An Environmental History of Japan’s River, 1600-1920
In Turbulent Stream: An Environmental History of Japan’s Rivers, 1600-1920, Roderick Wilson describes how the rivers of Japan are both hydrologically and historically dynamic. Today, these waterways are slowed, channeled, diverted, and dammed by a myriad of levees, multi-ton concrete tetrapods, and massive multipurpose dams. In part, this intensive engineering arises from the waterways falling great elevations over short distances, flowing over unstable rock and soil, and receiving large quantities of precipitation during monsoons and typhoons. But this modern river regime is also the product of a history that narrowed both these waterways and people’s diverse interactions with them in the name of flood control. Neither a story of technological progress nor environmental decline, this history introduces the concept of environmental relations as a category of historical analysis both to explore these fluvial interactions and reveal underappreciated dimensions of Japanese history.
Author: Alexander Vovin
“The echo of the stone/ where I carved the [Buddha’s] honorable footprints/ reaches the Heaven, […]”.
This book presents the transcription, translation, and analysis of Chinese (753 AD) and Japanese inscriptions (end of the 8th century AD) found on two stones now in the possession of the Yakushiji temple in Nara. All these inscriptions praise the footprints of Buddha, and more exactly their carvings in the stone. The language of the Japanese inscription, which consists of twenty-one poems, reflects the contemporary dialect of Nara. Its writing system shows a quite unique trait, being practically monophonic. The book is richly illustrated by photos of the temple and of the inscriptions.
Author: Reiko YAMATO
East Asian societies have a patri-lineal tradition in which a family successor must be a son and parents live with the heir and his family. In Japan, the patri-lineal family system was prevalent among the samurai warrior class in the early modern period. In the modern period, it was stipulated in the civil code until the end of World War II. This tradition, however, is changing with a background of gender equalization and fewer number of sons resulting from low birth rates. Intergenerational Relationships between Married Children and Their Parents in 21st Century Japan is the first book that introduces a new perspective of the individualized marriage into a study of intergenerational relationships and examines how the patri-lineal tradition is both changing and maintained. This book deals with patri-local coresidence, matri-local nearby-residence, and support exchange between adult children and their parents/ parents-in-law, and offer a new framework for comparative studies of today’s East Asian families.
Japan’s Private Spheres: Autonomy in Japanese History, 1600-1930 traces the shifting nature of autonomy in early modern and modern Japan. In this far-reaching, interdisciplinary study, W. Puck Brecher explores the historical development of the private and its evolving relationship with public authority, a dynamic that evokes stereotypes about an alleged dearth of individual agency in Japanese society. It does so through a montage of case studies. For the early modern era, case studies examine peripheral living spaces, boyhood, and self-interrogation in the arts. For the modern period, they explore strategic deviance, individuality in Meiji education, modern leisure, and body-maintenance. Analysis of these disparate private realms illuminates evolving conceptualizations of the private and its reciprocal yet often-contested relationship to the state.
A Cultural and Sociolinguistic Study of Dutch as a Contact Language in Tokugawa and Meiji Japan
In The Dutch Language in Japan (1600-1900) Christopher Joby offers the first book-length account of the knowledge and use of the Dutch language in Tokugawa and Meiji Japan. For most of this period, the Dutch were the only Europeans permitted to trade with Japan. Using the analytical tool of language process, this book explores the nature and consequences of contact between Dutch and Japanese and other language varieties. The processes analysed include language learning, contact and competition, code switching, translation, lexical, syntactic and graphic interference, and language shift. The picture that emerges is that the multifarious uses of Dutch, especially the translation of Dutch books, would have a profound effect on the language, society, culture and intellectual life of Japan.
A New English Translation Containing the Original Text, Kana Transliteration, Romanization, Glossing and Commentary
Editor / Translator: Alexander Vovin
Book sixteen of the Man’yōshū (‘Anthology of Myriad Leaves’) continues Alexander Vovin’s new English translation of this 20-volume work originally compiled between c.759 and 785 AD. It is the earliest Japanese poetic anthology in existence and thus the most important compendium of Japanese culture of the Asuka and Nara periods. Book two is the tenth volume of the Man’yōshū to be published to date (following books fifteen (2009), five (2011), fourteen (2012), twenty (2013), seventeen (2016), eighteen (2016), one (2017), nineteen (2018), and two (2020). Each volume of the Vovin translation contains the original text, kana transliteration, romanization, glossing and commentary.
Author: Bunkyo Kin
Editor / Translator: Ross King
In Literary Sinitic and East Asia: A Cultural Sphere of Vernacular Reading, Professor Kin Bunkyō surveys the history of reading technologies referred to as kundoku 訓讀 in Japanese, hundok in Korean and xundu in Mandarin. Rendered by the translators as ‘vernacular reading’, these technologies were used to read Literary Sinitic through and into a wide variety of vernacular languages across diverse premodern East Asian civilizations and literary cultures. The book’s editor, Ross King, prefaces the translation with an essay comparing East Asian traditions of ‘vernacular reading’ with typologically similar reading technologies in the Ancient Near East and calls for a shift in research focus from writing to reading, and from ‘heterography’ to ‘heterolexia’.
Translators are Marjorie Burge, Mina Hattori, Ross King, Alexey Lushchenko, and Si Nae Park
The Literary Sinitic Context and the Birth of Modern Japanese Language and Literature
Author: Mareshi Saito
Editors / Translators: Ross King and Christina Laffin
In Kanbunmyaku: The Literary Sinitic Context and the Birth of Modern Japanese Language and Literature, Saito Mareshi demonstrates the centrality of Literary Sinitic poetry and prose in the creation of modern literary Japanese. Saito’s new understanding of the role of “ kanbunmyaku” in the formation of Japanese literary modernity challenges dominant narratives tied to translations from modern Western literatures and problematizes the antagonism between Literary Sinitic and Japanese in the modern academy. Saito shows how kundoku (vernacular reading) and its rhythms were central to the rise of new inscriptional styles, charts the changing relationship of modern poets and novelists to kanbunmyaku, and concludes that the chronotope of modern Japan was based in a language world supported by the Literary Sinitic Context.
Author: Paola Cavaliere

Abstract

This paper discusses adaptations and alternatives that religious institutions in Japan have formulated to help communities develop the capacity to cope with the crisis and perceived risk generated by Covid-19. Qualitative data and observations of online information were collected between February and June 2020. Guided by a crisis approach, the study explores inward and outward responses that some Japanese religious institutions and their members have enacted. The investigation uses Douglas’ (1994) interpretative model of risk and explores those “thought-styles” that religious institutions have engendered that are conducive to cohesion and stability. Findings show that established and new religions alike swiftly responded to Covid-19-induced safety measures by embracing digital technology to continue their core function as cohesion-providers for their social and spiritual communities. The analysis shows that adjustments toward disembodied religious practices might hold potential to continue beyond current Covid-19-related social restrictions.

In: Journal of Religion in Japan
Author: Mariko Hamaya

Abstract

This article aims to explore how people make pilgrimages not as a temporary journey but as a persistent way of life, using case studies I collected from fieldwork in Shikoku Island, Japan. The Shikoku pilgrimage is one of the most popular Buddhist pilgrimages, involving a 1,400-kilometre journey, where pilgrims visit 88 temples spread across the island. While previous studies have argued that the tradition of almsgiving helps marginal people such as the poor and those with Hansen’s disease to survive, it is not yet clear how those people, in reality, make a living on alms alone. In recent years, the pilgrimage authority and some of the local people have attempted to regulate begging and exclude “beggars” from the pilgrimage sites, differentiating them from the “true” pilgrims. This article will clarify how pilgrims, nevertheless, struggle to reconstruct their lives and then cultivate the self through their everyday practice of begging.

In: Journal of Religion in Japan