Event Details

The Future of Japan: The Imperial House as a Window into Changing Definitions of What it Means to be Japanese

Portland State University - Center for Japanese Studies

Room 327/8/9 Smith Memorial Student Union

1825 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97201

Start Date: 02/25/2020 6:00 PM

End Date: 02/25/2020

A talk by
 Kenneth J. Ruoff
Portland State University


February 25, 2020 | 6 pm
Room 327/8/9 Smith Memorial Student Union
1825 SW Broadway

Free and Open to the Public.

After his book about the Heisei Monarchy (1989-2019) was published in Japanese in January 2019, History Professor Ken Ruoff was asked by virtually every media in Japan, first and foremost NHK, to comment on imperial happenings including the abdication of Emperor Akihito and the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito.  In this talk, Ruoff will alternate between explaining experiences such as what it is like to work in the world of live television (Ruoff appeared on 5.5 hours of live interviews for NHK), and the significance of the imperial house, which is how Japanese define what it means to be Japanese.  
The year 2019 was not an average one for Ruoff. On the very day that he arrived in Japan in late June to debate the famous conservative commentator and manga artist Kobayashi Yoshinori about the role of the emperor in Japanese society, a 13-hour debate in Japanese over two days that was then compiled into a book, far right commentator Yagi Hidetsugu accused Ruoff of conspiring with the Asahi Newspaper (Japan's equivalent of the New York Times) to put a "mixed-race emperor" on the throne by calling for a change in the law to allow women to ascend to the throne.   This bizarre charge left many people shaking their heads, but it disgusted Kobayashi, who repeatedly denounced Yagi as a racist, asking over and over what would be wrong with a mixed-race emperor anyhow.