Perfect Beat, Vol 12, No 1 (2011)

‘Sounding Japan’: traditional musical instruments, cultural nationalism and educational reform

Henry Johnson
Issued Date: 23 Sep 2011

Abstract


Focusing on the political milieu of Japanese cultural nationalism, particularly the closing years of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century, this article discusses the transformation of tradition with regard to traditional Japanese musical instruments and their place within discourses of cultural nationalism. Instruments have many meanings and associations within different social and cultural spheres, but radical changes to national cultural policy can quickly transform the ways they are perceived. The starting point for this paper is the Meiji era (1868-1912), which witnessed monumental changes to and influences on Japan. It is from this period that the concept of tradition took on a whole new meaning, and a time that serves as a point on which changes in contemporary Japan are often based. Bringing the observations to the current Heisei era (1989-), traditional Japanese instruments have, especially since the late 1990s, been foregrounded within a wave of cultural nationalism that has been perpetrated simultaneously by a distinct shift in state education policy and an increased popularity and consumption of traditional and more specifically new traditional music.

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DOI: 10.1558/prbt.v12i1.11

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