School of Culture, Media and SocietyWaseda University


【TGU Global Japanese Studies】An International Symposium “IMAGINING THE WORLD IN PREMODERN JAPAN”@UCLA -Report-

International Symposium Organized by UCLA and Waseda University
March 17-19, 2016 UCLA Royce Hall 314


The University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) is one of ten in the California State University system, second-oldest after Berkeley, and one of the “public Ivies,” a group of prestigious U.S. public universities.

The Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences at Waseda University welcomed UCLA Department of Asian Language and Cultures Associate Professor Michael Emmerich to Waseda in 2014 as a visiting professor, and the two have been working together to advance cultural interchange and promote humanistic research on Japan.

The symposium, which was organized by Associate Professor Michael Emmerich along with Associate Professor Torquil Duthie of UCLA and Associate Professor Satoko Shimazaki of the University of Southern California, is part of a larger effort by the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities, which was created from a personal donation from Waseda alumnus Tadashi Yanai (Chairman and President of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd.) with the mission of helping to further the globalization of Japanese studies. The symposium was co-sponsored by the Waseda University Ryusaku Tsunoda Center of Japanese Culture, the Monbukagaku-shō Top Global University Project (TGU), and the Haruhisa Handa Professorship in Shinto Studies at UCLA, and brought together over twenty researchers from eleven universities and institutes from North America, Korea, and Japan.

The objective of the symposium was to consider how, prior to the pre-modern , literary texts, performing arts, and fine arts imagined, constructed, represented, and deployed different concepts of the “world.” Over the course of three days, a stellar cast of scholars working in a variety of fields and periods drew on all kinds of materials to address this theme, stimulating new thinking and opening new avenues for future research.

Day One (March 17)
Sungsi Lee, The Establishment Period of the Name “Japan” and the Conception of its Worldview
Haruo Shirane, Storytelling, Music and Vocality: The Tale of the Heike in a World Context

On the first day, Sungsi Lee (Waseda University) and Haruo Shirane (Columbia University) delivered the keynote addresses.

Sungsi Lee discussed the period in which the terms “Japan” and “Emperor” were first used, about which there has been a good deal of scholarly debate. At the same time, as one of the foci of the symposium, he also addressed the development of the world system centered on the emperor in ancient Japan.

In contrast to the Taihō code, which resembles the Tang legal code, its predecessor, the Asuka Kiyomihara code, has a number of elements that differ from the Tang code, and a the divergence between the two is widely recognized. Using the tomb record of the Paekche aristocrat Nigun, made public in 2011, when this record was written around 678 C.E., from the perspective of the Tang, “Japan” was a common noun meaning “to the east,” showing that at that time “Japan” was not established as the name of a state.

Along with this, it was shown that based on the enactment of the Taihō code, the imperial court system (tenchō taisei) differed from the world system that existed in Japan previously, and this new system was able to be created through direct borrowing via contact with Silla. The title of “emperor” (tennō) has meaning precisely within this imperial court system, and the title “Japan” was christened as the name for this new dynasty. Conversely, Silla chose to become part of the Tang peerage and investiture system, and in this way, the two state systems of Japan and Silla became widely divided at the end of the seventh century.

Haruo Shirane’s talk resituated the Tales of the Heike in contexts that are different from those that have customarily marked its reception up to now in Japanese literary history: through examining the premodern world through the performing arts; by examining the question of “vocality,” focusing on the space between writing and speech; and through comparison with the epic poetry of medieval Europe.

The performing arts exist at the boundary between this world and the other world, and present a window to that other world. At that nexus, performers serve to open that window via the power of their performance. Therefore, it is necessary to rethink the circumstances of the performers themselves. In order to do this, the elements of music or voice should be examined. Shirane suggested that there should be a division between performances based on whether or not they had musical accompaniment. He investigated the phenomena of recitation by Biwa hōshi (musical) and readings of the Taiheiki (non-musical).

He noted a major difference between Heike and the European epics Beowulf and La Chanson de Roland based on the existence of musical elements and their reception. Musical scores do not exist for Beowulf and Roland. (Beowulf survives in only manuscript.) Conversely, a variety of texts, some of which include notations on musical aspects, exist in Japan for the Heike due to various factors, such as the development of artistic schools (ha), and the culture of instruction in which novices sought to be taught by professionals. He pointed out that these factors make it possible to examine the vocality of the Heike.

During the question and answer session for the keynote addresses, it was pointed out that the treatment of manuscripts is markedly divided between Japan and Europe, and that this reflects a difference in their respective societal circumstances. Also, using the examples of China and the theater, there was discussion of how to think about musicality. It was also suggested that while the textual and musical traditions tend to be treated as different problems, going forward there will be a need to examine them in concert.

Day Two (March 18)
Morning Session
Yoshikazu Shinada, A World that Should Propser by the Will of the Gods
Torquil Duthie, The Many Views of the World: Kunimi as a Narrative-Dependent Ritual
Kōno Kimiko, Imagining the World of the Nihon ryōiki
Jinnō Hidenori, The Emperor and the World as Demonstrated by Heian Literature, with a Focus on Utsuho monogatari

Yoshikazu Shinada (University of Tokyo) suggested that the set phrase “kamu nagara” as it appears in the Man’yōshū should be interpreted to mean “by the will of the gods” as opposed to how it has generally been interpreted to mean “as a god.” He began by confirming that in books one and two, the phrase represented the sacred governmental system that came into being based on the intentions of the gods. However, in book six, which should be the continuation of books one and two, this system falls apart as humans are depicted manipulating the emperor. Further, in Yakamochi’s poem diary, books seventeen to twenty, the phrase, which appears frequently, has a different use which presumes that the loss of the imperial system has already occurred, and that that Yakamochi himself, who imagined that as the world that should have been, used it to evoke that world.

Up to now, the phrase “land viewing” (kunimi) has been defined as a ritual in which the ruler surveys state territory from a high place. In his talk, Torquil Duthie (UCLA) deconstructed this prescriptive idea for kunimi as a defined ritual and moved to treat it as a motif that exists within narrative. Therefore, he suggested that analysis should also concentrate on textual background and interpretation, that is to say, from the perspective of narrative. Doing so allows, in addition to seeing various techniques of expression, that in Kojiki and Nihon shoki, kunimi is not depicted for any emperors after Yūryaku. Hence, kunimi is not restricted to a single ritual, but rather, in a political manner, is a method for expressing the universal authority of the ruler.

Kimiko Kōno (Waseda University) began by confirming that the episteme of the world in Japan was established through contact with Tang and Paekche, so the episteme of the world in Japan could not exist without recognition of the outside, and further asserted that the Nihon ryōiki does not necessarily convey “an image of Buddhism on the continent that is superior to that of Japan.” In the various records of the text, there is an effort to express the construction of a better world. Conversely, taking into account the cognition of time, it is important that the word “present report” (genhō) is seen here and there in the text. This usage supposes recognition of past and future worlds, and asks to what degree times that which cannot be experienced directly could be imagined and believed in. Further, she addressed the complex relationship between the concepts of “knowledge” (chi) and “sacredness” (sei) in the Nihon ryōiki. In the stories of Chikō (智光) and Gyōki (行基), Chikō is an agent for knowledge, while Gyōki is one for practicality, and the “sacred” is expressed in the union of the two.

Hidenori Jinno (Waseda University) began by pointing out that the emperors in Tale of the Bamboo Cutter and Tale of Genji are emperors in love. However, that love is not fulfilled and unconnected to the expansion of imperial authority. Further, it has no sacred component. With that in mind, he moved on to discuss Utsuho monogatari. In the passages describing Toshikage’s travels, the values of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism are mixed together. However, that worldview is only expressed in the beginning of the tale, and as the authority of the emperor in Utsuho becomes generally more confrontational, the cooperation of powerful families can be seen. Also, the determination that connects to the future emperor progressively comes together with the musical and scholarly aptitude embodied by Toshikage. The entry into the court of Inumiya, Toshikage’s descendant, is hinted at in the tale’s closing, and carries important meaning in the union of bloodlines.

Afternoon Session
Hiroshi Araki, Personal Reflection that Crosses the Ocean: From Buddhist and Setsuwa Descriptions in the Late Tenth Century
Keisuke Unno, Imagining the Poetic Body: Basis and Development of Viparity Theory in Kokin kanjō
David Bialock, The Near and the Far: Medieval Heike and the Geography of Enlightenment
Ikuyo Matsumoto, The Buddhist Worldview seen in the Medieval Japanese Accession Ceremony
Hideyuki Kanazawa, Ri in the Nihon shoki sanso

Hiroshi Araki (International Japanese Culture Research Center) investigated the cognition of the foreign in texts that were transported to Song China like the tenth century Ōjōyōshū, written by Genshin, and Yoshishige no Yasutane’s Nihon ōjō gokurakuki and, in these cases, what kind of personal reflection was present in setsuwa and Buddhism and whether it made a contribution to Japanese literary history. His analysis focused on dreams. He began by referencing a dream by Keikai, compiler of the Nihon ryōiki. That dream has been understood as the motivation for compiling a collection of setsuwa, and it describes self-immolation. Dreams of cremation were auspicious in China. The dreams seen in Ōjōyōshū and Nihon ōjō gokurakuki are always those of other people. This is because the two authors were part of the same intellectual circle, and in this circle enacting the content of someone else’s dream was considered extremely vital. Further, Arakai also emphasized the close connection between dreams and crossing the sea, and used this as evidence of a particular understanding of the foreign in Genshin’s time.

Keisuke Unno (National Institute for Japanese Literature) examined what kind of world was imagined within Japanese poetry (waka). Naturally, the seasons, places, and countries used in waka composition could suggest a “poetic world,” but Unno here took waka as a platform for debate. Specifically, in Jien’s poetic theory, waka were closer to dharani than to sinographs, and further, he thought that the Indian theory of five elements (panca-dhatavah) and the Chinese theory of five phases (wu xing) were expressed in waka. In the close connection between these, Unno referenced Fujiwara no Tameaki’s Kokin wakashū kanjō. He examined this text while differentiating Tameaki and the Tachikawa school. The aim of the text is to transmit the secrets of waka and imitates the secret teachings of the kanjō consecration ritual, revealing a worldview that overlaps the human body and the cosmos in great detail.

David Bialock (University of Southern California) discussed the conception of geography in medieval Japan based on the “Debate among the Sects” (shūron) chapter from Tales of the Heike. In this chapter, Retired Emperor Shirakawa, wanting to visit India, embarks on an outing to Mt. Koya based on the advice of Ōe no Masafusa. Masafusa’s vision evokes the geography of India, and the chapter “Debate among the Sects” was one of the most secret recitations in the medieval period, performed by only the highest ranking biwa hōshi. This chapter is recorded as having been performed along with the chapter “Tokuchōjūinkuyō,” and in extracting these two chapters from the Heike and performing them separately, the biwa hōshi hinted at the possibility of their own enlightenment.

Ikuyo Matsumoto (Yokohama City University) suggested how to visualize the systematic theory of the imperial accession ceremony. Also, in focusing on the daijōsai and sokui kanjō ceremonies, she noted that the daijōsai in particular was situated as a ceremonial confirmation of the emperor’s mythic origins. Documents and visual records related to the sokui kanjō ritual, of which one particularity was the emperor’s tying of the sign of Dainichi nyorai (Vairocana), were also introduced, and Matsumoto noted out that while Mt. Sumeru illustrated Dainichi nyorai, it also served a symbolic role that demonstrated a worldview that pointed to Japan itself. She also discussed maps at the end of the Edo period which simultaneously depicted a world in which Mt. Sumeru exists and [conventional] world maps, and asserted that these two worlds exhibit their own respective logic and facticity. This shows that the world as it was depicted in the medieval period continued existing until the end of the Edo period.

Hideyuki Kanazawa (Hokkaido University) discussed how in the medieval period, we see an effort to resyncretize a fragmented mythology into a single world view, and pointed to the use of a Buddhist world view as a reference at that time. This perspective is supported by the work of Ichijō Kaneyoshi, in whose time period was when Nihon shoki began to be read in earnest. Kaneyoshi’s Nihon shoki sanso invents a single logic (ri) that goes beyond the three traditions of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. The most interesting explanation of this is in the thought of Yoshida Kanetomo, who continued Kaneyoshi’s project. At first glance, Kanetomo appears to be refuting the honji suijaku theory, but Kanazawa asserted Kanetomo is also possible to be read as giving form to Kaneyoshi’s idea of ri. The presentation also discussed Motoori Norinaga and how Norinaga’s thought included a component that hints at emulating Kaneyoshi’s idea of ri.


Day Three (March 19)
Morning Session
Mareshi Saitō, Imagining China: From the Bokusui before Ōka
Peter Flueckiger, Local Culture and Confucian Universalism in Dazai Shundai’s Views on Waka
Fumiko ,Kobayashi, A World? A Vulgar World? The Reality of Sansui
John Carpenter, The Worldview of Late-Edo Rinpa Painting: Courtly Arts through the Lens of Popular Culture

Mareshi Saitō (University of Tokyo) pointed out how poets in the kobunji school did not only compose Chinese-style poetry, but actually wrote poetry as the business of creating the world of thought that they actually inhabited. Further, imitation (gi) was consciously used as a method for composition, actively working in the expansion of a world based on affinity. The presentation emphasized the composition of the world via how it was represented in literary style.

Peter Flueckiger (Pomona College) investigated the views of Dazai Shundai, considered to be a Confucian thinker. While waka were not a topic of pivotal interest to Shundai, in his views on them, an aspect of his scholarship that emphasizes practicality and empiricism is evident. Shundai thought of a relationship between human emotions and empiricism with waka as a lever, and yet, this relationship also contains his own outlook on the times in which he lived. His rejection of looking solely at the classics and the past demonstrates a difference between Shundai which and other Confucian thinkers of his time. The influence of Shundai’s prescriptions, such as samurai adopting merchant practice, had a major effect on the economic and political thinkers that followed him, especially in his application of practicality.

Fumiko Kobayashi (Hōsei University) discussed the significance of sansui in nanga painting from the perspective of art theory. During the Tenmei period (1781-1789), the demand for sansui compositions increased, and Kobayashi focused on the emphasis on reality in sansui at this time. In order to secure a sense of reality, for reference, when sansui art was painted, booklets resembling catalogs that collected depictions of mountains that actually exist were printed. Conversely, other works illustrated not only sansui that exists in reality, but also mountains drawn based on the artist’s feelings. Also, Kobayashi showed that realist landscape sketches made Japanese scenery imitate Chinese sansui paintings.

Curator of Japanese art John Carpenter (Metropolitan Museum of Art) discussed the intersection between Japanese works of art and waka, especially in the work of late Edo Rinpa artists such as Sakai Hōichi. In going through Rinpa art from the period, the grandness of seduction and technique was preserved, and the works inherit and carry on aesthetic trends. However, at the same time, some works also include vulgar waka from the time of their production. From this, Carpenter suggested that these artists simultaneously sought to continue the techniques and characteristics of Rinpa and include contemporaneous components of mass culture, thereby depicting both past and present in a single work.

Afternoon Session
Shiduck Kim, Kondō Jūzō: Between Nationalist and Philologist
Satoko Shimazaki, The “World” of Edo Kabuki: History, Geography and the Invention of the Early Modern Present
Masaki Wakao, Formation of the Thought of Early Modern People and “the World”
David Lurie, The Virtue of Promiscuity: Orikuchi Shinobu’s Irogonomi and the Imagined World of Antiquity
Michael Emmerich, The World as Process

Shiduck Kim (Seoul University) reapproached the activities of Kondō Jūzō, introduced as an explorer of the north and as a philologist, in light of the circumstances of when Jūzō lived. Reading Jūzō’s Gaiban tsūsho and Gaiban shokan, Kim interpreted the thought of Jūzō, which possessed both of the above characteristics, as a cohesive whole. Further, Kim used Paul Georg von Möllendorff, who was both a diplomat working in the Korean Empire and a scholar of East Asia at the same time as Jūzō, as a comparison for examining the image of Jūzō that straddled activities in both the political and academic spheres.

Satoko Shimazaki (University of Southern California) began by noting the Edo kabuki practice of “establishing the world” (sekai sadame). This practice happened once each year, when the schedule for each theater would be decided and announced. At that time, the playwrights would determine the plots, settings, and characters for the upcoming year. In this manner, the “world” of Edo kabuki would be established for each theater. As a result of this accumulation, Edo kabuki succeeded in reorganizing the value system of the ruling class in a form that could be easily consumed by the Edo populace. Through the unceasing representation of worlds in Edo theater, kabuki gave birth to a sense that perceived a new space and time in Edo society. This sense was one step separated from daily life, but at the same time also incorporated daily life at a deep level, achieving a kind of cultural force.

Masaki Wakao (Hitotsubashi University) in order to clarify the formation of the thought of people in the early modern period, examined the circulation of written materials in the early modern and the circumstances for the preservation of historical records in the present, and thereby approached the true form of an intermediate cultural sphere in the early modern. The existence of written and published materials in this period simultaneously formed a collective cognition of society and widely supported the formation of individual thought. Wakao went on to probe the world view of people in the early modern period, with a focus on recognition of “children of heaven and earth” (tenchi no ko). Along with the formation of a natural heaven and earth, there was a trend toward thinking about the existence of humans. Kobayashi also treated the formation of the conceptions of history and geography through Edo-period materials.

David Lurie (Columbia University) discussed the “virtue of promiscuity” seen in the work of Orikuchi Shinobu. This theory is based on the episodes of Suseribime and Iwanohime in the Kojiki, and proposes that for people in the Man’yō period (man’yōbito), being the object of female jealously was an ideal condition. However, on many levels these two episodes cannot be equated. Lurie noted that the representations of the respective jealousies of Suseribime and Iwanohime and their relation to their objects, Ōkuninushi and Nintoku, differ. By equating the two, the importance of the Iwanohime episode is ignored. Bringing this to light makes clear how Orikuchi read texts and what his methodology was, and reveals the strategy reflected in each.


ME 登壇Michael Emmerich (UCLA) began by explaining the rationale for the three-day symposium. The position of the title “Imagining the World” was clarified in reference to existing research. The “world” as proposed by Franco Moretti and Pascale Casanova takes the binary opposition between the West and non-West as self-evident, and their theories are lacking in this regard. Conversely, the “world” as stated by David Damrosch opposes both the binary of the above two theorists as well as the homogenizing effect of globalism, thereby overlapping with many of the intentions of the symposium, but his approach emphasizes education and does not problematize how people in other times imagined the world.

This symposium differs then in that it takes the imagination of the world as a process, and on this point, provides a vantage point to connect the presentations from over the past three days.

Emmerich himself, in order to investigate the world as process, introduced two documents: the editorial “Writing in English” (eibun wo motte chojustsu suru koto) from Yomiuri Shimbun (June 23, 1888), and Taoka Reiun’s essay, “Creating a New East Asian Aesthetic” (tōyōteki no shin bigaku wo tsukurō). In both of these, the concept of the world is grasped in relation to an “outside.” Because of the introduction of the concept of the world, it is possible to distinguish the foreground (Japan) and the background (the world). Therefore, “the world” is another name for distinguishing foreground and background.

In closing, “Japan in the World” and “Japan and the World” each overlap, and this symposium put together the types of “worlds” that were imagined.

Page Top
WASEDA University

The Waseda University official website
<<>> doesn't support your system.

Please update to the newest version of your browser and try again.


Suporrted Browser