From August 31 to September 4, 2015, a 5-day workshop, “Wahon Literacies,” was held at UCLA and UCSB (beginning at UCLA, participants traveled on the third day to continue meeting at UCSB). The workshop, held in Japanese, was attended by 30 graduate students and faculty from US and international universities, and included UCSB graduate students Christoph Reichenbaecher (EALCS) and Travis Seifman (History), and Professors Luke Roberts (History) and Katherine Saltzman-Li (EALCS).
The workshop focused on the content and material aspects of wahon, literally “Japanese books,” books written in Japanese and bound in various formats according to period and genre. Participants considered the long temporal range of wahon production in the Classical, or Heian Period (794-1185), the “medieval” years (1185-1603), and the Early Modern, or Tokugawa Period (1603-1867). Workshop sessions were led by three eminent scholars from Japan: Professor Ogawa Yasuhiko (Aoyama Gakuin University), Professor Unno Keisuke (National Institute of Japanese Literature), and Professor Nakajima Takashi (Waseda University), who addressed Heian, medieval, and Tokugawa period writing and books, respectively.
A premise of the workshop was that lectures and hands-on sessions should be integrated over the five days to enable fullest understanding of the many topics addressed regarding wahon. Lecture-style presentations covered content, genres, format, calligraphy styles, and the specifics of the material components of books (paper and printing quality, differences among printings of the same title). Hands-on sessions included making a scroll and learning the proper way of handling and reading it, as well as making two styles of sewn books. The three professors also brought from Japan examples of the kinds of materials they discussed, and participants were able to handle and examine many fine volumes.
“Wahon Literacies” was very generously subsidized by the Tadashi Yanai Initiative for Globalizing Japanese Humanities, with sponsorship also from The Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies, as well as The Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies of UCLA. The Yanai Initiative at UCLA – led by “our own” Professor Michael Emmerich, who taught and leant his many talents to UCSB in our department from 2009-2013 – is supported by a gift from Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and CEO of global apparel retailer Fast Retailing and founder of Uniqlo. The gift supports a six-year program of scholarly exchange on Japanese literature and culture between UCLA and Waseda University, as well as an annual international symposium at UCLA and an annual UCLA/UCSB workshop. We look forward to our continuing collaboration on the annual workshop, each to have its own theme, and are excited for the opportunity to participate in such a stimulating endeavor.