Book Announcement: Gazing at the Moon: Buddhist Poems of Solitude

Gazing at the Moon:
Buddhist Poems of Solitude

Translated by Meredith McKinney

Clear and clearer
with the moon the heart
swells widening
out toward
what distant end I know not

A fresh translation of the classical Buddhist poetry of Saigyō, whose aesthetics of nature, love, and sorrow came to epitomize the Japanese poetic tradition.

Saigyō, the Buddhist name of Fujiwara no Norikiyo (1118–1190), is one of Japan’s most famous and beloved poets. He was a recluse monk who spent much of his life wandering and seeking after the Buddhist way. Combining his love of poetry with his spiritual evolution, he produced beautiful, lyrical lines infused with a Buddhist perception of the world.

Gazing at the Moon presents over one hundred of Saigyō’s tanka—traditional 31-syllable poems—newly rendered into English by renowned translator Meredith McKinney. This selection of poems conveys Saigyō’s story of Buddhist awakening, reclusion, seeking, enlightenment, and death, embodying the Japanese aesthetic ideal of mono no aware—to be moved by sorrow in witnessing the ephemeral world.

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Book Announcement: Okada Toshiki & Japanese Theatre

Okada Toshiki & Japanese Theatre
Edited by Peter Eckersall, Barbara Geilhorn, Andreas Regelsberger and Cody Poulton

Playwright, novelist and theatre director Okada Toshiki is one of the most important voices of the current generation of Japanese contemporary theatre makers. He founded his globally influential theatre company chelfitsch in 1997. Using a unique style and a distinctive language, his plays address issues such as social inequity, life in Japan after the 3/11 Earthquake, and posthuman society. Okada is a theatrical visionary showing undercurrents in everyday moments and the strangeness of being alive in our time.

In Okada Toshiki and Japanese Theatre, Okada’s work and its importance to the development of contemporary performance in Japan and around the world is explored. Gathered here for the first time in English is a comprehensive selection of essays, interviews and translations of three of Okada’s plays by leading scholars and translators. Okada’s writing on theatre is also included, accompanied by an extensive array of images from his performances.

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Book Announcement: Touching the Unreachable Writing, Skinship, Modern Japan

Touching the Unreachable: Writing, Skinship, Modern Japan
Fusako Innami

Fusako Innami offers the first comprehensive study of touch and skinship—relationality with the other through the skin—in modern Japanese writing. The concept of the unreachable—that is, the lack of characters’ complete ability to touch what they try to reach for—provides a critical intervention on the issue of intimacy. Touch has been philosophically addressed in France, but literature is an effective—or possibly the most productive—venue for exploring touch in Japan, as literary texts depict what the characters may be concerned with but may not necessarily say out loud. Such a moment of capturing the gap between the felt and the said—the interaction between the body and language—can be effectively analyzed by paying attention to layers of verbalization, or indeed translation, by characters’ utterances, authors’ depictions, and readers’ interpretations. Each of the writers discussed in this book—starting with Nobel prize winner Kawabata Yasunari, Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, Yoshiyuki Junnosuke, and Matsuura Rieko—presents a particular obsession with objects or relationality to the other constructed via the desire for touch.

In Touching the Unreachable, phenomenological and psychoanalytical approaches are cross-culturally interrogated in engaging with literary touch to constantly challenge what may seem like the limit of transferability regarding concepts, words, and practices. The book thereby not only bridges cultural gaps beyond geographic and linguistic constraints, but also aims to decentralize a Eurocentric hegemony in its production and use of theories and brings Japanese cultural and literary analyses into further productive and stimulating intellectual dialogues. Through close readings of the authors’ treatment of touch, Innami develops a theoretical framework with which to examine intersensorial bodies interacting with objects and the environment through touch.

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Book Announcement: The Tokugawa World

The Tokugawa World
Edited By Gary P. Leupp, De-min Tao

With over 60 contributions, The Tokugawa World presents the latest scholarship on early modern Japan from an international team of specialists in a volume that is unmatched in its breadth and scope.

In its early modern period, under the Tokugawa shoguns, Japan was a world apart. For over two centuries the shogun’s subjects were forbidden to travel abroad and few outsiders were admitted. Yet in this period, Japan evolved as a nascent capitalist society that could rapidly adjust to its incorporation into the world system after its forced “opening” in the 1850s. The Tokugawa World demonstrates how Japan’s early modern society took shape and evolved: a world of low and high cultures, comic books and Confucian academies, soba restaurants and imperial music recitals, rigid enforcement of social hierarchy yet also ongoing resistance to class oppression. A world of outcasts, puppeteers, herbal doctors, samurai officials, businesswomen, scientists, scholars, blind lutenists, peasant rebels, tea-masters, sumo wrestlers, and wage workers.

Covering a variety of features of the Tokugawa world including the physical landscape, economy, art and literature, religion and thought, and education and science, this volume is essential reading for all students and scholars of early modern Japan.

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Call for Participants: Ise and Japan Study Program

Kogakkan University (located in Ise City, Mie Prefecture) will be hosting an eighth year of the “Ise and Japan Study Program.” The program is open to graduate (Master or PhD) or post-graduate researchers (including faculty) who are interested in learning more about Japanese language, history, and culture with a focus on the Ise-Shima region and the Shinto religious tradition.

The application period begins November 8, 2021 and ends December 20, 2021. The program will be held from February 21, 2022 to March 11, 2022. Because of the pandemic and associated travel uncertainties, applicants must be based in Japan (see the application materials for details).

The program covers the cost of food, lodging, and domestic transportation for participants, who will attend lectures and go on field trips to significant archaeological, cultural, and historical sites. The Ise and Japan Study Program is sponsored by Kogakkan University and Ise City, which is home to the Jingu shrine complex. Please see the links below for the application form, details about eligibility, requirements, last year’s schedule, past participants, and so forth.


Call for Participants

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Book Announcement: The Comic Storytelling of Western Japan

The Comic Storytelling of Western Japan: Satire and Social Mobility in Kamigata Rakugo
M. W. Shores, University of Sydney

Rakugo, a popular form of comic storytelling, has played a major role in Japanese culture and society. Developed during the Edo (1600–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) periods, it is still popular today, with many contemporary Japanese comedians having originally trained as rakugo artists. Rakugo is divided into two distinct strands, the Tokyo tradition and the Osaka tradition, with the latter having previously been largely overlooked. This pioneering study of the Kamigata (Osaka) rakugo tradition presents the first complete English translation of five classic rakugo stories, and offers a history of comic storytelling in Kamigata (modern Kansai, Kinki) from the seventeenth century to the present day. Considering the art in terms of gender, literature, performance, and society, this volume grounds Kamigata rakugo in its distinct cultural context and sheds light on the ‘other’ rakugo for students and scholars of Japanese culture and history.

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Emerging Translator Mentorship Program (deadline 11/30)

The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is offering an Emerging Translator Mentorship Program for 2022, the deadline for which is November 30!

The ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program is designed to establish and facilitate a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a project selected by the emerging translator. The mentorship duration is approximately nine months. The emerging translator is expected to choose a project that can be completed in that time, and they will only be advised on that particular project.

The following 13 mentorships are available in 2022:

Applications must be submitted online through the submission platform by November 30. The program is open to emerging translators at no cost to them.

Please view the webpage for more information and find answers to common questions at the mentorship FAQ.

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Book Announcement: Humans and Devices in Medical Contexts: Case Studies from Japan

Humans and Devices in Medical Contexts:
Case Studies from Japan

Susanne Brucksch, Kaori Sasaki

This book explores the ways in which socio-technical settings in medical contexts find varying articulations in a specific locale. Focusing on Japan, it consists of nine case studies on topics concerning: experiences with radiation in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima; patient security, end-of-life and high-tech medicine in hospitals; innovation and diffusion of medical technology; and the engineering and evaluating of novel devices in clinical trials.

The individual chapters situate humans and devices in medical settings in their given semantic, pragmatic, institutional and historical context. A novel interdisciplinary approach offers deep insights beyond the manifold findings of each case study, thereby enriching academic discussions on socio-technical settings in medical contexts amongst affiliated disciplines. This volume will be of broad interest to scholars, practitioners, policy makers and students from various disciplines, including Science and Technology Studies (STS), medical humanities, social sciences, ethics and law, business and innovation studies, as well as biomedical engineering, medicine and public health.

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Resource: Japanese Animated Film Classics

There’s no doubt that Japanese animation is now everywhere, from popular media we consume on Netflix to splashing across the big screen. But where did animated film begin? What kind of works were created?

One great resource for exploring the history of animated film media is the Japanese Animated Film Classics website. Operated by the National Film Archive of Japan, it features films from 1917 to the 1940s that otherwise might be difficult or impossible to find. The site can be navigated in both Japanese and English, which is particularly helpful for students or casual viewers with limited language ability.

It is possible to search the content by different categories, including Genre, Types of Motion (such as sleeping, sword fighting, rotating, dancing and singing), Techniques (cut-outs, silhouettes, cel, stop motion), and Characters. One can also browse the general list of works  or list of authors, or jump to an “Experts’ Choice” tab where a specialists helpfully offer expert analysis of the history and content of individual film selections to guide your viewing of the material.


Each clip is accompanied by a full range of metadata, a plot summary, and keywords to search for related materials. Some films also include English subtitles. The FAQ section presents some important questions that one will want to know about the collection (is there anything unique to Japan? What about women animators?).

Additional content is featured in connection with the Noburo Ofuji Memorial Museum, such as documents and photographs related to production and filmography, which help to contextualize the creation and reception of these important works.

Whether you’re searching the site for research or for fun, there’s plenty to discover! Be sure to check it out.


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Book Announcement: Samurai: A Very Short Introduction

Samurai: A Very Short Introduction

Michael Wert

The idea of the sword-wielding samurai, beholden to a strict ethical code and trained in deadly martial arts, dominates popular conceptions of the samurai. As early as the late seventeenth century, they were heavily featured in literature, art, theater, and even comedy, from the Tale of the Heike to the kabuki retellings of the 47 Ronin. This legacy remains with us today in the legendary Akira Kurosawa films, the shoguns of HBO’s Westworld, and countless renditions of samurai history in anime, manga, and video games. Acknowledging these common depictions, this book gives readers access to the real samurai as they lived, fought, and served.

Much as they capture the modern imagination, the samurai commanded influence over the politics, arts, philosophy and religion of their own time, and ultimately controlled Japan from the fourteenth century until their demise in the mid-nineteenth century. On and off the battlefield, whether charging an enemy on horseback or currying favor at the imperial court, their story is one of adventures and intrigues, heroics and misdeeds, unlikely victories and devastating defeats. This book traces the samurai throughout this history, exploring their roles in watershed events such as Japan’s invasions of Korea at the close of the sixteenth century and the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. Coming alive in these accounts are the samurai, both famed and ordinary, who shaped Japanese history.

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