Japan Studies Newsletters

Autumn 2009 Newsletter

From the Chair

This is a great time for the study of Japan. Even after a century of being studied here at UW, Japan still has the ability to surprise the “experts.” In politics, my own field, that ability was clearly demonstrated by the resounding electoral victory of the Democratic Party of Japan over the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The LDP had ruled Japan since its inception in 1955, save for a brief 10-month interregnum in 1993–94, but lost its grip on power spectacularly on August 30, 2009. This dramatic turn of events, and the inevitable changes that will shake through the country, will keep political scientists like me in business for many years.

Beyond the ballot box, politics provides more reasons to be fascinated by Japan. The “rise of China,” is undoubtedly one, if not the most important developments of the 21st century. However, I am puzzled when people say this implies we should turn our attention from Japan to China, as if we have only enough attention for one country at a time. This attitude diminishes our opportunities to understand how both nations fit within regional and global politics, and brings us dangerously close to ignoring the complexities of the international and cross-cultural relationships that shape the region. By all means, China demands greater study and understanding. But, this does not mean we should turn our eyes from Japan. The increased political, economic, and military power of China, and the recent flexing of North Korean muscle, makes Asia as a region, and Northeast Asia in particular, even more important on the world stage. Because it is an integral and crucial part of that region’s economy and leadership, Japan is convincingly more important (relative to countries outside Asia) than ever before. As the Asian region’s involvement in the world increases on many fronts, so does that of Japan. Once again, I say that now is the time to study Japan, more than ever.

Robert Pekkanen, chair, Japan Studies Program.


Award Winning Program

The Japan Studies Program at the University of Washington has been named the 2009 recipient of the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Award, a recognition given to individuals and organizations making outstanding contributions to the mutual understanding between Japan and other countries. A reception held October 23, 2009, at the official residence of Consul General Mitsunori Namba of the Japan Consulate in Seattle, was attended by over 100 faculty, friends, and alumni from the various degree programs of the UW Japan Studies Program.

The Foreign Minister’s Award recognizes the Japan Studies Program’s Centennial Celebration and calls the program “a pioneering institution in the US study of Japan and Japanese.” It also praises the multi-disciplinary nature of a program which engages students and teachers from departments across campus. The award was presented to Program Chair Robert Pekkanen by Consul General Namba.

Past local recipients of the Foreign Minister’s Award include the Japan-America Society of the State of Washington (1999); the Honorable Kip Tokuda, former Washington State Representative (2004); Griffith Way, art collector (2004); the Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival (2005); and most recently Dr. Mimi Gates, former director of the Seattle Art Museum (2008).

Besides the award presentation, the reception included speakers, a kagami-bikari (traditional Japanese ceremony of breaking open a cask of sake), and a toast. Consul General Namba and Professors Ted Mack,Robert Pekkanen, Veronica Taylor, and Michio Tsutsui hammered open the cask. A toast was provided by Ted Yamamura of the Material Management unit of Boeing’s Commercial Aviation Services division, alumnus of the UW College of Engineering, and member of the Advisory Board of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature. In addition, giving brief remarks on their experiences with the program were Davinder Bhowmik, Asian Languages and Literature professor and alumna; Deirdre Martin, second-year graduate student of the Jackson School Japan program; and Professor Donald Hellmann of the Jackson School and Department of Political Science. Echoing Yamamura’s toast, Hellmann’s remarks centered on one of the reasons for the enduring strength of the program: the support and cooperation of a larger community outside the university. This community has included organizations and businesses, state and federal government agencies, and the government of Japan. At all times, this community has included many committed individuals who have been personally supportive of the program mission and key in helping to pursue its goals of teaching, research, and furthering the understanding of Japan.

“We are all very grateful to be recipients of this award and are glad for the recognition of such a long-standing, successful program,” said Program Chair Robert Pekkanen of the award. We say “thank you” to all those who have made it possible.


Student News

This past summer witnessed a dramatic shift in Japan’s democratic government: on August 30, after more than 50 years of almost uninterrupted rule, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was defeated by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the election for the House of Representatives (lower house) of The Japanese Diet. Four University of Washington MAIS (2010) Japan Studies students were in Japan this summer on internships and research programs to observe and participate in this historical election.

Brittain Barber and Deirdre Martin participated in an internship program created by Diet member and UW School of Law alumnus Takashi Shinohara (JD ’78) and Japan Studies Chair Robert Pekkanen. Shinohara is a Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) representative from Nagano Prefecture. Barber worked closely with Shinohara’s staff in Nagano to prepare campaign materials and interact with local supporters. He then traveled to Tokyo with Shinohara and sat in on campaign planning meetings and Diet sessions. “I was able to see both sides of politics in Japan—shaking hands and making speeches on the campaign trail, and also the political hardball in the corridors of power when voters aren’t looking,” said Barber.

Like Barber, Martin worked with staff members to prepare and distribute campaign materials. With the election date set when she arrived, Martin observed the daily life of a politician on the campaign trail. “Because it was an historic election, I had the distinct impression that I was being allowed to do things I may never be able to do again,” added Martin. She attended voter support group (koenkai) meetings, accompanied Shinohara on visits to local festivals, and participated in rallies. Being involved provided Martin with first-hand observations that she will incorporate into her graduate research. Martin developed “a new understanding of the enduring importance of the personal vote in Japanese politics.”

Garrett Bredell participated as an intern in Tokyo for the campaign of another DPJ Diet member. Bredell began a week before the lower house election. Besides attending public speeches, Bredell worked with campaign volunteers to produce and distribute election materials. After the election, he was given a tour of the National Diet and was granted interviews with the Diet member and volunteers. “I’ve read a lot about Japanese politics, but nothing could prepare me for visiting the offices of political leaders at the Diet in the midst of a historical election. . . this opportunity was inspiring.” Bredell plans to use this experience to supplement his graduate research.

Samuel Lederer was accepted to join the inaugural Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership Japan Travel Program for Future U.S. Leaders. Lederer, along with 12 others from the Association of Professional Schools for International Affairs (APSIA) member schools, spent 10 days in August meeting with Japanese government officials, business leaders, and academics. He conducted roundtable discussions with policymakers and heard lectures on Japanese security policy from officials. He also interviewed staff at the Ministry of the Environment and Toyota Motor Corporation. “The program provided participants with unprecedented levels of access to government ministries and companies. My research into renewable energy and international cooperation will be greatly enhanced by the contacts and knowledge I gained this summer,” commented Lederer.

Opportunities such as these help create a bridge between academic and professional worlds and give students insight into leadership in action. If you are interested in supporting or providing an internship opportunity for Japan Studies students from any of the UW units affiliated with the program, please contact our office at japan@uw.edu.


Faculty Highlights

Andrea Arai, affiliated lecturer, together with Jonathan Warren received a Global Studies Course Development Grant for a new course “Globalizing Education.” One of the class sections is devoted to educational history of the Meiji period and another to contemporary education reforms. Arai delivered a talk in November at the Donald Keene Center at Columbia University entitled “A New Sensibility of Recession in Japan.” Also in November she gave a talk at a symposium at New York University titled “Childhood, Social Labor, Reproduction in Contemporary Japan.”

Paul Atkins gave papers on seppuku at a conference on ritual dynamics held in Heidelberg in September, 2008 and, in Japanese, on the diary of the medieval courtier and poet Fujiwara no Teika at a conference on literary artifacts held at Harvard in November, 2008.  The latter talk was published as “The Harvard Meigetsuki” in Suzuki Jun and Melissa McCormick, eds., The Artifact of Literature: Japanese Books, Manuscripts & Illustrated Scrolls.  

Davinder Bhowmik, associate professor of Japanese language and literature, has returned fall quarter from a one-year sabbatical. She is currently writing a book manuscript on the theme of violence in contemporary literature, and coediting an anthology of Japanese fiction and poetry from Okinawa.

Cynthea J. Bogel, associate professor of Japanese art and architecture, has authored her first book titled With a Single Glance: Buddhist Icons and Early Mikkyō Vision (UW Press, 2009). It is the first book in English on ancient Esoteric Buddhist icons and temples and it features the activities of acclaimed 9th-century Buddhist master Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi). It received a publication subvention from the Getty Trust. Bogel again led a UW Exploration Seminar in Japan, “Buddhist Temples Past and Present,” for three weeks in September with 17 students. She plans to lead another seminar next summer on Buddhist mountain temples and pilgrimage. She has been invited to London to speak at the Victoria & Albert Museum to help inaugurate its new Buddhist art galleries in 2010. 

Donald Hellmann, Jackson School and Department of Political Science professor, co-organized and participated in the conference entitled “North Korean Nuclear Politics,” held at the UW in June. He is also involved in a multiyear, multilateral project on community building in Northeast Asia with a focus on energy and security linkages. His essay “Northeast Asian Energy Cooperation: An Institutional Prelude to Regional Community Building” was published in Japan. In addition, the recently established Hellmann Endowment will fund its first project to build a global classroom at the Jackson School. He assisted in writing a state bill that resulted in establishment of the Global Asia Institute at the Jackson School in 2009. Hellmann capped this eventful year with a traditional Russian sauna that resulted in a leap into frigid Vladivostock Harbor.

Ted Mack, associate professor of Japanese language and literature, is currently researching the Japanese-language literature of Brazil and has presented his research at Georgetown University, Yonsei University in Seoul, and the Association for Asian Studies annual meeting. He also published the articles “The Extra-national Flow of Japanese Language Texts, 1905-1945″ (in the journal Sai: Kan) and “Nihon bungaku no ‘hate’: San Pauro no Endō Shoten” (in the journal Ritsumeikan gengo bunka kenkyū).

Ken Tadashi Oshima, associate professor of architecture, has authored two new books: Arata Isozaki (Phaidon, 2009) and International Architecture in Interwar Japan: Constructing Kokusai Kenchiku (UW Press, 2009). International Architecture explores the flurry of creativity in architecture – a product of increasing international travel and communication, growth of the mass media, and technological innovation – between the two world wars. Oshima has lectured widely over the past year at universities including Harvard, Yale, Cooper Union, Oberlin, UCLA, and the University of Hong Kong. In spring 2009, he taught a studio at the UW to design a Japanese Cultural Center for Washington based on a nine-day study tour to Japan.

Robert J. Pekkanen, Jackson School associate professor of political science and Asian studies, published two books in 2009. Gendai Nihon No JichikaiŸChōnaikai (Neighborhood Associations and Governance in Japan coauthored and written in Japanese; published by Bokutakusha) is based on the First National Survey of Thirty Thousand Associations. Local Organizations and Urban Governance in East and Southeast Asia: Straddling State and Society is a coedited volume (Routledge). He completed another coauthored book manuscript on the Liberal Democratic Party, forthcoming from Cornell University Press in 2010. Pekkanen continues a research project on “Electoral Systems and Party Personnel: The Consequences of Reform and Non-Reform,” which is funded through 2011 by the National Science Foundation. Pekkanen delivered a speech at the Fulbright/CULCON symposium on Japan and U.S. soft power on June 12 at Keidanren Kaikan in Tokyo, after which he was honored with an audience with the Crown Prince.

Saadia M. Pekkanen, Job and Gertrud Tamaki Professor of law and Asian studies, has two forthcoming publications: an article entitled “Asianism Rising: Assessing China-Japan-United States Dynamics in Regional Trade and Investment Realities” in a volume edited by Wang Jisi (Peking University), Kokubun Ryosei (Keio University), and Gerald Curtis (Columbia University); and a coauthored book entitled In Defense of Japan: From the Market to the Military in Space Policy (Stanford University Press, 2010). She also presented several papers at conferences, including “National Security Paradigms in the Regulation of Foreign Investment: Assessing Trends in the United States, Europe, and Japan” at the inaugural conference of the Asian International Economic Law Network (AIELN) in Tokyo.

Kenneth B. Pyle, Henry M. Jackson Professor of History and Asian Studies, delivered the annual Hunsberger Memorial Lecture on Asia at American University last March. Also in March Pyle was the Freeman Foundation Lecturer at Claremont-McKenna University. This coming winter he will give lectures at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

David Spafford, assistant professor of history, has been engaged with a research group on Japan’s Long Sixteenth Century, presenting papers at two important conferences sponsored by the group this past year at University of Southern Californiz and Princeton, and has been in charge of organizing a symposium titled “Lost Strands of Japan’s Long Sixteenth Century,” to be held at Berkeley this winter. He is also at work on a book manuscript tentatively called Senses of Place in Late Medieval Japan, 1450-1550.” His article, “An Apology of Betrayal: Political and Narrative Strategies in a Late Medieval Memoir,” was published this year in the Journal of Japanese Studies.  

Michio Tsutsui, Donald E. Peterson Professor of engineering and technical communication, coauthored Jōkyū e no tobira: Kontentsu to maruchimedia de manabu Nihongo (Gateway to advanced Japanese: learning through content and multimedia; Kuroshio Shuppan, 2008). He was also the editorial supervisor. This innovative language textbook integrates Language Partner Online, an online multimedia application for conversation practice that he codeveloped.


Program Highlights

Teaching English in Japan

Most graduate students in Japan Studies arrive at UW with experience in Japan as students, travelers, and often, as former teachers of English there. In the last two years, 40% of the entering MA candidates have previously worked as teachers or assistant language teachers. The JET Program, operated by the Japanese government in collaboration with local authorities, is the largest employer of assistant language teachers and coordinators for international relations, who are hired to work in local government offices. Currently there are 4600 people in the JET Program, of whom 2600 are from the United States.

Many undergraduates are interested in teaching in Japan as a next step after graduation. To help them make informed decisions about pursuing jobs in Japan, either through JET or other programs, a new course is being offered at the Jackson School. Special Topics: Teaching English in Japan is a one-credit course taught by Mary Hammond Bernson, Director of the East Asia Resource Center. The course provides a broad introduction to a range of topics directly related to everyday life and work as a teacher or assistant teacher. Guest speakers include UW students who have taught in Japan for a variety of employers, representatives of the JET Program, and students from Japan who are currently studying at UW. By the end of the class, the UW undergraduates gain both a better sense of whether they want to pursue teaching jobs in Japan, and increased knowledge and skills to help them succeed if they choose to do so.


PhD Student News

Fusae Ekida was awarded a PhD in Japanese, 2009. Her dissertation was titled “Reception History of the Man’yoshu.” Ekida has been appointed assistant professor of Japanese at the University of Evansville.

Sachi Schmidt-Hori has advanced to PhD candidacy this year and was also awarded the UW Excellence in Teaching award, 2009.

Kaori Igarashi (MA Japanese 2009) has entered the PhD program in Japanese literature.

Jennifer Noveck is a new student in the PhD program in the Department of Political Science where she is researching the political economy of gender in greater East Asia with a focus on Japan and China.

Catherine Roche, Art History, is Interim Curatorial Associate for Japanese and Korean Art at the Seattle Art Museum. She recently completed a catalogue for the exhibition of the Allan and Mary Kollar ukiyo-e collection titled “Fleeting Beauty: Japanese Woodblock Prints.” She also curated the exhibition, which is on display at he Seattle Asian Art Museum April 1–July 4, 2010.

Yukiko Shigeto was awarded a PhD in Japanese, 2009. Her dissertation was titled “Politics of Writing: Tenko and the Crisis of Representation.” Shigeto has been appointed assistant professor of Japanese at New York University.

Emi Tamaki is a candidate in the Department of Sociology and researching the demographics of declining birthrate in Japan.

Alex Tulinsky, Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, has proposed the dissertation topic “Post-Metabolist / Pre-Postmodern: Experimental House Design in Japan around 1970” and is preparing his defense.