• Shake-up in the Japanese Underworld: The Yakuza on the Road to Extinction?

    On 27 August 2015, the largest gangster syndicate in Japan split into two groups. Thirteen high-ranking bosses declared their secession from the mother organisation, the Yamaguchi-gumi, and established a new gang: the Kobe Yamaguchi-gumi. On 7 March 2016, the police declared that the two gangs were at war. This schism points to a significant transformation in organised crime in Japan. In 1992, a new anti-Yakuza-bill became effective which has since undergone several revisions. Measures to control and isolate the Yakuza have become stricter than ever and regulations at the local level aim to force the Yakuza out of business. Legal restrictions and concerted police and media campaigns aimed at dismantling the myth of ‘the noble gangster’ and replacing it with labels such as ‘anti-social forces’ have robbed the Yakuza of much of their glamour; hence, for young outsiders, becoming a Yakuza is no longer an attractive prospect. As a result, the Yakuza are experiencing a severe shortage of recruits and many of their existing members are growing old. They have failed to modernise and capitalise on opportunities afforded by information technology. The criminal market on the internet is rife with predatory competition and the Yakuza are on the losing side. I argue that the Yakuza will become increasingly marginalised, clandestine and possibly extinct in their current form and that their replacement by new criminal groups is already underway.

  • Japanese Castles: Tradition, Modernity, and Militarism from the 1860s to the Postwar

    Castles are some of Japan’s most iconic structures, and have become prominent symbols of local, regional, and national identity recognized both at home and abroad. The current exalted status of Japan’s castles obscures their troubled modern history, however, when the vast majority of premodern structures were abandoned, dismantled, or destroyed before being rediscovered and reinvented as physical links to an idealized martial past.

  • Bringing Back Yoshikono: Songs of 7-7-7-5 in a WWII-Era Osaka Rakugo Magazine

    In April of 1936, the magazine Kamigata hanashi (Kamigata Story) was launched in Osaka. This was a rakugo (comic storytelling) magazine published monthly out of a local storyteller’s home. One mission of the magazine as laid out by the editor in the inaugural issue was to help breathe new life into a traditional art that was losing a popularity battle with manzai (two-person stand-up comedy) and other modern performing arts and media. SOAS, Thornhaugh St, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG

  • Love and Perverted Desires in Four Centuries of Japanese Literature

    In this talk, Damian Flanagan will explore the shifting sexual norms of Japan’s literary history from the Edo Period to the present. Back in the 18th Century, same sex relationships were common in Japan, indeed seen as underpinning the power structures of samurai hierarchy, while anything thought to challenge social stability – like adultery with a married woman – was severely punished.

  • Stitching Time: The Forms, Functions and Fascinations of ‘Cosplay’ Fandom

    This conference invites presentations, and papers for publication from scholars and students on issues relating to cosplay fandom – history, popular practice and connections to fandom in general. We especially welcome presentations from those who practice the craft in a practical way, as the centrepiece of the conference will be the work of Kofu’s ‘Handmade Samurai Project’, in which local crafters have sought no traditional ways to supply sufficient suits of armour for the massive, annual Kofu Takeda Family Festival.

  • Critique of/in Japanese Studies: New challenges and new approaches

    Since the cultural/reflexive turn in academia, Japanese Studies (and Area Studies) have legitimately become the subject of serious criticism in regards to the various political roles that they have performed, and perhaps continue to play as they acquire new significance in the internationalization efforts that have recently targeted Japanese high-school and university education institutions. In terms of research, publications appearing in Japanese Studies journals and monograph series have dealt, in turn, with a growingly diverse array of subject-matters, and, have, by extent, become more relevant to a non-Japanese Studies audience.