Thursday, June 18, 2009

kyoto tomorrow---japanamerica

「21st Century Culture from a Multipolar Japan」
2009年6月19日(金) 16:20-17:40
Roland Kelts [ライター/編集者]
オーバリン大学、コロンビア大学卒業。『A Public Space』、『Adbusters Magazine』、『The Daily Yomiuri』など、日米の雑誌や新聞に、数々の作品・記事・エッセイを寄稿するほか、『Anime Masterpieces』や『A Public Space』(※)などの編集にも携わる。現在は、NYと東京に在住し、東京大学、上智大学、聖心女子大学で講師を務める。著書『Japanamerica:How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded』(Palgrave Macmillan刊)の日本語訳がランダムハウス講談社より出ている。

※2006年に創刊された文芸誌(New York)。創刊号では、副編集長として日本文学特集を担当。
ジャパナメリカ 日本発ポップカルチャー革命
2006.11/Palgrave Macmillan; illustrated edition版
Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S.

Japanese aesthetics in Adbusters

In my capacity of contributing editor/writer for Adbusters, I write occasionals from Japan--including these recent riffs on Japan's 'small footprint' mentality, which dates back centuries.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Surfacing with Strength: Haruki Murakami at 60--1Q84

My latest column for the folks at Trannet Japan -- a riff on Haruki's latest, the boffo bestseller in Japan, 1Q84 --with some choice interview comments from various chats with him in recent months.
Some here in Japan are unhesitatingly calling 1Q84 his masterwork:

Roland Kelts VOL.16:

Surfacing with Strength: Haruki Murakami at 60

by Roland Kelts

"My idol is Dostoyevsky,” Haruki Murakami told me one evening late last year. “Most writers get weaker and weaker as they age. But Dostoyevsky didn't. He kept getting bigger and greater. He wrote The Brothers Karamazov in his late 50s. That's a great novel.”

Earlier this year, Murakami turned sixty. In recent, casual conversations with him in the US and Japan, I learned that this milestone was very much on his mind. “I’m going to be sixty, you know,” he would often begin. Or: “I’m almost sixty, so …”

But references to the encroaching years seemed to embolden rather then deflate him, especially when coupled with discussion of the book he was then writing. Murakami proudly announced that it would be his longest yet, twice the size of his last major work, 2002’s Kafka on the Shore, which spanned over 450 pages. It would be published in two volumes in Japan, and would land in Japanese bookstores some time in the spring of this year.

Well, land it has - and to thunderous, earth-shaking effect in Japan.

Titled 1Q84, the two-volume, 1,055-page novel is being hailed by some as Murakami’s masterwork. It is also selling like “hotcakes,” as one character says of another book in the novel, borrowing the American idiomatic expression (a trademark Murakami move). The novel’s publisher, Shinchosha, plans to increase the print run to 1 million copies by the end of June.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Me and Utada Hikaru in JQ magazine

I used to hear trans-cultural Japanese soul-tinged pop singer Utada Hikaru's late 90's hit, "Automatic," in nearly every convenience story and supermarket I patronized during my first year as an adult in Japan. It's a somewhat nostalgic honor to now share the pages of the latest issue of JQ, the magazine of the JET Alumni Association of New York (JETaaNY), which can be found--with Utada gracing the cover--here: JQ

I was interviewed by the very astute Larry Heiman, also a writer, minutes after this spring's JET Alumni Author's Showcase and book-signing in midtown Manhattan. Hoarse voice and all.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Anime is ill in Japan

I get a bit spiky in my latest column for the Daily Yomiuri here in Tokyo. The Japanese government's support of the anime industry is all about so-called "public works projects," like wasteful construction expenditures, hollow museums, and ample lip service, with scant attention to the real poverty at the heart of the homegrown industry.

It's shameful. I know professional artists who can't make ends meet--yet the government is treating the entire industry like a circus that will serve its own ends.

At the same time, in the US, pioneeer Seiji Horibuchi is about to launch the most ambitious Japanamerican project ever to take root in bricks and mortar: the so-called "New People" project, or the J-Pop Center.

You figure it out. Then, let me know what you figured.

“News that the Japanese animation industry held its first ever state-of-the-industry symposium last month in Tokyo is as welcome as it is disturbing. Welcome, of course, because healthy organisms generally try to keep one finger on the pulse of their welfare. And disturbing because, after 60-plus years of activity, this was the anime animal’s first voluntary checkup–and the diagnoses are predictably bad.

Anime News Network, the largest English-language anime news Web site, notes that the pre-symposium survey received responses from at least 700 anime producers and directors. The results?

Anime employees in their 20s earn an average annual salary of 1.1 million yen, and those in their 30s earn an average annual salary of 2.14 million yen. Worse, veteran artists in their 40s and 50s survive on roughly 3 million yen per year. And most of them live and work in Tokyo–one of the most expensive cities in the world.

How’s that for soft-power glamour?" [read more here]

Monday, June 08, 2009

Akihabara murders

Today, June 8, is the one-year anniversary of the Akihabara murders, perpetrated by a lonely and underemployed twenty-something named Tomohiro Kato, who ran over innocents with his rented truck, then stabbed random shoppers.

So let's honor the victims, and not the perp.