February 22, 2019/ 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

Presentation Room Charles E. Young Research Library

Disaster, Human Sacrifice, and Ishimure Michiko's New Noh Okinomiya

Presentation by Professor Christina Laffin, University of British Columbia

In February 2018 the writer and activist Ishimure Michiko died at the age of ninety, leaving a literary legacy of poems, novels, plays, and interviews. Ishimure is often portrayed as a founder of Japan’s environmental movement, thanks to her efforts to represent those affected by Minamata Disease through grassroots organization, direct action, and her literary works. Among Ishimure’s writings are two noh plays: Shiranui, staged in 2002, and Okinomiya, performed in Kumamoto, Kyoto, and Tokyo in October to November 2018 in collaboration with textile artist and Living National Treasure Shimura Fukumi.

This presentation will discuss the production of Ishimure’s Okinomiya from the perspective of translator and viewer. Why did Ishimure write a noh play as her final work? What does this tell us about Ishimure’s notions regarding classical, traditional, or premodern forms? How and why did a noh play about war, natural disaster, and human sacrifice resonate when performed after the death of Ishimure in 2018?


About the Author

Christina Laffin is an associate professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and the Canada Research Chair in Premodern Japanese Literature and Culture. Her research interests include travel writing, women’s education and socialization, and Japanese poetry. She is currently writing a book about female literacy in premodern Japan and translating a 13th-century career guide authored by and for women. Past publications include a monograph on the medieval poet Nun Abutsu (Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women: Politics, Personality, and Literary Production in the Life of Nun Abutsu, Hawai‘i University Press, 2013), a co-edited collection of essays and translations on noh drama (The Noh Ominameshi: A Flower Viewed from Many Directions, Cornell East Asia Series, 2003), and a multi-volume anthology on Japanese history (Gender and Japanese History, Osaka University Press, 1999; managing editor).

Download file: 2.22.19-LAFFIN-FLYER-fa-ymg.pdf