Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure for me as a professional engaged in Japanese studies to see the launch of this project. I sincerely congratulate you. It is also a great honour and privilege to be invited to this symposium.
I specialize in modern and contemporary Japanese literature and culture, which I teach at the Japan Centre of Munich University. My focus lies not solely on novels that are considered pure literature but rather also on literary research in a broader sense. I deal with a wide range of literary works, such as essays, poetry, or detective novels. One of the major themes of my research is Japan's path to modernity and its ideological background as well as its inter-connectedness with the process of the birth of modern Japanese literature. To that end, I have chosen the works of Nagai Kafû as my subject of study and studied his writings in a variety of ways.
In particular, I have concerned myself with the question of how intellectuals in the Meiji period, represented by Nagai Kafû, Natsume Sôseki and Mori 'gai, saw the government's modernization policy. In other words, I have looked into how they expressed criticism through their work.
One of the results of this study was that the changes and transformation of urban spaces, and especially Tokyo's urban space, have played a very important role in Japanese literary works. This role must not go unnoticed. In order to properly delve into the areas of history and literature, I have chosen "city and literature" as my main topic. My research is primarily concerned with Tokyo, which experienced rapid modernization from the end of the Edo period to the early Meiji period as well as globalization in recent years. I'm particularly interested in how Tokyo's status as the nation's capital is debated in the context of nation building.
You might already be well aware of the numerous publications that have been written about Tokyo's culture, geography and history. Among them are commentaries, novels, essays, encyclopedias, topographic records and books introducing famous sightseeing spots.
This afternoon, I stopped by the Sanseidô bookstore in Jinbôchô on my way here. (Laughter). I found that many books on Tokyo, such as one titled "Edo-Tokyo Travel", had been published just last year or even this year. I was able to buy many books on Asakusa.
However, in the field of literary studies most of the texts that are regarded as paradigmatic in the context of conceptualizing the formation of a modern city belong to the canon of Japan's modern literature. Good examples are Mori 'gai's "Maihime" (The Dancing Girl), Natsume Sôseki's "Sanshirô" from the Meiji period and Yasunari Kawabata's 1920s modernism work "Asakusa Kurenai-Dan" (The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa).
However, while these books are set in Tokyo the authors did not describe the city in much detail. Therefore, in order to understand how people in Tokyo grasped the city's history and space I also had to depend on materials other than novels, such as tourist guidebooks, topographical essays, and various kinds of encyclopedias. Recently my research interests have been primarily directed towards the ongoing rediscovery of the remaining old, traditional streets, or roji, in the context of urban renaissance and the cultural position of these alleyways within the city they are a part of. For many years roji alleyways were full of life and local color; Asakusa had many roji in the past. But urban development policy in the Meiji period regarded them as uncivilized and unsanitary and consequently they were excluded from the framework of modern city planning.
In the 20th century, due to urban development and industrialization, most roji were gradually replaced by new, modern buildings and wide main streets. Asakusa however managed to retain a relatively large number of roji. The current discourse on roji has to be considered within the framework of such concepts as the sustainable city and community building, conservation of the historic fabric of urban environments and customs, and the recreation of urban amenity values. Such discourse on roji stands in contrast to modernist city planning since the late 19th century and is related to issues of urban development as well as the formation of modern Japan. I want to clarify the history of roji and their role in today's urban theory from the standpoint of literary and cultural research. To this end I'm currently analyzing works of sanpo bungaku (literature of walking) that introduce Tokyo's roji. That's why I bought various books at the Sanseidô bookstore, as I mentioned earlier.
Given my field of study and current research, I'm delighted to have been invited to this project. While this is probably even more obvious to you than it is to me, I would like to point out that Asakusa is a rather unique part of Tokyo. As far as I know it has the longest history of any of Tokyo's wards, dating back to the early 7th century. Since that time many common people have come to worship Kannon-sama and the area has gradually grown into a big town. For many years Asakusa has been recognized as a centre of mass culture. In a historical, religious, and cultural context it is a key urban space where many functions have become intertwined.
Asakusa is an integral area of the city for a wide range of works, ranging from tourist guidebooks of Edo and Tokyo to modern and contemporary literature, as represented by the works of Kawabata Yasunari, Tanizaki Jun'ichirô and Nagai Kafû, just as Professor Itoda mentioned earlier. Moreover, in order to understand the development of modern cities in Japan, and especially the development of mass culture from the early 19th century onward, it is the perfect place because it has been the sitee of so many cultural innovations, such as the Asakusa Opera and cinema.
Finally, I would like briefly to mention another important aspect of my research. Asakusa is a popular place for tourists; but what about the lifestyle of the people who live there? How are urban renaissance policies, the rediscovery of roji, and the roji landscape interconnected? I'm very much interested in these issues.
I am also very much looking forward to a cultural exchange between university researchers and people in Asakusa. I consider it a great honour that I have been given the opportunity to become a member of this project and to study the ward's history and cultural diversity as well as its future. I am really looking forward to this experience. Thank you very much for your attention. (Applause.)
Thank you very much, Professor Schulz, for those inspiring messages. I think Professor Schulz will carry out fieldwork in Asakusa and may conduct interviews with you. So I ask in advance for your cooperation.