The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan: An Interview

Were women a problem in early modern Japan? If they were, what was the nature of the problem they posed? For whom, and why? Marcia Yonemoto‘s new book explores these questions in a compelling study that brings together the public discourse on women in the Tokugawa period (including prescriptive literature, instruction manuals for women, representations of women in fiction and drama, woodblock prints, and book illustrations) … Continue reading The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan: An Interview

The Undiscovered Country: An Interview

Melek Ortabasi’s new book explores the work of Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962), a writer, folk scholar, “eccentric, dominating crackpot,” “brilliant, versatile iconoclast” and much more. The Undiscovered Country: Text, Translation, and Modernity in the Work of Yanagita Kunio (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014) expands how we understand and evaluate his work by contextualizing it in terms of translation studies, simultaneously informing how we think about (and with) translation. … Continue reading The Undiscovered Country: An Interview

Working Skin: An Interview

Joseph D. Hankins’s marvelous new ethnography of the contemporary Buraku people looks at the labor involved in “identifying, dismantling, and reproducing” the Buraku situation in Japan and beyond. Taking readers on a journey from Lubbock, Texas to Tokyo, India, and back again, Working Skin: Making Leather, Making a Multicultural Japan (University of California Press, 2014) brings a diverse range of ethnographic experiences to bear on understanding the … Continue reading Working Skin: An Interview

Men to Devils, Devils to Men: An Interview

Barak Kushner’s new book considers what happened in the wake of Japan’s surrender, looking closely at diplomatic and military efforts to bring “Japanese imperial behavior” to justice. Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice (Harvard University Press, 2015) focuses on the aftermath of the Japanese war crimes, asking a number of important questions: “How did the Chinese legally deal with Japanese war … Continue reading Men to Devils, Devils to Men: An Interview

Faxed: An Interview

Jonathan Coopersmith’s new book takes readers through the century-and-a-half-long history of the fax machine and the technologies that shaped and were shaped by it, from Alexander Bain’s 1843 patent to the computer-based faxing of the end of the 20th century. Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015) chronicles the transformations of fax wrought by a range of industries and technologies in … Continue reading Faxed: An Interview

Allegories of Time and Space: An Interview

Jonathan M. Reynolds’s new book looks carefully at how photographers, architects, and others wrestled with a postwar identity crisis as they explored and struggled with new meanings of tradition, home, and culture in modern Japan. Building on the work of Walter Benjamin, Allegories of Time and Space: Japanese Identity in Photography and Architecture (University of Hawaii Press, 2015) takes readers into a range of media in which … Continue reading Allegories of Time and Space: An Interview

Bad Water: An Interview

Robert Stoltz’s fascinating book Bad Water explores the emergence of an environmental turn in modern Japan, guiding readers through the unfolding of successive eco-historical periods in Japan while charting the transformations of an “environmental unconscious” lying at the foundation of modern social and political thought. Robert and I had a chance to talk about it for the New Books in East Asian Studies podcast, and you can listen to our conversation here. Continue reading Bad Water: An Interview

Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women: An Interview

Known primarily as a travel writer thanks to the frequent assignment of her Diary in high school history and literature classes, Nun Abutsu was a thirteenth-century poet, scholar, and teacher, and also a prolific writer. Christina Laffin’s new book explores Abutsu’s life and written works, taking readers in turn through her letters, memoirs, poems, prayers, and travel diary, among others. You can listen to our conversation about it here. Continue reading Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women: An Interview

The Nature of the Beasts: An Interview

A new understanding of animals was central to how Japanese people redefined their place in the natural world in the nineteenth century. In his recent book, Ian Miller explores this transformation and its reverberations in a fascinating study of the emergence of an “ecological modernity” at the Ueno Zoo in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We spoke about the book earlier this year, and you … Continue reading The Nature of the Beasts: An Interview