Fun Link Friday: Three Tales of Okiku


Obon season is fast upon us, so get into a spooky mood with three variations on the one of Japan’s most famous ghost stories over on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.

Okiku is one of the most interesting yurei in Japan. She is a true folktale, with multiple versions spread across the country. Anywhere there is an old castle and a well, there is a legend of Okiku. She isn’t always named Okiku, and she isn’t always counting plates, but the same details are there.

Here are three translations of some different versions of the legends. I started with the oldest, so you can see how the tale has changed over time. Over the course of learning about her, Okiku changed from a yurei I thought was kind of boring, to one of my favorites. She is the most Japanese of Japan’s famous ghosts.

If you like Okiku, there’s going to be a whole chapter on her in Yurei: The Japanese Ghost.  There’s also a well in at Himeiji Castle that claims to be Okiku’s final “resting” (haunting?) place as well. (Scroll down to お菊井戸.)

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Happy 4th Birthday, Shinpai Deshou!

Photo by Brian

Photo by Brian

Hey everybody! Happy birthday! We just turned four! :) That’s pretty amazing to me. I still remember the shaky and false start of this blog about six years ago (on a platform, before I knew WordPress was a thing, no less!). Quickly realizing I had barely enough experience in life to advise anybody about anything, I gave it a couple more years and enlisted the help of various friends, colleagues, and kind folks across the web to start making something great that could really help people. I owe it all to you guys out there who have been reading and writing and helping What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies? become a wonderful resource for people at every stage of life. Thanks for everything and here’s to more great years!

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Job Opening: Academic English, University of Tokyo

job opening - 5Institution: University of Tokyo
Location: Japan
Position: Assistant Professor

The Centre for Global Communication Strategies (CGCS) at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo is now accepting applications for five assistant professorships. This large hire has been made possible by additional funding to expand the ALESS and ALESA programs. These positions are all fixed-term appointments teaching English to first-year undergraduate students at the University of Tokyo.

The appointment starts on April 1, 2015 with a yearly contract that may be renewable for a maximum of 5 years, depending on budgetary conditions and evaluation of employee’s work performance. The appointees will teach seven 105-minute English courses per week. The courses taught will mainly focus on academic writing for first-year undergraduates (for science students in the case of ALESS, and for humanities students in the case of ALESA), but will also include some courses designed to develop students’ spoken fluency in academic discussion as well as, from time to time, other English language courses as electives. The appointees will also participate in curriculum development.

Outline of the program: 

The ALESS and ALESA Programs teach compulsory English courses at the University of Tokyo for science and humanities students, respectively. The programs include a semester-length academic writing course (specifically scientific writing in the case of ALESS) as well as a half-semester course that aims at boosting students’ ability to engage in academic discussion. Class sizes average 15 students. In addition to these compulsory courses, from 2015 ALESS and ALESA faculty will also occasionally have the opportunity to teach, as elective English courses, classes that focus on specific content in their area of expertise. Courses in the ALESS and ALESA Programs are under constant development through collaboration among all faculty.  The faculty consists of Ph.D. holders in a wide range of discplines from humanities and social sciences to the natural sciences.

Required Qualifications:

1) Native speaker of English, or with an equivalent level of proficiency.
2) Specialist in an English-related field or natural sciences or engineering; specialist in an English-related field or another field of the humanities or social sciences.
3) PhD or equivalent research record in a relevant field.
4) Previous experience of teaching English at universities preferred.

Application documents: 

1) CV.
2) List of publications (by category: books, articles, etc.).
3) Two major publications (1 copy of each; photocopies are accepted).
4) An essay in English on your teaching philosophy and experience in teaching English academic writing or spoken fluency to university students. If you do not have experience teaching these, a description of how you would plan and teach either course (about 500 words on A4 or letter-size paper).
5) Contact details for two academic referees.

Applications: Applications must be posted by mail and must arrive by 4pm on September 1, 2014 at our office.

For further details including the mailing address for applications, see:

Contact: Centre for Global Communciation Strategies:  office [at mark]

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Funding: 2014 Abe Fellowship Competition

money [150-2]2014 Abe Fellowship Competition (Deadline: September 1, 5PM)

The Abe Fellowship is designed to encourage international multidisciplinary research on topics of pressing global concern. The Abe Fellowship Program seeks to foster the development of a new generation of researchers who are interested in policy-relevant topics of long-range importance and who are willing to become key members of a bilateral and global research network built around such topics.

Terms of the fellowship are flexible and are designed to meet the needs of Japanese and American researchers at different stages in their careers. The program provides Abe Fellows with a minimum of three and maximum of 12 months of full-time support over a 24 month period. Part-time residence abroad in the United States or Japan is required.

Applicants are invited to submit proposals for research in the social sciences and related fields relevant to any of the following three themes:

  • Traditional and Non-Traditional Approaches to Security and Diplomacy
  • Global and Regional Economic Issues
  • Social and Cultural Issues

Research projects should be policy relevant, contemporary, and comparative or transnational.

This competition is open to citizens of the United States and Japan as well as to nationals of other countries who can demonstrate a serious, long-term affiliation with research communities in the United States or Japan.

Applicants must hold a Ph.D. or the terminal degree in their field, or equivalent professional experience at the time of application.

Applications from researchers in professions other than academia are encouraged.

For further information and to apply, go to:

Contact SSRC staff at

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Book Announcement: Imagining Japan in Post-war East Asia: identity politics, schooling and popular culture

Imagining JapanImagining Japan in Post-war East Asia: identity politics, schooling and popular culture

Paul Morris, Naoko Shimazu and Edward Vickers, editors
(Routledge: 2013)
264 pp
ISBN: 978-0-415-71399-3

In the decades since her defeat in the Second World War, Japan has continued to loom large in the national imagination of many of her East Asian neighbours. While for many Japan still conjures up images of rampant military brutality, at different times and in different communities, alternative images of the Japanese ‘Other’ have vied for predominance – in ways that remain poorly understood, not least within Japan itself.

Imagining Japan in Postwar East Asia analyses the portrayal of Japan in East and Southeast Asia, exploring how this has changed in recent decades, and what changing images of Japan reveal about the construction of identity in these societies. It examines the role played by an imagined ‘Japan’ in the conceptualisation of national selves across the region, as mediated through a broad range of media ranging from school curricula and textbooks to film, television, literature and comics. Commencing with an extensive thematic and comparative overview, the volume features chapters focusing on Chinese societies (the mainland PRC, Hong Kong and Taiwan), Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. These show how changes in the representation of Japan have been related to political, social and cultural
shifts within the societies of East Asia – and in particular to the ways in which these societies have imagined or constructed their own identities.

Bringing together contributors working in the fields of education, anthropology, history, sociology, political science and media studies, this interdisciplinary volume will be of interest to all students and scholars concerned with issues of identity, politics and culture in East Asian societies, and to those seeking a deeper understanding of Japan’s fraught relations with its regional neighbours.

Table of contents:


East Asian Images of Japan – an overview, Paul Morris, Naoko Shimazu and Edward Vickers

Part I: ‘Japan’ in Popular Culture and Public Propaganda

1. Beyond Mimesis: Japan and the Uses of Political Ideology in Singapore, Simon Avenell
2. Impressions of ‘Japan’ in Taiwan After 1990, Iyun Lee and Christine Han
3. Meanings of the Imagined Friends: Good Japanese in Chinese war films, Kinnia YAU Shuk-ting
4. Friend or Foe: Representations of Japan in the Print Media in the Philippines, 1940s to the Present, Karl Ian Uy Cheng Chua
5. Japan in the Public Culture of South Korea: Conflicting Images Attached to Colonial Sites, Jung-sun Nina Han

Part II: ‘Japan’ in Official Discourse

6. Changing Views of the Anti-Japanese War in Chinese High School History Textbooks, Caroline Rose
7. Reconstructing the Nation: The Role of Sino-Japanese History in Hong Kong’s Schools, Paul Morris and Edward Vickers
8. Japan’s Place in Taiwan’s Textbooks, Alisa Jones
9. Japanese Occupation in the Malaysian History Textbooks, Helen Ting
10. The Portrayal of the Japanese as an ‘Other’ in Singapore’s School
Textbook Narrative of the Japanese Occupation, Khatera Khamsi and Christine Han
11. Portrayal of Japanese Occupation in Philippine Textbooks and Filipino National Identity Formation, Mark Maca


12. The Annual Seminar of the History Teachers from China, Japan and South Korea: Achievements and Problems, Guopeng Shi

For further information:

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Job Opening: Technical IT Business Analyst to work in Tokyo for Multinational Corporation

job opening - 5Are you a Japanese national who wants to return to Japan; would you like to work for an International company with an International culture voted in the top 5 in “Great Place to Work – Japan”

Company              : American Express Japan
Location               : Tokyo
Position                : Permanent/Full time
Language              : bilingual – Business English and Fluent Japanese
Qualifications        : Either IT Graduate or 1-3 years as a Developer within a technical delivery organization. Experienced in or strong understanding of Digital Technology – web/mobile development.
Contact                 : George Bullock Technology Director Japan –

Role Purpose

  • Responsible for the documentation of business needs/requirements and testing requirements, applying the required methods and standards, as appropriate.
  • Assists in the analysis of underlying issues arising from investigations into requirements.
  • Ability to conceptualise solutions in the digital space. Prototype these solutions and work with Technical Engineers to build the solutions
  • Assists the project team in the completion of project-related documentation. Entry-level position into Business Analysis functional domain.

Recommended Experience

  • Prior experience
  • Familiar with Agile Development methodology.

Key Competencies required

  • Drives Results: Reliable and self-motivated
  • Builds and Leverages Relationships: Enjoys working both collaboratively and independently
  • Communicates Effectively: Verbally and in writing; Facilitation skills
  • Drives Innovation and Change: Problem solving and analytical skills
  • Demonstrates Personal Excellence
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Fun Link Friday: Bonsai in Space

We’ve seen bonsai of Bag End, but what about bonsai in space? For his Exobiotantic “installation,” Azuma Makoto launched two botanical objects into space from a Nevada launch site.

Check out the links to learn more about the construction and the project.

Azuma Makoto, AMMK (artist website)
NYT Magazine
Spoon & Tamago


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