Book Announcement: Archaeology and History of Toraijin: Human, Technological, and Cultural Flow from the Korean Peninsula to the Japanese Archipelago c. 800 BC–AD 600

Archaeology and History of Toraijin:
Human, Technological, and Cultural Flow from the Korean Peninsula to the Japanese Archipelago c. 800 BC–AD 600
By Song-nai Rhee, C. Melvin Aikens, Gina L. Barnes

Archaeology and History of Toraijin: Human, technological, and cultural flow from the Korean Peninsula to the Japanese Archipelago c. 800 BC–AD 600 explores the fundamental role in the history of the Japanese archipelago played by Toraijin – immigrants mainly from the Korean Peninsula – during this formative period. The arrival of immigrant rice-agriculturalists from the peninsula in the early first millennium BC was the first of three major waves of technological transfer between the continent and the islands. The second brought bronze and iron-working to the archipelago around the 4th century BC, and the third brought elite crafts and administrative technology as well as Confucianism and Buddhism in the 5th and 6th centuries AD.

In light of the recently uncovered archaeological data and ancient historical records, this book presents a panoramic bird’s eye view of the fourteen centuries-long Toraijin story, from c. 800~600 BC to AD 600 or thereabouts by answering the following seven questions: Where did the Toraijin come from? What was their historical and socio-cultural background? Why did they leave their homeland? Where did they settle in the Archipelago? What did they do in the Archipelago? How did the Archipelago people treat the Toraijin? What contributions did the Toraijin make to the ancient Japanese society?

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Book Announcement: Gas Mask Nation: Visualizing Civil Air Defense in Wartime Japan

Gas Mask Nation
Visualizing Civil Air Defense in Wartime Japan
Gennifer Weisenfeld

A fascinating look at the anxious pleasures of Japanese visual culture during World War II.

Airplanes, gas masks, and bombs were common images in wartime Japan. Yet amid these emblems of anxiety, tasty caramels were offered to children with paper gas masks as promotional giveaways, and magazines featured everything from attractive models in the latest civil defense fashion to futuristic weapons.

Gas Mask Nation 
explores the multilayered construction of an anxious yet perversely pleasurable visual culture of Japanese civil air defense—or bōkū—through a diverse range of artworks, photographs, films and newsreels, magazine illustrations, postcards, cartoons, advertising, fashion, everyday goods, government posters, and state propaganda. Gennifer Weisenfeld reveals the immersive aspects of this culture, in which Japan’s imperial subjects were mobilized to regularly perform highly orchestrated civil air defense drills throughout the country.

The war years in Japan are often portrayed as a landscape of privation and suppression under the censorship of the war machine. But alongside the horrors, pleasure, desire, wonder, creativity, and humor were all still abundantly present in a period before air raids went from being a fearful specter to a deadly reality.

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Book Announcement: The Politics of Trauma and Integrity: Stories of Japanese “Comfort Women”

The Politics of Trauma and Integrity: Stories of Japanese “Comfort Women”
Sachiyo Tsukamoto

The Politics of Trauma and Integrity uses the lenses of gender and trauma to tell the stories of narratives testified by two contrasting Japanese “comfort women” survivors.

Through an innovative interdisciplinary study of the politics of gendered memory and trauma in a historical context, with numerous primary sources for analysis including diaries, interviews, letters and oral testimonies, this book uncovers the life- or- death struggles of Japanese survivors in pursuit of public recognition as the victims of state violence against women. It is set within a gender history of modern Japan, supplemented by feminist activist methodology premised upon political agency that seeks social justice. The author’s analysis draws upon three key concepts: trauma, coherence of the self and integrity. Focusing upon the role of gender and trauma as the nexus between memory construction and identity formation in modern Japan, the author reveals these women’s relentless quest for their recovery and the creation of new identities.

This book provides a better understanding of the victims of sexual violence and encourages readers to listen to the voice of trauma, as well as making a significant contribution to the existing research on the ongoing history of sexual violence against women in Japan, the rest of Asia and beyond. It will be of interest to scholars, researchers, activists and all who are concerned about the issue of women’s human rights. It provides supplementary reading and research material for history and politics courses relating to Japan and East Asia, memory, identity, trauma, gender, war and feminist activism. This book will also be beneficial to victims of sexual violence as well as the counsellors/ psychologists engaging with them.

Discount available until September 30th, 2022 – enter the code PT2022 at checkout

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Chapter 4 of this book is freely available as a downloadable Open Access PDF under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license available at

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Book Announcement: The New Real: Media and Mimesis in Japan from Stereographs to Emoji

The New Real:
Media and Mimesis in Japan from Stereographs to Emoji
Jonathan E. Abel

Unlocking a vital understanding of how literary studies and media studies overlap and are bound together

A synthetic history of new media reception in modern and contemporary Japan, The New Real positions mimesis at the heart of the media concept. Considering both mimicry and representation as the core functions of mediation and remediation, it offers a new model for media studies while explaining the deep and ongoing imbrication of Japan in the history of new media.

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Book Announcement: Queer Transfigurations: Boys Love Media in Asia

Queer Transfigurations: Boys Love Media in Asia
Edited by James Welker

The boys love (BL) genre was created for girls and women by young female manga (comic) artists in early 1970s Japan to challenge oppressive gender and sexual norms. Over the years, BL has seen almost irrepressible growth in popularity and since the 2000s has become a global media phenomenon, weaving its way into anime, prose fiction, live-action dramas, video games, audio dramas, and fan works. BL’s male–male romantic and sexual relationships have found a particularly receptive home in other parts of Asia, where strong local fan communities and locally produced BL works have garnered a following throughout the region, taking on new meanings and engendering widespread cultural effects.

Queer Transfigurations is the first detailed examination of the BL media explosion across Asia. The book brings together twenty-one scholars exploring BL media, its fans, and its sociocultural impacts in a dozen countries in East, Southeast, and South Asia—and beyond. Contributors draw on their expertise in an array of disciplines and fields, including anthropology, fan studies, gender and sexuality studies, history, literature, media studies, political science, and sociology to shed light on BL media and its fandoms.

Queer Transfigurations reveals the far-reaching influences of the BL genre, demonstrating that it is truly transnational and transcultural in diverse cultural contexts. It has also helped bring about positive changes in the status of LGBT(Q) people and communities as well as enlighten local understandings of gender and sexuality throughout Asia. In short, Queer Transfigurations shows that, some fifty years after the first BL manga appeared in print, the genre is continuing to reverberate and transform lives.

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Resource: The World of the Japanese Illustrated Book

These days there are seemingly endless digitized materials to look at online, whether searching for the contents of major public libraries, museums, or university collections. But we can’t always get a well-rounded understanding of an object just from the metadata on a website. If you’re interested in taking a deeper dive into some fascinating materials on early modern Japanese history (and beyond), The World of the Japanese Illustrated Book, a digital resource by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art on their Pulverer Collection, is an excellent place to start.

Spanning the 17th to 20th centuries, the Pulverer Collection features over 2,000 volumes of rare Japanese illustrated books, one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind outside of Japan. An incredible number of these books have been made into high resolution images with full meta data and are searchable through the website.

The site offers four main features, Essays, Search, Resources, and My Research. The Essays section offers half a dozen peer-reviewed examinations of different aspects of the collection by a wide variety of scholars. Whether you’re seeking reflections on Hokusai as an illustrator or more technical information on the woodblock printing process, these essays are a rich deep-dive into the digitized Pulverer materials.

These essays are also complemented by a series of videos not only by Gerhard Pulverer himself but also diverse specialists, such as cartoonists, curators, and artists, who bring new perspectives to these historical works from cultural, collection, and production perspectives. No doubt any of these essays or interviews would be helpful additions to classrooms or just enjoyable on their own for learning more about the materials shared on the Smithsonian’s website.

The Search section provides not only subject, arts, title, and keyword based explorations of the contents of the Pulverer Collection, but also a visualization (seen below) to browse the collection contents by date.

This interactive view of the collection is a helpful way to examine the collection’s scope, hone in on specific works during an artist’s period of activity, or simply browse for particularly popular topics in a given year or years.

The Resources area is fairly straight forward, providing acknowledgment and contributor biographies along with a helpful glossary of Japanese terms (including kanji) used in the specialist essays and metadata. Researchers or students will also find a particularly useful bibliography of works referenced, organized by both general interest and specific topics/artists. There is also a My Research page that can be used to add notes to or bookmark specific essays and works, though it is only available after the creation of an account.

For further explanation of the Pulverer Collection you can also see this article by curator Kit Brooks, which discusses more in detail about the collection’s origins and highlights. Casual readers, students, and researchers alike will find lots to explores and enjoy in The World of the Japanese Illustrated Book. 

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Book Announcement: Letters from Japan’s Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Letters from Japan’s Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Correspondence of Warlords, Tea Masters, Zen Priests, and Aristocrats
Morgan Pitelka, Reiko Tanimura, Takashi Masuda

Cultural historians Morgan Pitelka and Reiko Tanimura partner with one of Japan’s premier experts in calligraphy and letter writing, Takashi Masuda, to translate and annotate twenty-three unique letters alongside images of the hand-brushed originals. Each letter is presented first in its original format as a brushed piece of calligraphy. The authors provide a transcription of the letter into Japanese, followed by an English translation. Next is a commentary with the biography of the letter’s author and in some cases the addressee, the context for its writing, and brief descriptions of relevant locations, individuals, and historical events mentioned therein. This book offers readers rare access in English to the voices of renowned historical figures from Japan’s Age of Unification and early Edo period.

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Book Announcement: The Comfort Women of Singapore in History and Memory

The Comfort Women of Singapore in History and Memory
Kevin Blackburn

“Comfort women” or ianfu is the euphemism used by the Japanese military for the women they compelled to do sex work in the Second World War, and has become the term generally used in English to discuss the subject. The role of comfort women in the Japanese empire during World War II remains an important and emotional topic around the world. Most scholarship concentrates on Korean comfort women, with less on their counterparts in Japan, China, and Taiwan, and even less on Southeast Asia. That gap persists despite widespread knowledge of the elaborate series of comfort stations, or comfort houses, that were organized by the Japanese administration across Singapore during the Occupation from 1942 to 1945. So why, the author asks, did no former comfort women from Singapore come forward and tell their stories when others across Asia began to do publicly in the 1990s?

To understand this silence, this book offers a detailed examination of the sex industry serving the Japanese military during the wartime occupation of Singapore: the comfort stations, managers, procuresses, girls, and women who either volunteered or were forced into service and in many cases sexual slavery. Kevin Blackburn then turns from history to the public presence of the comfort women in Singapore’s memory, including newspapers, novels, plays, television, and touristic heritage sites, showing how comfort women became known in Singapore during the 1990s and 2000s. Bringing great care, balance, and sensitivity to a difficult subject, Blackburn helps to fill an important gap in our understanding of this period.

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Book Announcement: Cultural Imprints: War and Memory in the Samurai Age

Cultural Imprints: War and Memory in the Samurai Age
Edited by Elizabeth Oyler and Katherine Saltzman-Li

Cultural Imprints draws on literary works, artifacts, performing arts, and documents that were created by or about the samurai to examine individual “imprints,” traces holding specifically grounded historical meanings that persist through time. The contributors to this interdisciplinary volume assess those imprints for what they can suggest about how thinkers, writers, artists, performers, and samurai themselves viewed warfare and its lingering impact at various points during the “samurai age,” the long period from the establishment of the first shogunate in the twelfth century through the fall of the Tokugawa in 1868.

The range of methodologies and materials discussed in Cultural Imprints challenges a uniform notion of warrior activity and sensibilities, breaking down an ahistorical, monolithic image of the samurai that developed late in the samurai age and that persists today. Highlighting the memory of warfare and its centrality in the cultural realm, Cultural Imprints demonstrates the warrior’s far-reaching, enduring, and varied cultural influence across centuries of Japanese history.

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Book Announcement: What Women Want: Gender and Voting in Britain, Japan and the United States

What Women Want: Gender and Voting in Britain, Japan and the United States
Gill Steel

What Women Want analyzes decades of voting preferences, values, and policy preferences to debunk some of the media and academic myths about gender gaps in voting and policy preferences. Findings show that no single theory explains when differences in women’s and men’s voting preferences emerge, when they do not, or when changes—or the lack thereof—occur over time. Steel extends existing theories to create a broader framework for thinking about gender and voting behavior to provide more analytical purchase in understanding gender and its varying effects on individual voters’ preferences. She incorporates the long-term effects of party identification and class politics on political decision-making, particularly in how they influence preferences on social provision and on expectations of the state. She also points to the importance of symbolic politics.

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