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Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

Yuko Kameda

Overview

Yuko KAMEDA
Name:
Yuko Kameda
Email address:
Thesis title:
Japan as Multi-ethnic Nation: Exploring the Iconography of Ethnic Minorities in Contemporary Japan
Internal Supervisors

Biography

Studying the indigenous arts and ethno-ecology of the West Coast of British Columbia at the
University of Victoria (Canada) guided me to study the indigenous Ainu people of Japan. Through
taking a course about the indigenous arts of the West Coast, I gained a strong relationship to the
environment; as a result, for my BA I completed a double-major in Art History and Environmental
Studies in 2009.

For my Master’s project, I examined the relationship between arts and nature in Ainu culture. My
research focused on the symbolic aspects of the Owl God [Blakiston’s fish owl], often known as the
guardian of the village, in many Ainu communities. I approached my topic through narratological
analysis of traditional Ainu oral literature and textual analysis of traditional material arts while paying
particular attention to the representations of owls. I completed a MA in Pacific and Asian Studies at
the University of Victoria in 2011.

PhD Research

The myth of Japan as homogeneous nation is often claimed by the scholars on account of various ethnic minorities existing in Japan. My research focuses on the Ainu, the indigenous group of people in
Japan. The presence of the Ainu is still not well acknowledged, especially outside the Prefecture of
Hokkaido, where a majority of the Ainu descendants live today. Why do the Ainu need a public
awareness? And why does Japan need to be multi-ethnic? Korean Wave and Okinawan Boom as
examples, this research also examines how Japanese perceive ethnic/cultural ‘others.’ I am interested
in how these cultural phenomena were emerged in Japan and if it is applicable to the Ainu. My
research explores contemporary iconographies of the Ainu in multi-media.