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  • Thesis research in Japan

    Gday Ladies and Gents, a newcomer (to the forum, not kendo :P ) has a big question, and would be very much appreciate any guidance, suggestions, hints, warnings, tip-offs and other insinuations that you may have.

    But, what is a thread without a little story?

    While pondering over what I was to do this summer, I had become depressed with the fact that I was going to be working long hours, and doing prep work for a university honors thesis all throughout the summer. I had job prospects, yet no good thesis opportunities had presented themselves, and then a friend said well, youre in anthropology, youre obsessed with kendo, why dont you just bugger off to Japan for a time to conduct fieldwork?

    And so it began! I am hoping to conduct a months worth of so called fieldwork by going to Japan for a month and training under my clubs lineage sensei. Pretty sweet deal isnt it? I get to fool my prof into letting me go to Japan for a month to study and write about a subject I love! Plus a month around Ibaraki should be a lot of fun!

    I would like your suggestions on any number of things; from specific areas of cultural research, ranging to the best ramen shop around Mito.
    From there I will leave it up to you! I am looking forward to hearing your suggestions, questions and more!

    Cheers--

  • #2
    i don't know what topics you "should" or "ought" to do, but i will tell you what you "should not" do. Read the following . .. DO NOT, do yet another paper on Miyamoto Musashi. that one has been done to the point that I don't even want to read anything with musashi written on it.


    and that goes for future authors that want to submit articles to KW, please do something else.

    Comment


    • #3
      No worries, no Musashi :P
      I'm an anthropolgy major, so I will be focusing on "cultural" aspects, and it will have to be "observable". So something as straight forward as "who bows longer seniors vs juniors" or something more complex like, observing traditional practices during after training visits to the "second dojo"

      thanks for the first suggestion! I will heed your words

      Comment


      • #4
        I can't offer anything on the cultural experience that you might be able to fit into your month-long stay in Japan but perhaps you might want to consider the following for your thesis topic.

        What role does kendo--or for that matter any other budo--play in the identity of being "Japanese" in the post-modern Japan. Or does it really matter in the consciousness of Japanese psyche as the society rapidly ages.

        Just a thought....

        Comment


        • #5
          Follow on to my previous post

          What role does kendo--or for that matter any other budo--play in the identity of being "Japanese" in the post-modern Japan. (Or does it really matter in the consciousness of Japanese psyche as the society rapidly ages.) You might want to examine whether there's been a decrease in kendo population over the years to see if there's any correlation between societal/demographic changes and the role of martial arts (kendo as a barometer) in preserving what is to be "Japanese." If so, the subsequent line of question may be "has there any change in Japanese identity and the attendant historical/cultural symbols such as kendo."

          Comment


          • #6
            "Kendo as an educational tool" ..... is something id like to read. It very much is as well.

            Comment


            • #7
              Hi I may be able to help you on your topic, as my home town has a similar culture as Mito city (but we hate each other) I think Mito city is such a unique place because there are a lot of things you can observe. So I can make some points regarding the city and people

              1 Characteristic of the local people
              Historically, Mito was directly belonging to Edo Shogunnite (one of the three Tokugawa families), therefore, the local people are extremely proud of being Mito-zin. (this means they are so conservative) When I was there, they kept asking me ‘where am I from (this means ‘where is your home town’)?’ As I fed up with the question, I responded to them ‘Japanese’. I was wondering if their poor character is connected with ?? 水戸学 (尊王攘夷)

              2 One of three cities in Japan where ugly women live
              I don’t know this is true or not, of course, there is not a scientific evidence to prove it. However, it has become ‘norm’in Japan. For instance since I was child, I have often heard this story from the national media. The other cities are Nagoya and ?? I have forgotten.. Let me know your observation, when you get back.

              3 invented Nato
              I hope you know this food.. it comes from Mito.. Although there are so many enemies who absolutely hate the invention of rotten beans (especially West and South Japanese), Mito people love it (in this case, I can share with Mito people, I love it) However, there is a rumour, which they eat nato 3 times a day..

              4 オセロ (Othello)
              Othello has been invented in Mito,, I have no idea who did it.. Apparently, the world championship takes place every year in Mito city.. Even kids, it seems that they are all professionalized. You can try it.

              5 Loose socks (ルーズ ソックス)
              This is such an amazing invention. If you are not Japanese, you don’t know what I am talking about. See this picture as follows;
              http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E3%83%AB%E3%83%BC%E3%82%BA%E3%82%BD%E3%83%83%E3%8 2%AF%E3%82%B9

              It is assumed that the first idea of this socks came from Mito.. I don’t know who did it. However, they are very much proud of the first city of ‘loose socks’. You might think they are just socks, but nearly all of high school girls in Japan worn them (I don’t know current situation because I am away from Japan for 10 years). Some schools actually banned students to wear or bring them to school because girls shoplifted them. Thus It caused social big issues all over Japan. I was wondering if Mito-Zin (high school girls) are still wearing them with full of proud.


              Finally, I hope these topics (only Mito culture) help you to conduct your field research.
              Last edited by Hokushin; 3rd May 2007, 01:17 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Fantastic ideas, and warnings so far!
                I have one or two more stops to visit while I am there (other then Mito). A friend of mine said that Nato was simply not to be missed!
                Hokushin, If you're in Sussex now, you have to try some marmite . It is kindof like Nato in that you either love it or hate it... I realllly love the stuff. Nothing beat training, then down to the second dojo for a pint and a bag of marmite crisps!

                Kendo as an educational tool, fantastic idea. Lots of possibilities there. Sam, do you mean post-war kendo, or post modern?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Lycan View Post
                  Kendo as an educational tool, fantastic idea. Lots of possibilities there. Sam, do you mean post-war kendo, or post modern?
                  I guess I should've been more specific. I meant kendo in post-modern Japan. Of course, you would have to define what post-modern Japanese society is before you can start discussing what social/cultural role kendo and other budo play. I sometimes think that we in the West (outside Japan) may hold or give too much importance of budo in the contemporary Japanese culture. While you can not simply dismiss the influence of budo (bushido spirit, if you will) in the making of modern Japanese psyche, it is not a static phenomenon. Cultural values are constantly evolving process where history and modern realities are negotiated and reconciled (sometimes conflicts may not be fully resolved, leading to cultural/political inconsistencies). It would be interesting to see how the Japanese are treating budo as a component of their cultural identity. You might be able to develop some hypothesis (answer to above question) by conducting an empirical survey that examines kendo population both nationally and at the local area that you'll be spending your month in. You can use your field research (i.e., interviews with subjects) to give context to the empirical evidence to test your hypothesis. As for why kendo is a good object to test your hypothesis...it's probably the most popular budo that a large majority of Japanese are familiar with and it is representative/symbolic of bushido (samurai).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Sam, you seem to be big on quantitative research! Which is good, don't get me wrong, and a fantastic proposal. It offers a potential "real" answer. I, however, have been... more intensly trained... in qualitative research (participant-observation). Though your option does open up some very interesting possibilities. When my written Japanese improves, I will be sure to look into it further. As for this particular thesis, I will incorperate the concepts put forward reguarding the changing importance of budo to Japanese society. You also bring up what I feel is an important concept/phenomenon, Bullshido. The comercialization and sensationalization of budo is a relatively recent phenomenon, I would hypothesize that elements of mass media gretly contribute to the spread of "bullshido".

                    Another interesting point may be to find out what element of budo is indeed the most "well known" in Japan, or internationally. I have met Japanese who were completely ignorant of Kendo, while at the same time were well aware of karate, ju-jitsu, and other non-japanese MA's. I would suggest that media plays a large role in this, as there are not nearly enough kendo related films :P jk.

                    On another note, does anyone have any favorite budo/kendo books? Not training manuals, but historical, cultural, or philosophical reflections?

                    keep the suggestions coming folks!! Don't limit yourself to academic suggestions... where can I get the best flights? the chepeast? Where can I find the monthly discounted rail pass? Ideas for travel? Anywhere I really should visit if possible? Does anyone want to have lunch in Tokyo with a crazy canuk ?

                    Cheers--

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hi
                      Yes I love marmite, I really respect with the person who invent it. My mum also likes it too. She bought 5 jars of marmite and brought them back to Japan.

                      Originally posted by Lycan View Post
                      S in qualitative research (participant-observation). Though your option does open up some very interesting possibilities. When my written Japanese improves, I will be sure to look into it further. As for this particular thesis, I will incorperate the concepts put forward reguarding the changing importance of budo to Japanese society. You also bring up what I feel is an important concept/phenomenon,
                      Cheers--
                      In that case, why dont you explore the perceptions of the local people toward Budo or Kendo ? As I am a phenomenologist, I could share with your methologoy a little bid. As I said earlier, Mito domain is very unique place. It has such a long history back to Togugawa clan.. They are so much proud of being Mito-zin or Ibarazi-zin. We often assume they may be holding the same mentality as Togugawa period..

                      The reason why I know about them is that my home town has similar kind of mentality. My home town used to belong to Aizu-han. It is not far from Mito. Since the new Meizi government beat Aizu, all political power was removed. You might think it happened over 100years ago.. However as if the local people still talk it happend yesterday and educate children about the history at grass level . One thing I can give you an interesting example in related to Budo/kendo in the local area, Some kendo dojos in junior or high schools still keep a little Shinzen (Shrine) at Kamiza and those students bow to it. However, this is totally against the national law (No religious aspects in Education) . I did not know the fact until I moved to Tokyo. So I suppose that Mito domain might have similar mentality as the Northern Tokyo. Thus it is 100% worth comparing their kendo or Budo perception of the local people with the national level such as All Japan kendo federation policy .

                      Finally, one thing you dont misunderstand my post is that local people in Northern or Mito area never hate Gai-zin. Those local people often have been regarded as right-wing, therefore, they hate gazin This is totally wrong. Unlike Western Japanese, they are not very talkative, but once being build a good friendship with them, they will tell you anything you want to know.

                      Comment

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