Fun Link Friday: Food-inspired inks 🍜

Just a quickie Fun Link Friday today, folks. In keeping with the love of food-inspired crafts from Japan, I was fascinated to come across SoraNews24’s recent exploration of stationery based on local foods of Nagasaki.

The one that particularly caught my eye was ink based on Nagasaki champon noodles, which I imagine makes it very tempting to lick the tip of your pen. Want to send a friend a homemade, savory-smelling postcard? Now is your chance! There are some great images on the site talking about the depth and color of the ink, in addition to its garlicky scent. Is the sweet, brown sugary castella ink just as good? Maybe it’s worth exploring the company’s main site to indulge your cravings! Happy Friday!

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Book Announcement: Licentious Fictions: Ninjō and the Nineteenth-Century Japanese Novel

Licentious Fictions:
Ninjō and the Nineteenth-Century Japanese Novel
Daniel Poch

Nineteenth-century Japanese literary discourse and narrative developed a striking preoccupation with ninjō—literally “human emotion,” but often used in reference to amorous feeling and erotic desire. For many writers and critics, fiction’s capacity to foster both licentiousness and didactic values stood out as a crucial source of ambivalence. Simultaneously capable of inspiring exemplary behavior and a dangerous force transgressing social norms, ninjō became a focal point for debates about the role of the novel and a key motor propelling narrative plots.

In Licentious Fictions, Daniel Poch investigates the significance of ninjō in defining the literary modernity of nineteenth-century Japan. He explores how cultural anxieties about the power of literature in mediating emotions and desire shaped Japanese narrative from the late Edo through the Meiji period. Poch argues that the Meiji novel, instead of superseding earlier discourses and narrative practices surrounding ninjō, complicated them by integrating them into new cultural and literary concepts. He offers close readings of a broad array of late Edo- and Meiji-period narrative and critical sources, examining how they shed light on the great intensification of the concern surrounding ninjō. In addition to proposing a new theoretical outlook on emotion, Licentious Fictions challenges the divide between early modern and modern Japanese literary studies by conceptualizing the nineteenth century as a continuous literary-historical space.

For more information:

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Fun Link Friday: Original Kanji Contest

Everyone knows that there’s nothing fun about the pandemic and it’s certainly been on all of our minds for months and months now. This past year Grape brought to our attention that there has been a contest for ten years+ to create original kanji reflecting our current times, and what times they are. The contest, titled 創作漢字コンテスト (Original Kanji Contest) is sponsored by Sankei Shimbun newspaper and The Shirakawa Shizuka Institute of East Asian Characters and Culture at Ritsumeikan University.

For 2020, undoubtedly one of the biggest topics in and outside of Japan was coronavirus and how it has affected our daily lives. And, appropriately, the winning entry of the original kanji contest was a modified version of 座:

As Grape writers described:

This new kanji still has the on’yomi za, but the kun’yomi has changed to: はなれてすわる(ソーシャルディスタンス)hanarete suwaru (sōsharu disutansu), meaning “to sit at a distance (social distance)”

Wen you consider that the etymology of the kanji 座 is “two people facing each other inside a house.” The genius of this new kanji is that the two people, each represented by the kanji for person 人, are no longer side by side. One of them has moved down beneath the line, which now functions as a partition. Simple, elegant, and very appropriate for 2020.

That said, there are many more kanji that are just as clever, and the contest website has a cool archive of past submissions and winners that you can check out! Any kanji lover will find a nice rabbit hole here to dive into. Happy Friday!

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Resource: Tsukioka Kōgyo, 月岡耕漁 The Art of Noh, 1869-1927

When we think of woodblock prints, typically what comes to mind is early modern Japan, with its wealth of colorful kabuki prints and personalities. However, woodblock printing continued to be a rich and fascinating artistic practice long after, and kabuki theater was not the only performance at to be depicted throughout the centuries.

Outside of Japan, University of Pittsburgh holds the largest collection of Japanese color woodblock prints depicting noh theatre created by the artist Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927). These works have been researched, digitized, and displayed on their own website, Kōgyo: The Art of Noh. This archive comprises four sets of print publications, Nōgaku zue (Pictures of Noh), Nōga taikan (A Great Collection of Prints of Noh Plays), Nōgaku hyakuban (Prints of One Hundred Noh Plays), and Kyōgen gojūban (Fifty Kyōgen Plays), which were all published between 1897 and 1930.

The site contains contextual essays for each published work as well as a general biography essay on the artist and even a translation of an essay that Kōgyo wrote himself, published in 1914. One of the strengths of the site, in addition to its abundance of digitized sources that adorn each page, is that there are also sections on the physical appearance of the publications such as the style of the books, measurements of paper, or methods of binding. There’s even information on where one can find other editions of some of the prints in other museum collections, which is useful for scholars hoping to do comparative work. The contextualizing essays also include more general information on noh theatre (such as the categories of plays), so non-specialists will enjoy browsing through the collection as much as those on a mission.

This project is the product of years of collaborative work, and will be useful to students, researchers, and enthusiasts for learning more about the history of performance, art, and printing in the early twentieth century. I highly recommend giving it a look!

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Book Announcement: A Transnational Critique of Japaneseness: Cultural Nationalism, Racism, and Multiculturalism in Japan

A Transnational Critique of Japaneseness
Cultural Nationalism, Racism, and Multiculturalism in Japan

In this book, Yuko Kawai departs from the common conception of Japan as an ethnically homogenous nation. A Transnational Critique of Japaneseness: Cultural Nationalism, Racism, and Multiculturalism in Japan investigates the construction of Japaneseness from a transnational perspective, examining ways to make Japanese nationhood more inclusive. Kawai analyzes a variety of communicational practices during the first two decades of the twenty-first century while situating Japaneseness in its longer historical transformation from the late nineteenth century. Kawai focuses on governmental and popular ideas of Japaneseness in light of local, global, historical, and contemporary contexts as well as in relation to a diverse array of Others in both Asia and the West.

For more information:

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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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