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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:24 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #265: January 22, 2007

Japan Forum: The International Journal of Japanese Studies

Journal Name: Japan Forum: The International Journal of Japanese Studies: November, 2006, Vol.18, No.3
Print ISSN: 0955-5803, Online ISSN: 1469-932X


Portrait of an artist in Tokyo circa 1910: Mori Ogai's Seinen (pp295-314)
D. Cuong O'Neill (Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California. Berkeley )
This article discusses Ogai's mobilization of youth in relation to the palpable descriptions of urban space in his 1910 novel Seinen. Embedded within the novel, I argue, are a series of external descriptions of city life, disquieting images of urban space invested with a temporality of their own, staged in opposition to the novelistic destiny of a protagonist who is to achieve a form of self-mastery proper to the hero of a bildungsroman. By shifting the focus of my analysis from the protagonist's troubled development to a set of questions concerning the problem of representation, I argue for an understanding of Ogai's descriptive language not as a failed attempt at a mimetic transcription of Tokyo, but rather as a highly specific form of representation that attends to the changing experience of modern city life and the new and varied forms of temporal disorders inhabiting that life. With this reading, I hope to recover the ongoing critical work the novel performs as it reveals the metropolis to be a problematic locus of Japan's modernity and speaks to the continuing need for a better view, however fleeting it may be, of the past's complex and shifting relationship to the present.

Keywords: Ogai; youth; urban space; Tokyo; experience

'Beautiful Town': the discovery of the suburbs and the vision of the garden city in late Meiji and Taisho literature (pp315-338)
Angela Yiu (Associate Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Sophia University)
In the Taisho period (1912-26), a number of planned residential towns burgeoned on the outskirts of Tokyo, commonly called garden cities (den'en toshi) because of the term's idyllic, modern and Western connotations. The first part of this article argues that the suburb was in part precipitated by literary works that contributed significantly to the discovery of the aesthetic and poetic qualities of the suburb through an interpretation of Western romantic literature. The focus of analysis is Kunikida Doppo's Musashino (1898), with reference to related works by Kotoku Shusui, Tokutomi Roka, Tayama Katai and Yanagita Kunio. The second part of this article will focus on the works of Sat Haruo to examine the literary representation of the garden city in its early stage of development. Equipped with an architectural and town planning vision as well as an understanding of the West (or at least a fictional West), romanticism, cosmopolitanism and modernism, Sat created a diorama in his work to serve as a poetic response to existing suburban communities and an inspiration for garden cities. This article examines both actual and fictional suburban garden cities and thus blends historical and social data with literary analysis to explore how literature intersects with urban/suburban development.

Keywords: Kunikida Doppo; Sato Haruo; Tokyo; suburb; garden city

Luminous environment: light, architecture and decoration in modern Japan (pp339-360)
Miya Elise Mizuta (Department of Art History and Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Southern California)
From lantern to electric lighting, the motif of light has remained central to the Western visualization of Japan. Why has the motif of light been so crucial to the way in which Japan was perceived across the twentieth century? What role, if any, have Western stereotypes of Japan - seen as a mysterious world decorated by paper lights, and later as a vast urban terrain of flashing neon signs, light sculptures and illuminated billboards - played in the development of modern Japanese aesthetics and its lighting culture? Several key works drawn from literature and art may provide insight into the role that electric light plays in the move from traditional genres to the new genres of modern art: Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's 'In praise of shadows' (In'ei raisan 1933-4); Mishima Yukio's Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji 1956), as well as his 'The idea of lighting - the birthplace of my literature' (Dento no aidia - waga bungaku no yoranki 1968); and Hiroshi Sugimoto's photographic installation In Praise of Shadows (1999). Crossing genres and media, these works respond in particular to the conception of Japanese illumination both from within and without Japan.

Keywords: Aesthetics; lighting; illumination; Tanizaki Jun'ichiro; Mishima Yukio; Hiroshi Sugimoto

Re-scripting the city: Tokyo from ugly duckling to cool cat (pp361-380)
Paul Waley (human geography, University of Leeds)
Tokyo's insertion into the ranks of world economic and cultural centres alongside New York, London and Paris was both sudden and dramatic. The mechanics that gave rise to the material transformation of the city are by now well known. Little, however, has been said about the discursive process that saw Tokyo re-scripted as one of the world's 'capitals of cool', an enduring change that resisted the long economic downturn. This transformation has been facilitated through the use of a series of images and metaphors that appear and reappear in textual descriptions. In this article, I re-create the play and counter-play that lies behind these metaphors, and in doing so group them into three overall tropes: Tokyo as city of villages; Tokyo as city of transience; and Tokyo as textual city. I argue that each of these tropes can be read as a 'positive' equivalent of a previously (and sometimes contemporaneously) existing negative counterpart and that in each of them lies a reference point to the Other of Western cities. Tokyo, I conclude, stands re-scripted as an exemplar of a new sui generis urbanism.

Keywords: Tokyo; urban; image; metaphor; representation; landscape

Stories of boys and buildings: Ishida Ira's 4-Teen in 2002 Tokyo (pp381-398)
Alisa Freedman (Assistant Professor of Japanese literature and film, University of Oregon)
During the past few years, the construction of luxury residential and commercial towers in neighborhoods along the Sumida River has accelerated dramatically, altering the social composition and cultural images associated with downtown Tokyo. The new buildings stand in contrast to the sinking economy and are markers of the growing gap between rich and poor. They also reflect the pattern of urban construction and destruction as well as the unobtainable desires promised by commodity capitalism. Concurrently, the Japanese media have featured articles on the escalation of youth crime and discontent, as well as the many forms of corruption that teenagers are exposed to in transformed downtown Tokyo. The 2002 Naoki literary prize was awarded to a book that reacts to both urban development and the problems facing Tokyo adolescents - Ishida Ira's 4-Teen. Ishida shows the effects of Tokyo's transformations on teenage social norms and uses descriptions of urban places to reveal contradictions embedded in these roles. Ishida's eighth graders show hope despite an estranging cityscape, poor economic conditions and violence. In this article, I combine literary analysis and architectural history to examine the context of 4-Teen's publication and the awarding of the Naoki Prize. I explore how stories that mix fiction and historical experience provide new ways of viewing the changes in Tokyo.

Keywords: Japanese literature; Tokyo; Ishida Ira; youth culture; urban renewal

Other Articles

Why give? Japan's response to the Asian tsunami crisis (pp399-416)
Brad Williams (Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore)
This article analyses the various motives behind Japan's response to the December 2004 Asian earthquake and tsunami. There was no mono-causal explanation for Japan's tsunami aid policy. The various state, non-state and private actors involved in the policy-making and implementation process each had their own motives but were united by a genuine spirit of humanitarian goodwill. Nevertheless, the tragedy did provide the Japanese government with an opportunity to promote a security agenda by enhancing the legitimacy of the Self-Defence Forces (SDF) and strengthening military relations with the US. Tokyo also took advantage of the tsunami to pursue politico-diplomatic objectives. Prominent among these were two interrelated goals: the bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and a desire to diplomatically outshine China.

Keywords: Aceh; Japanese aid policy; Sino-Japanese relations; Southeast Asia; tsunami; United Nations Security Council

Nature over nation: Tanaka Shozo's fundamental river law (pp417-437)
Robert Stolz (Assistant Professor of Japanese History, University of Tennessee-Knoxville)
This article examines Tanaka Shozo's fundamental river law (konponteki kasenho) and the environmental philosophies of doku (poison) and nagare (flow), which Tanaka developed after his famous appeal to the emperor in 1901 and in polemic with the Meiji state's re-engineering of the Watarase and Tone watersheds. Although articulated in a Neo-Confucian vocabulary of principles (ri) and essences (sei) reminiscent of eighteenth-century agronomy and political economy, Tanaka's thought breaks from that tradition in identifying doku as both a conceptual and a historical intervention into the discourse on nature and as the key to understanding Japanese modernity. The result is a discovery of a natural freedom located in the environment and centered on the concept of nagare.

Keywords: Tanaka Shozo; Ashio copper mine; pollution; environmentalism-Japan; Popular Rights Movement; flood control; Yanaka

Japan Forum (2006)
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