Organizer: Joanne Izbicki, Cornell University
Chair: Christine Yano, University of Hawai'i
Discussant: Tom Lamarre, McGill University
This panel examines romance and love in Japanese cinema and song. Coming from three disciplines-anthropology, literature, and history-the panelists will consider how the portrayal of love and romance shifts and reshapes within different media, genres, and historical contexts. The panel aims at raising questions about how love stories implicate desire and sexuality in gendering, nationhood, and politics.
Christine Yano will consider texts and performances of the popular song genre called enka and discuss how romance, gender, and cultural identity interact dynamically in the genre's contemporary guise. Tamae Prindle will discuss the complexity of the notion of love and how it differs from romance in three Japanese films released between 1953-1969. Joanne Izbicki will discuss how the Japanese cinema of the occupation years enveloped its debate on democracy within a spirited promotion of romantic love.
Joanne Izbicki, Cornell University
From September 1945 to April 1952, Japanese cinema was forcibly implicated in the American occupation and its project of demilitarizing, demobilizing, and democratizing Japan. With the occupation as context, the film world debated, promoted, and sometimes critiqued democracy as a political system and as an index of personal freedom. This paper examines how Japanese films in which heterosexual romance figured prominently addressed the exercise of rights and freedoms legally guaranteed in the American written Japanese constitution of 1947. Although closely related, the exercise of legal rights differs from the experience and practice of personal freedoms. In the films I will discuss in this paper, personal freedom becomes intimately linked to the pursuit of happiness, and that pursuit in turn becomes elaborated in terms of romantic love.
I will concentrate on three films produced in Japan during the occupation period: The Day My Life Shines (Waga shogai no kagayakeru hi, 1948); The Blue Mountains (Aoi sanmyaku, 1949): Until We Meet Again (Mata au hi made, 1950). The Day My Life Shines uses love and romance to resolve both the postwar guilt experienced by a young repatriated soldier who perpetrated a politically motivated assassination during the Pacific War, as well as the desire for revenge by the victim's daughter. The Blue Mountains explores the morality of romance openly expressed and pursued, and the social ramifications emerging from encouraging young people to freely choose their partners in love. Until We Meet Again deploys romance as the medium for exploring moral questions involved in cooperating with or resisting war. In examining these films, I will discuss how they incorporate occupation fostered notions of an individual centered subjectivity that stresses personal responsibility as well as personal pleasure and happiness. I will argue that in the post surrender period, the cinema was particularly suited for promoting new notions of romance and love, and that romance and love were particularly suited for promoting an idea of democracy heavily nuanced by a right to the pursuit of happiness.
Christine R. Yano, University of Hawai'i
This paper examines constructions of heterosexual love in enka, a sentimental Japanese popular song genre, as a primary agent of emotionalism and cultural identity. With a reputation as "Nihon no uta" (the song of Japan) and expression of "Nihonjin no kokoro" (the heart/soul of Japanese), enka becomes a cornerstone of nationhood built upon tears. In the 1990s, the majority of enka's tears revolve around romance.
Here, I address the following questions: 1) how is romance constructed in enka songs; 2) what respective roles do men and women take within the construction; and 3) what relation does romance as conveyed in enka have to everyday life in Japan in the 1990s? My paper is based primarily on analyses of song texts and performances.
My findings suggest that among key emotional scenarios in enka, the one most prevalent is that of failed romance. Enka songs sing not of the joy of being together, but the misery of being apart. Intrinsic to the concept of romance is its failure. Here, the reasons for love's failure are as important as the failure itself. Moreover, men and women who fall in love, do so stereotypically and define themselves by their actions. In this paper, then, I give a gendered analysis of romance-who loves who, how, for how long, and why. The purpose of the analysis is not merely to observe the patterns of loving and leaving, but to link these to more general patterns of power and passivity. Although the results may be all too predictable-active, powerful men, and passive, powerless women-the strength of the patterning suggests a persistence of cultural norms in these texts.
In addition, the predilection for failure, for leave taking in romance implies an emphasis on the resultant longing. Love becomes all the more beautiful in its striving. Enka songs present this longing as a kind of bond of suffering between singer and audience, between listener and listener. The pact draws the nation in close, held and defined by its tears. If, as many anthropologists assert, Japan is a society of groups, one of the most effective basis for bonds within the group may be found in longing. This loving in longing gives the bonds an emotional resonance which is born in romance and sustained by its failure.
Tamae Prindle, Colby College
Love and romance are not always identical. Male love and female love are also distinct. Kinugasa Teikosuke's Gate of Hell (Jigokumon, 1953), and Naruse Mikio's The Sounds from the Mountains (Yama no oto, 1969`) and Imamura Shohei's The Pornographers: An Introduction to Anthropology (Jinruigaku nyumon: erogotoshi tachi, 1966) address three distinct agendas on love, i.e., the definition and relationships of the subject/object of love, differences in male and female sexualities, and the anatomy of sexual pleasure.
Kesa in Gate of Hell is the object of men's desire, and the object of her own mental vision. Very self consciously, she solves men's competition over her by way of self annihilation. The Sounds from the Mountains associates men's sexuality with pornographic indulgence and women's sexuality with auto-eroticism. Hence, one married woman aborts her baby and another unmarried woman decides to give birth to a fatherless child. The former demands a woman's presence but the latter can do without a man. The Pornographer is Imamura's version of Laura Mulvey's concept of "scopophilic pleasure," "voyeurism," or erotic ways of looking at things. Typically, a male audience identifies with the male character who eroticizes a female character's body. The film itself takes the castrated female position as the audience peeks in from the vantage point of masculine desire. The three films bring to our attention the complexity of "love."
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