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    "Contending with the Modern West: Japanese and Yiddish Satires in the Era of High Imperialism”
    ( 2022-08-30)
    In the later nineteenth century, many Japanese and East European Jews, respectively, perceived their polities to be under threat from Western governments, even as some also found hope in humanitarian idealism. To understand this mixed atmosphere, we will examine two satirical works: Japanese democratic activist Nakae Chomin’s A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government (1887) and classic Yiddish novelist Sholem Abramovitch’s The Mare (1873). Each story features an idealist figure—in some measure, the author’s younger self--who is assailed by a realist and a cynic, respectively, for his naivete. Reflecting contrastive trajectories, the Japanese novel inclines to comedy, while the Yiddish one inclines to tragedy.
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    Unpredictable Agents
    ( 2022-03-09)
    Professor Mark Levin, the director of the Center for Japanese Studies, will speak with the editor of and two of the contributors to Unpredictable Agents: The Making of Japan’s Americanists during the Cold War and Beyond (University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2021). The book is a collection of twelve essays by Japanese scholars of American Studies who encountered “America” in different ways during the Cold War decades. Through the authors' personal journeys and intellectual trajectories, the essays illustrate the complex positionalities, fluid identities, ambivalent embrace, and unpredictable agency of Japan’s Ameriacnists who continue to chart their own course in and across the Pacific. In this event, three scholars for whom the University of Hawaiʻi has played a central role in their intellectual and professional growth will reflect upon their experiences and positions as “Japan’s Americanists.”
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    CJS Bento Box Series
    ( 2022-03-02)
    This penel hosts two of the best research papers that emerged in Fall 2021 from undergraduate research seminars on World War II and its legacies in Asia/Pacific (taught by CJS faculty, Professor Yuma Totani). In talking on major themes in the modern history of Japan, the two presenters apply contemporary sensibilities to understand and reassess the long-term impacts of the Allied undertaking in 1945-1952 of "transitional justice" - i.e. demilitarization and democratization of Japan - from which arose a peacefully included, prosperous Japan. The two papers show that, while the initial promises of the Allied remaking of Japan have been largely fulfilled, there still is much work to be done to strengthen Japan's commitment to protecting the rights of individual citizens - and especially women - on the one hand and, on the other, to reevaluate and redefine the role Japan is to play in the maintenance of international peace and security in the twenty-first century.
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    Monstrous Wives, Murderous Lovers, and Dead Wet Girls: Examining Feminie Vengeful Ghost in Japanese Traditional Theatre and Horror Cinema
    ( 2021-09-24)
    As in many cultures, woman is often portrayed as monstrous or evil by sheer fact of her being female. Today, no Japanese horror film is considered complete without its haunting woman spector, the female onryō, or "vengeful ghost" archetype. Barbara Creed's writings on the "monstrous feminie" illustrates an innate connection of "affinity" between woman and monster as "potent threats to vulnerable male power." Although when writing Creed was referring to Western horror cinema, the same theories can be expected to Japanese media. By analyzing the narrative style, visual representation, and enactment of this archetype found in Japanese theatre forms nō and Kabuki compared to Japanese horror films, it becomes apparent that the female onryō reflects views of the feminie identity in Japanese society. Contrary to the portrayal of the male, only once these women have become "monstrous" can they break free from sociocultural limitations and act on their vengeance. Their frightening and grotesque forms, however, invoke more terror and horror than symphathy, transforming the victims into the villans. Despite the change in norms of Japanese society, over time, the way these female onryō are presented remains arguably consistent, positioning them as more "monsters" and "freaks" rather than women. More significant is the tendency to associate these characters with feminie traits or behavior, thereby transforming them into something grotesque, extending the association of horror to the woman herself. In so doing, the female onryō may have helped serve as a means of patriarchal control prescribing women's behavior, perhaps explaining its continued prevalence.
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    Skirts, Complusory Make-Up, and Maternity Leave: The construction of normative femininity through job-hunting of university in ageing Japan
    ( 2021-10-20)
    In the last few decade, Japan witnessed an unprecedented decline in birth rate and a rapidly ageing population that caused economic stagnation. In reaction to this demographic scenario and the consequent labor shortage, former President Shinzo Abe invested his hopes in Womenomics, a set of strategies for promoting the inclusion of women in the workforce, adapting the concept put forth by GOldman Sachs analyst Kathy Matsui, according to whom women are the "most underutilised resource" in Japan. Out of nessecity, predominantly male Japanese companies have opened their doors to women. Far from creating equal opportunitiesm the underlying logic of Womenomics and the fundamental motive for companies to hire women, born from the need to control women's fertility to increase the birth ratem have the effect of strengtening the gender division of labor. These tentions are apparent in the job-hunting process of female university students: through job fairs for female students only, seminars on work life balance and open days aimed at girls, companies give out different information to female and male students, and create different job opportunitues for them, always reminding young women of the importance of reconciling work and motherhood when making their first career choice. Job-hunting is a sailent moment in the life of a university student in Japan: if they succeedm they will become shakai-jin, proper members of society. An anthropopoietic rite of passage in which the Japanese society moulds its youth into adults, job-hunting is a highly gendered process, where students are confronted with normative notions of femininity and masculinity in the workplace and in the family. Nine months of ethnographic fieldwork in Tokyo among female university students informed an anthropological research on the job-hunting experience of young women taking the first and arguably the most important step into their professional lives. The female body is central to the gender difference observed in job-hunting. During their first learning experience about the professional world, young women will be taught how to "work in a feminie way" (josei no hatarakikata). They will learn that wearing a skirt and a specific kind of makeup is key to a successful job interview. They will learn that women must find their own "style of work" inside the predominently male company, prioritizing a good work-family balance, and choosing between the predominantly male, competitive, and demanding managerial track, or the predominantly female clerical track. This presentation argues that the concern of the Japanese enterprise-state for women's fertility is an obstacle to equal opportunities in the workplace, and that Womenomics has the effect of reinforcing the gender division of labor. Nonetheless, female university students manage to navigate the job-hunting process stratigically, exerting agency despite social pressures.
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    Decadent Yet Ideal: Style and Function of Female Images in Prints by Kaisai Eisen (1790-1848)
    ( 2021-11-10)
    Nineteenth-century pictures of beautiful women, generally categorized as bijin-ga, have been labeled as "decadent" (taihaiteki) by a number of modem ukiyo-e scholars. As the images were generally looked down upon, there was limited interest in these prints commercially and academically. This presentation considers why these images now appear" decadent" to the eyes of these modern scholars in contrast to how the prints were possibly viewed at the time of their production. As a case study, I will analyze a print series called Ukiyo fuzoku mime kurabe (Customs of the Floating World) dated 1823-24 (Bunsei 6-7) by Keisai Eisen, 1790-1848. I investigate this in the context of changing perceptions towards the lower-ordinary class sex workers frequently depicted in ukiyo-e of the time. Elite society's apparent shift towards considering such workers to be morally corrupt seems reflected in late Edo-period bijin-ga. Paradoxically however, those lower ranked prostitutes including geisha were also romanticized and reshaped as a paragon of ideal womanhood through various media including bijin-ga and popular fiction such as ninjobon (books of romance), largely targeted at a female audience. Although the nineteenth-century bijin-ga have been largely disregarded and judged as "decadent" until recently, the individuals, images, and styles of commoditized but financially independent women like the fashionable geisha seem to have been sought after both by men and women in the lower-middle social stratum at the time. Thus, through newly emerging printing technology and the publishing market, bijin-ga partly functioned to educate women in how they should look and behave in order to be favored by the male dominant society. In other words, bijin-ga appear to have helped shape gender roles for lower-middle class women in Japan of the time.Nineteenth-century pictures of beautiful women, generally categorized as bijin-ga, have been labeled as "decadent" (taihaiteki) by a number of modem ukiyo-e scholars. As the images were generally looked down upon, there was limited interest in these prints commercially and academically. This presentation considers why these images now appear" decadent" to the eyes of these modern scholars in contrast to how the prints were possibly viewed at the time of their production. As a case study, I will analyze a print series called Ukiyo fuzoku mime kurabe (Customs of the Floating World) dated 1823-24 (Bunsei 6-7) by Keisai Eisen, 1790-1848. I investigate this in the context of changing perceptions towards the lower-ordinary class sex workers frequently depicted in ukiyo-e of the time. Elite society's apparent shift towards considering such workers to be morally corrupt seems reflected in late Edo-period bijin-ga. Paradoxically however, those lower-ranked prostitutes including geisha were also romanticized and reshaped as a paragon of ideal womanhood through various media including bijin-ga and popular fiction such as ninjobon (books of romance), largely targeted at a female audience. Although the nineteenth-century bijin-ga have been largely disregarded and judged as "decadent" until recently, the individuals, images, and styles of commoditized but financially independent women like the fashionable geisha seem to have been sought after both by men and women in the lower-middle social stratum at the time. Thus, through newly emerging printing technology and the publishing market, bijin-ga partly functioned to educate women in how they should look and behave in order to be favored by the male dominant society. In other words, bijin-ga appear to have helped shape gender roles for lower-middle class women in Japan of the time.
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    “Godzilla, KonMari, Hula Girls: Building Resilience in Post-3.11 Japan and Beyond," by Dr. Mire Koikari, Professor of Women's Studies, UH Mānoa
    ( 2021-02-10)
    The 2011 Great East Japan Disaster – a compound catastrophe of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown that began on March 11, 2011 – ushered in a new era of cultural production in Japan, where discussions on safety and security, risk and vulnerability, and recovery and reconstruction proliferated on an unprecedented scale. Against the backdrop of pervasive precarity, resilience-building became a national doctrine, mobilizing cultural icons such as Godzilla, KonMari, and Hula Girls and disseminating new idioms and practices of self help (jijo) and mutual help (kyōjo). This talk analyzes how this post-disaster mobilization provided an opportunity for Japan to articulate a new national vision in which militarism, neoliberalism, and neoconservatism played salient roles. Specifically the talk focuses on the popularization of Hula Girls after 3.11, where Hawaiʻi and its simulacrum Spa Resort Hawaiians in Fukushima were enlisted to spread the spirit of Aloha, revitalize the weakened nation, and strengthen regional bonds (kizuna) in the Pacific. The dynamics thus activated by 3.11 continue today, as the COVID-19 crisis has given rise to KizunAloha, a bi-national project involving Japan and Hawaiʻi whose aim is to enhance regional resilience in the face of the global pandemic.
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    The War Crimes Documentation Initiative (WCDI) at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
    ( 2021-04-28)
    The War Crimes Documentation Initiative (WCDI) is a digital humanities laboratory led by a team of historians, librarians, and GIS specialists at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa since the spring of 2019. WCDI seeks to experiment, develop, and make available to a broad audience innovative digital resources that help promote the teaching and research of World War II-era war crimes committed by the Japanese in the Asia-Pacific region (1931-1945). WCDI uses geographic information systems (GIS) and graph analysis to document, across space and time, the nexus between Japanese military operations, government and military power structures, and the patterns of war crimes. WCDI’s objective is to make available to students and scholars across the globe digital tools that empower users to discover, analyze, and assess the Japanese conduct of war and military occupation, and find answers to a number of questions on accountability that remain unresolved to this day. In this seminar, the WCDI team introduces its digital resources to the UH CJS community.
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    “Japan’s Response to Trump’s ‘America First’: Long-term Implications," by Dr. Tsuneo Akaha, Professor Emeritus, Middlebury Institute of International Studies
    ( 2021-04-07)
    Donald Trump’s “America First” presidency shook US relations with Japan and other countries in the Indo- Pacific. Washington’s unilateral and often inconsistent pronouncements and demands upon its international partners complicated the latter’s strategic adjustments to the changing regional dynamics caused, most importantly, by China’s spectacular rise. Professor Akaha will discuss Japan’s responses to the Trump presidency in the economic-trade and political-security policy areas as well as to the changing regional dynamics. On the one hand, Tokyo under Abe steadfastly defended Japan’s economic interests against threats of tariffs in bilateral trade talks with Washington and played a leading role in trade and investment development through multilateral regional processes, most prominently the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP, or TPP11), and also participated in the establishment of the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). On the other hand, Abe endorsed Trump’s summit diplomacy toward North Korea and accommodated Washington’s demands for greater defense burden sharing and defense buildup. Abe’s Japan also launched a Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, marshalling support and participation by likeminded countries, including the U.S. and Australia. These and other steps Japan took are designed to counter China’s growing political influence and military power. Professor Akaha will draw on elements of realism, liberal institutionalism, and constructivism in explaining Japan’s behavior during the Trump era and discussing longer-term implications for Japan’s international position post-Trump/post-Abe.
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    “FUKUSHIMA 10 YEARS LATER: VOICES FROM THE CONTINUING NUCLEAR DISASTER”
    ( 2021-03-11)
    This March 11th marks ten years since the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Please join us via Zoom at 4pm (HST) on Thursday, March 11, 2021 for a film screening of a recently released documentary in Japan titled, "Fukushima 10 Years Later: Voices from the continuing nuclear disaster" (English translation), directed by Dr. Komei Hosokawa. The screening will be followed by Q&A with Dr. Hosokawa. There will be English subtitles available for the film screening on March 11th.