The Past in the Present, the Present in the Past: New Horizons for Japanese Literature and Culture in a Digital World
Welcome to the website for the Japan Foundation Institutional Project Support Grant to the University of Iowa (2015-2019). The University of Iowa is pleased to announce we have been awarded a Japan Foundation Institutional Project Support (IPS) Grant for the academic years 2015-19. Over the next few years, this site will be an online record that takes shape as the various projects supported by this grant, and matched by several university units, transform the study of Japan at the UI.
The overarching vision of the project is this: How does traditional, or premodern, Japanese culture continue to affect contemporary culture, and how does contemporary technology allow us to understand more deeply premodern Japanese culture?
About the Japan Foundation
The Japan Foundation was established in 1972 by special legislation in the Japanese Diet and became an Independent Administrative Institution in October 2003. The mission of the Japan Foundation is to promote international cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and other countries. We are grateful to the Japan Foundation for their generous support for a growing Japanese studies program at the University of Iowa.
This project represents the combined effort of all scholars of Japan at the University of Iowa, and is supported by the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (CAPS) at the University of Iowa, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), International Programs (IP), the Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures (DWLLC), and the Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures (ASLL).
2017-18 is the second year of the grant during which we:
- Sponsored a tour to Japan for UI faculty not in Japanese studies, “Regional Japan: Culture from the Margins.”
- Hosted the Akutagawa Prize-winning writer Fujino Kaori in the UI's legendary International Writing Program. During her three months in the United States, she participated in panel discussions and gave public readings of her work in the Iowa City area, at Carleton College, at the University of Minnesota, and at the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) conference. She participated in bilingual readings with undergraduate members of the Workshop in Japanese Literary Translation, and read for and met with students at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, IA.
- Held a grand opening for the new reading room for the East Asian Collection on the second floor of the University of Iowa main library.
- Premiered a documentary film of our April 2017 Artists and Scholars event, “The Medium is the Messenger: 50 Years of Japanese Writers at the International Writing Program” by documentary filmmaker Toko Shiiki.
- Sponsored three graduate students to conduct research and study in Japan.
With more to come in Spring 2018!
- Artists and Scholars events
- Faculty research
- Belin-Blank Center summer program on Japanese culture for high-school students
2016–17 was the first year of the grant, during which we:
- Hosted a summer workshop on Japanese culture for K-12 teachers in Iowa and the Upper Midwest.
- Hosted the Akutagawa Prize-winning writer Shibasaki Tomoka in the UI's legendary International Writing Program. During her three months in Iowa City, she participated in panel discussions and gave public readings of her work in the Iowa City area. She participated in bilingual readings with undergraduate members of the Workshop in Japanese Literary Translation, and read for and met with students at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, IA.
- Hosted the conference “Tradition in Search of a Rationale: The Future of Hunting in Japan and North America,” with traditional matagi bear hunters of northern Japan joining us, as well as Japanese scholars of their tradition.
- Sponsored the workshop “Voices of Fukushima: Art, Community, and Information after 3-11.” Filmmaker Toko Shiiki and composer Erik Santos were present for a screening of their film Threshold: Whispers of Fukushima.
- Held the weeklong event “A Half-Century of Japanese Writers in Iowa: Writing and Translating at the International Writing Program, 1967–2017” to kick off celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the International Writing Program. The great Japanese poet Yoshimasu Gozo (IWP 1971) read and performed with three of his translators to celebrate the release of a new collection of English translations of his poems, Alice Iris Red Horse. The writers Nakagami Nori (IWP 2002) and Kyoko Yoshida (IWP 2005) also returned to Iowa and read from their recent work, and two scholars of the influential postwar writer Nakagami Kenji (IWP 1982) delivered papers on his life and work.
- Constructed a new reading room for the East Asian Collection on the second floor of the University of Iowa main library.
- Acquired library materials, in particular a substantial increase to our manga collection.
- Sponsored a visit by translator Sho Sugita, who read from Spiral Staircase, his new translation of poems by the Japanese Futurist Hirato Renkichi.
- Funded three graduate students and two faculty members to conduct research in Japan.
2015–16 was a preparatory year during which we:
- Hired an assistant professor of Japanese premodern literature and visual culture, Kendra Strand, in the Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures.
- Made preparations for the active years of the grant.
Japan Foundation IPS Grant in the News
I first met Shibasaki Tomoka, the Akutagawa Prize-winning writer and our Japanese participant in the 2016 International Writing Program, in Tokyo a few months before she arrived. When we were deciding where in the metropolis to meet, I casually mentioned that I am a fan of retro Japanese coffee shops, and Tomoka replied that she is, too. Learn more about Shibasaki Tomoka's time at the UI International Writing Program.
Kendra Strand recently wrapped up her first semester teaching premodern Japanese literature and visual culture in the department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures. Professor Strand’s position was made possible thanks to a Japan Foundation Institutional Project Support (IPS) Grant. Learn more about Professor Strand.
In 2017, Paul Capobianco will begin a lecturer position at the Kyushu Sangyo University Language Education and Research Center in Fukuoka, Japan. Data collected from his research has appeared in language studies journals and is presently being revised for resubmission in anthropology, communications studies, and Japan studies journals. Read about his travel experience.
Laurel Taylor is a second-year student in the UI's M.F.A. in Translation program who conducted research on the culture of translation in Tokyo in the summer of 2016. At Iowa, she is translating short stories and a novel by the contemporary Japanese novelist Shibasaki Tomoka, a participant in the International Writing Program for 2016. Read about her travel experience.
As the first activity of the University of Iowa’s Japan Foundation Institutional Project Support Grant, the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies (CAPS) hosted a fully funded K-12 teacher-training workshop focused exclusively on Japanese culture and society on June 9-11, 2016. Assistant Professor Kendall Heitzman of the Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Dongwang Liu, Associate Director of CAPS, were the main organizers.
The Japanese program at the University of Iowa will be seeing several improvements thanks to a $350,000 grant from the Japanese Foundation. Sawako Kojima of the Japanese Consulate in Chicago presented the award to UI Associate Provost and Dean Downing Thomas, who accepted the grant on behalf of the UI on Oct. 16. “[The Japan Foundation] selects top-notch Japan-related programs for its grants,” Kojima said. “This year, the University of Iowa was recognized as one of the most important Japanese programs in the Midwest, thanks to its devoted faculty, staff, supporters, friends, and students.”
With rising interest in Chinese and South Korean studies, many universities across the U.S. fear waning enrollment in Japanese studies. The UI, however, has managed to buck the trend, with Japanese studies enrollment numbers on the rise the past 3 years. In view of the program’s success, several UI faculty and programs banded together to apply for the Japan Foundation’s Institutional Project Support Grant.