Fun Link Friday: Ukiyo-e project and modern prints

Image from the Ukiyo-e Project

We’ve covered modern takes on and uses of ukiyo-e prints from early modern Japan a handful of times for our Fun Link Fridays here at Shinpai Deshou. The latest way in which ukiyo-e can be seen persisting in the cultural imaginary is through the Ukiyo-e Project‘s desire to bring modern stars into this centuries-old printing technique.

The Ukiyo-e Project recently gained notoriety through an article on Masuki Ishikawa’s David Bowie prints, bringing famous photos of the musician to life alongside mystical creatures. But the project as a whole seeks to portray numerous pop icons and artists through traditional woodblock printing.

Their site now features designs by the illustrator, woodcarver, and printer collaborators that depict Bowie, Kiss, and Iron Maiden (seen above), promising more pop legends in the future. Their site also features some fun details, like showing the sequence of printing that occurs for some pieces:

Explore the site to check out their other prints, learn more about the artists behind the work and the project, or even to buy some of their excellent work at their store. Happy Friday!

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Resource: Accessible Japan

With the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Japan fast approaching, the question of accessibility has been a topic of much debate. But how accessible are different areas of Japan? Where can you find information on what you might need, especially if you don’t speak fluent Japanese? The site Accessible Japan addresses many of these issues while also creating a community space for the exchange of information.

Originally created by Josh Grisdale, the site features an abundance of information for people with a wide variety of needs, including topics such as transportation by air or train, mobility scooters and aids, the Japanese braille system, guide dogs, and many others. Helpfully, these explanations include current laws or rules that one would not necessarily be aware of without living in Japan, and they often link to relevant articles for further reading.

One particularly useful section on Essential Japanese guides Japanese speakers and non-speakers alike through helpful phrases that would facilitate smoother communication on topics that seldom get taught in a typical Japanese classroom.

A Hotels section includes a list accessible hotels, divided up by major cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka as well as other locations throughout the archipelago. There is detailed information on each hotel (both the standard fare of price, location, etc., as well as various accessibility features like hearing loops or flashing alarms), and explanations also include photos (and sometimes maps) of the inside. Site members can also personally review the location.

The Attractions section is set up in a similar fashion, with great explanations of tourist spots in Tokyo, Kyoto, and other areas throughout Japan that are typical tourist destinations. In addition to the overviews of the locations (with tons of excellent photos!) and its accessibility, there are links to PDFs or websites that have further information on specific access routes and other accommodations. Accessibility Japan has also partnered with some tourist agencies to create accessible tour plans, which is wonderful for those who have never been to Japan or just don’t want to spend their energy doing all the planning themselves. Accessible Japan also maintains forums for people who still have questions or can’t find the information they need elsewhere and a blog on a wide variety of subjects related to accessibility and Japanese culture and travel.

This site is a wonderfully informative and important contribution to all communities who are interested in learning about and traveling to Japan. They maintain a variety of presences across social media, and you can also support their work on Patreon. Be sure spend some time exploring the site and sharing it with any organizations that could benefit from sharing this information with travelers!


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Funding: 2020 Moeson fellowship (LC’s Asian Division)

Applications are now being accepted for the Asian Division’s 2020 Florence Tan Moeson fellowship, which supports a minimum of five business days of research in the Asian Reading Room of the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.). Here’s the link for the online application: 

Deadline is midnight January 31, 2020. All research trips need to be completed before September 15, 2020. After notification, Asian Division staff will work with awardees on scheduling their trip to the Asian Reading Room.

The Moeson fellowship is open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty at all levels, librarians, and independent scholars and researchers. Applications from outside the United States are accepted, but please be advised that the Library of Congress cannot assist in the procurement of any visa toward the use of this fellowship. Please share this announcement far and wide with your contacts.

More info on LC’s Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Tibetan collections is available on the Asian Reading Room homepage: The homepage also includes several research guides, including one for the South Asian collection ( and the new LibGuide for South Asian manuscripts at the Library of Congress (

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Book Announcement: Locating Heisei in Japanese Fiction and Film: The Historical Imagination of the Lost Decades

Locating Heisei in Japanese Fiction and Film:
The Historical Imagination of the Lost Decades
By Marc Yamada

This book provides the first interdisciplinary examination of the popular fiction and film of the “lost decades” of Japan’s Heisei period (1989–2019).

Presenting original analysis of major Heisei writers, filmmakers, and manga artists, the chapters examine the work of Urasawa Naoki, Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Murakami Haruki, and Shinkai Makoto, among others. Through the work of these cultural figures, the book also explores the struggle to define the history of Heisei—three decades of economic stagnation, social malaise, and natural disaster. In particular, it explores the dissonance between the dominant history of Japan’s recent past and the representation of this past in the popular imagination of the period. In so doing, this book argues that traumatic events from the years leading up to Heisei complicate the narration of a cohesive sense of history for the period, requiring works of fiction and film to explore new connections to the past.

Incorporating literary and film theory to assess the works of culture, Locating Heisei in Japanese Fiction and Film will be useful to students and scholars of Japanese culture, society, and history.

For more information:

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Funding: 2020-21 Fellowships in Japanese Studies, Harvard University



During the 2020-21 academic year, the Program on US-Japan Relations, part of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA) at Harvard University, will offer postdoctoral fellowships for outstanding scholars in the social sciences, in a broad range of fields, including anthropology, economics, (modern) history, law, political science, public health, and sociology. Japanese language knowledge is not required.

Deadline: January 7, 2020 (Tuesday)

Appointment Term: 10 months, commencing September 2020.

Grant Amount: $60,000 stipend (10 months); health insurance coverage for grantee; up to $5,000 in research funds.





The Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies (RIJS) at Harvard University will offer several postdoctoral fellowships in Japanese studies to recent PhD graduates of exceptional promise, to provide the opportunity to turn dissertations into publishable manuscripts and to continue research in Japanese studies. Postdoctoral fellows are expected to reside in the Cambridge area during the appointment term, participate in RIJS activities, and give a presentation at the Japan Forum lecture series. Applicants must have received their PhD in 2015 or later, in Japanese studies, in any area of the humanities or social sciences. Selected fellowship recipients must have a registrar-certified PhD by June 30, 2020. RIJS especially encourages applications from those who have not previously held postdoctoral appointments at Harvard.


Applicant Deadline: December 17, 2019 (Tuesday), 5pm EST

Recommender Deadline: January 7, 2020 (Tuesday), 5pm EST

Appointment Term: 10 months, commencing September 2020.

Grant Amount: $60,000 stipend (10 months); health insurance coverage for grantee; up to $5,000 in research funds.



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Book Announcement: Defamiliarizing Japan’s Asia-Pacific War


Edited by W. Puck Brecher and Michael W. Myers

This wide-ranging collection seeks to reassess conventional understanding of Japan’s Asia-Pacific War by defamiliarizing and expanding the rhetorical narrative. Its nine chapters, diverse in theme and method, are united in their goal to recover a measured historicity about the conflict by either introducing new areas of knowledge or reinterpreting existing ones. Collectively, they cast doubt on the war as familiar and recognizable, compelling readers to view it with fresh eyes.

Following an introduction that problematizes timeworn narratives about a “unified Japan” and its “illegal war” or “race war,” early chapters on the destruction of Japan’s diplomatic records and government interest in an egalitarian health care policy before, during, and after the war oblige us to question selective histories and moral judgments about wartime Japan. The discussion then turns to artistic/cultural production and self-determination, specifically to Osaka rakugo performers who used comedy to contend with state oppression and to the role of women in creating care packages for soldiers abroad. Other chapters cast doubt on well-trod stereotypes (Japan’s lack of pragmatism in its diplomatic relations with neutral nations and its irrational and fatalistic military leadership) and examine resistance to the war by a prominent Japanese Christian intellectual. The volume concludes with two nuanced responses to race in wartime Japan, one maintaining the importance of racial categories while recognizing the “performance of Japaneseness,” the other observing that communities often reflected official government policies through nationality rather than race. Contrasting findings like these underscore the need to ask new questions and fill old gaps in our understanding of a historical event that, after more than seventy years, remains as provocative and divisive as ever.

Defamiliarizing Japan’s Asia-Pacific War will find a ready audience among World War II historians as well as specialists in war and society, social history, and the growing fields of material culture and civic history.

For more information:

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Fun Link Friday: Power Rankings of Japan’s Mascots

Kumamon, mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture

Mascots are one of the most well-known aspects of Japan’s cute culture. Everyone from local governments to giant corporations battles it out for the affections of the public through the likability and charisma of their mascots. But as the Japan Times points out, mascots have only been around for about a decade! In celebration of the current diversity and ubiquity of these agents of soft power, the Japan Times released their very own power ranking of mascots around Japan.

You can check out the ranking with full explanations of their choices (including some fun videos) at their article here. What are your mascot power rankings?

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