New Voices in Japanese Studies Volume 9

Volume 9

Published June, 2017
ISSN 2205-3166
DOI: http://doi.org/10.21159/nvjs.09
© The Japan Foundation, Sydney, 2017
Creative Commons License

See Abstract

As host of the 2010 Nagoya Biodiversity Summit, Japan reaffirmed its efforts to conserve biodiversity for future generations. Rebuilding relationships with nature and strengthening conservation education are key priorities of Japan’s biodiversity conservation agenda to improve outcomes for threatened species and local communities. This paper examines community engagement with the critically endangered Okinawa Rail (Hypotaenidia okinawae), an endemic bird of the Yanbaru forests of northern Okinawa, with reference to the conservation context in Japan. Since discovery of the Okinawa Rail in 1981, communities in Yanbaru have developed a strong relationship with this species, recognising it as an important symbol of regional cultural identity and as a unique ecological asset that attracts visitors and underpins community events. This has translated into investment by government and community stakeholders in conservation education facilities and public awareness campaigns for the Okinawa Rail in Yanbaru. To improve the long-term value of facilities to support science-based conservation efforts in this Japanese context, it could be advantageous to increase opportunities for social learning that incorporate both educational and conservation goals, and which encourage stakeholder partnerships. The complex socio-economic and political context in Okinawa, and the significant impact human activities have on the Okinawa Rail population, also highlight the importance of community cooperation in conservation activities and reinforce the value of interdisciplinary approaches that negotiate cross-cultural differences in biodiversity conservation.

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The rise of kētai shōsetsu —digital novels written and shared on mobile phones, predominantly by girls—in the late 2000s caught the attention of Japanese critics and journalists, as a new literary phenomenon that was taking the world of Japanese girls’ literature by storm. In 2008, journalist Kenrō Hayamizu published a book titled Kētai shōsetsuteki: ‘sai yankīka’ jidai no shōjotachi [‘Mobile Phone Novels: Girls in the Re-Yankification Era’], in which he draws a parallel between mobile phone novels and the yankī culture that has its roots in 1980s youth culture. In this pioneering work, Hayamizu interpreted the emergence of the mobile phone novel as a sign of a yankī cultural revival. Although there is undoubtedly a strong parallel between mobile phone novels and yankī culture, the argument that this is simply a ‘revival’ of the 1980s rebellious youth culture significantly undermines the role that girls play in the cultural production of such novels. Using the Wild Beast series [2009–2010] by Yū as a case study, this paper argues that the girls writing and reading mobile phone novels are reimagining yankī culture as their own.

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The career of novelist Haruki Murakami has conventionally been divided into two periods: detachment and commitment. Murakami’s transition to commitment, in the sense of a social engagement with a defined political sensibility, is generally seen to begin with the novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle [1995]. However, the so-called Rat Trilogy (Hear the Wind Sing [1979], Pinball, 1973 [1980] and A Wild Sheep Chase [1982]) sees Murakami address the concept of shutaisei—the question of individual agency and subjectivity at the centre of Japan’s student activist movement in the late 1960s. Examining the trilogy’s central characters through the lens of shutaisei, I argue that a commitment to political and historical awareness can already be found in Murakami’s early works.

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This study investigates the multiple representations of shōjō in the translated literature and print media of Japan’s Meiji era. It explores the origins of the shōjō as a yōkai, or mythical being of traditional folklore and Noh theatre, through to its unveiling as a real-life creature of the modern world, as an orangutan, initially at misemono sideshows, before its introduction to the Tokyo public at the Ueno Zoo, in 1898. The zoo, as a new framework for ordering the relationship between people and the natural world, is one of the cultural systems through which knowledge of the shōjō was constructed, circulated and experienced in this period. Examining such materials, the paper reveals contesting knowledge systems that contributed to modern experience. Translation also plays an important role in this process and the translated literature of this era is explored and foregrounded here as an active contributor to the creation and transition of knowledge of exotic animals like the shōjō in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Japan.

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Studies on Japanese masculinity have been consistently and strongly engaged with R.W. Connell’s (1995) theory of the gender order and hegemonic masculinity, with the Japanese salaryman being identified as a masculine ideal by a number of scholars. Within this context there has been an emphasis on the plurality of masculinities present within society, and the instability of masculine ideals in performances across different contexts. I argue, however, that there is still space to engage more deeply with Bakhtin’s concept of heteroglossia in order to reveal a multitude of different masculine voices present within a single gendered performance. Studies on the literature of Haruki Murakami have had only limited engagement with issues of masculinity, therefore this paper also demonstrates the potential for analysing the voices of male characters in fiction through masculinity theory. Here, I undertake a discourse analysis of three male characters in Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase [1982], proposing that although these characters are strongly engaged and invested in the monoglossic salaryman masculinity, there is always a heteroglossia of masculine performances present. This suggests that plurality is not actually an exception, or evidence of a failure to comply, but rather an
ordinary aspect of gendered performance.