Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Old Curiosity Shop

Huzzah! Almost productive day!
I woke up at a sensible time, had my first sushi meal since I've been here then headed down to Jinboucho to look at used books:



It's a really nice area with a touch of the old school about it, and it's got some gems like the shop that sells nothing at all but John Lennon glasses:



I love musty old book shops, along with The Indigo Cafe and the Cambridge Wine Merchants they're the things (not people) I'll miss most about Cambridge, and Jimboucho's one of the most characterful area's of Tokyo.

Looking around old book's has got me thinking - something I haven't done in a while - and even pretty excited about my dissertation. My topic will be something in the field of Modernist Japanese literature, a topic which hasn't got much love in the West until very recently. The old guard of the Japanese Literature studies scene can be very orientalist about this sort of thing. Reading an author like Kawata or Tanizaki they're stuck by how the former writes "Haiku-esq" novels and the latter is deeply concerned with dying Japanese arts, while completely missing that Kawabata owes just as much to the cinema and Virginia Woolf as he does to Matsu Basho, while Tanizaki's character's explore their Japanese heritage by train, and are ultimately more interested in photographing their wives naked while they sleep. Westerns have praised Japanese authors when they write Japanese-y, and chided them for weak and ill-fitting imitation when they display influences of Western authors. This is very patronising.

Refreshingly, just last year a really good book that helps rectify matters was written (Which you can read most of online, this is a really good short story which gives a lot of the flavour of it). It brought to light some under-read and most excitingly, some untranslated authors from the 20s and 30s, which means that as part of my dissertation I will get to do some original translation.

I was a bit unprepared walking around the book shops today, with a few author's names written down, but having completely forgotten who they were or what they've written. I also need to look into who and what has been translated before - although I may have to decide between studying someone or some work which I really love and has already been looked at, or something altogether untouched. Maybe I'll preview some translation right here. ORIGINAL JAPANESE MODERNISM WOOOO! You're all pretty damn excited I'm sure.

Also, while I was in the area, I couldn't help but notice a REALLY REALLY BIG SHRINE GATE:

Looks slightly ominous? It is. It was late and dark so I only wandered in as far as this guy:

But tomorrow I'll go back in the day. This is Yasukuni Shrine, the most controversial shrine in Asia. It was built in 1869 to commemorate Japan's war dead, and in 1978 somebody thought it would be a really good idea to enshrine 14 Class A war-criminals. The last Prime Minister anybody cared about until this election, Koizumi Junichiro was a fan of Elvis and pissing off Asians and visited the shrine as a Prime Minister and continues today. The area around the shrine is a favorite for far right groups to drive around in big black trucks telling foreigners to leave. The shrine also has a handy revisionist museum attached. But this is all just foreplay, I've never been before so I'll let you know how it is tomorrow.

Wow, this post has a lot of links. Maybe too many.

Have a good night,
I'll see you tomorrow~

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