This past month was full of interesting articles and important news stories on all manner of topics and issues related to Japan and East Asia. In case you missed any, we’ve put together a list of some of the top articles covering everything from the current state of Chinese science fiction and art to the perturbing relevance of the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII to America’s contemporary political situation. Catch up below:
1/20: Mishima and the maze of sexuality in modern Japan
This is a fascinating article on modern Japanese sexuality and how the nation's modern novelists — from Dazai to Mishima to Kono — offer the best road map to the beguiling maze of sexual identity in Japan.
From Dazai's brutal and shocking depictions of heterosexual relations to Mishima's frank and honest portrayal of homosexual and sadomasochistic desires, this article offers an incisive glance into the complexities of shifting sexual norms in Japan throughout the 20th century.
“In June 1948, novelist Osamu Dazai committed suicide. The 38-year-old, who had just completed his masterpiece, ‘No Longer Human,’ and whose fame was peaking, jumped into Tokyo’s Tamagawa Canal with his mistress, Tomie Yamazaki, and drowned.
With his acid wit and nihilistic vision, Dazai had been the key author who benefitted from the easing of censorship after Japan’s defeat in World War II. He scandalized and fascinated postwar society with his personal lifestyle — fathering children out of wedlock — and the fearless manner in which he depicted nontraditional relationships.
He undermined one of the key tenets of sexuality in modern Japan by suggesting that ‘romantic love’ doesn’t always lead to marriage and happiness.”
1/23: Sumito Yamashita claims 156th Akutagawa Prize
The 156th Akutagawa Prize was awarded to 50-year-old author Sumito Yamashita for his book “Shinsekai (New World),” which explores his teenage experiences, the selection committee of the prestigious literary award announced Thursday.
“Born in 1966 in Kobe, Yamashita was long an established playwright and actor but started working on novels in 2011. The story in the book is of his actual experience of attending a theater school in Hokkaido where he supported himself and lived alongside the other students.”
1/24: Chinese science-fiction writer and translator Ken Liu discusses the state of the art and science fiction in China
In this podcast interview, Ken Liu, science-fiction writer and translator talks about his own work, the significance of The Three-Body Problem in the Chinese literary world, and the current state of Chinese science fiction.
“Liu’s short story ‘The Paper Menagerie’ is the first work of fiction, of any length, to win all three of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. Among his translations are two of the three parts of the Chinese science-fiction hit The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin.”
1/30: Japanese-Americans Imprisoned For Ethnicity Speak Out In Defense Of Muslims
In light of the political chaos surrounding Trump’s unjust refugee ban, many Japanese-Americans who were unjustly interned during WWII are speaking out against the ban and reminding the world of its perturbing similarities to the legislation that heinously imprisoned them in the 1940s.
“Though the remarks were widely condemned, Trump had already suggested that he might have supported imprisoning people of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Indeed, Trump’s presidential campaign and victory has energized a base of Americans who support racist policies and ideologies.
New York-based survivors Suki Terada Ports, Teddy Yoshikami and Madeleine Sugimoto see echoes of the past in today’s increasingly harsh attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, and they don’t want the country to forget the lessons from their imprisonment. Here’s what they have to say in response to proposals like a Muslim registry and other acts of bigotry and hate.”
1/31: Japan’s 10-year-old philosopher, published author, and grade school dropout
Here’s an interview containing some big thoughts from a small Japanese boy who profoundly ponders issues such as happiness, bullying, and education.
“What kinds of things did you think about when you were 10 years old? Toys, food, and friends probably top the list for most kids. But what about philosophy? One elementary school boy in Japan is pondering deeper questions and becoming famous for it.
Bao Nakashima was only 10 years old, when he published his first book. He's done interviews and appeared on TV since then. Most impressive of all, he quit school to teach himself, taking initiative to learn on his own and seek out teachers he feels are worth learning from. In fact, quitting school is what set him on his new, extraordinary path.”
1/31: Translated A-bomb book reminds us of the horrors of war
A recently released English translation of a Japanese book about 321 junior high school students killed by the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima is a poignant reminder of the inescapable suffering and militaristic indoctrination of youth at the time.
“The motivation to produce an English edition almost five decades after the original was released came after former U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima on May 27 last year, said the book’s editor, Naomi Saito. At the time, outspoken Japanese writer Ayako Sono wrote in a newspaper column that ‘Ishibumi’ was the “only book” that needs to be given to the president.
The book, which was recently sent by a group of former students from Hiroshima Second Middle School to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, describes the circumstances surrounding the death of the children and four of their teachers from the school as told by parents who survived the bombing on Aug. 6, 1945.”