Now, Professor Gerbert from the University of Kansas is going to speak.
Thank you for the introduction. It is a great honour for me to have been asked to speak at this inauguration.
I would like to express my deep appreciation to Professor Itoda of Meiji University, Professor Linhart of the University of Vienna and the Executive Committee members of this project who have invited me to this memorable event. Because I've been asked to talk a little about my research, I will introduce briefly what I'm doing.
So far, I have conducted research on the novels of the Taisho period, the phenomenon of play (asobi) in Japanese culture, the doll and the Doppelgänger (double), as well as laughter and Shinto ritual. I analyzed Japanese novels and Japanese (kokugo) textbooks used in primary schools in Japan, and based on that analysis, I lectured on the Japanese educational system. These days, I teach about nature and environmental awareness, and environmental problems and policies in Japan.
Currently, my focus is on the intersections between visual culture and literary works. In the Meiji and Taisho periods new technologies were introduced, such as display, panoramic radiography, magic lanterns (the forerunner of the projector), stereoscopic photography, camera photography, and illustrations and "show window" displays, and these were reflected in the literature of the time. The role of visual experience in the novel was a starting point of my research.
Because of this revolution in visual experience, people suddenly took an interest in novels dealing with the human visual sense, the aesthetic sense or visual function. From among them I've chosen the works of those writers who had taken an interest in visual effects such as illusion and fantasy, specifically, the works of Koji Uno, Junichiro Tanizaki, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Haruo Sato and Rampo Edogawa. I'm now translating Koji Uno's "Yumemiru Heya" (Dreamy Room) and Junichiro Tanizaki's "Hakuchu Kigo" (The Ghost in Broad Daylight). I want to translate Ryunosuke Akutagawa's "Asakusa Koen" (Asakusa Park) and Rampo Edogawa's "Panorama to Kitan" (A Strange Story of Panorama Island) in the future.
In the early 20th century, many amusement facilities equipped with visual technology were built. Among them the Panorama House, a tower on the 12th floor of Ryounkaku, Asakusa Hanayashiki (amusement park), Asakusa Koen Aquarium, Miyako-za Theatre and Denki-kan (House of Electricity; Japan's first movie theatre) are well known.
In addition to the writers I mentioned earlier, many other writers chose Asakusa for the setting of their stories. I consider it a fascinating place to explore visual culture in literature.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Shitamachi (Downtown) Folklife Museum with my husband. On the first floor there was a full-scale model of a merchant house of the Meiji period. Its rooms were all small and dark. I imagined that Higuchi Ichiyo had lived in a house like this with her mother and sister 100 years or so ago. Japanese traditional toys and festival parades were also on display. While my husband took a break on a bench, several junior high school age children played with the toys, chatting happily. An old man, who was about 75 years old was gently showing the children how to play with those toys. It brought a smile to my face. There was also an old woman in the same display room. Her eyes were glued to the figures pulling the float. Even the smallest details seemed to fascinate her. Our hearts were warmed by her expression, overflowing with happiness and fond memories, as if she had returned to her childhood.
In the Taisho period, newspapers called Japan "the Children's Paradise." I think it's very interesting to study such a social situation in a place like Asakusa. In the novels of the Taisho period and the first half of the Showa period the area is often depicted as a place where people shed their consciousness and stepped into a different time and space to get away from daily life. In Yasunari Kawabata's "Asakusa Kurenai-Dan" (The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa), Asakusa was described as a fleeting space, which is constantly changing, with the outcome uncertain. In Rampo Edogawa's "Oshie to Tabisuru Otoko" (The Traveler with the Pasted-Rag Picture), Asakusa is depicted as a squalid and illusionary space. No other place is more suited to studying asobi (play) culture.
In order to understand in depth the psychologies of the many different writers who set their stories there, I think it is enormously interesting to delve into various aspects of everyday life of 20th century Asakusa.
Finally, I would like to express my great appreciation to the professors and the members of the Executive Committee who have contributed to the inauguration of this project. Thank you very much for inviting me. (Applause.)
Thank you very much Professor Gerbert. Your mention of Ryounkaku and the House of Electricity made me feel quite nostalgic. Asakusa was, and still is, a very important place for misemono (spectacle) literature. I hope that you will carry out fieldwork in Asakusa. Since you seem to like the downtown atmosphere, I will recommend it to you.