oppose or to appease? Parties out of power and the need for real politics in Japan (pp115-132)
J. A. A. Stockwin (Modern Japanese Studies at the University of Oxford)
Bernard Crick defined politics in terms of discussion and held that discussion entailed opposition. In Japanese politics opposition parties have very rarely replaced in power the dominant Liberal Democratic Party. The tendency for such parties to appease the ruling party has diluted the notion that they ought vigorously to compete for power. Japanese opposition parties have missed a succession of opportunities presented to them since the war. These include the coalition governments of the late 1940s, the Socialist confrontation with the LDP in the late 1950s over renewal of the Japan-US Security Treaty, the 'Structural Reform' movement of the early 1960s, the 'Doi Takako boom' of 198890, the Hosokawa and Hata coalition governments of 19934, the New Frontier Party of 19947 and the 'postal privatization' election of September 2005. Reform of the Lower House electoral system in the mid-1990s has opened the way towards more open and policy-based party politics, and weakened the politics of clientelism. For a while this greatly benefited the Democratic Party, but Prime Minister Koizumi used the defeat of the postal services privatization bill in August 2005 to modernize the LDP, consolidating its grip on power in the September elections.

Keywords: Crick, Ozawa, Koizumi, opposition, clientelism, reform

The Heisei Dai Gappei: a case study for understanding the municipal mergers of the Heisei era (pp133-156)
Anthony Rausch (Hirosaki University, Japan)
This article presents a preliminary examination of the municipal mergers of the Heisei era as the process unfolded in one rural prefecture in advance of the deadline of March 2006. The article opens by contextualizing the arguments for municipal mergers and the reality of mergers in other settings. A brief history of past periods of municipal mergers in Japan is provided and then the case for Aomori Prefecture, a rural and highly peripheral prefecture of northern Honshu, is examined. Using municipal PR materials, a sector analysis approach focusing on government, municipality and resident and coverage in the local media as the means to examine the process and issues of the mergers, the article concludes by questioning if mergers are necessary and, now that mergers are a reality, if the objectives which mergers are to achieve are locally meaningful to much of rural Japan.

Keywords: municipal mergers, amalgamation, consolidation, rural Japan, decentralization, local autonomy

Japan Forum (2006)
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