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Can You Feel Me Now? Japan Society Panel Explores Intimacy in Japan

from Law to the Socio-Sexual Revolution of Japanese Cell Phones


For Immediate Release

Lovesick Japan: Stories of Intimacy from Courts to Keitai (Cell Phone) Novels


Tuesday, May 5, 2009, 6:30 pm, at Japan Society


New York -- Stories of widespread dissatisfaction with romance and intimacy in contemporary Japan abound, from the hottest cell phone novels to international sex surveys and complex legal opinions. To discuss the phenomenon, Lovesick Japan: Stories of Intimacy from Courts to Keitai (Cell Phone) Novels brings together Dana Goodyear, journalist, poet and author of the recent article “I ♥ Novels” in The New Yorker, with Mark West, law professor and author of the forthcoming Love Judges: The Crisis of Intimacy in Japanese Law and Society. Moderated by Kenji Yoshino, a leading scholar of the relationship between law, literature, and society, Lovesick Japan takes place Tuesday, May 5, 6:30 pm at Japan Society.

"Underneath Japan’s famously strong social fabric lurk widespread emotional pain, loneliness, and isolation," writes West. Drawing from 2,700 publicly available court opinions written by Japanese judges, West explores how issues of intimacy have led to social problems in Japan, such as difficulties building intimate relationships; infrequency of sexual interaction; an extremely low birthrate; high rates of abortion, divorce and suicide; and the pervasive trend of complete social withdraw.

Keitai shosetsu
(cell phone novels) are a popular form of entertainment in Japan, especially amongst teenage girls and young women, with millions of titles reaching multiple millions of readers, and many having a second life as hit movies and even best-selling print publications. "The medium—unfiltered, unedited—is revolutionary, opening the closed ranks of the literary world to anyone who owns a mobile phone," writes Goodyear. Focusing on artistic, social and commercial ramifications, she also points to the meduim as an outlet for suffering.

Dana Goodyear
is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she has worked since 1999, In 2008, she was a Japan Society U.S.-Japan Media Fellow and published the New Yorker article "I ♥ Novels" in December 2008. Her work has appeared in many periodicals including The New York Times, New York Review of Books, Los Angeles Times, Slate, and Vogue. Goodyear is the author of Honey and Junk (W.W. Norton), a collection of poems. She lives in Lost Angeles.

Mark D. West is the Nippon Life Professor of Law, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and the director of the Japanese Legal Studies Program at the University of Michigan Law School. He is the author of Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle: The Rules of Scandal in Japan and the United States (2006), Law in Everyday Japan: Sex, Sumo, Suicide, and Statutes (2005), and Economic Organizations and Corporate Governance in Japan: The Impact of Formal and Informal Rules (2004), and an editor of The Japanese Legal System: Cases, Codes, and Commentary (2006).  He has studied and taught at the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University, and has been a Fulbright Research Scholar, an Abe Fellow, and a fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. From 2003 to 2008, he served as director of the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies. He is currently completing the manuscript for Love Judges: The Crisis of Intimacy in Japanese Law and Society [PDF summary].

Kenji Yoshino (Moderator) is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law.  He was educated at Harvard College (B.A. 1991), Oxford University (M.Sc. 1993 on a Rhodes Scholarship), and Yale Law School (J.D. 1996).  From 1998 to 2008, he taught at Yale Law School, where he served as Deputy Dean and became the inaugural Guido Calabresi Professor of Law.  He has published extensively in academic journals, such as the Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, and Columbia Law Review, as well as in more popular media, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the L.A. Times.  His award-winning book Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights was published in 2006 by Random House, and his next book, tentatively titled Shakespeare's Plays as Parables of Justice will be published in 2010 by Ecco.

Established in 1907, Japan Society has evolved into North America's major producer of high-quality content on Japan for an English-speaking audience. Presenting over 100 events annually through well established Corporate, Education, Film, Gallery, Language, Lectures, Performing Arts and Innovators Network programs, the Society is an internationally recognized nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that provides access to information on Japan, offers opportunities to experience Japanese culture, and fosters sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S., Japan, and East Asia.

Lovesick Japan: Stories of Intimacy from Courts to Keitai (Cell Phone) Novels takes place Tuesday, May 5 at 6:30 pm. Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street between First and Second avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E and V at Lexington Avenue and 53rd St.) Tickets are $10/$8 Japan Society members/$5 seniors & students. For reservations visit www.japansociety.org call the box office at 212-715-1258. For further information call 212-832-1155 or visit the website.

# # #

Shannon Jowett
Japan Society
T: (212) 715-1205
F: (212) 715-1262
E: sjowett@japansociety.org

Kuniko Shiobara
Japan Society
T: (212) 715-1249
F: (212) 715-1262
E: kshiobara@japansociety.org

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