Sixth Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University


last update 2002/03/09

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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


Session 14
Imagining Asia in 1960s Japan
Organizer / Chair: Bruce Suttmeier, Lewis and Clark College

This panel explores the place of Asia in 1960s Japan by discussing several scenes of post-colonial encounter, all involving writers and artists who address the representation of Asia within the Japanese cultural imagination. We examine the sites of such experience, from a childhood in the colonies to a Korean War exile, asking how such experience is articulated, for what purposes (both personal and national) and to what ends. Many of the artists and works we discuss are producing an Asia for Japanese domestic consumption, but we also consider what it might mean to produce an Asia for local, as well as international, audiences.

In his paper, Christopher Scott addresses the use of Korea in the works of the writer Hino Keizô, arguing that Hino's strategies raise critical questions about the means, purposes and authorizing ideologies of such writing. Bruce Suttmeier explores the conjunction of text and photos in a small book produced by a group of Japanese writers after a 1960 trip to China. He describes the extraordinary historical events surrounding (and shaping) this trip, and examines how the text and photos, in concert and in opposition, attempt to render the 'face' of a neighboring nation-state. Doryun Chong discusses the Korean artist Nam June Paik, asking how his brief Japanese sojourn, from 1963 to 1964, speaks to the convergence (and dissonance) of being both Korean and 'avant garde' in 1960s Japan.

Any accounting of the 1960s in Japan must augment the standard (historical) narratives of prosperity and protest with a sense of Asia's profound place in the Japanese imagination, the acknowledgments and omissions that signify not only Japan's relations to its neighboring nations, but to its own history, as well.

1) Christopher Scott, Nihon University / Stanford University. "The Uses and Abuses of Asia: Korea in the Works of Hino Keizô"

Like a number of prominent Japanese writers, Hino Keizô (1929-) grew up not in Japan but in one of its colonies. He lived in Korea first from 1935 to 1945 and again from 1960 to 1961, the second time as a correspondent for the Yomiuri Shimbun. After marrying a Korean woman and a stint covering the war in Vietnam, Hino returned to Japan and embarked on a career as a novelist in the 1970s. Many of his early works intertwine his own complicated attachment to Korea with his wife's struggle to flee her own past and adapt to life in Japan. The tropes of nostalgia and alienation in these texts reflect back upon the 1960s, which were both a golden age and a decade of disillusionment for Japan. Yet it is the way in which Hino re-imagines Japan from the perspective of Korea-and vice versa-that sets him apart from the dominant postwar ideology, which has obscured Japan's historical position vis-à-vis its neighbors. Nevertheless, Hino's strategy raises critical questions about authenticity and representation. What does it mean for a Japanese to "go home" to Korea or for a Korean to "become Japanese"? And can a Japanese (male) writer ever speak for a Korean (woman)? This paper examines Japan's uses and abuses of Asia through the lens of Korea in two of Hino's early short story collections, Shigan no ie (A home over here, 1974) and Kaze no chihei (From where the winds blow, 1976).

2) Bruce Suttmeier, Lewis and Clark College. "What A Short, Strange Trip It's Been: Picturing China In Words and Images"

In the early summer of 1960, a small group of Japanese writers set out on a five-week trip to China, a goodwill tour under the auspices of the Society for Japanese-Chinese Cultural Exchange. This "literary delegation," led by Noma Hiroshi and including such leading young literary figures as Ôe Kenzaburô and Kaikô Takeshi, traveled to several cities, attending banquets, viewing cultural sites and meeting important dignitaries such as Mao Zedong and Lao She. It was, as one participant put it at the time, a rare opportunity to glimpse the "new" China, a unique chance to see a culture and people that had, throughout history, weighed heavily on the Japanese imagination and that had, since the war, been largely unavailable to outside view.

My paper examines the collective literary product of this trip, a small book called "Shashin: Chûgoku no kao" (Photos: The Face of China) that comprises seven essays, one by each author, as well as several dozen photos taken by the authors themselves. I begin by noting how the trip coincided with a tumultuous moment in both countries' histories­ China was emerging from the Great Leap Forward and was soon to embark on the Cultural Revolution; Japan was in the throes of a wrenching political crisis, the enormous US-Japan Security Treaty Riots. How, I ask, do these extraordinary historical events shape the book; indeed, how does the very desire to represent / reveal a "new" China arise, at least in part, from this history? How does the work articulate this desire, not only through its words and images, but also through the dialectic of exchange and resistance between those same words and images? And how, finally, does this interplay of photographic and linguistic representation attempt to convey (or even, possibly, hinder) a 'knowledge' of a neighboring nation-state to a Japanese reader/viewer-ship, an attempt unproblematically described as revealing the 'face' of China?

3) Doryun M. Chong, University of California, Berkeley. "'Can the Avant Garde Speak?': Nam June Paik in Tokyo, 1963-1964"

Nam June Paik (b. 1932), now regarded as one of the most important living artists, found himself in Tokyo, exiled from his homeland in the wake of the Korean War. Upon graduation from University of Tokyo, he moved to Germany, where he gained some measure of notoriety for his oft-violent musical-theatrical performance over the following decade. During this time, he also became well connected to the luminaries of experimental avant-gardism in Europe and the United States. In 1964, Paik relocated to New York, which continues to be his residence and base. Today, Paik is well known for his large-scale sculptures/installations which utilize TV monitors and for frenetic, synthesizer-enhanced video imagery. Between his periods in Germany and the United States, Paik took a year-long residence in Tokyo. Though it was a brief period in Paik's long career, the artist's Tokyo sojourn was filled with artistic collaborations with many of the 'anti-art' iconoclasts of the time, including Yoko Ono and the Happening group Hi Red Center.

In this paper, I examine several interrelated events ­ such as his participation in a performance by Hi Red Center and the alleged invention of the 'first robot' ­ as well as recollections by the artist and his friend-colleagues, in order to consider what it might have meant for the artist to be Korean and avant garde. The Tokyo period marks Paik's evolution from being one of the comrades in Fluxus, 'the most radical and international avant garde movements of the '60s' to becoming the "father of video art,' and in the process, going from a Third-World born to the artist most First-World, and according to Fredric Jameson, 'quintessentially postmodern,' even. In the decade when revolutionary art and politics were heading towards the final collapse, was being an 'avant garde' a political responsibility or a privilege of the educated bourgeoisie? Specifically, in Japan at this moment, did not being both Korean and avant garde mean that the latter term superseded, and even cancelled the former?

Discussant: Richi Sakakibara, Shinshu University


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