Japanese Body Cultures and The Human Condition

Monday 9 September 2013 | Room 633 Malet Street |16:30-18:30pm

Register here free of charge:

Talks by Prof. Tetsuo Nishiyama (Kansai University, Japan), Prof. Naho Tanimoto (Kansai University, Japan), Prof. Yoshihiro Seki (Kwanseigakuin University, Japan) and Prof. Kuniharu Tokiyasu (Gakushuin Women’s College)

With discussants: Prof. Ruth Holliday (University of Leeds) and Dr. Linda Flores (University of Oxford)

Research on contemporary Japanese culture often revolves around its two-dimensional aesthetic, which is evident in anime, manga, or computer games. While this aesthetic provides one window into Japanese culture, it ignores corporeal experiences and their social functions (i.e., the relation of the body to citizenship, etc.). This symposium bridges this gap, shedding light on material dimensions of bodies and their social significations as well as the affects that these bodies invoke in various practices in contemporary Japanese society. Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition (1958) provides an overarching theoretical framework.


16:00-17:00 | Panel 1: “Uncomfortable” Bodies

Discussant: Professor Ruth Holliday

Cosmetic Surgery and Cosmetic Medical Care in Contemporary Japan

Prof. Naho Tanimoto

The presentation discusses the typical motivations of the present-day Japanese people to undergo cosmetic surgery and cosmetic medical care. The discussion is informed by a questionnaire survey of more than 2,000 people and in-depth interviews with 32 former patients and practitioners of cosmetic medical care, conducted from 2003 to 2011.

Ashi-yu (Touch-care with Foot Bath): Rebuilding Trust in Everyday Life after the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami

Prof. Yoshihiro Seki

When supporting the victims in the disaster-stricken area, who have experienced the collapse of everyday life, it is more important to recover their trust in everyday life than to take care of their mental health. Showing a case study of “ashiyu” (touch-care with foot bath), the presentation argues that such trust is built in the process of having communication with others through bodily contacts.


17:00-17:30 | Coffee Break


17:30-18:30 | Panel 2: Bodies in Danger

Discussant: Dr. Linda Flores

“Human Development in Japan”: Intensive Training, Ascetic Practice, Corporeal Punishment

Prof. Tetsuo Nishiyama

So-called the “examination hell” (intensive study to get into a good school) in Japan is a well-known phenomenon. However, achievement in sport activities has recently become an alternative to high scores in the exams, suggesting that sports have started to be considered as an effective means to produce “model members of society.” This influences the manner of coaching and performance in Japanese sports. Ironically, coaches’ effort to train their students as model members of society often leads to severe corporeal punishment.

WarikiriProstitution and Social Exclusion in Contemporary Japan

Prof. Kuniharu Tokiyasu

Recent development of online dating sites and “dating cafes” has made it easier for Japanese women to find clients for prostitution without belonging to any particular brothels. This style of prostitution is called “warikiri”. The presentation summarises a report of warikiri women written by a new-generation critic, Chiki Ogiue, and discusses the social exclusion and poverty in Japan today in relation to the issues of body, moral consciousness and citizenship.


Biographies |

Prof. Tetsuo Nishiyama (Kansai University) widely publishes in the area of health and wellbeing. His books include What is Modern Sports Culture? (2006), Living with Toyotism (2008), and The Scientification of Everyday Life (2013).

Prof. Naho Tanimoto (Kansai University) specialises in women’s media and body culture in Japan. She is author of Sociology of Love Romance (2008) and Sociology of Cosmetic Surgery and Makeup (2008) and editor of The Present Century of Expositions (2009) and Sociology for Media Culture (2009).

ProfYoshihiro Seki (Kwanseigakuin University) is author of New Public Space through Volunteer (2008). His recent articles include “Survivors and Volunteers in the Great East Japan Earthquake”(2013) in Sociology and the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Prof. Kuniharu Tokiyasu (Gakushuin Women’s College) specialises in citizenship studies and cultural sociology. He is editor of The Transformation of Citizenship (2011) and Citizenship and Conflict (2012).

ProfRuth Holliday (University of Leeds) specialises in contemporary cultural theories of gender, sexuality, class, the body and popular culture. Her most recent books and articles include Kitsch! Cultural Politics and Taste (2012) and “Beautiful Face, Beautiful Place: Relational Geographies and Gender in Cosmetic Surgery Tourism Websites” (2013).

DrLinda Flores (University of Oxford) specialises in modern Japanese literature. Her recent publications include “Women in a Troubled Age: Negotiating Class and Gender in Takiji’s “Yasuko’” (2009). She is currently working on her monograph Murderous Mothers in Modern Japanese Literature.