Updated on 2024/07/18


Faculty of International Research and Education, Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies
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Internal Special Research Projects

  • Cultures of Pandemic Status: Narrative, Power, and Global Politics

    2022   Kuwana Kiyomasa

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    This project builds from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, examining two aspects of its politics. It emphasizes two elements of Japan's response, and has resulted in two papers -- one currently being drafted with Kuwana Kiyomasa on the local politics of COVID in Japan, and the other a paper for a special issue on the Journal of Contemporary East Asia Studies focused on opening ceremonies in the recent Asian Olympics.The coauthored paper with Mr. Kuwana examines the local politics of COVID-19 in comparative and longitudinal perspective. It examines how Japanese localities avoided competition with one another over COVID successes and failures and the prioritization of tensions between regions, especially led by activist governors, and the central government, before pivoting to the emotional resonances, including "hope" embodied in the outcomes of the COVID pandemic in Japan.The solo-authored paper is part of a special issue, edited by David Leheny, for the Journal of Contemporary East Asia Studies examining the politics of the opening ceremonies of recent Olympic Games in East Asia. Recognizing the tendency to conceive of the opening ceremonies as singular national narratives, the paper examines the tensions surrounding the 2020 Tokyo Games, including the ways in which the government and citizens debated the merits of the Games as well as their meaning.

  • The Meiji-Reiwa Olympiad: Narrative and Nation in Japanese Politics


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                AY2020 brought challenges to all researchers, with the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe, limiting access to archives, preventing conferences, and making even simple interviews far more difficult to carry out. Although most of my research resources were fortunately still available, the actual topic – in particular, my focus on the 2020 Olympics to supplement the limited Japanese government interest in the 2018 Meiji Restoration commemorations – was upended by the postponement of the Games themselves. This of course raised profound questions about what kind of Japan could be represented at the Games, or indeed whether they would go ahead at all. To adjust, I shifted my focus toward representations of collective agency, national sentiment, and international relations, leading to several publications focused on those themes. I also spoke about new directions in my research at several public lectures (held online, due to the pandemic). As a result, I was able to pursue research during the year, but it represents something of a turn from my original plans, while remaining open to the possibility that new national narratives will adjust in large part to incorporate Japan’s handling of the pandemic in comparative perspective.

  • Meiji Olympiad: Memory, History, and Nostalgia from the Anniversary of the Restoration Through the 2020 Games


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    In AY 2019, I focused my research primarily on the shifting of national narratives during the late Heisei Era about modern Japanese history, and particularly their planned appearance in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. This represented a shift in my originally planned project about the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration in part because of the national government’s limited response. I have drafted my section of a co-authored article on commemoration of the Meiji Restoration, while also publishing papers that reflect in different ways on the depiction of postwar Japanese history in scholarship as well as the politics of representations of Japan. Presentations at universities in Tokyo drew a connection between my previous work and the current project. In particular, I focused much of my work during the year on the cinematic career of the director Yamazaki Takashi, who was chosen to helm the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Olympics, and particularly the ways in which Japanese history appear in his films, like the Always: Sunset on Third Street series, The Eternal Zero, and A Man Called Pirate.  

  • The 150th Anniversary of the Meiji Restoration in Contemporary Japanese Politics

    2018   LEHENY David

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    This research project, complementing a Kaken-supported project, aims to track public commemoration of the Meiji Restoration on its 150th anniversary in 2018. In part because of the enthusiastic discussions of the Restoration by Prime Minister Abe, whose represented home district in Yamaguchi prefecture is the contemporary successor to one of the rebellious provinces of that era, I had started the project in the expectation that the year would yield insights into the use of this national milestone in contemporary politics. Indeed, in a piece I co-authored with historian Robert Hellyer (Wake Forest University) in January 2018 in the Washington Post, we argued that the modernizing drive of Meiji might serve as a useful counter to the new nationalism in the United States under Trump and in the Brexit-era United Kingdom (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/01/03/what-japan-can-teach-us-about-the-future-of-the-nationalism/). My current paper draft with Professor Hellyer explores the limited nature of the national commemorations that took place, juxtaposing that with the broader interest in the Restoration as a moment of global history. And I am exploring these themes in the context of Japan's national narratives following the "Lost Two Decades."

  • National Narratives,Emotion,and the Construction of Grand Strategy in the Asia-Pacific


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    Having completed my newest book manuscript -- Empire of Hope: The Sentimental Politics of Japanese Decline (Cornell University Press, 2018) -- I turned my attention to the strategic promotion of political decisions and their relationship to broader national narratives. During the year, I focused primarily on extending the discussion of Japan's "Long Postwar" to consider the ways in which earlier moments in modern Japanese political history have entered and interacted with a narrative regarding what Japan has been, what it is today, and what it is supposed to become. While considering Taisho and early Showa political decisions as well, I focused especially on the Meiji Restoration and its subsequent memorialization in Japanese politics: a timely topic given the 150th anniversary of the Restoration in 2018. It is easy, of course, to consider the uses (and misuses) by politicians of historical facts, a topic of great importance in a variety of countries. My goal has been to move away from an overly instrumental assessment of politicians describing history to suit their own purposes. Instead, I aim to tease out a narrative logic of events, to consider how the same impulses that drive us to create stories in the first place make us do so when thinking about institutions as broad and complex as the modern nation.