By Alexander Brown
University of Technology Sydney and Japan Women’s University
Guest Editor, New Voices in Japanese Studies, Volume 12
In August 2019 I received an invitation from Elicia O’Reilly, Series Editor of New Voices in Japanese Studies, to assume the role of Guest Editor for Volume 12. During my PhD candidature I saw many of my colleagues publish in its pages and so I leapt at the chance. I knew that NVJS had an important role in nurturing young scholars and as an Early Career Researcher I saw the position as an opportunity to develop my own skills as an editor, another important function that this journal has played over the years. Academic writing is a uniquely challenging form of writing and there are few opportunities for inexperienced writers to receive extensive feedback and guidance on their work in the competitive atmosphere of journal publishing. Some of the pieces New Voices receives are full of promise but somewhat under-developed in their first iteration. The journal’s flexibility means we are able to work with authors to continually develop and improve their work before and after subjecting it to peer review. The authors in this volume are all at different stages in their academic careers, from honours students to recent PhD graduates. It is a particular pleasure to see two high-quality essays by honours students in this volume. Thinking back to my own honours year and the state of my own writing at the time, it is a real tribute to these students who sought publication in a peer-reviewed publication and responded to feedback effectively and in a timely manner.
Editing this issue is the most recent in a series of productive engagements I have had with The Japan Foundation, Sydney and with the journal’s Series Editor Elicia O’Reilly. I first visited The Japan Foundation, Sydney in its former location at Chifley Plaza as a gallery volunteer at the start of my PhD candidature in 2010. At that time a multi-disciplinary installation responding to turn-of-the-century Japanese graves in Australia titled In Repose was on display. This exhibition opened my eyes to the long history of the Japanese presence in Australia, something I had previously known little about. I was pleased to review a book in this volume which included a discussion of this fascinating installation. Later in 2015, when I was on the verge of completing my doctoral dissertation, I met Elicia O’Reilly at the Japanese Studies Association of Australia biennial conference in Melbourne. Conversations between Japan Foundation staff and keynote speaker Eiji Oguma from Keio University at that conference led to the wonderful After 3.11: Have you met the new Japan? event series which explored activist and cultural responses to the complex earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster of March 2011. I was pleased to chair a Q&A session with Professor Oguma following a screening of his film Tell the Prime Minister as part of the series. These personal experiences are an example of the ways the Sydney Office has been supporting Japanese Studies in Australia. The breadth of work in Japanese Studies at Australian universities which is represented in this volume demonstrates the strength of the field.
The first two essays in this volume concern migration and the border between Australia and Japan. Tomoko Horikawa’s historical study re-examines the impact of the White Australia policy on Japanese migration to Australia in the early twentieth century. She argues that Japan’s growing military and diplomatic clout, as well as its alliance with Great Britain, enabled it to challenge the application of the Immigration Restriction Act to its nationals. This was expressed both in specific legislative amendments to the Act, carving out limited exceptions which allowed Japanese nationals to enter Australia, and in the way the Act was applied in practice. Australian officials displayed a willingness to lessen the impact of the Act’s discriminatory provisions for certain classes of Japanese immigrants whose cases were supported by Japanese consular officials. While there was no fundamental change to the White Australia policy’s objective of restricting permanent Asian immigration to Australia, the concessions granted to Japanese immigrants in response to consular advocacy showed the influence a rising Japan could bring to bear at the time.
Aoife Wilkinson, an honours student at the time of submission, contributes a contemporary sociological perspective to citizenship and migration between Australia and Japan. Her paper explores the attitudes of young people in Australia of mixed Japanese heritage towards their citizenship and identity. Japan does not currently permit its citizens to maintain dual nationality past the age of 22, meaning these young people must decide whether to maintain or renounce their Japanese citizenship, although in practice, many maintain dual citizenship by simply neglecting to inform the authorities of their choice. Wilkinson conducted interviews with fourteen young people, asking them about what their Japanese citizenship means to them. She concludes that young people perceive their citizenship less as a matter of cultural identity and more as a means of accessing opportunities for travel and career advancement in a flexible and globalising world.
Our next two authors both engage in close readings of Japanese texts. Haydn Trowell brings a perspective from translation studies and comparative literature to Yasunari Kawabata’s literary technique, through a close reading of his novel The Lake. Trowell sets out to test the observation made by several translators that the famous writer’s technique resembles that of classical Japanese linked-verse poetry, known as renga. Concentrating on the role of ‘linking’ and ‘flow’ in the progression of renga verse, Trowell breaks down a chapter of Kawabata’s novel, showing clear correspondences between the way these forms of linking are used in renga and the way they are used in the novel.
In a second outstanding contribution submitted by an honours student at the time, Luke Beattie conducts a more philosophical reading of his text, Tsutomu Mizushima’s animated television series Another, drawing on Jacques Derrida’s ideas of hauntology. For Beattie, Mizushima’s story of a haunted classroom provides an opportunity to think about the way Japan’s history of imperialism on the Asian continent haunts its present politics. He argues that the ghosts of the past cannot be ignored or forgotten but will find ways to re-emerge, making an honest reckoning with the past essential to any meaningful future. This essay demonstrates the seriousness of the issues raised in contemporary Japanese Studies classrooms and the creative way students engage with the study of popular culture.
Like Beattie, Megan Rose’s article focuses on Japanese popular culture. She explores the alternative kawaii fashion culture of Harajuku, a phenomenon which has played an enormous role in shaping contemporary perceptions of Japan in Australia. Rose presents two in-depth interviews with fashion practitioners who are active in the fairy-kei and decora subcultures. Rose reviews some existing approaches to kawaii fashion culture, showing that they fail to give adequate attention to the voices of practitioners. She adopts a different methodology, giving her interview subjects the opportunity to speak back to the way they are presented in academic discourse. Rose concludes that dominant ideas of kawaii fashion, which position it as form of childish escapism from adult responsibility, neglect the way practitioners make independent fashion choices in order to craft their identities as adults.
This is the second volume of New Voices in Japanese Studies to include a book review section and we are delighted to be able to offer five reviews. Two of the reviews continue with the contemporary Japanese popular culture theme from the peer-reviewed section of this volume. Gawain Lucian Lax reviews Rachael Hutchinson’s Japanese Culture Through Videogames and Jindan Ni reads Thomas Lamarre’s The Anime Ecology: A Genealogy of Television, Animation, and Game Media. Given the papers on historical and contemporary migration in the peer-reviewed section of this volume, we are fortunate to be able to include Shannon Whiley’s in-depth reading of John Lamb’s recent book on Okinawan migration to Australia, Okinawans Reaching Australia. Hamish Clark gives an account of Jolyon Baraka Thomas’s critical exploration of the idea of religious liberty in post-war Japan, Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan. Finally, I review a recent collection of essays edited by David Chapman and Carol Hayes, Japan in Australia: Culture, Context and Connection which addresses many of the themes from this volume of NVJS, from popular culture and literature to migration.
The contributors to this volume have been working in unparalleled circumstances, facing one of the worst bushfire seasons on record in Australia followed by a global pandemic. In spite of these considerable challenges, authors and peer reviewers, editors and staff have kept plugging away to enable us to bring this volume together within a tight publishing schedule of less than one calendar year. I want to thank Elicia O’Reilly once again for inviting me to guest edit this volume. Although this publication is a postgraduate student journal, the quality of the articles and the rigour of the review process are equal to anything I have experienced publishing in standard academic journals. Elicia’s rigorous approach to editing and her generosity in providing feedback is largely responsible for ensuring these high standards are maintained throughout. I would also very much like to thank the authors for staying the course and returning their revisions in a timely manner. It is never easy to receive extensive critical feedback on one’s work, as any experienced writer can confirm, but the authors whose work is published in this volume did so with grace and addressed criticisms and concerns appropriately. As is typical of each year, we were not able to include all of the submissions in this volume but hope that they will appear in future volumes.