Japan Now presents contemporary writing, politics and culture in a day of talks and debate, exploring the traditions and modernity of this fascinating country
Martin Colthorpe, Director of Modern Culture, will provide an overview of the day.
Session One: Japan - State of the Nation
Ian Buruma, Richard Lloyd Parry, Naoko Shimazu
Chair: Christopher Harding
Leading thinkers from around the globe discuss modern Japan in the context of its rapid post-war rise and the more recent traumas of economic decline and the 2011 tsunami. Ian Buruma, author of A Japanese Mirror and Inventing Japan discusses Shinzo Abe's brand of nationalism; Naoko Shimazu, Professor of History at Birkbeck, will explore the iconic moments of Japan's rapid economic growth, including the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and the Osaka Expo in 1970; Richard Lloyd Parry, Asia Editor of the Times and author of People Who Eat Darkness, will reflect on the psychological effect of the tsunami on Japanese citizens.
Session Two: Japan in Fiction (i)
Takashi Hiraide and Kyoko Yoshida
Chair: Suzi Feay
Takashi Hiraide and Kyoko Yoshida are two authors whose work exemplifies the genre-bending ambition of contemporary Japanese literature. Takashi Hiraide's The Guest Cat – a New York Times bestseller – is a precisely focused novel where a married couple’s life is revitalized by the arrival of a stray cat into their home. By contrast, Kyoko Yoshida's story collection Disorientalism absorbs diverse cultural references to presents a distorted and dystopian vision of the country. The authors will discuss their writing and its relation to the contemporary nation.
Lunch break: 1.45pm-2.30pm
Session Three: Japan in Fiction (ii)
Fuminori Nakamura and Soji Shimada
Chair: Lesley Downer
This session explores why the dark and dangerous has such a hold on the Japanese imagination, with novelists Fuminori Nakamura and Soji Shimada. Nakamura's novel The Gun is classic hardboiled detective fiction, where the chance to discovery of a gun leads to a life spinning out of control. Shimada's The Tokyo Zodiac Murders revolves around the discovery of a dead body, in a room locked from the inside. Japan is a peaceful country with a low crime rate – why not take a fictional walk on the wild side?
Session Four: Surveying the Landscape
Naoya Hatakeyama is a photographer based in Tokyo, whose body of work examines the relationship between nature, the city and photography across the globe. His work is held by leading international institutions including the, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Japan is, nevertheless, a key focus for his practice, and the damage wrought by the 2011 tsunami has been a major subject in recent years. At Japan Now Naoya Hatakeyama will discuss his recent work and his fascination with the physical and psychological landscape of the contemporary nation.
Programmed by Modern Culture in partnership with the Japan Foundation
Supported by Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation
Books by the participating authors will be available for purchase and signing throughout the event