Digital Humanities Workshop - Session 1

Impact of the Digital on Japanese Studies

Session 1 - Abstracts


Catherine Ryu, Michigan State University

Hyakunin Isshu (HI) as a Mini Database

The traditional format of the imperial anthologies of Japanese court poetry is conceptually akin to our notion of databases: they are curated collections of data whose basic unit is thirty-one syllable waka. This presentation explores the possibility of literally transforming Hyakunin isshu (a hundred poets, one poem each), compiled by Fujiwara Teika in the thirteenth century, into a mini database. HI is in essence already a “meta database” since Teika selected one hundred poets whose poems were already included in key imperial anthologies of waka. What I envision is a web-based interactive HI database expressly designed to handle queries guided by three research questions:

  • To what extent can the basic linguistic grammar of classical Japanese be taught through waka?
  • To what extent can the cultural grammar of classical Japanese be explicity taught through waka?
  • To what extent can the linguistic and cultural grammars of classical Japanese be visualized for pattern recognition?

As such, once completed, this mini database will facilitate learners’ entry into the realm of classical Japanese via the 100 poems represented in HI.


Aliz Horvath, University of Chicago

On Structure and Style in the Dai Nihon shi

The Dai Nihon shi (The History of Great Japan), a major history writing project initiated byTokugawa Mitsukuni, contains an abundant but relatively under-researched collection of materials, providing insight into the characteristics and changes of Mito historiography during the Tokugawa and the majority of the Meiji period. Due to the substantial length of the source, the utilization of digital tools can significantly facilitate the process of dealing with the large amount of data, enabling us to trace the focus points of the compilers’ work in different time periods. However, this type of research methodology may have its limitations because it does not take into account the unique stylistic features of the text. Since I am at the initial stage of the research process, my presentation will focus on the fundamental questions of what digital tools may or may not tell us about the Dai Nihon shi and how we could potentially bridge the gap between content and form.


Paula Curtis, University of Michigan

On Late Medieval Forgery Production

The political and socioeconomic upheaval of Japan’s sixteenth century offered a fertile environment for ambitious groups and individuals to transcend social and geographic boundaries in pursuit of advantageous ventures. This presentation will introduce one such occasion, the formation of networks between low-ranking nobles in Kyoto, provincial warriors, and metal caster organizations, as they colluded (knowingly or unknowingly) to produce and disseminate forgeries of imperial documents and artisanal histories in exchange for goods and titles. I will consider means of cataloging the movement and relationships of people traversing the distance from Kyoto to the provinces and the mobility of the documents exchanged among them. By doing so in the context of digital humanistic research methods, I wish to explore the possibilities and limitations such techniques have for the analysis of medieval subjects, which are often plagued by issues of scarce or incomplete documentary evidence.