MUTUAL IMAGES 1st International Workshop
Exporting Young Japan: Between Text and Image
29-30 June 2013
Konan University, Kobe (Japan)
This interdisciplinary workshop seeked to explore the dynamic relations between Japan and Europe through the specific angle of the exportation of visual and textual representations of Japanese youth.
Texts and Images, in all their forms, have permeated all societies. From the classical texts to text messaging; from traditional painting to contemporary photography; as well as through mixed forms, like advertisements who combine both text and image, they are omnipresent. Although the intensification of such exports is a recent phenomenon, and so this workshop focuses on late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. However, we also consider earlier exchanges that could have mapped the field for the European interest in contemporary Japanese youth and youth culture.
This workshop, in its ‘mutual’ perspective considered:
- texts and images of and about Japanese youth imported in Europe
-how the concept of ‘Japanese youth’ is integrated into European creations
Our concern is then with the exportation of both goods and ideas. The selected papers considered the processes and motivations of such exportations, their reception in Europe, as well as the analysis of the supports exported (texts and/or images).
During the workshop we answered to a manifold of questions about, among other subjects, cultural perceptions, youth culture, cultural importation and appropriation. More specifically we considered what aspects of Japanese youth culture have been exported, by whom, why and how they have been received.
Kobe University (Japan)
There is not much research available on the issue of race in generic manga. If addressed at all, the focus is on manga as overcoming the confines of race, without further distinction between physical and cultural markers of ethnicity (I am using the two terms race and ethnicity interchangeably here). The assumption that manga representations overcome racial barriers by means of visual abstraction, can lean on the fact that character’s supposed race and visual representation frequently do not correspond. Furthermore, on a global scale, manga has a racially diverse readership: readers project themselves onto allegedly Caucasian manga characters regardless of their own skin color.
In this presentation, I will analyse manga abstracts visually from race, and I would like to suggest that abstract visual representation does not make shōjo manga race-free, even if it can help to transcend race. I will begin with Oshiyama Michiko’s analysis of how characters are distinguished visually with respect to their gender, and apply this to markers of race which she bypasses. As a second step, I will combine Thomas LaMarre’s concept of the ‘plastic line’ with the research by Ōgi Fusami, Ishida Minori, and Nagaike Kazumi on how the ‘West’ has been represented in shōjo/women’s manga. I will especially focus on the construction of “the other” in relation to the visual representation of race via specific lines. I shall conclude that shōjo manga may transcend visual traits of any specific race, but that it retains the recurring theme of conflict and otherness, which in part is related also to racial issues. The abstraction, however, makes “otherness” an external feature, placed by society upon the characters’ bodies, while the visual representation of their interiority facilitates the impression of sameness, or absence of otherness.
Université François-Rabelais (France)
Despite the increase of Japanese Literature translations in the past 30 years, and the exceptional wave of Manga publications in France, little is known about the phenomenon of the light novels. These books, which are mainly targeting Japanese Youth, have become an important part of the Japanese contemporary culture, a symbol of the development of the Paraliterature, especially since its boom in the early 2000s and its remarkable position in the Books’ market. They even gained the literary critics attention, such as Enomoto Aki and Azuma Hiroki. However, only a few have reached the shores of France: a dozen of titles, nothing but a mere drop in the bucket compared to the number of publications in Japan. So far, French publishers didn’t succeed in introducing this new genre, suffering even failed attempts, such as the importation of the famous light novel The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi in 2009. Thus, by applying a literary approach, this study intends to understand the reasons for this situation, through the examination of the light novels publications in France, as well as the comparison of this new genre’s debut with the Manga’s reception. This paper illustrates the challenge of receiving this Japanese particularity, in a country with a long and rich literary tradition, used to deny until recently the interest that Paraliterature can hold – even more when coming from overseas. The presence of the light novels apparition and reception in France appears to be a proof of the recent dilemmas and changes in Literature, which are following the birth of Global Culture. Thus, the possible increase of the exportation of this phenomenon might participate actively in the diffusion of Transculture and Japanese Youth images in Europe, becoming for the literary critics and researchers a new interesting object to study thoroughly.
Shizuku in Whisper of the Heart is a representation of the Japanese spirit combined with Western individualism. Miyazaki’s animated films always impart a universal message to human hearts and each woman protagonist consistently has a strong spirit and identity, which can overcome the nihilism which is epidemically seen in Japanese conformist society. We can discover the universal charm of Miyazaki’s animated films which enliven our innate love, sense of justice and human identity. Through its production of Whisper of the Heart by Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has amazingly attracted millions of Japanese people of all generations as well as lovers of the Ghibli series throughout the world. Why has it been loved by people in our ‘i-phone’-oriented technological society in Japan? There is not even a single telephone conversation between Shizuku and Seiji, but rather there are only face to face conversations and a resulting trust which can continue beyond their two month separation between Japan and Italy. At the age of 14, Seiji who decided to become a master luthier (a violin maker), is testing out his skills in Italy. Shizuku, who has been in love with him and inspired by him, wants to be as devoted to her dream of becoming a writer as Seiji is to his. It is quite fascinating to examine the meaning of the challenging spirit of this modern Japanese girl to commit herself of her own free will to develop her potential by ignoring the peer pressure of Japanese conformist society. This sense of independence and a challenging spirit to realize her dream by treasuring the whisper of the heart by elderly people are nothing but the Japanese spirit combined with Western individualism. The significance of this story is that Miyazaki represented the protagonists, not in the world of fantasy, but in the very realistic world of a Japanese middle school in Tokyo. Japanese people have to listen to the whispers of human hearts among the protagonists in order to find who we really are in our computer-oriented society.
Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (UK)
Yaoi fans are unified by a common interest in Japan as a country and its culture. This paper suggests that yaoi acts as an available cultural model representing Japaneseness. By attending to yaoi manga fan activities this paper contributes to the relatively new debate regarding the relationships and activities of yaoi fans rather than an exclusive reader-text approach.
Gender and sexuality has been a major focus of yaoi manga research but online discussions do not always focus on fans’ identifications with sexuality, either the characters’ or their own. This paper proposes that Japanese culture is a key element to yaoi fans’ community participation
The fans’ understanding and interpretation of Japan is presented in a five stage process. Japan and Japanese culture has come into existence through the fans’ interpretations and discussions of yaoi manga content as well as wider Japanese culture. As a result, fans filter what they know and trust through stereotypes, their own beliefs, and the information given by others. The fandom’s interpretation is on the whole distinct from a reading of Japan as a complex identity or place without any single authentic narrative. Rather Japan is found in a process of interaction and explanation amongst fans.
By showing how Japan and Japaneseness can be articulated and understood online this work provides an alternative to the binaries of particularism and universalism when considering broader issues such as community in fandom studies. It demonstrates that there can be a theoretical model situated between the real Japan and the virtual thus successfully transgressing essentialism.
Japan, March 2006. After four months of high attendance, the exhibition Nihon no Kodomo: 60 Nen organized by the Japan Professional Photographers Society ends with a huge success. Just six months later, the exhibition was remodeled by the Japan Foundation for what would be a five years long world-touring exhibition, under the new name Scenes of Childhood: Sixty Years of Postwar Japan. The tour started in Jordan and toured 20 countries of North and South America, Africa, Europe, and Middle East, before closuring in Cuba in September 2011. I focus on this specific exhibition to analyse how the Japanese government, through a cultural institution like the Japan Foundation, produces and exports a national self-representation using photographs of children. What does the exhibition say about Japan? What issues are at stake in the creation and spread of cultural representations of a nation? This public organization founded in 1972 aims at ‘promoting international understanding through cultural exchange’. Within its Arts and Cultural Exchanges section, the Japan Foundation has developed a Traveling Exhibitions Program to ‘introduce Japanese arts and culture to overseas’ that runs about twenty exhibitions every year. Scenes of Childhood has been one of the most largely displayed and successful photographic exhibition of the Japan Foundation in those last five years, following an interest for childhood and youth. The photographs are exported not only as cultural objects, but also as testimonies of Japanese history and culture. Looking at them helps us consider what self-image Japan sends to the rest of the world.
University Nicolaus Copernicus (Poland)
In 1775, Carl Peter Thunberg, a Swedish botanist, brought back from a trip to Nagasaki collection of Harunobu’s woodblocks. He was showing them later at private small exhibitions. 100 years later, Jules Claretie in his book L’Art Francais en 1872, used the term Japonism for the first time, in the context of influence of Japanese art on Western art. Unusual, exotic aesthetics and themes of Japanese art influenced many European painters. Traces of these inspirations can easily be found among works of Impressionists or in Art Nouveau. This subject is well identified, analyzed and documented. What’s more, it is usually undertaken considering the topic of cultural exchange between Japan and Europe.
My reflections however, concerns quite the opposite. I would like to examine how Japanese mangaka’s are inspired by Art Nouveau artists, in particular Czech painter Alfons Mucha. His manner of portrayal women and emphasizing their beauty by suitable composition, clothes and jewelry, as well as his ideas of creating whole series fully detailed artworks, is now successfully used, as a perfect match for the stories with many heroes, who needs a detailed presentation and the appropriate decoration especially in shōjo manga.
I’m interested in art which penetrates the area of popular culture. Just like woodcuts and posters used to serve mass entertainment, manga today share the same quality. I my paper I would like to discuss the perfect art loop, starting from Japanese woodcuts, through European Art Nouveau and ending with the Japanese comics by making analysis of examples in terms of similarities which will serve as a formal introduction to the debate on motifs repetition and consequences of these continuous circulation.