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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?

Japan Foundation IPS Grant project leaders
Morten Schlütter, Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Kendall Heitzman, Assistant Professor, Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures

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.

Institutional partners 
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).

Project Schedule

2018-19 is the third year of the grant, in which we:

  • Hosted the Akutagawa Prize-winning writer Takiguchi Yusho. During his three months in the United States, he participated in panel discussions and gave public readings of his work in Iowa City, Davenport, New Orleans, and at Beloit College. He participated in bilingual readings with members of the Workshop in Japanese Literary Translation.
  • Brought to campus the tea-ceremony teacher Miki Mika, a practitioner of the Omotesenke school of tea, for a series of workshops and public demonstrations.
  • Sponsored "Noh Theater Now," which brought to campus Noh practitioner and playwright David Crandall and prominent maskmaker Kitazawa Hideta.
  • Funded two graduate students and three faculty members to conduct research in Japan.
  • Acquired visual and classical materials for our Japanese collection.
  • An international conference, "Travel is Home: Representing Travel and Landscape in Japanese Literature, Art, and Culture"
  • A tour to Japan for UI faculty not in Japanese studies, "Japanese Journeys"

2017-18 was 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 "Japanese Documentary Now," which brought to campus three of the most exciting documentary filmmakers working in Japan today, for screenings and talks: Mori Tatsuya, Kana Tomoko, and (via video) Nakamura Takayuki.

  • Sponsored "Japanese Poetry Now," which brought to campus two award-winning young Japanese poets, Nagae Yuki and Kanie Naha, together with the translator and spoken-word artist Jordan AY Smith.

  • Invited back to campus the award-winning translator Takako Lento (MFA 1967) for a week of readings, workshops, and recorded archival interviews, in "Takako Lento and the Early Days of the International Writing Program."

  • Hosted a summer course on Japanese culture for junior-high school students at the Belin-Blank Center.

  • Acquired library materials--in particular, collections of visual materials for research and teaching.

  • Funded three graduate students and four faculty members to conduct research in Japan.

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:

JAPAN FOUNDATION IPS GRANT IN THE NEWS
12/7/2018

A language tour of Japan, Wenfang Tang 

In late July and early August of 2017, we took a 10-day trip to Japan, sponsored by the Japan Foundation. Our group consisted of 6 faculty members from the University of Iowa. The purpose of the trip was to make us more aware of Japanese culture so we can include Japanese elements in our future teaching and research. My expectation wasn’t high. Until the trip ended, I didn’t expect to learn anything to fundamentally change my view of Japan in 10 days.
Author 
12/7/2018

Japan Foundation Trip Report, Jiyeon Kang

I was part of the 2017 Japan Foundation faculty tour, “Regional Japan: Culture from the Margins” between July 26 and August 8, 2017. The two-week trip from Tokyo to the town of Sakaiminato in Tottori, to southern Shikoku, and to Kyoto—and many other cities and villages en route—offered me an invaluable experience of being immersed in Japan’s historical and contemporary culture and experiencing both its cosmopolitan and rural regions.
Author 
12/7/2018

Japan Foundation Trip Report, Elizabeth Heineman

Two of my areas of specialization are World War II in Europe and post-war memory - so a trip to Japan was a natural for me. One of my ambitions is to develop a course on World War II as a global event, which is a deviation from the more typical courses which focus on either Asia or Europe, and append the other theater as a footnote (while neglecting North Africa and Europe's overseas colonies entirely). I have also spoken to an academic press about writing a global history of sexuality in World War II; this trip provided fodder for thought for that project.