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ASCJ Executive Committee

Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

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last update: 1999 June 22

1999 June 26 conference

Room 201

2.Changing Boundaries of Imagination in Early Twentieth Century Japan
Michiko Suzuki, Tokyo University

Panel abstract:
From Meiji to Showa, early 20th century Japan witnessed a wide range of sociohistorical and cultural shifts, prompting the Japanese to radically change and reassess the way they saw and understood their world.A varied range of responses to modernity were particularly observed in the realm of imagination and cultural imaginary, where changes in aesthetics, belief systems, and concepts of the self and Other(s) led to a re-drawing of previously set boundaries.

Our panel looks at such shifts that occurred in the boundaries of imagination from a variety of perspectives and materials.Cuccio's paper examines the little magazine Housun (Square Sun, 1907-1911) and Ishii Hakutei's criticism as part of the early development of modernism.Foster's research looks at Yanagita Kunio's Youkai dangi (Discussions of Monsters), written between 1910 and 1938, as providing a new way of understanding the "premodern" belief/imagination surrounding youkai (supernatural creatures). Suzuki's paper presents Yaneura no nishojo (1920), a novel by Yoshiya Nobuko, as a work that views imagination and the exploration of language as integral to the coming-of-age of a modern female subject.Finally, Tierney's work focuses on Kanshoo (The Atolls, 1942), travel sketches by Nakajima Atsushi based on his experiences in Micronesia, in order to see how the Other is being imagined in the context of imperialism.

From these presentations, we hope to explore the various ways in which the boundaries of imagination were redrawn, faced with the realities of modernity in early 20th century Japan.

1) Claire Cuccio, Stanford University. "The Art of National Boundaries:
Ishii Hakutei's Contradictory Criticism in the Visual Arts Magazine Housun"

Little magazines emerging in the world's urban centers during the early twentieth century were harbingers of modernism.These characteristically noncommercial and hand-designed magazines offered private, self-ministered spaces for timely discourse on literature and the visual arts.Besides acting as forums for new works of art and literature, the little magazines typically lionized the evolution of modern art in Europe while disdaining indigenous mainstream culture and bourgeois values through criticism intended to challenge the status quo of the arts.Like Henry Harland's The Yellow Book (1894-1897) in London or Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work (1903-1917) out of New York, the little magazine Housun (1907-1911) in Tokyo viewed the explosion of modern art emanating from the European continent, and in retrospect, has become a vital repository of the development of this movement in Japan. Published as an offshoot of Yosano Tekkan's literary arts magazine Myoujou (Morning star, 1900-1908),Housun is best remembered for its creative hanga and its trademark art nouveau borders of newts, flora and Grecian scenes.But the magazine's creators, Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958), Yamamoto Kanae (1882-1946) and Morita Tsunetomo (1851-1933), promised a new vision of the arts on every page of their hand-printed magazine.This paper marks an effort to revisit Ishii Hakutei's construction of a modern aesthetic within the boundaries of Japan's emergent status as a nation.

2) Michael Dylan Foster, Stanford University. "Yanagita Kunio's Youkai dangi and the Morphology of the Mysterious"

Youkai are the supernatural creatures and monsters of Japan: tengu, kappa, tanuki, yamamba, to name just a few.In one form or another, these mysterious creatures are found throughout the Japanese archipelago, infesting local folklore, and infiltrating literature from all periods. Not surprisingly, scholars of folklore in Japan (minzokugaku) have treated youkai as a rich subject of academic inquiry. The first modern scholarly discourse on youkai was started by educator Inoue Enryou (1858-1919), whose objectives were to remove youkai from the realm of mystery and explain supernatural phenomena through the empirical lens of "science."Inoue equated youkai with "superstition," and the eradication of superstition, he claimed, was imperative for the education of the masses and the construction of a modern nation.

In contrast, Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962) did not seek to annihilate youkai belief; rather he adopted their study as a subfield of his own burgeoning discipline of minzokugaku.  is was an attempt to create a new "science" that would accept the mysterious itself as an object of empirical study. Yanagita focused on collecting and classifying youkai beliefs and analyzing them in relation to concepts of yuurei (ghosts) and kami (deities). This paper will examine Yanagita's Youkai dangi (Discussions of Monsters), a collection of essays on youkai written between the years of 1910 and 1938. These essays span a critical period in the development of minzokugaku, and also demonstrate how Yanagita was attempting to classify the mysterious, and develop a way of studying the "real" meanings of the "imaginary."

3) Michiko Suzuki, Tokyo University.
"Imagination and the Girl: Yoshiya
Nobuko's Yaneura no nishojo as Female Bildungsroman"

As a writer, Yoshiya Nobuko (1896-1973) is perhaps best known for her early works for young girls (shoujo shousetsu), and post-war historical fiction. Yaneura no nishojo (Two Virgins in the Attic; 1920), her first full-length novel to be published, is rarely examined fully, and is often simply referred to as a shishousetsu (I-novel) or a lesbian novel.In order to fully appreciate this work, it is important to view it as a female Bildungsroman, a novel that explores the female protagonist's self-development and growth.Here, the outcome is not marriage, but a young woman's attainment of sexual and spiritual self-knowledge.

In this novel, imagination and language play a central role in depicting the shoujo (young girl)'s growth and change, and this in turn leads to an exploration of her position as a modern subject.During the Taisho and early Showa periods, sexologists and educators published many tracts about the shoujo, most of them construing her as being fundamentally "ill" due to physical and emotional development, as well as the unhealthy" environment of modernity.In particular, the young girl's imaginative nature and her inability to use language properly are criticized as negative factors, often contributing to various "sicknesses".

In this paper, I will demonstrate how Yaneura no nishojo actively challenges this paradigm by presenting the shoujo's imagination and exploration of language as a vital part of her coming-of-age in a modern world.

4) Robert Tierney, Stanford University. "The Colonial Imagination of
Nakajima Atsushi"

Born into a family with a long tradition of kangaku, Nakajima Atsushi is generally viewed as an apolitical, erudite and highly imaginative author of a small corpus of exquisitely crafted tales set in ancient China.In 1941, however, Nakajima traveled to Micronesia to become an editor of Japanese language textbooks for use in the Japanese colony.After nine months in Palau, he discovered that the climate aggravated his severe asthma and returned to Japan where he devoted the remainder of his life to writing. In particular, he wrote a series of often overlooked tales set in Micronesia, Nantootan (Tales of the Southern Islands, 1942), and a group of travel sketches, Kanshoo (The Atolls, 1942) dealing with places, people and customs of Micronesia.In these works, he relies not only on his own direct observations but also on the assistance from his colleague, Hijikata Hisakatsu, an ethnologist whose diaries became a source for some of Nakajima's tales.

After placing Nakajima's Micronesian work in their biographical and historical context, I will examine his travel sketches, Kanshoo, to explore the links between his work as a writer and colonial realities on Micronesia.By comparing his works with contemporary ethnographic writings, I will study the relationship between literature and discourses of knowledge, both in point of view and choice of subjects.I will also consider how Nakajima represents Japan's colonial project in his fiction, particularly the hierarchy of power and races on which it is based, by constructing the colonial other as primitive child in need of Japan's tutelage.