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Liebster Awards


Much thanks to Buri-chan of the blog San’in Monogatari, where she shares wonderful posts about her adventures in tea ceremony, kimono, and otherwise in Matsue, for nominating me for the Liebster Award! It was a most pleasant surprise to see her message this morning. (Of course, I realize now that the nomination was actually back in August… thanks much for the reminder!)

The Liebster award is intended to give some exposure to small blogs with less than 200 followers. The rules are as follows:

1] Link back to the blogger who nominated you
2] Answer the 11 questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you
3] Nominate 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers
4] Go to the blogs you nominated and notify them of your nomination
5] Give your nominees 11 questions to answer.

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So, without further ado, here are the questions I’ve received from Buri-chan. Apologies that they’re not the tightest, most eloquently written answers…

1. What inspires you to blog?
I think there are sort of two categories of sources of inspiration for me. One, there are simply a lot of things I see, hear about, read, or experience which I want to share, or share my thoughts about. And this is a nice platform to get to do that, to share my thoughts and interests on all sort of things, without being restricted by the limits of proper scholarly production – I can simply post on here without having to be truly expert, without having to do extensive research, and without having to be vetted or peer-reviewed.

Secondly, I take great inspiration from those I’m nominating in return, and from many of my other friends, who are so active and engaged in online communities, blogging, and social media, and who produce such excellent material. Not only do they set a high bar that I hope to reach for, but there is also a sort of romantic notion of involvement, engagement, which I yearn for. Not that I seek “fame” or “popularity,” per se, but it is a wonderful feeling to think that I am involved, that I am an active participant in the online discussion, beyond those I directly, physically interact with in the halls of the History department here in Santa Barbara. And, if through blogging, Tumblr, podcasts, and the like, I can have some impact, gain some small degree of “internet fame,” it’s wonderful to feel engaged in this global, social networking, internet world, to express myself and be engaged in a way I cannot be in academia (given the snail’s pace at which formal research, peer review, publication, etc. works in academia, and given, ultimately, how few people outside of academia will ever see what you produce).

2. What do you hope readers take away from your blog?
Oh, I don’t know. Of course, I would love if I might have some kind of impact on inspiring readers’ interest in kabuki, Ryûkyû, Japanese arts, or Japanese history more broadly, or if I might help to break down US/Eurocentric attitudes, stereotypes about Japan, or the like. But, I harbor no delusions that I might actually be having such an impact. So long as readers enjoy it, and maybe learn something, that’s more than enough of a “take away” for me.

3. In a world without the internet, how would you try to accomplish the above?
I’m already on my way to hopefully becoming a published scholar; I also entertain ideas of curating museum exhibitions. But, in a world without the internet, I suppose I would also try to get a position writing theatre reviews or as an art critic for a magazine or newspaper or the like.

It’s kind of incredible how much the internet has changed our world, and this question really brings that to the forefront. I very often think how much I’d love to be more involved in podcasts, in writing for major online magazines or aggregator blogs, or the like, but all that too, and not just this one blogging platform, would be unavailable “in a world without the internet.” We’d be relegated to local radio, or local newspapers at best, unless one could crack into the much more exclusive and limited (read: small) world of truly national or international media.

4. Would you rather live in the mountains or by the beach?
Whichever has a more active city, walkable and accessible (i.e. public transportation), with lots going on, the kind of place I’d be “missing out on” if I weren’t there. I’ve never been to, for example, Denver, but I imagine I could be just as happy there as, say, Boston (which does have beaches), more so than Goleta, despite Goleta having the prettier beaches.

5. What food are you proud you tried, but would never eat again?
Crab, basashi, habu-shu, nattô.

6. Do you have any interesting stories behind any scars?
No, not really. Thankfully, I don’t have very many scars, or “interesting” stories of that sort. One very small scar I have on my foot comes from being stung by a Portuguese man-o-war while walking on the beach at Kailua a few years ago. I must say, they’re a lot smaller than I’d thought – about the size of a quarter.

7. How would you pitch your favorite travel destination to someone who has never heard of it?
Places people haven’t heard of? Well, that rules out Honolulu, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, and Kyoto… So, I suppose if I were to try to pitch someone to visit Naha, I’d tell them about the amazing food, the glorious history and historical sites (especially Shuri palace), and the music. Oh, yeah, and nice weather, beaches, whatever. Granted, I’d want it to be more well-organized and articulated than that, but, that’s the basic gist. Okinawa! More than just beaches and scuba diving and whatever! History! Culture! Food!

8. Your camera breaks while you’re on an exciting vacation. What do you do?
This sadly seems to happen to me quite frequently. I’ve bought new cameras last minute quite a few times; in fact, I think at least half the cameras I’ve owned were bought in such a fashion, in Japan.

9. However big or small, what’s something you have always wanted to try doing?
I’m sure there are a ton of things that would be rightful answers to this, but one thing I’ve been thinking about in recent years that I would very much like to someday achieve, would be to organize a museum exhibition of Okinawan arts, or art depicting Okinawan subjects, that goes beyond the standard tropes of “folk art” or “folk culture,” to really show a fuller sense of the history and elite culture of Okinawa.

On the rare occasion that we see exhibits of Okinawan art at all, it’s usually textiles, lacquerwares, and pottery. And that’s all well and good, and there are reasons for that – chiefly, the fact that these are the objects which are most prevalent and numerous and easy for museums, especially outside of Japan, to acquire. Sometimes we also see exhibits of post-war and contemporary art, which is either very political, or largely abstract and conceptual. But I fear this gives an impression of Okinawa as a quaint, rural sort of place that possesses only “low arts,” and/or as a place defined solely by its much more recent history, when in fact, historically, Ryûkyû was a proper kingdom, with ornate palaces, elaborate court protocols and rituals, and just as much emphasis on “high culture” as Japan or Korea, including ink paintings, calligraphy, gorgeous architecture & sculpture, music, theatre, dance, etc. It’s just that a lot of Ryukyuan paintings and other artifacts were destroyed in World War II, and so are far more rare today than those from Japan or Korea.

But, the Okinawa Prefectural Museum has a few tens of paintings by Ryukyuan scholar-officials, including ink landscapes, birds & flowers, portraits and the like, as well as works of calligraphy. The Imperial collections (at the Sannomaru Shôzôkan) have a series of beautiful landscapes by one of Japan’s first oil painters, depicting scenes in Okinawa. The University of Hawaii, British Museum, and a number of collections in Japan have gorgeous handscroll paintings, also by Japanese artists, depicting the processions of the Ryukyuan embassies to Edo… not to mention folding screen paintings of Naha Harbor held by a number of Japanese universities, the collection of fine 18th century musical instruments held at Nagoya Castle, and the many illustrated books, some in manuscript copies, owned by the University of Hawaii and other institutions. I know that for many of these objects it is exceptionally unlikely, but if we could get these objects together, and put on a proper show about the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom and its “high” arts, that would really be a dream come true.

10. A favorite childhood memory?
You know, sad as it may be, I just can’t really bring to mind any particular childhood memories. There are things I know I did, things I remember hearing about, or telling about, or seeing in photos, but things that I actually remember experiencing? I’m not sure any really come to mind.

11. What person, in any place or time period, would you trade places with for a day?
An excellent question. You know, I had never even thought of this, trading places. More often, we see the question “if you could travel to any time and place,” but the problem with that question is that as a skinny white man with an American accent, there are a great many times and places I could not go without standing out like a sore thumb. Send me to early modern Japan, and I’d be immediately executed (or, if I’m lucky, deported to Batavia) as a foreigner.

But, to switch places, and actually fit in, well, that certainly opens up the field. I’d like to be a Ryukyuan scholar-official, able to see Shuri & Naha at their height, and, if it were for longer than just a day, to get to visit Kagoshima, Edo, Fuzhou, and Beijing… Or I could simply switch places with an Edoite, I’m not sure who, someone of some means but not too much responsibility, so that I could see Edo at its height. Visit the kabuki theatre and see one of the truly great stars of all time; maybe, depending on who I’ve switched places with, getting to meet some of the famous artists, poets, and the like of the time. I’d be tempted, of course, to visit the Yoshiwara, too, just to see what it was like, since this is one of the most major parts of Edo popular culture that does not really survive at all today (unlike sumo, kabuki, and prints). But, then, the Yoshiwara was surely overflowing with STDs and just general filth, so I might be better off to skip it entirely.

And now, 11 questions for those I am nominating, mostly borrowed from those asked of Buri-chan on her own Liebster Awards page.

1) What prompted you to start your blog, and what keeps you going?

2) How have your attitudes towards blogging, your style or approach, changed since you’ve begun your blog?

3) What’s your favorite place that you have lived?

4) What is one of your favorite sites (a temple, castle, or other historical or cultural site) that you have visited, and why?

5) What is your next travel destination, somewhere you’ve been thinking about wanting to go visit?

6) What was the last concert, play, or performance you went to? Last book you read?

7) Tell us about a book, movie, or the like that changed your perspective.

8) Do you collect anything (e.g. stamps, action figures)?

9) Who is among your favorite historical figures, and why?

10) What is a historical event you find particularly interesting, and why?

11) What person, in any place or time period, would you trade places with for a day?

And, finally, the nominations. My apologies – and congratulations! – if your blog has more than 200 followers; I’m not sure there’s any way for me to know how many followers you have.

1) Marky Star of JAPAN THIS!, one of the most well-researched and wonderfully detailed blogs out there posting about the history of Edo. And wonderfully snarky to boot.

2) Nate Ledbetter of The Sengoku Field Manual, rewriting our understandings of how samurai did battle.

3) The authors of Shogun-ki, the official blog of the Samurai Archives, which despite Wikipedia’s horning in remains, in my opinion, the foremost samurai history site on the Web.

4) Daniel O’Grady of Japanese Castle Explorer, far and away the shiniest Japanese castles website out there, and with lots of great videos of Dan exploring castle sites. I’ve tried doing videos, but the wind and other background sounds were just terrible, and the camera was shaky, and… I don’t know how he does it.

5) Kathryn of Contemporary Japanese Literature, who is constantly posting great translations and insightful analyses of literature, media, and popular culture.

6) Molly Des Jardin of Wasting Gold Paper, my favorite source for digital humanities talk specifically pertinent to Japan.

7) Matt of Kamigata Rakugo, surely the leading rakugo blog in English.

8) Diego Pellecchia of 外国人と能, a most thought-provoking and insightful blog on Noh and traditional Japanese theatre.

9) The folks at Nihonga 日本画, promoting and keeping alive the tradition of traditional Japanese painting.

10) The folks at Vagabonds RPG, who are putting together probably the most well-informed pen-and-paper Japan-based RPG ever, and are posting some wonderful posts in the process, on various aspects of Edo period society.

11) Julia of I would, given unlimited everything, which keeps me on my feet, and keeps me feeling connected to Honolulu life. Her fantastic blog “Real and Imagined Taxa” has sadly gone the way of Geocities, but I eagerly look forward to more linguistic ruminations from Julia.

And, that’s about it. Thanks again so much to Buri-chan for nominating me! Now I just have to go around and let all these other wonderful people know that I have nominated them.

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