The Possibility of the Fieldworks

If they had said a year ago that we wouldn’t be allowed to go abroad to research in the coming academic year, nobody would have believed it. Now, that such an unbelievable story has come true, I'm truly aware of how important it is to revisit the settings of literary works to discover something you'd overlook without the fieldworks. Last year, I was offered to contribute to a new collection of essays on the possibility of the fieldworks being a scholarly method and tried to combine my travelogues set in Germany and Sado Island. Last week, I received a copy of the new book published by Tamagawa UP and felt how far I've come since then. Fortunately, however, I could have the rare experience of being encouraged by rereading my own article to make sure what I've done is right.


We've Been Here Before

These days I've found myself humming Harry Styles's "Sign of the Times," trying to figure out where we're going now. The final lines of this song are: "Will we ever learn? We've been here before. It's just what we know." Somehow these lines remind me of Hakushu Kitahara's "Kono Michi" (This Street), but this Japanese nursery rhyme is about nostalgia, a sentimental longing for the past. However, Styles's statement with this song can be described as "solastalgia," which could be defined as a variation of nostalgia toward the present and future. Styles's solastalgia is not only a pessimistic feeling, though. Repeatedly singing "just stop your crying," he's persuading us that even such sentimentality is nothing but "a sign of the times."


Thinking on the Kindle

Every time I click to open the Kindle app and see the silhouette of the boy reading under the big tree, I unintentionally smile because the shape of the tree is elegantly modified to help him read with the natural eave of its branches. Nowadays, the Kindle has almost become one of the bare necessities for academic life in the field of literature. I have installed the app on every PC of mine, synchronizing them to the E-ink reader called Kindle Paperwhite. Representing the surface of real paper with its high-tech material and adopting a screen without backlight to let the reader enjoy reading in the sunlight, the Kindle has succeeded in mesmerizing us to live naturally and eco-consciously in the computer age.

While the origin of the word "Kindle" is said to be "candle," ironically "to kindle" can mean "to set something [including books] on fire." "Thursday, October 17, 1650. [. . .] the colony’s hangman, Thomas Bell, dropped a book onto a fire. He had kindled the flames late that morning near the crossroads[.]" I quote this line from David M. Power's book Damnable Heresy which deals with the first book banned in the US. The author of the first burned book was William Pynchon... yes, an ancestor of the famous reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon.

The news of Pynchon's works like Gravity's Rainbow finally being available on Kindle is still fresh in our memories, but recently the argument of whether the e-book would become a trigger for today's book burning seems to have abated. Especially because of the increasingly powerful stay-at-home movement, some bestselling novelists who haven’t had to release e-book editions of their works have become compelled to do so. With a complicated feeling, I've found myself reading my Kindle in my garden because of my working from home. . .


Trusting the Power of the Voice

Recently, I've been sitting in front of the microphone to record my online lessons, trying to make them closer to face-to-face ones. Because of using only sound, it's not accurate to say that my online classes will be equivalent to "face-to-face," but sometimes the auditory images can have stronger communicative power than through video. Of course, if you want to make your listeners feel they are with you virtually, you'll need some speaking skills and proper background music. Moreover, what you should keep in mind is that your listeners aren't anonymous but specific people, each of who has a real "face." I hope my attempts can encourage my students directly and brilliantly to devote themselves to the depth of literature and language!


Adapting the World of "Eizouken"

In film studies, "adaptation" is a process of transformation between different media that would usually have difficulty exchanging their contents without modifying the details of the originals. The Tatami Galaxy, for instance, is one of a few successful cases to adapt literary works to animation. The recipe for success might be that director Masaaki Yuasa adapted a script which is an almost unabridged version of the original novel with character designs traced from Yusuke Nakamura's illustrations which appear on the dust jacket of the book.

10 years later, Yuasa released his new anime adaptation, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken. Not surprisingly, when adapted from the manga to the TV anime, the world of Eizoken becomes more perfectly represented. This is mainly because originally, Eizouken was a manga which deals with the dreams of school girls who want to create their own original animation. While a live-action version of Eizouken will be released this April, I’m sure it won’t surpass Yukawa's adaptation whose essential motivation was consistent with the manga itself!


Into the Deepest Well. . .

According to a recent Newsweek article, now is the "perfect time to dive into [Pynchon's] deepest well." The well is, of course, Gravity's Rainbow which is a postmodern literary classic published in 1973. While it is a little scary if you cannot come back from the distorted well alive, my recommendation is to read a few pages of this novel aloud and enjoy the magical rhythms of the language which sometimes go beyond the bounds of reason. Like running a marathon on the balcony, why don't you bravely read it from beginning to end?


Hottest Issues

Before the global spread of the virus, the fundamental reform of the university entrance examination system was one of the hottest issues in Japan. While the main aim of the reform was to implement the use of a test such as TOEIC instead of the national examination, now it’s impossible to conduct such nation-wide examinations before the summer because of this unexpected tragedy. Not only teaching classes but even conducting tests requires students to gather in crowded spaces. I'm feeling even more how we need to meet face-to-face in education!


The Latest Issue of "Gunzo"

Tomorrow, the latest issue of the literary magazine Gunzo will be released, featuring Hideo Furukawa whose brand-new novel will be dropped this April. As shown in the photo below, I had quite a long interview with him to find out how profoundly he created the world of his meta-fictional story. Following the interview, my book review appears, referring to my own family roots which slightly overlap with the setting of this historical novel. Having known each other for over a decade, Furukawa-san and I have had some public talks, each of which was so exciting. I hope you'll enjoy our sincere discussion on literature and find yourself interested in reading his latest mega-novel!


What We Might Sacrifice for Online Communication Is. . .

Teaching online is possible and sometimes could be more effective than classroom lectures. However, there are still problems with online classes, assuming that students have to pay for the data they use to access the contents or the video chat like Zoom. These days, quite a few students only have smartphones with a limited data plan. Of course, you can choose how often to watch videos, but once all the universities and colleges in this country let their professors teach online, is it possible for students to attend their “classes” virtually without paying a higher price to mobile companies? What we might sacrifice for online communication is not only our attention, but money too!



It was almost a month ago that my ninth book on film novelization was published by Takanashi-shobo. Since then, it's received some good reviews, including one in the book review newspaper Tosho Shinbun on March 28, and today in the Japanese weekly magazine Post. I'm very glad to hear the reviewers say they thought deeply about what “novelization” is for the first time after reading it. These days it's becoming increasingly difficult to go to the cinemas because of the spread of the new virus. While reading the novelization could be an alternative way to enjoy the film, I hope we can go back to normal soon and go to the cinemas again!



"Doubtfire, dear. . . "

Mrs. Doubtfire is a 1993 comedy film starring Robin Williams, the person who won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his performance that year. Watching it again on Amazon Prime, I was surprised by its cynical, 1990s-style view toward smoking and transvestites. Moreover, I was impressed by how skillfully Williams parodied classic films like Psycho. Actually, I couldn't recognize these details when I enjoyed watching it on VHS. I'm always amazed how drastically the contents, media, and common views have changed the last two decades!



If you want to educate your children about economics and accounting, the board game Cashflow released by Rich Dad Books and Games is ideal. Because of long school closures, my kids enjoyed playing this game using somewhat complicated bookkeeping sheets. Once, we visited the Tokyo Stock Exchange and its adjoining facility, Tosho Arrows, where you can have the opportunity to learn about the market through playing their original card game. Cashflow deals with a broader area of the economy, but the combination should be a wonderful education tool for kids as well as adults who really want to know about what's happening today.


Changes to the Academic Calendar

Spring has just come. While pupils and students are still supposed to study at home and not to hang out in large groups, you can find some of them playing joyfully to get a breath of fresh air in parks where cherry blossom trees are starting to bloom. This Monday, major private universities including Meiji University officially announced that they will postpone the first classes of the next academic year to late April. Preparing for my classes a month later, I'd like to devote myself to pursue research on environmental documentaries on this occasion!


A Ghost Story without the Ghost . . .

Have you ever read Julio Cortázar's fiction? Thanks to the newly translated series of world literature published by Kobunsha Publishing, Bestiario is the easiest available collection of his short stories in Japan. The first story is "House Taken Over", which could be summarized as a ghost story without the ghost. Speaking of Cortázar, his novel Hopscotch is one of the most popular Latin American literary works, and you can find its English translation much easier on the Kindle app. Although this novel is well-known as a highly experimental literary work, the e-text version of Hopscotch oddly feels like accidentally opening someone's folder on their PC, which had a lot of text files written by him/her. I hope a newly translated version of this masterpiece of his works will be published from Kobunsha or somewhere else!


Discontinuation of the Entrance Ceremony

Because of the world-wide spread of the Coronavirus, Meiji University decided to cancel its entrance ceremony that was supposed to be held on April 7. As a member of the faculty, I'm so sorry for the new students and their parents who really looked forward to celebrating the beginning of their new school lives. Despite this cancellation however, the students will need to get enough information to prepare for the course registration before the classes start. I've heard the administrative office will support them by using an effective online system, and we, the faculty, are keeping close contact with the staff to arrange the schedule for the new academic year. For more information, please see the link below:


Good Feedback

Somewhere between a novel and a novelization is an unobservable gap. The word "novelization" has two meanings: a novel based on a movie script, and the process to make something into novel—that is, a novel and something like a novel, but different. Because of such ambiguity, the word “novelization” has been prejudiced by cultured people as well as ambitious writers, and as a result, the gap between novels and novelizations has grown wider. It's been almost a month since my new book on novelization was released, and I'm surprised that it has gotten good feedback from quite a few readers, especially from ones in the publishing business. I'd be glad if you were also able to observe what happens during the process of novelization through my research!

THE WILD THINGS by Dave Eggers 



Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to interview Hideo Furukawa on his latest work. Reading his novel that has more than 890 pages three times in order to prepare in advance, I asked him about its literary subjects and the impact of preceding authors such as Kenzaburo Oe and Haruki Murakami. This interview will be published in the literary magazine Gunzo early next month. Don't miss it!


A History of Pictures

Art history is popular even among business people. If you want to look cultured, you should be able to tell the difference between Impressionism and Cubism, for instance, and should know the right book to recommend to your colleagues or business partners if you need. A History of Pictures written by the celebrated artist David Hockney and the famous critic Martin Gayford is one of my favorite ones, allowing you to understand the fundamental connections between pictures that have appeared not chronologically, but almost randomly at various times all over the world. "Any picture is an account of looking at something," says David, comparing the drawing of bulls on Lascaux cave in c. 15000 BC and the oil painting of the owl by Picasso in 1952. Fortunately, you can get A History of Pictures for Children which is kind of a concise version of it. If you can invest yourself in becoming a smart business person, why don't you get both versions of A History of Pictures to make your cultured talks more sophisticate and clear!


Rereading Yoshikichi Furui

Yoshikichi Furui, a representative novelist of his generation, passed away last month. Born in 1937, he was the same age as Thomas Pynchon, whose novels are the main subject of my academic field. It is said that Furui kept writing energetically, even though he struggled with illness near the end of his life. The other day, I had a chance to talk with editors who knew the author well and had some anecdotes about his private life. Sharing their memories, they let me know how he was adored and loved by people in the literary world. Such reminiscences have a power to urge you to read the author’s works again. The list of his novels I want to reread is becoming longer too.


My Unforgettable Conference Experience

Most academic societies hold annual or bi-annual conferences to get together and exchange views. The first one I attended was a literary conference that was held in the Shikoku District when I was an MA student. I was very excited that I could directly discuss topics with experts in my academic field. Another unforgettable one was the international conference at the University of Alaska Anchorage. When I left the building after my session there, I happened to encounter a wild moose on the campus! If you want to see the photo of the huge animal that appeared in front of me, please check out my first collection of essays, The Open Space of Ecocriticism (2009). During the next academic year, I'll attend at least three conferences in Okinawa, Kanazawa, and Hokkaido. These are going to be exciting for sure!