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Japanese Counterculture

The Antiestablishment Art of Terayama Shūji

2010
Author:

Steven C. Ridgely

Japanese Counterculture

Explores the significant impact of this countercultural figure of postwar Japan

Terayama Shūji (1935–1983) was an avant-garde Japanese poet, dramatist, film director, and photographer known for his highly provocative art. In this inventive and revealing study, Steven C. Ridgely examines Terayama’s life and art to show that a conventional notion of him does not do full justice to the meaning and importance of his wide-ranging, often playful body of work.

Steven C. Ridgely’s Japanese Counterculture is invaluable—a long overdue study of Terayama’s complex oeuvre, carefully researched and brilliantly argued. But Japanese Counterculture offers much more: it proposes to redefine the practice of cultural and countercultural studies, and even more significantly, the very nature of global culture. Therein lie its force, ingenuity, and radicality.

Akira Mizuta Lippit, University of Southern California

Terayama Shūji (1935–1983) was an avant-garde Japanese poet, dramatist, film director, and photographer known for his highly provocative art. In this inventive and revealing study, Steven C. Ridgely examines Terayama’s life and art to show that a conventional notion of him does not do full justice to the meaning and importance of his wide-ranging, often playful body of work.

Ridgely places Terayama at the center of Japanese and global counterculture and finds in his work a larger story about the history of postwar Japanese art and culture. He sees Terayama as reflecting the most significant events of his day: young poets seizing control of haiku and tanka in the 1950s, radio drama experimenting with form and content after the cultural shift to television around 1960, young assistant directors given free rein in the New Wave as cinema combated television, underground theater in the politicized late 1960s, and experimental short film through the 1970s after both the studio system and art house cinema had collapsed.

Featuring close readings of Terayama’s art, Ridgely demonstrates how across his oeuvre there are patterns that sidestep existing power structures, never offering direct opposition but nevertheless making the opposition plain. And, he claims, there is always in Terayama’s work a broad call for seeking out or creating pockets of fiction—where we are made aware that things are not what they seem—and to use otherness in those spaces to take a clearer view of reality.

Japanese Counterculture

Steven C. Ridgely is assistant professor of Japanese literature at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Japanese Counterculture

Steven C. Ridgely’s Japanese Counterculture is invaluable—a long overdue study of Terayama’s complex oeuvre, carefully researched and brilliantly argued. But Japanese Counterculture offers much more: it proposes to redefine the practice of cultural and countercultural studies, and even more significantly, the very nature of global culture. Therein lie its force, ingenuity, and radicality.

Akira Mizuta Lippit, University of Southern California

Ridgely’s exciting book opens Terayama’s world—his work as a poet, playwright/theater director, radio dramatist, filmmaker—and most importantly conveys the feeling and air of the times, the ‘tactical’ interventions of this fascinating figure within the space of counterculture.

Miryam Sas, University of California, Berkeley

Japanese Counterculture: The Antiestablishment Art of Terayama Shuji is not only a valid contribution to the study of Japanese arts, but a significant addition to the history of global art, where scholars of Orson Welles, Jean Cocteau, Francis Picabia and of other multimedial artists will hopefully follow Ridgely’s remarkable example of engaging with all aspects of an artist’s career.

Midnight Eye

Japanese Counterculture

Contents

Introduction: Global Counterculture, Visual Counterculture
1. Poetic Kleptomania and Pseudo-Lyricism
2. Radio Drama in the Age of Television
3. Boxing—Stuttering—Graffiti
4. Deinstitutionalizing Theatre and Film
5. The Impossibility of History
Conclusion: “Japanese” Counterculture

Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Japanese Counterculture

UMP blog: Understanding the global nature of counterculture.

The recent protests in Madison, Wisconsin, by a coalition of students, organized labor, and concerned citizens reminded many (mainly due to the size of the rallies) of Vietnam era protests, although this time citizens of all ages marched alongside unionized police and firefighters. (4/13/2011)