22-23th April 2017

Japan and Asia: Representations of Selfness and Otherness


For the fifth Mutual Images Workshop, we seek to explore modern Japan’s relationship(s) with other Asian nations through the lens of transcultural representation. The discourse on interactions between “Japan” and “Asia” has been characterized by a tendency to resort to binaries, when in fact since Japan’s modernization, its positioning vis-a-vis Asia has consisted of a constant renegotiation of identities and production of hybridity. The papers present case studies focused on the fields of visual images, performance art, and literature. We are particularly interested in presentations that look at the dual role of cultural works as both participant in and product of the discourse on “selfness” and “otherness”. How do ideologies such as colonialism and neo-liberalism shape inter-Asian social and cultural exchange, as well as the perception of such exchange? In breaking away from the binaries of “us” and “them”, what kind of new visions can be generated in the investigation of new cultural material? How can the analysis of “mutual images” contribute to rethinking the dynamics and discontents of globalization in Japan and Asia?


Kristina IWATA-WEICKGENANNTNagoya University, Japan


Benardi DARUMUKTISanata Dharma University of Yogyakart (Indonesia)

Creating the Other (as) Japan in Indonesia

Readers of Japanese television series in Indonesia – either anime, tokusatsu, or dorama, that that have been aired in Indonesia private televisions since 1990 – become new Japan-lovers by using the knowledge of Japan that Indonesian people still keeps since Japanese occupation. Using the Possible-world theory (Eco 1979, 1991, Ryan 2001) to map the creation of the knowledge of Japan and a world called “Japan”, this study was conducted to answer the questions: “How the love for Japan emerge in a community that learns the cruelty of Japanese colonialism?” By depth-interview on people who joined the Japan pop culture communities in Yogyakarta, this study intended to find the way the research participants created a world named “Japan” as a knowledge that they will bring to evaluate their Indonesian life – to compare Indonesia inferior to Japan. So, they create “Japan” as Other within their identity forming.

As a background of this study, we need to look at the culture of Japan not as fixed, but as discourse of fantasy which emerges from the repression of modernity (Ivy 1995). The creation of “Japan” (different from Japan as a fixed state) by media in/from Japan thus helps Japan develop itself as a country from the perspectives from other countries. Based on this argument, first, this study will have to look at how the participants have created “Japan” from their immersion within Japanese television series in Indonesia. This immersion shows what knowledge the participants develop from reading the film-text and acknowledge it as “Japan”. Second, this study will describe how they have made this leisure activity as new rite so that they live not only in their real world but also in their possible-world presented by Japan. Third, with the interactivity based on their possible-world, this study will reveal the values which the participants learn from “Japan” to examine their community.

Romit DASGUPTAUniversity of Western Australia (Australia)

Japan and Turkey: Mutual Imaginings through “Asia”

This paper reflects on the imaginings of “Asia” as a physical, temporal, conceptual and ideological space with reference to two countries located at opposite extremities of the continent, Japan and Turkey. On the surface, the juxtaposing of the two may seem an odd choice of topic, given their geographic distance, as well as their (apparently) very different socio-economic and cultural conditions. However, there are in fact areas of historical and socio-economic intersection and commonality between Japan and Turkey, including the ways in which the project of modernity unfolded in both countries, and how both have defined their modern national identities in relation to the “West” and the “non-West” (specifically, “Asia”), both physically and ideologically. Japan’s shifting ambivalences vis-a-vis “Asia” have received considerable attention in the literature in Japanese/Asian Studies. However, less known are similar dynamics framing narratives of national identity in modern Turkey. Indeed, it is little known, for instance, that the term “Asia” itself was first applied with reference to the region of Anatolia in Turkey. Accordingly, this paper traces the intertwinings between the two countries from when both embarked on their respective projects of modernity in the second half of the nineteenth century (during the late-Ottoman period in Turkey, and the Meiji period in Japan) through the pre- and post-World War Two decades in the twentieth-century, through to the post-Cold War era. The paper draws attention to the ways in which the two countries have imagined and referenced one another, especially with reference to notions of “Asia” and the “West” as conceptual and ideological “spaces”. Moreover, the specific focus of the paper is the ways in which individuals, at the micro level, through specific spaces and moments of contact, become important conduits for what may at first come across as a macro-level state-to-state relationship.

FUJIKI KosukeKing’s College London (UK)

Suppressed Japaneseness in The Assassin: the Politics of International Co-production

Conforming to recent industrial trends of film co-production across the Taiwan Strait, The Assassin (2015) is Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s first co-production with mainland China. After the Chinese studio offered to cover half the production costs, the filmmaker approached the Japanese studio Shochiku to underwrite remaining production costs. Following the requests of Shochiku, initial shooting took place in Japan with the Japanese star Tsumabuki Satoshi cast in the film. Subsequently, however, the Japanese studio withdrew from production. This paper discusses The Assassin as evidence of a failed attempt at Chinese-Japanese co-production, and examines the film in the context of heightened political tensions between China and Japan in the 2010s. I contend that the filmmaker circumvents then-current political tensions by eradicating Japanese elements through concealment of the nationality of the unnamed mirror polisher, portrayed by Tsumabuki, and also through removal of the mirror polisher’s flashback sequence set in Japan. Additionally, by examining the re-edited version of the film, which has been released in Japan and marketed as “the director’s Japanese original cut,” I demonstrate the significance of the specific changes the filmmaker made to the film for the Japanese release. The Japanese version reintegrates the mirror polisher’s flashback sequence which was excised in the version released in China and throughout the world excepting Japan. Analysis of that reintegrated sequence reveals structural parallels between the film’s heroine and the mirror polisher, parallels which enable an allegorical reading of the heroine’s hesitation to carry out the orders she receives from the Chinese imperial court. I argue that this allegory is politically significant, as it constitutes an expression of a persistent nostalgia for Taiwan’s colonial period under Japanese rule.

Barbara HARTLEY – University of Tasmania (Australia) & Nichibunken (Japan)

Interrogating self and other: Mutuality in the visual art of pre-war Japan

In pre-war Japan, the visual artist often played a complicit role in the circulation of dominant imperialist and militarist discourses. Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958) and Fujita Tsuguharu (1886-1968), for example, produced images extolling Yamato military might. This ‘might’ is evident both in the metonym of Yokoyama’s soaring Fuji-san, rising sun ascendant, and in the more realist representation of Fujita’s Soviet tanks under assault at Nomonhan by ‘triumphant’ Japanese troops. Some pre-war and war-time visual art, however, resists being viewed as a conventional ‘hagiography of Japan.’ This, paradoxically, is especially the case in images depicting sites occupied by Japanese military and capital interests. These images, in fact, often reveal the highly tenuous nature of the discursively constructed border that divided the naichi Japanese self and the gaichi colonised other. Rather they convey a sense of mutual subjectivity in which the agency of the ‘other-ed’ subject insists on asserting itself. This presentation will provide a detailed examination of three pre-1945 works of visual art and consider how these uncover the mutuality inherent in old notions of self and other in pre-war Japan. The first is a 1937 image entitled ‘Kōnan no haru’ (Spring in Kōnan) by Arishima Ikuma (1882-1974), a scene from the rural environs of Shanghai featuring two young women in Chinese dress and an Imperial Army soldier mounted on a white horse. The second is a 1942 image entitled ‘Shimai heizazō’ (Two sisters sitting together), painted in Beijing (then Beiping) by Umehara Ryūzaburō (1888-1986). The third is a 1944 work by Tsuruta Gorō (1890-1969) entitled ‘Shiganhei no wakare o tsugeru Taiwan no hitobito’ (People of Taiwan farewelling the Volunteer Troops) which depicts indigenous people of Taiwan saluting their countrymen departing for war. Each images confirms the precarious nature of Japanese discursive practice, revealing instead a mutual interplay that refuses dominance of one subject over the other.

HIRAISHI Noriko – University of Tsukuba (Japan)

“Chinese(-ish) Girls” in Japanese Pop-Texts: from Tomboy to Confident Queen

To reconsider the significance of the exotic images of the Other, this paper explores the development of the imagination toward “Chinese(-ish) girls” in Japanese pop-texts, by examining representations of those figures in anime, manga, video game and novels. Chinese historical texts and novels such as Sanguo Zhi (Records of the Three Kingdoms) and His-yu-chi (Journey to the West) have been popular in Japanese anime since the 1960s. Based on Tezuka Osamu’s manga, an animated movie of Journey to the West was created in 1960 and won the special prize in Venice Film Festival. The serialized TV show appeared in 1967. Emphasizing the comical side of the story, this anime series added a girl character to the party of Xuanzang. This girl, Tatsuko, might be the prototype of the following Chinese “tomboys” in Japanese pop-texts. An active and powerful fighting girl with double top knot emerged again in a popular fighting video game series, Street Fighter from 1991, and her image is inherited to the characters in manga works. On the other hand, Chinese spectacular historical stories with imposing characters engendered Japanese epic fantasies set in a Chinese-ish world at the turn of the century. From the gender perspective, it is intriguing that the stereotype of Chinese tomboy transforms here into an ideal girl-fighter; the worldview of these stories leaves room for the active roles of female characters, compared to “Western” settings. Focusing on two popular fantasy novels adapted to the animated series– Ono Fuyumi’s Jyuni Kokki (The Twelve Kingdoms) series (1991-, Anime version: 2002-2003) and Yukino Sai’s Saiunkoku Monogatari (The Story of Saiunkoku, 2003-2011, Anime version: 2006-2008), this paper attempts to clarify Japanese girls’ yearning for grand history and the hidden desire of the works that have been linked with Chinese-ish exoticism.

Seán HUDSON – Kyushu University (Japan)

The Erasure of Asia in Japanese Popular Cinema

In studies of Japanese cinema, scholars have noted the recurring narrative in films known as “victim’s history”, in which the War period is articulated in terms of Japanese suffering. However, the ongoing political implications of this undisturbed apparatus within Japanese film have yet to be sufficiently explored. For example, films such as Grave of the Fireflies (1988, Hotaru no Haka) have been internationally lauded for their pacifist stance, despite the fact that this pacifism is, I argue, constituted by the same victim’s narrative that sustains feelings of distrust towards Japan’s East Asian neighbours. While Susan Napier has expertly demonstrated how Grave of the Fireflies is a glaring example of victim’s history, she stops short of exploring how this popular film positions itself within an affective circuit of similar dramatizations, and of what political effects this may have. Furthermore, as well as the way in which Japan is made a victim (for example, the passivity that Napier identifies in Grave of the Fireflies), attention must be paid to how Asia is made invisible. In other words, we must consider these films not only in terms of passive victimisation, but also in terms of active erasure. While it may be argued that narrative constraints prevent the depiction of Asia in these films (e.g. the setting is in Japan, the protagonists are children and have never been abroad, etc.), we may still ask why such constraints are in place, how they function within individual films and across Japanese film in general, and (most importantly) how their repetition may impact on different cultural milieus, especially that of the domestic audience. Drawing a line of connectivity between film studies and political theory, we can reconsider victim’s history in Japanese cinema not only as a delimiting and circumscribing of the Japanese cultural imaginary, but also as a hegemonic ideology with specific geopolitical aims, underpinned by American foreign policy, that constructs a particular binary image of Japan and its neighbouring countries.

Sabina INSEBAYEVA – University of Tsukuba (Japan)

Representing Central Asia in Contemporary Japanese Popular Culture

This research focuses on how Central Asia is represented in one of the most popular Japanese manga series Otoyomegatari, known as A Bride’s Story (2008-2016) created and drawn by Kaori Mori. This historical manga is set in 19th century Turkic Central Asia and revolves around the everyday life of local people. The study aims to demonstrate how “Central Asianess” is constructed in Japanese popular culture. The research analyzes it from the theoretical framework of “Self” (Japan) and “the Other” (Central Asia). This study addresses the question of discussing how this representation of Central Asian region is connected to the contemporary Japan-Central Asian relations. The choice of the case study is justified by several factors. Firstly, in 2014, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan officially used the mascots drawn by Kaori Mori for “Central Asia Plus Japan” Dialogue 10th Anniversary, illustrating a drawing of all Central Asian nations and Japan in their cultural clothing. The Dialogue between Japan and Central Asian countries aims to create “a new framework for cooperation, thereby elevating relations between Japan and Central Asia to a new level” (MOFA, 2004). Secondly, the same year, the author of the Otoyomegatari won the 7th Annual Manga Taisho Award, receiving a significant public coverage and sales both in Japan and in Central Asia.

Olga ISAEVA – University of Bonn (Germany) & University of Tsukuba (Japan)

Seeking Your Own Artistic Expression in the Other

While visiting the exhibition of the Avant-Garde group “Action” アクション in 1924 Murayama Tomoyoshi 村山知義 (1901–77), the leading theorist of the Avant-Garde group MAVO, delivered a harsh judgement: Japanese artists have been enslaved by the western art for generations. He called the “Action”-painters “monkeys,” who are only able to create a copy of Grosz, Archipenko, Rousseau, or Picasso. At the same time, Murayama appealed to the artists to leave imitation behind. But, what does Murayama mean by “imitation”?

The reason for Murayama’s intense judgement of his fellow artists lies in his interpretation of Japan’s modernization during the Meiji-era (1868 – 1912). The Japanese art scene experienced rapid import of western artistic style and concepts (including the distinction between high and low art), art history (as a demonstration of a continuous, linear and development-oriented art history), exhibition (as an aesthetic experience), museum (as an institution, which collects, exhibits and educates art) and art schools (with a focus on the renaissance ideas of the center perspective).

Using the example of Avant-Garde in Japan during the 1920s and 30s this paper will put these movements into the context of their inspiration by the European Avant-Garde and their struggle to define what Japanese modern art was in order to unpack uneven and complex legacy of Meiji in the early Showa period. The counterpart of the Japanese Avant-Garde can be seen besides the bourgeoisie society also, to put it in Murayama’s words in “the enslavement by the West”. He was rebelling against the conservative, hierarchical, and autocratic art institution and their claims of the superiority of the western culture.

KAMEDA Yuko – Sophia University (Japan)

Representations of the Ainu as an Other in Japanese Imaginary

My research looks at how the Japanese have constructed the image of the Ainu as an “Other” in their society over the centuries. The Ainu are an indigenous people in Japan whose homeland is today’s Hokkaidō. The Ainu have developed their traditional culture, including material arts and spiritual belief system, by interacting with nature through daily activities including hunting, fishing, gathering and small- scale agriculture. However, their livelihoods have changed drastically after Japanese started to exploit their land, especially after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The presence of the Ainu is almost forgotten in Japanese history and it was in only 2008 that the Japanese government finally declared the Ainu as an indigenous group of people. The presence of the Ainu has been ambiguous in mainstream Japanese society. However, this ambiguity could be understood as advantageous for the Japanese, as it enables them to construct representations of the Ainu in a variety of ways to fit in their contexts, while almost ignoring the public voice of the Ainu people themselves. For instance, Japanese artists and scholars used to depict the Ainu as wild or barbarian; however, this image has shifted to the image of Ainu as a spiritual or even eco-friendly people in cotemporary Japanese society. Both negative and positive meanings embedded in the Ainu representations create boundaries between the Japanese Self and the Ainu Other. This Otherness of the Ainu, or “Ainuness” as created by the Japanese, leads to the representation of the Japanese Self as civilized or modernized; however, it also emphasizes that Japanese nostalgia for the loss of their close relationship to nature. Therefore, the Otherness of the Ainu is in a sense a reflection of the Japanese, and becomes another “Selfness.” In this presentation, I will demonstrate how two contemporary Japanese films construct and project a portrait of the Ainu as Other, in order to reinforce the status of the Ainu as nostalgic protectors of nature; in this way, the continuing presence of the Ainu in Japan serve to reassure the Japanese that Nature still exists for them in the remaining wilderness of Hokkaido.

MA Kuo-An – Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong)

Photography in Gold: Visual Production and Taiwan’s Indigenous Culture, 1930-1938

This paper examines the ways in which concepts of “indigenous/Indigenous culture” were molded and transacted through means of image production and reception by analyzing the images that have commonly been called “colonial imagery” and their histories in 1930s Taiwan. As the evolving of photographic technique in early-twentieth-century Japan began to shape a visual medium with increasing significance within the arena of nationalizing mass culture, for Japan occupied Taiwan, the medium of photography served as the embodiment of Japan’s cultural advancement in “modern” science. While photographic media played a fundamental role in constructing a “colonial visual culture” that places the island with its Indigenous people into the category of “primitive Other,” with the rising popularity of photographic production among local communities, by the 1930s, the practice began to acquire different functions and meanings in the hands and eyes of local practitioners. Focusing on the story of photographer Peng, Rui-lin, the first Taiwanese graduate from Tokyo Photography School and producer of the first gold lacquer photography made in Taiwan, this paper argues, by 1938, as a growing group of local professional photographers contributed to the “discovery” of local ways of seeing, photography became a crucial means of visual production that not only made visible the ways in which ideas for culture were visualized, but also the emerging “self-image” of a “local” Taiwan.

Suraya MD NASIR – Kyoto Seika University (Japan)

Reclaiming Identity in Ben Wong’s Malaysian manga

In the early 1930s until present days, comics and cartoon strips in Malaysia uses specific local markers to tell local stories. One marker of cultural identity is kampung (village) imagery as background settings. The kampung holds a complex position in Malaysia as local identity representations: where it signifies traditional way of life, but nostalgic at the same time. With manga wake in 2000s, non-local specific manga-inspired publications increased, contributing to the discourse of identity neglect in comics. Until recently, comic publisher such as Komik-M encourages young manga-inspired comic artists to publish their works, with specific cultural markers as seen in Ben Wong’s comic Atan. This paper starts out from a historically comparative analysis of the representation of cultural identity presented in comic forms, taking its examples from pre and post-independence. Borrowing Caroline Levine’s (2015) framework of analysing form, a comparative analysis on Ben Wong’s Atan and the former Malaysian comic form will be investigated to identify the style changes in Malaysian comic after manga, which is not limited to graphic narratives. Subsequently it shall determine which elements of Malaysian comic form is carry forward in the current manga-inspired publications. Through them it shall be demonstrated how manga creates a space for artists to experiment with respect in representing local identity.

Fabio Domenico PALUMBO – University of Messina (Italia)

Japan and Korea in the mirror of cinema: Selfness and Otherness between mutual understanding and recurrent nationalisms

The mutual representations and understanding of Korea and Japan can be approached by means of a socio-historical framing of the relationships between the two countries in the last decades, stemming from the tragic turmoil of World War II and the postcolonial heritage, including the comfort women’s issue and the problems of Korean minority in Japan, to the spreading of Japanese pop culture in South Korea and the “Korean Wave” during the 1980s and the 1990s in Japan. Though nowadays resurgent nationalisms in both countries seem to highlight the limits of soft power in mutual acceptance, popular culture can be used as a privileged resource to investigate reciprocal representations between both societies. This paper aims to retrace the above-mentioned issues in a few selected recent Japanese and Korean movies, whose reception in Japan and Korea is connected to the audience sensitivity to the “Self and Other” representation. The topic of Korean minority in Japan is addressed through Hiroki Ryūichi’s Sayonara Kabukichō (Kabukicho Love Hotel, 2015), partially shot on locations in Shin-Ōkubo, Tokyo’s Korea Town. On the other hand, the rediscovery of Korea’s colonial past, linked to the comfort women’s issue, is seen through the lens of Choi Dong-hoon’s Amsal (Assassination, 2015) and Cho Jung-rae’s Kwihyang (Spirits’ Homecoming, 2016). Japanese and Korean contemporary filmography seems to reflect people’s present worries about a significant Other, geographically and historically linked to the Self, as well as to portray the ethnic and national identity rebuilding through a retelling of history.


22nd April

13:00 – Salute – Kritisina Iwata-Weickgenannt, Nagoya University

13:15-15h45 – Session 1: “Identity and representation of the Other” – Nathan Hopson (Chair)

‘Seeking Your Own Artistic Expression in the Other’ – Olga Isaeva, University of Bonn and University of Tsukuba

‘Representations of the Ainu as an Other in Japanese Imaginary’ – Yuko Kameda, Sophia University

‘Japan and Turkey: Mutual Imaginings through “Asia”’ – Romit Dasgupta, The University of Western Australia

‘Creating the Other (as) Japan in Indonesia’ – Benardi Darumukti, Sanata Dharma University of Yogyakart

Coffee Break

16.15-18:15 – Session 2: “Mirrored identities” – Kara Dischinger (Chair)

Japan and Korea in the mirror of cinema: Selfness and Otherness between mutual understanding and recurrent nationalisms – Fabio Domenico Palumbo, University of Messina, Italy

Suppressed Japaneseness in “The Assassin: The politics of international coproduction” – Kosuke Fujiki, King’s College London

Photography in Gold: Visual Production and Taiwan’s Indigenous Culture, 1930-1938 – Ma Kuo-An, Centre for China Studies, Chinese University of Hong-Kong

23rd April

9.30-11:30 – Session 3: “Asia in Japanese Pop Culture” – Marco Pellitteri (Chair)

Representing Central Asia in Contemporary Japanese Popular Culture – Sabina Insebayeva, University of Tsukuba

The Erasure of Asia in Japanese Popular Cinema – Seán Hudson, Kyushu University

“Chinese(-ish) Girls” in Japanese Pop-Texts: from Tomboy to Confident Queen – Noriko Hiraishi, University of Tsukuba

Coffee Break

13:30-15h30 – Session 4: “Producing identity through art” – Zhang Shihao (Chair)

‘Interrogating self and other: mutuality in the visual art of pre-war Japan’ – Barbara Hartley, University of Tasmania/Nichibunken

‘Japan and Asia: Representations of Selfness and Otherness: The Medium of Jap-anese Cloisonné Enamel (shippô yaki), 19th to 20th centuries’ – Sybille Girmond, Bayerische Julius-Maximilians Universität Würzburg

‘Reclaiming Identity in Ben Wong’s Malaysian manga’ – Suraya Md Nasir, Kyoto Seika University

Final discussion & Closing remarks