CULTURES OF THE JAPANESE EMPIRE
How to write our research blog
The class blog is a central space for you to wrestle with the ideas and readings from the class. The goal is for the blog to be a
conversation about our ideas, not a series of monologues. Don’t simply agree or disagree with your peers; nothing is ever that
simple. Instead, comment on specific points and extend ideas and complicate theories. If you’re doing it right, the word
minimum shouldn’t be your primary motivation; instead, you should think about spending the time and space necessary to
reflect on complex ideas.
Although you should generate and reflect on difficult ideas in your post, you are encouraged to write in a relatively informal,
online style. You should include links and can include images to illustrate your points.
Each student will contribute to the weekly class blog in one of three ways: either a) posting responses to the reading materials,
b) researching the weekly keywords, or c) comments responding to these posts.
Blog posts on weekly keywords and reading responses should ask probing questions about the readings or keywords;
alternatively, they may point to a current event that connects to our discussions. Blog comments respond to these posts in
thoughtful ways, and can extend an idea from class.
What group am I in?
Group 1=last names A-I
Group 2=last names J-R
Group 3=last names Q-Z
When is this all due?
Weekly news stories must be researched and posted by 11:59 pm Thursday night
Reading response posts are due by 11:59 pm Thursday night
Comments on all posts must be made by 11:59 pm Friday night
(late posts will earn reduced points, and will put your classmates’ work in jeopardy)
Participation on the blog is graded. How?
Each completed post that meets the requirements earns 5 points.
If your post meets some, but not all of the requirements, you will earn between 3-4 points.
Late posting will earn up to 3 points if completed by Sunday noon. Late posts may be completed after Sunday for 2 points,
but you must submit by Monday of the next week.
Failing to post entirely earns 0 points for the week.
Can I get extra credit?
Yes! How? By posting more often than you are required to. You may earn up to 2 points extra credit each week by contributing
an extra comment to the week’s discussion by Friday midnight. Only ONE comment per week.
Remember: iLearn won’t send you notifications when someone comments on your post. You should check the blog a
couple of times a week to see what people are posting / saying.
Remember: You will also be asked to submit a blog portfolio of your best writing to be graded at the end of the quarter.
These portfolios will include one sample of each type of post of your choice, plus a cover letter addressed to Professor PageLippsmeyer reflecting on your writing on the blog.
Instructions for weekly news articles:
The populations we’ll be discussing are not simply historical figures in some distant past. This portion of the blog is designed to
help expand on your knowledge of the issues facing these populations in the present moment.
Each student in this group works alone.
Choose one news story on the population we are working on for the week. This story needs to come from some time in
since 2005 (ie: stories from 2004 are not acceptable, stories from 2005, 2013, etc. are). While you can choose to discuss
an event that another student has discussed (say, for instance, news coverage about the Ryukyuan royal family trying to
get remains returned to the island) your story must be from a different news source. (see new sources below)
Write a post that summarizes the article and links it to our readings in 200 (min) – 300 (max) words. Explain how the
context of our class readings helps you contextualize the issues raised in the news story in a single paragraph (or two, if
needed). You may also post images that relate. You may also do close analysis of the news story itself by quoting from the
story and explaining how it frames an issue in specific ways (see below for an example).
Your post needs to link to the news story at the end.
Suggested news sites:
1. Asahi Shinbun - http://www.asahi.com/ajw/ - one of the five national newspapers, ranks second below Yomiuri,
headquarters in Osaka, but it’s also got a problematic reputation among consumers. Left-leaning, has long tradition of
reporting on political scandals (something not usual in Japanese press).
2. Japan Times - https://www.japantimes.co.jp/ - Japan’s oldest and largest English-language newspaper, headquartered in
Tokyo, centrist though not without controversies. During WWII it acted as a propaganda wing, but has undergone a
number of changes since then.
3. Mainichi Shinbun - http://mainichi.jp/english/ - one of five national newspapers, ranks third in circulation, affiliated with
Tokyo Broadcasting System, headquarters in Tokyo, it has been critiqued for reprinting tabloid journalist stories (even
though they were clearly marked as reprints and not accurate). Center-left.
4. NHK World - https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/japan/ Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai / Nihon Hōsō Kyōkai which translates
to Japan Broadcast Organization. Basically the national public news service, operates television, online sites, etc. Broadcast
television/video instead of the online version of print media. The world broadcasting is funded by the Japanese
government. Attempts to maintain strict neutrality. Critiqued for lack of criticism of government, self-censoring in covering
certain events, in particular wartime history.
5. Nikkei Shimbun’s English Site Nikkei Asian Review - https://asia.nikkei.com/?n_cid=NARAN101 Conservative center-right
national newspaper, fourth ranked circulation of the 5 national newspapers, kind of a Japanese Wall Street Journal
6. Yomiuri Shinbun - http://the-japan-news.com/ - one of the five national newspapers, ranks first in circulation, runs two
editions a day. Conservative/center-right newspaper. Headquartered in Tokyo. Has history of promoting nuclear power.
7. Google News – news.google.com – advantage is that it’s good with keywords and quick. Unfortunately, not all articles
listed are particularly high quality, sometimes it links to blogs, not actual news agencies,.
Sources review, but not acceptable to use as a news article:
Encyclopedias (including BritannicaOnline and Wikipedia). These are both excellent for a general idea of time periods and the
accepted definitions. Drawbacks - most encyclopedias are very general in their definitions – too general to help you understand
current events. Additionally, double check Wikipedia sources because peer editing can sometimes mean the claims are not
properly backed up.
Personal websites (including blogs and travel sites) You’re trying to get a sense of the way in which the media handles the
current populations and the challenge facing them, not get one individual’s experience or perspective. Most websites will either
be too general or will summarize the issues in uncritical ways.
When in doubt email the professor to verify a resource (or ask before or after class).
Instructions for reading responses:
Reading responses are a place you can express your reaction to the fiction and scholarly materials we’re reading, but they’re
also more than that. They give you the opportunity to hone your close reading skills. If you don’t like something we’re reading,
try and move beyond “I don’t like this” by choosing the passage that makes you feel most frustrated. Why don’t you like it? Is
the author trying to be liked? Or if you love it, why do you love it? What is the text expressing in that particular moment that
makes it so good? Or, if you don’t have any emotional connection to the text, this is also the place where you can choose a
passage and sort out why.
Each student in this group should create their own reading response – reply to the appropriate thread on ilearn.
Do the reading for the week. Choose one of the texts you’d like to focus on.
From that text choose three to four sentences (they must be a single quote) that you think are particularly important,
meaningful, pivotal, or challenging. These can relate to the week’s material or they can be something you want to
explore/ask about. A moment you loved, or a moment you found profoundly disturbing. A confusing set of thoughts. Type
them out, cite using MLA citation style.
Post an approximately 200 (min) – 300 (max) word response (this is 200 – 300 words beyond the amount of the quote)
where you do a close reading on the quote(s) you chose. This is where you can offer your reactions, thoughts, comments,
and speculations on the reading and themes as they relate to the quote you’ve chosen.
There are a number of ways to approach these open-ended posts: consider the passage in relation to its historical or theoretical
context; write about an aspect of the day’s reading that you don’t understand, or something that surprised you; formulate an
insightful question or two about the quote(s) and then attempt to answer your own questions; or consider how the quote(s)
reflects and creates a definition of its(their) own that relates to the week’s keywords.
DO NOT summarize the plot of the story. This will earn you zero points on your post.
Instructions for commenters:
Students in this group respond to, build upon, disagree with, clarify or meditate on the weekly keyword and reading response
Read the contributions to the weekly blog by other students (both keyword and reading posts).
Choose one you want to engage with.
Contribute at least one comment that is approximately 100 (min) - 200 (max) words long. Blog comments should respond
to a post by answering a posted question in a complex, thoughtful way or by extending the connection posted even
further or in different directions.
Some suggestions for comments: You can engage with a keyword definition by speculating on how it relates to the week’s
readings. You can discuss information learned or questions raised in lecture and how they relate to either definitions or
readings. You can suggest answers to questions raised in the reading responses. You may want to respond to a reading
response by proposing an entirely different reading.
SAMPLES of POSTS
News story post (about Japanese Artist)
Two internationally famous Japanese artists Yayoi Kusama and Murakami Takahashi have had their artwork copied and the
fakes exhibited in travelling shows in China. The exhibits went to four cities, and in at least one people were charged $10 a
piece to visit the exhibition. According to the article they were presented as a joint effort by the artists. Kusama’s attorneys
were the ones who told the news about this story, and they’re trying to enforce both civil and criminal laws in dealing with the
This notion of “original” versus “copy” is interesting when we think about Murakami Takahashi’s process of production. We
talked in class about how Murakami doesn’t draw his artworks, but instead creates collages and digital productions, so there is
no “original” artwork, in the sense that digital artworks can be infinitely reproduced in perfect clarity. But also he is not the
single artist producing the material – he has a collection of people he works with, and he’s more like a ideas guy who has other
people execute his vision, so ripping off his works is really reproducing the work of many people. The distinction between the
Chinese exhibitions and say the instillation we talked about that is hanging in the Broad Museum in LA is that Murakami hasn’t
approved of it. It calls into question what the viewers must feel about seeing the art that they saw for the first time. I also found
it strange that the article mentioned sometimes the exhibition didn’t charge people – it makes me wonder what the purpose of
the show was. Why would the copycats use copies and not charge for admission? Was it to prove that China is culturally diverse
enough to host these kinds of shows? Could there be some kind of cultural capital the producers felt they were accruing
instead of actual capital?
Also, I found this last line really interesting. Staff writer Sayuri Kodama notes, “Copycats of Japanese manga and anime are
common in China, but it is unusual for an entire art exhibit to be faked.” So the anger about this particular act of copying was
that it was about something that is regarded as “high” art instead of the low or “mass” artworks like manga and anime. Yet
maybe there is not as much of a distinction on the part of those who made the copies – manga, anime, and artwork all fall into
the same kind of category for them to “steal”.
READING “An Account of My Hut” by Kamo no Chomei
In the reading “An Account of My Hut” by Kamo no Chomei, it is interesting to see the viewpoint of this man, who eventually
becomes a Buddhist priest. He begins by describing the famine and fire and other atrocities that were suffered:
“In addition to famines into this worsening situation came pestilence. While the world was desperately starving the final days
approached day by day; it would be appropriate to compare the people to fish gasping in shallow water. You would see them
desperate and stupefied, and wonder, "could they walk?" and in that moment they would all at once the fall prostrate. Filling
the road, and against the tile-capped walls, were starving dead people beyond count. Because they didn't know of any means
to get rid of these bodies, the entire city began to smell of purification. Their faces and bodies changed so that people could not
even stand to look at them.” (Chomei, 3)
By portraying an extremely negative scenario, the author, in a way, excuses himself for leaving all the negativity behind. No one
would want to stay in a place like this. The extreme details, including the idea of dead bodies lining the streets, was not
controlled by anyone. In his description all the living people can’t stand to look at the dead. By him leaving this dark and
difficult problem to enter isolation to avoid the impurities of the world, it kind of implies he’s made a strong and bold move.
However, to me this seems a little disingenuous. In moments of tribulation shouldn’t families unite and work together to make
it out of this problem together? Yet, he makes the problem itself sound like a it cannot be helped with human intervention. He
compares people dying to “fish gasping in shallow water” as if the people had done this to themselves and there was nothing
he could do to change it. Interestingly, he even condemns caring about others in a later passage where he suggests that ‘love’ is
a weakness. This man isolates himself from the world, leaves all ties to this world, endures a lengthy process and finally, finds
peace. Nevertheless, I ask myself if it took a normal man a lengthy process to obtain peace and to leave all impurities behind,
then how did the Buddhist Samurai Priests reach peace and leave behind all impurities if they engaged with impurities of the
world? Did they, also, negotiate this, as well?
COMMENT Response post to student discussion of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
I agree with your opinion about the one-sided conclusion of the movie [that the exploitation of workers represents a dark face
of pre-war Germany], and I also want to mention labor unions (which I think are the heart between two classes in the real
world). In the movie, the protagonist is a boy from the upper class whose duty is just playing and enjoying. After suffering what
the workers are suffering, he felt pity for them and tried to change their situation. In the end Freder becomes a heart to
connect the hand (working class) and head (upper class). But the heart is from the upper class, instead of someone from
working class. It suggests that workers shouldn’t represent themselves, they need someone from the upper class to. So, I would
say it is a one-sided conclusion in more than one way. To go back to where I started about the real world, the existence of labor
unions I think is the heart. Since the origin of unions around the world, they have helped deal with the contradictions of class
and to improve the life conditions of workers. Many achievements like the banning of child labor, the limitation of working
time, the living wage, were basically from the work of labor unions.
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