Friday, March 15, 2019

In April, the University of Iowa Japanese Program will host more than twenty scholars from around the world as part of an international conference, "Travel is Home," exploring travel and landscape in Japanese literature, art, and culture. 

Organizers Kendra Strand, assistant professor of premodern Japanese literature and visual culture, Kendall Heitzman, assistant professor of Japanese literature and culture, and Morten Schlütter, associate professor of Chinese religion and Buddhist studies, will host a three-day conference (April 4-6) comprised of presentations and conference sessions on the interaction between humans and their environments in Japanese literature, art, and culture, exploring instances of travel in all of its forms, from pilgrimage, official duties, and tourism, to military strategy, emigration, to evacuation, exile, and refuge.  

In the introduction to his seventeenth-century travel diary, The Narrow Road of the Interior, Matsuo Bashō declares, in Helen McCullough’s translation, that “travel is life, travel is home.” While the use of travel as a metaphor to express the transience of life was centuries old by Bashō’s time, the idea continues to resonate even today. The awareness of one’s environment as both the basis for and product of human experience has shaped representations of travel and landscape throughout Japanese cultural production, from Saigyō’s twelfth-century travel poetry to Natsume Sōseki’s 1906 Kusamakura and beyond. Even in the case of virtual or imagined travel, there is an emphasis on movement across space and through a succession of multiple places. Such instances of travel represented and explored through literature, art, and performance, allow for an analysis of the ways in which humans not only conceptualize and interact with but indeed move through their environments.


Keynote Presentation and Opening Reception by award-winning translator Meredith McKinney
Thursday, April 4, 6:00-9:00 p.m., 1117 University Capitol Centre

Conference Sessions
Friday, April 5, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., IMU 256 Academics Room

Conference Sessions
Saturday, April 6, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., IMU 256 Academics Room

All events are free and open to the public. For a full schedule of conference events and people involved in the forum, visit:

This event is made possible by the generosity of the Japan Foundation Institutional Project Support (IPS) Grant and International Programs, with additional support from the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, and the Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events.  If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Sarolta Petersen in advance at or 319-335-3862.