- Season 2, Episode 6 | Claire Maree
- Season 2, Episode 5 | Vyjayanthi Selinger
- Season 2, Episode 4 | Gabriella Lukács
- Season 2, Episode 3 | Jolyon Baraka Thomas
- Season 2, Episode 2 | Suma Ikeuchi
- Season 2, Episode 1 | Charlotte Eubanks
- Season 2 Trailer
- Season 1, Episode 5 | Morgan Pitelka
- Season 1, Episode 4 | Meghen Jones
- Season 1, Episode 3 | Michael Strausz
- Season 1, Episode 2 | Marié Abe
- Season 1, Episode 1 | Levi McLaughlin
- Japanese Studies Radio Hour
July 23, 2021
Dr. Allison Alexy: Hello and welcome to Michigan Talks Japan, a podcast from the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. I'm Allison Alexy. In each episode I’ll talk with a scholar working in Japanese Studies – across academic disciplines, across time periods.
Today it's my pleasure to talk with Dr. Claire Maree, an Associate Professor and Reader at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. Dr. Maree is a linguist examining the reproduction, negotiation, and contestation of identities in language, particularly in media, as well as the interconnection of gender and sexuality in everyday language practices. She has published extensively in Japanese, including formative work on discrimination against people in same-sex partnerships in Japan who cannot marry legally. Although we discuss some of her earlier work, our conversation today centers on her newest book, Queerqueen: Linguistic Excess in Japanese Media, which examines popular celebrities who speak as gay or queer people. It was published in 2020 by Oxford University Press.
In our conversation, Dr. Maree discusses linguistic practices and trends in media, many of which occur on mainstream television and reference or play with gendered Japanese speech. In Japanese, there are words, phrases, and styles of speech that are explicitly marked as women's language and are supposed to index gentle and proper femininity. Although many women do not regularly use, or do not only use, this type of language it remains a recognizable category and therefore is very ripe for play, satire, and commentary. For example, in onê kotoba, gay or queer men can use stereotypical women's language – phrasing that is supposed to index gentle and proper femininity – to express mean, crude, or harsh statements. Because Dr. Maree's new work centers on media, we have embedded a few examples in this recording but include more on the podcast homepage and in the episode notes. Please check them out, especially to see examples of how text is being used on screen in Japanese TV shows.
Finally, a note about terminology and content. In our conversation, Dr. Maree uses the abbreviation SOGI - s o g i - to shorthand "sexual orientation gender identity." Additionally, this episode includes and discusses language – both in English and Japanese – that some listeners might find explicit or offensive.
Dr. Allison Alexy: Dr. Maree, thank you so much for talking with me today. It's a real pleasure. Is there any particular way you'd like to start our conversation?
Dr. Claire Maree: Yeah, I'd just like to say how great it is to have the opportunity to talk to you today. Thanks for inviting me. And I'd also like to acknowledge that I’m joining you today from the Parkville Campus and the lands nearby. And I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation who have been custodians of this land for years, and to acknowledge and pay my respects to their elders past and present and to young leaders emerging within the community today. It's great to speak to you, Allison.
Allison: Thank you so much. That's a wonderful way to start our conversation. We're speaking from a pretty far distance, but it makes me really happy to hear your voice and to get to talk about this really fantastic book, among other things. Do you mind starting by giving a little bit of an overview of the argument you make in the book?
Claire: “queerqueen” is a term that I've come to propose as a term that points towards large difference within Japanese mediascape. It comes from the amalgamation of pejorative terms such as “okama” which means “fag,” and in Australian slang “poofter.” And also “onê,” which comes from within queer communities, and that's also kind of crossed over into mainstream media, based in language studies and queer theories and cultural studies. My argument is basically that the queerqueen style, that style of speech, style of embodiment, style of being, is in a cyclical pattern where it recurs across Japanese mainstream media, and that it is enabled through the work of language professionals. It's enabled through practices of transcription, giving voice to a supposedly authentic queerqueen through editorial practices and other technological components of media making. So rather than this style being something that is "wow, so unusual" and "oh, wow, it's a real product of 2007." My argument is that in fact, we can trace it back to at least the 1950s where it takes on different forms and is given different terms. And at each point it is labeled as being something new and it becomes into a type of boom. And that commodification is essential to the limiting of excess within media and also to the production and the continuation of heteronormative ways of being men and women that are situated in the political and the social environment of that time.
Allison: That’s such a wonderful summary. Would you be willing to give us an example of either a character or a person who uses this kind of queerqueen speech? The book has so many really excellent examples, a few of which I have to say really did make me laugh out loud.
Claire: They're pretty funny.
Allison: They're pretty hilarious. And I can tell you the one that I thought was hilarious, but would you mind talking through an example so listeners can have something concrete to think about?
Claire: The last chapter in the book takes up with the iconic figure of queer Japan in that of renowned chanson artist, writer, media celebrity, Miwa Akihiro. We could put Miwa at the beginning of the book as one of the original officially recognized by Japanese media as a queerqueen, although not so called at the time, right? And Miwa has experienced seven, eight, nine booms in popularity, and each time has been reclassified or resituated under a different category name that was the trending term of the period.
Allison: To give our listeners a quick example, here's a TV commercial from the 1990s in which Miwa Akihiro sells DHC skin oil and serves as an ideal, if complicated, representation of femininity. Miwa's voice is the first we hear, describing how this beauty product will turn back time for your skin. In the commercial, Miwa is dressed in a floor-length sparkly gown, with a white fur, and fancy makeup. We've included a link to the video in the show notes.
[clip of commercial]
Claire: Other figures, such as Matsuko Deluxe, who is the talent darling of the Japanese media, although, in COVID times perhaps that has shifted a little bit, and is a figure of excess in terms of taking up space within the media scape as a large figure. And also a figure of excess in terms of being able to talk about kind of bodily functions and other things that need to be censored and are shown to be censored in order to kind of push the boundaries of what is acceptable and what isn't.
Allison: As an example, here is a commercial from 2020 in which Matsuko Deluxe and two children are riding a small carousel that is turning very slowly. When one of the children complains that the carousel is boring, Matsuko uses a flat tone and so-called "women's language" to assert that amusement alone does not make for true happiness. It's an ironically and hilariously harsh message, especially delivered to a child literally on an amusement ride, but the harshness is thrown into relief when Matsuko wraps this with the feminine sentence final particle wa. Matsuko's voice is the first we hear.
[clip of commercial]
Allison: I think of Matsuko Deluxe as someone who's in a lot of commercials and a popular guest on panel wide shows that kind of thing. The one that made me laugh out loud the hardest was the TV show where the host edits in sounds of women playing tennis and grunting.
Claire: Oh yeah, yeah. That's a late, late night show with Matsuko, one of Matsuko’s first ever big shows before Matsuko went real mainstream. Yeah, whenever there's a bad word or something that is deemed to be censorable is uttered by Matsuko, it’s bleeped over and beeped out with the sound of someone smashing a ball on the tennis court. And it has to be a woman's voice, right? It's the woman's voice that is activating all of this kind of semi-erotic, semi-“ooh, gross! This is how they play tennis.” There's all these undercurrents of different things. And the really, really interesting thing I think about this example is that in the show itself, which is very sparse, it's very pared down, it's meant to be a very low budget show. There's this elaborate convention of censorship that's built up and that's used mainly for Matsuko's speech, not for anyone else's. So the idea is that Matsuko is saying things that are so over the top, that are so what you can't speak on TV in Japan, that it needs to be censored. But that premise – what needs to be censored and what doesn't need to be censored – is being played with on a very complex level. And that's what makes it so fascinating.
Allison: Yeah, I realize that I'm responding to like the most simple, basic part of it, but the idea of, instead of having like an X or a bleep sound or something, you have a woman's tennis grunts, I find that very entertaining.
Claire: Yeah, it’s fun.
Allison: Do you think it's fair to say most of the people you're talking about in the book identify as queer? Would that be fair to say?
Claire: Well, I think that word "queer" we need to be careful of how we can mobilize it within the Japanese language context. Thinking about "queer" as a term, it entered Japanese around about the 1990s, when we begin to explore queer theories in Japanese, right? That's an important point. But the people that I talk about in the book positioned as masculine but feminine, feminine but masculine, perhaps they have same-sex desires. There are people, celebrities who are on the record as being gay men. That's how Matsuko would describe himself, as a gay man. But some of the other figures maybe would identify more as trans or trans women, maybe non-binary in terms now. So the term "queer," if we understand it as kind of an umbrella term, that is encompassing a variety of genders and sexual orientations and gender presentation, gender identities, and how people view themselves in relation to norms or binaries. I think we can say that most of the people that I've brought to the book could fall into that umbrella of "queer."
Part of what I'm trying to hint at in this book is that these terms are specifically used at certain points in time, and they have histories of meaning, they have discursive arenas in which they have particular power as well. Those shift and change. There's never just one term that can be used. And at the same moment in time, people who may identify as "queer" may be trying to put distance between that and identifying as perhaps as "homosexual" or other terms. There's always this interplay of different meanings, arenas in which words are used, which is part of why it's interesting to me as a linguist, but also part of why it's difficult to discuss in simple terms.
Allison: Absolutely. And certainly please correct me or challenge the terms I'm choosing. I know that I am not nearly so knowledgeable as you are about all the different valances that these terms come with. I'm using broader strokes than I probably should be as I'm thinking about different groups.
Claire: But we kind of have to do that in a way, you know, to talk about these things. And that's part of the reason why this term “queerqueen” in the title of the book, it's not capitalized. I'm not trying to present it as the category, a category, but maybe as a more macro concept through which we can talk about this.
Allison: Maybe we could pause there and talk a little bit more about a queerqueen or queerqueens plural. Could you help us define it? You've already explained it a little bit.
Claire: coming from linguistics or linguistic anthropology, it is a form of styling and it's a recognized kind of media figure, most usually positioned by the media as someone who is a man. For example, in some of the makeover media that I discussed in the book that was really popular in the mid 2000s, 2003 to 2005. This is the point when the term that was used within the queer community, “onê kotoba” crosses over into mainstream primetime TV, and takes on a more expanded meaning in and of itself. At that time, the queerqueen is positioned as someone who is a man, but is more womanly than a woman, more feminine than a woman. And a man who is attracted to men and therefore can give advice to heterosexual women – usually just positioned as women without the heterosexual, within this discourse – to women on one, how they can better up their womanly femininity and two, on how they can attract men more easily.
This kind of trope appeared at different points within history of media from 1950 to the current day, with slightly different nuances. These “onê” in the media use a unique way of speaking, which is “onê kotoba.” That's how it's kind of positioned in 2003, 4, 5, around that time. Now the interesting thing is, “onê kotoba” is a term that was used within the gay men's community and the queer community to refer to a kind of style that was effeminate men and their use of what would be considered softer language, but with a bite, right? The bite is really important. So within Japanese, traditionally, there's thought to be these major styles of language, one of which is women's language, which is kind of feminine and soft and, you know, very beautiful. And one which is kind of vulgar, right? The onê play with this and the kind of softness of this supposed that feminine language is meant to index, by actually being completely to the point, blunt, being able to talk about, you know, taboo subjects about the body, about fucking, about shitting, about things like that, but to do it with this so-called gentle speech style.
When that crosses over into mainstream media, the use of feminine language is there. And the use of the bite is also there. And the use of this tension or this erotic part of what women's language is meant to be is also there, but it gets scaled down a little bit in terms of, you know, the limits of what you can say on primetime TV, but it's always pushing at those limits, which is where the excess is a really important part to understand it. It's showing the excess that is always inherent and there, by doing so demonstrating when it is perhaps dangerous to go that far.
Allison: Would you mind giving us an example of women's speech? So listeners could hear the difference in case they don't already know.
Claire: Usually in that stereotypical mapping of so-called Japanese women's language and Japanese men's language it appears within the pronoun. Japanese language has a very rich arrange of different pronouns that can be used. So “atashi iyadaawa” would be the hyper-feminine or “ore sonna no yadayo” would be the hyper-masculine. You notice when I'm doing that, I'm trying to take on a persona, raising pitch, sounding more kind of lyrical. Lowering pitch, kind of sounding more forceful. That's part of the styling. The fact that I can mimic it means that I have an image of what it's like. I know the linguistic resources. This pronoun with these kinds of – what many people call – sentence final particles, interactional particles, and this kind of vocab. I can kind of combine them together to reproduce this style of speech, right? The fact that many people do that who speak Japanese and share these ideas around language then indicates that it's a style that is recognizable to many people and it can be used in many different ways.
That's a little kind of hint of what's happening in the sound of the speech when it's reproducing, for example, audio. My original thought was we have this speech style people within the queer community, it was part of the repertoire. There were lots of ideological ideas about that speech and what it was doing. And one of them was that it was a spoken form. It couldn't be reproduced in writing. If you wrote it down, it would just sound like women's speech, when in actually it wasn't women's speech. It was a parody. It was really doing a lot of complicated things, looking at gender and sexuality. To put that in writing, it would just look like it was stereotypical women’s speech. I thought, yeah, well that sounds pretty right on. The reason that it has been, therefore, been able to cross into mainstream media is because in the late 1990s to the mid 2000s, there was an explosion of the use of text on screen, in the form of teroppu and the use of all of these animated textual elements.
So I thought, yeah, great. That's the reason that has happened at that point. it dovetails nicely in with the explosion of makeover media. At that time, you can make yourself into a better person, look at these men who were born men, but are now more feminine and speak more femininely, and are more beautiful and can attract men. Kind of a bit of a gray zone in the last one, but that's the message, right? If they can do it, what's your problem, honey. It's kind of the message of the media, right? And I thought, yeah, that makes sense.
Allison: And “here, buy this please.”
Claire: Yeah, right. That makes sense. We've got the technological introduction of the new things you can do with digital media. We've got this neoliberal force on how one has to continuously make oneself better and sell oneself better on the market. We've got huge anxiety about declining birth rate, et cetera, et cetera.
But then I went back and looked at the iconic twins, Osugi and Peeco, who have been around since the 1970s and who were labeled the okama, fag, or poofter twins by the media and who produced these amazing array of conversational dialogue books. And I started reading them. It was like, oh man, let's look at all of the rich textual work that's being done in these books. I can read this and I can hear them speaking. What's happening here? How are the editors manipulating this text to get this effect? And so my original assumption, yes, digital media, blah, blah, blah. I was like, Nope, we've got to go back and look at this. How can they get all of the meaning-making that's happening with the editorial process, which comes from people listening to those twins speak together in a performance of their twinness and their “okama-ness,” their faggy poofter-ness, right? As something that they are launching into mainstream media. Recording it, we've got references to people who are taking notes. We know that there must be someone there who is doing it, a kind of note taking of it and then reproducing it. So that labor of recording and reproducing then became a really central part of what I was looking at.
Allison: I was really taken with the initial popular knowledge that these ways of speaking could never be written down because somehow like the satire would be lost or it would just look like quote unquote normal women. Right. Perfectly normal women. And so you would lose all that other excess, right?
Allison: I as a viewer, a nonnative Japanese speaker watching Japanese TV, I can't understand it all. Like I can't even see it all because some of it's happening so quickly, but I wonder if you might describe what that looks like perhaps to someone who hasn't seen it and how all the references and the jokes and the intertextuality is playing out.
Claire: The show that I analyzed in the book is called “Onê Mans” and it was broadcast in the mid 2000s. It's a makeover TV show, lifestyle TV show and it, it kind of runs pretty much on the format of having a boy-band member who is the main kind of personality assisted by a younger woman who is recognized as like an announcer as they call it in Japanese and then a panel of guests.
And what happens around this time, the use of text is also becoming more and more a part of TV. There's different theories about why there's so much text on Japanese TV and it relates back to reality TV and the idea that we can't quite hear perfectly, for hearing people, the kind of the off-the-record in whispers that people speak in reality TV. Those were pulled out and put into text and Japan is quite a big subtitling culture, anyway. So the fact that this text on the screen is not something that people are going to get quite anxious about. It's a part of the visual culture, right? Gradually with more and more technologies and being able to do things with bigger screens and different editing tools, the ability to flip text, to spin it, to animate it so that sometimes it looks like it's coming out of somebody's mouth, to bounce it across the screen, becomes something that is done.
There are different grammars, we could probably call them, for different shows. The color, what kind of font is going to be used is mapped out in the visual layout of that show. Each show has its own kind of sense and style of textual work. And these are just wild. They bounce across the screen. They do literally come out of people's mouth. Question marks appear atop of a person's head with a sound effect to accompany it. So it's like question mark, question mark, question mark. These all give a specific reading of how we, as viewers, should be interacting with what's happening on the screen. There's quite a bit of work that's been done around this in linguistics, in relation to, for example, Korean TV, Japanese TV, et cetera. And the way that the text is kind of regimenting the way that viewers should interpret, it gives us an interpretation.
So if there's a question mark, it's saying you should be questioning, or what they've said is questionable. If it seems pink, obviously the semiotic meaning of pink is linking it to femininity. All of that rich meaning that comes from punctuation, that comes from color, that comes from, something that flies across the screen to something that plods across the screen, has a certain meaning to it. So this has been layered on to the media that we consume. And from that the editors are inserting another layer of meaning. For the queerqueen, they’re set up as the expert, they're going to teach all these wonderful things. They are also the comic relief in this discourse, right? This is not my belief. I should say at the outstart that these are not my beliefs. This is the analysis that queerqueen can never be a full woman. There's always going to be something that will trip them up. And so it's important to have that comic relief, which is also a message making, if you step too far, this is what happens to you. Ha, ha, ha. It's that kind of joke.
Allison: I think that probably our listeners would be able to have some kind of makeover show in their mind, even if it's not Japanese. I can think of lots in the US maybe not necessarily with the same kind of gender dynamics necessarily, but a show in which the contestant or the guest is often really admonished and told that their normal choices are unacceptable often in gendered and raced terms maybe, explicitly or implicitly, and their behavior is corrected. And then at the end, you know, they're beautiful or happy or, or whatever. What you're saying is that kind of correction is being done here using a queerqueen character who can never, actually get to whatever true or pure or complete gender identity and is always just getting closer and closer and closer, in the discourse, right – never actually able to fully be what they seem to be trying to be. Is that fair to say?
Claire: Yeah, there's a lot of really good work that's been done on makeover media and how that expertise is taking on a specific role. First of all, Weber argues that they must demonstrate the necessity, the absolute horrific situation that the person to be made over that is in. They've got it all wrong. So first of all, they have to be able to be put into submission so that then the expert can lead them on this path towards greater fulfillment, through the consumption of different products. I mean, through makeup, through redesigning your office, putting yourself in a suit so that you can look for work in a better way. These things that you must do through consuming the right kinds of products and being led by this expert, who has the skill to be able to do that. Within the U.K., there's been a lot of discussion about how the class implications of that and how the classist narrative, also the race element as well, whiteness is the thing to which everyone should aspire, this kind of narrative, right? And within this genre in Japan, it's this idea of Japanese woman-ness, it's very specifically Japanese and it's very specifically a type of woman. It has class implications, ethnicity, and also it's very binary in terms of gender.
Allison: I've never seen either the show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” or what is now called “Queer Eye.” But I found myself thinking a lot about it when I was reading that chapter. This sort of benevolent group of gay or queer men who restyle and improve contestants but it's always about buying stuff or having stuff be given to you that a normal person would have to buy. I believe that one of the seasons of Queer Eye goes to Japan. I was wondering, have you seen that? Is there anything that we should know about it if you have?
Claire: Do you want to reparative reading or do you want to critical reading?
Allison: Well now I want both. Is that too much to ask? I’m so sorry.
Claire: I mean the reparative reading is that these things are light entertainment. They're lots of fun in times such as we're going through, and now we can enjoy them at a certain level.
Claire: But the more critical reading is a lack of engagement with the queer community in Japan and how there's a lack of awareness around gender and the way that it manifests within Japanese society-slash-culture. That's the thing about, most English Anglophone-based shows that look towards Japan. The exotic and the incredibly oppressed, the weird Japanese who are so submissive and bound by what they have there. That seems to be the perspective that people have of Japan. And I suppose in my work, I started out mostly writing in Japanese. And writing in Japanese, and thinking about issues within Japanese academia has been a really important, urgent pressing issue when we're talking about gender-slash-sexuality in relation to Japan. And moving to writing more in English, I found it quite interesting, the reactions that people have about Japan and gender / sexuality in contemporary Japan. Being able to respond to that, I'm still not quite sure if I can do it in a way that maybe opens up people's understanding and parts through some of this exotification. If you do have a chance, I would say, watch it and have a session with someone after.
Allison: I think it'll have to be you. I'm sorry, but I'll call you back. Be like, "I did my homework and now I'm back."
Claire: Yeah. That'd be fun. That'd be a lot of fun.
Allison: I think you completely hit the nail on the head where I am very reluctant to watch anything, mainstream American media representation of Japan, because I feel like I have to brace myself because it's going to be exoticized and maybe nasty and Orientalized.
Claire: There's a fine line there, right, between entertainment and enjoying things for entertainment and you know, really unpacking it. And I suppose I tend to unpack things a lot and yeah, it makes the heavy work.
Allison: It does. Yeah. That actually brings us back to the book in a really nice way, because many of the celebrities and performers that you're talking about in the book are trying to entertain audiences. What I would imagine to be sort of mainstream heteronormative audiences most of the time is, is that fair to say?
Claire: Yeah, I mean, this book takes up everything that is in mainstream media. This is huge business. These people are real celebrities. They're the faces of commercial advertising. They produce books that sell well. They have advice columns. They are huge in each kind of specific time frame and that reoccurs again and again, over time like Miwa. Within any kind of entertainment scene, there are the people who trend in the moment and then may fade away. What's really important is that this trending, these booms are cyclical, they occur again and again and again with new personalities, but those personalities become very, very central to the time. So there's always this kind of discourse that, they’re weird, they’re queer, they’re kind of out there. But if we only see them as that, we don't see how integral they are, how mainstream media cannot operate without these people. That sounds like it's a really big claim to make, and maybe I should step back and think about that and be careful. But I think we could say that they're very important. This position, this figure, this personality is really quite vital to the entertainment industry.
Allison: Can you talk more about that? Why are they so vital?
Claire: Well, I think there's a couple of things. There's the nostalgia for a lost time in which we supposedly had a fixed binary and men spoke like men and women spoke like women. In the same way that they can personify that, they can also personify the dangers of straying too far from that. And therefore offer a great source of entertainment of alternative possibilities. So it's not just one thing, it's a combination of things. And of course the people who come to be symbolic of the queerqueen in a particular time and space in Japanese mainstream media, when I say mainstream meeting and the entertainment, I'm talking about television, magazines, mainstream publishing, and things like that.
These people are also incredibly talented. That's the other key point. They’re very talented in what they do. They're very talented in the way that they can style themselves, first of all. They're very talented in their skills as critics or their skills as writers. I mean, I love these people. I love them in a way that's kind of difficult to explain. And I love that there is that richness. But there's the undercurrents of all of this misogyny in amongst all of this kind of binary and all of this, this lovely queerness that we can find if we think of it on that level, but we can't cut it off from the reinstatement again and again, of this heavy binary, this heavy heteronormativity, this misogynist kind of positioning of women, the anti-trans stance as well, that is in there. There's this pleasure and this wonderful talent, but also these small kind of political social discourses as well that are there, which is what to me makes it fascinating.
And also the fact that it's language, the language is so important. That to me is just so, so key that it's all about the language. The Japanese language is so creative, there's all of these things that people play with and do and style and make and as a Japanese language as a cadence, some of that just gets kind of glossed over in the education that people go through in relation to Japanese, when it's such a vibrant, creative, full of possibilities kind of space, the language itself, the work that gets done through language, is just amazing. I’m in awe of it, just totally in awe.
Allison: I’m remembering now one time when I was living with a Japanese woman in Tokyo and we were watching TV in the evening and it was some like comedy panel show. I could understand it, most of it, but I definitely was not getting the jokes. I was getting like 20 or 30% of the jokes. And finally she was laughing uproariously and basically muted the TV to explain to me the joke that just like made her cry with laughter. Maybe it's because American English jokes are more obvious to me. So the play feels less complicated, but I feel like many Japanese jokes are very, very linguistic. There's like all these really rich layers of intertextuality.
Claire: Like manipulation of the text. And then the carrying of that sound through speech and it really fascinated me how that would be done, going back to look at Osugi to Peeco. And there's a couple of points where the annotations that are put in that text are central to understanding that joke that's underlying. And a lot of them are quite vulgar, right? Talking about smegma and euphemisms for the vagina and these kinds of things, which are really, really part of the richness of the queerqueen style. That vulgarity and being able to kind of carry it through in a particularly playful way. That is all playing with the way that the words are rendered in text. If you have a recollection of which characters are used for what, when you hear the sound, you can then substitute the different characters for it and get in on the joke.
But a lot of especially contemporary media, television media, there's so many in-house jokes. Without kind of being able to track that back and pull that forward to your knowledge, there's different levels. And that's what a lot of fan-based consumption of media is also based on that, the more knowledge you have, the more that you get the in-jokes, which is how it can be further commoditized and commodified and sold as products. That's the whole kind of fan way of marketing as well. The language itself, I think I agree. Listeners probably don't know anything about my background, but I spent 30-plus years speaking and reading and writing and researching in Japanese. And a lot of that time I've been based in Japan. I’m always reticent to say that because it sounds like I have to justify my research or something.
I consider the queer community, at least in Tokyo, as something with which I'm deeply enmeshed, even though I'm now maybe not based there as much as I was. The language is a central part of my daily life, I don't really know why I always feel like I have to share that with people, but I think it has to do with the politics around language and especially around the Japanese language and experiences of being maybe an MA student or a PhD student and talking about gender and sexuality and being kind of gently and sometimes not so gently, it being said that maybe I should not do that kind of vulgar stuff. And I should think about the beautiful Japanese women's language that we have and as a foreigner, I should study that. And for a lot of my work I'm kind of pushing against that again and again about the vulgarity of language, because the language isn't vulgar in and of itself, it's the meaning that we give to it. It's the way that we use it and the richness of that.
Allison: Well, it makes me really happy that a good portion of this book is about sort of beautiful, perfect women's language, but it's being used by men or other characters that are not the sort of archetypal perfect Japanese housewife type. So I feel like that's a success in a lot of ways.
Allison: I was going to ask you, if you wanted to talk about, I use your work all the time that you've written about same-sex partnerships and legal restrictions and stigmas in Japan and the koseki system, the household registry system. I didn't know if you wanted to talk at all about that as well. I think almost every class I teach about Japan, I include at least one of your pieces because they're so smart and so clear. I'll plug it here. If listeners are interested in those kinds of topics, they should absolutely check them out.
Claire: That’s very sweet of you. That's kind of the other important thing that for me has been to write about, maybe in English as well, to cut through this idea that oppressive back, waiting for Western saviors to come in and, you know, change all of these things is just the completely wrong way to think about issues around rights in Japan. There's always been a vibrant community and a lot of people doing a lot of activist work that many don't recognize or can’t see, I suppose.
The other thing with these, this idea of booms, right? The project that I'm working on at the moment is tied to the LGBT boom. And that's a word that is used in Japan about this most recent boom in interest in queer matters, issues, et cetera, the positioning of that as something new, I was like, oh, far out, man, really? It's not kind of new in a way that you're saying for goodness sakes. [Allison laughs] but it's being rebranded, remarketed, we have to outline LGBT, what does it mean? And then, you know, they give the wrong bloody explanations, and you can include it in the dictionary, but the definition is wrong. And these are all amazing forward moving things that have happened because so many people for so long have been doing such good work. However they appear and they get taken up as if suddenly, because of the Olympics, we have to now pay attention to LGBT issues because we're hosting the Olympics and the Olympic charter says that we can't discriminate. And that is the other side of it. There's these moments of opportunity that arise. So how can communities, activists take advantage of those moments of opportunities in recurring booms, you know, it's one thing to say it's not new, stop doing that. And another to kind of try and take advantage of it for want of a better term and to raise awareness and then how to deal with the aftermath of that when it stops being a boom and it's no longer in the media spotlight. How do we carry through the good work, how do we continue it on?
I'm interested in thinking a lot around that, especially since the Olympics may not happen or is happening, or we're not sure. But the way that it is highlighted and the issues surrounding sexual orientation, gender identity, LGBT peoples and issues is quite important as well, but it's not quote unquote new.
Allison: Am I understanding correctly that you're saying that recently in Japanese mainstream media, the framing of queer issues is that because of International Olympic Committee pressure, Japanese people have to pay more attention, learn more, about LGBT issues? Therefore there's this seemingly new boom that is of course not at all new?
Claire: Yeah, that's my critical reading of it, right. The more gentle reading of that is that the media has picked up on the importance of LGBT issues. And remember, the key here is that it's framed as LGBT, right? It's this umbrella term that has suddenly become a term that's used in Japan to refer to a diverse group of people with diverse needs and issues labeled as LGBT. I could say "I'm an LGBT" in Japanese. That's the way that it's being used in the contemporary moment. And the impetus for that definitely, I think, comes from what was to be the 2020 Olympics and comes very definitely from discourses around human rights at the global level. There's a wider discourse there around human rights and the framing of the LGBT and the SOGI, SOGI issues as well, and how they are transported into the Japanese context.
So within the Japanese context, then we have this push to open up new markets. We have this untapped LGBT market, and I've written about that a little bit. So we have to take an advantage of it, but we also have to explain what this term LGBT means because nobody knows, in Japanese, what it means. And so through doing that, and this is also done through the use of media technologies and textual technologies on the screen and kind of announcer standing there and explaining L is this, B is this, G is this and T is this, we get this construction of this new term that Japanese people do not know because Japanese people are the consumers of this media. That's the typical setup. And we need to explain it. And so this ignorance around, same-sex issues, this ignorance around trans rights is given validity through the importation or the manipulation of this new term that nobody knows we have to describe and is linked towards something such as the Olympics. So it's quite complex in the way that it is working. And it also opens up these queer moments where activists can also take advantage of that, to perhaps raise awareness, to perhaps get funding for different projects that are very important and to talk about issues such as partnership rights.
Allison: I want to come back to activists and partnership rights and those set of issues, but how is it possible that on the one hand mainstream media have these very popular queerqueen characters or celebrities on shows, in magazines and that kind of thing. And on the other hand are pretending that LGBT – excuse me, I keep wanting to say Q – LGBT is a new term that no one understands. This feels like it should be a contradiction, but I know it's not really. Would you mind talking a little bit about that?
Claire: Yeah. I'm with you. I want to say LGBTQIA plus. So once again, I would say that this is the term that's being used in contemporary Japan. It's not the term that we're using in an abstract format. It's actually a term that is found, so it's a term like “onê kotoba,” a term like those that have entered mainstream culture. And that contradiction is perfectly capable of occupying the same space. And I think that's true in maybe most cultures that contradiction that you have these hugely famous, well-known, much loved personalities who are on TV every day, who sell books, but it's disassociated from a political engagement with the issues that if we step back and think about it, that person, due to the way that they may be categorized or the shape that their partnerships might take or any other kind of configuration, discussing the issues that they may face in terms of societal barriers, in terms of access to rights, in terms of citizenship, is completely disassociated with that.
I think that's part of the bigger story and why it's important to look at this incredibly, banal every day, quite trashy, form of popular culture than the work that it does. Part of the work that it does is to facilitate that contradiction. When people ask questions about Japan who perhaps have not studied in Japan, or have not lived in Japan, or do not have access to information about Japan, they often have a question about why that seems to suggest that well, Japan doesn't have an ultra-religious right that enforces these norms in the way that, say, the religious right in Australia might. However, what that misses is the central importance of things such as the family registration system, the koseki, and the ideas around the family and how central they are. That’s not peculiar to Japan and the research around the family and the ways in which society is structured around the family in terms of rights and responsibilities across perhaps the East Asia region. So it's not peculiar to Japan and I don't mean to suggest that it is.
However, the fundamental key to understanding things is often understanding how the law works and the legal ramifications and the rights that people have. And these are often mapped onto the family. So without really seeing, understanding, being able to tap into that information, it can be difficult to understand what is disallowing things to proceed in a Western framework or Western rights-based framework. It just doesn't work in the same way. There's a lot of understanding. There's a lot of love. There's a lot of support at the same time that there are clear barriers to people perhaps experiencing recognition of their partnerships, to people being able to identify as the gender that they are. And the pushback against that is quite strong.
Allison: One of the articles that you've written that I find so smart and so helpful, from the koseki book that David Campbell and Karl Jakob Krogness edited. Your chapter, begins with a statement that from maybe an outsider's perspective, the homophobia within Japan isn't particularly apparent, especially if you focus on gay men. But if you start to pay attention in different ways, you can see the ways in which legal boundaries and family norms really structure some people's desires and partnerships and lives as less acceptable or unacceptable, or frankly illegal. And I find that to be such a powerful and accurate way of describing it.
Claire: Thank you very much. I’m blushing.
Allison: You had mentioned partnerships and to go back a few minutes, the possibilities that activists might be seizing on around the Tokyo Olympics as a way of getting more recognition for the partnerships that they have, or that they want. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind talking a little bit more about that, if there's an example you could share or something you're thinking about.
Claire: I suppose the discourse around partnership rights, we can go back perhaps to early 1970s, 80s, 90s, and how people were attempting to form maybe alternative family connections and how the legal system in Japan really enforces a lot of rights in terms of visitation, the right to go and see someone in hospital, the right to live in the same space, et cetera, et cetera, as confined by a very specific interpretation of the family as that which is registered on the same family registration document. There are ways of getting around that and people are always very creative. So one of the ways of getting around that in Japan has been for same sex partners to adopt the younger partner. So that that person then is registered on the same family registry, therefore is given the same rights-slash-responsibilities as a legal family member. So the idea is that the legal family is the important part there.
The idea that noting your devotion and love in the presence of a God or noting your devotion and love in the presence of your family and friends, they’re different arguments. So this is about the legal family and what is possible for people who are classified as being legal family, and to be a legal family you must be on the same family registry, which therefore means you must be a Japanese national. There's lots of complicated issues around that. And in the 1990s, I was involved with my partner in trying to think about how we can perhaps achieve some form of self-control over how we might want our personal matters to be judged in the instance that one of us became incapacitated or died. To do that meant to explore the possibilities of how people had approached their partnerships and talking to lawyers, around that time, the possibility seemed to be to have a joint living agreement drawn up and to have it registered at a notary office. And for that to be an agreement between two people, it could be any two people. It could be three people. Where you listed out the things that were important to you and who you wanted to entrust them to. That would be things such as if I am incapacitated I would like this person to be my carer. Whereas the system in Japan is such that the legal family automatically becomes the carer, right? In case that I die, I would like to leave my belongings to this person. Whereas in Japan, the legal family is the body that has the right to those things. Doing that and registering it is one step forward in perhaps stating to the state, to society, that this is the way that two individuals want to have their arrangements and their relationships understood.
There was quite a bit of activism, if you want to call it, like movement around that. And it was adopted by quite a few people in, for want of a better word, all kinds of different relationships, they could identify as same-sex, they could identify as not same-sex, kind of combinations. That has grown a little bit into movements around the registering of partnerships at the local level. It's not a direct progression, but a lot of the ideas that were formulated around what we were doing in the 1990s to raise awareness of the right of an individual to delegate certain rights and responsibilities to specific people has been taken up in the form of the wording around the partner registrations that now happen in the local government areas. And alongside that is a movement at the moment for marriage equality, where there are cases being put to different legal jurisdictions within Japan to recognize same-sex marriages. It's not possible at the moment because within the family registration system, you must have legally a husband and a wife, and it's considered that two people who identify as the same sex or are registered the same sex, gender cannot do that.
Allison: I was actually hoping that you would be willing to talk a little bit about this because I think it's really important and I don't feel like it's like some kind of natural extension of your book, but it's about how these kinds of questions play out for real people in real life.
Claire: Yeah. I think the history of these things are often not obvious, and it's really important to see and understand the work that is being done over longer spans of time. Bringing it back to the book, in contemporary media, everything is spontaneous it's here now. Like it's never happened before. But these conversations have been going on for a very long time. Some of the great writers in Japan have adopted people onto their family registry so that their possibly, and most probably, partner could actually inherit their work when they died, So it's a long-span thing. It's not something new. There is a time, it's the right time, the right place. Now's the time to bring these cases to the court. Now's the time to push for registration at the local level. I think that it's possible to do that because of this larger, more long standing collective kind of engagement with these issues.
But unless you are aware of those things, you don't see them. It's like discussions around gender as well. There's been a lot of work around gender. It's not a new sudden thing that happens. The reason that queer studies or queer theories get taken up in different languages because they resonate with what's already happening in that space and that they can help to address certain issues, certain concerns that people have they can bring those tools with them. So de-colonizing the academy is a really important thing, as well as understanding that people take on ideas in order to use them and for their local purposes as well. And those two sides are really important, I think.
Allison: I wanted to ask about how you did the research for this book, the methods you used and the process you went through. Because sometimes for me as a non-linguist, reading linguistics almost feels like reading math. It's so complicated. It seems like you have to write on multiple different levels and give us the translations and give us the glosses and give us the transliterations and then tell us the color of the text that was the subtitle on the screen. And so I was just wondering, what kind of methods did you use to produce the research for this book?
Claire: I wanted so bad for people to kind of enjoy reading about language, but then I have to go through and explain so much, and I think it must be overpowering in a certain way. And I get really fixated on the small things. And sometimes I feel like, "Ooh, maybe I've lost the big picture." So that to me was something that took me a lot of time to work through for this book. For example, with something like the textual analysis of Osugi and Peeco's fabulous range of very trashy interview books, [Allison laughs] where they pick apart famous women from the period and, just trash them like seriously trash them. Or they gossip about, who’s having sex with who, and who has the biggest dick and how much you can see in this porn film and how much you can't see. It's like, whoa, okay, stepping back here for a minute to take my breath and go in and have a look at this again. It's really a process of reading through enough to get a feeling for how the language is working and then getting it into a digital form so that you can perform some kind of corpus-based work so you can search for different items.
My work is more qualitative, but at the same time to find out what can be unpacked and used as an example, you have to have a more global idea of what's happening in the text. Really finding incredibly, incredibly interesting things. It's such a pity that I couldn't use any of the visual material from those books, but there are just amazing illustrations in these books of naked men with their genital area airbrushed out. But it's not airbrushed out. It's drawn as if it's been brushed out. So all of these wonderful layers. These occur with the speech, that's being transcribed, it's just mind blowing. What are the things that are happening there? How do these people refer to themselves? Like what actual words are they using means that you have to go through and search for them and look for them in context, what are the kinds of textual things that are happening? Punctuation, how many times are exclamation marks being used? Why are the double exclamation marks being used when it could be just one. And the ellipsis, all of these dot dot dots and that wonderful suggestion of time. And this moment that is waiting to be filled. Those are quite, one may say boring processes, going and finding them in a text, putting them into digitally manipulable forms.
Same with the audio-visual. I use a piece of software called ELAN, E L A N, which is used by a lot of linguists who are looking at video recordings. For example, those who may be studying sign language or those who are studying the way that people interact and use their hands and their facial expressions and things so that you can put a lot of information of the same timeframe in an audio visual. So you can have the sound, the speech that you hear, the sound effects that you hear, you can transcribe in the texts that you can see appear and you can add annotations that describe it, identifying examples of the concepts that were recurring after watching these shows for 10, 15, 20, 30, more times [Claire sighs and Allison laughs] over a period of 5 or 6 years, kind of like, I feel like I can reproduce them.
Allison: You must be really fun at parties though. I feel like that's an awesome skill to have.
Claire: No, because no one's really interested, oh my goodness. The really bad thing is that I’ll go into a restaurant when we’re able to go to restaurants again, I listen to everything that's around me and suddenly I'm not really talking to the person who’s sitting in front of me which is really bad, very, very bad. So using software to be able to break down texts and then bringing them together and reconstructing them, reconstructing them is really difficult. How much information can you give that actually enables someone who cannot read Japanese to understand the richness that is there. And there's kind of, you know, there's ways to do that for linguistic data, but there's not a lot of ways to do that for written data. So trying to find a way of doing that with it was a bit of a test for me. I'm not sure I've done it the best way. I think it probably looks a bit messy, but hopefully there's enough there that people get a sense of what's happening.
Allison: To me as a reader, I do speak Japanese, but there's a lot of slang in your book that I didn't know. It didn't look messy. It just looked thick, like it looked like it had lots and lots and lots and lots of layers, which I think is correct.
Claire: Yeah. It's all about layering. There's so much happening, for example, in a book or on a page on the screen or one screenshot, you can have multiple layers of sound and texts that are all combining together in this process of meaning making, which appears as if it’s just happened. Like it's spontaneous, it's there, but when you unpack it all, you have to think, well, there was obviously the camera person. And I've also done ethnographic work of sitting into the spaces in which people do this work. And it's full-on, overnight sessions of layering this text and these sound effects on to the material that's been filmed. We have, in the final product, this idea, or this kind of image, or this representation of authentic queerqueen persons speaking in this way, and this is how if we put their language that they're talking right now, into text, this is what it looks like.
We all know that yes, it's spontaneous, but in many ways, these TV shows have somewhat scripted, people occupying specific positions within the show itself. This has been edited to actually form the final product. And then after that's been edited, a section that had to be rendered into text have been selected. Those have then been made into kind of like a script. That script is then used in the next process of editorial work, where that's inputted into a computer and attached to the image digitally. And in that process, do we animate this? Do we spin it? Do we make it really big? And then really small? Do we put that in red? Do we put that in white? Do we make it sparkle? All of that work is done there. And that's a whole other process and there's a little bit of negotiation. And what happens is it's done according to a script and the timing of it, the colors that'll be used, the font that'll be used. Those parameters are pretty much set, but there's also a little bit of, "Ooh, no, that doesn't quite work. We'll change it." Or, "oh no, that might cause a problem we'll have to get rid of that." That goes into it as well. So there's multiple players who were involved in these multiple processes that result in this product, which seems as if it's just all there, just all kind of happened. And that's the part that I'm really interested in, all of that language work that is there, that facilitates this figure as if they are completely natural, kind of authentic. I think that that is an important thing to remember and to include in the analysis, which is why the representation of it needs to be made as well.
Allison: It's amazing to think about how much work goes into looking and feeling and seeming natural.
Claire: On Australian TV, we're beginning to see more text on screen and that's been absolutely fascinating. It's begun in a similar way as it did in Japanese media, terrestrial TV, on reality shows where someone's kind of facing a little bit off camera or they're whispering and you can't quite pick it up. And so the text is there, but it's also being done in things such as cricket ads. Okay, so stepping back here, what's cricket, it's a sport.
Allison: I appreciate your very low expectations for my knowledge.
Claire: A sport, with a bat and a ball. One of the major summer sports in Australia and also footie, which is Australian rules football. The shimmying and the sparkling and the special effects that can be put in to make it look like, wow, he just kicked that ball really fast and high and wow. That “wowiness” is inscribed through manipulating, adding different visual effects to it. We're beginning to see these come in a little bit more. Also with self-censorship tropes, which I discuss a lot. They're becoming a lot more popular, not just bleeping people out, but putting something across their mouth area so that you can't kind of quote, unquote, read what they're saying. Those things are happening because of the digital technologies that are available more.
Allison: I don't use TikTok, but I feel like the things I've seen on TikTok, where you can have hearts and eyes and sort of graphics that you shoot across the screen and that sort of come at you or fall down from the sky. I feel like it's getting closer to what we see on Japanese mainstream TV.
Claire: I agree. That's all to do with the digital technologies that are in our pockets, in our hands and how we can now embellish screens and do more meaning making. We've got different ways of adding meaning to something that is already there. That's a really big part of what's happening, this meaning-making aspect. It's not just about Japanese language. It's about the way that we make meaning and how we build on that and collectively do it as well. in large part, how that is commodified and sold and how we become part of that market and push that market forward, as well as just texting to a friend. These technologies are quite important, I think, and it's not just the digital technologies. If we go back in time we’re talking about stenography and how that entered Japan and how that radically left an impression on how Japanese language is rendered around the time that there was all that discussion about language and how to modernize language and how to write contemporary Japanese at the time. And those discussions, they're also really important to reflect on in the current time as well.
Allison: Yeah, absolutely. I'm wondering if there's any detail in the book, footnote, or example or analysis that took a while for you to figure out or for you to get access to and therefore you might like to share with us? These things that look like nothing, but it took months or weeks or years to get right. And so I always want to ask authors and researchers, is there something that we should be especially impressed by that you figured out or that you got access to?
Claire: My initial reaction to that question is to say this book wouldn't be possible without librarians. This book would not be possible without the people who enabled me to go and talk to them, either. For me, that always seems like a really important thing it's embedded in the footnotes, but a really good example of that is in the chapter where there's a reproduction of a newspaper ad that shows the twins Osugi and Peeco on one of their books. And I wanted to use as many images as I could. There are copyright concerns, there's all kinds of concerns around that once we go into a global market, right. But just to have people have a little bit of a feel of these books, which are so amazingly amazing and the illustrations and the rich kind of visual culture that is there, the ads seem to be a really good way to do that. But the copy that I could get, you could kind of see the text behind it, or it wasn't clear enough. I had a fantastic librarian who went out of her way to see if she could locate a better image that we could reproduce. That was just amazing.
Allison: Let me describe it a little bit. It's a newspaper ad with the two twins. It's black and white, but they're rendered as like full images, full people. And then in the background, there may be like 15 or 20 pencil line drawings of celebrities. Then the book is advertised and in the paragraph describing the book, there are lots of characters that are rendered either as X, X, X, or O, O, O, as signals that some detail has to be censored in this kind of titillating way, I guess. Is that fair to say?
Claire: Yeah. Yeah. You can only get the full story if you buy this book. And this book is just trashing all of these, all of these very famous actresses and singers and things like that. But, you know, we can't tell you because, oh, please excuse the redaction marks because we just can't represent this in one of the biggest newspapers in Japan. It's from the Yomiuri Shinbun, so it's a big thing.
Allison: Were the copyrights hard to get because of who owns the books?
Claire: No, no, the copyright was an issue because a lot of these illustrations are by very well-known illustrators, but some of them unfortunately are in ill health and therefore it wasn't appropriate for me to try and bother them at this stage to try and attain the rights if you know what I mean. And also because some of these companies no longer exist. Some of the smaller companies, they don't exist anymore. It was great because I got in contact with some people at CBS Sony, and they were fine with reproducing thiswe haven't talked about it much, but I just love the World of Golden Eggs. I remember the first time I ever watched it with friends and we were just in hysterics, laughing so much at it. And the producer for that was just very generous and said, sure, as long as you make sure that it's cited and the copyright is shown.
And I find one of the really great things about the generosity that people show, generosity in librarians going out of their way to help, the generosity of people of opening up their offices and saying, sure, I'll talk to you. They don’t know me from a bar of soap. I mean, they have no clue who I am, but they were willing to kind of share their time, the generosity of people listening like you are today to me just talk and talk about these things. This is going to sound like really insincere, but it wows me in a very deep way. I just think it's amazing that people are so generous with their time. Of course not everybody is. And I think that understanding that is an important part of what we do as well, then trying to strive to be as generous as you can with your time as well. Well, that's for me, because I tend to be a little bit busy, so I want to pull back and say, well, if someone has been able to be so generous to me, then I should really see that I can reciprocate it in ways that I can.
Allison: I completely identify with what you're saying. First of all, let me echo what you've said about how amazing librarians are. Librarians routinely solve all my problems. I feel like they're spies, like they're friendly spies and [Claire laughs] they're, and they're like, oh, let's figure this out. And they figure it out. And it's astounding. I mean, I really enjoy interacting with librarians and I'm so grateful for them. We have a producer on the show named Justin Schell who’s a librarian, who routinely solves all my problems. I feel like they think the world is a crossword puzzle. And they're just like, "oh yeah, can I figure this one out too?" They have such a good attitude. I genuinely aspire to have such an attitude about puzzles in the world.
do you have any recommendations about books or articles or TV shows or films or any, anything it can be in Japanese or in English?
Claire: Oh my goodness. There's so many things that I love. Hey, everybody should be reading queer work that comes out of East Asia. Any work by Shimizu Akiko for example. Do you know about Taniguchi Hiroyuki and all of the work that he does around legal issues? Do you know about Kanno Yuka and all of the work that she does? These are people in my immediate kind of queer theory peer group, that area, but people really should be engaging with the work that's coming out of that. And then looking further afield, Todd Henry and his work and queer Korea, all of the amazing work that's coming out like queer Singapore, around Thailand, that whole area I think is really, really important for people to look to, read, and understand if they're thinking about gender and sexuality.
And then the other part of me goes, "oh, what about all of the language stuff?" Because the important work that's done around linguistics and the work of Miyako Inoue and her fabulous book, which is Vicarious Language, the work that Laura Miller does and Janet Shimamoto-Smith. And then I start to think of all of this amazing work that has been done that has influenced me so much, the work of my PhD supervisor in Japanese Komori-sensei. And I kind of get overwhelmed. So how can I just give one thing? I don't have a favorite.
Allison: Well, I didn't mean to imply it needed to be only one. So I'm glad you've just given us a nice, a nice list.
Claire: I did want to actually say, look at the work that's coming out of a journal that's put out by the Japan Foundation in Sydney, which is called “New Voices.” It's honor students and PhD researchers and MA researchers kind of doing their first publication work. I just can't recommend that enough.
Allison: And I think that’s open access right?
Claire: Yeah. It's great. Really great.
Allison: Thank you so much. This has been such an incredible joy to talk with you and thank you for your book. It's wonderful.
Claire: I've had an absolutely wonderful morning. It's great to talk to you.
Allison: Thanks for listening to this episode of Michigan Talks Japan. If you're interested, please check out our other episodes, which are available where you found this one and through all podcasting platforms. We're always interested in your reactions or comments, so please reach out on facebook or twitter @umcjs. I want to thank the Center for Japanese Studies, Reggie Jackson for our theme song, David Merchant for IT support, and Jordan Cleland for production work. This podcast was co-produced by Robin Griffin, Justin Schell, and myself, and edited by Robin Griffin. I’m Allison Alexy and I hope you’ll join us for the next episode, the last of this season, a conversation with Dr. Grace Ting.