Accepted Paper:

The basic characteristics of Japanese folkloristics  


Takami Kuwayama (Hokkaido University)

Paper short abstract:

In Japan folklore studies or folkloristics developed as a twin discipline of ethnology. By way of an introduction to the whole session, some major characteristics of Japanese folkloristics are briefly explained.

Paper long abstract:

By way of an introduction to the whole session, I will briefly explain for an international audience of anthropologists some of the basic characteristics of Japanese folklore studies or folkloristics: (1) as elsewhere, it was a product of modern times in which a deep sense of loss of local traditions had moved concerned people to look into their past way of life; (2) folkloristics as an academic discipline emerged in Japan in the 1920s and developed in conjunction with ethnology; (3) under the influence of the founder Kunio Yanagita (1875-1962), Japanese folkloristics has traditionally aimed to trace the development of everyday life among ordinary people, thereby having a close connection with the historical sciences; (4) the scope of folklore research in Japan is much broader than that of its Western counterparts in which the study of oral literature and performance occupies a central place; (5) Japanese folklorists have conducted most of their research in Japan, although the topics being studied today have diversified as Japan is ethnically more complex and urbanized than ever before; and (6) research results are rarely published in languages other than Japanese - a major factor in the isolation of Japanese folklorists and their low visibility in international settings. Regarding the last point, our panel represents the recent attempt on the part of the Folklore Society of Japan to engage itself in dialogue with the wider community of scholars outside Japan.

Panel P130
Reinventing folkloristics as a study of modernity: Japanese perspectives (FSJ panel)