UW Japan Studies Newsletters
Autumn 2022 Newsletter
Table of Contents
We welcome our faculty, staff, students, and broader community to an exciting 2022-2023 academic year. Happily, we are back to a more normal situation this year with in-person classes and mostly in-person events. It is wonderful that Japan has reopened to non-visa travelers, allowing all of us to visit Japan again, especially our students, who can take short trips there and participate in dozens of study-abroad programs the UW offers.
We continue our ongoing efforts to nurture greater understanding of Japan outside the classroom through various events. A May workshop, led by UW professor Davinder Bhowmik, marked the fiftieth anniversary of Okinawa’s Reversion to Japan after U.S. occupation from the end of World War II until 1972. You can read more about the workshop in this newsletter. In autumn quarter we have had talks such as “Why Attention to Religion is Vital to Understanding Politics in Japan” with Levi McLaughlin, North Carolina State University; “Help (Not) Wanted: Immigration Politics in Japan” with Michael Strausz, Texas Christian University; and “The Life We Longed For: Danchi Housing and the Middle-Class Dream in Postwar Japan” with Laura Neitzel, Columbia University. Many events are planned for winter and spring quarters, and we hope you will explore our events calendar for details. Most events are now in-person, and we are working with partner programs to leverage UW funds for new equipment to enable us to offer some hybrid events. Some events will be solely online, especially those involving speakers from Japan. For example, Professor Takeo Hoshi, formerly of the University of California, San Diego and Stanford University and currently in the University of Tokyo’s Economics Department, will give a talk about the Japanese economy over Zoom in spring quarter. We are hosting a film series focusing on the experiences of multi-ethnic Japanese in Japan, showing the documentaries Hafu and Ainu, as well as the drama-dy Yakiniku Dragon. We continue to partner with SAAM’s Saturday University, the UW’s East Asia Center, Canadian Studies Center, and others.
We are very proud of Azusa Tanaka, the Japanese Collection Librarian in UW’s Tateuchi East Asia Library. She won the university’s highest honor for librarians—Distinguished Librarian—in spring. We also welcome Professor Xuan-Thao Nguyen as the new head of the UW Asian Law Center. Professor Nguyen, the Pendleton Miller Chair in Law, was previously a visiting faculty member at the law school and teaches about property and venture capital law.
We, like many others, were stunned and saddened by the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022. We are still waiting to hear whether this was done by a lone gunman, as well as to learn more about the ties between Japan’s LDP party members and the Unification Church of South Korea. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s approval ratings have sunk to below 30% largely due to these ties. He has yet to provide details of his idea of a “New Capitalism” and his goal of doubling Japan’s defense budget to 2% of GDP from the 1% of GDP that has been the norm for over 5 decades. Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda will step down as governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ) at the end of March and it’s unclear who will succeed him in this position. The weakening of the yen is no doubt due to the interest rate gap with the United States, but experts also think some 20 yen of the weakness reflects Japan’s deteriorating competitiveness in manufacturing industries. With 70% of outstanding loans at an interest rate of 1% or less, raising rates significantly could imperil many borrowers. Experts just announced that Japan’s core inflation is 3.6%, a 40-year high and significantly above the BOJ’s target of 2%. Japan includes energy and all but fresh food in its measure of core inflation whereas most countries do not include energy or food. Experts say if we calculate Japan’s inflation like other nations for a true comparison, it would be more like 1.5%, compared to, for example, the rate of 6.3% in the U.S. BOJ Governor Kuroda believes inflation will drop in 2023 so does not think it wise to increase interest rates. With many factors weighing on it, such as the global energy crisis and rising energy costs, the weak yen, and inflation, the Japanese economy shrunk slightly in the third quarter after growing the previous three quarters.
This economic contraction corresponded with a very high rate of Covid-19 infections during the summer. Unfortunately, there is a new uptick in Covid cases, but nothing like the rates this summer. While surveys show some Japanese were reluctant to open their country to tourists, as other industrialized nations have done, the Japanese government seems to realize that economically Japan needs to learn to live with Covid so that tens of millions of tourists will again bolster the economy. Indeed, the city of Kyoto will likely go bankrupt in a few years if tourists do not return. Almost 32 million tourists visited Japan in 2019 and reinvigorated the economies of many rural and urban areas. The 9.5 million Chinese people who visited that year are not likely to return until China eases its draconian measures which sharply discourage short tourist visits abroad, but many tourists from other countries are traveling to Japan. It was very difficult for famous places such as Kyoto to deal with the hordes of tourists before the pandemic, and during the last few years authorities have been trying to figure out how to spread tourists over all of Japan and to have their visits distributed more equally during all the seasons.
Speaking of seasons, we hope to see you at upcoming events and wish you a Happy Holiday Season,
UW Japan Studies Chair
George Long Endowed Professor
Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
May 15, 2022, marked the fiftieth anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japan by the United States. To commemorate this historic event, the UW Japan Studies Program invited an interdisciplinary group of nine scholars—from North America, Europe, and Japan—to reflect on the reversion movement and its aftermath. Legacies of Okinawa’s colonial history formed a foundation for themes in the workshop: from the Satsuma clan’s invasion of the Ryūkyū Kingdom in the early 1700s, imperial Japan’s annexation of the region in 1879, the trauma of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, and decades of U.S. occupation, up to today’s massive concentration of U.S. military bases in Japan’s poorest prefecture. Participants explored topics such as postwar reparations, Okinawan indigeneity and diaspora, Okinawan literature, women’s struggles, and memory and politics. The 2.5-day workshop was co-sponsored with six other units on campus and featured musical performance of traditional Okinawan songs by local artist Mako. More information on participants and their presentations is available on the workshop’s web page.
The UW Japan Studies Program congratulates Azusa Tanaka, recipient of the 2022 UW Distinguished Librarian Award. Through her expertise, creativity, and relationship-building with donors, Tanaka has greatly expanded the collections of Japanese-language materials available from the UW Libraries. Her information sessions for students and faculty increased access by teaching new ways to use the library and to search for materials relevant to research and/or teaching. Additionally, her work is part of the 24/7 chat help service. “Yes, 24/7 chat is an international effort—while Seattle is in the evening, librarians in other time zones are watching the chat and answer the questions for UW users. We do the same for other institutes when it is nighttime in their time zone,” explains Tanaka.
The UW Japan Studies Program welcomes Professor Xuan-Thao Nguyen, Pendleton Miller Endowed Chair in Law, as the new director of the UW Asian Law Center. Nguyen, who served as a Garvey Schubert Barer Visiting Professor of Law at UW in 2018–2019, has joined the UW Law faculty as a professor of law. Nguyen is internationally renowned for her expertise in the intersections of business commercial law, financing, intellectual property, bankruptcy, licensing and taxation.
Andrea Gevurtz Arai completed a third edited collection comprised of essays submitted for the 2021 conference “Spaces of Creative Resistance: Social Change Projects in East Asia” which she co-organized with Jeff Hou, University of Washington. This volume will be the third in a series following Global Futures in East Asia (2013) and Spaces of Possibility (2016). Arai also authored a chapter entitled “Nuclear Visuality and Public Resistance in Hitomi Kamanaka’s Eco Disaster Films” for a new volume (under review): Eco Disaster Films in Japan (Rachel DiNitto, editor).
Paul Atkins, professor of classical Japanese language, literature, and culture in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature, was awarded the Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize by Cornell University in 2021, based on excerpts from his unpublished, annotated translation of about 170 poems in classical Chinese by the Japanese Zen abbot Zekkai Chūshin 絶海中津 (1336–1405). He spoke on “Kanbun Kundoku as (mis)translation: The 1670 annotation of Zekkai Chūshin’s Shōkenkō” at the annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association, held online at National Taiwan Normal University in June 2022. In October he gave a public lecture, “What is Haiku?” presented by Washin Kai (Friends of Classical Japanese at UW) online and live from campus.
Ted Mack, professor of modern Japanese literature, published Acquired Alterity: Migration, Identity, and Literary Nationalism (University of California Press, 2022) earlier this year. It is the first book-length study in English of the Japanese-language literary activities of early Japanese immigrants to Brazil. Available in paperback, the book also may be downloaded digitally for free.
Ken Tadashi Oshima was named Fellow of the Society of Architectural Historians for lifetime achievement in 2022. He also published several essays in the last year, including “Found in Translation,” in Uncrating the Japanese House (August Editions, 2022); and “Kiyonori Kikutake circa 2011: Sustaining Life through Metabolism,” in Raffaele Pernice, ed., The Urbanism of Metabolism (Routledge, 2022).
He curated the Japan Foundation exhibition “Beyond Borders: The Architectures of Japan” (November 2022-February 2023) in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of normalized relations between Japan and China at the Fumihiko Maki–designed museum, Design Society/Sea World Culture and Arts Center, Shenzhen, China. He was a featured speaker for the exhibition “Looking Up: The Skyviewing Sculptures of Isamu Noguchi” at Western Washington University in October.
Robert Pekkanen, of the Jackson School, received the Outstanding Research Award from JANPORA (Japanese Association of NPO Research), for an article entitled “Distinguishing Providing Public Services from Receiving Government Funding as Factors in Nonprofit Advocacy.” The article, co-authored by Itaru Yanagi, Yohei Kobashi, Robert J. Pekkanen, and Yutaka Tsujinaka, was published in Voluntas, the leading nonprofit studies journal for international studies, in June 2021. This is the third time one of Robert’s publications has been awarded a prize by JANPORA.
Daiki Hiramori (PhD in Sociology 2022) successfully defended his dissertation entitled “Sexuality Stratification in Contemporary Japan: A Study in Sociology” and he is currently an assistant professor at Hosei University. https://hiramori.com/?page_id=16
Yuta Kaminishi (PhD in Cinema and Media Studies 2022) successfully defended his dissertation entitled “The Transforming Mediascape in Postwar Japan: A Media History of Oshima Nagisa” was appointed a postdoctoral fellow of Asian cinema and media last March at the University of Idaho. https://www.uidaho.edu/class/iai/people/yuta
Chris Lowy (PhD 2021) accepted a position at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He joins the faculty of the Department of Modern Languages as an assistant professor of Japanese Studies. https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/modlang/about-us/filter/faculty/christopher-lowy.html
UW alums Phil Tomsovic (BA Japanese 2011) and Jeremy A. Yellen (MAIS Japan 2005) collaborate in their recent article “Playboy, Shūeisha, and the Birth of Men’s Magazines in 1960s Japan” in the Journal of Japanese Studies.They reveal the backstory of the meteoric rise of Shūeisha’s Weekly Playboy magazine involving intellectual property infringement and the trend of localizing global influences. “Creating a Japanese edition of Playboy helped Shūeisha break out of its shell and become a respected, major publishing house … the emergence of men’s magazines in 1960s Japan must be seen as a transnational story.”
Abigail Williams (MAIS Japan 2022) upon graduation was hired on at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA in Washington D.C. Her master’s essay was entitled “Tipping the Balance: Oda Nobunaga’s Siege of Mt. Hiei.”
Ryan Zielonka (UW BA 2005, MAIS Japan 2009, JSIS PhD 2022) successfully defended his dissertation, ““Technology Innovation and Digital Revolution: Adoption and Diffusion of Digital Network Platforms, 1995–2001, with Implications for Future Development,” in summer 2022.
Hwayoung (Lauren) Lee (JSIS PhD student) received a 2021-22 International Research Fellowship from the UW Graduate School to conduct fieldwork in Japan. Unable to obtain a visa to enter Japan last year, she did research in Korea in spring 2022. In 2022-23, she is conducting field research while being affiliated with the Graduate Schools for Law and Politics at the University of Tokyo. Her fieldwork includes conducting interviews with government officials, consulting materials in the National Diet Library, and participating in events such as a recent seminar of the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat. Her research aims to find congruent or divergent perceptions among the state, media, politicians, and the public on issues between Japan and South Korea to understand the way Japan-South Korea foreign policy is made.
Congratulations to UW students who received Foreign Language and Area Studies scholarships for the academic year to support their Japanese area or language studies. More information these and other recipients can be found at the FLAS webpage.