The past month has been full of interesting and important news stories on all manner of topics and issues related to Japan and East Asia. Given this, we’ve put together a list of some of the top articles covering everything from Hayao Miyazaki’s birthday to the environmental relevancy of early 20th century Japanese poet Misuzu Kaneko. Catch up below:
12/21: Love, obsession and perverted desires in Japan’s age of steam
This article is absolutely fascinating! When Japan opened itself up to the Western world in the mid-19th century and modernity in the 20th century, traditional perceptions of sex, gender relations, and love were radically challenged.
“From the Meiji Era onward, and in an effort to ‘modernize,’ Japanese people were encouraged to restrict themselves to ever-narrowing definitions of sexuality. But authors such as Hiratsuka, Soseki and Rampo were quick to note the contradiction between that modernity and Japan’s traditional expectations of gender roles — including the discarded tradition of fluid sexuality. While the nation expanded its empire abroad, its writers at home were steadily undermining the mask of “normal sexuality” that was being presented to the world.”
12/22: “The Four Immigrants Manga” gets stage musical!
We here at Stone Bridge Press are extremely excited to announce that "The Four Immigrants Manga" by Henry Kiyama and translated by our very own Frederik Schodt will be getting the musical theatre treatment this July!
The play was put together by the very talented Bay Area writer and composer Min Kahng. Congratulations to all, we can't wait to see it!
“Follow the adventures of Henry, Charlie, Fred and Frank - four Japanese immigrants - as they adapt to life in the West. Experiencing historical events like the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, World War I, Prohibition and waves of anti-Japanese sentiment, the four protagonists each encounter America in a different way as they grow from boys into men.”
12/27: Tales from the cracks – 10 of the best books about Japan released in 2016
The Japan Times put out this top 10 list of the best books about Japan published in 2016, and we're proud to say that one of our books, "Tokio Whip" by Arturo Silva, made the cut!
“It’s been a difficult year — one that felt like humanity was living on a fracturing ice shelf. That uncertainty came from our exposure to wars and natural disasters, and even our struggles with “truth” itself. The best Japan-related books released in 2016 seemed to channel this feeling of instability by looking inside the growing cultural cracks. Here are 10 that went beyond old narratives about Japan and its people and delved deeper into Japan’s fragmented past, present and future: from alternative views of the Pearl Harbor attack to Japanese prostitutes in the American West and from radical 1960s anarchists to the story of an inspector trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare.”
1/5: Happy Birthday Miyazaki-san!
Perhaps the most imaginative, innovative, and magical animator in the world, Hayao Miyazaki turned 76 earlier this month!
“While it's sad to think that we'll never see a new Hayao Miyazaki feature film, it's now possible to look back and admire his now completed body of work. His apprenticeship, served at Toei Animation in the 1960s and early 70s, developed alongside the rise of anime in post-war Japan. When he took the helm of his first feature in 1979, Miyazaki began an 11-picture journey in which he'd constantly push the possibilities of animation into uncharted territory. A perfectionist who worked tirelessly on every aspect of his films, Miyazaki leaves behind an astonishing body of work that will be watched for decades to come.”
1/10: Scorsese's beautifully shot new film, Silence, meditates on faith, spirituality, and clashing cultures
In Scorsese's breathtaking new film, “Silence”, based off the novel by Shūsaku Endō, a 17th century Portuguese Jesuit priest travels to Japan with a fellow missionary in search of their mentor, Father Cristovao Ferreira, who has renounced his faith under torture. Anyone interested in the history of Japan's relationship with the Western world (and religion in particular) will no doubt find this an interesting and poignant film.
“Scorsese has adapted the famous novel of Endo Shusaku. The novel is set mainly around the 1630s at a time when the violent eradication of Christianity in the early Tokugawa era was mainly achieved, apart from isolated villages in the far west. Two firebrand Jesuit priests are landed clandestinely to make contact with any remaining faithful and discover the truth of the rumoured apostasy of their own mentor. By doing so, they bring the remaining flocks into mortal danger and diabolical temptation to betray, and not just by thirty pieces of silver.”
1/11: Historical documents reveal evidence of Japanese winemaking 400-year ago
Historical documents recently discovered by the Eisei-Bunko Research Center of Kumamoto University in Japan reveal that Western wine and winemaking began much earlier than previously thought. The texts show that a lord of Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan, ordered his people to begin winemaking by writing that, "The season of winemaking has come," nearly 400 years ago.
“A description of the order to start winemaking was recently discovered in historical records from 1628.
Which roughly translates to, ‘Since the winemaking season has come upon us, our Lord commands Tarouemon Ueda to brew it immediately after making the necessary preparations.’
The text was found written on housho, high-quality Japanese paper, in a format that was used to record and disseminate the orders of Japanese lords. The "lord" in the document was Tadatoshi Hosokawa who reigned the Kokura domain of northern Kyushu during that time in Japan. The record clearly shows that he ordered his liegeman, Tarouemon Ueda, to start making wine on the 28th of August, 1628. Then, on September 15th of the same year, he ordered Tarouemon to have another liegeman also begin winemaking.”
1/11: Misuzu Kaneko – A deeper empathy for the natural world
In her brief life, Japanese poet Misuzu Kaneko (1903-1930) produced a body of work with themes that are every bit as relevant today as when she first put pen to paper nearly 100 years ago. Ostensibly a writer of poems for children, Kaneko’s work reveals a deep respect for the environment and an awareness of the interconnected nature of all living things.
"Kaneko was born and raised in a fishing village in Yamaguchi Prefecture, where the simple pleasures of daily life and close connections with nature inspired her poetry. Unusual for a young woman of her time, she was permitted to stay in school until the age of 17 thanks to a mother who believed in the value of education. While working in the family bookshop, she found early success when several of her poems for youngsters were snapped up by literary magazines of the day, quickly establishing her as a popular children’s writer."