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Japan Research Centre


Recent article publications


Archaeology of East Asia

Archaeology of East Asia: The Rise of Civilisation in China, Korea and Japan
Barnes, Gina L.
Oxbow Books, 2015

Archaeology of East Asia constitutes an introduction to social and political development from the Palaeolithic to 8th-century early historic times. It takes a regional view across China, Korea, Japan and their peripheries that is unbounded by modern state lines. This viewpoint emphasizes how the region drew on indigenous developments and exterior stimuli to produce agricultural technologies, craft production, political systems, religious outlooks and philosophies that characterize the civilization of historic and even modern East Asia.

This book is a complete rewrite and update of The Rise of Civilization in East Asia, first published in 1993.

Japan’s Sexual Gods

Japan’s Sexual Gods: Shrines, Roles and Rituals of Procreation and Protection
Turnbull, Stephen
BRILL, 2015

Japan’s Sexual Gods is an authoritative and original work that describes the unique deities represented by sexual objects in certain Japanese shrines and temples. Hundreds of sexual shrines still exist in spite of previous repression and range from the Tagata Shrine with its well-known giant festival phallus to small obscure places. Many also contain female sexual imagery and some phalluses act in a protective role. The study is based on observations of over 500 sexual sites including phallic festivals, many of which are modern inventions created purely for commercial reasons. The study makes an assessment of the place of sexual beliefs in modern Japan and includes almost 300 stunning original photographs, a glossary and a highly detailed map.

Japanese Economic Development

Japanese Economic Development: Theory and practice
Third Edition
Francks, Penelope
Routledge, 2015

This fully revised and updated third edition of Japanese Economic Development looks at Japan's economic history from the nineteenth century through to World War II, recasting analysis of Japan’s economic past in the light fresh theoretical perspectives in the study of economic history and development.

Francks draws out the historical roots of the institutions and practices on which Japan's post-war economic miracle was based and provides a comparative framework within which the Japanese case can be understood and related to development in the rest of the world.


Hokusai's Great Wave

Hokusai's Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon
Guth, Christine
University Of Hawai'i Press, 2015

Hokusai’s “Great Wave,” as it is commonly known today, is arguably one of Japan’s most successful exports, its commanding cresting profile instantly recognizable no matter how different its representations in media and style. In this richly illustrated and highly original study, Christine Guth examines the iconic wave from its first publication in 1831 through the remarkable range of its articulations, arguing that it has been a site where the tensions, contradictions, and, especially, the productive creativities of the local and the global have been negotiated and expressed. She follows the wave’s trajectory across geographies, linking its movements with larger political, economic, technological, and sociocultural developments. Adopting a case study approach, Guth explores issues that map the social life of the iconic wave across time and place, from the initial reception of the woodblock print in Japan, to the image’s adaptations as part of “international nationalism,” its place in American perceptions of Japan, its commercial adoption for lifestyle branding, and finally to its identification as a tsunami, bringing not culture but disaster in its wake.


Kokka ga Yomigaeru Toki

Kokka ga Yomigaeru Toki: Motazaru Kuni de aru Finrando ga Nandomo Saisei Dekita Riyuu
Noritoshi, Furuichi; Toivonen, Tuukka
Magazine House, 2015






Inventing the Way of the Samurai
Inventing the Way of the Samurai: Nationalism, Internationalism, and Bushidō in Modern Japan
Benesch, Oleg
Oxford University Press, 2014

Inventing the Way of the Samurai examines the development of the 'way of the samurai' - bushidō - which is popularly viewed as a defining element of the Japanese national character and even the 'soul of Japan'. Rather than a continuation of ancient traditions, however, bushidō developed from a search for identity during Japan's modernization in the late nineteenth century. The former samurai class were widely viewed as a relic of a bygone age in the 1880s, and the first significant discussions of bushidō at the end of the decade were strongly influenced by contemporary European ideals of gentlemen and chivalry. At the same time, Japanese thinkers increasingly looked to their own traditions in search of sources of national identity, and this process accelerated as national confidence grew with military victories over China and Russia.


The Youth of Things: Life and Death in the Age of Kajii Motojiro
The Youth of Things: Life and Death in the Age of Kajii Motojiro

Dodd, Stephen
University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014

The Youth of Things is the first full-length book devoted to Kajii Motojirō. It brings together English translations of nearly all his completed stories with an analysis of his literature in the context of several major themes that locate him in 1920s Japan. In particular, Dodd links the writer’s work with the physical body: Kajii’s subjective literary presence was grounded first and foremost in his TB-stricken physical body, hence one cannot be studied without the other. His concerns with health and mortality drove him to play a central role in constructing a language for modern literature and to offer new insights into ideas that intrigued so many other Taishō intellectuals and writers. In addition, Kajii’s early years as a writer were strongly influenced by the cosmopolitan humanism of the White Birch (Shirakaba) school, but by the time his final work was published in the early 1930s, an environment of greater cultural introspection was beginning to take root, encapsulated in the expression “return to Japan” (nihon kaiki). Only a few years separate these two moments in time, but they represent a profound shift in the aspirations and expectations of a whole generation of writers. Through a study of Kajii’s writing, this book offers some sense of the demise of one cultural moment and the creation of another.


Kristin Surak book pic
Making Tea, Making Japan: Cultural Nationalism in Practice

Surak, Kristin
Stanford University Press, 2012

Although few non-Japanese scholars have peered behind the walls of a tea room, sociologist Kristin Surak came to know the inner workings of the tea world over the course of ten years of tea training. Here she offers the first comprehensive analysis of the practice that includes new material on its historical changes, a detailed excavation of its institutional organization, and a careful examination of what she terms "nation-work"—the labor that connects the national meanings of a cultural practice and the actual experience and enactment of it. She concludes by placing tea ceremony in comparative perspective, drawing on other expressions of nation-work, such as gymnastics and music, in Europe and Asia.

Japan Since 1945: From Postwar to Post-Bubble by Christopher Gerteis and Timothy S. George
Japan Since 1945: From Postwar to Post-Bubble

Editor(s): Gerteis, Christopher; George, Timothy S.
Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013

Does Japan really matter anymore? The challenges of recent Japanese history have led some pundits and scholars to publicly wonder whether Japan's significance is starting to wane. The multidisciplinary essays that comprise Japan Since 1945 demonstrate its ongoing importance and relevance. Examining the historical context to the social, cultural, and political underpinnings of Japan's postwar development, the contributors re-engage earlier discourses and introduce new veins of research.

Japan Since 1945 provides a much needed update to existing scholarly work on the history of contemporary Japan. It moves beyond the 'lost decade' and 'terrible devastation' frameworks that have thus far defined too much of the discussion, offering a more nuanced picture of the nation's postwar development.