Europe Japan Research Centre
Europe Japan Research Centre
Podcasts from the Europe Japan Research Centre seminar series
I never said it would last forever: On Contemporary Japanese Cinema
Stephen Sarrazin, Independent Writer
Between 1989 and 2004, over 40 Japanese directors were introduced to major festivals and distribution networks. In the last decade, barely a handful of young directors have managed to find an audience. Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Katsuya Tomita, Momoko Ando count among the exceptions. How and why did this happen? On the other hand, the number of retrospectives of Japanese filmmakers, established and in the margins of Japanese film history, has seen a surge all over the world, raising the issue of which Japan are audiences interested in, and which stories contemporary filmmakers are not telling. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 22 November 2016.
Dowa Project Policies as unfinished human rights business – from Dotaishin to Ikengushin
Ian Neary, Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, University of Oxford
My presentation will approach the issue of Dowa Project Policies (DPP) by trying to suggest answers to the following questions: Should we regard the introduction of DPP as the acceptance by the Japanese state of its ‘positive obligations’ avant la lettre? Does an examination of the evolution of Dowa policy suggest a commitment by the Japanese government to human rights that has so far not been acknowledged? How is policy developing in the twenty first century following the end of the national level DPP? This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 16 November 2016.
Japanese Language Education, Welfare and Motivation
Patrick Heinrich, Ca’ Foscari University
Why does anyone voluntarily want to learn a foreign language? Really, why on earth would someone in Oxford study Japanese? What is the whole point of this? Of course many answers are given to this question, but mostly these answers are either not very profound or they are somebody else’s opinion. Of the first type are answers like “I wanted to learn a language totally different from mine” or “I have always been fascinated by Japan”, and of the second type are answers such as “only learning another language makes you understand your own language” (Goethe’s opinion) or “so that I can inform others about my country and its culture (opinion of the Japanese Ministry of Education). While such type of discourse may be fine for small-talk in some quarters, we should avoid it in scholarly discourse on language education. Understanding the motive and the motivation for learning a foreign language is vital for designing language education programs and for understanding learner progress, and also for understanding the lack of progress and the disappearance of motivation. There is nothing “natural” in taking up the effort of learning a new language. It’s hard work, and “naturally” we do not engage in hard work unless it has some sort of benefit for us. What I mean here in concrete terms is this. We do not voluntarily take up work unless it contributes to some extent to our personal welfare or wellbeing. Upon reflection, language is a powerful instrument in either furthering or in hindering our personal welfare. Language, in all its variation, is never socially neutral. The Japanese you speak now and in the future has implications on your welfare, and on how you maintain or loose your motivation. Knowledge about welfare education will help students and teachers alike to deal with the many difficulties that lie ahead in language learning. Why else for not these difficulties are the overwhelming attempts of leaning a foreign language interrupted, put aside and, let’s talk straight, “failures from the initial plan” to learn and use a new language? Welfare education is a new paradigm which allows us to grasp learning difficulties, to create positive environments for foreign language learning, and for empowering foreign language learners and their specific use of the new language. In this presentation, I spell out both on theoretical and on practical grounds how welfare education works for learning Japanese outside of Japan. I am looking forward to discussing this with students and teachers of Japanese alike. Why does anyone voluntarily want to learn a foreign language? I will give you an abstract answer to this, but this abstract answer should allow you to find your own individual and meaningful answer why you chose to learn Japanese. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 2 November 2016.
Isao Miura, Painter and sculptor and Chris Beckett, Poet and translator
Following their acclaimed art and poetry exhibition, Sketches from the Poem Road, shown in the Glass Tank this June and July, Isao Miura and Chris Beckett return to Oxford Brookes University to discuss some of the ways that words can be translated into visual and textual images. Translation in its broadest sense not only improves our appreciation of old texts, but can lead us to create exciting new multi-media work out of the old. The Japanese call this process uta makura, a sort of literary pilgrimage that prompted Basho to set out on a long risky journey in the spring of 1689, which he described in his prose and haiku masterpiece, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. More details can be found on the Exhibitions page of the Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre website: http://www.brookes.ac.uk/poetry-centre. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 19 October 2016.
Early 20th Century Japanese Buddhist Perceptions of Western Imperialism and Why they Matter
John Lo Breglio, Oxford Brookes University
Many Japanese Buddhist intellectuals and leaders, both lay and priestly, joined in the global intoxication with Wilsonian idealism and held out hope that the Peace Conference of 1919 would be the venue in which delegates drafted the blueprint for a new international order no longer based upon the acute economic and political competition, and fragile balance of powers, that culminated in the First World War. This window of optimism, as we know, closed all too quickly. My talk will discuss the reasons it did so for many Japanese Buddhists and will seek to demonstrate three things. First, unlike the simplistic and, predominantly negative, portrayal of early twentieth-century Japanese Buddhism as “conservative” and supportive of Japanese imperialism, many of its leading figures supported an internationalism undergirded by universal principles. Second, far from being peripheral to the Japanese experience, the decisions taken at the Peace Conference were carefully monitored and had profound repercussions in the years following the conference. Lastly, perspectives on the Peace Conference from outside the Anglo-American arena, such as that of Japanese Buddhists, provide fodder for a reevaluation of one of the great and ongoing debates of the past century, namely, whether, or to what extent, the decisions made in Paris in 1919 gave rise to the ensuing international troubles of the 1920s and 1930s and led ultimately to the Second World War. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 3 February 2016.
Reaching Out to the Buddha in Modern Japan Psychotherapy and Buddhism as Two Sides of a Coin
Christopher Harding, University of Edinburgh
This paper looks at the idea, popularized in the postwar period by D.T. Suzuki, Erich Fromm, and Alan Watts, that psychotherapy and Buddhist practice essentially get at the same thing: working through false layers of the self towards something more authentic. Reaching out to the Buddha, they argued, is a matter of reaching inwards. But much of this thinking was rooted in a modernist take on Zen Buddhism that emerged largely from Western cultural and philosophical concerns. What about the view from Japan? In this paper we explore the roots of Japan’s prewar psychotherapies in the much larger Shin Buddhist tradition, and look at the fundamental questions these therapies raised about history, culture, authoritarian politics, and the meaning of religious experience. Christopher Harding is Lecturer in Asian History at the University of Edinburgh. He is a cultural historian of modern India and Japan, working on these two regions’ encounters with western religion, philosophy, and psychiatry from the late nineteenth century onwards. Recent work includes a co-edited collection on Religion and Psychotherapy in Modern Japan (Routledge, 2014) and an article on ‘Japanese Psychoanalysis and Buddhism: The Making of a Relationship’ in History of Psychiatry (June, 2014). He is currently working on a monograph: Japan's Freud.’ This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 26 November 2015.
The Insentient Companion Some Thoughts on Dolls, Robots and Significant Otherness
Fabio Gygi, SOAS, London
What does it mean to speak of dolls, robots and relationship simulation games as significant others? A recent revival of interest in notions of Japanese animism have been fueled by post-human concerns in anthropology on one hand and the so-called ontological turn on the other. This paper critically examines these discourses by looking at what kind of otherness is recognized when we speak, for example, of "techno-animism". Using my own fieldwork material on disposal, I attempt to reverse-engineer an understanding of sentient/non-sentient relationships with reference to Donna Haraway`s notion of "companion species" and "significant otherness". I shall argue that insentient social others must be understood in a context of what Anne Allison calls "orphanism" and that we celebrate Japan as a post-humanist utopia at the cost of excluded human others that are deemed not significant enough. Fabio Gygi was born and raised in Switzerland, but spent his formative years in Japan, Germany and England. After receiving an MA in European Ethnology and Japanese Studies from the University of Tübingen, he was awarded a PhD in social anthropology by UCL. Before joining SOAS he spent three years as an assistant professor of sociology at Doshisha University in Kyoto. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 18 November 2015.
The smile of Buddha and the laughter of the Zen master
Massimo Raveri, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
It is a widespread assumption that the comic spirit must not be associated too closely with the sacred, as if it were a distraction, if not a negation of the earnestness and holiness of the religious task, and an insult to the truth. You can laugh with God, because God is pure joy, but you do not laugh at God. And God does not laugh. Yet for Zen Buddhism, the comic spirit is a fundamental experience. The great masters have always used the full range of its nuances: from good-natured sarcasm to irreverent laughter, from irony to paradox. They were convinced that the comic would represent a much more serious perception of reality and a deeper form of moral awareness and inner awakening. In the Zen tradition, laughter, far from being the expression of a childish and foolish spontaneity, is the result of a rigorous and original theoretical speculation on the relationship between language and the absolute truth of emptiness. Massimo Raveri, anthropologist, is professor of Japanese religions and philosophies at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. His most recent book is Il pensiero giapponese classico (Einaudi, 2014). This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 28 October 2015.
The Modernity of Didactic Literature for women in the Tokugawa Period
Luciana Valutanu, University of Bucharest
This talk examines the concept of “modernity” in the sociological sense, with reference to the dramatic changes in social life that accompanied modernization in Japan. It focuses on the influence of Confucianism on didactic literature as the path that assured the continuity between epochs. Texts like “survival guides”, “almanacs”, and “manuals for the right attitude”, lend a new perspective on gender roles of the time, just as gender studies provides a critical perspective on didactic literature. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 22 April 2015.
Reflections on the division between the sacred and the secular in contemporary Japan: The case of life-cycle rituals
Melinda Papp, Japanese Department, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
Following their defeat of Japan in the second World War the occupying American forces imposed radical policies of suffrage, demilitarisation and wide ranging social reforms. Part of the allied policies included strict censorship on what could be shown in cinemas. This lead to the wide scale importation of Hollywood cinema into a country where until recently it had not only been banned but audiences had been fed a strict diet of anti-american propaganda. In light of the developing field of audience research and memory studies in Japanese cinema this seminar will look at primary research with surviving women to see how in watching Hollywood cinema and phrasing their own experiences through those of popular films and Hollywood stars, women were able to make sense of their own pasts. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 11 March 2015.
Women’s Memory of Hollywood Cinema in Post-war Japan
Kanako Terasawa, Oxford Brookes University
Following their defeat of Japan in the second World War the occupying American forces imposed radical policies of suffrage, demilitarisation and wide ranging social reforms. Part of the allied policies included strict censorship on what could be shown in cinemas. This lead to the wide scale importation of Hollywood cinema into a country where until recently it had not only been banned but audiences had been fed a strict diet of anti-american propaganda. In light of the developing field of audience research and memory studies in Japanese cinema this seminar will look at primary research with surviving women to see how in watching Hollywood cinema and phrasing their own experiences through those of popular films and Hollywood stars, women were able to make sense of their own pasts. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 4 March 2015.
The Creativity of Loss: Aging, ritual, and economies of care in contemporary Japan
Jason Danely, Oxford Brookes University
This talk examines the ways in which Japanese men and women experience old age today. While the image of Japan as a geriatric utopia where elders are revered and dutifully cared for by their families is still prevalent around the world, the rapid aging of the Japanese population, combined with other political, historical and economic changes has exposed a much more fraught and ambivalent relationship to old age. The development of modern care institutions and fragmenting family ties has left many older adults wondering where they will spend their last years and with whom. What does one hope for in old age? What gives life interest and a sense of wellbeing when old age has brought so many losses? I propose that the ideas of interest, loss, and risk are appropriate here because they are part of the social economy of care that allows older people in particular to create new and more expansive sense of the self even as they experience loss. In fact, loss brings about new opportunities for forging new possible selves and ways to participate in economies of care. Japanese traditions of mourning and memorial provide a symbolic resource for older adults to work though feelings of grief and at the same time generate hopes for the future. These traditions become a site of reimagining dependence, yielding, and waiting, as features of a life connected to family, to one's past, and to a larger natural and spiritual order. Recognizing the importance of cultural narratives of mourning provides a new perspective for understanding the emotional and existential worlds of older Japanese adults and a basis for critiques of rationalized models of social care in Japan. This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 25 February 2015.