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DH in Japan

Day 41 on the Around DH in 80 Days projects brings us to the Digital Humanities Center for Japanese Art and Culture, or DH-JAC for short. The ambition of this project is “to adopt a global perspective and to promote the development of Japanese scholars whose skills match those of their foreign counterparts” and to become a “global hub” of Japanese artistic and cultural studies. I wonder if it’s possible for there to be a Japanese approach to DH that is unique from a western one, or if the overall goal is instead to create a universal language within DH for the preservation of Japanese art and artifacts.

I noticed that the link to the woodblock print collection, to my disappointment, just leads to a white screen so I decided to look at the map collection of Hugh Cortazzi instead. Tokyo is a city that has been consistently remade, whether it is because of war, nature, commerce, or a combination of all three, but no matter what era, it’s construct has always been confusing and labyrinthine, even to locals. It may be just romantic posturing, but I cannot help but see the sprawl of old Edo mirror that of a circuit board. Fritz Lang’s sci-fi fable Metropolis reinterpreted the 20th century city as a machine constructed in the image of a human with hands, a brain, and a heart, and these maps show an extremely complex urban nervous system.

Looking at this makes me wish there was some sort of film preservation database, especially considering that over 90% of Japanese films made prior to 1945 have been lost or destroyed. But that also gave me pause to think about if there could be a use beyond preservation for DH. Can it be creation and preservation combined? 3D printed recreations of decrepit artifacts, perhaps. But if I’m looking for information about how DH is shaping Japan right now, I’m usually checking my Twitter feed rather than an academic website, often time from American or British writers or journalists.