‘Comfort Women’: Archive Report Assignment Part-1

The Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal For the Trial of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery – Judgement on the Common Indictment and the Application for Restitution and Reparation

Delivered: 4 December 2021. The Hague, The Netherlands/ Case No.: PT-2000-I-T/Original: English/ Copyright: 2001 International Organising Committee for the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal/ A4 296 pages (incl. Appendices)

Photo: Japanese Soldiers on Trial. Source: Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of Word Cultures

This was my final assignment for the Researching Japan module (Summer 2021). I used the above mentioned archive for my research ‘’Comfort Women’ in Indonesia during the World War II’.

1.Description of the archive

This Judgement was published after the Tribunal as titled above. This Tribunal is a ‘People’s Tribunal’. It was carried out by the global civic society, in particular, those from the Asia-Pacific region, and people of the world to whom Japan owes a duty under the principles of the international law to render account. Therefore, it was not established or influenced by a state or inter-state organisation but involved the application of international law only. The intention of this tribunal is ‘to recognise and respect women’s human rights, to end impunity for crimes of sexual violence, to repudiate the notion that sexual abuse of women is an inevitable consequence of war and conquest’. The methods of this Tribunal were, to examine evidence, then develop a historical record and apply the principles of international law.


This Judgement can be found on the website of the ‘Women’s Museum for War and Peace’ in Tokyo [1]. It is open and accessible to the public and downloadable. The document is written in English due to the nature of the international tribunal with prosecutors from ten countries or regions. This makes it accessible to a wider audience.

3.Comparison to other collections in the UK and worldwide

As this Judgement was delivered by the International Court of Justice, the Hague, the Netherlands, I think that this information source is of the highest reliability. Other than this document, I have so far found victims’ testimonies, research papers published in English in journals in History, Social Science, Politics, Economics, Gender Studies and International Relations. Whilst Indonesian materials are inaccessible to me due to the language barrier, there are resources in Japanese which refer to Indonesian cases. I also plan to search for archives at the Netherlands National Archives and libraries online and in person, although some documents are protected for privacy issues. Publication by Dutch authors are mostly in English,  presumably to make them accessible to a wider readership. However, I plan to search for Dutch newspaper articles about the topic and the WWII in general (Continued).


Tribunal, I.O.C.f.t.W.s.I.W.C., The Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal for the Trial of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery: The Judgement on the Common Indictment and the Application for Restitution and Reparation. 2001, International Court of Justice: The Hague, The Netherlands.

Report on the talk “Jōmon: Stone Circles and World Heritage”

Third Thursday Lecture on 15 July 2021
‘Jōmon: Stone Circles and World Heritage’ by Professor Simon Kaner, Sainsbury Institute

Sundial feature at Oyu Stone Circle, Akita, Japan by Steve Colmer. Source: Sainsbury Institute Third Thursday Lecture information

Professor Simon Kaner began the lecture and was followed by a recorded interview by Mayor Hata and Otake Sachie (Obsidian Museum Curator) in Nagawa-machi Town. It concluded with talks by Heather Sebire (English Heritage) and David Dawson (Wiltshire Museum in Devizes).  

It was ‘Jōmon July’, time to celebrate Japanese prehistory. The inscription of the seventeen Jōmon sites in northern Japan and southern Hokkaido as UNESCO World Heritage sites has finally been ratified. The sites include Sannai Maruyama and the Oyu Stone Circle. ‘Japan Heritage’, by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, was also re-introduced to the audience, in time for the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games. These achievements in heritage work are the fruits of over a decade of collaboration between friends and colleagues in Japan and the U.K. This lecture was indeed a great opportunity to both reflect on and to contemplate the meaning of cultural heritage in our modern world.

Professor Kaner gave a brief history of modern Japanese archaeology, explaining that Japan’s prehistory was first introduced to the West at the International Congress of Prehistoric Archaeology in Norwich in 1868. How fascinating that over one and a half centuries later, research in Japanese prehistory is again being disseminated from Norwich!

Modern archaeology was also introduced to Japan by several ‘oyatoi gaikokujin’: Westerners who were employed by the Meiji government during the modernisation process. One of them was Edward Morse, who investigated the Omori Jōmon Shell Midden. However, it is William Gowland who is regarded as the ‘Father of Japanese archaeology’. As a metallurgist at the Osaka Mint and an amateur archaeologist, Gowland excavated over 400 ‘kofun’ burial mounds. His photographs and meticulous records are stored at the British Museum. Gowland also used his expertise to carry out archaeological work at Stonehenge.

Tsuboi Shōgorō, the first Japanese anthropologist to study in Great Britain’, proposed a new interpretation of dogū figurines from northern Japan after observing a Siberian tribe’s snow goggles at the British Museum. A new exchange with the West resulted in new ideas.

This month’s lecture was also an occasion to celebrate the opening of the Hoshikusokan obsidian on-site mine museum. Since Nagawa-machi and the Sainsbury Institute signed an agreement in 2012 for academic collaboration, this link has developed to become the ‘World’s first archaeological twinning’, between Hoshikuso obsidian mines and Grimes Graves flint mines. Otake Sachie, inspired by Grimes Graves, designed the new museum in Nagawa with her colleagues. This museum allows visitors to see preserved layers of the obsidian mines and to reflect on the passage of time by ‘sharing the space with Jōmon people who worked thousands years ago’. Mayor Hata commented that, today, Nagawa people are not only proud of their heritage but are trying to pass this important heritage on to future generations. Another major achievement is the youth exchange programmes between Nagawa and the Ancient House Museum in Thetford. Nagawa’s new town hall also displays a symbolic monument titled ‘Universal Truth’. This was designed by David Smith, Otake-san and colleagues who made it with Norfolk flint and Nagawa obsidian.

Obsidian Festival in Nagawa-machi August 2013 and Hoshikusokan Museum Viewing July 2021. Source: Nagawa Town Board of Education

There were two distinguished guest speakers at this lecture, Heather Sebire (English Heritage) and David Dawson (Wiltshire Museum in Devizes). Sebire, who first met Prof Kaner at the World Archaeology Congress in Kyoto in 2016, spoke about their joint research on Stonehenge and Japanese stone circles, such as Oyu and Isedotai. We also heard about Neolithic people’s concept of life and death, as well as astronomy. The ‘Stonehenge and Jōmon Japan’ exhibition is anticipated to be held in autumn 2022, after a long postponement due to the pandemic. The project provides important comparators for stone circles in other parts of the world, notably between the UK and Japan.

We also heard from Dawson, who has been collaborating with the Sainsbury Institute. Students from Japan, UK and Europe together visited various sites and museums including the Wiltshire Museum during the University of Tokyo and the Sainsbury Institute’s joint Winter Programmes. During his reciprocal visit to the sites and museums in Japan, Dawson said that he felt the Japanese people’s pride and enthusiasm for their heritage. It is hoped that pots from Wiltshire will be loaned to the Niigata Prefectural Museum, to be displayed along with Jōmon ‘flame pots’.  

Professor Kaner told us that he is very pleased that Japanese people have become more interested in prehistory in recent years. Much can be learnt in Professor Kobayashi Tatsuo’s ‘Jomon Reflections’, which has become freely available online from Oxboow Books.

Professor Kaner’s talk was concluded in memory of Dr Don Henson, who sadly passed away this year. He made a huge contribution to education in archaeology, and the twinning of Grimes Graves and Obsidian mines in Nagawa-machi.

Congratulations to Professor Kaner and colleagues on their achievement in helping to make Jōmon heritage finally achieve World recognition. We can look forward to further developments in their archaeology and heritage work.

Useful Links:

Lecture Link: https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/info/report-on-the-talk-jmon-stone-circles-and-world-heritage

Sainsbury Institute’s e-bulletin (August 2021): https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/info/august-2021-message-from-the-executive-director

Kobayashi, T., S. Kaner, and Nakamura, O., Jomon reflections : forager life and culture in the prehistoric Japanese archipelago. 2004: Oxbow Books. https://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/jomon-reflections.html

In Memoriam Don Henson (Department of Archaeology, University of York): https://www.york.ac.uk/archaeology/people/academic-staff/in-memoriam-don-henson/

‘Comfort Women’ in Indonesia under Japanese Occupation during WWII-Part 3

Comfort Women. Source: Wikimedia

‘Comfort Women’ in Indonesia

There were different categories of ‘comfort women’ or ‘ianfu’ in Indonesia.  Each group of women had different ethnographical background.

  • Indigenous women
  • European women (mainly Dutch)
  • Eurasian women (mixed)                       
  • Chinese migrant women
  • Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese women recruited and mobilised from own countries
  • Japanese women including ‘karayuki-san’ (Note)

1.Indonesian and Eurasian ‘Comfort Women’

It is noteworthy that sexual abuse was not conducted only by the Japanese military. Indonesian women had also been exploited by the Dutch before the Japanese occupation. There were concubines, professional and casual prostitutes as well as new recruits. Abduction and rapes occurred as well.  

Indigenous women in poverty were in a vulnerable situation. So many had no choice. The ‘comfort women’ were ashamed in patriarchal communities and kept their silence. In some religions and cultures, raped women were even punished.

Nobody talked about ‘ianfu’ or their experience until early 1990s when South Korean women spoke up and their activities became transnational spreading to Indonesia. As a consequence, 20,000 Indonesian women made their claim for justice.

One ashamed indigenous woman named Mardiyem committed suicide after being identified by the media. So, there was a lack of sensitivity and privacy in the media and in society.

2.Dutch ‘Comfort Women

Dutch women were sent to high-ranking Japanese officers. They could be regarded as curious objects or as revenge for Europeans colonising Asia.

There were 200-300 Dutch ‘comfort women’. There were professional prostitutes, but 65 were most certainly forced into prostitution.

There were ‘volunteers’ who may have wanted to escape the harsh life in internment camps or to protect young girls from being taken away.  Also, some women claimed that they were forced to sign a document they could not read. So, it is difficult to define the term ‘voluntarily contracted’. It seems that some coercion and abductions occurred.

Jan Ruff-O’Herne’s spoke up after half a century after feeling encouraged by a South Korean victim and their supporters. Ruff-O’Herne spoke at the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal in 2000 and published her biography in 2008. …. (to be continued)


The term ‘Karayuki-san’ was used for women who were recruited and shipped from Nagasaki mainly to Far East Russia and Asian countries for prostitution as Japan began to open the countries towards the end of Tokugawa era in the 19th century. The sex industry involving Japanese women grew so big that it functioned as a way to earn foreign currencies during the Meiji period. This operation network was later shifted to involve the military and medical examinations and licensing was introduced due to venereal disease (VD).


Active Museum Women’s War and Peace Museum (WAM), https://wam-peace.org/.

Tribunal, I.O.C.f.t.W.s.I.W.C., The Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal for the Trial of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery: The Judgement on the Common Indictment and the Application for Restitution and Reparation. 2001, International Court of Justice: The Hague, The Netherlands.

McGregor, K. and V. Mackie, Transcultural Memory and the Troostmeisjes/Comfort Women Photographic Project. History & Memory, 2018. 30(1): p. 116-150.

Ruff-O’Herne, J., Fifty years of silence. North Sydney, 2008, N.S.W: William Heinemann.

Ruff-O’Herne, J., Australian Comfort Woman Jan Ruff-O’Herne, Australian Story, 2001,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mard9WrYn2I.

Tanaka, T., Japan’s Comfort Women : Sexual Slavery and Prostitution during World War II and the US Occupation. Asia’s transformations. 2003: Routledge.

Yoshimi, Y. and S.G. O’Brien, Comfort women : sexual slavery in the Japanese military during World War II. English edition. ed. Asia perspectives. 2002: Columbia University Press.

‘Comfort Women’ in Indonesia under Japan’s Occupation during WWII-Part 2

Far East and the Pacific 1941. Source: Wikimedia

What does the term ‘Comfort Women’ refer to?

The term ‘comfort women’ ‘ianfu’ is used for the Japanese military’s institutional sexual slaves during WWII. 

In 1992, a Japanese historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki made a crucial discovery which proved the Japanese government’s involvement in the operation. According to Yoshimi, there were 80,000 to 200,000 young women and girls who served Japanese military personnel. Military brothels ‘comfort stations’, Ianjo’ were established across Southeast Asia and Pacific Ocean regions. In all126 were identified but there were possibly 131 or more.

A document shows that the earliest confirmed comfort station was in northeast China in 1933 (Note).  More were set up soon after the Nanjing massacre, in China, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Dutch East Indies, Burma, Thailand, New Guinea, the Japanese Okinawan archipelago, Hokkaido and Sakhalin.

Japan’s Modern History 

Under the Meiji government (1968-1912), Japan modernised, industrialised and militarised rapidly. After winning wars against China and Russia, Japan obtained Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria. The Japanese army started to advance further and attacked China which was in an internal conflict split into the Communist and the Nationalist Parties. The Nanjing massacre in China (1937-8) is one of the most notorious. The army became so aggressive that Japan was put under sanctions of oil and other basic resources by the Allies. During the 1930’s and 40’s, most Asian countries were colonised by European countries, but the Dutch East Indies was a key place for domination of East Asia and the Pacific as it was rich in natural resources such as oil, rubber and tin. Furthermore, the people could be used for labour and for recruitment to the army and navy.

The Japanese government started to promote the ideology of ‘The Greater East Co-prosperity Spheres’ around Asian countries. Japan’s propaganda was that it was liberating its brother countries in Asia from European colonisers, but the main purpose was to obtain natural resources and human power in its new territories.

After the Japan’s attack of the Pearl Harbour in 1941, Japan started to advance to Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean region, eventually taking over the Dutch East Indies in March 1942.

Indonesia was under Japan’s occupation for three years. The Japanese government set up ‘comfort stations’ across Asia and the Pacific Islands, after a mass rape in Nanjing.

The international war crimes tribunal later heard the Japanese army specifically targeted Dutch people. They were interned; men were sent for harsh labour and young women and girls to ianjo for sexual slavery work. Despite the initial positive expectation of the Indonesian people, Japan became just another coloniser which tried to exploit the people and their resources….. (to be continued).


Yoshimi also discovered a document concerning the ‘Disease Prevention and Hygiene Facility’ which was established in northeast China in 1933. It is most likely that it referred to a military brothel.


Gordon, A., A modern history of Japan: from Tokugawa times to the present. Fourth edition ed. 2020, New York: Oxford University Press.

Yoshimi, Y. and S.G. O’Brien, Comfort women : sexual slavery in the Japanese military during World War II. English edition. ed. Asia perspectives. 2002: Columbia University Press.

‘Comfort Women’ in Indonesia under Japanese Occupation during WWII – Part 1

‘Comfort woman’ stature in front of Korean Society, Melbourne, Australia. Source: Wikimedia

On 28 May, I participated in the University of California in Los Angeles International Institute’s the 8th Annual Going Global Conference. It was an online conference for students, so I thought I would send my abstract and see what happens. I was first shocked to be selected but excited to meet with American students and ones from other countries.

My presentation is about so-called ‘Comfort Women’ or jūgun-ianfu, military sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during the World War II.

As last year 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the war, I selected this topic as this is one of unresolved history problems between Japan and Asian countries.

You might have heard about the statues of ‘comfort women’ which South Korean victims and activists put up at several locations, demanding the Japanese government’s official apology and reparation. More recently Prof Ramseyer’s paper, which stated comfort women were ‘voluntarily contracted’, caused intense arguments, especially in South Korea.  

My question is why we hear a lot from East Asian neighbours but not from Indonesia or its former coloniser Netherlands?

My research is, transnational, interdisciplinary, but focused on Indonesia and Dutch East Indies/ the Netherlands…..(to be continued)


Yoshimi, Y. and S.G. O’Brien, Comfort women : sexual slavery in the Japanese military during World War II. English edition. ed. Asia perspectives. 2002: Columbia University Press.

Gersen, J.S., Seeking the True Story of the Comfort Women: How a Harvard Professor’s Dubious Scholarship Reignited a History of Mistrust between South Korea and Japan, in The New Yorker. 2021.

Useful Links

UCLA International Institute the 8th Annual Going Global Conference: http://www.uclagoingglobal.org/

UCLA International Institute: https://www.international.ucla.edu/institute/

Public Art – Part 2: Public Arts in Norwich

Photo by Jason Thomas at Pexels

As mentioned in my previous blog, I would like to write about ‘public arts’ in Norwich. I am proud to say that Norwich is one of the best places in the U.K. for public arts!  Today I am going to present two case studies, ‘GoGo (animal)’, and the campus of the University of East Anglia campus.

1.UEA campus and Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

The oldest campus buildings such as the Teaching Wall and Ziggurats student accommodation building were unique concrete buildings.  The Enterprise Centre is a green and sustainable building with thatched walls.

The campus also has a large open space to walk around overlooking ‘the Broads’.  At the top of the slope stands the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. It is a hanger-like shiny modern museum building, which was designed by Norman Foster as his first public commission and opened in 1978. The building was even used for filming of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) (as mentioned in my very first Blog ‘Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts’).  Not only is the permanent exhibition inside enjoyable and free of charge, but also walking around the museum one can see Henry Moore’s and Antony Gormley’s sculptures and the works of contemporary artists’.

Towards the end of this academic year, I very much hope that my fellow students can return to the campus and enjoy summer time around the campus as well as the beautiful medieval Norwich city centre.

2.GoGo (animal) by the Break Charity

So far, Norwich has had gorillas, dragons, elephants, and hares. Schools and organisations purchase moulded animals in white. The animals, painted by children and by artists, are exhibited around the city throughout the summer. Children can also do many related activities at schools. The primary school, which I am helping, participated in this project.  The children enjoyed painting their dragon or hare, but activities such as listening to the ‘Inaba no Shiro-usagi’ (‘White Hare of Inaba’, from the Kojiki, the ancient Japanese Chronicle), and drawing and craft-making, were carried out too. During the summer, tourists and families can enjoy sculpture trails around the city. The money raised by donations and selling the animals is used for support of vulnerable children and young people, too. 

The whole process is enjoyed by everyone and is for a good cause. What a fantastic scheme!  I look forward to this summer’s GoGoDiscover with T-Rex. Please support the project, and enjoy your trail if you live or have a chance to visit Norwich this summer!  (9 May 2021)


UEA Campus Map: https://www.uea.ac.uk/about/campus-map

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts: https://www.sainsburycentre.ac.uk/stories/building-the-sainsbury-centre-story/

Sainsbury Centre Sculpture Park: https://www.sainsburycentre.ac.uk/sculpture-park/

Break Charity GoGoDiscovery: https://www.break-charity.org/charity/get-involved/events/gogodiscover-2021/

‘Hare of Inaba’ in ‘Kojiki’, an ancient Japan’s chronicle and ‘Ise ga Naru’:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hare_of_Inaba

Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters): https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/info/dragon-bones-and-sacred-pillars-some-archaeological-observations-on-traditional-japanese-religion

Public Art – Part 1 What is ‘Public Art’?

Teshima Museum Exterier View by Kentaro Ohno. Source: Wikipedia

At Professor Toshio Watanabe’s online Open Forum on 30th April, ‘public art’ was discussed. 

What is ‘public art’? 

Questions were raised about form, artist (famous or amateur), appropriateness (free style or controversial), intention, message, space and funder (local authority or corporate), necessity of recording, physical and digital, art in history (change of concept over time), new type of public art (community and environment-themed), and so forth. Online art in the public domain seems to be a new format. More artworks by individual artists or cancelled and postponed exhibitions by museums can be viewed online during the pandemic. Exclusive arts have become accessible. Every cloud has a silver lining!

Public art is defined as ‘art in public space’, according to Watanabe-sensei.  It can be in any form, sculpture, architecture, graffiti (*Bristol is a good example), performing art, etc.  Public art is not only allocated space and maintenance by local authorities but can be corporate.  This includes Isamu Noguchi’s works, such as his ‘Sunken Garden’ at the Chase Manhattan (see my Blog on Professor Watanabe’s talk ‘Japanese Garden: To Whom Do They Belong’), or Canary Wharf’s public space which is enjoyed by Londoners and tourists alike.  

Watanabe-sensei thinks the Hachikō Dog and Saigō Takamori statues in Tokyo are good examples in Japan. I have never seen either but they seem to be loved by the wider public and are often selected for people’s meeting points, according to the Japanese media.

Statue of Saigo Takamori in Ueno Park. Source: Wikipedia

The Teshima Museum on Teshima Island in the Setonai-kai Inland Sea was also mentioned. It seems that this venue with architectural and outdoor art objects is a big success and popular. It is listed in Sophie Richard’s ‘Japanese Art Lovers Guide to Japanese Museums’ and was also mentioned at the Third Thursday Lecture in 2015, by Kitagawa Fram, the Director of the Setouchi Triennale and Echigo-Tsumari Triennale in Niigata. As mentioned in my previous Blog on ‘Rice Art’, I very much support the concept of public art which is created to be shared with and enjoyed by people in public space. These events can be ecologically and ethically oriented as well as being for the community. Depopulated rural areas can be regenerated and it benefits their local tourism and economy.

‘High art’ from the past is well-related to hierarchy and wealth. As part of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in 2020, statues of slave traders were taken down by the public. I believe that the meaning of public art today is to make citizens happy, as everyone’s life matters (Note).

The look of public spaces is changing in the twenty-first century. 

When it comes to public arts, in my biased opinion, there cannot be a better place than Norwich!  I hope to post another blog with two good examples (30 April 2021).


It could be controversial but I would like to count the Grenfell Tower in London which is still standing in a cover after many lives were lost in an engulfing fire. Although this building was originally a residential tower block, not an artwork it is a symbol of today’s U.K.’s unequal society.


Professor Toshio Watanabe, Professor in Art History and Cultural Heritage at UEA and Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Arts and Cultures, Emeritus Professor of History and Art and Design at University of Arts London. Professor Watanabe’s biography, publication list and his Ishibashi Lecture (2016): https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/info/professor-of-japanese-arts-and-cultures, and https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/info/the-third-ishibashi-foundation-lecture-series-2016.

Bristol UPFEST 2021: https://www.upfest.co.uk/page/upfest-festival

ITV news. Bristol’s Graffiti Festival Goes Online: Take a VR Tour around Virtually Upfest. 2020. https://www.upfest.co.uk/page/upfest-festival

Richard, S. 2015. Japanese Art Lovers Guide to Japanese Museums.  https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/info/the-art-lovers-guide-to-japanese-museums?rq=sophie%20richard

Kitagawa, F. 2015. Art in the Age of the Global Environment. Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures. https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/info/art-in-the-age-of-the-global-environment?rq=echigo%20tsumari

Rice and Art

Naopoleon. Photo by Captain73 (from Wikipedia)

I attended the April Sainsbury Institute’s Third Thursday Lecture.  There were talks by Dr Christian Guth (author of ‘Hokusai’s Great Wave: Biography of a Great Icon’), Veronica Sekules (Groundwork Gallery), and the poet Chris Beckett.  It was also attended by an Akita-born rice farmer-artist Isao Miura whose works are exhibited at the GroundWork Gallery in King’s Lynn.

Dr Guth talked about the importance of rice to Japanese people’s life throughout the country’s history, in socio-cultural, religious and economic contexts. In art, rice can be seen and used in different forms, as glue in textile production, or as a plant motif being depicted on ceramics and woodblock prints, etc.

There are serious problems in modern Japan. The consumption of rice has been declining as well as the population of the younger generation in rural areas.  Growing rice is a hard work, and non-farming people have always helped in the farming community. Wet rice seedlings need to be planted one one by hand, or by small machines in the paddy fields, and paddies need weeding constantly during the summer. As children we were all taught to thank farmers before starting to eat school lunch and not to leave even a single grain. The Chinese character ‘kome 米’ for rice can be split into 八 (eight)、十(ten) and 八 (eight), and the eighty-eight years old birthday celebration is called ‘beiju米寿’ (rice happiness), too.

In recent years in the Tsugaru area, there has been a huge effort made by farmers to breed even higher quality rice. As mentioned by Miura, his family doesn’t use chemical fertiliser or weedkiller for quality and for sustainability purposes. The new brand of rice called ‘Tsugaru Romance’ has been cultivated and promoted by a new form of art, which is called ‘Tambo Art’ (rice field art). Tambo art is created with different colours of rice plant[1] A beautiful image made on rice field can be viewed from the castle keep. We were shown several photos: of Hokusai’s Grate Waves, Red Fuji, Napoleon, a Roman Holiday’s famous bike-ride scene. I couldn’t believe that they were so cleverly produced by all different types of rice plants in different colours, yet the result depends on the climate.

The original purpose was to promote the sale of the brand, but as the creation involves the whole community. Thanks to social media, their Tambo art has become like an annual community project.  A design of a motif is carefully planned by a high-tech CAD machine in order to determine the locations for where to plant different types of rice. Plants were planted by adults and child volunteers. Weeding by hand, the plants were grown with people’s TLC. After harvesting by hand, the rice is shared among volunteers. The whole project sounded wonderful.

Then we heard a talk by Beckett. Water is an important element for Japonica rice, and there is a biodiversity around water. In Japan people enjoy viewing of ‘hotaru’ (fireflies) in summer. This traditional custom can be seen in art (such as woodblock prints), literature, and a song like ‘Hotaru no Hikari’ (firefly’s light) which is sung at graduation ceremonies.

Finally, we had heard about the exhibition ‘Japan Water’ curated by Dr Sekules. There you can see oil paintings works by Miura who studied at the Chelsea School of Arts.  There are pottery and other forms of art objects by other artists who were also inspired from rice.  

I am looking forward to popping into the gallery when I visit the beautiful medieval town one nice summer day!


Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures Third Thursday Lecture ‘The Art of Japan (16 April 2021). https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/info/the-art-of-rice

‘Japan Water’ at the GroundWork Gallery, King’s Lynn (14 April – 31 July 2021) https://www.groundworkgallery.com/exhibition/future-exhibition-japan-water/


How Japan is represented on British media

‘Maid distribute flyers in front of Akihabara station’ © Gdore

Japan’s pop culture is well appreciated across the world, thanks to television, games and the internet. However, many British people’s knowledge about Japan is still limited. Representations of Japan’s ‘otherness’ or ‘exoticism’, could be created by non-Japanese based on indirectly acquired knowledge from the media.

Our tutor Dr Christopher Hayes asked us to watch two recent British television programmes about Sue Perkin’s and Paul Hollywood’s visits to Japan. We then ticked Dr Mark Pendleton’s bingo sheet with stereotypes about Japan and thought about the following questions.

1.What is the purpose of the programme?

These programmes are created for fun and light-hearted evening entertainment, whilst still stimulating enough to pique people’s curiosity. They show both the expected ‘otherness’ or something new or ‘weird’ about Japan.

2.What is the function of the host?

Non-expert hosts are experiencing Japan on behalf the audience in an entertaining and exciting way. If hosts have a good time, the audience feels encouraged to visit Japan in the future. 

3.Are these programmes perpetuating stereotypes? Is this a problem?

The audience is being ingrained with the selected ‘stereotypes’ they were shown. After viewing of the programmes, the content is spread and posted on social media afterwards. In this way the ‘stereotypes’ are re-enforced and enhanced further. There is a drawback. The image shown or the hosts’ experience is only a small part of the culture. This cannot be generalised.

My fellow students commented that Paul Hollywood one was more focused on food in which he is specialised and better, whilst Sue Perkins was ambitiously trying to feature the Japanese society that she doesn’t know. As an entertainment I thought they met the needs. I actually had read a bad critic about Paul Hollywood’s series on newspaper, I enjoyed it far more than expected.

Hinton, P. (2014) refers to Serge Moscovici’s theory of social representations, that shows that stereotypical representation of the Japanese emphasising their cultural ‘otherness’. Foreigners are influenced by the interpretation of media imagery that emphasise perceived differences or distinctive characteristics rather than similarity or commonality.

How British people are seeing Japan today is often through art, anime, manga and television programmes. Prior to this new craze for Japanese manga and anime in the 21st century, also combined with ‘Cool Japan’ promoted by the Japanese government, the West had seen the ‘Japonisme’ and the ‘Orientalism’ movements in late 19th to early 20th centuries. The 1964 Olympic Games also changed the image of a brutal and defeated Japan at the beginning of economic growth. 

‘Stereotypes’ are sometimes negative. These can be linked to sexuality and can be sometimes regarded as even unacceptable or controversial in Western society.

Here are some examples.

Kawaii: Unlike in the West, Japanese young women dress up in high school uniforms and cute or ‘kawaii’ costumes. This could be a reflection of young women escaping their reality and their future duties of marriage and becoming a good housewife and mother.

Otaku: On the other hand, some men escape reality and social pressure, too, and become ‘otaku’ or geeky. Being unable to meet women in person, they sometimes go into dating with ‘virtual’ young girls, who are often portrayed in an oversexualised way.  

Rorikon: This is related to the above two. There is a tendency of Japanese men liking ‘kawaii’ girls and even underage girls. Some young girls and cute characters can be oversexualised in the media. Preference of young girls could lead to so-called ‘enjo-kōsai’ relationship in which men date school girls who are rewarded with expensive presents.

In conclusion, there are positive and negative ‘stereotypes’ that are created by media. As a person who introduces Japanese culture to foreign people, I must, too, think more carefully about the ‘stereotypes’ of Japan, positive or negative, in this global society.


BBC, Japan with Sue Perkins, 2019. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0008kgf

Channel 4, Paul Hollywood Eats Japan, 2020. https://www.channel4.com/programmes/paul-hollywood-eats-japan

Pendleton, M., Bingo sheet, Twitter.   

Hinton, P. 2014. Representation or misrepresentation? British media and Japanese popular culture. NECSUS 3(1): pp. 89-108.

The 10th Anniversary of the Great Tōhoku Earthquake

Earthquake and Tsunami Damaged Dai-ichi Power Plant by Digital Globe

Ten years ago on Friday afternoon of 11th March, an earthquake of magnitude 8.9 with the epicentre off Fukushima hit the northeast coast of Japan. Consequently, many areas along the coast were hit by a tsunami which in some areas was as high as 10m. It lead to another disaster, an explosion of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. People around the world were all shocked to watch the extent of the disaster on the news, some of it live.

Over 15,000 people lost their lives, and 80,000 people had to evacuate (Kaner, S., 2015), not only due to the loss of their houses by the tsunami, but also due to the high level of radiation within a 30km radius of the damaged nuclear power plants. According to a recent BBC news report, over 40,000 people still haven’t returned to their homes. The government estimates the disaster could cost 200 billion dollars, and the clean-up operations may take another thirty years. I would like to express my condolence to the victims who were affected and are still suffering.

This disaster was discussed in class before the anniversary, but the following are my thoughts. 

What are the appropriate ways to mark anniversaries? What sensitivities should be observed?

Whilst the anniversary has past, I would have suggested an official and collective observation of two minutes silence and prayer, and the placement of a monument. Children and young people could read poems and sing. The problem is far from solved. People are still traumatised, living in grief, fear and anxiety. Outsiders may not fully appreciate affected people’s feelings. Their emotion needs to be respected.

What more could be done to mitigate the risk of future such disasters, in Japan and elsewhere?

The Japan Society’s video of interviews of Sir David Warren, former Chairman of the Japan Society 2013-19 and the British Ambassador to Japan 2008-2012, and Dr Yoichi Funabashi, the former Asahi Shimbun Editor-in-Chief, talked about disaster management, citizens’ safety, communications, and the government’s decision-making process.

This disaster revealed the negligence and a lack of risk management as well as corruption by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) who ran the power plant . The government and the energy companies must assure transparency and that they are making a maximum effort  for transparency in order to promote safety. They must have an updated contingency plan for the worst possible scenario.  

What are the pro’s and con’s of switching Japan’s nuclear power stations back on?


  • Polluting less air than fossil fuel power plants     
  • Supplying more energy to the area including the metropolitan Tokyo


  • Safety issue; possibility of future or further damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plants
  • Radioactive waste disposal problem
  • Anti-nuclear movement across the country

Why is regional regeneration such a big topic in Japan?

Japan has excellent archaeological record-keeping, and there is a great interest in archaeological and cultural heritage among the people.

According to the Sainsbury Institute’s video, there are activities in the affected areas for helping communities rebuild through archaeology and heritage. Once the significance of an archaeological site was realised, plans were developed to allow for preservation in situ. The materials can be shared with the public, young and old. Appreciation of these important remains could contribute to the laying out of the new residential area (machizukuri) and linked to the notion of the ‘rebirth of the home town (furusato)’. Involving local children with excavation has a positive impact as they are the future but can link to the ancestors and the land.

The Agency for Cultural Affairs has changed people’s perception, and has no financial burden as the cost is covered by the country. Now archaeology is widely accepted as a positive force for the construction of the area devasted by the disaster.


Kaner, S., Tidal Wave: The Day Japan Shook, Current World Archaeology, Issue 49, pp.22-29, 2011.

Kaner, S., Archaeology in a Nuclear Exclusion Zone: Visiting Fukushima, Issue March-April, pp. 47-51, 2015.

Recorded and transcribed the February Third Thursday Online Event ‘The Great East Japan Earthquake and Cultural Heritage’: a report and some discussions and prospection from Japan: https://www.sainsbury-institute.org/info/cultural-properties-recovered-10-years-on-from-the-great-east-japan-disaster

 The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation ‘Ten Years from the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami’: https://dajf.org.uk/event/10-years-from-the-tohoku-earthquake-and-tsunami  

The Japan Society Webinar Video ‘3/11 and Fukushima Dai-ichi 10 Years on:  https://www.japansociety.org.uk/newsitem?news=100&newscat=6

BBC News (online): 10th March 2021: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-56252695

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