169 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Japan about their New Books
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New Books in Japanese Studies Marshall Poe

    • Arts
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Interviews with Scholars of Japan about their New Books
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    Roger K. Thomas, "Counting Dreams: The Life and Writings of the Loyalist Nun Nomura Bōtō" (Cornell UP, 2021)

    Roger K. Thomas, "Counting Dreams: The Life and Writings of the Loyalist Nun Nomura Bōtō" (Cornell UP, 2021)

    Counting Dreams: The Life and Writings of the Loyalist Nun Nomura Bōtō (Cornell UP, 2021) tells the story of Nomura Bōtō, a Buddhist nun, writer, poet, and activist who joined the movement to oppose the Tokugawa Shogunate and restore imperial rule. Banished for her political activities, Bōtō was imprisoned on a remote island until her comrades rescued her in a dramatic jailbreak, spiriting her away under gunfire. Roger K. Thomas examines Bōtō's life, writing, and legacy, and provides annotated translations of two of her literary diaries, shedding light on life and society in Japan's tumultuous bakumatsu period and challenging preconceptions about women's roles in the era.
    Thomas interweaves analysis of Bōtō's poetry and diaries with the history of her life and activism, examining their interrelationship and revealing how she brought two worlds—the poetic and the political—together. Counting Dreams illustrates Bōtō's significant role in the loyalist movement, depicting the adventurous life of a complex woman in Japan on the cusp of the Meiji Restoration.
    Jingyi Li is a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.
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    • 56 min
    Robert Hellyer, "Green with Milk and Sugar: When Japan Filled America's Tea Cups" (Columbia UP, 2021)

    Robert Hellyer, "Green with Milk and Sugar: When Japan Filled America's Tea Cups" (Columbia UP, 2021)

    Robert Hellyer’s Green with Milk and Sugar: When Japan Filled America's Tea Cups (Columbia UP, 2021) is a tale of American and Japanese teaways, skillfully weaving together stories of Midwesterners drinking green tea (with milk and sugar, to be sure), the recent and complex origins of Japan's love of now-ubiquitous sencha, Ceylon tea merchants exploiting American racism, Chinese tea production expertise, and the author’s own family history in the Japan-America tea trade going back to the nineteenth century. Transnational histories and commodities histories are notoriously delicate dances, but Hellyer has produced a very readable and eye-opening look at the modern history and culture of tea. Green with Milk and Sugar will be of interest to a diverse group of historians—scholars of North America, East Asia, commerce and trade, food, etc.—but also to a general audience who will be pulled in by the author’s personal connections as well as the delightfully jargon-free narrative.
    Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese language and history in the University of Bergen's Department of Foreign Languages.
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    • 46 min
    J. W. Traphagan, "The Blood of Gutoku: A Jack Riddley Mystery in Japan" (Balestier Press, 2021)

    J. W. Traphagan, "The Blood of Gutoku: A Jack Riddley Mystery in Japan" (Balestier Press, 2021)

    Today I talked to anthropologist J. W. Traphagan's novel The Blood of Gutoku: A Jack Riddley Mystery in Japan (Balestier Press, 2021)
    Jack Riddley is an anthropologist all too ready to retire – he is done with university politics and is eager to start his new life in a sleepy village in northern Japan. What wasn’t involved in his retirement plan is for a murder to occur just as he arrives in town. With Jack’s passion for ethnography, he cannot help but get involved with the investigation, eager to discover not only who committed these crimes, but why. Even a village of retirees has its secrets – abandoned traditions, family rifts, and childhood traumas – all of which are perfect motives for murder.
    Jingyi Li is a PhD Candidate in Japanese History at the University of Arizona. She researches about early modern Japan, literati, and commercial publishing.
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    • 50 min
    Timon Screech, "The Shogun's Silver Telescope: God, Art, and Money in the English Quest for Japan, 1600-1625" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    Timon Screech, "The Shogun's Silver Telescope: God, Art, and Money in the English Quest for Japan, 1600-1625" (Oxford UP, 2020)

    An English mission to Japan arrives in 1613 with all the standard English commodities, including wool and cloth: which the English hope to trade for Japanese silver. But there’s a gift for the Shogun among them: a silver telescope.
    As Timon Screech explains in his latest book, The Shogun’s Silver Telescope: God, Art, and Money in the English Quest for Japan, 1600-1625 (Oxford University Press, 2020), there was a lot of meaning behind that telescope. It represented an English state trying to chart its own part as a Protestant country, denoting their support for science and a more open culture in the face of a more backward Catholic Europe. Screech’s book charts the background behind this simple gift and what it meant for both Japan and England.
    In this interview, Timon and I follow the English journeys to Japan, the reasons for these trips, and what the English encountered when they got there. And we’ll think about what we learn from this—ultimately failed—effort to start a trading relationship between these two islands.
    Professor Timon Screech is Professor at Nichibunken or the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto, after thirty years at SOAS. He is the author of at least a dozen books on the visual culture of the Edo period, including perhaps his best-known work Sex and the Floating World: Erotic Images in Japan, 1700-1820 (University of Hawaii Press, 1999). His other most recent book (and previous interview subject) is Tokyo Before Tokyo: Power and Magic in the Shogun’s City of Edo (Reaktion Books: 2020). In 2019, he was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy.
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of The Shogun’s Silver Telescope. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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    • 49 min
    Orion Klautau and Hans Martin Krämer, "Buddhism and Modernity: Sources from Nineteenth-Century Japan" (U Hawaii Press, 2021)

    Orion Klautau and Hans Martin Krämer, "Buddhism and Modernity: Sources from Nineteenth-Century Japan" (U Hawaii Press, 2021)

    Buddhism and Modernity: Sources from Nineteenth-Century Japan (University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2021) is a welcome new collection of twenty sources on modern Japanese Buddhism, translated and with introductions. The editors (Hans Martin Krämer and Orion Klautau) and translators have curated a diverse array of materials focusing on the struggles of Japanese Buddhism to come to terms with, accommodate to, and find its way in modernity from the mid-nineteenth century into the early decades of the twentieth. The book is helpfully divided into five thematic sections: Sectarian Reform, the Nation, Science and Philosophy, Social Reform, and Japan and Asia. Each contains works by important and influential Buddhist thinkers, such as Inoue Enryō, Shimaji Mokurai, and Shaku Sōen. 
    Overall, Buddhism and Modernity sketches out a picture of Japanese Buddhism negotiating a new sense of nation, “religion,” empire, Asia, and the “proper” shape of society in a period in which Japan’s Buddhist traditions were facing novel and complex internal and external challenges. This book will be of interest to scholars of religion and Japan, of course, but the translators’ introductions to each selection and the length of those selections make it suitable for classroom use as well. The selections we will be discussing today were (in order) translated by Hoshino Seiji, Kaneyama Mitsuhiro and Nathaniel Gallant, Ryan Ward, Iwata Mami and Stephan Kigensan Licha, and Michael Mohr.
    Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese and East Asian history in the Graduate School of Humanities, Nagoya University.
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    • 1 hr 7 min
    Susanne Klien, "Urban Migrants in Rural Japan: Between Agency and Anomie in a Post-growth Society" (SUNY Press, 2020)

    Susanne Klien, "Urban Migrants in Rural Japan: Between Agency and Anomie in a Post-growth Society" (SUNY Press, 2020)

    Susanne Klien's book Urban Migrants in Rural Japan: Between Agency and Anomie in a Post-growth Society (SUNY Press, 2020) provides a fresh perspective on theoretical notions of rurality and emerging modes of working and living in post-growth Japan. By exploring narratives and trajectories of individuals who relocate from urban to rural areas and seek new modes of working and living, this multi-sited ethnography reveals the changing role of rurality, from postwar notions of a stagnant backwater to contemporary sites of experimentation. The individual cases presented in the book vividly illustrate changing lifestyles and perceptions of work. What emerges from Urban Migrants in Rural Japan is the emotionally fraught quest of many individuals for a personally fulfilling lifestyle and the conflicting neoliberal constraints many settlers face. In fact, flexibility often coincides with precarity and self-exploitation. Klien shows how mobility serves as a strategic mechanism for neophytes in rural Japan who hedge their bets; gain time; and seek assurance, inspiration, and courage to do (or further postpone doing) what they ultimately feel makes sense to them. 
    John W. Traphagan, Ph.D. is Professor and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Fellow in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor in the Program in Human Dimensions of Organizations.
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    • 56 min

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