The Teaching Japan Workshop

List of Presentations

Lessons from Minamata and Fukushima: Economic Growth vs. Environmental Health

Jessamyn Abel is a historian of modern Japan at Pennsylvania State University.  Her research has focused on Japan’s foreign relations, and she recently submitted for publication review a manuscript entitled The “International Mind” in Transwar Japan. Her new research is on the development of the bullet train in Japan in the context of the international race toward high-speed rail in the twentieth century. Her publications include articles on the Tokyo Olympics, cultural diplomacy during World War II, and the history of whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as an article under review on the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. Before coming to Penn State, she was Assistant Professor at Bowling Green State University and held research fellowships at Harvard University’s Program on U.S.-Japan Relations and Columbia’s Expanding East Asian Studies Program.

Presentation description: This presentation considers two major postwar environmental disasters in terms of the balance between economic growth and protection of the environment and public health. 

Traveling Voices of Japan

Reiko Tachibana is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Japanese, and Asian Studies. Her fields of specialization are twentieth Century Japanese literature, transnational writers of Japan, East-West literary relations, and  Japanese  and  German   postwar   fiction. Her ublications include a book Narrative as Counter-Memory: A Half-Century of Postwar Writing in Germany and Japan (1998) and articles, such as “On Two Interviews Between Gunter Grass and Oe Kenzaburo;” “The Obsession to Destroy Monuments:  Mishima and Boll;” “Gunter Grass’s The Tin Drum and Oe Kenzaburo’sMy Tears: A Study in Convergence,”  “The Documentary Novel:  Ibuse Masuji’s Black Rain and Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries;”  “Hiroshima in Oba Minako’s Urashimaso: Desire and Self-Destructiveness; ” “Seeing Between the Lines:  Imamura Shohei’s Kuroi Ame (Black Rain);” Oe Kenzaburo’s “Shiiku” (Prize Stock); and “Nomadic Writers of Japan: Tawada Yoko and Mizumura Minae.” She is working on a book on translational women writers.

Presentation description: The notion of “traveling voices,” physically and metaphorically, is an important cultural phenomenon of our globalized world. This presentation will explore the cultural situations (e.g., nomadic subjectivities, identities, hybridity, marginality, etc.) and writings of transnational authors who represent various aspects of Japan and the Japanese diaspora. 

How to speak and write Japanese words with confidence

Haruko Iwami is a senior lecturer in the Asian Studies Program and the coordinator of the Japanese language program  at Penn State. She earned a master’s degree in Japanese at University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997. She has taught at college level Japanese in Minnesota, Vermont, and Ohio. She has also taught at middle schools and high schools assisting an American Japanese teacher in Elkhart, Indiana prior to her graduate work.

Presentation description: Participants will learn how to pronounce and write Japanese words such as tsunami, arigato, and futon. Participants will learn some of the differences between common Japanese words commonly used in English and their meanings in Japanese. 

Three Takes on the Beginning: The Myth, Historiography and Archaeology of Early Japan

Charlotte Eubanks is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, Japanese, and Asian Studies at Penn State. She studies ritualistic and communal aspects of textual engagement, with a focus on Japanese literature from the medieval period to the present. Her first book, entitled Miracles of Book and Body: Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan (University of California Press, 2011), examines the relationship between human body and sacred text in the Buddhist literary tradition, focusing on reading as a performance-based act which bridges the text-flesh barrier. Her second book project (Archival Memory: Art, Performance, and Visual Culture in Trans-War Japan) moves to the modern period to examine links between visual art, human rights and testimonial narrative. In addition to her research, she teaches a wide ranges of courses in Comparative Literature and Asian Studies and is currently Director of Undergraduate Studies for Asian Studies. Before becoming a professor, she worked as a junior high school teacher in Japan and interned with the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia, leading several K-12 workshops and two summer study tours to Japan.

Presentation description: According to the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, Japan’s earliest mytho-histories composed around the 8th century, the Japanese archipelago was created by two gods, dipping a heavenly spear into the ocean and dripping brine to create the islands that they then peopled with human beings, a sort of chosen race descended from divine seed. Nineteenth and Twentieth century archaeological accounts are more sober, pointing to cultural links between proto-Japanese and a range of nomadic hunter-gatherer cultures across the Eurasian steppes and into the Pacific islands. Early Chinese accounts are by far the most brutal, with envoy’s descriptions from the Fifth and Sixth centuries describing a barbaric, uncivilized, superstitious, and smelly people who ate with their bare hands, sat on the floor, and did not mourn their dead “properly.”

The goal of this workshop is to examine each of these accounts of Japan’s origins, placing them in their socio-historical context and exploring the sort of cultural work that each explanation was meant to do. In so doing, we will analyze the (religious, literary, and historiographical) project of making history and engage with a number of primary documents suitable for teaching in a variety of K-12 classroom settings.