Japanese Film Materials in the Time of Quarantine


Yale has moved all its classes online and the governor of Connecticut has asked residents to stay at home if at all possible. The Yale libraries are closed and even I cannot use my office anymore. I want to get out, just like my house-bound cat Hanzo (pictured). But we all need to stay safe.

This has also created problems for my Japanese film historiography course this term. The final assignment was centered on students engaging with primary archival materials, which are now out of reach. At the same time, I have heard of a number of colleagues at other institutions asking how they can continue teaching a Japanese film course when there is limited access to materials. 

If you are fortunate enough to have a library that offers journals, e-books, and even streaming services like Kanopy and Alexander Street, accessible off-site through VPN, there is still much you can do at home. Some libraries will have digital subscriptions to Japanese newspapers and magazines, and you can always get a subscription to the Criterion Channel, Netflix, or Hulu (Mubi, which has a few Japanese films viewable this month, is promoting a “3-months-for-$1” sale). But if you are not so fortunate—or are seeking film-related print materials in Japanese—you’re going to have a harder time.

Some have stepped in to create lists of online resources for Japan studies. Paula Curtis, one of the CEAS postdocs at Yale, has created one here

I’ve been offering my class—and others online—some suggestions of film-related materials you can access while doing research in self-isolation. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and is centered on resources in Japanese, but I hope there are a few ideas that prove helpful.

First, you can check out the "Internet Sites” section in my "Japanese Reference Materials for Studying Japanese Cinema at Yale University” that I created for the Yale Library. Most are film databases, but a number are rich resources:

There are a few other sites I would add to the above for written materials:

  • Toshio Matsumoto Digital Archive: Only a few items so far, but already a number of exciting materials on Matsumoto such as storyboards for his experimental films.
  • Tsuchimoto Noriaki Bunsho Database: Typewritten versions of some of the notes and writings of the great documentary filmmaker. 
  • The National Diet Library has been strict about what it makes available online, but it has a number of books from Taisho and early Showa on film. Here is one search result for film. 

For film viewing, I would add the following:

And don’t forget that there are some film-related scholarly journals available online:

  • CineMagiziNet! I have an article in one of the first issues. 
  • Cinema Studies/Eiga Kenkyu: The journal of the Japan Society for Cinema Studies
  • Eizogaku: Journal of the Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences (articles in issues after 2014 as well as certain articles before that are available online). The international edition Iconics, which I used to edit, also has many article online. 
  • Also remember that many universities or departments in universities in Japan produce bulletins (紀要) which are nowt often available online in PDF copies. One can find a good amount of film research in those. For instance, Ritsumeikan University’s Art Research used to have many excellent articles on film. 

And last, I just want to remind you that many of my articles are available on the Yale repository

These are trying times all around the world. They remind us that we are all connected, and that what each of us does has ramifications for many others. They also remind us that the suffering of others is not distant, but close at home. I pray for everyone’s safety and for a quick recovery. Perhaps using the interconnectivity of the net, we can persevere a bit, even in the small world of Japanese film studies. Let us maintain and reinforce our communities.

Everyone stay safe and healthy!

Everything © Aaron Gerow. Send comments and suggestions to webmaster@aarongerow.com