NEAC Distinguished Speakers Bureau — Japan Speakers

Alexis Dudden

April 1, 2019-March 31, 2022
Available for recorded or live virtual events, or webinars

Alexis Dudden is professor of history at the University of Connecticut. She publishes regularly about Japan and Northeast Asia, and her books include Troubled Apologies among Japan, Korea, and the United States (Columbia, 2008) and Japan’s Colonization of Korea (Hawaii, 2005). She is currently completing a book about Japan’s territorial contests with regional neighbors tentatively called, The Opening and Closing of Japan, 1850-2020, and is an advisory council member of Harvard University’s Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies’ Research Project on Constitutional Revision.

Presentations Offered by Professor Dudden:

Above and Below the Waterline: The East China Sea in Japan’s Modern History

This talk examines the modern oceanic history of the East China Sea through various legal structures that have attempted to govern it between 1850 and the present. At once the progressive attempts to control the East China Sea through international legal regimes bring into relief competing notions of sovereignty as well as the radical transformation of the ocean itself in law. The paper’s discussion pivots on three discrete but intersecting examples: the Robert Bowne mutiny (1852), the American invasion of Okinawa (1945), and the contemporary island dispute among Japan, China, and Taiwan. Noticeably, political attempts to control this area’s modern history have brought its countless histories onto a collision course with current law in ways that ironically only underscore the inherent fluidity of the sea.

A Sea with No Name: The Troubled Waters of East Asia

A decades-long naming dispute at the International Hydrographic Organization centers on the body of water that straddles 40 degrees north latitude and rests between 130 and 140 degrees east longitude. Oceanographers refer to this sea as one of the northern Pacific Ocean’s “marginal seas,” and depending where you stand along its spiky coastline, its deep blue hues are variously known as the “Sea of Japan,” “Korea’s East Sea,” or simply the “East Sea.” My talk will not advocate one name over another, but will instead examine various moments in this sea’s history to underscore areas of regional encounter that inform the troubled present.

Korea and a Divided Japan

The reality and idea of Korea — South and North — have increasingly become a necessary foil to Japanese debates over the meaning of Japan. With Japanese society profoundly divided over the course of its future, debates concerning the nation’s legal redefinition of its military are at the center of the conversation, and security concerns over North Korea’s behavior and future weigh heavily in the mix. Additional rifts over questions about the emperor’s role and the reach of the state, for example, also often reference Korea — at least the idea of Korea and Koreans — in their discussion. This talk addresses present realities, real histories, and the use of Korea in Japan today.

Alexis Dudden currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities remaining in her term on the NEAC DSB:

3 engagements between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021

3 engagements between April 1, 2021 and March 31 2022

Sabine Frühstück

April 1, 2018-March 31, 2021
Available for recorded or live virtual events, or webinars

Sabine Frühstück is a professor of modern Japanese Cultural Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She is mostly interested in the study of modern and contemporary Japanese culture and its relationships to the rest of the world. Frühstück has published widely on the ageing of society, gender and sexuality, the military, war and violence, and childhood and play in modern and contemporary Japan. Her research has engaged several intellectual fields. Playing War: Children and the Paradoxes of Modern Militarism in Japan (2017) is a cultural history of the naturalized connections between childhood and militarism. It analyzes the rules and regularities of war play, from the hills and along the rivers of 19th century rural Japan to the killing fields of 21st century cyberspace. The ethnography, Uneasy Warriors: Gender, Memory and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army (2007) employs gender, memory, and popular culture as technologies of engagement with a number of debates that centrally involve the ambivalent status and condition of Japan’s contemporary military. Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan (2003) is a sociohistorical study of the creation, formation, and application of a “science of sex” from the late 19th through the mid-20th century. Frühstück is currently writing a modern history of gender and sexuality in Japan for Cambridge University Press. She is the chief editor of the book series New Interventions in Japanese Studies (University of California Press), and a member of the editorial boards of several book series and journals. She has served on ACLS, AAS Northeast Asia Council, the American Advisory Committee for Japanese Studies of the Japan Foundation, among others. At the University of California, she is currently directing the East Asia Center.

Presentations offered by Professor Frühstück:

A Global History of Sexuality and Sexual Violence during World War II

On 7 September 1940, sixteen-year-old Joan Wyndham noted in her diary, “The bombs are lovely, I think it is all thrilling. Nevertheless, as the opposite of death is life, I think I shall get seduced by Rupert tomorrow. Rowena has promised to go to a chemist with me and ask for Volpar Gels, just in case the French thingummy isn’t foolproof.” Joan was one of many for whom the war was a time of excitement, romantic freedom, and sexual transgression. For a privileged few, the constant threat of death fueled apocalyptic hedonism, romance between unlikely partners, and artistic and literary inspiration. Similarly, wartime writings of infantrymen spoke of a “hunger born of the hovering presence of death and the wild desire not to die unsatisfied, with a body still fierce and full and unused.” Yet, from all we know today, World War II also constituted an unprecedented, vast web of sexual incitement, suppression, and violence, much of which was organized and systematic and most of which victimized women rather than men. Violence and sex have been relentlessly linked in wartime in manifold and sometimes contradictory ways. In this talk, I trace the linkage by focusing on two major sites of World War II, Japan’s clash with the rest of Asia and Germany’s aggression toward most of Europe. This double focus on two of the primary aggressors of the war allows me to describe the historical, ideological, and cultural aspects of sex and sexuality in two regions that, for a short while, connected politically but remained culturally dramatically different.

“Real Men Die Wrapped in Horsehide:” and Other Tales of Modern Masculinity

This talk considers the history of modern masculinities, spanning the early processes of nation-state formation and empire building, through defeat and democratization. About 150 years ago, scientists, reformers, and government officials understood sexuality as the natural source of human life, social renewal, and national strength. They made sexuality a principal target in their efforts to know, manage, and control national populations. They perceived healthy (male) bodies to be the very basis of the nation’s military potency. Hence, conscripts and soldiers were of principal concern to the accountants of sexuality within the Japanese defense elite, the public health bureaucracy, and academe alike.

Military physical exams revealed which male bodies were fit—and unfit—for that new kind of service to the nation-state: modern war. Despite a great deal of ambivalence about the will to go to war, young men took pride in their eligibility for military service. Out of the same concern for maintaining soldiers’ health and fighting capacity, military health administrators routinely investigated conscripts’ patterns of STD infection, while public health officials regulated prostitution. From 1940 onward, a modern health and defense regime became articulated as the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Rhetorically and administratively, this regime saw its imperialist capabilities as intimately tied to its population’s resistance to Western colonization.

Playing War: Children and the Paradoxes of Modern Militarism in Japan

This talk examines how children and childhood have been used as technologies to validate, moralize, humanize, and naturalize war and, later, with similar vigor, to sentimentalize peace. Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, the ever-changing conceptions of modern and “postmodern,” “old and new wars,” insist on and exploit a specific, static, and bifurcated notion of the child: one that deems that the child, though the embodiment of vulnerability and innocence, nonetheless possesses an inherent will to war, and that this seemingly contradictory creature constitutes the very nature of the human. It is in this sense that, at its core, modern militarism—a juggernaut unto itself—is infantile. In examining the intersection of children and childhood and war and the military in Japan, I both identify the insidious factors perpetuating this alliance and rethink the very foundations and underlying structures of modern militarism.

“… and my heart screams”: Children and the War of Emotions

Perhaps more than during any other time, children became political actors and were exploited as such during Japan’s modern wars. Drawing from my new book, Playing War: Children and the Paradoxes of Modern Militarism in Japan, I examine the “use value” of children—as well as the necessity and inevitability of such use—in the ideological reproduction of modern war. She asks how a large body of pictures and narratives that tie soldiers to children have reproduced a multi-sensory emotional register that has been attributed to children: the assumption that children were politically innocent, morally pure, and endowed with authentic feelings; and the expectation that adults would respond to the sight of children with a specific, predictable set of emotions. She argues that this “emotional capital” has been primarily employed through the unapologetic insinuation of sentiments as sympathy, empathy, friendship, familiarity, and gratitude. In so doing, the child’s vulnerability, innocence, and malleability—all considered innate characteristics—were enlisted in order to offer a sense of redemption to soldiers and a form of appeasement to children and the home front population.

Christopher L. Hill

April 1, 2018-March 31, 2021
Available for recorded lectures with virtual class visits

Christopher Hill is Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, where he teaches Japanese literature and cultural history. His courses at Michigan range from modern fiction to experimental arts and social and political controversies in contemporary Japan. He has written on the literature of the Meiji period (1868-1912), the history of nationalism, and writers’ responses to the loss of Japan’s empire in 1945. He also is active in comparative literature and transnational intellectual history. His publications include National History and the World of Nations: Capital, State, and the Rhetoric of History in Japan, France, and the United States (Duke University Press, 2008), “Conceptual Universalization in the Transnational Nineteenth Century” (Global Intellectual History, ed. Samuel Moyn and Andrew Sartori, Columbia University Press, 2013), “Crossed Geographies: Endō and Fanon in Lyon” (Representations, 2014), and Figures of the World: The Naturalist Novel and Transnational Form (Northwestern University Press, 2020). He received a B.A. in English from Stanford in 1986 and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Columbia in 1999.

Presentations offered by Professor Hill:

Note: These lectures do not assume that the audience has read the novels and stories, but for classroom use page lengths are listed below.

Remembering Japan’s Modernization: Natsume Sôseki’s Kokoro

Twentieth-century Japan’s most important writer, Natsume Sôseki, measured his age from the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Born just one year before the “birth” of modern Japan, he identified deeply with the Meiji era’s accomplishments and the disorientation he thought it caused those who lived through it. Sôseki’s masterpiece Kokoro, written in 1914 just after the Meiji Emperor’s death, is the story of one man’s journey and a lesson to the younger generation about what he thinks Japan gained and lost. One of Japan’s most beloved novels, Kokoro has much to teach anyone living in a time of great changes.

Kokoro is 250 pp. long, and is easily divided into sections of around 125 pp. each.

Japan in a Mirror: Kawabata Yasunari’s Snow Country

“The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country”: The first line of Kawabata Yasunari’s novel is one of the most famous beginnings in modern Japanese fiction. About a rich idler, a hot-springs resort, and the woman he meets there, Snow Country is a meditation on the cycles of nature and the nature of human purpose. The novel’s protagonist seeks a life apart and ends up pulled relentlessly into worldly affairs. Snow Country was one of three novels that Nobel Committee cited in awarding Kawabata the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. This lecture leads the audience through the novel’s themes, its rich symbolism, and its subtle narrative style.

Snow Country is 130 pp. long and has two parts of 65 pp. each.

The Frayed Web: Takahashi Takako’s Lonely Woman

A collection of five linked stories, each about a different female protoganist, Lonely Woman is one of the masterpieces of the renaissance of feminist fiction in Japan in the 1970s. Takahashi uses the women’s lives—which cross in ways none realize—to explore problems of social identity, motherhood, and the anonymity of individualism. Takahashi’s themes are rooted in the experience of women in postwar Japan yet universal, while the stories reflect on women’s self-expression and the project of modern literature itself. Lonely Woman, then, lets us explore the complex relationship between writer and society in modern Japan.

Lonely Woman is 146 pp. long; the stories are 30 pp., 32 pp., 38 pp., 28 pp., and 28 pp. long.

Christopher Hill currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities remaining in his term on the NEAC DSB:

3 engagements between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021

Richard Jaffe

April 1, 2020-March 31, 2023
Available for recorded or live virtual events, or webinars

Richard M. Jaffe is Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute at Duke University. A specialist in the study of Buddhism in early modern and modern Japan, Jaffe is author of Neither Monk nor Layman: Clerical Marriage in Modern Japanese Buddhism (2001) and Seeking Śākyamuni: South Asian in the Formation of Modern Japanese Buddhism (2019). In addition, Jaffe is the general editor of the four-volume Selected Works of D. T. Suzuki as well as the volume editor of the Zen volume in that series. Jaffe currently is working on a biography of D. T. Suzuki, one of the most influential twentieth-century figures involved in the globalization of Zen Buddhism.

Presentations offered by Professor Jaffe:

Japanese Buddhism’s Western Turn: Japan-South Asia Exchange and the Creation of Modern Japanese Buddhism

Scholars have long portrayed the construction of twentieth-century Buddhism in Japan as a result of changes forced upon or willfully adopted by Japanese Buddhists as a result of ever more frequent contacts with the “West,” that is, the United States and Europe. The intellectual, scholarly, and religious exchanges that reshaped the Japanese Buddhist world from the late-nineteenth and first half of the twentieth-centuries, thus largely have been understood as overwhelmingly bipolar ones. The received narrative describing the numerous changes in modern Japanese Buddhism as a product of “Westernization,” however, overlooks almost completely the role played by cultural flows between Japan and Asia, especially South and Southeast Asia, in catalyzing the reconceptualization of Japanese Buddhism as a pan-Asian and, even, global, tradition. South and Southeast Asia served as crucial contact zones for Asian Buddhists.

During the Meiji, Taishō, and early Shōwa eras Japanese Buddhists traveled along the new “Cotton Road” living, practicing, and studying in such entrepôts as Bangkok, Benares, Bombay, Calcutta, Chittagong, Lhasa, and Rangoon. There the travelers encountered Buddhists and Buddhist sympathizers from around the world, exchanging practices, texts, ideas, and material cultural objects. Returning to Japan in the wake of these Asian encounters, Japanese Buddhists were stimulated to reshape numerous facets of their tradition, including sectarian scholarship, the practice of the precepts, and Buddhist material culture. In this presentation, I analyze the various ramifications of the encounters with South and Southeast Asian Buddhism for Japanese Buddhists.

D. T. Suzuki, American Philanthropy, and the Globalization of Zen in the Twentieth Century

Daisetsu Teitarō Suzuki (1870–1966) was one of the me most important scholars and popularizers of Zen Buddhism outside of Japan during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. Through his writings and his lectures, Suzuki explained Zen to audiences around the world, creating an image of the tradition that placed it at the heart of much of Japanese traditional culture. For much of the twentieth century, Suzuki was one of the most recognizable faces of Buddhism globally. His influence extended to a wide range of intellectuals, writers, and artists, including John Cage, Leonora Carrington, Erich Fromm, Allen Ginsberg, Karen Horney, Christmas Humphreys, Ibram Lassaw, Agnes Martin, Thomas Merton, and J. D. Salinger.

In assessing D. T. Suzuki’s career, it is tempting to base much of our work on the massive quantity of materials in his corpus, which includes a forty-volume collected works, as well as a mountain of articles, books, diaries, letters, and recordings that D. T. Suzuki left behind over the course of his long lifetime. As I argue in this lecture, however, although we cannot discount the great importance of Suzuki’s own intention, energy, and plans, the forces of global capitalism, global cultural flows, and, of equal importance, an element of serendipity, were important in determining the direction of Suzuki’s work and the way he chose to present Buddhism inside and outside Japan. As the United States emerged victorious in the wake of two world wars, American philanthropists used their wealth at home and abroad to promote those religious leaders seen as harmonious with their vision for the new American century.

Using hundreds of documents from multiple archives, including dozens of letters and reports by Suzuki that have previously not been utilized for research, I sketch the broad contours of Suzuki’s global travels and overseas lecture tours from the 1930s until the mid-1960s. The documents under consideration reveal how members of the wealthy donor class sought to advance their own vision for cultural, social, and religious change by funding not only Suzuki’s work but also that of other Japanese religious leaders. They also frankly record how a select group of Suzuki’s audience in the United States reacted to his message. Suzuki, of course, used donations from wealthy patrons and founders to further his own goals, but the intentions of the funders also shaped Suzuki’s trajectory by bringing him to new venues, introducing him to scholars and religious leaders outside of his usual circle, and forcing him to adjust and clarify the nature of his writing projects. Thus, Suzuki, while using this support to further his own agenda, also found himself nudged into new intellectual arenas and encouraged to calibrate his efforts to their requests

D. T. Suzuki’s 1952 Columbia University Zen Lectures and the New York Intelligentsia

From the spring semester, 1952 until the summer of 1957, Daisetsu Teitarō Suzuki (1870–1966) served as a lecturer in Chinese and, subsequently, Religion, at Columbia University. As one of the foremost voices catalyzing the global spread of Zen Buddhism from Japan, Suzuki’s seminar lectures drew not only members of the Columbia University community but the general public as well. Among those who attended these seminar lectures were such members of the New York intelligentsia and artistic community as John Cage, Arthur Danto, Philip Guston, Abraham Kaplan, Ibram Lassaw, Agnes Martin, and Thomas Merton. By 1957, Suzuki had become prominent enough in the New York intellectual world to draw an extensive profile, “Great Simplicity,” in the New Yorker. One attendee at the seminars, philosopher and art critic, Arthur Danto, considered the seminars a crystallizing intellectual moment comparable in influence to Alexandre Kojève’s lectures on Hegel in post-World War II Paris.

In this presentation, I delve into Suzuki’s arrival in New York as well as his growing network of influence through his numerous lectures at Columbia and other prominent U.S. universities. In the course of the lecture I examine Suzuki’s influence on the aforementioned artists, writers, and intellectuals who attended the talks. In addition, I will speak in detail about the Suzuki’s seminar talks, which contain detailed discussions of Suzuki’s interpretation of the Zen Buddhist understanding of consciousness, compassion, and such classic Buddhist texts as the “Flower Garland Sutra” and the “Treatise on the Awakening of Faith According to the Mahayana.” These lectures comprise one of Suzuki’s last extensive, detailed statements of his interpretation of Zen and, more broadly, Buddhism. As such the Columbia seminar presentations stand as the culmination of his close to sixty-five year career writing about Buddhism.

Richard M. Jaffe currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities available in his term on the NEAC DSB:

2 engagements between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021

2 engagements between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022

2 engagements between April 1, 2022 and March 31 2023

Patricia L. Maclachlan

April 1, 2018-March 31, 2021
Available for recorded or live virtual events, or webinars

Patricia L. Maclachlan is Professor of Government and Asian Studies and the Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her publications include Consumer Politics in Postwar Japan: The Institutional Boundaries of Citizen Activism (Columbia University Press, 2002), The Ambivalent Consumer: Questioning Consumption in East Asia and the West (Cornell University Press, 2006), which she co-edited with Sheldon Garon, and The People’s Post Office: The History and Politics of the Japanese Postal System, 1871-2010 (Harvard University East Asia Center, 2011), which she researched as an Abe Fellow. She is now immersed in Japanese agricultural politics and is co-authoring (with Kay Shimizu) a forthcoming book from Cornell University Press on the dynamics of institutional change within the country’s powerful agricultural cooperative system.

Maclachlan received her B.A. (Honors) in political science from the University of British Columbia (1986) and her M.A. and Ph.D. in comparative politics from Columbia University (1996). Her undergraduate teaching includes courses on Japanese foreign and domestic politics and the political economies and international relations of East Asia, and she is a recipient of UT’s Silver Spurs teaching award. She has lived for more than six years in Japan, including two in northern Hokkaido.

Presentations offered by Professor Maclachlan:

Reinventing the Post Office in Japan and the United States

During the Meiji era (1868-1912), Japan’s multifunctional post office transformed communications and public finance and helped mobilize the population behind the modern state. By the late 20th century, however, the postal service had become one of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s most powerful vote-mobilizing machines and a major source of political controversy. What explains this transformation? And what has Japan done about it? What, finally, are the implications of the Japanese case for the United States Postal Service, which now finds itself in the crosshairs of a growing political conflict? Drawing on archival research and historical imagery, this multidisciplinary presentation highlights the myriad ways in which postal systems can be reinvented as vehicles for social, economic, and even political change—for good and for ill.

Japan’s Changing Agricultural Landscape

Japan is known around the world for its delicious, high-quality cuisine. Far less is known, however, about the many challenges facing the producers of that food: Japan’s small-scale, family farms. This talk explores the impact of recent demographic and economic developments on the typical farm, from the rapid aging of the farm population and the globalization and liberalization of the Japanese agricultural market, to the impact of shrinking consumer demand for food in the context of Covid-19. How are family farms and rural communities coping with these challenges? What are the chances that small-scale family farms will be replaced by the kinds of large agribusinesses that have come to dominate U.S. agriculture? And what are the implications of Japan’s changing agricultural landscape for Japanese food and foodways? To address these and related questions, this presentation incorporates interviews and images from recent fieldwork.

Prime Ministerial Leadership in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Agricultural Reform

From declining agricultural incomes to an acute shortage of farm successors, Japanese agriculture is under siege. After much dithering by past governments, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo tried to do something about it. Shortly after returning to power in 2012, Abe targeted agricultural reform as a signature goal under the structural reform—or “third arrow”—component of “Abenomics,” openly attacking vested interests in the sector that had long been considered taboo. More recently, however, agricultural reform has been relegated to the political backburner. What do the Abe government’s successes and failures on the road to agricultural reform tell us about Japan’s changing electoral politics, the policymaking process, and most notably, the capacity of prime ministers to exercise proactive leadership?

Laura Miller

April 1, 2019-March 31, 2022

Laura Miller is an internationally prominent scholar of Japan Studies, cultural history, and linguistic anthropology. She has been active as a leader in many professional organizations, including her elected roles as the President of the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs (2018 to 2019), Northeast Asia Council, Association for Asian Studies (2007 to 2010), and President of the Society for East Asian Anthropology, American Anthropological Association (2003 to 2005). She has published more than seventy articles and book chapters on Japanese culture and language. Her article, “Those naughty teenage girls: Japanese Kogals, slang, and media assessments,” published in 2004 in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, has been one of the most frequently accessed articles in the American Anthropological Association’s AnthroSource portal history. Her books include Diva Nation: Female Icons from Japanese Cultural History (University of California Press, 2018, co-edited with Rebecca Copeland), Modern Girls on the Go: Gender, Mobility, and Labor in Japan (Stanford University Press, 2013, co-edited with Alisa Freedman and Christine Yano), Manners and Mischief: Gender, Power, and Etiquette in Japan (University of California Press, 2011, co-edited with Jan Bardsley), Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics (University of California Press. 2006), and Bad Girls of Japan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, co-edited with Jan Bardsley). Miller received B.A. degrees in Asian Studies and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1977, an M.A. degree in Anthropology from UCLA in 1983, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from UCLA in 1988.

Presentations offered by Professor Miller:

Beyond Cute: The Serious Work of Kawaii in Contemporary Japan

From the adorable Kumamon mascot to the hard rock band Baby Metal, the world adores Japan’s unique aesthetic of kawaii (cute). When most people think about kawaii, they imagine the fluffy, frilly, and frivolous. Yet the cute aesthetic has spread beyond expected domains into politics, conduct literature, history textbooks, and elsewhere. Japanese cute can also extend beyond the saccharine, encompassing the weird or disturbing. The kawaii aesthetic serves legitimate and important social and cultural functions. It is a clever way to do the work of informing us, admonishing us, and convincing us. It provides an outlet for creativity and humor. From signs cautioning riders to watch the closing of doors on trains, to posters in medical clinics, cute pleasantly reprimands, warns, and guides. This presentation will take us beyond the expected forms of kawaii to a spectrum of cute and grotesque cute (guro kawaii) found in school textbooks, public service posters, and religious artifacts, emphasizing the critical role of this aesthetic in contemporary society.

Historically Hot: Reimagining Beauty from Japan’s Past

Who was considered to be a beautiful man or a gorgeous woman in Japan’s ancient period? What did an attractive Edo samurai or courtesan look like? When contemporary popular culture producers set out to create manga, anime, film, and TV series set in historical eras, they often find that the beauty standards of long ago are quite different from contemporary reader and viewer standards. Rather than try to represent historically accurate appearance, artists and writers meld some aspects of historic fashion with recent ideals for body and facial types. This presentation will feature several reimagined historical figures who are represented by actors, cosplayers, or drawn characters who reflect today’s beauty ideology rather than those of the periods they are portraying. Although some efforts are made to depict the costumes and hairstyles of the period, the desire to cater to current beauty norms dominates these productions.

Reinventing Himiko: Japan’s Ancient Queen Rules the Twenty-First Century

The first named person in Japanese history is Himiko, a third century ruler described only briefly by Chinese historians. In contemporary culture Himiko is cast in many roles: an elder priestess, an adorable shrine attendant, a vain dictator, or a lascivious sorceress. Himiko is also commodified and objectified in local communities as a touchstone for local commerce and community character. She is a rich resource for regional groups in need of a city mascot, beauty contest theme, or touristic motif. She is often found in advertising that links her to healthy native cuisine and food items. Himiko has also been adopted by feminists and New Age spiritualists, where she denotes ethnic spirituality and female rulership. This talk explores these many reinventions of Himiko in order to track how her varied iconography encodes assumptions about gender, power, and supernatural expertise.

Michael Sharpe

August 26, 2020-August 25, 2023
Available for live virtual lectures and classroom visits

Michael Orlando Sharpe is an Associate Professor of Political Science in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at York College of the City University of New York and an Adjunct Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Dr. Sharpe’s areas of expertise are comparative politics and international relations and his research interests concern looking comparatively at the politics of migration, immigrant political incorporation, and political transnationalism in the Netherlands, Japan, and around the world. His first book, entitled Postcolonial Citizens and Ethnic Migration: The Netherlands and Japan in the Age of Globalization (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), provides a cross-regional investigation of the role of citizenship and ethnicity in migration, exploring the political realities of Dutch Antilleans in the Netherlands and Latin American Nikkeijin in Japan. Some of his work has appeared in the scholarly peer reviewed journals Ethnopolitics, International Relations of the Asia- Pacific, Japanese Journal of Political Science, Policy and Society, Dialectical Anthropology, encyclopedias, and popular media. His current research concerns the politics of remigration or the paid voluntary return of migrants and their families (“pay to go schemes”) and implicit boundary making in liberal democracies. He is interested in the role of racism in political processes. Dr. Sharpe has been a Mansfield Foundation and Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership U.S.-Japan Network for the Future Program Scholar.

Presentations Offered by Professor Sharpe:

Calling the Nation Home and Contesting National Membership: The Political Incorporation of Latin American Nikkeijin (Japanese Descendants) in Japan 1990-2008

This attempts to explain the limited political incorporation of Latin American Nikkeijin (Japanese descendants) (LAN) in Japan 1990-2008. The 1990 Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act reform provides Nikkeijin a renewable visa that has enabled some 300,000 LAN to emigrate to Japan on the basis of Japanese blood descent or ethnicity. Long term marginalized minority groups such as Zainichi Koreans and Chinese are comparatively better incorporated in Japan’s political system and their demands increasingly recognized as more legitimate. I argue Japan’s changing ethnic citizenship regime, political opportunity structure, and structure of civil society combined with LAN language difficulties, newness of residence, small size, low minority status, and powerful myth of return limits their immigrant political incorporation in Japan. Additionally, the paper discusses the 2009 Kikoku Shien Jigyo (Help Return Program) to repatriate unemployed Latin American Nikkeijin to their country of origin. The lecture will present evidence that indicate a move towards a halting (de-ethnicization) (easing access for all immigrants) in Japan.

Is Japan Becoming a Country of Immigration?: Litmus Test for Liberal Democracy

There is growing debate around whether or not Japan will become a country of immigration. Japan is one of the few liberal democracies in the world to have successfully resisted immigration in its postwar economy. However, in the last twenty years, immigration in Japan has increased substantially with various side doors for unskilled labor as well as official entry points for skilled labor with options for fast tracked permanent residency. In 2018, Prime Minister Abe proposed some 500,000 unskilled workers by 2025 to fill jobs in industries with labor shortages while at the same time declaring that this is not an immigration policy. In the face of ageing population and low birthrate, Japan finds itself at a crossroads of whether, how, and when to accept the increasing reality of immigration as a solution to its demographic decline and labor shortage. Will Japan go the way of Western liberal democracies or in the direction of illiberal autocracies such as Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates? Japan is a very well organized and disciplined society that has reinvented itself multiple times and been at the forefront of several important postwar innovations. With an ageing population and demographic decline, Japan has a de facto immigration policy that is inevitably expanding, even as it refuses to call itself a country of immigration. Depending on how immigration is framed, managed, and rights are realized in Japan, the country could become a model of acceptance and democratic inclusion or an exemplar of illiberal intolerance and exclusion for the region and the world. The lecture will explore the way in which immigration in Japan can serve as a litmus test for the direction of its liberal democracy.

The Myth of Homogeneity and the Realities of Racism in Japan

Japan is not homogeneous, and racism there and in other East Asian countries is just as pronounced as in the West but manifests itself a bit differently. Japan has just about always had indigenous Ainu, Okinawans, and the Burakumin (outcaste) minority traces its origin to well before the 17 century early Edo era. Like Germany, Japan is a “late developer,” meaning it forms its modern state with the late 19th century Meiji Restoration from a disparate populace and promotion of a common ethnically homogeneous nationalism. With the promotion of Japanese empire, there was expansion via colonialism into Asia where racism and ethnic hierarchy was readily used. This was in fact a multiethnic empire that strived to colonize with the Japanese at the top of the hierarchy and the denigration of other Asians peoples as backwards and inferior. The Zainichi Korean and Chinese minorities have their origins in Japan in the colonial period and continue to face systemic racism. With Japan’s defeat of WWII and end of empire and the signing of the 1954 San Francisco Peace Treaty there is the loss of Japanese nationality for former colonial subjects, the “unmixing of Japan” and one again the embrace of Japanese homogeneity with strict border controls promoted by both Japanese and U.S. authorities as a way to control the perceived communist threat from nearby Korea and China and their foreign residents in Japan. Racism against visible foreigners in contemporary Japan often takes the form of country of origin and level of development. For these reasons, some argue that white Americans and white Europeans are at the top of the food chain of visible foreigners with Africans and South Asians towards the bottom. In 2017 the Japanese government released the results of its first national survey on racial and ethnic discrimination with reports that include employment discrimination, racist taunts, discriminatory speech, Japanese only recruitment, and denial of rental applications. Racism in Japan is often presented as a problem emblematic of heterogeneous Western societies. This lecture will explore the myth of homogeneity and the ways in which it belies and informs the realities of racism in contemporary Japan.

Satoko Shimazaki

May 1, 2019-March 31, 2022

Satoko Shimazaki is Associate Professor of Japanese Literature and Theater at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on early modern Japanese theater and popular literature; the modern history of kabuki; gender representation on the kabuki stage; and the interaction of performance, print, and text. She is the author of Edo Kabuki in Transition: From the Worlds of the Samurai to the Vengeful Female Ghost (Columbia University Press, 2016), which was awarded the John Whitney Hall Book Prize and honorable mention for the Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theater History. She also has a joint appointment as associate professor at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Presentations Offered by Professor Shimazaki:

Going to the Theater in Early Modern Japan: Kabuki on Stage and in Print

The all-male kabuki theater, whose origins can be traced back more than four hundred years, remains to this day Japan’s most popular form of theater. A unique performance genre that developed in conjunction with lavish ukiyo-e prints and other products of early modern Japan’s booming print culture, kabuki has left a profound mark on Japan’s cultural memory, creating urban heroes, legendary figures, iconic courtesans, and horrifying female ghosts. This lecture will give a user-friendly introduction to the early modern experience of theatergoing, and to the aesthetics of kabuki both on stage and in print. Particular attention will be given to the iconic ghost play Ghost Stories at Yotsuya (Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan, 1825), which first thrilled audiences in the early nineteenth century and remains one of the most popular kabuki plays of all time.

Stage Body, Stage Gender: Kabuki Actors and Print Identity in Early Modern Japan

This talk explores the star system that emerged in the context of early modern kabuki theater, focusing in particular on kabuki female-role actors, or onnagata. I propose a revision of established critical discourse about these actors, in which their acting and identities have been framed as an almost perfect instantiation of the performativity of gender. Focusing both on the kabuki theatre itself and on its discursive figuration in lavishly illustrated woodblock media, I suggest that the theater manipulated the viewer into regarding actors in ways that generated new bodily knowledge, and often rendered the actors’ real-life gender and sex irrelevant. Commercial printing created, for instance, “afterimages” of female-role actors that circulated posthumously in their absence, and formed bodies that could only be understood in the context of a historical genealogy of other female-role actors. As part of this process, kabuki theater and the print culture that grew up around it generated distinct “stage genders” that played an important role in shaping and embodying ideas of body, sex and sexuality, and desire in early modern Japan.

Making Voices, Creating Silence: Woodblock Print as Auditory Technology

In early nineteenth century Japan, before the advent of recorded sound and images, music and famous lines from the stage circulated widely in woodblock print. While Edo kabuki playscripts were often kept in house, what we might call “practice books” including famous lines, often with pictures of the faces of the actors who spoke them and notations about their vocal styles, were marketed for reading and amateur imitation. Toward the end of the early modern period, performance—ranging from kabuki theater to popular songs and street shows—played an instrumental role in organizing the visual and auditory properties of early modern prose fiction, especially popular genres of illustrated fiction. In this talk, I examine soundscapes relating to the kabuki theater and other performative genres that were called up through both the text and the pictures in popular illustrated fiction, showing how they contributed to the construction of a sort of virtual experience of the theater, and how they demanded an auditory register for textual consumption. This talk is an attempt to bring print culture into communication with modern technologies of sound recording.

Satoko Shimazaki currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities remaining in her term on the NEAC DSB:

3 engagements between May 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021

3 engagements between May 1, 2021 and March 31 2022

Amy Stanley

April 1, 2020-March 31, 2023
Available for recorded lectures with virtual class visits

Amy Stanley is an associate professor in the History Department at Northwestern University, where she teaches Japanese and early modern global history. Her publications include Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan (University of California Press, 2012) and articles in The American Historical Review, The Journal of Asian Studies, and The Journal of Japanese Studies. She is particularly interested in the intersection of gender history and global history, and in the problems and possibilities of narrative history. Her book, Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her Worlds, is forthcoming from Scribner in 2020.

Presentations Offered by Professor Stanley:

Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her Worlds

This talk is a lively introduction to the social history of the great city of Edo (now Tokyo) in the first half of the nineteenth century, focusing on the unconventional life of a woman named Tsuneno. Born to a Buddhist temple family in Japan’s snow country, Tsuneno ran away to the big city after being married and divorced three times. In Edo, she worked in maid service for a prominent bannerman, lived in the kabuki theater district, married (and then divorced, and then remarried) a masterless samurai, and ultimately ended up in the service of the famous City Magistrate, Tōyama Kagemoto. The talk uses Tsuneno’s and her family’s letters, maps of Edo, and woodblock prints to illuminate life among common people, discussing the possibilities and constraints facing women, in particular, as they navigated the shogun’s capital.

After #MeToo: Rewriting the History of Sexual Assault

The #MeToo movement forced many of us to rethink our assumptions about the exercise of political and social power. It also presented an opportunity for historians to rethink their approach to researching and writing about sexual assault. This talk considers how the rallying cry “believe women” challenges historical practice. The sources examined in the presentation are drawn from an early nineteenth-century Buddhist temple in rural Japan, but the problem they present is shared among many kinds of historians and feminist activists. Sexual assault often causes a rupture or fracturing of conventional narrative. What do we do with the silences and changing accounts? Which stories do we tell? And, ultimately, who do we believe?

Urban History as Global History: The View from Edo, the Greatest City in the World

Edo (now Tokyo) was once the greatest city in the world. In 1800, the era of Napoleon and revolution and declarations of independence, it boasted a population of 1.2 million. In comparison, London had a population of one million, Paris had 550,000, and New York was a tiny outpost of 60,000. Yet Edo is strangely invisible in global history. In part, this is because the city is difficult to integrate into the narratives of imperialism and trade that dominate global history scholarship. It was neither a colonial city nor a metropole, it was not a hub of foreign trade, and it was not even an ancient imperial capital. So what do we do with this strange, enormous, anomalous city? This talk explores the social history of early nineteenth century Edo in the context of global history, focusing on gender, violence, and consumption. It argues that global history does look different from the perspective of Japan, and that turning our attention to social history and the urban poor illuminates how and why mundane experiences of urban life were shared across many parts of the world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Amy Stanley currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities available in her term on the NEAC DSB:

2 engagements between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021

2 engagements between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022

2 engagements between April 1, 2022 and March 31 2023

William Tsutsui

May 25, 2018-March 31, 2021
Available for recorded or live virtual events, or webinars

William (Bill) Tsutsui is Edwin O. Reischauer Distinguished Visiting Professor at Harvard University. A specialist in the business, economic, and cultural history of twentieth-century Japan, he holds degrees from Harvard, Oxford, and Princeton universities. He began his professional career at the University of Kansas, where he held a range of positions, including Acting Director of KU’s Center for East Asian Studies, Chair of the Department of History, and Associate Dean for International Studies in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. He went on to serve as Dean of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences at Southern Methodist University and, from 2014 to 2019, as President of Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas.

An award-winning classroom teacher, Tsutsui is the author or editor of eight books, including Banking Policy in Japan: American Efforts at Reform During the Occupation (1988), Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan (1998), Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters (2004), and A Companion to Japanese History (2006). His short textbook, Japanese Popular Culture and Globalization (published in 2010 by the Association for Asian Studies), is widely used in high school and university classrooms. He has received Fulbright, ACLS, and Marshall fellowships, and was awarded the John Whitney Hall Prize of the Association for Asian Studies in 2000 and the William Rockhill Nelson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2005. His current research focuses on Japanese environmental history, the Godzilla franchise and Japanese popular culture, and the history of the phrase “Made in Japan.”

Tsutsui is currently chair of the AAS Editorial Board and serves on the boards of the US-Japan Council and the Federation of State Humanities Councils. In 2020 he was appointed to the Japan-United States Friendship Commission.

Presentations offered by Professor Tsutsui:

Godzilla and Japan: Hiroshima, Fukushima, COVID-19

Since Godzilla’s first appearance almost 70 years ago in the classic Gojira (1954), the King of the Monsters has become a cinematic icon and a globally recognized symbol of Japan. But what can a giant, fire-breathing movie monster tell us about Japanese culture and Japan’s national experience from defeat in 1945 through the global pandemic of 2020? This talk will explore how the 32 Godzilla films can help us understand Japan’s resilience in the face of disasters, Japanese attitudes toward science and authority, and the ways we all address our fears of invisible threats, radioactive or viral.

This presentation, accompanied by numerous images and film clips, is designed to be accessible to public as well as academic audiences and to appeal both to dedicated fans of Japanese monster movies and those with no previous exposure to Godzilla.

Tokyo 1940, 1964, 2021: Empire, Euphoria, and Pandemic in Japan’s Olympic History

Japan’s history of hosting the Summer Olympics has been marked by both jubilation and frustration. The 1940 Games were forfeited amidst mounting tensions over Japanese expansionism in Asia; the 1964 Olympics were a triumphal celebration of Japan’s postwar return to the community of nations; and Tokyo 2020 was reluctantly postponed after numerous controversies and the onset of a global pandemic. This talk places Japan’s Olympic history in the larger context of international politics, social change, and shifting economic fortunes, exploring what athletic mega-events and reveal about evolving Japanese nationalism and Japan’s sense of place in the world.

This presentation, accompanied by numerous images and film clips, is designed to be accessible to public as well as academic audiences and to appeal even to those with little interest in sporting events or the history of the Olympic Games.

Dreading and Dreaming Disaster: Japan’s Apocalyptic Imagination from Hiroshima to Fukushima

In what one critic has described as the “doom-laden dreams” of Japanese popular culture, Japan’s cities have regularly been toppled by earthquakes and cyclonic winds, swept by tidal waves and wildfires, victimized by volcanoes and alien invasions, leveled by parades of giant monsters and robots, and, needless to say, obliterated by virtually every imaginable form of nuclear explosion. Over most of the past 70 years, a period bracketed historically by the atomic attacks of 1945 and the nuclear crisis at Fukushima, Japan’s media consumers could experience the fictionalized destruction of their nation on television or at a nearby movie theater, in exuberant comic books or through realistic video games, on a daily basis. How do we account for the fertile and abiding “apocalyptic imagination” of Japanese pop culture? Does it reflect a deep pessimism in a nation regularly hit with natural disasters, or should we see it more as a therapeutic, subversive, and even playful approach to the challenges and uncertainties of modern life?

This presentation, accompanied by numerous images and film clips, is designed to be accessible to public as well as academic audiences and to appeal both to dedicated fans of Japanese popular culture and to those with little previous exposure to Japanese pop forms.

William Tsutsui currently has the following number of speaking engagement opportunities remaining in his term on the NEAC DSB:

1 engagement between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021