Writer

My articles, essays, reviews, opinion pieces have been widely published in newspapers, literary journals, academic journals, magazines and online in both English and Japanese.

A selection:

‘I Smell You…’: Ethnic Smells and Olfactory Assimilation   ABC online, September, 2017

The ‘smelly migrant’ is the most subversive of all migrants. Societies, including Australia, have ways of controlling the practice of other cultures, languages, customs or religions, but bodily odours just can’t be contained.

Ethnic Smells
I eat a lot of fish….can you smell me??
The Creation of Nikkei Australia: Rediscovering the Japanese Diaspora in Australia Article published in Special Edition of Journal of Australian Studies, Volume 41 Issue 3 2017, Asian Australian Mobilities: Cultural, Social, Political (co-written with Mayu Kanamori)

Nikkei Australia article publishedAbstract: Japanese people first settled in Australia in the late nineteenth century, yet the history of Japanese Australians remains mostly unknown. In fact, many contemporary people of Japanese heritage often feel alienated from their own ethnic history, even actively rejecting any connection to the Japanese diaspora. This article examines the reasons behind this phenomenon and how the group Nikkei Australia grew out of a need to explore these issues of ambivalent identity. Read here (download PDF document) or contact me for copy of article

Review of Mei Mei, A Daughter’s Song Review of radio documentary published in scholarly journal RadioDoc Review, 2017

a0e414147f7b1cc06e231039ec1d4a3aAbstract: The most compelling aspect of Mei Mei: A Daughter’s Song is its enduring power as cultural critique. On the surface, the subject matter is the universal conflict between mother and daughter, but this radio docudrama by Taiwanese-American producer Dmae Roberts is in fact an ambitious exploration of the complex meanings of race, hybridity and cultural ‘mixedness’ that outline the contours of identity in multicultural societies such as the US.

This article examines how Roberts achieves this cultural critique in under 27 minutes by layering first person narrative, dialogue, actuality and dramatic fairy tale elements in Taiwanese, Chinese, and English into a sometimes playful, sometimes haunting soundscape. The fact that the foreign language sonic elements or the mother’s broken English may be incomprehensible is not just about adding texture, but about a rich subtext that invites the listener to experience this docudrama as a form of intercultural theatre.

Mei Mei is intelligent radio, intensely personal in tone yet conceptually grand in scope. It is the work of a generous producer. Read here (download PDF document)

Drawing on water; redrawing history Essay published in Drawing Water Catalogue, December, 2016
karayuki-san

While trade and commerce have always been the focus of Australia’s relationship with Japan, I want to suggest that the most enduring connection between the two nations is, in fact, the gendered flow of people. After all, nearly seventy per cent of Japanese people living in Australia today are women. This is rather intriguing. But even more intriguing (and little known) is the fact that the first ‘flows’ of Japanese women to Australia were prostitutes.

What if we were to rethink the Japan Australia connection by exploring the history of Japanese prostitution? Where will we end up? Read here (p. 26 of PDF catalogue)

Beyond the warp drive: science fiction’s search for transcendence ABC RN online, February, 2016

Stargate SG.1 CastReligion and science fiction may seem like unlikely bedfellows, yet both are concerned with the mysteries that lie beyond the boundaries of known realities. Masako Fukui consumed hours of sci-fi in an earnest bid to explore the outer reaches of human transcendent potential. Read here

My father, I honour, ABC RN online, August, 2015
Masako's Father, at 18, post war

I like telling people that my father was a kamikaze pilot. It makes him seem so courageous. After all, my dad was only 16 years old at the end of the war, yet he was willing to sacrifice himself for his country, his family. Surely that makes him hero, doesn’t it?

Or was he brainwashed, or worse, a fanatic? Just what place do the kamikaze have in Japanese history?   Read here

Asceticism or Anorexia? Rethinking Starvation and Women’s Spirituality, ABC Religion and Ethics website, April, 2014images-1

In 1380, a young woman starved herself to death. Her denial of food was regarded as a form of asceticism, a way of fusing with Christ through shared suffering. She was later canonised, and is known as Saint Catherine of Siena. In 2014, a young woman starves herself to death. But far from saintly regard, she’s considered to be mentally ill, seen as a victim of insidious cultural images promoting impossible thinness. Is it just historical context that separates these two cases? Read here

Madame Butterfly’s Revenge, Essay, Griffith Review Issue 40: Women and Power, May, 2013

Madame Butterfly's revengePHIL, WHITE, MALE, in his early middle years, looks me up and down. ‘Your long black hair, that’s very feminine. I love the colour of your skin, I love the shapes of your body, the deep brown eyes, you know. From an aesthetic perspective, I just find Asian women much more beautiful than white women.’ It’s easy to dismiss Phil as a sleaze. But his objectification of me, which in the humourless parlance of feminist cultural studies is called ‘the white male gaze’, is hardly unusual. It’s the way men like Phil inscribe onto my body their fantasies of the exotic, over-feminised, submissive Asian woman, turning me into their version of Rice Bunny, Lotus Blossom, Madame Butterfly.

As a Japanese woman living in Australia, I’ve often experienced this skin-crawling gaze. But that doesn’t necessarily make me a victim trapped in my ‘Asian-ness’. It’s Phil who’s the victim of Orientalist stereotypes, don’t you think? Read here

Intriguing life lost in an erotic stereotype, Book Review, The Australian, May, 2008

imagesSEX sells, and sex with an orientalist twist sells very well indeed. This could explain the increasing popularity of orientalist novels with covers that feature fetishised body parts of Asian women: a ruby red close-up of painted lips, a thigh exposed by a cheongsam slit, a coyly averted gaze framed by silky hair. These books tend to be first-person narratives of Asian women, and many are also based on the lives of real people. Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha and Wei Hui’s Shanghai Baby are two popular examples.

New to this genre is The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by first-time novelist Maureen Lindley. It has the predictable cover: a veiled face from which gazes a dark eye and next to it is the single word, riveting, an endorsement from Wild Swans author Jung Chang. The eye is indeed riveting, but the novel disappoints, despite being about a unique woman who broke oppressive social mores. The book overly eroticises her and depicts the East as passive, traditional, mysterious and, ultimately, the West’s exotic other. In short, the novel is underwhelming because it is textbook Orientalism. Read here

Factual whale tale is no blubber story, Book Review, The Australian, September, 2007
Harpoon: into the heart of whaling by Andrew Darby

YES, I’ve eaten whale meat, mostly as a child in Japan, and no, I wouldn’t eat it again. If you were to ask me why, I’d have to say a change of heart, a limp sentiment perhaps given the ruthless thuggery that characterises whale politics. But in a new historical account of this international debate, Harpoon: Into the Heart of Whaling, journalist Andrew Darby claims that to put a stop to whaling, all we need to achieve is a change of heart. By heart, he means our values or ethics. This appeal to our collective humanity is what makes Harpoon so refreshing and a fine read. Read here

Diversity Breeds a Stronger Identity, Opinion, The Australian, January, 2007

THIS is the first Australia Day I celebrate as an Australian, and a proud new citizen at that. And I’m pretty sure if you asked the other 100,000 or so people who, like me, pledged their allegiance to Australia in the past year, most would concur with my sentiments.

So why does a discussion of citizenship in Australia evoke such fear and divisiveness? Why is there so much uncertainty about multiculturalism on a day when we should be affirming our identity? Read here

Where to? Australia and Japan, Speech on Australia-Japan Relations presented at The Sydney Institute, Winter, 2001 edition

‘Let me begin by sharing with you an amusing story about Japan I heard recently. The story was on PM, ABC Radio’s current affairs program, which is not usually known for its tongue in cheek glibness. But in this story, the ABC’s Tokyo correspondent was interviewing Australian journalist and well-known “Japan expert” Murray Sayle about a curious new phenomenon—that of Japanese men using hidden video cameras to film inside the skirts of unsuspecting women.

‘The various perversions of Japanese men—from lingerie bars to those little shops in Tokyo that sell unwashed girls’ underwear, nicely packaged in plastic bags, of course—have always been the topic of lurid fascination in Australia, and most of these stories are probably worthy of nothing more than our ridicule.’ Read here

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