AJLS Oberlin Abstracts 2018


Violence, Justice, & Honor in Japan’s Literary Culture

AJLS 2018 February, 2018

SESSION 1  Violence in Contemporary Japanese Literature

Friday 11:00 am -12:45 pm


“Circuitous Driving in Pursuit of Medoruma Shun’s Rainbow Bird”

Davinder L. Bhowmik

Associate Professor, University of Washington

This paper will focus on the 2006 novel by Medoruma Shun, entitled “Rainbow Bird” (Niji no tori).  The plot of the novel centers on the violent activities of a gang led by Higa.  Higa orders Katsuya to extort money from innocent victims and to keep watch over Mayu, a prostitute enslaved by Higa.  Although gang violence is what drives the plot of the novel, it is the roads on which the characters travel, congested throughout, that reveal another level of violence to which the gang responds:  the usurpation of civilian land for military bases. I will show how violence is endemic in postwar Okinawa by drawing attention to how much of the novel is spent en route.  The artificial built environment of the military bases and the barbed wire fences that encircle them contrast starkly with the “rainbow bird” of the novel’s title.  Said to inhabit Yanbaru, a forested area in northern Okinawa, the bird, is visible only to the hardiest survivor.  Katsuya and Mayu, break away from the part of the island most burdened by military bases, arriving at a place of healing. What is Yanbaru in the military colony of Okinawa? And, what does it mean to spy the “rainbow bird”?


“Revolution and Literature: Writing Against Violence”

Philip Kaffen

Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

This presentation aims to discuss the relationship between literature and violence by engaging with the work of the religion scholar, Sasaki Ataru on the idea of revolution. From Sasaki’s perspective, the ideals we maintain around both literature and revolution are narrowly inscribed, and kept apart from one another. This rift is partly attributable to the ways that we think about the place of literature with regard to knowledge today—in terms of information and databases. At the same time, our models for revolution (primarily French and Russian) are equally reductive, but in this case, in terms of violence. Literature becomes a revolutionary force not in an imaginary but material way, only insofar as we can extricate it from the increasingly narrow rift between violence and data. By investigating this work, we can expand and deepen what counts as “literature,” while through this process, also re-write what counts as “revolution.” What would such a revolution look like today? How would art operate in these circumstances? 


“Smashing the Buddha: Tsushima Yûko’s Nara Report

Yukiko Shigeto

Assistant Professor, Whitman College


Tsushima Yuko’s 2004 novel Nara Report is an unusual “report” of memories unleashed in the land of Nara. What prompts this “report” are two violent acts: the brutal killing of sacred deer and the forceful destruction of Daibutsu of Todai-ji. Morio, a twelve-year-old boy stifled by Nara, carries out the first violence to summon his dead mother’s spirit, an act reminiscent of ancient Shinto animal sacrifice. The dead mother’s spirit then, per her son’s desperate plea, commits the second act of violence, thereby unleashing the voices of the nameless captured in Saibara, Konjaku monogatari, Sekkyôbushi among others. In my presentation I first explore how these violent actions, channeling energies from time immemorial, establish the mother and the son as mediums who bring forth the dead. Secondly, drawing on Orikuchi Shinobu’s observation of love as a desire to break free of discrete individuation, I reveal how it is this love for each other that allows the mother and son to cross spatiotemporal and species boundaries, and be in the presence of pathos distilled in the tales and songs from the past. Finally, paying special attention to the aesthetic experience this unique “reporting” style provokes, I consider the “violence” that may inhere within an approach to literature based solely on interpretation.


“History, Memory, and Violence in Tagame Gengoroh’s Daruma kenpei

Christopher Lowy

Doctoral Candidate, University of Washington

This presentation considers the relationship of depictions of extreme violence and history in Daruma kenpei (2005), an erotic gay manga by Tagame Gengoroh. Set in Shanghai in the early 1930s, Daruma follows the story of Corporal Igari of the Japanese Army and the torture he suffers after being captured in an act of terrorism initiated by an anti-Japanese coalition. Waking up after three weeks of being unconscious, Igari is horrified to find that his legs have been amputated. Moreover, he is disappointed to learn that the one who removed his legs was his trusted friend, Lanzhai Wang. At the hands of Wang and friends Igari will experience severe bodily mutilation and other forms of sexual torture. Though Wang’s stated goal is to torture Igari as retribution for the atrocities committed by the Japanese Army on the Chinese people, it is clear that he is not able to rid himself of his deep emotional attachment to Igari the individual: three years after having captured Igari – who is still alive and being held captive – Wang is haunted by his memory.


Through an examination of the Tagame’s use of history, memory, and violence both sexual and not, I will argue that Daruma can be positioned within a larger category of Japanese gay literature and manga and, at the same time, challenge the genre’s basic assumptions of love, hate, and the sexual tensions that exist in between these two non-exclusive terms. I will also briefly touch upon depictions of sexuality in Adachi Eikichi’s obscure full-length gay SM novel Zhu Jinzhao (1960), set in China and originally published in the journal Fuzoku kitan, and its influence on Tagame’s work.


SESSION 2: Copycat Violence and the Media/Reality Continuum

Friday 1:00-2:45 pm Discussant: J. Keith Vincent, Boston University


In Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), Susan Sontag tackles the question of what, if any, power representations of violence, death, and suffering possess, especially in our media-saturated 21st century world. Revisiting her earlier, more pessimistic conclusions about photography’s lack of affective power, she concludes that the potency of such representations depends on an ability to implicate us, the spectators, for envisioning the violent spectacle from a distanced yet proximate position. This panel considers the complex affect and ethics of representations of dead and dying bodies in contemporary Japan by looking at cases when textual, often fictionalized, violence spills over into real world contexts. Paul Roquet investigates the implications of the deaths of online virtual and off-line real bodies of video game players, Kirsten Cather considers charges of copycat suicide at Aokigahara spurred by representations in literary, filmic, and media texts, and Jon Abel considers the violent genre of true crime fiction and its relationship to real life crime both as its genesis and its result in the form of copycat crime. Significantly, each paper analyzes works that have invited transposition into a variety of media and works that follow highly formulaic genres, whether they are light novels, crime fiction, romance novels, popular TV dramas and films, or literature role-playing games (LitRPGs). These case studies enable us to explore the ways that each medium necessitates its own modes of audience identification and world-building. Each paper seeks to complicate any simplistic doubling of fictional and real world contexts with close attention to the different types of sensory engagements invited, and refused, by such media texts.


“Mixed Realism and Composited Violence in the Light Novel/LitRPG”

Paul Roquet, MIT

Media theorists from Hiroki Azuma to Timothy Welsh have sought to articulate what “realism” means in a video game context, and the complex ways this intersects with literary traditions of descriptive realism as well as more direct ways of perceiving the external world. The stakes of such mixed realism become especially fraught when it comes to questions of violence, coming in the wake of long-running debates over how to understand real-world violence that seems to copy or be influenced by in-game acts of aggression. This paper seeks to further our understanding of how violence becomes triangulated between video game, literary, and more immediate physical realities. My focus is on the virtual reality massively multiplayer online role playing game Sword Art Online, a world first imagined in Reki Kuwahara’s light novel series and since replicated across a hugely successful cross-media franchise. As with other forms of “LitRPG,” the text lavishes a lot of attention on the in-game battle scenes, where the pixellated violence adheres to a strict set of algorithmic turn-based protocols. At the same time, the narrative sets out a premise where in-game “player death” directly triggers the game hardware to kill the player’s comatose off-line body. I examine how the affective intensities directed at violent conquest inside the game both do and do not reflect the threat of bodily atrophy and death the game presents to players’ out-of-game existence. In turn, I explore how virtual reality developers inspired by Sword Art Online have been surprisingly open to this idea of off-line player violence as they imagine building their own virtual worlds.


“Remembering Werther: Copycat Suicide in Aokigahara Forest”

Kirsten Cather, University of Texas, Austin

In 1974, the body of a young woman who had committed suicide was discovered in the Aokigahara forest with a copy of the 1960 Matsumoto Seichō novel, Nami no tō as her pillow. More recent suicides in this forest, currently the most popular suicide spot in the world, have left behind a copy of The Complete Manual of Suicide open to a chapter titled “Suicide Map #1: Jūkai” that offers detailed instructions for traveling and dying there. Though worlds apart, the two texts – one a highly conventional doomed love story that depicts its lovelorn female protagonist heading off into the forest to die in the novel’s final pages and the other a sensationalist how-to manual for would-be suicides – were harshly criticized for inducing readers to commit what is pejoratively called “copycat suicide.” Such critiques invoke social science theories of imitative violence that are predicated on unspoken assumptions about audience identification, on the ability to map oneself onto an other, and to map a fictional locale onto a real one. This tendency to conflate real and textual worlds is evident even in the original term for copycat suicides, the so-called “Werther effect,” which was initially named after the suicidal protagonist of Goethe’s 1774 novel to refer to readers’ imitative behaviors of this fictional character, but has since come to encompass all non-fictional media representations of suicide as well.

This paper seeks to complicate such overly simplistic assumptions about the affect and effect of textual representations of self-violence on real world behaviors by reintegrating literary analysis into a subject that has been largely hijacked by social scientific discourse and by juxtaposing these two texts alongside a host of others that depict suicide at Aokigahara, from the exploitative to the interventionist and from the fictional to the factual.


“True Crime / Copycat Crime: The Mediations of Representation and Reverse Mimesis”

Jonathan E. Abel, Pennsylvania State University

Two violent genres of creative human endeavor rely on cultural mediation for their conception, circulation, and ongoing existence. The genre of true crime fiction shares with real world cases of copycat crime a doubled connection to reality and to the narratives by which we frame it. This paper examines Miyabe Miyuki’s crime novel Copycat Crime (Mohōhan, 1995), the film based on it Morita Yoshimitsu (2002), and the recent Fuji television series (2016) against the wider backdrop of copycat crime and true crime discourse in Japan over the past fifty years in order to draw attention to the media crisis in literary study today. That media transform our lives is something of a cliché today. From the gadgets adorning our bodies, held in our hands, or kept in our pockets that interrupt, block, or preclude any direct engagement with our immediate environs to the bubbled and hermetic new worlds we create and promote through our social networks and the hordes of netto uyoku and other hacktivists actively engaged to create fake news, it is beyond a doubt that the mediation of the world around us transforms our behavior and, by consequence, our real world. With this in mind, it seems odd that so much literary work is still caught in language of representation of reality. This paper attempts to think about why so much literary study has been caught up in representational work and how focus on mediation helps might be the end of literary study or how it might rescue literary study for the age of new media.


Friday 2:45-3:00 Coffee time


SESSION 3A Resisting and Remembering the Slow Violence of Radiation in Japan

Friday 3:00-5:00 pm


Resisting and Remembering the Slow Violence of Radiation in Japan

Images from the 3/11 disaster in Japan pay testament to the cataclysmic nature of the earthquake and menacing tsunami that swept away whole towns in its wake. The natural disaster also caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP, the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. The invisible violence of radiation continues to menace Tohoku’s population despite government assurances that it is safe for residents to return. In Slow Violence, Rob Nixon examines the “politics of the visible and invisible” for environmental disasters. He also calls on writers to give “imaginative definition” to these calamities that are “inaccessible to the immediate senses.” This panel examines the cultural responses of Japanese fiction writers and manga artists who make the slow violence of 3/11 visible, as a means of resisting that violence and the government attempts to move forward with reconstruction and repatriation, despite the continued dangers of radiation. The panel considers absence and forgetting, or alternately the possibility of remembering, and sees fūka, the weathering of memories as a form of violence itself. Such forgetting is the goal of a Japanese government planning to wrap up this disaster in time for the 2020 Olympics. Miyamoto’s reading of Seichi Cs envisions alternate forms of resistance that allow us to refute the stigma attached to Fukushima refuges and create a new ethics for their environmental exile as resilience and new forms of remembering. Flores reflects on Kōno Fumiyo’s 3/11 manga Hi no tori as an act of both remembering and forgetting. Kōno is known for her Hiroshima manga, and in Hi no Tori, she also looks to create a historical narrative for 3/11. DiNitto examines the futuristic works of novelist Tawada Yōko and mangaka Shiriagari Kotobuki in which the invisible slow violence of the irradiated environment becomes the “new normal” of life in post-Fukushima Japan.


“The Presence of Absence: Toward an Ethics of Exile as Resistance to Violence after Fukushima”

Yuki Miyamoto, DePaul University

Since the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactors in 2011, Japanese daily vocabulary expanded to include technical terms covering from radionuclides like cesium and strontium to measuring units of radiation like Sievert and Becquerel. Reflecting people’s concerns for radiation’s invisible threat, such terms afford greater recognition of it. Indeed, recognition and visualization have been important in the analysis of violence. Focusing on Kimura Yūsuke’s novella Seichi Cs, (The Sacred Land of Cs), my paper investigates the ethical implications of making-visible as a means of resistance against violence. The titular “Cs” is the chemical symbol for Cesium, a word that has recently found prominence in ordinary conversation. Kimura’s story is based upon real-life dairy farmer Yoshizawa Masami’s kibō no bokujō (Ranch of Hope) in Namie, Fukushima, where Yoshizawa (or Sendō, in Kimura’s account) feeds his livestock, even against the government’s order to destroy irradiated animals. The story illustrates the contradictions, despair, and helplessness in Fukushima while it depicts keeping the “contaminated” animals alive as a heroic, if not “hope”-ful, resistance as it renders radiation and the nuclear accident visible and present. Acknowledging that this gesture visually exhibits resistance to governmental authority, I suggest that leaving the area deserted by evacuees constitutes an alternative form of resistance to violence. Drawing upon Rob Nixon’s work on environmental refugees, and Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou’s theories of dispossession, I argue that we need to refute the stigma attached to Fukushima evacuees, and to create a new identity for those in environmental exile—one that resists the allure of “disaster capitalism” represented in dark tourism and the nostalgic discourse of furusato (hometown), ancestral land, kizuna (bonding), and fukkō (restoration). The presence of absence may constitute resistance against fūka (being-forgotten), suggesting a way of remembering the magnitude of the invisible violence posed by radiation.  


“Remembering and Forgetting in Kōno Fumiyo’s Hi no tori Series”

Linda Flores, Oxford University

A slightly weathered poster above a ‘3.11 corner’ in a bookshop in a small coastal town in the Tōhoku region devastated by the 2011 tsunami reads:  Ichiban kowai no wa fūka suru koto (What we fear most is the fading of memories).  More than six years on from 3.11, the complex relationship between remembering and forgetting seems all the more salient.  Kōno Fumiyo’s two-part manga series, Hi no tori (2014) and Hi no tori 2 (2016) is an account of a rooster who wanders the hisaichi on a quest to find the wife he has not seen since 3.11.  Part 1 takes place in the time period between five months after 3.11 until two and half years after the disaster; part 2 covers the time period from two years and eight months after the disaster until four years and three months after 3.11.  He travels from one town to another searching for his wife, recording memories of her during their time together as well as reflections on the current state of the hisaichi areas he visits.  The opening page of each chapter lists, in documentary fashion, statistical information on the human losses and physical damage incurred in the area. In Memory, History and Forgetting (2004), Paul Ricoeur examines the aporia of memory: the Platonic ‘present representation of an absent thing’ (7).  This paper employs Ricoeur’s work to discuss Kōno Fumiyo’s works, arguing that Hi no tori series should be read as a reflection on post 3.11 remembering, imagination, the creation of a historical narrative, and ultimately, the ethics of forgetting.  


“The New Normal: Radiation, Futurity, and Slow Violence in Fukushima Fiction and Manga”

Rachel DiNitto, University of Oregon

The Fukushima disaster disproved the myriad apocalyptic predictions rampant in Japanese cultural production. The world in fact did not end in March 2011, rather the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi ushered in a “new normal”; the invisible slow violence of the irradiated environment has become part of life for many in northeastern Japan. Unlike the losses of the earthquake or tsunami, the casualties from Fukushima may be postponed for decades, leaving an uncertain future for Japan. Literature and manga have imagined this new normal, a life where radiation and its violence become the standard. My presentation looks at images of this future in Tawada Yōko’s novella Kentōshi (The Lantern Bearer, 2014), and Shiriagari Kotobuki’s “Umibe no mura” (“Village by the Sea”) from his collection Ano hi kara no manga: 2011.3.11 (2011), and his Gerogero Puusuka: Kodomo Miraishi (Gerogero Puusuka: Death of the Children’s Future, 2006-7) conceived in response to Chernobyl. Both authors set their works in a futuristic Japan where the effects of the “long dyings” of Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence are made invisible either by the forced forgetting of censorship (for those old enough to remember), or the strategic failure to teach the past to a younger generation who knows no other. Tawada and Shiriagari both depict the struggles of the aging and the young, taking a new twist on Japan’s graying and low birthrate problems as exacerbated by the irradiated environment. Both also depict the somatic violence of radiation-induced human mutation as a form of human evolution, a wry response to these “long dyings.” These futuristic imaginings recall Japan’s history of Tokugawa era isolation, war, and the postwar “prosperity” (yutaka) promised by nuclear power. At the same time, they reveal the tragic consequences of government lies and mismanagement, censorship, and national amnesia.


Friday 3:00-5:00

SESSION 3B Aestheticization of Violence


“Compassionate Violence?
The Aestheticization of Violence in the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu”  

Monika Dix, Saginaw Valley State University

From the tenth century onward, especially due to the popularity of Genshin’s Ōjōyōshū, detailed visual and textual descriptions of gruesome Buddhist hells – places real or imagined – went far beyond mere entertainment for the Japanese. One such example is Mount Katsuragi in Nara prefecture which is associated with Chūjōhime’s cult, Taima- dera, and the Taima mandala which a cosmic diagram of Amida Buddha’s Pure Land Western Paradise. Medieval texts describe Mount Katsuragi as an actual location of both Buddhist paradise and hell. Storytellers compiled such legendary beliefs into the Taima- dera jikkai-zu byōbu, a set of folding screens dated 1693 and enshrined in the inner sanctuary at Taima-dera, which depicts the local landscape of Mount Katsuragi as a portal to the other world. Previous scholarship has touched on the relationship between Chūjōhime’s cult, Taima-dera, and the Taima mandala, but has failed to address the full spectrum of religious, literary and visual influences that contributed to forming Mount Katsuragi’s dual images of Buddhist paradise and hell. By examining the aestheticization of violence in the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu, this paper focuses on the production and appropriation of space to illustrate how spatial practices at Mount Katsuragi were mapped onto images and how, inversely, spatial practices which resulted from worship of the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu were mapped onto the actual landscape. My goal is to show that we need to rethink the nature of the non-dichotomous soteriology of Buddhist texts, in which violence and salvation are inextricably intertwined, and can be expressed in the same space.


“”The brutal and scandalous illustrations” of kusazōshi 草双紙: regulating the market for graphic violence in Edo popular fiction”

Stephen M.Forrest, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The society that produced vendetta kibyōshi 黄表紙, and after 1805 or so their gōkan 合巻 descendants, extolled righteous violence and expected a lethally armed elite to be ready to wield the sword of justice when called upon. In some circumstances even non-samurai could win honor through the appropriate exercise of violence, e.g. in an officially sanctioned avenging of the death of a family member. Many works of fiction were thinly disguised retellings of actual events of this kind, allowing publishers and authors to trumpet the slogan kanzen chōaku 勧善懲悪 in justification of their popular and gory pictorial editions of such sagas. However, the bakufu government’s interest in the aestheticization of righteous violence in popular culture seemed to give publishers license to depict also all manner of bloody and criminal scenes in the visual-verbal chapbooks known as kusazōshi that flourished in the long 19th century. Although these genres had deep roots in the visual traditions of medieval tales and early Edo playbooks, a rapidly expanding readership (and viewership) in the first decade of the 19th century, led to regulation of imagery at a surprisingly granular level, even after the notoriously stringent Kansei reforms. Yet despite close government supervision and the threat of serious punishment for transgressors, cultural producers — publishers, authors, and artists — were able to go on producing such works for many decades, maintaining consumer interest and continuing to increase readership. In this paper I explore the visual vocabulary of violence in a range of kibyōshi and gōkan from the 1770s through to the 1860s: how did the cat and mouse game between censor and producer play out in the purely visual realm? Is it possible to identify a taxonomy of righteousness in depictions of scenes of blood, horror, and disaster?


“When Elegance Becomes Inconvenient: Violence in Word and Deed in Nijô Yoshimoto’s Solace of Words at Ojima

Kendra Strand, University of Iowa

At the turn of the fourteenth century, generations of strain upon imperial succession practices in Japan had led to an imperial court fractured in violent political rivalry. When Southern Court forces attacked what is now Kyoto in 1353, Norther Court Emperor Go- Kôgon (r. 1352-1371) was forced to flee the capital and seek refuge in Ojima, a remote landholding in Mino province. Nijô Yoshimoto (1320-1388), then regent to Emperor Go-Kôgon, hurried to join the imperial party in Ojima. In Solace of Words at Ojima (Ojima no kuchizusami 1353), Yoshimoto records this journey as a travel diary, which follows the predictable format of prose passages capped by poetry on utamakura, or place names that have become famous in poetry.  Using utamakura, which depends upon a knowledge necessary for making reference to famous place names and the poets and poems they recall, allows Yoshimoto to demonstrate his literary expertise, while also also creating a space to explore examples of famous past poets and rulers who wrongfully suffered exile in Japanese and Chinese literary history. However, Yoshimoto frequently dismisses the utamakura sites that he encounters, with reactions that range from distraction to distaste. On the one hand, it is a logical and entirely relatable reaction by Yoshimoto, who is presumably reacting to the concrete danger of a violent expulsion from his home in the capital. On the other hand, introducing utamakura only to disrupt the typical travel diary format, does violence to the poetic tradition of recalling poems, poets, and other historical or literary events that may be associated with the famous place names. This paper explores the literal and rhetorical violence that is narrated in Yoshimoto’s Solace of Words as well as the potential this creates for expressing socio-political power during a moment when this power is very much in question.


Friday 5:00-6:15 pm Buffet dinner Greetings by Associate Dean Elizabeth Hamilton


Friday 6:15-8:00 pm

SESSION 4:  Bodily Violence in Japanese Literature & Visual Arts


“Bodily Violence & Shôjo in Contemporary Japan”

Faye Kleeman, University of Colorado

This paper will explore the covert violence that lies beneath the seemingly benign contemporary Japanese popular culture, specifically the ubiquitous everyday iconography of the shōjo. Shōjo as a signifier has been circulated, appropriated, and consumed abundantly since the late 20th century. As the embodiment of kawaii and Moe culture, the usually sweet and nonthreatening nature of the icon is further empowered by the recent positivist term joshiryoku 女子力, chosen as the most popular term (ryūkōgo) of 2009, which seems to imply that gal power has arrived in Japan. My paper looks at contemporary artistic and literary appropriations of feminine bodies through an examination of the artist Aida Makoto and Akutagawa Award-winning writer Kanehara Hitomi’s portrayal of shōjo, with a specific focus on their use of violence to the feminine body. Aida Makoto is always provocative, if not controversial, in his artistic endeavors. His willingness to engage critically in his art with what he sees as the violent consumption of feminine bodies in contemporary Japanese media sets him apart from other academically trained artists of his generation (e.g. Murakami Takashi, Nara Yoshitomo, Tenmyōya Hisashi, etc.). Aida invokes the painterly traditions of the Edo and Taishō eras to address the shōjo iconography that is frequently camouflaged under kawaii and moe cultural elements. On the other hand, Kanehara Hitomi’s award wining debut novel Snake and Pierce (hebi ni piasu) investigates bodily subjectivity in contemporary Japan through tropes of self-mutilation, body modification, and anorexia. Aida’s representational and Kanehara’s presentational deployment of the shōjo body serves as a productive way to thinking about the issues of the representation of violence and the anesthetization of our response. The paper also seeks to address the pedagogical effectiveness and problematics of using sexually explicit and violent images in the undergraduate classroom when talking about violence.


“Slow Violence Across Nations and Bodies: The Scars of Ishiuchi Miyako”

Jeffrey Angles, Western Michigan University

Since the 1970s, Japan’s most important feminist photographer, Ishiuchi Miyako (b. 1947) has depicted the traces violence leaves upon nations and individual bodies. In recent years, she has garnered international attention by winning the 2014 Hasselblad Award and hosting exhibitions such as the 2015 retrospective Postwar Shadows at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, few outside Japan are familiar with Ishiuchi as a writer and cultural critic, despite the fact that she has written numerous books of essays about the ways in which postwar Japan has seen (or failed to see) institutional, cross-generational, and national violence.

This presentation looks at two books which combine word and image to dramatic effect: Monokurōmu (Monochrome, 1993) and Kizuato (Scars, 2005). The former depicts Ishiuchi’s hometown of Yokosuka, the site of a large U.S. naval base, to explore the ways that the lingering violence of the postwar order has led to dramatic scars on the landscape—a cultural and economic bifurcation of the city that profoundly affects the lives of its inhabitants.  The latter collection consists of a series of essays and close-up photos of the scars left on women’s bodies by accidents, trauma, and surgery—scars that have shaped the identities and economic destinies of the women that bear them.  Both collections use the metaphor of scars to explore “slow violence” (to borrow a term from environmental critic Rob Nixon) and the ways that choices made at higher, institutional levels, especially the level of the nation, affect lives in palpable, visceral ways.  As Ishiuchi shows, however, this violence does not merely produce tragic results. The figures in her photos and essays are vividly alive; if anything, their scars produce unique identities, which can be the starting point for engaged social action and a springboard toward justice.


“The Body and War: Violence in the Work of Playwright and Novelist Juro Kara”

Higuchi Yoshizumi, Tokyo

In the Japanese culture of the 1960s, a movement erupted that denied formalistic post-war modernism through the contraposition of the body. One finds an explosion of sex and violence, anti-modern and anti-city themes in cinema, plays, art and music and other art forms – so much so, that it was known as the “age of the body.” Although this looked like anarchy, there was a sincere drive to reveal other possibilities for the era by envisioning the postwar period as an illusion and by reviving violence. One of the central pillars of the 1960s avant-garde culture movement, Kara Jūrō, considered culture to be “the product of struggle.” Kara deconstructed existing forms of expression and performed street theater in tents, even taking this art form on a tour of South Korea, Bangladesh, and Palestinian refugee camps in the early 1970s. He attempted to discover “another postwar” through new encounters with Asia and becoming deeply involved in the life of the masses. This paper compares Kara’s work with his contemporaries, such as Yukio Mishima, and discusses the plays A Tale of Two Cities, The Tiger of Bengal, Kara’s version of Matasaburo of the Wind, and the novel “Rainbow Gale.” It analyzes the way that Kara depicts Koreans residents in Japan, rootless Japanese returnees from Manchuria, former military personnel, Self-Defense Force personnel, and so on—all of whom were excluded minorities in the postwar period. It also discusses the ways Kara explores the violence that lurks within culture, a theme that is still relevant even today.


“Escape to Nowhere: The Postwar Writings of Chang Hyŏkchu”

Christina Yi, University of British Columbia

As many scholars have shown, the reordering of borders in Asia following Japan’s defeat to the Allied Powers in 1945 triggered a mass movement of bodies “back” to the national spaces they were now said to belong to. It also led to the creation of the zainichi (resident) Korean diasporic population in Japan, as those who were unwilling or unable to repatriate to Korea found themselves stateless and relegated to alien resident status. This paper explores the interrelated workings of repatriation, colonial collaboration, and politicized violence through an analysis of Chang Hyŏkchu’s Japanese-language short story “Escape” (Dasshutsu, 1946). Born in Korea in 1905, Chang was living in mainland Japan when the war ended and remained there until his death in 1998. In “Escape,” Japanese colonial rule in Korea is figured as a kind of gendered pathology, marked by an excess of wild desire and duplicity. The male Japanese protagonist of the story repudiates the violence of the colonial past, attempting instead to envision a new, humanist relationship between Japan and Korea through the trope of homosocial love – but is only able to do so from his position as a (former) male colonizer, a fact that is acknowledged through the use of a frame narrative centered on a male Korean narrator. By examining the ways gender, class, and ethnicity intersect in “Escape,” I intend to show how the discursive category of the “repatriate” both obscured and eclipsed other, more violent narratives of war mobilization and empire.


Friday 8:00 pm  Free time: Concert at Finney Chapel or Art Museum reception


Saturday, February 17, 2018 SATURDAY VENUE: AJ Lewis Center

Registration open from 30 minutes before the first event each day

Saturday 8:00-8:30 am  Coffee and light refreshments


Sat. 8:30-9:45 am

Session 5A: New Research in Literary Studies


“Violence and Literature in Kim Nae-sŏng’s “The Oval Mirror””

Quillon Arkenstone, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Called “Korea’s Edogawa Ranpo,” Kim Nae-sŏng (1909-1957) debuted in 1935 with “The Oval Mirror” (Daenkei no kagami), published in the mystery magazine Profile (Purofuiru). Centered on the unsolved murder of the wife of a famous writer in Pyŏngyang, the story melds literary and real violence when the narrator, the former lover of the murdered woman and a prime suspect in her death, tries to clear his name by entering a magazine contest to solve the case. Inspiration comes during a stroll along the Taedong River where he encounters a film shoot of Ozaki Kōyō’s Gold Demon (Konjiki yasha), and as he watches a succession of takes of the infamous scene in which Kan’ichi kicks Omiya to the ground he begins to envision the murder as a melodrama written—and subsequently acted out—by the killer, giving him a plausible solution to the mystery and winning him the prize. The interplay between this literary and real violence in “The Oval Mirror” is the focus of my presentation, and in discussing how its depiction fits within the world of the work I make the case for viewing it as reflective of the larger relationship between writer and audience. Specifically, for Kim, his historical position as a Korean writer writing (in Japanese) for a metropolitan readership inevitably dictates what he is able to say as well as what he is not able to say, and in treating both as equally significant my presentation will highlight one way in particular in which colonial subjectivity (conscious or not) can condition the writing of violence.


“Memory of violence as a possibility for community in Ri Kaisei’s Shōnin no inai kōkei

Andrew Harding, Cornell University

Sociological studies of Japan’s “Zainichi” Korean population have, particularly since the 1990s, somewhat shifted their critical approach from one which understood that community from within a rigorously nation-bound framework to one which locates it at the intersection, or in the crevices of, a transnational regime of internationalist discourse. Beginning with Iinuma Jirō’s notion of a “third way” scholars began to identify a “Zainichi” space which was not reduceable to a simple choice between ‘returning’ to Korea or naturalizing as Japanese. More recent work by the likes of Yun Kŏnja, John Lie, and Sonia Ryang has also recognized the complicity – and genealogical commonality – between Japanese imperial ideology and postwar ethnic-nationalisms in Japan and the Koreas, despite the appositional structure in which they have been previously compared. Yet in the field of literary criticism, studies of so-called “Zainichi literature” have tended to insist on its significance as a space that negotiates between “Japan” and “Korea”, and have thus reinforced a regime that emphasizes the parity of ethnicity and nationality as a normative human state. In this context, I will present a reading of Ri Kaisei’s (K: Yi Hoesŏng’s) novella, Shōnin no inai kōkei (“A scene without a witness”), a story in which two estranged friends – one Japanese, the other “Zainichi” – are reacquainted over a particular memory of colonial violence. I argue that not only does Ri’s text refuse to fall back on the postwar narrative of Korea-as-victim/Japan-as-perpetrator, but that it also recognizes the coercive violence which this politics of ressentiment has since justified. Instead, the text hints towards the possibility of a community which roots itself in a shared memory of colonial violence; one which breaks down the distinction between coercion and complicity by acknowledging the powerlessness of the individual in the face of state sanctioned violence.


“When Disaster Strikes: Hideo Furukawa’s Violent Circles and Their Immateriality”

Victoria Oana Lupascu, Pennsylvania State University

In Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Rob Nixon argues that in order to make slow violence visible, to uncovers its destructive and silent work, we have to, among a number of other things, recast the meaning of what it means to be at risk. Slow violence, Nixon argues, manifests itself in the aftermath of catastrophes and impacts people who are both in situ and thousands of miles away, as part and parcel of an intricately interconnected global network. My paper explores the concept of concentric circles that Hideo Furukawa engages with in his work, Horses, Horses, and in the End the Light Remains Pure. A Tale that Begins with Fukushima; I conceptualize the circles as a heuristic for slow violence both in Japan, as well as at a global scale. In the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown on 3.11 in Fukushima, concentric circles of exclusion, evacuation and danger were intended to demarcate the space and indicate the radius for the spread of the radioactive particles. However, I claim that in Furukawa’s Horse, Horses the circles’ immateriality translates into a purely rhetorical technique of separation that uncovers the bureaucratic violence in managing a disaster, as well as the violence of a political and logistical system collapsing under the weight of an ecologic catastrophe. I argue that the concentric circles around the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant have a temporal as much as geographical aspect and concentrate the meaning of being at risk for their inhabitants, while effacing the precarious situation in which people outside the circles are placed in by the establishment of such circles. If the existence of circles rhetorically marked danger zones, their dissolution emphasizes the transition from officially recognized danger zones to spaces where slow violence due to radioactive particles can unravel without official acknowledgement.


Sat. 8:30-9:45 am

Session 6A: New Research in Literary Studies


“Violence against Monks in Shabby Stoles: Justice and Punishment in Nihon Ryōiki

Shih-Wei Sun, UCLA

Regarded as the earliest collection of Buddhist anecdotal stories in Japan, Nihon ryōiki was compiled in the early Heian period by a low-ranking priest who was active mostly in areas outside of the imperial court. The Nihon ryōiki asserts that a disdain for Buddhist teachings deserves serious penalty and immediate retributions in the present life. In this text, a series of stories follows a set pattern of criticizing violent behaviors against low-ranking monks, arguing that anyone that attacks those who wear surplice will be seriously punished.  Among these mostly similar stories, there is one episode that stands out and is somewhat different from the others. It is the first story of second volume, On Depending on One’s Exalted Virtue, Committing the Offensive of Hitting a Humble Novice, and Receiving the Immediate Penalty of a Violent Death, which describes how Prince Nagaya punished a novice by striking him on the head hard enough to draw blood, and soon after that he was forced to commit suicide. Known as an influential political figure and a cultural icon, Prince Nagaya committed suicide because of a political conspiracy organized by his rivals from Fujiwara family. The story in Nihon ryōiki attempts to make a reasonable explanation on his death. However, if we examine Nagaya’s career and life based on writings other than Nihon ryōiki, it is obvious that the violent character created in this story is very different from his image in historical records and literary collections. In fact, Nagaya was an unlikely target of criticism by Buddhists, since he was an active promoter and protector of Buddhism. This presentation analyzes how the Nihon ryōiki justifies retribution in these stories, and argues that the stories of violent retribution suggest a tension and conflict between the ideals of justice of the imperial court and those of the lower-ranking aristocracy.


“The Bunbu Paradigm Reconsidered: Warrior Literacy and Symbolic Violence in Late Medieval Japan”

Pier Carlo Tommasi, Ca’Foscari University of Venice

The ideal of a cultured warrior is a recurrent theme in pre-modern normative literature and Japan makes no exception. This paper aims at providing a critical analysis of medieval discourse on knowledge and violence, synthesized in the motto bunbu ryōdō 文武両道 (“double path of writing and warring”), by tracing the intertextual similarities between different types of documents in order to reveal its strategic function.

Recent scholarship on the topic has shown how the bunbu binary changed uninterruptedly over time, adapting to the contingencies of each historical conjuncture. Between the late 15th and early 17th century, the weakening of Ashikaga’s authority opened the way to regional potentates, whose claim to power often found its legitimating source in this formidable rhetorical weapon. Relying on an archive of representative texts, I will attempt to demonstrate how the notion of bunbu spread across social classes and – borrowing Bourdieu’s expression – emerged as a peculiar form of symbolic violence.

Warriors’ chronicles, house precepts and textbooks propound civil and military virtues as the indispensable prerequisites for a would-be leader, and exhort him to pursue a variety of interests for the sake of good governance. However, the acquisition of cultural capital from literacy alone would never suffice in an age of discord, thus the necessity arises of establishing a tighter control through the exercise of brutal force. In my presentation, I contend this highly recursive trope served the purpose of empowering an ever-shifting rule, substantiating warriors’ essential traits and justifying their political primacy in inter- and intra-class conflicts. In this sense, one may rethink the ubiquitous notion of bunbu as a new keyword to understand the political and literary landscape of late medieval Japan.




Sat. 9:45-10:00 am Coffee break


Saturday 10:00 am -12:00 pm


Session 5B: Family Disrupted

Discussant: Eiji Sekine, Purdue University

Our panel will focus on violence in the family.  In Japan, it is often the case that violence in domesticity is not openly talked about due to the idea of “sekentei” (public eyes) and a feeling of shame.   Our presentations will consider fictional portrayals of violence in many forms – physical violence, verbal abuse, neglect and psychological control – and illuminate how the characters cope with and survive violence. Sharalyn Orbaugh’s presentation will analyze the rhetoric behind kamishibai – in particular, stories which deal with family trauma – discussing the government’s utilization of kamishibai for the promotion of the war.  Chiara Ghidini’s presentation will look at representations of senile dementia in post war fiction and film, and examine this issue from historical and socio-cultural perspectives.  Paola Scrolavezza’s presentation will discuss the disrupted modern family depicted in Kirino Natsuo’s novella; the heroine’s revelation of her past contains critical commentaries on the idea of family in the 1990s. Hiromi Dollase’s presentation will examine manga which deal with a mother’s violence against a daughter, revealing the complex negative psyche that a mother holds in relation to her daughter.We will illuminate the power structure and the mechanism of violence and control embedded in the modern family system and society.  


“Destroy the Family, Save the Empire: the bizarre rhetoric of mobilization propaganda, 1937-45”

Sharalyn Orbaugh, University of British Columbia

During Japan’s Fifteen Year War (1931-1945), kamishibai plays were one of the most widely distributed and frequently accessed media used to transmit propaganda messages to audiences in Japan and its colonies. Originally a street performance narrative art for children that celebrated the earthy and lurid, kamishibai was repurposed during the war to address adults as well, and to convey to all its audiences important messages—through illustrations, script, and performance techniques—encouraging them to support the war effort. Many propaganda kamishibai plays were fictional narratives featuring appealing and believable characters whose attitudes and actions the audience members were implicitly invited to emulate. But one of the most puzzling aspects of such plays is the frequent depiction of family trauma, used not as a negative example to be avoided but as a positive tool in support of the empire. This presentation will explore and analyze this narrative rhetoric as it was aimed at a range of demographic groups, including inhabitants of the colonies, and will put forward some theories about the deep workings of propaganda, as coupled with social concepts of the family, that can explain its paradoxical effectiveness.


’Who’s there?’ Disruption, revulsion and transformation in the portrayal of senile dementia within post-war Japanese literature and cinema”

Chiara Ghidini, University of Naples “L’Orientale”

The paper aims to focus on the representation of societal and family violence inflicted on elders affected with dementia, as well as of the violence of dementia itself, in Japanese post-war fictional writings and films. Beginning with bestselling story by Niwa Fumio, Iyagarase no nenrei (The Hateful Age, 1947), which portrays the physical and mental deterioration of elders in the immediate aftermath of the Pacific war, the paper will then focus on fictional works published in the 1970s and early 1980s, such as Ariyoshi Sawako’s Kōkotsu no hito (translated as The Twilight Years, 1972), Inoue Yasushi’s Waga haha no ki (Chronicle of My Mother, 1975) and Irokawa Takehiro’s Hyaku (Hundred, 1982).  Also, the paper will dwell on Takano Fumiko’s manga Tanabe no Tsuru (1982), where the author unusually employs the viewpoint of Tsuru, an 82 year-old woman affected with senile dementia, cleverly depicting her child-like vulnerability and dependence. Through works produced in more recent years, such as Mobu Norio’s Kaigo nyūmon (Introduction to Care, 2004), partly Japanese film Ichiban utsukushii natsu (Firefly Dreams, 2001, directed by John Williams) and documentary Do You Know What My Name Is (2012, directed by Kazama Naomi and Ōta Shigeru), where elders affected with dementia are humanised in order to show how they “exist as much more than their symptoms,” the paper hopes to outline a type of alphabet of senile dementia in after-war Japanese literature and cinema, while taking into account critical historical, political and socio-cultural factors related to elder abuse and family conflicts.


“Translating Family Violence in Contemporary Japanese Literature: Dynamics of (Cruel) Affectivity in Zangyakuki by Kirino Natsuo”

Paola Scrolavezza, University of Bologna

Keiko, a 10 year old girl, has been kidnapped on her way home from ballet class. Her abductor keeps her as a prisoner in the upstairs of the factory where he works, and one year has passed before the factory owner’s wife discovers and frees her. Twenty-five years later Keiko, now a famous writer, leaves her husband without a word except for a post-it note upon her latest novel’s manuscript, titled Zangyakuki. Alongside the novel lies a letter from her abductor, Kenji, who recently has been released from prison. Zangyakuki focuses on Keiko’s relationship with Kenji during her captivity, and the reader relives Keiko’s experience through her eyes. But the recurring questions are: what is fiction and what is real? what is said and what is unsaid? In Zangyakuki, Kirino Natsuo investigates a suffering rooted before and beyond the outrage, into the dirty suburbs, into the empty eyes of people watching without seeing, into Keiko’s ill-functioning family. My presentation will focus on the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion emerging in (broken) family relationship, society and urban spaces which are at the core of the novel, and on the blurred border between (cruel) affectivity and violence: the ambiguous relationship between Keiko and Kenji stems from their being both ‘outside/r’ (Keiko was bullied prior to her kidnapping; her family was already broken) and fated to be forgotten. During the Nineties, Japan went through a series of deep transformations on a political, economic, social and cultural level. Family is certainly one of the areas in which this is more evident (Rebick and Takenaka, 2009; Kumagai e Ishii-Kuntz, 2016). Trough Kirino eyes we can witness the transformations and disintegration of contemporary family: real or imaginary, cruel or cozy, desired or rejected, often in a precarious balance in the ambivalent space created between real and ideal.


“Daughter’s Search for “Mother” in Ai o kou hito (A Person Begging for Love)”

Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase, Vassar College

It was not until 1990 that terms such as child abuse and child neglect became widely known in Japan.  After the Child Abuse Prevention Law was established in 2000, inquiries and reports regarding child abuse increased drastically. Today, child abuse is regarded as one of the most serious social issues. Manga artist Sone Fumiko has been pursuing this topic in her works.  Sone’s manga is based on her careful research and actual field work, and her works contain valuable information on recent studies on this subject matter.  My presentation will discuss her Ai o kou hito, originally a novel written by Shimoda Harumi in 1992.  The original story deals with the heroine’s difficult relationship with her mother, as well as her search for her father’s Taiwanese family roots.  Sone Fumiko’s manga version focuses solely on the relationship between the mother and the daughter.  The manga, with graphically powerful images, depicts the mother’s verbal and physical violence against her daughter, which accelerates after the daughter reaches puberty.  Despite her mother’s mistreatment, the daughter never abandons hope that her mother will someday change and show affection to her.  The daughter eventually marries and is released from the physical control of her mother; however, the trauma that she received always haunts her.  She starts researching her mother’s past to find the true motive for the violence she inflicted, hoping to find a good “Mother” possessed of maternal instinct hidden behind her frightening mask. Sone’s manga works have been published in ladies comic magazines, which are known for the graphic portrayal of women’s bodies.  Ai o kou hito utilizes that tradition to present this serious social issue in bold relief.  


Saturday 10:00 am -12:00 pm

Session 6B: Violence in Traditional Japanese Literary Contexts

The purpose of this panel is to explore aspects of the representation of violence in traditional Japanese literary, folk, and dramatic art forms. The papers, in various and illuminating ways, illustrate that violence leads to transcendence or divine governance.   But the permutations of this theme are diverse and elucidate both their genres and their respective historical periods.  Violence to end violence and unite the terrestrial realm; violence leading to individual enlightenment; violence to rid the world of oppression—these tropes find resonance and appear again and again in the present.  However, the works examined in this panel are, in the light of the historical record, projections for an imaginary conclusion. Richard Torrance’s paper concerns accounts in 8th century sources, notably the Kojiki and Nihon shoki, of Yamato’s repeated successful violent conquests of Izumo in mythical times. However, the paper argues that in reality there never was a violent conquest of Izumo and that the region remained autonomous or semi-autonomous until 798. Noriko Reider’s presentation examines the 1056 transformation of Yasaburō Basa, who kidnaps and eats humans, into Myōtara Tennyo, a deity who is guardian of children and virtuous men and women. Naomi Fukumori’s paper concerns Kenreimon’in Ukyō no Daibu shū (The Poetic Memoirs of Lady Daibu, ca. 1220), its treatment of the Genpei War, and its reception during WWII.  Shelley Fenno Quinn’s presentation concerns two modern kyōgen plays that draw on traditional comedy to comment on the human toll of war, Hoashi Masanori’s Koremori (1989), and Umehara Takeshi’s Ōsama to kyōryū (The king and the dinosaur, 2003). The classical tradition continues to be deeply rooted in the political and popular imagination. This panel illustrates the diverse ways in which, over centuries, violence, imaginary and real, was validated.


“Mythic Representations of the Violent Vanquishing of Izumo”

Richard Torrance, Naomi Ohio State University

According to the imperial myths in the Kojiki (712) and Nihon shoki (720) Izumo was conquered by the Yamato polity in mythic times.  Imperial myth tells of Izumo being conquered on multiple occasions over eons.  The question arises, in the case of Izumo, do mythic representations of violence have a relationship to historical reality?

Scholarly opinion is sharply divided on this question.  For Torigoe Kenzaburō 鳥越憲三郎and Matsumae Takeshi松前健, Izumo was simply a narrative place filler used as an antagonist to enhance the power and prestige of the Yamato in the official Imperial histories of Japan.  In short, the mythological violence of imperial mythology never happened because Izumo was too weak to resist the Yamato hegemony in the first place.  On the other hand, Murai Yasuhiko 村井康彦 believes based on a literal reading of the myths that Izumo was in control of vast areas of the archipelago, including the home region of Yamato power. This paper argues that Izumo was an important independent presence along the Japan Sea coast, and it addresses the question of the historical reality of mythological violence in the light of other 8th century documents, archeological evidence, and the Izumo no kuni fudoki.


“Legends of Yasaburō Basa”

Noriko Reider Miami University

Legends of Yasaburō Basa (Yasaburō’s mother) in Niigata prefecture describe an evil old woman called Yasaburō Basa who enjoys eating corpses – she even attempts to eat her own son. Violence against children, especially one’s own offspring, is the most visceral of violent events. Even Kishimo (Hārītī in Sanskrit), a children-eater who became a protector of children, did not eat her children. Yasaburō Basa eventually becomes an oni-hag and resides on nearby Mt. Yahiko. With Mt. Yahiko as her base, she kidnaps and eats humans. In 1056, however, remonstrated by Buddhist priest named Tenkai, Yasaburō Basa repented her sin and became a deity called Myōtara Tennyo. She transformed from a violent hag to a guardian of children and good men and women. The narrative of Yasaburō Basa legends and the statue of Myōtara Tennyo installed in the main hall of Hōkōin, Shingon sect of Buddhism, located next to Yahiko Shrine on Mt. Yahiko remind one of legends of the Datsueba (literally “stripping-clothes old woman), who sits at the Sanzu River and strips the clothes off the dead mercilessly, as well as Yamauba, a human eater who lives in the mountains. This presentation examines the relationship among Yasaburōbasa-Myōtara Tennyo, Datsueba, and Yamauba, and what these similarities mean to women of the late medieval and early modern periods.


Kenreimon’in Ukyō no Daibu shū: The Experience of the Genpei War and the Work’s Reception during WWII”

Naomi Fukumori, Ohio State University

The poet Ōoka Makoto (1913-2017) has claimed that the tragedies of the Genpei War (1180-1185) gave rise in prose to The Tale of the Heike (after 1212), and in poetry led to the creation of Kenreimon’in Ukyō no Daibu shū (ca. 1220), known in English through Philip Tudor Harries’s translation, The Poetic Memoirs of Lady Daibu. Lady Daibu (1157?-?) served as a lady-in-waiting to Keireimon’in (Taira no Tokushi, 1155-1214)—the consort of Emperor Takakura and daughter of Taira no Kiyomori—and had a love affair with Taira no Sukemori (1158-1185)—Kiyomori’s grandson. Like The Tale of the Heike, Lady Daibu’s poetic memoir focuses on the changing fortunes of the Taira clan, but, through poetry and varying lengths of narrative context (kotobagaki), uniquely presents this tumultuous shift through Lady Daibu’s experience of her lover Sukemori’s death in the war. Lady Daibu’s poetic memoir poignantly records her anxious wait for news of Sukemori, ever-mindful of Sukemori’s pleas to her prior to leaving the capital to pray for his repose. While it maintained an interested readership throughout its history, Kenreimon’in Ukyō no Daibu shū surged in popularity in during WWII, with the 1939 publication of an annotated text of the work by Sasaki Nobutsuna (1872-1963). This paper will explore the treatment of war memory in Kenreimon’in Ukyō no Daibu shū and analyze the reception of this work through the active experience of WWII in Japan by both scholars and the general readership.


“ Critical Treatments of War in Two ‘New’ Kyōgen Plays”

Shelley Fenno Quinn, The Ohio State University

This paper will examine two new works (shinsaku) in the comedic genre of kyōgen that treat the human toll of war. I will begin with an overview of Hoashi Masanori’s kyōgen, Koremori, first performed in 1989 at the National Noh Theatre in Tokyo. Hoashi (1931-2016) was a noh flautist and the composer of twelve kyōgen plays. Koremori takes as its frame the life story of Taira no Koremori as depicted in the medieval martial tale Heike monogatari (The tale of the Heike). Though Koremori was the direct descendant of the head of the illustrious warrior clan, the Taira, he was not the least bit heroic. He abhorred the battlefield and chose to flee it out of love for his family. His story is retold in a blend of humor and pathos. The second kyōgen Ōsama to kyōryū (The king and the dinosaur), by the philosopher and cultural critic Umehara Takeshi (1925-), was first performed in 2003 at the National Noh Theatre. It features the avaricious king of an imaginary “Kingdom of the Sun” (Taiyō no kuni). This king (whose looks are suspiciously reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty) plots with his ministers to get rich by conducting wars against other countries. All goes as planned until he is visited by the spirit of a dinosaur, who relates his own cautionary tale of destruction. A comedic form such as kyōgen and a theme such as war may seem an unnatural pairing, but an introduction to these two works should underscore that kyōgen can serve as a powerful medium for playful but incisive treatment of the most serious of topics.


Saturday 12:00-1:00 Buffett Lunch


Saturday 1:00-2:30 SESSION 7 Proletarian Responses to Class Violence

Nathan Shockey, Bard College, Discussant


“Proletarian Responses to Class Violence”

The lives of the poor have registered in elite literary forms as obscene and fraught with violence, but the proletarian arts movement of the “red decade” (1925-1935) sought to make visible the systemic class violence that created the grotesquerie of poverty. They endeavored to show how certain kinds of violence experienced as deeply personal such as sexual harassment, elitism in education, and hunger were not only the result of class exploitation, but also functioned to sustain, indeed justify, that exploitation. As Kobayashi Takiji wrote to his editor at Central Review, the very mainstream publication about to publish his “Absentee Landlord”: tenant farmers didn’t need to be shown “how wretched their lives were,” but “why they were wretched” (For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution, 9.)  Mika Endo discusses how the attention to educational materials failed poor children, exposing the hypocrisy of education as a social ladder. Norma Field discusses a prescient story by a proletarian writer who called out the abuses specially suffered by women on the home front. And Heather Bowen-Struyk discusses the everyday indecencies of colonial violence rendered visible in proletarian literature.


“Proletarian Protest and Protections against Violence in Lower-class Childhood”

Mika Endo, Bard College

The presence of violence in children’s lives is often considered anathema to a civilized society that ensures the rights of childhood. Yet, childhood in early twentieth Japan was marked by forms of violence that disproportionately affected the lives of children of the lower classes. From physical violence such as that which pervaded the numerous tenant farmer strikes of the 1920s to the structural violence in public schools that regarded lower-class children as inferior, few protections were guaranteed them in the public realm. This paper examines the forms of violence that were symptomatic of class tensions and sanctioned class divisions, especially within public education and children’s culture.

As the proletarian movement gained momentum in the late 1920s into the 1930s, its critique of the Ministry of Education laid bare the repressive educational policies that reproduced a classed society. The movement, which itself grew to be condemned by critics for inflicting what detractors saw as a kind of ‘violence’ against children through their radicalization, had to repeatedly confront the meaning of the myriad forms of violence in children’s lives. Through an investigation of progressive education journals such as Shinkō kyōiku [New Education], stories written for children, and a creative writing pedagogy popular in prewar Japan known as tsuzurikata, this presentation considers how writers, educators, and children themselves came to terms with the violence of a classed society.


“Defying Environmental Harm, Sexism, Poverty, and War in Tokyo, 1932”

Norma Field, University of Chicago

            Following the ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster has given me a new appreciation for the gross and subtle, abiding violence perpetrated on oneself and the community by the denial of victimization. So unwelcome is the thought of health risks for themselves and especially, their children, that the majority who feel they have no choice but to remain on contaminated lands avoid the topic altogether. Embracing the call for reconstruction is the path of least resistance. Most painfully, this all too often entails mutual surveillance and silencing. Proletarian writer Matsuda Tokiko’s 1932 short story, “Another Battlefront” (For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution) is set in a Tokyo factory redirected toward rubber production for the war effort. Told from the viewpoint of a young woman worker, the story deftly brings together the threat of gas explosions and layoffs, the thrill of organizing protest and evading detection, and the sexual harassment visited on the conventionally attractive and the conventionally unattractive woman. The struggle against workplace hazards, both environmental and social, gains coherence through the workers’ actions as they build relationships of trust and acknowledge the harms inflicted on their bodies and psyches as collective in impact and interdependent with the war effort. How did such an apparently prophetic story come to be written in 1932? What difference does it make that these issues come together in a work of fiction? How does it matter that it was written as part of a political collectivity? I will try to address these questions through an examination of Matsuda Tokiko’s remarkable and paradigmatic life (1905-2004), beginning in an Akita mining town and extending long enough to witness the Iraq War.


“Colonial Violence in Proletarian Literature”

Heather Bowen-Struyk DePaul University

In Chang Hyŏk-chu’s “Hell of the Starving” (1932), protagonist Masan returns from work determined to refuse exploitation, but he sees the sweet sleeping face of his wife and remembers with affection how they courted: “Today Masan had found the unjust conduct of the foremen so repellent that he’d decided never to go back to work again, but now as he looked down at his wife, and over at his sleeping children—with bellies protruding like bullfrogs—he knew he simply had to go on working, even if only for that twenty-five chǒn per day” (trans. Samuel Perry, in For Dignity, Justice, and Revolution, 290). Like Yi Ki-yŏng’s “Rat Fire” (1933) and other stories of colonial Korea, the many indignities of poverty are exacerbated by the logic of imperialist civilizing which exploits native traditions to keep Koreans from protesting while simultaneously depriving them of self-governance.


Saturday 2:30-3:00 Coffee Break


Saturday 3:00-5:00 SESSION 8

Keynote Panel: Atomic Art & Violence


“The Hiroshima Panels: Reception of Atomic Bomb Paintings”


Okamura Yukinori, Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels, Saitama, Japan

原爆の図丸木美術館学芸員 岡村幸宣



Notohara Yumi, Osaka College of Music

大阪音楽大学 能登原由美

“Music as another Storyteller of “Hiroshima”


Charlotte Eubanks, Pennsylvania State University

 “Maruki Toshi and the Art of Persistence”


Saturday 5:30-6:00 pm Reception & Dinner

Location: Hotel at Oberlin, Ballroom, 2nd Floor


Saturday 7:00-8:30 pm Session 9

The Violence of Empire: Revisiting Colonial Narratives of Massacres, Insurrection, and Dislocation

Discussant, Ken K. Ito, University of Hawai’i at Manoa


Violence is a constant presence in fictional narratives of imperialism and colonialism, whether as an overt feature or a subtle part of their tenor. Drawing on the historical past of imperial Japan, such stories inevitably explore in different ways the aggression and violation at the core of the imperial/colonial project. At the same time, the depictions found in fictional narratives are not always straightforward, engaging as they do with the complexities of power and identity. This panel revisits twentieth-century narratives that represent “the violence of empire” from different perspectives and regions (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria), examining its tragic, destructive force as well as literary potential for critique and self-reflexive interrogation. Organized in chronological order of the events/setting, these papers examine questions unique to particular texts along with ideas shared across time. In exploring the representation of the 1923 Kantō Earthquake massacres of Koreans in works by postwar Zainichi novelists, Haag analyzes the event’s complex role in the memorialization of ethnic identity and the definition of national borders. Next, Tierney discusses another historical massacre, this one in Taiwan: the 1930 Musha Incident that led to the slaughter of both Japanese and so-called native aboriginals. By exploring narratives from the 1930s as well as the postwar period, he suggests that this violent event encapsulates specific ideas about savagery and civilization. Kono examines a 1938 story by a Korean writer set in Manchuria, against a backdrop of widespread fear of attacks by bandits.  Through analysis of different manifestations of violence in the story, she discusses the role of fear and aggression in colonial identity production. Finally, Suzuki focuses on a 1980s I-novel about being a refugee and repatriate set in 1945-46 Manchuria. By using certain material objects such as the kimono, the narrative attempts to “speak” of ideas and events that still persist today as taboo.    


“Mediated Memories of the 1923 Kantō Earthquake Massacres: A History of Violence in Korean Diasporic Literature”

Andre Haag, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

How does empire’s violence come to be reinscribed as identity? The mass murder of ethnic Korean colonial subjects after the 1923 Kantō Earthquake by fearful Japanese mobs searching for Korean terrorists has, as John Lie notes, become “an enduring memory and source of identity for the Korean population in Japan, the equivalent of slavery for African-Americans and the Shoah for Jewish Americans.” Literary works by Korean diasporic writers in Japan have long played a key role as medium for the textualization of this ethnic memory of violence, from early reflections by colonial-era authors like Chŏng Yŏn-kyu shortly after the massacres, to the seemingly obligatory incorporation of the killings in works by leading postwar Zainichi novelists such as Lee Hoesung, Yi Yang-ji, and Yu Miri. This paper examines how such literary narratives and commentary have depicted the massacres–whether reenacting graphic atrocities, shamanistically channeling the angry ghosts of the murdered, or abstracting the experience as idealized collective suffering–to interrogate how they ascribe meaning to 1923 as revelatory metonym for the underlying colonial violence and discrimination of life in (post-) imperial Japan. The Kantō earthquake massacres have been employed in diasporic writing not only to define the Zainichi condition in terms of violent precarity vis-a-vis the Japanese majority (for a largely Japanese readership), but also to police reified communal borders–exemplified by literary collaborator Chang Hyokchu’s 1952 invocation of 1923 to warn postwar Korean communists that their “terrorism” might invite a repeat of that persecution. While alluding to the massacres threatens to become a de rigeur signal of ethnic origins in Zainichi literature, I tease out the acts of narration of past violence that retain the event’s brutal yet complex specificity, and even question the reified nature of national borders dividing perpetrators and victims.


“Bodies and Violence in the Musha Incident”

Robert Tierney, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

 In October 1930, Sediq tribesman massacred 134 Japanese gathered at a sporting event in the model district of Musha in the highlands of Taiwan.  In retaliation, the Japanese army launched violent reprisals to punish the perpetrators, resulting in thousands of deaths. This extreme violence inspired numerous works of Japanese literature that paradoxically treat the aboriginal perpetrators as innocent primitives rather than bloodthirsty savages. In the 1939, Kiri no bansha (Savage Village in the Mist) Nakamura Chihei offers a historical account in which he attempts to weigh the causes.  While he acknowledges the grievances of the aborigines, he concludes that the aborigines were driven to attack the Japanese by a physiological rejection of an imposed civilization. Ōshika offers a more poetical engagement with the violence of the Musha Incident in his 1935 Yabanjin (The Savage).  The savage of the title is not an aboriginal youth at all, but rather a young Japanese assigned to the colonial police in the aboriginal areas.  He seeks to unleash his inner savage through acts of sexual transgression and violence. When he takes part in a headhunting expedition, he experiences a physical transformation and feels the blood of his forebears coursing through his veins.  In 1960, Yoshiya Nobuko wrote a short story titled Bansha no Rakujitsu (Setting Sun over the Savage Village).  Besides evoking the end of the Japanese empire, she offers an account of the Musha Incident from the perspective of a young female missionary in Musha who is fascinated by body of a young aboriginal man. In this paper, I examine the representation of bodies and violence in these accounts of an incident widely viewed as epitomizing both the impossibility of civilizing savages and the bankruptcy of Japanese colonial policies.  


“Violence, Assimilation and the Colonial Other in Manchuria”

Kimberly Kono, Smith College

During the 1930s and 1940s, Japanese colonial literature set in Manchuria often featured the threat of so-called “bandits” (hizoku 匪賊), anti-Japanese resistance forces. Particularly prominent in rural narratives, faceless hordes of “bandits” menaced Japanese settlers in the Manchurian countryside, and by extension, endangered Japanese colonial expansion on the continent. Such depictions further identified Japanese as victims, rather than agents, of violence, and justified the Japanese military presence in Manchuria. In his short story “Companions” (Dōkōsha, 1938), Korean writer Imamura Eiji complicates the association of colonized subjects with violence through the depiction of a journey by two strangers, an “assimilated” Korean and a Japanese farmer, from the colonial capital, Shinkyō (Changchun), to the Manchurian countryside. The fear of encountering “bandits” on their journey shapes the travelers’ behavior towards each other and exposes a rift in their notions of colonial otherness. Interactions with the Japanese travel companion lead the Korean protagonist to realize that his present condition of alienation and despair is a result of his assimilation. Similar to the work of Frantz Fanon and Albert Memmi, the story thus portrays assimilation as a form of colonial violence, destroying a colonized subject’s ties to their culture and compatriots. Through an analysis of different kinds of violence in the story, this paper will explore the role of fear and aggression in regulating the identities of both colonized and colonizing subjects. In particular, I will discuss how the association of certain forms of violence with otherness reinforces colonial identities and obscures the brutality of assimilation. Additionally, I will explore how Imamura’s story counters this othering process by making visible the destructive effects of assimilation, and provides one model for countering the violence of empire.


“Speaking Violence Through Things: Miyao Tomiko’s Shuka

Michiko Suzuki, University of California, Davis

Works of repatriation literature (hikiage bungaku) feature violence and the struggle to survive, as the repatriates make their way back to Japan, often from Manchuria or Korea, after the disintegration of the Empire. Many such texts are memoirs, but there are also important fictional works that explore the traumatic process of repatriation and the refugee experience. In this paper, I examine Shuka (Red Summer, 1980-85), part of a multi-volume I-novel (shishōsetsu) series by Miyao Tomiko (1926-2014), a popular fiction writer. Set in Manchuria during 1945-46, the narrative concerns the life and struggles of a young schoolteacher’s wife who is forced to evacuate and live as a pariah in a refugee camp until her successful repatriation to Japan. In examining this work, I focus on how material objects—namely kimonos—serve as a means through which the text explores the “violence of empire.” Items of clothing are objects that enhance realism, providing verisimilitude and achieving what Roland Barthes has called “the reality effect.” More importantly, however, in this novel they also function as a way for the text to explore difficult topics of trauma, violence, and wartime responsibility. Material objects operate as catalysts for self-analysis and interpretation on the part of the protagonist and the narrator/implied author. In addition, they also “speak” of taboo issues that were of particular importance in the context of the work’s publication during the early 1980s, a time when the Japanese colonial past had returned to the forefront of national consciousness, particularly with the repatriation of significant numbers of “Japanese orphans left behind in China” (Chūgoku zanryū koji). In this paper, I show the unexpected ways in which literary objects can explore the violence at the heart of the colonial/imperial project.