(To moderator) Thank you for your kind introduction. Thank you so much for coming to this symposium today. I can hear ohayashi (festival music) being played somewhere. I think it's great to hold a symposium in this typical atmosphere of Asakusa.
First, I'd like to tell you a bit about the background of how we got the idea for the project, and then how we hope to proceed with it.
The project is based on the annual joint symposium between Meiji University and the University of Vienna, which started in 2001 and alternates each year between Tokyo and Vienna. The overall theme of that symposium is "Leisure and Everyday Life - Tokyo and Vienna". We invite specialists from different fields to participate in active discussions on this theme - with topics ranging through literature, arts, entertainment, history, religion and sociology to culture and customs. In short, the over-arching aim is to explore interdisciplinary approaches slightly beyond our own fields of expertise, or in other words perhaps, international approaches. When the symposium is held in Tokyo, it is conducted in Japanese. In Vienna, it is conducted in German. In this way, through our mutual efforts, we have overcome the language barrier.
Professor Linhart, please stand up. This is Professor Linhart from the University of Vienna. (Applause.) He proposed the overall theme, "Leisure and Everyday Life". This really is a great theme, because we can start from thinking about everyday phenomena in our daily life, and from there trace their history or analyze their structures critically. The Meiji-Vienna collaboration has so far resulted in the publication of four books.
I'm a specialist in German literature but initially I studied economic and social history fairly seriously. As a scholar of literature I have a somewhat unique background. I'm currently planning to publish a book titled "Berlin and Tokyo - City and Theatre" next year in Munich. The book is in German and Japanese. I look at the theatre not only from literary and aesthetic points of view, but also from a business perspective; that is, locations of theatres, forms of operation, as well as fire and building ordinances. In other words, my aim is to study a little about the social structures surrounding theatres. You may wonder how I can compare Berlin with Edo using this method. The two cities are apparently different. On the surface, it seems impossible to compare them. But using this comparative method allows us to discover that something usually taken for granted is not necessarily self-evident, and it may provide new directions in the study of cultural history or civilization. This is what we aim to achieve.
Now, I would like to tell you a little about myself. My mother came from a family called Negishi Kogyobu, an entertainment company that performed operas known as Asakusa Opera in the Taisho period. I think some of you may know of it. It was very popular at the time. It lasted from the late 1910s into the 1920s until the Great Kanto Earthquake struck in 1923, after which it unfortunately died out. Its home was at the Tokiwaza in Rokku. Since my childhood, I've often been told that the theatre is more interesting backstage, rather than when viewed from "front of house". That experience probably helped me develop an interest in looking at the theatre from a business perspective.
In part because of my personal history, I have for some years been considering the possibility of a research project to address Asakusa in earnest as a discipline. When Mr. Uchiyama was the Mayor of Taito Ward, I was a professor at Keio University and we once discussed the possibility. But my research didn't go far enough at the time, so despite his tremendous efforts, the project was not realized. However, a big turning point came when I, together with Professor Linhart whom I introduced to you earlier, started the joint Meiji-Vienna symposium. This symposium gave me the opportunity to talk about Asakusa not only in Japanese but also in German, the language of my profession. This also gave me the opportunity to think about Asakusa academically every year on a regular basis.
So, I've come to realize that we can't talk about Tokyo without talking about Asakusa. I'm also convinced that Asakusa has rich resources that could become subjects of study in many different fields, including literature, history and folklore. But of course, a project like the "International Asakusa Studies Project" cannot be launched in a short time. We collaborated last year with Vienna on a Meiji symposium on the theme of "Everyday Life and Leisure during the Allied Occupation Period". Thanks to Mr. Nagabori, Mr. Kawahara, Mr. Miyamoto and Mr. Ueki, who are Meiji University alumni, the University of Vienna guests had a marvelous and unusual experience in Asakusa. To launch this "International Asakusa Studies Project", Mr. Nagabori and Mr. Kawahara went frequently to the city office to discuss the project with the Mayor of Taito Ward and other administrative staff. Thanks to their enthusiasm and high expectations for this project, we can celebrate today. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to them.
In addition, Mr. Asatsu, the former Deputy and also a Meiji University alumnus, made a significant contribution liaising between Taito Ward and Meiji University. I wholeheartedly thank Mr. Asatsu. I sincerely hope that the launch of this project will bring about closer cooperation in many areas between Taito Ward and Meiji University in the future.
As you may know, Taito Ward has been twinned with Vienna's First District. Meiji and Vienna have already executed a comprehensive agreement regarding many activities, including academic exchange programmes. Now, with the signing of the Taito-Meiji agreement, we have developed strong links among all three partners. I hope that this link will serve as a strong foundation to expand the International Asakusa Studies project.
Today we have invited prominent professors of Japanese studies from Europe and the United States. I must thank Professor Linhart. Without his efforts, I could not have arranged such a stellar line-up of guest panelists.
As you can see in your handouts, Professor Linhart has published a book on ken games. When we talk about ken games, you might remember only yakyuuken. But the culture of ken games is very deep. Professor Linhart wrote the book in Japanese. This is truly the pre-eminent work on the research of Japanese ken games. We can all learn a great deal from his book.
I'd like now introduce Professor Schultz from Munich University. Please stand up. (Applause.) Her recent academic interest is in the culture of alleyways (roji). She has also been conducting extensive research into Kafu Nagai. There is a famous German philosopher named [Walter] Benjamin who has written books about walking. She is now working on research to connect Benjamin and Kafu, usually an unthinkable idea.
Next, Professor Gerbert from the University of Kansas. Thank you, Professor Gerbert. (Applause.) She is studying the culture of sideshows (misemono). Asakusa has played a large role in spreading misemono culture. Her main research interest is the relationship between misemono culture and literature. For example, Rampo Edogawa is misemono. By this I mean that his novels are like misemono. She is working on in-depth research in this field.
Next is Professor Caroli from the University of Venice. (Applause.) She is a distinguished professor who pursues her research into Japan's modernization problems from several unique perspectives, specifically the issues of Okinawa and discrimination.
Professor Winkel from Leiden University in the Netherlands. (Applause.) As you know, Japanese - Dutch relations are deep-rooted. Japan has learned a lot from Leiden University. She is very familiar with Japanese print culture, especially that of the Edo period.
Finally, Professor Lockyer from the University of London. (Applause.) He is the youngest of today's panelists. His research is quite unique. He focuses on exhibitions. For example, Japan participated in the Paris Expo and the Vienna Expo in the 19th century, and of course, introduced Japanese culture there. But did Japan introduce herself accurately? This is the theme of his study. It's fascinating. I think he will talk about it later.
Because of the lack of time, we can give the panelists only ten minutes. I apologize, but I would like to ask them to provide messages and suggestions for Asakusa Studies within a 10-minute time frame.
I now want to go into a little more detail. I think that some of you may be wondering what International Asakusa Studies is about. For researchers like us, Asakusa is a very attractive space. For example, as you know, historically it has been the centre of Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy) worship and attracted many pilgrims, and I expect it will continue to do so in the future.
Unfortunately we no longer have canals, but in the past, especially during the Edo period, Asakusa, along with its surrounding areas, was an important hub for transportation and distribution because of its easy access to the Sumida River.
As we entered the 20th century we experienced the modernization of Tokyo. In the 1910s and 1920s, this area was called Asakusa and Shimoya Ward, not Taito Ward. The population of the area was very high, due to an influx of rural folk looking for jobs. Naturally this brought with it many of the social problems typical of inner cities, notably poverty, all concentrated in Asakusa. Many writers, including Junichiro Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata and Kafu Nagai wrote about Asakusa and created new literature and their own new literary styles, which I think is really marvelous.
The area was also a space where popular and highbrow art mixed, creating unique art styles such as the Asakusa Opera. The development of popular art also brought many craftsmen here, and they created a variety of craft arts relating to the theatre. Asakusa is also famous for its excellent industrial arts and rich culinary culture.
The list goes on and on. Asakusa is a hodge-podge of many parts, a space in which literature, entertainment, arts, worship (religion), industrial arts, commerce, distribution, customs and other elements are intricately intertwined.
Since the 1960s, areas like Shinjuku and Shibuya, which are both terminal points on the railway grid, have developed rapidly, probably at Asakusa's expense. However, researchers cannot afford to ignore Asakusa because of its continuity from Edo to Tokyo, a place that has survived the transition from the old to the new. It's impossible to talk about Tokyo without referring to Asakusa. Through talking about Asakusa, features of Ginza, Shibuya and Shinjuku stand out.
Since Asakusa still has this unique character, unburied by history, plus Kannon-sama (the Goddess of Mercy), and the many tourists who flow to see it, people like myself who live in Taito Ward risk becoming complacent about the area and feeling no need to promote it. Incidentally, I was born in Sakamoto, Taito Ward, 'though that address is no longer used today. We take for granted all the elements of Asakusa, and probably do not bother to consider how valuable it is.
I'm not criticizing anyone; merely pointing out that Asakusa is full of unique things but that we haven't made any great effort to make them known to the world. We have invited distinguished scholars of Japanese studies, but I hope that in the future we will also invite internationally eminent scholars who know little about Japan and do not speak Japanese. My hope is that they will tell the world that Asakusa is an interesting space as a subject for study even when we step away from so-called "ordinary" cross-cultural comparisons.
In fact the relations between religion and entertainment, or sex-related problems in Yoshiwara, namely, the control of sex issues; – such problems were faced not only by Yoshiwara but also by every other city in the world. The phenomenon of the close relations between literature and city is also common. One example is the so-called Asakusa novels written by Junichiro Tanizaki represented by "Ranru no Hikari". While writing this book he was also translating Baudelaire's "The Flowers of Evil". Had it not been for Baudelaire's description of Paris, Tanizaki's Asakusa novels would not have been created. This means that Asakusa and Paris can be connected through Tanizaki. The examples are endless. I'm convinced that if we delve into the past and present developments of Asakusa, we will find that their structures can also be perceived in other places in the world.
Let us be frank; obviously Asakusa has its negative aspects and dark sides, which we don't necessarily want to expose to the outside world. Yet I believe that the richness of Asakusa as an area of study, including those negative aspects and dark sides, could become a good subject for internationally coordinated research and contribute to the development of the international academic community. I hope that we will introduce to the world Asakusa's diversity based on its rich history, so that scholars can recognize it and contribute to the enhancement of its cultural brand in Japan. In short, the aim of the project is to make eminent scholars in the world say "Asakusa is interesting".
In order for the project to achieve tangible results, I will of course do everything I can, but I think that its success or failure depends on the support of everyone here today. We professors are engaged in research, and tend to cloister ourselves in our university ivory towers. Of course, we can provide ideas, build contacts and bring over distinguished scholars to Asakusa. But how can we solidify intellectual achievements and apply them? Without your wisdom, we cannot take a step forward. Therefore, please understand that this project requires close cooperation between people in the academic community and those who live in or love Asakusa.
I will conclude by hoping that today will be the first day of this cooperation. Thank you for your attention. (Applause.)