Thursday, March 31, 2011

Japanamerica @Smithsonian THIS Saturday

Interest: Smithsonian Museum to Host Satoshi Kon Tribute on Saturday

posted on 2011-03-30 21:13 EDT
Author Roland Kelts to present Paprika, preview of Makoto Shinkai's Hoshi o Ou Kodomo

Japanamerica book author Roland Kelts confirmed with ANN that he will host a tribute event dedicated to the late anime director Satoshi Kon at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. this coming Saturday, April 2. Otakon parent company Otakorp is serving as a co-sponsor for the event, and the D.C. Anime Club as a co-presenter.

The event will include a speech from Kelts honoring Kon's life works, and a screening of Paprika. The Smithsonian is also hosting a screening of Makoto Shinkai's The Place Promised in Our Early Days following a preview of Shinkai's upcoming film Hoshi o Ou Kodomo, a screening of Hayao Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service, a cosplay contest, and an art workshop. The schedule is as follows:

  • 11:00 a.m. Kiki's Delivery Service screening
  • 2:00 p.m. Anime Artists Workshop
  • 2:00 p.m. Cosplay Contest
  • 4:30 p.m. Hoshi o Ou Kodomo preview / The Place Promised in Our Early Daysscreening
  • 6:30 p.m. Roland Kelts speech & book signing
  • 7:30 p.m. Paprika screening

Seating for the screenings will open 30 minutes prior to its start time, and seats will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. All of the events will take place at the museum's Freer Gallery.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yomiuri Shimbun picks up the MONKEY

Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun, the nation's largest and most widely-read newspaper, introduces Monkey Business International, the first ever English-language Japanese literary journal, co-published here in the US by A Public Space, the Brooklyn-based US literary journal.

Whew--that's a mouthful.

Pre-orders are now available via APS here.

NYC launch events for April & May posted here. More MONKEY info forthcoming.

Latest on Radio New Zealand

Listen here

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thanks, Baltimore

Special and humble thanks to generous CCBC students and faculty, Profs. Heather L. Harris, Kim Jensen, Rachel Lawton and Japanamerica publisher, Macmillan.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Japan: The Imagination of Disaster on Studio 360

Friend and scholar Bill Tsutsui, author of Godzilla on My Mind, and I speak with Studio 360's Kurt Andersen about Japan's post-apocalyptic sensibility in the wake of the quake and wave.

Monkey Business International Launch Events


New Writing from Japan


April 30

Crossing Boundaries: Contemporary Asian Fiction in 
(part of the PEN World Voices Festival)
Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue
2:30–4:00 p.m.
Hiromi Kawakami and Rebecca Brown, moderated by Motoyuki Shibata
Minoru Ozawa and Joshua Beckman, moderated by 
Ted Goossen
May 1
Monkey Business Launch Party at BookCourt
163 Court Street, Brooklyn
7:00 p.m.
Join us for an evening of readings and celebrating 
with Monkey Business editors and contributors!

May 3
Contemporary Japanese Storytelling: The Verbal and the Visual
Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street
6:30-8:00 p.m.
Hideo Furukawa and Steve Erickson, 
video reading by Barry Yourgrau,
co-moderated by Motoyuki Shibata and Roland Kelts
For more information about Monkey Business 
and to order a copy, visit

Monday, March 21, 2011

Japanamerica in Baltimore this Thursday, 3/24

I'll be giving two talks in Baltimore this Thursday, March 24--one at 10 a.m., the second at 2:30 p.m.

Details are here (and on the poster above).

Books will be available and signings will follow. If you are in the area, please stop by and say hello. We've plenty to talk about.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pacific Rim Diary # 2

[tokyo, 3-11]

My second entry for the "Pacific Rim Diary" segment of The Madeleine Brand Show on KPCC/NPR is about watching devastation from afar as two hometown skylines go up in smoke and down in tragedy, and the prescience of Hayao Miyazaki's PONYO--recorded in the show's home studio in Los Angeles:

[new york city, 9-11]

Monday, March 14, 2011

after the quakes

This column was supposed to be about recent upheavals in the manga industry that have permanently rearranged the publishing landscape in Japan and overseas. A few weeks ago, Kodansha, Japan’s largest publisher and owner of licenses for Akira, Ghost in the Shell and other internationally renowned anime titles, purchased New York-based Vertical, Inc., the decade-old indie publisher of Japan-related literature, manga and nonfiction works, in a joint acquisition with Dai Nippon Printing.

Vertical has become especially notable for producing elegant paperback editions of lesser known titles by Osamu Tezuka, the father of modern manga and anime, such as Ayako and Ode to Kirihito, in addition to his popular Black Jack series. Given that Kodansha ended its licensing agreement with Del Rey Manga late last year, its Vertical buyout is seen as another step the company’s move toward more ‘hands-on’ management of the US manga market.

But the company wasn’t finished. One week after its purchase of Vertical, Kodansha suddenly announced that next month would see the end of its 48 year-old English-language imprint, Kodansha International—a move that was apparently unexpected by the imprint’s authors and, by some accounts, its own staff and editors. Kodansha International has translated and published numerous works of Japanese literature and nonfiction, including elaborately illustrated guides to Japanese baths and sake. It has also become a crucial purveyor of books delineating Japanese popular culture to non-Japanese fans, scholars and general readers.

In 1963, Kodansha International published the seminal Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics, Frederik L. Schodt’s capacious introduction to the history, artists and aesthetics of the uniquely Japanese form of art and entertainment. The book is now a consecrated classic—and remains invaluable to this writer. Recent years have seen a spate of richly illustrated, pocket-sized paperbacks from Kodansha International devoted to Japan’s pop culture niches, such as Shoko Ueda and Brian Aschcraft’s Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential, Patrick W. Galbraith’s The Otaku Encyclopedia, and Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt’s Ninja Attack! and Yokai Attack! guidebooks. The lavishly designed hardcover editions of Plastic Culture by Woodrow Phoenix and Loving the Machine by Tim Hornyak are equally useful for non-Japanese readers keen for a broader understanding of the nation’s unique approach to the worlds of toys and robots, respectively.

Kodansha says it will focus instead on its North American operations via its regional presences, Kodansha USA and the newly acquired Vertical, Inc. Meanwhile, as of this writing, the fate of the above titles remains precarious.

This column was also supposed to be about the clash of wills taking place in Japan next weekend, March 26 and 27, when Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF) will take place simultaneously with its new competitor—the Anime Contents Expo (ACE), launched by major anime and manga companies to protest the recently passed bill 156, seen by many as a crude stab at censorship. Overseas professionals trekking to Tokyo for the weekend tell me they will either boycot TAF in solidarity with the artists or frantically shuttle between TAF in Odaiba and ACE in Chiba to report on both.

I probably don’t need to explain to you what this column is really about, but I can’t help it. As I write, the TV images in my Oregon hotel room are relentless: the quake, the wave, the fires; the smoke, debris and bodies. The power plants.

This is about the evening of March 10, after I gave two talks on Japan’s popular and contemporary culture to students, faculty and others at the University of Oregon. A voice message was recorded on my mobile phone that evening during dinner with my hosts—a message I wouldn’t hear until much later, since work, wine and jet lag had effectively rendered me numb. The call was made during the afternoon of March 11, Japan-time, and it was from Tokyo. And the unsteady voice, barely recognizable and almost inaudible at times, described a swaying building, books and kitchen utensils strewn across the floor, a broken lamp and a broken clock.

“But I’m alive,” it concluded, trembling. “I’m still here.”

Friday, March 11, 2011

In Oregon

Thanks so much for queries of concern. I am, and have been, safely ensconced in Eugene and Portland, Oregon, and family and friends in Japan are thus far reporting safe, if shaken.

Many others less fortunate.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Live in London, 14 April

Speaking at Daiwa Foundation House, London, UK. Info and booking online here.

Japanamerican jumble

So the Asst. Sec. of State makes his apologies over the now-fired Maher's bigotry to incoming foreign minister Matsumoto, who is replacing the now-resigned Maehara.
Ah, politics.
March 10, 2011

U.S. Removes Diplomat Over Comments Angering Japan

TOKYO — A top American diplomat has been removed from his post after stirring outrage in Japan for reportedly belittling Okinawans, a State Department official said on Thursday.

The official, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt M. Campbell, also said the United States ambassador to Japan, John V. Roos, flew to Okinawa on Thursday to apologize in person to the governor of the island, which hosts about half of the 50,000 American military personnel in Japan.

According to Japanese press reports, the diplomat, Kevin K. Maher, told American university students in December that the Okinawans were “masters of manipulation and distortion.” Mr. Maher, who was head of the State Department’s office of Japan affairs, has called the media reports inaccurate and incomplete.

While it was unclear why it took so long for the comments to become public, they have become front-page news in Japan, where many people called them racist. On Thursday, ultra-nationalist groups used loudspeakers to protest in front of the United States Embassy in Tokyo.

But the most intense anger appeared in Okinawa, where there is deep resentment over the heavy United States military presence. Earlier this week, the Okinawan prefectural assembly adopted a resolution calling for a retraction and apology.

Japanese officials have expressed concern because the comments came at a sensitive time. Tokyo has been trying to persuade Okinawans to accept the relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma elsewhere on the island as part of a broader agreement that would reduce American forces on Okinawa.

Seeking to control the damage, Mr. Campbell, who is in Tokyo for two days of talks, said he repeatedly apologized to Japanese officials for misunderstandings caused by the reported remarks. He said Mr. Maher had been replaced as head of Japan affairs, although he still works for the State Department.

“We do believe that this has caused some harm,” Mr. Campbell told reporters in Tokyo. The reported comments “in no way reflect the views of the government of the United States and the people of the United States.”

On Thursday, Mr. Campbell met with Japan’s new foreign minister, Takeaki Matsumoto, who has said that if the reports were true, the comments were “unacceptable” and “hurt the feelings of not only Okinawans but all Japanese.”

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Oregon, anyone?

Roland Kelts on Multipolar Japan, 3/10 4pm

Pop Culture from a Multipolar Japan
Roland Kelts, Author and Journalist
Knight Library Browsing Room
March 10, 4:00 pm

Is there something more to the U.S.’s fascination with Japanese anime and manga? How are anime films and manga comics cultural channeling zones, opened by the horrors of war and disaster and animated by the desire to assemble a world of new looks, feelings and identities? Roland Kelts addresses the movement of Japanese culture into the West as sign and symptom of broader reanimations. With uncertainty now the norm, style, he argues, is trumping identity, explaining, in part, the success of Japanese pop and fashion, design and cuisine in the West. As Western mindsets encounter a rapid decline in longstanding binaries – good/evil, woman/man, black/white – Japan’s cultural narratives evolve in borderless, unstable worlds where characters transform, morality is multifaceted, and endings inconclusive. Animation allows an aesthetic freedom wherein these transformations and gender ambiguity may be given fuller play than in live action films. Nothing appears fixed. No surprise, perhaps, argues Kelts, coming from the only people to have suffered the immediate transformations of two atomic bombs and the instant denigration of their supreme polar father: the Japanese Emperor.

Roland Kelts is a half-Japanese American writer, editor and lecturer who divides his time between New York and Tokyo. He is the author of Japanamerica : How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the US and the forthcoming novel, Access. He has presented on contemporary Japanese culture worldwide and has taught courses in Japanese popular culture at numerous universities. His fiction and nonfiction appear in such publications as Zoetrope: All Story, Psychology Today, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue Japan, The Millions, The Japan Times, Animation Magazine, Bookforum, and The Village Voice. He is the Editor in Chief of the Anime Masterpieces screening and discussion program, the commentator for National Public Radio’s series, “Pacific Rim Diary,” and the author of a weekly column for the Daily Yomiuri newspaper. His blog is:

This event is presented by the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies and cosponsored by the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures. For more info, please call 541-346-1521

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Japanamerica in Baltimore/DC, March 24

Am back on the road again this spring. Oregon March 10-14; Baltimore/DC March 23-25; DC April 2. London April 11-18. NYC April 29-May 3. More details TBA.
Please join in.