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The Sounds of Strange Phenomena: An IPS Fellowship at the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

In this latest Guest Blog, Hannah Bayley, International Placement Scheme Fellow, reflects on her experiences of the IPS Scheme and time at the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, (part of the wider NIHU (National Institutions for Humanities) in Kyoto, Japan.

Writing a doctoral thesis often triggers moments of reflection. Sat in a dedicated creative writing session at Keele on a particularly grey foggy Thursday morning I found myself looking out of the window and thinking how the weather and the damp atmosphere provided the perfect conditions in which one might expect to meet a yūrei (The most common Japanese term for ghost, roughly translated as dim spirit). This kind of meeting was something I half expected to experience while sitting in the library of the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies during my AHRC International placement, head bent over publications strewn with images of Japanese spirits and descriptions of ghostly sounds.

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

The stunning seasonal changes at Nichibunken. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

I never met a spirit in that library. However, I did leave my five-month fellowship with a wealth of ideas focused on distinctly Japanese representations of sonic haunting that have fruitfully shaped the course of my doctoral thesis. I am currently in the writing up stage of my PhD which offers a reconceptualization of the roles of sound and music in supernatural Japanese horror film, and how that differs from other traditions elsewhere in the world, especially considering the number of American J-horror remakes that have emerged.

I can recall two months into my PhD at Keele University receiving an email from the Music postgraduate mailing list and my efforts to carefully assess which of the six inter-university institutes that make up the National Institutes for the Humanities in Japan would be right for me. As an institute with an emphasis on comparative studies and cultural exchange the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies, or Nichibunken (日文研) was well suited to my project. Further research on the host website confirmed this, as I would have direct contact with a wealth of relevant resources on filmic, literary and theatrical traditions. Pre-fellowship I had read and accessed some of their special digital databases online. Once at Nichibunken the library staff were incredibly helpful, providing guidance on how to access a number of items in print form. I was able to view unique visual materials from the collections of Paintings of Strange Phenomena and Yōkai (Ghosts, Monsters, Spirits) and the Database for Folktales of Strange Phenomena and Yōkai (Ghosts, Monsters, Spirits). The library also had a number of microfiche collections and I retrieved cuttings from the Prange collection, publications (books, periodicals, pamphlets, newspapers), documents, posters, etc. that were censored during the Allied occupation of Japan between 1945 and 1952. Articles retrieved were all reports on cinema and film music, mainly screen guides from this period of restriction in journalism. Most of the documents were in Japanese but I was granted permission to take away photocopies for future translation work.

Admittedly, I had one concern when I applied to the fellowship and that was the Japanese language level requirement. As someone who has obtained a certificate of Japanese language competency it still did not inspire a lot of confidence in me, but there was no Japanese language skills requirement for Nichibunken, and it never posed that big an obstacle as there was always help on hand and a large proportion of the library resources are in English. Support was provided by the Research Centre’s staff, visiting researchers, and students, and especially by my host supervisor, Professor Hosokawa Shuhei, who introduced me to a number of research contacts. I was encouraged to develop both my research and language skills by attending monthly seminars in English and Japanese, as well as the International Research Symposium hosted at Nichibunken, and the Sokendai (The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, Osaka) Cultural 2014 Forum. I presented an early version of my analysis of transnational adaptation in the music and sound design of Ju-on: The Grudge and its remake The Grudge at the Kyoto-Nara EU Association English club.

Yutate Kagura ritual dance and purification ceremony, Jōnangū shrine, Kyoto.

Yutate Kagura ritual dance and purification ceremony, Jōnangū shrine, Kyoto.                             Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

My first-hand experiences of several Japanese performing art forms from ancient court music and dance (Gagaku) to traditional puppet theatre (Bunraku), and traditional theatre forms such as Noh and Kabuki, would not have been possible without being awarded my fellowship. One of the most illuminating moments was actually being able to take part in a workshop on butoh, an avant-garde dance form that originated after World War II. The class was led by acclaimed choreographer and dancer Ima Tenko, whose performances I had attended earlier in my placement. Never underestimate the power of networking, anywhere! I began attending services at St. Agnes church in Kyoto, where I played the organ for a few services. There, I met a conservator of Japanese paintings who introduced me directly to a research contact at the International Noh Institute (INI). I was advised on performances and arranged to sit in on a rehearsal led by the Kongō School Master-Actor Udaka Michishige, leader of the INI.

 

These immersive opportunities have transformed my understanding of the unique sonic practice of Japanese performing arts. To be able to examine culturally specific traditions of supernatural and horrific representations in the Japanese arts and how they have shaped examples of sonic practice in Japanese film within the ‘field’ has enriched my understanding beyond the scope of anything I expected. My time at Nichibunken has equipped me with the original scholarly foundations required for my doctoral thesis and helped me to shape the various cultural, social and artistic contexts for a research paper I had begun working on, which will be published in 2017. Thanks to the support of staff at Nichibunken I was also able to contact figures in the Japanese film industry ‘in country’ and travelled to interview three prominent film and video game composers; Shimizu Hiromi, Kawai Kenji (pictured) and Ashiya Gary.

Meeting Kawai Kenji at his studio in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

Meeting Kawai Kenji at his studio in Tokyo. Photo Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

During my placement, I liked the fact that I had the option to live alongside other researchers at the centre in a self-contained apartment in Nichibunken House. A nearby supermarket, post office, bank and on-site restaurant at the institute were all conveniently located. A short walk away was what quickly became one of my favourite ramen restaurants. Transportation was very reliable and frequent, especially the bus services, as Kyoto city itself is roughly a 30-minute drive away from the western edge of the city, where Nichibunken is situated. Arashiyama, Osaka and Nara are also easy to reach and of course the famous shinkansen (bullet train) was convenient for travel to places such as Nagoya and Tokyo, especially with a Japan rail pass. Being a big foodie, I was more than happy to sample some of the famous Kyo-wagashi (Kyoto sweets), Yatsuhashi (red bean paste confectionary), and of course experience the Japanese tea ceremony, which I attended frequently. I was even trained in the Way of Tea (Chadō, Sadō or Chanoyu, literally “Hot Water for Tea”).

Aspects of Japanese culture: match tea ceremony lesson, Tō-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda- the tallest wooden tower in Japan, and the Noh theatre stage. Photos Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

Aspects of Japanese culture: Match tea ceremony lesson, Tō-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda- Tallest wooden tower in Japan, and the Noh theatre stage.                                                                                                                      Photos Courtesy of Hannah Bayley

Kyoto inspired me with its wealth of beautifully preserved temples, shrines, rock gardens, the former imperial palace grounds, and I didn’t miss any chances to attend the city’s festivals and illumination events. I will treasure my many walks around Kyoto reflecting on the connections of nature, animism and the supernatural in film music, whilst appreciating the beauty of viewing both the colourful maple leaves of autumn (koyo/momiji) and the first buds of the cherry blossom (sakura) season, which were often accompanied by the telling of a tale from Japanese folkore.

I am so thankful that I spied an opportunity in an AHRC email, and applied for the IPS. The fellowship has enhanced my knowledge of Japanese ghost and horror traditions through the ages in ways that have enabled me to develop fresh approaches to the criticism of films, scores and soundtracks. The impact of my placement has allowed me to develop the leading-edge expertise that I hope will open many doors as I seek post-PhD academic employment.

And who knows? Maybe I will return to Nichibunken one day and encounter a spirit or two.

 

 


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A Flurry of AHRC International Opportunities

International Placement Scheme (IPS)

The IPS call is open – as well as continuing with opportunities to visit some fantastic organisations in the USA and Japan, this year we have an exciting new host – the Shanghai Theatre Academy. The IPS scheme enables doctoral students, doctoral level researchers and Early Career Researchers to undertake a fellowship of 2-6 months. More information is available on the AHRC website and the deadline is 15th January 2015.

If you want to know what being a IPS fellow is like, we have several blog posts from previous award holders about their experiences, just click on the International Placement Scheme Tag to read more . We are always open to new suggestions of hosts, if you have a suggestion of somewhere that should be a part of this scheme, please do comment. One our current hosts, Harry Ransom center was previously suggested via a comment so it can work!

Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation Workshop in India

The AHRC, Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) and the British Library are organising a workshop on ‘Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation in India’. Funding is available for 20 UK based researchers to attend. Expression of Interest must be submitted by 4pm 30th January 2015. For more information please see the AHRC website.

International Co-Investigator continues

The AHRC pilot for International Co-investigator (Co-I) has been extended until 31st December 2016. We are very pleased with how this is progressing and have extended this to allow us to fully review all aspects of international Co-I on a grant through both application and award. International Co-Investigators are eligible on research grants, research networking and follow on fund applications (other schemes may also allow this but this is decided on a case by case basis so please consult call guidance).

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Opportunities for Japanese Collaboration

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) has issued a call for a variety of Invitation Fellowships, for both short-term and long-term collaborations.

The JSPS is the leading research funding agency in Japan, established by the Japanese Government for the purpose of contributing to the advancement of science. Despite the name of the organisation, it covers all research areas, including the humanities and social sciences. 

The Fellowships provide the opportunity for researchers based outside of Japan to conduct collaborative research activities with leading research groups at Japanese Universities and Research Institutions for single visits of between 7 days and ten months. 

To be eligible, you must be an established researcher with an excellent record of research achievements. Fellowships can be awarded to the same researcher multiple times.

Further details are available from the JSPS website.

    


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Daiwa Foundation seeks to build UK-Japan links

Daiwa Foundation Awards of up to £7000 – £15,000 are available for collaborative projects that enable British and Japanese Partners to work together, preferably in the context of an institutional relationship.

These awards seek to encourage the development and sustainability of UK-Japan Partnerships between such organisations as museums and art galleries, theatres and performing arts groups, schools and universities. The Daiwa Foundation Awards can cover projects in academic, professional, arts, cultural and educational fields so long as it involved a significant level of collaboration between British and Japanese partners.

The awarding funds are restricted for use and cannot be used for certain means such as capital expenditure. A full list of eligibility criteria and restrictions are available on the awards website.

There are two application deadlines a year, which are on the 31st of March (reaching a decision by 31st May) and the 30th September (reaching a decision by 30 November). However, applicants are encouraged to submit all applications as early as possible and are available to provide advice on possible applications at grants@dajf.org.uk.

For more information visit the awards site: Daiwa Foundation Awards.

All applicants will be notified by letter from the Foundation and the decisions cannot be appealed or discussed.


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International Placement Scheme – awards announced

The AHRC run an International Placement Scheme  for AHRC-funded PhD students and early career researchers to spend time at an overseas organisation with dedicated access to their world-class research facilities, expertise and networking opportunities.

Successful Library of Congress Award Holders from Univesity of Lincoln (© University of Lincoln)

 We’ve just announced the awarded placements from the last call – 65 in total, going to one of four hosts:

  •  Library of Congress – USA
  •  National Institutes for the Humanities  (NIHU) – Japan
  •  Huntington Library – USA
  •  SARAI-CSDS  – India

Andrew and Adam, as featured in the post photo are two University of Lincoln students who are about to head off to the Library of Congress for their research on popular attitudes and comics during the second world war. The funding for the next round of the scheme isn’t confirmed yet, but we are hoping to run it in a similar way.  Please note the timetable may be brought forward  so expect an announcement later in the autumn. If you’re an early career researcher, it’s well-worth considering applying as this scheme is open to more than just PhD students: previous award holders are extremely positive about the value these awards have on their research. You can hear one of them speak here.

 We are always looking for ways to expand the scheme:  if you have any ideas of other places which might make great future hosts please let us know (either post in comments or contact Pippa Craggs – see ‘about’ link above).  Note that these partnerships require a level of support from the host institution and can take a while for the AHRC to set up.


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Do you have research links with Japan?

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) has issued calls for two ‘programs’ (short- and long-term) under its ‘Invitation Fellowship Programs’ scheme.

Funded by a subsidy from the Japanese government, these fellowships enable international cooperation and mutual understanding through scientific research. Put simply, they enable researchers in Japan to invite fellow researchers from other countries to participate in ‘cooperative activities’ such as exchanging information, giving lectures, undertaking research.  So you will need a Japanese researcher to agree to be your ‘host’. 

The guidance makes it clear that all fields of humanities are included under these ‘programs’. Costs typically covered include round-trip airfare and domestic travel, per diem/monthly subsistence allowance and, in the case of the long-term fellowship, a contribution towards research expenses.

For FY 2013 (2013/14) there are short- and long-term opportunities. The period when an application can be submitted is only very short (5 days!) so be sure to plan early to avoid missing out.

Application deadline (for host institution)*:

Long Term:     3 – 7 September 2012  

Short Term:   3 – 7 September 2012 (first round of recruitment)
                       2 – 10 May 2013 (second round of recruitment)

*Be aware that the above deadlines are for the host institutions (who submit the applications) – i.e. you will need to liaise with the host to get relevant information to them well in advance of these dates. 

Further details on how to apply are available here:  http://www.jsps.go.jp/english/e-inv/index.html (refer to the links for ‘FY2013 Short Term’ or ‘FY2013 Long Term’ from the left hand menu for current application material).