my monkied brain (katekat1010) wrote,
my monkied brain

So how was Japan?

When I got ready for the trip I kept just thinking: it's only for a month. I'll go, I'll hit up bookstores, I'll try and do some research, and maybe if I get my act together I'll try to email those professors I need to. It's going to be weird to be there for such a short time, but before I know it I'll be heading back home.

See this is going to sound ridiculous, but the reason why I planned a trip to Japan was so that I could get funding for the summer. Because my school program doesn't fund students for the summer, even when you have research and writing that you absolutely need to be doing. They don't care. Which is why in past summers I've done language programs. Because I can get non-departmental funding for language study. But at this point I'm kind of past any formal language training (and I've definitely gotten certain summer funding too many times for them to give it to me again - at least that's what I was told the last time I got said summer language training funding). Basically I was looking at a summer where I had to do a bunch of work, but no way to get it done if I also had to try and find a job to, oh, pay rent and eat and feed the dog while I did it. Besides the job market is hellish and there was no certainty that I'd even be ABLE to get a job in three months. And there was this summer media-mix program taking place in Tokyo (it was a 4 week program, and only had 20 slots open, but I thought, well... maybe). Thus my month-long trip to Japan plan was born.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't get into the media-mix program. I console myself with the fact that they had more than 300 applications for 20 slots. But in the meantime I'd applied for 2 different fellowships, and gotten them, and both expected me to go to Japan (and do the program... but since I wasn't actually accepted, well, that was a bit of a pickle). My advisor basically said it would be ok as long as I *did* go to Japan. So I started making plans, and using some of the money to live on while I was waiting for July to roll around (the month I'd decided on).

Then I found out that the big fellowship I was counting on to pay for my airline ticket and my day to day expenses in Japan wasn't actually a fellowship where they give you the money up front, it was a reimbursement fund. Which meant I was going to have to pay out of pocket. And I lost my shit, because, HELLO IF I COULD HAVE PAID OUT OF POCKET I WOULDN'T BE IN THIS PICKLE GUYS, DUH!

Ultimately through begging and pleading and working with the business office I was able to request the money be distributed in advance. Of course the business office rules for paying in advance meant I was going to get the money ten days before I left and NO sooner. So if I was buying airline tickets that late it would have wiped out my entire set of funds.

Our grad administrator hatched a plan while I was tearing my hair out with frustration at this new road block that if I did some work for our department on their website, and helped her put together a grad hand book, that the department would find some way to buy my plane ticket. Thank god. Of course she got this approved by our Department Chair and then every other week before the tickets were actually purchased the guy changed his mind about whether they could do that or not. Nerve wracking until I had the damn tickets in my in box. UGH.

Luckily it did work out, the money came through, and finally I was on an airplane to ... GO TO JAPAN!

Unexpectedly great things:

Housing: instead of staying at a Guest House like I've done in the past, I found and reserved a room through Airbnb (which is sort of like a do-it-yourself rental place with everything from couches to full houses - all over the world). The woman who ran the place I ended up at, Sayuri, had actually gone to highschool in California, and was super sweet. She's a jazz singer. The place itself was great - a three bedroom (2 bath) apartment where I got my own room with air conditioner (so necessary!) and a washer/dryer. The room had the bare minimum: a bed and a shelf - which made sure that I went out every day into the world (so good, otherwise I probably wouldn't have). It was in the north part of Tokyo, but on the Yamanote line, so everything was pretty easy to get to. Sayuri was there most days doing clean up/checking in new people/etc, so we had great chats about food and books and stuff, and she invited everyone in the house to her place for the Natsumatsuri (Summer Festival) - she lived in an apartment on the Sumida river, right where they let off fireworks. For an hour and a half (or maybe two hours)! It was so much fun. So two thumbs up there!

Yokohama friends: One of the friends I'd made when I was staying for the long program was still living in Yokohama, and she invited me to hang with her and her husband a bunch. Even though we only ended up getting together twice, it was great to see them both, and pretty perfect both times. The first was when a friend of theirs was visiting, so they came up to Tokyo and we walked through the Imperial gardens and then went to the Japanese National Museum of Modern Art's Crafts building (which displays the modern masters of craft wares - like laquer and kimono and pottery). the second I went down to Yokohama to their place for game night (though it was mostly talking with an uno-like card game thrown in just to keep socially lubricated).

Random lectures: I'm on a bunch of discipline-focused mailing lists, and the first night I was in Japan I sat down and went through to find as many public lectures as I could since people always send out these notifications that start out, "If you're going to be in Tokyo on the 27th...."

a) the Media-Mix public lecture that opened the program I didn't get into - I made some comment at the end that jibed with what another woman in the audience was thinking, and she came over to introduce herself. It was fabulous because she works on manga but is one of the members of the A03 board and we had a ton in common. Also, she was friends with one of the two academics that I had been trying to work up the courage to email and meet.

b) this lecture at Sophia University of a UCLA professor's research (Japanese Literature in Motion: From Fear to Beauty: The Materiality of Writing and the Early History of Japanese-English Translation) where he was trying to find the earliest records of Japanese literature being translated for American readers. It was super interesting, but the best part was afterwards, when I went up to introduce myself, and found out he was the husband of one of my advisors!! And the lecture organizers, who I ended up talking to a little bit) were so excited by my interest in science fiction in Japan, particularly when I started talking about how I was interested in the way in which the Japanese SF field started translating words from English into Japanese (like cyborg, or transporter, or telekinesis) that they told me when I get a paper together that I'd like to present to let them know and they'd host me at Sophia University (well, if i could make it to Japan)!

Which was awesome!

Then I also went to my own advisor's summer event on Cinema & 3/11 - how cinema navigated the events of Fukushima (he always does this movie screening + round table discussion panel at his Tokyo-affiliated university), but opted not to go out to dinner afterwards because I was meeting a friend for dinner. Also found out I was going to have to meet with him after I got back since he was leaving Japan for family reasons. Oh well. The best part of the entire event? When Douglas Slaymaker actually came over and introduced himself to me because he'd been at the Sophia talk and thought I'd made a good comment. I'm USING ONE OF HIS BOOKS IN MY THESIS. It was so awesome! I mean, look, it's a small world, but still, it's so cool that I could be like, "Hey, wow, it's great to meet you - thank you so much for your book I'm using it in my dissertation on SF in Japan!"

The Two Scholars: The two scholars whose work has most inspired me are actually husband and wife. Tatsumi Takayuki is actually an english lit professor, but in his spare time he has published like half a dozen books on Japanese SF, been active in both US and Japanese SF fandom and academic circles, and is like a powerhouse of theory. Kotani Mari, who is a public intellectual, though I think she does some seminars from time to time at Meiji University, wrote this book called TechnoGynesis which is all about the intersection of monstrous and feminine in science fiction and fantasy (American and Japanese) and she goes to Wiscon every year because she's fascinated by cosplay and yaoi (Japanese slash, kinda) and fanworks and fan community. So I emailed Tatsumi and wasn't sure how I was going to get ahold of Kotani because she's notoriously bad at emailing back... but luckly I'd made friends with that women at the open lecture, and she generously invited me along to a dinner she was having with Kotani to catch up!

Especially because I'd met Tatsumi before, but I wasn't sure if he remembered me, and I really wanted to have a more theoretical discussion with him than I'd had. We did talk for nearly 45 minutes (and I totally made him forget he was meeting with someone else, hilarously). He was interested in my project, though also gave me a fright by telling me someone else had already written a book about the artwork in SF Magazine. In Japanese. (more on that later). He mentioned a couple of other things that he thought I'd find interesting, told me that I should be in touch with the son of the artist who did all the covers from the early SF Magazine (who I still need to contact) because the artist himself is still alive. And then we talked about SF as a rhetorical strategy, and about what it meant to write SF in our current age, and it was really good. At the end of our talk he told me, with real warmth in his voice that he'd had a great time talking with me and that my work sounded really interesting!

And the dinner with Kotani was OMG so much fun! You guys, we actually ended up talking about Omga!verse fic! yes, that's right, we were talking about OMEGA VERSE FIC IN JAPAN IN JAPANESE. Oh, but it was also incredibly difficult because the entire conversation was in Japanese, and after the two hour mark (and second beer) I definitely was having a little trouble concentrating on listening in Japanese. But SO GREAT! lolz. there was more, but I'm getting bushed trying to write this all down.

there were other really good things: food, and the Literary Museum (which had an SF exhibit), and my bra-shop still being there, and ordering from Amazon, and the thing I found when I went to the SF second hand book store. But I'm going to have to save that for another day, and another post, because this one has already gotten way out of hand.

also posted to katekat on dreamwidth | you can reply here or there
Tags: adventures in japan, phd program

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