AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 407

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Session 407: Asian Sounds I

Frankly "Scarlett": Examining "The Gone with the Wind" Musical in Japan
Mary Jo Lodge, Lafayette College, USA

In 1970, a Broadway style musical version of Margaret Mitchell’s "Gone with the Wind", called "Scarlett", premiered in Tokyo. It featured music by legendary Broadway composer Harold Rome, and a Japanese libretto by Kazuo Kikuta. It ran in two four-hour parts and was wildly successful. The production moved to London in 1972, and again won popular and critical acclaim, though Horton Foote’s English libretto was criticized. The production subsequently transferred to Los Angeles, en route to a scheduled Broadway opening in 1974, but after it was roundly panned, it closed without ever traveling to the Great White Way. "Scarlett" was a huge Japanese success, yet it earned a place in Ken Mandlebaum’s famed book about Broadway flops ("Not Since Carrie") and offers an interesting case study for examining the artistic contrasts between both American and Japanese musicals and audiences. While the musical is often touted as a uniquely American art form, "Scarlett" makes the case that Japan produced a distinctly Japanese musical that could not translate to American tastes. In this paper, I explore why "Scarlett" succeeded in Tokyo and why it failed in Los Angeles, and what the different receptions the musical received reveal about Japanese and American perceptions of what musicals should be.

The Arts of the Geisha: Constructing New Aesthetics and Social Identity
Yuko Eguchi, University of Pittsburgh, USA

While the term "geisha" is widely known and even serves as an icon of Japan, the geisha's arts, specifically kouta (small songs) and koutaburi (dance accompanied by kouta) have been marginalized and largely ignored in scholarship. For example, the Meiji government criticized the lyrics of kouta as vulgar because they expressed women's feelings and emotions such as iroke (sensuality) and onna-rashisa (femininity). These expressions were considered morally inappropriate and unacceptable, therefore, the government claimed kouta songs and dances were subjects unfit to be taught in schools. Geisha, on the other hand, continued to create and perform kouta songs and dances and developed them into one of the most sophisticated art forms in which the peculiar Japanese feminine beauty was fully expressed. I will first put forward the nature of iroke and onna-rashisa through a close examination of the aesthetics of kouta songs and dances, then I will look at kouta in the larger context of geisha culture and suggest that geisha have used kouta as an effective means of communicating sensuality and femininity. In so doing, they constructed a new identity as professional artists and transcended their low societal status as both women and “prostitutes.”

Geisha Trouble in the National Anthem: Interpreting the Experimental Soundscape of Hanayo's "Kimigayo"
Shelina L. Brown, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

How might a contemporary, politically conscious Japanese geisha respond to her nation’s controversial national anthem? The Japanese national anthem, “Kimigayo,” is widely considered to be a musico-poetic evocation of Japan’s imperialist past. Needless to say, as a racialized and gendered discourse of dominance, Japanese imperialism marks a legacy of extreme violence – particularly, of gendered violence. A one-time professional geisha trained in traditional Japanese music and dance, Hanayo is now active as a composer of experimental electronic music. As a means of working through her gendered and political malaise vis-a-vis “Kimigayo,” geisha and experimental performance artist, Hanayo, offers a deconstructive rendition of “Kimigayo” as the final track on her album, Gift (2000). In this paper I will demonstrate that Hanayo’s “Kimigayo” functions to reveal the national anthem’s underlying gendered anxieties through a female-oriented reinterpretation. Further, I will put forward an analysis that considers the ways in which her performative persona of the postmodern, politically conscious ‘geisha’ demands a reconceptualization of traditional notions of Japanese femininity. Hanayo, in particular, draws her inspiration from artists of the ‘digital hardcore’ genre, a politically subversive and deconstructive form of electronic music. In this presentation I will argue that the experimental soundscape of Hanayo’s “Kimigayo” sets into motion a dialectic of gendered resistance in relation to Japan’s national anthem.