Fun Link Friday: Supernatural Cats

Are obsessions with cute cats and cat pics global across time and space? An article from September 2020 by Zack Davisson that appeared in Smithsonian Magazine takes a look at this phenomenon in Japan, at least, and explores the appearance of supernatural felines in Japanese art and culture.

Whether they’re shown as wearing clothes while having a party like your average person or looking like a demonic creature about to gobble you up, it’s fascinating to see how Japanese artists imagined these furry friends. So take a break from your day and head over to “Japan’s Love-Hate Relationship With Cats” to peek into the world of otherworldly felines!

Happy Friday!

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Call for Applicants: Sasakawa Studentships at the University of East Anglia, UK

The Centre for Japanese Studies at the University of East Anglia, UK, has once again been invited to submit applications for a number of Postgraduate Studentships from the Great British Sasakawa Foundation. These are available for students pursuing postgraduate (MA and PhD) study with a Japan focus.

Each studentship is worth £10,000 towards tuition fees and living expenses. We particularly encourage prospective 2021 students of our MA in Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies to apply. Our MA was launched in autumn 2020 and offers interdisciplinary insights to foster a new generation of Japan specialists across a wide range of humanities, including art history and cultural heritage, history, literature, international relations, and more. The programme brings together the diverse expertise at the University of East Anglia and the Sainsbury Institute, and students have access to a wealth of resources, including the world-renowned collections at the Lisa Sainsbury Library and the Sainsbury Centre.

In the first instance, please send a brief CV and a statement of interest (up to 500 words), specifying the course you are interested in and your future plans in Japan-related research and activity, to Professor Simon Kaner by 28 February 2021 using the contact form in the link below: 

Contact Info:

If you have any questions, please contact Oliver Moxham, Project Support Officer for the Centre for Japanese Studies.

Contact Email:


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Book Announcement: Competing Visions of Japan’s Relations with Southeast Asia, 1938-1960: Identity, Asianism, and the Search for a Regional Role

Competing Visions of Japan’s Relations with Southeast Asia, 1938–1960:
Identity, Asianism and the Search for a Regional Role
Von Dr. Heiko Lang

In a detailed discourse analysis, it compares competing arguments offered by business circles, the military, the political and diplomatic elites, and intellectuals on Japan’s regional strategy. This book advances the field of the history of Japan’s diplomatic thinking, not only by addressing the issue of continuity and change in the discourse on Japan’s relations with South East Asia, but also by demonstrating how this debate served to explore more fundamental questions about Japan’s identity, its relations with Western nations and its stance on Asian solidarity.

For more information:


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Fun Link Friday: Muscleman Tea Party

Instagram and other social media outlets are rife with beautiful displays of innovative Japanese tea ceremony sweets, with confectionery specialists playing off of traditional aesthetics and contemporary holidays. But did you ever think you’d be enjoying incredibly buff, jiggling sweets that put you and everyone you know to shame?

Earlier this year grape showcased an event held with ALL OUT, a Japanese “muscular performance group,” where they were part of a traditional tea ceremony that featured wiggly, transparent Japanese jelly treats shaped like flexing strongmen. I’m not sure shirtless flexing improves tea ceremony, but at least it does make for some entertaining content in otherwise dark times.

You can check out the original article to see the group lined up in their bodybuilding, tea-drinking glory, or visit their Twitter account to see what other random, muscle-bound content ALL OUT is putting out into the world.

Happy Friday!

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Resource: The World and Japan

For those who are interests in Japan in an international context, the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) has a trilingual database on historical sources related to modern Japanese politics and international relations entitled “The World and Japan (世界と日本).

Created by Akihiko Tanaka, Professor of International Relations, the database can be searched in Japanese, English, or Chinese, and as of January 2021 hosts 9,770 documents, covering from 1900 to 2006.

The landing page has tabbed regional subdivisions such as “World,” “Japan,” U.S-JPN/CHN-JPN,” “China,” etc., while the left-hand frame contains a variety of subsections based on document type (e.g. Diet and Imperial Diet Speeches, G20-related documents) or by time periods, and by regional relationships. Upon clicking one of these topics, relevant materials are presented in chronological order.

Given the great number of documents and the somewhat unwieldy categories in the left frame, it may be most useful to use the search options presented on the landing page, which will certain help narrow documents to a specific chronology or topic.

The search function can also be done in Japanese, English, or Chinese, which makes this database an invaluable tool not only for the professional researcher but for students who may wonder what types of documents related to international politics exist and where to find them. Be sure to bookmark this resource and hold onto it, as it will surely continue to be updated with new and relevant materials.

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Book Announcement: The Archaeology of Medieval Towns: Case Studies from Japan and Europe

The Archaeology of Medieval Towns: Case Studies from Japan and Europe
Simon Kaner (Editor); Brian Ayers (Editor); Richard Pearson (Editor); Oscar Wrenn (Editor)

In recent years, major new archaeological discoveries have redefined the development of towns and cities in the Japanese archipelago. The uncovering of the plans of major port towns such as Sakai, Kusado Sengen and Ichijōdani, and the revealing of early phases in the development of cities such as Kamakura and Hakata provide an important new resource in understanding the cultural and economic processes which shaped medieval Japan.

This fully illustrated book provides a sampler of these findings for a western audience. The new discoveries from Japan are set in context of medieval archaeology beyond Japan by accompanying essays from leading European specialists.

The global significance of Japanese medieval archaeology is assessed through comparing the development of towns in Japan and northern Europe. The medieval period in Japan and northwest Europe saw urban growth with towns not only providing centres of administration but also fostering economic development. The pressures which led to such growth, however, be they political or social, were universal in character. following basic requirements of food, shelter, security and spiritual nourishment, towns provided commercial infrastructures, transport and storage facilities, and the setting for trade, craft specialists and art.

Chapters include ‘The archaeology of medieval towns in Japan and Europe: an introduction’ (Brian Ayers and Simon Kaner); ‘Permanent urban frameworks (‘armature’) and economic networks in northern France c.700 – c.1000’ (Henri Galinié); ‘Medieval urbanism and culture in the cities of the Baltic: with a comparison between Lübeck, Germany, and Sakai, Japan’ (Manfred Gläser); ‘The development of Hakata as a medieval port town’ (Ōba Kōji); ‘The establishment and transformation of Japan’s medieval capital, Kamakura’ (Oka Yōichirō); ‘Ichijōdani: the archaeology of a Japanese medieval castle town’ (Ono Masatoshi); ‘Japanese medieval trading towns: Sakai and Tosaminato’ (Richard Pearson); and ‘Medieval ceramic production in the aegean, 1100 – 1600 AD: some considerations in an east-west perspective’ (Joanita Vroom).

For more information:

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Fun Link Friday: Ukiyo-e Memes

Being tethered to our computers for the last year, it seems like 2020 was also the year of the meme. Whether just trying to alleviate our anxieties and stresses or calling out poor behavior on the part of public figures, memes have been powerful and ubiquitous forms of engagement. So why not take it a step further?

Memes of the Floating World has recently brought to life your favorite internet staples, digitally styled after early modern Japanese woodblock prints. Thinking all the time about Long Cat? The wary eyes of doge? There’s probably something for you on the site, and hopefully more will be added.

Happy Friday!

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Japan Foundation’s Former Fellows Video Series

Do you ever wonder what some folks did with their BA in Japanese Studies? 😉 At the end of last year Japan Foundation called on former fellows to talk about various aspects of their Japanese Studies careers, research, and teaching. They asked questions like “Why did you start studying Japan?” “What can you do with a degree in Japanese Studies?” “How can schools improve their Japanese Studies programs?” “What is the future of Japanese Studies?” and more.

The videos are about 3-5 minutes long each, and feature both senior and early career Japanese Studies specialists. If you check them out, you might even see some familiar faces…! 👀 I’ll embed an example below, but you can check out the full channel here. Happy viewing!

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Book Announcement: Women and Networks In Nineteenth-Century Japan

Women and Networks In Nineteenth-Century Japan

Bettina GRAMLICH-OKA is Professor of Japanese History at Sophia University (Tokyo).
MIYAZAKI Fumiko is Professor Emerita at Keisen University (Tokyo).
SUGANO Noriko was Professor at Teikyo University (Tokyo).
Anne WALTHALL is Professor Emerita at the University of California, Irvine.

Although scholars have emphasized the importance of women’s networks for civil society in twentieth-century Japan, Women and Networks in Nineteenth-Century Japan is the first book to tackle the subject for the contentious and consequential nineteenth century. The essays traverse the divide when Japan started transforming itself from a decentralized to a centralized government, from legally imposed restrictions on movement to the breakdown of travel barriers, and from ad hoc schooling to compulsory elementary school education. As these essays suggest, such changes had a profound impact on women and their roles in networks. Rather than pursue a common methodology, the authors take diverse approaches to this topic that open up fruitful avenues for further exploration.

Most of the essays in this volume are by Japanese scholars; their inclusion here provides either an introduction to their work or the opportunity to explore their scholarship further. Because women are often invisible in historical documentation, the authors use a range of sources (such as diaries, letters, and legal documents) to reconstruct the familial, neighborhood, religious, political, work, and travel networks that women maintained, constructed, or found themselves in, sometimes against their will. In so doing, most but not all of the authors try to decenter historical narratives built on men’s activities and men’s occupational and status-based networks, and instead recover women’s activities in more localized groupings and personal associations.

For more information:

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Japan Foundation “Mask Up 2020” Design Competition

In case you’re looking for a creative way to encourage people to wear masks and support distribution of free masks to various organizations, Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership is sponsoring “Mask Up 2020,” a design competition.

Open to all amateur creators, adults or children, you can design a mask using their provided template and the winners will not only receive 25 of the masks they designed but also have them printed and distributed to medical institutions and Japan-related nonprofits.

For more information, see the main page and the following links:

• Guidelines
• Entry and Release Form
• Mask Template

The deadline is Deadline: January 22, 2021 by 6:00pm (EST)!

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