Kyoto Lectures

Kyoto conserva ancora oggi la sua antica tradizione di cultura come uno dei maggiori centri accademici del Giappone e luogo di incontro per gli studiosi di tutto il mondo. Organizzate in collaborazione con la Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient e il Center for Research in Humanities dell’Università Statale di Kyoto, Le Kyoto Lectures offrono agli specialisti delle culture e società dell’Asia Orientale la possibilità di presentare a Kyoto i risultati delle ricerche in corso.

Kyoto Lectures

Articulating Inner Dharma

The Development of the “Five Viscera Mandala” in Japanese Esoteric Buddhism

Takahiko Kameyama

28 settembre 2020 18:00

The Shingon concept of the “Five Viscera Mandala” (gozô mandara) is a sophisticated theory of the body that was widely circulated in Japanese Esoteric Buddhist circles during the medieval period. In Chinese medicine, five viscera—liver, heart, lung, kidney, and spleen—were regarded as the key elements for the physical, mental, and cosmological condition of human beings. The balance between their energies is the fundamental source of health, while their imbalance could lead to harmful effects. East Asian monks accepted this theory, and attempted to reconcile it with their Buddhist views in an effort similar to the relationship between Indian Buddhism and ancient Indian medicine and cosmology such as Âyurveda.

This talk will show how, in medieval Japan, Esoteric Buddhist monks enthusiastically studied ancient Chinese medicine and developed the Five Viscera Mandala as a main interpretative tool that equated bodily organs with the Five Esoteric Buddhas. This mandalic conception made it possible to intuitively grasp complex Shingon doctrinal and ritual discourses, giving concrete ground to such ideas as “attaining Buddhahood within this very body.”

Takahiko Kameyama is a research fellow at Kyoto University and adjunct instructor at Ryukoku University. His research field is both the doctrinal and ritual discourses developed mainly within Esoteric Buddhist traditions in medieval Japan. He currently focuses on the physiological and embryological teachings transmitted by Esoteric practitioners belonging to Shingon temples from the perspective of Buddhist intellectual history, to reveal the conception of the human body unique to medieval Shingon. He has published a number of articles on this subject, and most recently he co-edited the volume Nihon Bukkyô to rongi (Kyoto: Hôzôkan, 2020).


This lecture will be available on Zoom. A limited audience (maximum ten persons, with precedence to researchers and advanced students) will be allowed at our centre. For this, please contact us by e-mail.


Kyoto Lectures

Animal Shape-Shifters

from Japanese Folktales to North-American Fiction

Luciana Cardi

This lecture will be available only on Zoom

29 luglio 2020 18:00

In recent years Japanese folklore, reworked in literature, popular culture, and visual media, has enjoyed a huge popularity among Western audiences, to the extent that Euro-American writers and filmmakers have often appropriated it in their works. However, the incorporation of Japanese folktales into Western narratives is not a recent phenomenon of the digital era, as we may be tempted to believe. This talk explores how Japanese folktales were adapted for American readers in the late 19th century, in a period that witnessed the establishment of folklore as a discipline—with a widespread fascination for fairy tales and a revival of Gothic fiction through Stoker’s vampire narrative. Beginning with these considerations, the presentation will focus especially on two early 20th-century novels featuring the shape-shifting fox trickster from Japanese folktales: John Luther Long’s The Fox-Woman and Winnifred Eaton’s Tama. In so doing, it will shed light on the literary and ideological issues behind the reception of Japanese folklore in that period-for instance, the intersections between Japanese fox lore, the Gothic narratives revolving around the figure of the vampire, the fear of miscegenation, and the post-Victorian changes in the models of femininity.

Luciana Cardi is Lecturer in both Japanese and Comparative Studies, and Italian Language and Culture at Osaka University. She is the co-editor of the forthcoming volume Re-Orienting the Fairy Tale: Contemporary Adaptations across Cultures (Wayne State UP, 2020). She has published in journals and edited volumes such as Forms of the Body in Contemporary Japanese Society, Literature, and Culture (Lexington, 2020), Receptions of Greek and Roman Antiquity in East Asia (Brill, 2018), and Folktales and Fairy Tales: Traditions and Texts from around the World (ABC-CLIO, 2016).


Kyoto Lectures

Early Meiji “Accounts of Prosperity”

The Making of an Urban Literary Canon

Gala Maria Follaco

This lecture will be available only on Zoom

26 giugno 2020 18:00

In 1874 Tokyo was still in the process of becoming the capital of Meiji Japan, a modern metropolis that would showcase the country’s transformation. Thus, the publication, all in the same year, of multiple works centered on its urban spaces comes as no surprise, among them hanjôki (“accounts of prosperity”) being particularly remarkable.

The talk will focus on three of these: Hattori Busho’s Tôkyô shin hanjôki (“A New Record of Flourishing Tokyo”), Takamizawa Shigeru’s Tôkyô kaika hanjôshi (“Chronicles of Tokyo Prosperity in the Era of Civilisation”) and Hagiwara Otohiko’s work by the same title. It will pay special attention to Takamizawa, who referred to his most important predecessors while introducing the topics that this kind of text was expected to treat. In order to assess both the impact of Edo precedents on the hanjôki genre and that of these early-Meiji examples on later urban writings, a series of questions will be central to the discussion. What were the themes Takamizawa felt compelled to include in his work? Did the hanjôki ever become an established canon? What kind of “prosperity” did their authors envision, and what relation did it bear with public narratives of urban development?

Gala Maria Follaco is Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Naples “L’Orientale”. She has translated the works of several Japanese writers, such as Yoshimoto Banana, Matsumoto Seicho, Yoshida Shuichi, Tanizaki Jun’ichiro, Hara Tamiki, Kawabata Yasunari, and, most recently, Higuchi Ichiyo (2016). Her book, A Sense of the City. Modes of Urban Representation in the Works of Nagai Kafu (2017), discusses Nagai Kafu’s literary construction of urban spatialities from the late 1890s to the late 1930s.


Kyoto Lectures

Japan’s Ocean Borderlands

Nature and Sovereignty

Paul Kreitman

This lecture will be available only on Zoom

27 maggio 2020 18:00

Some of Japan’s most far-flung islands are also its smallest: tiny specks of rocks surrounded by storm-tossed oceans, covered only in birds and bird shit, and yet freighted with political, economic and symbolic importance out of all proportion to their size. But how did these islands come to be Japanese in the first place? And how have they remained so?

Most of Japan’s outlying islands were first annexed during the late nineteenth century, when a motley crew of bird hunters and guano prospectors convinced the government that they would make viable sites for colonisation. Yet all attempts at settlement eventually failed, and since the end of World War II ornithologists have lobbied for the abandoned islands to be turned into nature reserves instead. To do so, they have tapped into broader postwar anxieties about territorial loss and Japan’s place in the global order – concerns that reverberate to this day. In this talk I explore how attempts to shape the environments of remote islands such as Izu-Torishima, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and the Diaoyu/Senkaku/Islands have also helped shape the contested borders of the modern Japanese state.

Paul Kreitman is Assistant Professor of 20th Century Japanese History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. He received his PhD from Princeton in 2015, and is currently completing a monograph on the environmental history of Japan’s desert islands, slated for publication with Cambridge University Press in 2021. An extract from his second project, on the political ecology of excrement in wartime Japan, has been published in Environmental History. His writing has also appeared in The Japan Times, The New Statesman and The Diplomat.


Kyoto Lectures

Gesaku Literati and Early Meiji Print Culture

Remaking Popular Culture for the Masses

Alistair Swale

This lecture will be available only on Zoom

22 aprile 2020 18:00

The Meiji Restoration of 1868 set in train a major reconfiguration of not only the political structure of government but also the world of letters, aecting not just academic elites but also the demimonde literati and artists (gesakusha) who had enjoyed various forms of patronage under the Tokugawa regime.

This talk aims to expand the understanding of the practices relevant to gesaku in the early Meiji period by exploring the profound overlap between text, image and oral performance as well as the significance of the traditions of rakugo and kôdan in the early literary scene. The presentation also reviews the initiatives of early Meiji gesakusha who, in collaboration with nishiki-e artists such as Ochiai Yoshiiku and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, spearheaded the development of a distinctive genre of illustrated news, nishiki-e shinbun.

Finally, some attention will be given to the continued adaptation of this mode of collaboration in the minor newspaper format, particularly as seen in the Tokyo Eiri Shinbun, established in 1875, and later illustrated newspapers associated with the Popular Rights Movement such as the Eiri Chôya Shinbun and the Jiyû no Tomoshibi.

Alistair Swale is an Associate Professor in Japanese at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He has written on the career and thought of Mori Arinori, as well as more broadly on the Restoration in The Meiji Restoration: Monarchism, Mass Communication and Conservative Revolution (Palgrave 2009). More recently he has been engaged in collaborative research at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto where he is completing a year-long project examining responses in popular culture to the “Civilization and Enlightenment” movement.


Kyoto Lectures

Art, Gender, and Community in an Age of Revolution

The Life of a Samurai Housewife and Artist in Kishu Domain, 1830-1880

Simon Partner

Italian School of East Asian Studies

7 febbraio 2020 18:00

This presentation will focus on the life of Kawai Koume, an artist and housewife from a lower-ranking samurai family of Kishu domain (now Wakayama prefecture), from the 1830s through the 1870s. Using this female and regional perspective, the presentation will examine the lived experience of upheaval, conict, revolution, and social and political transformation. It will focus in particular on what it meant to be a female artist in the samurai community of Wakayama castle town, both before and after the Meiji Restoration. Topics to be introduced will include a portrait of the samurai, merchant and artisan communities of Wakayama; a discussion of the education and opportunities open to samurai women of Kishu domain; and an analysis of the cultural and social environment of female artists like Koume. The presentation will argue that the social and political transformations of the bakumatsu and early Meiji periods created both opportunities and challenges for a female artist, to which Kawai Koume attempted to adapt with mixed success.

Simon Partner is Professor of History at Duke University in the USA. His interest in Japanese history ‘from the bottom up’ has led him to focus on the lives of little-known individuals – farmers, workers, merchants, and housewives. He has published four biographies based on this research, most recently The Merchant’s Tale: Yokohama and the Transformation of Japan (Columbia University Press, 2017). He is currently a Visiting Research Scholar at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken), where he is working on a history of the Restoration era as seen through the life of Kawai Koume.


Kyoto Lectures

Environmental Expertise in Modern Japan and the Ashio Copper Mine Case

Cyrian Pitteloud

Italian School of East Asian Studies

29 gennaio 2020 18:00

The Ashio copper mine incident is one of Japan’s first and most famous industrial pollution cases. An industrialist close to the government took charge of the mine in the Tochigi Prefecture mountains at the end of the 1870s. The mine was modernized and extensively worked until, less than fifteen years later, it was fulfilling a third of the nation’s copper needs. The exploitation of this copper deposit on an industrial scale lead to environmental contamination that spread across five prefectures. In response, a protest movement arose that lasted for almost two decades.

The protest movement forms the major part of the case’s historiography. However, while benefiting from its findings, this talk will rather concentrate on the government and the measures it took to handle the social and ecological crisis. Among others, the establishment of pollution investigation committees in 1897 and 1902 is particularly informative, as the process of legitimization towards a public opinion increasingly aware of the events leant largely on data gathered and created by the ocial representatives of fast-growing disciplines (agronomy, medicine, engineering, etc.). Despite its importance, such process of legitimisation-by-scientific- knowledge has been, until now, barely studied.

Cyrian Pitteloud is a research fellow at the University of Geneva and at the École Française d’Extrême Orient in Kyoto. He studied History and Japanese studies at both Geneva and Lausanne universities, and, from 2012 to 2019, he was teaching assistant at the Japanese Unit of the University of Geneva. In November 2019, he completed his Ph.D. He has published a few articles and book chapters about the protest movement against the pollution of the Ashio copper mine, and translated various primary sources in Souyri P. F. (ed.), Japon colonial 1880-1930. Les voix de la dissension, ed. Belles-lettres, 2014.


Kyoto Lectures

Between the Meiji Restoration and Ezo Republic

The Boshin War Viewed from Hakodate

Steven Ivings

Italian School of East Asian Studies

10 dicembre 2019 18:00

The Boshin War (1868-69) fought between the Tokugawa Shogunate and an alliance of domains rallying around the Japanese emperor was a major turning point in Japanese history and heralded in the Meiji era. Utilizing the British consular reports from Hakodate as well as several other eyewitness accounts, this talk will offer an insight into the activities and opinions of foreign traders and consuls during this crucial period. Located in the far north of the Japanese realm, the treaty port of Hakodate switched hands several times between the Shogunate and Imperial forces, and in the final phase of the Boshin War Hakodate was occupied for seven months by the so-called “Ezo Republic” which offered the final resistance to the Meiji regime. The sources provide on-the-ground insight into the reality of the shifting conflict, foreign diplomacy, and the activities of foreign traders who sold weapons and conveyed troops during this tumultuous period. In the talk eyewitness accounts of the Battle of Hakodate, a naval and land battle fought between strikingly modern forces which drew the curtain on the Boshin War will be presented. The view from Hakodate allows us to revise several aspects of the popular images of both the Tokugawa and Meiji regimes.

Steven Ivings is a senior lecturer at the Graduate School of Economics, Kyoto University. After completing his PhD at the London School of Economics in 2014 he worked at Heidelberg University as an assistant professor in cultural economic history before joining Kyoto University in 2017. He is a socio-economic historian who has published on aspects of colonial and postcolonial migration in the Northeast Asia, and the history of trade and economic development in Hokkaido and Karafuto (now Sakhalin).


Kyoto Lectures

Early Encounters of Shin Buddhism with Shintō

“Interreligious” Contacts and Hagiography

Markus Rüsch

Italian School of East Asian Studies

28 novembre 2019 18:00

Shin Buddhism is often considered to be the tradition that most radically disassociates itself from Shintō from the very beginning of its history. This is evident in one of the most well-known biographies of its founder, Shinran (1173–1263) as well as—to a significant extent—in Shinran’s own writings. However, the question of the relationship between Amida Buddha, various kami,  and other Buddhist deities remained an open question.

In fact, a strategy for inclusion or exclusion of so-called “alien” religious denominations is a significant concern that Shin Buddhism shares with basically  all the Buddhist sects in Japan. This talk will try to shed light on different approaches within Shin Buddhism, focussing on the writings of Kakunyo (1271–1351) and Zonkaku (1290–1373), and discussing strategies and arguments that lead to nearly opposite understandings of the relationship with Shintō. In this context, the connections between hagiography and doctrine have particular significance for the self-consciousness of a religious group. As it will be argued, hagiography is not merely a political tool to legitimize power, but also a place where an author can develop forms of doctrinal debate.

Markus Rüsch is currently JSPS International Research Fellow at Ryukoku University (Kyoto). He studied Japanese Studies and Philosophy, and holds a PhD in Japanese Studies from the Freie Universität in Berlin. He has published a few articles on the subject of hagiography, Japanese Buddhist thought, and Japanese philosophy. This year his doctoral thesis was published in Germany by Iudicium Verlag with the title Argumente des Heiligen: Rhetorische Mittel und narrative Strukturen in Hagiographien am Beispiel des japanischen Mönchs Shinran.


Kyoto Lectures

The French Campaign Against Imports of Japanese Cultured Pearls in the Interwar Years

William G. Clarence-Smith

Italian School of East Asian Studies

31 ottobre 2019 18:00

Various entrepreneurs experimented with producing cultured pearls from the early 1890s, but it was only after the First World War that Japan began to export round specimens on any scale. The arrival of relatively cheap Japanese cultured pearls on the world market alarmed established dealers in natural pearls, as well as producers, leading to a series of counter-measures and lawsuits. Paris, then the de facto capital of the Western world’s pearling economy, witnessed the most protracted and bitter disputes, which lasted almost to the end of the interwar years. At the centre of the storm was Lucien Pohl, who acted as the Paris agent of Mikimoto Kokichi, the most significant Japanese exporter of cultured pearls. Pohl came from a family of Alsatian Jewish traders, who had set up shop in Yokohama shortly after the Meiji Restoration. Pohl battled the French association of jewellers, who developed a series of scientific techniques to distinguish between the two types of pearls, and who sought to have cultured pearls legally designated as ‘fake’ or ‘imitation’ goods. In the end, a compromise was reached, whereby cultured pearls had to be clearly labelled as such, but could be freely sold.

William Gervase Clarence-Smith is Emeritus Professor of History, SOAS University of London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, and of the Royal Historical Society. He is researching pearling around the world, with a chapter forthcoming in Pearls, people, and power: pearling and Indian Ocean worlds, Ohio University Press. He also works on sponges, whales, and fish, and, more broadly, on beverages, masticatories, narcotics, manufacturing, diasporas, slavery, sexuality, and Islam. With Ed Emery, he has organized SOAS-based conferences on non-human animals since 2010, on donkeys, mules, war-horses, camels, elephants, and sponges.