In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Lingering Heat and Local Global J Stuff
  • Carol Martin (bio)
Abstract

The apprehension created by participation in globalization while maintaining local culture and politics has altered our sense of history, identity, and aesthetics. The proliferation of new-millennium identities and epistemologies obliges scholars to know the local in the context of the global and the global in the context of the local. Looking at Japanese performance as one crucible of globalization makes the difficulty of this task apparent.


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The members of KATHY grab spectators, who dutifully remain still in tableau, holding up their books as long as possible. Art Center Gallery, Tokyo, 2005. (Photo by Maeda Keizo; courtesy of Carol Martin)

[End Page 46]

The loss of a universe is not worth taking seriously.

—Mishima Yukio, The Decay of the Angel (1974)

Until relatively recently, the political and aesthetic focus of postwar Japanese performance was fixed on ideas about premodern Japanese aesthetics, modernization, and Westernization.1 After World War II, the subject of modernization got entangled, sometimes in reactionary ways, with how to restore "Japaneseness" to Japanese aesthetics. This project was undertaken against the background of Japan having been both an extreme aggressor and a victim in the war: the "rape of Nanjing" and "comfort women" stood in contrast to the fire bombings of Tokyo and the mushroom clouds rising over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Reconstructing the sensibility of premodern Japan that was so much a part of Hijikata Tatsumi's butoh and even Suzuki Tadashi's avantgarde theatre—as well as many other artists, including literary giant Mishima Yukio—has since the immediate postwar era morphed into another project.2 The lingering heat of desire for premodern Japaneseness is evaporating and leaving behind a staging of the presence of the most profound absence.

This shift is partly attributable to what Peter Eckersall and Moriyama Naoto have identified as a new cultural force in which the economic sphere is global while the cultural sphere is parochial (Eckersall and Moriyama 2004:13).3 It is part of Japan's most influential artists' response to globalization. The apprehension created by participation in globalization while maintaining local culture and politics has altered our sense of history, identity, and aesthetics. The proliferation of new-millennium identities and epistemologies obliges scholars to know the local in the context of the global and the global in the context of the local. Looking at Japanese performance as one crucible of globalization makes the difficulty of this task apparent.

Japan is out of synch with much of the rest of Asia with regard to its memorializing of World War II. In those parts of Asia invaded and occupied by Japanese troops, many people feel their experience and memories of Japan's atrocities have not received even the solace of acknowledgment much less material remuneration. Controversy over Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro's much-reported visits to Yasukuni Shrine (literally "peaceful nation shrine"), Japan's memorial to the war dead—including several convicted war criminals—reveals the deep unrest in Asia about Japan's past actions. The debate about Koizumi's visits to the Shrine centers on whether Koizumi is paying homage to the ties between imperialism and militarism that fueled so much Japanese aggression or purely honoring those who died for their country, and in so doing inspiring national pride. Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine coincide with growing pressure from China and Korea for Japan to fully acknowledge its war atrocities. This cannot be accomplished successfully as long as Koizumi, the argument goes, continues to pay homage at a shrine where war criminals are memorialized alongside common soldiers.4 Yasukuni Shrine also contains the Showa War Museum with [End Page 47] its troubling one-sided accounts of Japan's militarist past.5 The Koreans have their own controversy with Japan regarding another form of aggression on the part of the Japanese military during WWII, and the Japanese government's decades-long denial. In 1992, Japan finally released documents that proved the military was involved in the creation of brothels where Korean women known as "comfort women" were forced into sexual service for Japanese soldiers (Takahasi 2004:132).

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4715
Print ISSN
1054-2043
Pages
pp. 46-56
Launched on MUSE
2006-04-20
Open Access
No
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