Beyond Nostalgia and the Prison of English

Positioning Japan in a Global History of Emotions

  1. Japan and the History of Emotions
  2. The Prison of English
  3. Approaching Japanese Concepts of ›Nostalgia‹
  4. Tsugami Eisuke on Nostalgia and the Prospects of Kanseishi
  5. Nostalgia in Japanese Psychology
  6. Towards a Global History of Emotions


[I would like to express my gratitude to the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), through which I was able to write this article during my time as a research fellow. I am also much indebted to Tobias Becker, Jan-Holger Kirsch, Sabine Stach, and Takao Yasuo for their invaluable feedback on early drafts. A note on style: All Japanese names are presented in their traditional order (i.e., family name followed by given name) in the article’s main text while the inverse is used for citations.]

The study of emotions and their histories is at a critical juncture. After more than three decades of disciplinary growth, the field is arguably facing ›its (de)provincializing moment‹ in line with the broader challenges that a global turn presents to the imperial legacies of certain historiographical traditions.1 The present article contributes to this moment by exploring theories and methods for the study of Japanese emotions and their histories that move beyond Anglocentric interpretations framed by ›Northern glasses‹.2 Here I fully embrace the vision of Gabriela De Lima Grecco and Sven Schuster in their call to work towards ›a more nuanced, self-reflexive, and critical version‹ of our national histories in a global context.3 Their prioritizing of Walter Mignolo’s ›geopolitics of knowledge‹ as a heuristic device is not only a useful means of holding the field of global history accountable to its own scholarly hierarchies of power, but also helps us confront the ways in which the universalistic use of English emotion terms and concepts, while aspiring to incorporate other histories into something ›global‹, too often assimilates them into ›a cosmopolitan narrative on our [Eurocentric] terms, [and] in our tongues‹.4 Nostalgia studies, a field whose visibility has increased considerably in recent years, is a key lens through which to observe these dynamics.

The late historian David Lowenthal claimed that ›nostalgia is worldwide‹.5 But the rapid pace of research in this field is bound by a certain paradox. It is sustained by a functional level of common understanding of what we mean by nostalgia, and yet its elusive polysemy and the debates this inspires are what lend it its very momentum. This is further amplified when we shift to the Japanese context in which such a tension between assumption and contestation comprises a broader semantic net. Indeed, as many Japanese intellectuals have expressed it, their work is part of a modern scholarly tradition that has largely been bound by the limits of the Japanese language for more than a century, fostering terms and concepts that may only make sense in their own language.6 However, as sociologist Okano Kaori has stressed, this sense of Japanese confinement speaks only to the ›unhealthy dominant influence in knowledge production‹ held by the Anglo West, where ›universalistic theories are generated and legitimated, leaving the rest of the world at the periphery to be providers of primary sources or to apply these universalist theories in socially and culturally particular contexts‹.7 Confronting Anglocentrism and embracing global perspectives must therefore be pursued without ghettoizing other languages and scholarly traditions. The broader concern of this article is thus to bring into conversation the varying ways in which scholars in Japan have approached ›nostalgia‹ specifically (and emotions generally) as an object of study, with the theories, methods, and concepts prioritized by the predominantly Eurocentric field of emotions history.

Central to this task is addressing what linguist Anna Wierzbicka describes as being ›imprisoned in English‹, a state in which one is both blind to, and confined by, the cultural specificity of the language’s semantic and epistemological parameters.8 I also argue that this very prison has been internalized by many Japanese scholars of emotion, some of whom, in more recent years, have begun seeking to transcend the stronghold of English in the way it has shaped both discourse and theory in the Japanese academe since the nineteenth century. This necessitates an interdisciplinary approach in which linguistics, cross-cultural psychology, and historical perspectives (of the conceptual, global, and emotional) must be addressed in the same intellectual space. To do so is to engage the very ways in which Japanese scholars themselves are working with the concept of ›nostalgia‹ and its validity as something pertaining (or not) to the Japanese experience. This represents a useful means of bridging humanistic and scientific methods in the study of emotions.

The interventions presented in this article are, accordingly, twofold. Firstly, I will demonstrate how Anglocentric notions of nostalgia as conceptual frameworks often neglect the particularisms that underlie the way in which the Japanese language communicates and operationalizes cultural norms and codes of feeling. In so doing, I will briefly explore conceptual histories of some of the key components comprising the Japanese semantic net of ›nostalgic‹ vocabularies. Secondly, I will examine the work of musicologist and scholar of aesthetics Tsugami Eisuke to clarify the conceptual and psychological distinctions between nostalgia and Japanese ideas of temporal longing. Tsugami’s hitherto neglected methodology for engaging a Japanese history of ›emotions‹ will also be unpacked.

Finally, confronting Anglocentrism through the very language in question comes with a necessary disclaimer. Beyond acknowledging the inherent irony of the objective, comes a related acknowledgment of the sometimes-unavoidable use of imperfect translations. I will occasionally employ approximations of certain Japanese words or expressions where necessary for comprehension by readers unfamiliar with the language. However, it is my intention to normalize the use of untranslated (and arguably untranslatable) words to level hierarchies of linguistic order and to afford agency to Japanese emotion terms and concepts in English-language scholarship.9 Indeed, as someone who cut their scholarly teeth in the Anglosphere itself, engaging in a critically self-reflexive practice entails reassessing the Australian and German ›schools‹ of emotions history out of which my own thinking has developed.10 In other words, the present article represents a ›letting go‹ of Anglocentric assumptions about the nature and conceptualization of emotions across space and time.11 I have attempted to embrace a simultaneity of epistemologies in an effort to temper my own academic rearing with emic concepts, theories, and methods forged by Japanese scholars whose contributions and interventions in the study of emotions have generally been limited by the boundaries of land and language.

1. Japan and the History of Emotions

As early as the eighteenth century, the Japanese were stereotyped in European popular culture as a people devoid of feeling – ›les Japon[ai]s froids‹ (the cold Japanese), as expressed by French playwright Charles-Simon Favart in 1743.12 This was an image that continued to shape outsider perceptions of a Japanese ›emotional‹ interiority well into the twentieth century and arguably still colors a certain struggle to comprehend the ways in which Japan’s vertical social structures and its prioritizing of group consciousness informs inter- and intra-personal relationships. And yet, since the 1970s there has been a discernible growth in emotions-based research linked to Japan’s postwar ›economic miracle‹. Thus, before engaging a discussion of nostalgia, it is necessary to briefly address how emotions and their histories have been studied in relation to Japan.

As early as 1946, American anthropologist Ruth Benedict famously characterized Japan as a ›shame culture‹.13 This was challenged in subsequent decades by the likes of sociologist Sakuta Keiichi and anthropologist Takie Sugiyama Lebra, who engaged in more nuanced, emic analyses of Japanese patterns of behavior and emotional norms.14 Psychoanalyst Doi Takeo’s influential work on amae – an untranslatable concept defined as ›the need of an individual to be loved and cherished or the prerogative to presume and depend upon the benevolence of another‹ – was also (and still remains) one of few Japanese interventions to influence Western psychiatric thinking.15 However, historians in Japan have generally been reluctant to engage with the topic of emotions. Morita Naoko explains this as a result of primary sources themselves in that, according to her assessment, objective evidence of whether and how a historical actor expresses a specific emotion in a specific context is uncommon and is thus rarely questioned in Japanese scholarship.16 One may also interpret this lack of engagement in light of the empirical conventions of Japanese historiography, whereby, even to this day, source criticism often takes precedence over theoretical concerns.17 Consequently, the lion’s share of research to date has been undertaken by psychologists, and much of this has been published in the English language. In line with Paul Ekman’s reconciling of the culturally-specific and ›universal elements of facial behavior‹, David Matsumoto has been a central figure in cross-cultural psychology, studying this intersection as it relates to the Japanese context.18 As I will discuss later in this article, Matsumoto places emphasis on the role of language in ›gaining an understanding of emotion‹ in a given culture, as the uniqueness of the respective vocabulary (its constitutive words, uses, and meanings) ›can point to important differences in the ways by which people […] construct their emotional worlds‹.19

While the history of psychology in Japan exceeds the scope of this article, it is important to acknowledge that the term most commonly used to express ›emotion‹ (感情 kanjō) today was a direct result of the Japanese confrontation with ›new‹ Euro-Western concepts and theories during the Meiji era (1868–1912).20 Indeed, one of the earliest uses of kanjō as a conceptual equivalent is found in Ichikawa Genzō’s translation of Théodule-Armand Ribot’s work on the psychology of emotions in 1900.21 Nevertheless, one would be remiss not to acknowledge the longer history of ›emotions‹ and their centrality in Japanese language studies prior to this turn on an axis of imported Western psychological thought. In 1824, for instance, grammarian Suzuki Akira defined non-referential linguistic elements as expressing ›voices from the heart/mind‹ (kokoro no koe), while Yamada Yoshio similarly approached Japanese grammar as ›the study of methods in which humans express ideas and emotions [kanjō] linguistically‹.22

At this point it is also important to emphasize that the disciplinary lineage that the modern field of emotions history has paved for itself through the foundational works of Johan Huizinga, Lucien Febvre, and Norbert Elias had a contemporary reception in the Japanese academe, a crucial link that has seemingly gone unnoticed. If we accept kanjō as a possible translation for the modern sense of ›emotion‹,23 then kanjō no rekishi (or kanjōshi) can be understood as the ›history of emotions‹. In fact, the earliest use of this expression appears in 1954 in Nishimura Teiji’s response to Huizinga’s Autumn of the Middle Ages.24 Similarly, in 1983, sociologist Sugiyama Mitsunobu engaged with the theorization of Febvre and Georges Friedman, articulating what he identified as ›the historiography of emotions‹ (kanjō no rekishigaku) or ›emotions and[/in] history‹ (kanjō to rekishi).25 And now, in more recent years, the works of self-identifying historians of emotion, such as Ute Frevert and Jan Plamper, have begun to enter Japanese institutions through the translation of their scholarship (though widespread reception of their work is arguably yet to be seen).26 Nevertheless, an exceptional voice in this narrative is the aforementioned historian Morita Naoko, whose 2016 article ›Considering the History of Emotions‹ (Kanjōshi wo kangaeru) sketches out in detail the rise of this field in the United States, the UK, Germany, and Australia, focusing particularly on the work of Frevert (prior to the Japanese translation of her Emotions in History) and the methodologies developed by scholars within her Research Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.27 Morita overviews an impressive array of literature published in English and German, but the image she paints arguably lacks the foreground of the Japanese historians who came before her. Rather, though no less importantly, she speaks to the greater influence of sociological studies on emotions in the Japanese academe, particularly the celebrated work of Arlie Russell Hochschild and her theory of ›feeling rules‹.28 In this regard, Okahara Masayuki is highlighted as a noted Japanese voice in his endorsement of a ›sociological-historical approach‹ that draws on the likes of Hochschild, Susan Shott, Theodore D. Kemper, and Norman K. Denzin.29 Morita has arguably paved the way more recently for the work of historians Itō Takashi and Gotō Harumi, whose essay ›The Historiography of Pain and Emotion‹ (Itami to kanjō no rekishi-gaku), published in their interdisciplinary volume on the same theme, is a strong sign of change in Japanese scholarly interests.30

Certainly, then, emotions history is beginning to gain a foothold in the Japanese academe. However, in the following, I will demonstrate with particular reference to the case of nostalgia that the simple ›exportation‹ of its attendant theories and methods is insufficient, and that greater effort needs to be made to engage with the priorities of Japanese historiography itself. Indeed, there have been a select number of scholars who have attempted to bring Japan into the ›global fold‹ of Anglophone emotions history. William Reddy, a dominant voice in the field, has offered his vision for a comparative history of emotions, employing Japan as one of his case studies.31 However, his underlying thesis is arguably a hard pill to swallow in its pursuit of European exceptionalism and its shallow engagement with non-European languages and scholarship, undercutting the spirit of the global turn and the necessity of multilingual and multilateral interaction. Similarly, the work of Barbara Schuler, while one of few admirable attempts to champion an (East) Asian Studies approach to emotions history, is less interested in ›a new theory‹ for this task and more concerned with ›an application of [what has] […] already proved useful for the history of emotions in Western cultures‹.32 This article shifts course from these previous efforts by inhabiting an intellectual space that allows for the amplification of non-Anglo/Western voices, theories, and methods in the pursuit of what George J. Sefa Dei refers to as ›epistemological equity‹, a conscious call for a ›synthesis of multiple knowledges‹.33

2. The Prison of English

›Nostalgia as a historical emotion came of age at the time of Romanticism and is coeval with the birth of mass culture.‹34 So claims Svetlana Boym in her seminal work on the concept. And yet, in her efforts to historicize nostalgia, the geographical net she casts is limited to the confines of Russia and Europe (nominally including Brazil by virtue of Portugal).35 As such, this Eurocentric lens, colored by ideas of Romanticism, precludes other examples that would disrupt the unity she imposes on the multiplicity of non-Anglophone terms for ›longing‹ that have been embraced, both in the past and in the present, as ›untranslatable‹ and thus representative of a national essence.36 Indeed, this conceptual unity that Boym pursues is one in which linguistic heterogeneity is compressed: ›While each term preserves the specific rhythms of the language, one is struck by the fact that all these untranslatable words are in fact synonyms [...].‹37 Ironically, however, Boym’s own native Russian has been a key language by means of which Wierzbicka has demonstrated how such a ›synonymous‹ approach to emotion concepts stifles the representation of felt experiences by individuals for whom English is not their (first) language: ›If we do not give English a privileged position among the world’s languages (as a guide to human universals) then we must ask, rather, why should English have singled out the experience that it calls grief from the great ocean of human emotions as a subject of special attention and given it a distinct name?‹38

Taking ›grief‹ as a point of departure, Wierzbicka argues that we are incapable of knowing whether ›what Russians feel is [actually] […] »grief« […] and we cannot know for sure what [they] do feel‹, proposing, rather, that we must ›listen to Russians themselves (e.g., by paying special attention to the best Russian writers); and we have to listen to the Russian language, which is a repository, and a guide to, that experience‹.39 This prioritizing of cultural semantics is by no means novel: we need only remind ourselves of Edward Sapir’s approach to ›language as the symbolic guide to culture‹ and the connected need to ›study […] the distribution of culturally significant terms‹.40 This likewise resonates with the aforementioned work of Matsumoto and the role of the Japanese language in the construction of vernacular emotional worlds. Wierzbicka affirms this position, asserting that English emotion terms such as ›grief‹ (and, in our case, ›nostalgia‹) ›stand for culture-specific bundles of semantic components‹ and are thus unsuitable ›as analytical tools for exploring emotions cross-culturally‹.41 Boym’s ›synonymous‹ approach – implying ›nostalgia‹ as a core concept – thus obscures heterogeneity and arguably reinforces the centrality of the Anglo West as referent. If we are to move towards a more nuanced way of discussing the history (and psychology) of ›nostalgia‹ cross-culturally, we cannot abide by such definitions and approaches which are grounded in a specifically Euro-Western experience but claim universal reach. A brief overview of the problems this presents when applied to the Japanese context is therefore worthwhile.

›It is curious that there is no native Japanese word equivalent to the modern sense of the word nostalgia, and so, to refer to this in Japanese, one must use the coined (loan-word) term nosutarujia, which is all the more curious when one considers that, within Japanese culture, there is a long and distinguished literary tradition of nostalgic writings.‹42 In this passage from Peter Nosco’s book on ›nativism and nostalgia‹ in eighteenth-century Japan we can observe the inner workings of the prison of English. While not denying its status as a ›language of global significance‹, Wierzbicka importantly asserts that English is by no means a ›neutral instrument‹, and that often its native speakers are blind to its culturally-specific ›forms of attention‹.43 Nosco is, so to speak, literally at a loss for words here. His analysis, accordingly, draws on what he defines as ›the emotion of nostalgia‹, while also alluding to nostalgic ›themes‹ and ›sentiments‹.44 He speaks of ›discovering the past‹, ›entering the past‹, and ›resurrecting the past‹, but nostalgia itself, despite its prominence in his introduction (and even the book’s title), has little bearing on his reading of primary sources as a truly analytical framework. Nor does consideration of native concepts of spatial or temporal ›longing‹ enter this conversation in a meaningful way, though he briefly alludes to a distinction between ›Western‹ and ›Eastern‹ approaches to ›an idealized realm‹, constructed via nostalgia, as a source of solace in the present.45 Grounded in ideas of ›disenchantment‹ and a distinction between present reality and future desire (polarities articulated by Nosco as Sein and Sollen46), he is unable to move beyond what Wierzbicka calls ›approximations and vague analogies [in English] to something more precise‹, highlighting a confinement of oneself to the prison of one’s own cultural perspective.47 The issue here is not with the necessity of English terms and concepts as approximate glosses, but a failure to engage with one of the key foundations of conceptual history: the ›translation‹ of concepts as they arise in historical materials into analytical concepts themselves.48 The tension Nosco feels between the reading of his sources and his subjective sense of the ›nostalgic‹ also speaks to one of the defining correctives championed by the modern history of emotions. That is, we cannot treat emotions as ›anthropological constants‹, and must situate them in their historical contexts. As historians Margrit Pernau and Helge Jordheim have stated (via Reinhart Koselleck), emotions are ›»both indicators and factors of historical change«; they both reflect transformations and bring them about‹.49 We are thus confronting ›nostalgia‹ here in terms of how conceptual historians, linguists, and psychologists problematize English-language emotion terms as culturally specific, but also the dangers of nostalgia’s use as a theoretical anachronism. The variability of what constitutes nostalgia (and emotions more broadly) is therefore a matter of both temporal and spatial considerations and, as Pernau puts it, we simply cannot take for granted ›that our analytic concept of emotion is [necessarily] matched by corresponding concepts in [our] sources: the very question, as we understand [it], might be untranslatable‹.50

At the heart of these considerations is the much-contested approach to using ›emotion‹ as a universal category for comparative historical analysis. Speaking to this issue, historian Rob Boddice has claimed that ›remaining open to the mutability of language and concepts does not make comparison impossible, or analysis redundant, but enriches them both‹.51 Although not directly framed in this way, Boddice’s claim speaks to a growing understanding of conceptual history as a key means of operationalizing global history by equalizing the distance between Euro-Western and Asian agency and semantics.52 Working in this way at the nexus of conceptual, global, and emotions history offers us a critical means of problematizing nostalgia while working with a broader vocabulary across cultures without losing a potent methodological tool for comparison. As we will now see, understanding the divide in how nostalgia is conceptualized and examined within and without the Japanese academe highlights a need to acknowledge and value the work conducted by Japanese scholars on ›nostalgia‹ (and emotions generally) as an object of study, even though they themselves may not engage with the discipline of emotions history as it has developed among their English-speaking colleagues.

3. Approaching Japanese Concepts of ›Nostalgia‹

Concomitant with the late twentieth-century surge in Anglophone nostalgia studies was its application to historical and sociological research on Japan. In 1986, anthropologist William Kelly explicitly defined the country as experiencing a ›nostalgia boom‹ whose grounding in an idealization of the past inspired scholars in fields such as religious studies to take a ›nostalgic‹ lens to their work.53 Much of this scholarship uncritically embraced paradigms of the ›nostalgic‹, but it would be misleading to paint all scholars of this movement with the same broad strokes.

Indeed, Jane Law’s investigation of the puppetry tradition unique to the island of Awaji employs nostalgia as an analytical framework while nevertheless highlighting the slippery nature of its translation and the Japanese semantic net in this regard: ›Most people in Japan commonly use the adjective natuskashii [...] to describe this vague sense that »things just aren’t what they used to be«. These are everyday words in Japanese, used to refer to events and sensations that evoke connections with the past and feelings of home. [...] In Japanese these days, people familiar with contemporary discourse in literary critical studies may use the word nos[u]tarujii [...] to refer to the general cultural phenomenon of romanticizing the past. [...] People on Awaji [Island] don’t use the word nos[u]tarujii to discuss what they are feeling and what motivates them [...]. They refer to the power of natsukashisa. To use the term nos[u]tarujii is to make an imposition on the data [...]. In short, nos[u]tarujii and natsukashii are not simply synonymous.‹54

Law’s parsing of these two seemingly intermingled terms is nuanced and one of few examples that engages, albeit briefly, in this complicated task. However, the subsequent unpacking of her theorization nevertheless draws on the likes of Fred Davis and especially Frederic Jameson’s approach to the ›nostalgic mode‹ of late capitalism.55 Rather than turning inward and working with emic emotion terms and concepts (employed by her informants) as analytical frameworks, she turns outward towards the dominant etic (Anglophone) theoretical discourses of that time. As we will see later, this is a critical difference between English scholarship and more recent Japanese-language research on ›nostalgia‹. Law’s reference to the term nosutarujii (ノスタルジー) is nevertheless an important point of departure.

Identified as a gairaigo or ›loanword‹ (i.e., a transliteration of a foreign term into the Japanese syllabary), we must be careful to acknowledge that nosutarujii is in fact of a French, and not English, linguistic origin (i.e., nostalgie – nɔs.tal.ʒi and not nostalgia – nəˈstældʒə). While its isolated use can be identified as early as the 1920s, it was not until the 1960s that it began to gain traction through the translation of Francophone scholars such as the Swiss literary critic Jean Starobinski, whose prioritizing of sémantique historique informed his conceptual history of nostalgie across European space and time.56 Linked by Takeuchi Naokazu to patterns of consumer behavior in the 1970s, nosutarujii became a central feature of marketing discourse, and its conceptual history is thus intimately tied to the rise of Japan’s postwar economic revival.57 Indeed, terms such as nosutarujii shohin (nostalgia products) and nosutarujii kōkoku (nostalgia advertisements) reflect sales techniques that continued into the following decade of what might best be described as a kind of nostalgic aestheticization rather than any true attempt to reproduce the past.58 Japanese advertising powerhouse Dentsu Inc. spoke, in this way, of a ›nostalgia boom‹ (using the English expression) in approaches to commercials of the 1980s and, in reflecting on the passing of that decade, highlighted what they called a ›retrospective boom‹ in which older generations engaged with ›things of the past with nostalgia‹, while younger individuals were ›attracted to what they regard[ed] as the novelty of such things‹.59 Dentsu made particular note of the 1983 TV promotions for Kincho’s disposable body warmers that were produced as a series of ›historical‹ vignettes, such as one loosely invoking Japanese antiquity (the Yayoi period, c. 300 BC to 300 AD) and, perhaps with more immediacy, another depicting the plights of a Japanese soldier in the bleakness of winter during WWII.60 Thus, Japanese scholars who use the term nosutarujii (less commonly today), such as historian Takatsuna Hirofumi, understand it as a ›temporal feeling‹ (jikanteki-kibun) associated with a ›longing for the past‹ (懐旧 kaikyū).61

The distinct English loanword nosutarujia, however, appears to have entered the common vernacular primarily through the visual and performing arts of the early 1980s before it was embraced as a serious scholarly term in the 1990s and early 2000s.62 From Japanese rock musician-cum-politician Shōkichi Kina’s set of interviews Mirai e no nosutarujia (›Nostalgia for the Future‹, 1980) to Nishimura Akira’s composition Nosutarujia: ōkesutora no tame no (›Nostalgia for Orchestra‹, 1983) and visual artist Yamashita Kiyozumi’s works Nosutarujia (1985), the term was increasingly normalized in the Japanese language.63 We see a critical point in its development with the 1990 translation of Fred Davis’ Yearning for Yesterday, a touchstone publication in the field of Anglophone nostalgia studies. Interestingly, translator Aiba Juichi opts to use the original subtitle, ›A Sociology of Nostalgia‹ (nosutarujia no shakaigaku), as the main title for the Japanese release, highlighting the contemporary state of the term’s presence in the Japanese linguistic imaginary and the increasing profile of Japanese ›emotional sociology‹ (kanjō no shakai-gaku) in the 1980s.64 Yet it was not until the end of the first decade of the new millennium that Japanese scholars (predominantly psychologists) began to employ the paradigms of nosutarujia for scientific analysis, most notably through the work of the Nihon kanjō shinri gakkai (Japanese Society of Emotional Psychology).65

Scholars working in the Japanese language accordingly refer to the rise of ›nostalgia studies‹ in Japan as a comparatively recent phenomenon. Yet the very act of identifying this trend is marked by a struggle with concepts in translation. Tomoaki Haruki summarizes key works in the field conducted by sociologists, psychologists, and aesthetic and cultural studies scholars as the pursuit of nosutarujia (ノスタルジア), natsukashisa (なつかしさ), and kyōshū (郷愁), all of which are variously and frequently rendered as ›nostalgia‹ in English.66 We will return to these terms shortly, but it is important to emphasize that each one has a distinct conceptual history and that their uses are increasingly tied to the disciplinary approach and topic of study in question.

In what follows, I do not intend to engage in any definitive longue durée history of nostalgia’s semantic net in Japan. I will, however, seek to highlight, through the parsing of these terms, that the insistence on Anglocentric notions of nostalgia as conceptual frameworks for many studies in the Japanese context is to neglect those specificities that underlie the way language functions as a conduit for the transmission and operation of cultural norms and, thus, codes of feeling (especially the ways in which ›ways of thinking‹ are reflected and encoded in specific words).67 The move in emotions history to comparative analyses amidst the global turn thus necessitates a methodological focus on translation. English and Women’s Studies scholar Sneja Gunew’s subaltern analysis of affect theory and the Eurocentric frame succinctly identifies this importance of recognizing one’s approach to translation as the crux on which the success or failure of the comparative method turns: ›[…] it is clear that translation theory is at the heart of […] inter- or cross-cultural analyses; the interest lies in the details, the ways in which the specific linguistic terms, which always mediate our account of these processes, can never simply be mapped onto each other.‹68 Conceptual transfers from English to Japanese (and back again), as seen from the theory of cross-cultural translation, must thus be understood as a ›complex act of translingual communication‹.69 This is a crucial means by which to address the state of Japanese-language scholarship on nostalgia and the extent to which it has internalized the epistemological paradigms of the Anglo-Western academe ingrained in English grammar and vocabulary.70

The concept of natsukashisa (the noun form of the adjective natsukashii) is central to this task. Indeed, psychologist Nagamine Masato has recently acknowledged how ›nosutarujia and natsukashisa [are seen as] as synonymous concepts‹ in the field of psychology and are used indiscriminately with little reflection on the role of language.71 In view of this, Peter N. Stearns calls for psychologists to be aware of ›temporal connections and explanations‹ in their research, highlighting ›historical interest‹ as a critical means of enriching scientific theory and practice.72 I will return to recent trends in Japanese psychology in this regard after addressing how scholars in the humanities have begun to seriously prioritize these historical interests in conceptualizing ›nostalgia‹. We will see that both ends of the disciplinary spectrum have come to very similar conclusions despite their divergent methodological routes.

A 2010 special issue of Kikan nihon shisōshi (Japanese Intellectual History Quarterly) marks a notable turn in Japanese ›nostalgia studies‹. Focused as it is on the pillars of ›modernity and nostalgia‹ (kindai to nosutarujia), its title nevertheless reveals an Anglocentric orientation.73 Edited by M. William Steele (who has published widely in both languages), the contributions are framed throughout his introduction exclusively in terms of nosutarujia, carving out a definition derived from the aforementioned work of Svetlana Boym. Moreover, his understanding of nostalgia and its inherent linkage to notions of Japanese modernity is shaped by the work of US-based art historians such as Bruce A. Coats and Kendall H. Brown.74 As such, the disparity in the approaches of Steele’s and Yoshioka Shiro’s contributions to the journal, for instance, highlights the fraught prison of English. As Wierzbicka stresses, we are unable to understand ›unique cultural perspectives […] by interpreting them through the prism of English value words and Anglo cultural scripts. To find out what speakers of other languages value we must listen attentively to their own words and to decipher the meanings inscribed in them‹.75 Yoshioka’s analysis of the 1988 animated film Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) explores the twin concepts of natsukashisa and nosutarujia as they relate to the Japanese linguistic imaginary and to the artistic vision and vocabulary of director Miyazaki Hayao.76 ›It is said that the unconsciously felt past (muishiki-teki ni kanjitotta kako) – [a sense of] ›déjà vu‹ (kishikan) – is the source of that emotion (kanjō) we call natsukashisa […] On the other hand, nosutarujia [...] is comparable with the so-called »retro natsukashisa« […]‹.77 In these introductory remarks, Yoshioka makes clear conceptual distinctions between the two despite the fact that, as he suggests, they are often employed interchangeably in everyday vernacular use. In contrast to Steele, he looks to the terms used by Miyazaki himself and explores the nuanced distinctions between components of nostalgia’s semantic net in the Japanese language. In so doing, he asserts that nosutarujia is too closely associated with notions of ›retro‹ (retoro78), and thus opts to frame his analyses in emic terms of natsukashisa.79 In what follows, we will turn to the centrality of this latter concept in unpacking Japanese approaches to the history of emotions.

4. Tsugami Eisuke on Nostalgia and the Prospects of Kanseishi

A polymath who works variously on (and often at the intersection of) music, ancient Greek philosophy, and aesthetics, Tsugami Eisuke’s largely neglected research on what he calls kanseishi (感性史) offers us a crucial link to consider how the Japanese academe can engage the field of emotions history on the topic of nostalgia and beyond.80 The origins of the term kansei are in and of themselves a complex narrative with multiple storylines and endings.81 Many Japanese historians approach it as approximate to the French sensible as expressed in the field of histoire du sensible (kansei as sensible; shi as histoire), the history of the senses and sensibility.82 Indeed, philosopher Amane Nishi was the first to use kansei as an equivalent for the English ›sensibility‹, while also employing (kan)jō as an alternative translation in 1875.83 Kanjō, understood as ›emotion‹, thus brings into relief the shared conceptual space kansei occupied at this time. However, the contours of kansei have been far from clear or stable across disciplines. Fujioka Wakao, then head of public relations of the aforementioned Dentsu Inc., wrote Sayonara taishū: kansei-jidai wo dou yomuka? (Farewell [to the] Masses: How Are We to Read the Age of Kansei?) in 1984.84 From this, one can identify the origins of modern scholarship on kansei as arising from economics and marketing science, where it was tied to considerations of consumer ›decision making and implicit influence‹.85 Psychologists understand kansei as a cognitive process or ability, while engineers approach it as a result of this. In the last couple of decades, the field of aesthetics studies in Japan has increasingly broken with the use of sensible or even the Kantian Sinnlichkeit, turning instead to the Greek concept of aisthēsis (sense perception) as a more nuanced way of addressing kansei in foreign-language scholarship. Tsugami is one such individual who has approached the study of kansei (kanseigaku) as a method grounded in ›aisthetics‹.86

Informed by Aristotelian ideas of aisthēsis – that is, a specific way of knowing the world through one’s bodily senses – Tsugami’s approach to aisthetics is centered in the consideration of language in which one can trace the shift, over time, in a word’s meaning from the description of an objective situation to that of a subjective feeling.87 In recent years, Tsugami has developed his aisthetic methodology for the comparative analysis of nostalgic concepts (in his case nostalgia in English and natsukashisa in Japanese), bringing to the fore the potential for a new kind of kanseishi (lit. ›the history of kansei‹), primarily focused on the analysis of egodocuments as a means of shedding light on what and how people of the past felt. Certainly, Tsugami’s call for a rigorous kanseishi (or, perhaps, an ›aisthetic history‹) demonstrates a Japanese route to a similar set of objectives to those sought by Euro-Western historians of emotion but grounded in different scholarly traditions and with different emphases. Moreover, as a musicologist (among his many disciplinary hats), he also stresses that this venture nevertheless risks limitation by an exclusive focus on language and that we should consider drawing on broader materials, including literature, the visual arts, music, etc., as a means of approaching the history and communication of emotion concepts such as nostalgia. Though his methodology is not couched in the familiar terminology of emotions history, Tsugami is nevertheless pre-empting here ideas articulated by Margrit Pernau and Imke Rajamani in thinking about ›conceptual history beyond language‹ in the study of emotions.88 Tsugami’s intellectual maneuvers that lead him to this proposal are also indicative of a critical sense of self-awareness of the extent to which Japanese scholars have often internalized Anglocentric epistemologies. Thus, his analysis of Japanese concepts of ›nostalgia‹ is rooted in the very grammar of the Japanese language itself and its development over time as a means of establishing new paradigms for engaging kanseishi (and, by extension, the history of emotions).

In reflecting on his previous writing about nostalgia (using the English term himself), Tsugami admits to his own struggle with the native concept of natsukashii (懐かしい) as it lacks, in his view, a coherent distance between subject and relative object. He summarizes this discomfort through a simple thought exercise: ›anogoro ga natsukashii.89 Whether the object is anogoro (›back then/those days‹) and where the relative subject of ›I‹ is revealed in this abstract expression are both unclear.90 Here Tsugami makes transparent the development of his thinking from a point at which the prison of English skewed his analysis of Japanese behavior (having previously employed ›nostalgia‹, by his own admission, as an easier course of analysis91) to his present desire for a specific focus on Japanese grammar and the history of emotion concepts as a means of transcending this confinement. Similarly, musicologist Hosokawa Shūhei articulates the ways in which Japanese scholars become confined to the prison of English when engaging complex concepts of emotion. He is critical that many are overly reliant on literature relevant to foreign languages, which inevitably results in a disconnect between their abstract theorization and ›real-life [emotional] experience‹.92 While the use of approximate glosses serve as convenient placeholders for scholarly exchange, Hosokawa, like Wierzbicka, argues for a methodology grounded in the very words and experiences of the historical actors themselves.

In approaching how notions of self are related to an abstract ›nostalgia‹, Tsugami defines natsukashii as a ›subjective emotion‹ (shukan-teki kanjō).93 This subjectivity is bound to the exclusionary nature of Japanese grammar itself. That is, emotional and sensorial adjectives, such as natsukashii, only allow for a (singular) first-person subject, whether overtly or covertly. Thus, for Tsugami, it is through Japanese grammar (in this case the rules underpinning adjectival use) that the implicit construction of a relationship between subject and object is formed.94 But this is where writing about the phenomenon in English becomes complicated. This is because natsukashi/sa can be rendered in two primary ways (in addition to their romanization), both of which can reflect a different point in the historical development of the Japanese language and harbor subtle conceptual distinctions. Firstly, the native Japanese syllabary (hiragana), which came to prominence by the tenth century as a phonographic writing system, represents natsukashii as な(na)つ(tsu)か(ka)し(shi)い(i). Secondly, it can be rendered using the adopted Chinese ideographic system (kanji): 懐(natsu)かしい. But what is the relationship between these two ways of expressing this concept in writing, and how does a linguistic focus shape our approach to ideas of ›nostalgia‹ in Japan both past and present?

From the late Heian period (794–1185), we can trace the history of 「懐」 (also read as futokoro), a path which leads us to an understanding of how it came to represent the concept of natsukashisa as well as its affective properties which colored the way people associated with it and how it was employed. In the Iroha jiruishō (色葉字類抄), a twelfth-century dictionary of kanji, futokoro is defined as aisetsu (愛褻) or ›cherishing habituation‹. Tsugami notes that dictionaries and literary texts from the later Muromachi period (1336–1573) also offer varying definitions of futokoro, including 馴思 (kunshi or ›habitual thinking‹), 仮顔 (karigao or ›transient face‹), 婷 (utsukushii or ›beautiful‹), and 婷・潜 (tei-sen or ›latent beauty‹).95 Indeed, this heterogeneity speaks to a high level of inconsistency in its use and understanding during the period. Interestingly, the character for futokoro is also a component in several other terms that fall within the modern network of ›nostalgic‹ vocabularies today: e.g., kaiko (懐古), a longing for the past, as well as tsuikai (追懐) and kaikyū (懐旧), both of which refer to certain kinds of recollection or reminiscence. And yet it is the compound characters 「古」「旧」「追」 and not futokoro (懐) itself that express the temporal nature (what one might call the ›pastness‹) of this yearning. Tsugami identifies the late fifteenth century as a central turning point at which futokoro begins to be associated with the concept of natsukashisa. Referring to the bosom/chest, futokoro was thus intimately associated with the affective imagery of idaku (懐だく), the act of embracing: ›Natsukashii was an emotion [kanjō] symbolized by the physical movement of holding both arms pressed against one’s chest‹.96 Tsugami therefore makes a distinction between the native Japanese word natsukashii (なつかしい) on the one hand, and its rendering as 懐かしい on the other, with the former presupposing ›the distance [between self and object] as a negative opportunity that signifies nothing about the [imaginary] realization [of the object]‹, while the latter ›implies the imaginary realization of a felt desire to reach out and touch that which is absent‹.97 This is because the affective connotations of embracing something presuppose a concretely imagined presence of the very thing that is absent.

Tsugami’s argument is grounded in the mapping of a conceptual shift in which the implied object of longing expressed by natsukashisa changed from something spatial to something temporal by the seventeenth century.98 The earliest European studies of the Japanese language during the so-called ›Christian Century‹ (1549–1650) offer us a critical source to identify this shift and to consider the complexity of their translingual communications. The Jesuit missionary press in Nagasaki published several didactic and popular texts at the turn of the seventeenth century, including the 1603 Vocabulario da lingoa de Iapam, a Japanese-to-Portuguese dictionary.99 In it, we find an entry for natçucaxij/natçucaxisa (the early modern Portuguese transliteration of natsukashii/natsukashisa), defined as ›the »longing« for [those who are/that which is] absent‹ (o aver saudades entre absentes).100 The dictionary also offers a definition for natçuqi (natsuki), referring to the verb natsuku (to get used to being with something/someone), the base of the word natsukashii: domesticarse (›to tame/domesticate oneself‹), tornarse manso (›to make oneself meek/gentle‹).101 Thus it would appear that these early modern attempts to translate the concept of natsukashisa also influenced the first Japanese-English dictionaries of the nineteenth century, most notably the work of the famed American missionary James Curtis Hepburn, who defined natsukashi(ku) as a ›longing after something absent‹ in 1867.102 Interestingly, the Portuguese concept saudade has itself been approached by many scholars as an ›untranslatable‹ emotion term, and presents a unique opportunity for further research in its comparative analysis with the Japanese context.103 But for our present purposes, its association with natsukashisa provides evidence for the latter already functioning as a longing for the past by this point in time. Tsugami therefore identifies the origins of a ›modern‹ understanding of natsukashisa (懐かしさ) as developing out of the ›pre-modern‹ natsukashii (なつかしい).104 Indeed, the acknowledgement of ›pastness‹ as a modern condition of natsukashisa has previously been emphasized by philosophers such as Kuki Shūzō in the 1930s, who contrasted its orientation to the past with notions of koishisa (pining/longing), which is more akin to Boym’s notion of ›restorative nostalgia‹ as something future-facing.105

Perhaps the most salient argument Tsugami makes is with regard to the comparative analysis of nostalgia in English and natsukashisa in Japanese. He identifies the following set of common structures that underlie them:

  • Both straddle the line between unpleasant suffering in the real world and the pleasure of the imaginary.
  • In both cases, the object of longing saw a shift from something spatial to something temporal, taking on an aisthetic quality (kanseiteki seikaku).
  • Both have a sense for what is or is felt to be present.106

Yet it is the set of conceptual distinctions Tsugami identifies that we have yet to see taken seriously in Anglophone scholarship on nostalgia about the Japanese context and whose significance maps on to recent psychological findings.

  • While nostalgia originated as a malady and developed into something pleasurable, natsukashisa has never shared this element of suffering.
  • In the case of nostalgia, the temporal shift occurred in the early twentieth century, whereas it was comparatively earlier for natsukashisa (c. sixteenth century).
  • Nostalgia, which reflects the quality of something real in the world, arises from the superimposing of another image upon the object, such that the representation is excessive compared to reality (the content of such excess is that of the imagination, including the feeling of suffering prompted by an absence of something from the past in the real world and the feeling of joy prompted by an unexpected encounter with it in the imaginary).

Regarding this last point, Tsugami emphasizes a distinguishing component of ›sentimentality‹ in nostalgia, pointing out that in order for something to be sentimental (kanshōteki), there must be a disproportionate imbalance between the object and the emotions it evokes. The qualitative difference between natsukashisa and nostalgia is therefore one of ›excessive emotion‹ (kanjō kata ni aru).107 We can accordingly define these two concepts, as theorized by Tsugami, as follows: ›Nostalgia is an emotional quality in which the past is superimposed on the present, savored as an excess of emotion […] Natsukashisa is a pleasant aisthetic quality (kai naru kansei-teki shitsu) that arises from a dream-like savoring of the past.‹108

5. Nostalgia in Japanese Psychology

Japanese scholars in the human sciences have similarly sought to answer the question of whether nostalgia and natsukashisa are conceptually distinct and thus experienced and expressed differently. Psychologists Nagamine Masato and Toyama Miki conducted clinical trials with the intent of uncovering whether ›Japanese people experience nostal­gia‹.109 Refuting Erica G. Hepper’s (et al.) ›synonymous‹ subsuming of natsukashisa into a ›pancultural nostalgia‹, Nagamine and Toyama emphasize, like Tsugami, that the Japanese concept has an inherently positive, and thus distinguishable, meaning, both historically and contemporarily.110 Their data suggests, however, that Japanese participants were less familiar with the concept of ›nostalgia‹ (as defined by Western psychological standards). They therefore make a qualitative distinction between nostalgia and nosutarujia, stressing a uniquely higher proportion of negative emotions associated with ›nostalgic events‹ (nosutarujikkuna dekigoto) among their Japanese participants. The conclusion that Japanese people do in fact experience something akin to ›nostalgia‹ is nevertheless tempered by the qualifier that there is no direct conceptual equivalent in the Japanese language for expressing it. This, they argue, shapes specific emotional percepts, a relation that requires further research. Indeed, I would echo Peter N. Stearns’s aforementioned call for a greater focus on ›temporal connections and explanations‹ as a critical way of pursuing these questions. Nagamine takes this further in her independent investigation of Japanese definitions of ›nostalgia‹ as an ›ambivalent emotion‹ (anbibarentona kanjō).111 Confirming Kusumi Takashi’s thesis regarding ›the psychology of natsukashisa‹,112 she likewise emphasizes that nosutarujia and natsukashisa are ›strictly different concepts‹. Drawing a psychological line in the conceptual sand, she points to the ›sentimental‹ component of Anglophone nostalgia as a critical difference. Thus, Nagamine proposes that the most appropriate conceptualization in the Japanese language for nostalgia is ›natsukashisa accompanied by sentiment‹ (kanshō o tomonau natsukashisa).113 Here we can observe the field of psychology articulating a similar outcome to the historical analysis of Japanese modes of emotional engagement with the past. Both approaches therefore make clear the role of sentimentality in parsing the ethnolinguistic/conceptual/emotional divide between these terms. Nagamine thus identifies as future pathways for comparative research the analysis of ›sentimental feelings of the past‹ (kako ni taisuru kanshō-tekina shibo), natsukashisa, and natsukashisa accompanied by sentiment.114

The implications for the intersection of historical and psychological research on Japanese emotion concepts are significant, as recent scholarship has revealed a need for a more linguistically relative approach to emotion perception. Most notably, Maria Gendron (et al.) has revealed that ›emotion words provide an important […] context in emotion perception‹, and that the authors’ findings demonstrate how ›conceptual processing (i.e., the ability to access the semantic meaning of emotion words) alters percept formation during emotion perception that is occurring implicitly and auto­matically‹.115 Indeed, these findings resonate with Nagamine and Toyama’s data. While psychologists and linguists have long recognized the place of cultural semantics in the construction of emotional worldviews, the case of ›nostalgia‹ in Japan demonstrates how a prioritizing of historical perspectives can deepen our understanding of conceptual processing, especially in the case of cross-cultural scientific analysis. As Wierzbicka so eloquently puts it, the ›diversity of languages that people across the world speak means that there is a diversity of conceptual worlds‹.116 Certainly these are opportunities for further adoption of historical perspectives in the field of Japanese psychology as well as for the pursuit of interdisciplinary collaboration.

6. Towards a Global History of Emotions

This article has critiqued the implicit and explicit Anglocentrisms that frame the history of nostalgia within and without the Japanese academe. But it is important to acknowledge that the Anglo West has been an unavoidable part of our (and certainly my own) subjective formation. To this extent, in thinking about the future of emotions history and how Japan can position itself in the field, I invoke Kuan-Hsing Chen’s ›Asia as Method‹ in its prioritizing of ›multipl[e] frames of reference in our subjectivity and worldview, so that our anxiety over the West can be diluted, and productive work can move forward‹.117 Put differently, this involves us embracing a multiplicity of epistemologies in how we think about emotions across space and time and, in so doing, leveling inequalities between scholarly traditions around the world. The present moment therefore signals the need for a truly global history of emotions that engages and endorses multilingual and multilateral interaction. As historian Lynn Hunt has emphasized it, the practice of history in our global era ›can only be a collaborative form of inquiry, whether between types of approaches or between scholars from different parts of the globe‹.118

To think about a global history of ›temporal longing‹ (as one potential way of transcending the baggage associated with ›nostalgia‹), for instance, is to follow a careful balancing act of acknowledging the diversity of how this phenomenon is experienced, conceptualized, and expressed in various languages and at various points in time, while also pursuing the comparison and entanglement of world regions.119 In this respect, the burgeoning field of global conceptual history offers a fruitful path to engage, as Pernau and Jordheim write, a ›broad geographical and cultural range […] [that] therefore needs an equally broad conception of emotions, reflecting the perception of historical actors‹.120 How do these concepts relate to one another, and what have been their paths to transfer, translation, and usage? How has the entanglement of world regions impacted concepts of emotion and how have these informed modes of human expression at the local level? How might a global perspective account for semantic shifts in a given language’s emotional vocabulary over time?121 These are just some of the ways in which we can address the friction between the field of emotions history and its ›(de-)provincializing moment‹. The complex and often fraught nature of nostalgia studies, as explored in this article, thus asks us to look critically at ourselves, to identify and make transparent our biases, our linguistic lenses, and our epistemological paradigms. Only in exposing ourselves in the nakedness of our scholarly rearing and our place in this world can we truly embark on a global history of emotions on an equitable footing.


1 Thomas Dodman, Theories and Methods in the History of Emotions, in: Katie Barclay/Sharon Crozier-De Rosa/Peter N. Stearns (eds), Sources for the History of Emotions. A Guide, New York 2021, pp. 15-25, here p. 21. While it is noted that the ›History of Emotions‹ has a centuries-old ›prequel‹, the modern field is identified as originating with the work of the Stearnses. See Peter N. Stearns/Carol Z. Stearns, Emotionology: Clarifying the History of Emotions and Emotional Standards, in: American Historical Review 90 (1985), pp. 813-836.

2 Gabriela De Lima Grecco/Sven Schuster, Decolonizing Global History? A Latin American Perspective, in: Journal of World History 31 (2020), pp. 425-446, here p. 436.

3 Ibid., p. 445.

4 Jeremy Adelman, What is Global History Now?, in: Aeon, 2 March 2017.

5 David Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country. Revisited, Cambridge, UK 2015, p. 38. Editors’ note: See also Achim Saupe’s contribution in this issue.

6 Masashi Haneda, Atarashii sekaishi to yōroppashi [New World History and European History], in: Paburikku hisutorii [Public History] 7 (2010), pp. 1-9, here p. 9.

7 I draw here on Okano’s theorization of the ›Anglo West‹ (akin to ›Euro America‹) that, while itself undeniably heterogenous (i.e., consisting of its own sets of ›centers‹ and ›peripheries‹), is identified as the ›established centre (core) where wealth and power (in terms of decision-making) are concentrated‹. The English language is inextricably tied to such notions of power whereby linguistic proficiency facilitates an engagement in ›global academic knowledge production‹. Anglo West thus brings into relief the place of English that is otherwise less centered in alternative geographical labels. Kaori Okano, Rethinking ›Eurocentrism‹ and Area Studies: Japanese Studies in the Asia-Pacific, in: Kaori Okano/Yoshio Sugimoto (eds), Rethinking Japanese Studies. Eurocentrism and the Asia-Pacific Region, London 2018, pp. 1-18, here p. 1.

8 Anna Wierzbicka, Imprisoned in English. The Hazards of English as a Default Language, New York 2014.

9 On untranslatability as a ›theoretical fulcrum‹, see Emily Apter, Against World Literature, New York 2013.

10 I have had the privilege of working at both the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (based at the University of Western Australia as a doctoral fellow) and the Research Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin (as a postdoctoral and later research fellow). I am grateful for the vibrant intellectual exchanges I have had with friends and colleagues at these institutions over the years.

11 See Margrit Pernau, Concepts of Emotions in Indian Languages, in: Contributions to the History of Concepts 11 (2016) issue 1, pp. 24-37, here p. 31.

12 Charles-Simon Favart/Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, Don Quichotte chez la duchesse, ballet comique en trois actes [Don Quixote at the Duchess’, a Comic Ballet in Three Acts], Paris 1743, p. 123.

13 Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. Patterns of Japanese Culture, Boston 1946. On contrasting concepts of ›shame‹ and ›guilt‹ cultures, see Millie R. Creighton, Revisiting Shame and Guilt Cultures: A Forty-Year Pilgrimage, in: Ethos 18 (1990), pp. 279-307.

14 Keiichi Sakuta, Haji no bunka saikō [Rethinking the Culture of Shame], Tokyo 1967; Takie Sugiyama Lebra, Japanese Patterns of Behavior, Honolulu 1976, pp. 79-82.

15 Takeo Doi, Amae no kōzō [The Structure of Amae], Tokyo 1971, p. 165. Translated in Osamu Nakayama, ›Amae‹ no seishin byōri. Nihonjin no byōri o shinsō bunseki suru [The Psychopathology of ›Amae‹. A Deep Analysis of Japanese Pathology], Tokyo 1996, p. 28. For the English edition, see Takeo Doi, The Anatomy of Dependence, Tokyo 1973.

16 Naoko Morita, Kanjōshi wo kangaeru [Considering the History of Emotions], in: Shigaku zasshi [Journal of Historical Science] 125 (2016), pp. 39-57, here p. 39.

17 See Q. Edward Wang, Cross-Cultural Developments of Modern Historiography. Examples from East Asia, the Middle East, and India, in: Q. Edward Wang/Franz L. Fillafer (eds), The Many Faces of Clio. Cross-Cultural Approaches to Historiography. Essays in Honor of Georg G. Iggers, New York 2007, pp. 187-209, here p. 192.

18 Paul Ekman, Universal Facial Expressions of Emotion, in: California Mental Health Research Digest 8 (1970), pp. 151-158. See, for instance, David Matsumoto, American-Japanese Cultural Differences in the Recognition of Universal Facial Expressions, in: Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 23 (1992), pp. 72-84; David Matsumoto, Unmasking Japan. Myths and Realities About the Emotions of the Japanese, Stanford 1996.

19 Matsumoto, Unmasking Japan (fn 18), p. 115.

20 On kanjō as a neologism, see Shūhei Hosokawa, Tōki ni arite tsukuru mono. Nikkei Burajirujin no omoi, kotoba, geinō [Things Created Afar. Japanese Brazilians – Their Longings, Words and Arts], Tokyo 2008, pp. 6-9. On the history of psychology in Japan, see Tsutaya Sato et al., History of ›History of Psychology‹ in Japan, in: Japanese Psychological Research 58 (2016) issue S1, pp. 110-128; Brian J. McVeigh, The History of Japanese Psychology. Global Perspectives, 1875–1950, London 2018.

21 Genzō Ichikawa, Ribō-shi kanjō no shinri oyobi chūi no shinri [Mr. Ribot’s Psychology of Emotions and Psychology of Attention], Tokyo 1900. See also Iga Komakichirō, Shinrigaku genron [The Principles of Psychology], Tokyo 1904–1905; Théodule-Armand Ribot, The Psychology of the Emotions, London 1897 (translator unknown).

22 Akira Suzuki, Gengo shishuron [On the Four Categories of Language], Tokyo 1979 [1824]. Yoshio Yamada, Nihon bunpōgaku gairon [An Introduction to Japanese Grammar], Tokyo 1936: Translated in Satoko Suzuki, Emotive Communication in Japanese. An Introduction, in: Satoko Suzuki (ed.), Emotive Communication in Japanese, Amsterdam 2006, pp. 1-14, here p. 3. All translations that appear in this article are by the author unless otherwise indicated.

23 I have discussed elsewhere the problems this translation poses in the examination of pre-modern Japanese texts and contexts. See Makoto Harris Takao, Tokugawa Confucian Sermons as Popular Emotional Education. The Moral and Pedagogical Philosophy of Hosoi Heishū, in: Journal of Religious History 45 (2021), pp. 50-67.

24 Teiji Nishimura, Kaisō no Hoijinga [Reflections on Huizinga], in: Shigaku zasshi [Journal of Historical Science] 63 (1954), pp. 341-353. See Johan Huizinga, Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen, Haarlem 1919.

25 Mitsunobu Sugiyama, Kanjō no rekishi-gaku, aruiwa kanjō to rekishi: 1940-nendai no L. Fēvuru to G. Furīdoman [The Historiography of Emotions or Emotions and History: L. Febvre and G. Friedman in the 1940s], in: Shisō [Thought] 703 (1983), pp. 22-49.

26 Ute Frevert, Rekishi no naka no kanjō. Ushinawareta meiyo/tsukura reta kyōkan [Emotions in History. Lost and Found], trans. by Fumiko Sakurai, Tokyo 2018; Jan Plamper, Kanjōshi no hajimari [The Origins of the History of Emotions], trans. by Naoko Morita, Tokyo 2020.

27 Morita, Kanjōshi wo kangaeru (fn 16). On this research center and its methodological foundations, see Ute Frevert, The Modern History of Emotions: A Research Center in Berlin, in: Cuadernos de Historia Contemporánea [Journal of Contemporary History] 36 (2014), pp. 31-55.

28 Arlie Russell Hochschild, Emotion Work, Feeling Rules, and Social Structure, in: American Journal of Sociology 85 (1979), pp. 551-575; The Managed Heart. Commercialization of Human Feeling, California 1983.

29 Masayuki Okahara/Kuniharu Kida, Gendai shakai to kanjō: josetsu [Emotions and Modern Society: An Introduction], in: Nenpō shakai-gaku ronshū [Annual Review of Sociology] 1 (1988), pp. 35-46; see also Masayuki Okahara, Homo afekutosu. Kanjō shakaigakuteki ni jiko hyōgensuru [Homo Affectus. Self-Expression and the Sociology of Emotions], Kyoto 1998.

30 Itō Takashi/Gotō Harumi, Itami to kanjō no rekishi-gaku, in: Itō Takashi/Gotō Harumi (eds), Itami to kanjō no igirisushi [Pain and Emotions in British History], Tokyo 2017, pp. 270-301.

31 William M. Reddy, The Making of Romantic Love. Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia, and Japan, 900–1200 CE, Chicago 2012.

32 Barbara Schuler, Historicizing Asian Community-Based Emotion Practices, in: Barbara Schuler (ed.), Historicizing Emotions. Practices and Objects in India, China, and Japan, Leiden 2018, pp. 1-32, here p. 3.

33 George J. Sefa Dei, Indigenous Knowledge Studies and the Next Generation: Pedagogical Possibilities for Anti-Colonial Education, in: Australian Journal of Indigenous Education 37 (2008) issue S1, pp. 5-13, here pp. 8, 11.

34 Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia, New York 2001, p. 40.

35 For conceptualizations of Russia as/in opposition to/outside of Europe, see Vladimir Baranovsky, Russia: A Part of Europe or Apart from Europe?, in: International Affairs 76 (2000), pp. 443-458.

36 Boym, Future of Nostalgia (fn 34), pp. 11-14.

37 Ibid., p. 13. Emphasis added.

38 Anna Wierzbicka, Emotion and Culture: Arguing with Martha Nussbaum, in: Ethos 31 (2003), pp. 577-600, here p. 582.

39 Ibid., p. 592. Emphasis added.

40 Edward Sapir, The Nature of Language, in: David G. Mandelbaum (ed.), Selected Writings of Edward Sapir in Language, Culture and Personality, Berkeley 1949, pp. 3-166, here pp. 162-163.

41 Wierzbicka, Emotion and Culture (fn 38), p. 591.

42 Peter Nosco, Remembering Paradise. Nativism and Nostalgia in Eighteenth-Century Japan, Cambridge, MA 1990, p. 6.

43 Wierzbicka, Imprisoned in English (fn 8), p. 4.

44 Nosco, Remembering Paradise (fn 42), p. xi.

45 Ibid., p. 4.

46 Nosco invokes here the ›is-ought‹ paradigm but does not qualify the utility of drawing on the German terminology of Sein (what something is) and Sollen (what something ought to be). Ibid.

47 Anna Wierzbicka, Understanding Cultures Through Their Key Words. English, Russian, Polish, German, and Japanese, New York 1997, p. 236.

48 Margrit Pernau/Dominic Sachsenmaier, History of Concepts and Global History, in: Margrit Pernau/Dominic Sachsenmaier (eds), Global Conceptual History. A Reader, London 2016, pp. 1-28, here p. 19.

49 Margrit Pernau/Helge Jordheim, Introduction, in: Margrit Pernau et al. (eds), Civilizing Emotions. Concepts in Nineteenth-Century Asia and Europe, Oxford 2015, pp. 1-24, here p. 13. Reinhart Koselleck, Introduction and Prefaces to the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, in: Contributions to the History of Concepts 6 (2011) issue 1, pp. 1-37.

50 Pernau, Concepts of Emotions in Indian Languages (fn 11), p. 25. Emphasis added.

51 Rob Boddice, The History of Emotions, Manchester 2018, p. 5.

52 Hagen Schulz-Forberg, Global Conceptual History: Promises and Pitfalls of a New Research Agenda, in: Hagen Schulz-Forberg (ed.), A Global Conceptual History of Asia, 1860–1940, New York 2016, pp. 1-24.

53 William W. Kelly, Rationalization and Nostalgia: Cultural Dynamics of New Middle-Class Japan, in: American Ethnologist 13 (1986), pp. 603-618, here p. 612. See, for instance, Ian Reader, Back to the Future: Images of Nostalgia and Renewal in a Japanese Religious Context, in: Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 14 (1987), pp. 287-303.

54 Jane Marie Law, Puppets of Nostalgia. The Life, Death, and Rebirth of the Japanese ›Awaji Ningyo‹ Tradition, Princeton 1997, p. 214.

55 Fred Davis, Yearning for Yesterday. A Sociology of Nostalgia, New York 1979; Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham 1991.

56 Historian Fujita Motoharu refers to a ›nostalgie hidden in our hearts‹ (warera kokoro ni hisomu nosutarujii) when discussing the history of traditional Japanese houses (minka). See Motoharu Fujita, Nihon no minkashi [The History of Minka], in: Shigaku zasshi [Journal of Historical Science] 39 (1927), pp. 980-981, here p. 980. Jean Starobinski, Nosutarujii no gainen [The Concept of Nostalgia], trans. by Tsutomu Matsumoto, in: Diogenesu [Diogène] 2 (1967), pp. 33-51. See also Jean Starobinski, Le concept de nostalgie, in: Diogène 54 (1966), pp. 92-115. On the Japanese reception of French approaches to historical semantics, see Nobuo Satō’s translation of linguist Pierre Guiraud. Pierre Guiraud, Imi-ron. kotoba no imi [Semantics. The Meaning of Words], trans. by Nobuo Satō, Tokyo 1958.

57 Naokazu Takeuchi, Shurui no hyōji kaikaku e teigen [Recommendations for the Reform of Alcoholic Beverage Labeling], in: Nihon jōzō kyōkai zasshi [Journal of the Brewing Society of Japan] 70 (1975), pp. 292-295.

58 Marilyn Ivy, Tradition and Difference in the Japanese Mass Media, in: Public Culture Bulletin 1 (1988), pp. 21-29, here p. 28. On the ›aesthetics of decontextualization‹, see Arjun Appadurai, Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value, in: Arjun Appadurai (ed.), The Social Life of Things. Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge, UK 1986, pp. 3-63.

59 Dentsu Japan Marketing/Advertising Yearbook, 1985–86, Tokyo 1986, p. 154; Dentsu Japan Marketing/Advertising Yearbook, 1989, Tokyo 1989, p. 64.

61 Hirofumi Takatsuna, Shanhai nihonjin hikiagesha-tachi no nosutaruji. ›waga furusato, Shanhai‹ no tanjō [Nostalgie of Japanese Repatriates in Shanghai], in: Kindai Chūgoku kenkyū ihō [Modern Chinese Research Bulletin] 24 (2002), pp. 1-29. On nosutarujii as a frame for discussing Svetlana Boym, see Atsuko Ishimaru, Nosutarujī no karuchuraru sutadīzu: Subetorāna Boimu ›nosutarujī no mirai‹ no kaku Roshia [Cultural Studies of Nostalgia: Russia in Svetlana Boym’s The Future of Nostalgia], in: Kuadorante [Quadrant] 17 (2015), pp. 175-186.

62 One of its earliest uses appears as a title for the Japanese translation of Thomas Buechner’s biography of American artist Norman Rockwell. See Thomas S. Buechner, Amerikan nosutarujia [American Nostalgia], trans. by Yoshiaki Tōno, Tokyo 1975.

63 Kina Shōkichi, Mirai e no nosutarujia, Tokyo 1980.

64 Fred Davis, Nosutarujia no shakaigaku, trans. by Juichi Aiba et al., Tokyo 1990.

65 See, for instance, Eriko Sugimori/Noritada Matsuda/Kusumi Taka, Nosutarujia kanki kōkoku ga shōhin to sōsu kioku ni oyobosu kōka. Sōsumonitaringu to nosutarujia hyōtei o mochiita kentō [The Effects of Nostalgia on Advertising Processing in Television Commercials], in: Nihonshinrigakkai taikai happyō ronbun-shū [Proceedings of the Japanese Society for Cognitive Psychology] 72 (2008), p. 18.

66 Haruki Tomoaki, Shōrai e no kikan, kako e no tōki: Echien’nu Surio no sōzō suru ›nosutarujī‹ [Return to the Future, Project for the Past: The Creative ›nostalgie‹ of Etienne Souriau], in: Ningen kagaku kenkyū [Waseda Journal of Human Sciences] 12 (2016), pp. 49-66, here p. 50. On kyōshū as a ›yearning for home‹, see Hosokawa’s study on Japanese communities in Brazil. Hosokawa, Tōki ni arite tsukuru mono (fn 20).

67 Wierzbicka, Emotion and Culture (fn 38), pp. 583, 590.

68 Sneja Gunew, Subaltern Empathy: Beyond European Categories in Affect Theory, in: Concentric. Literary and Cultural Studies 35 (2009) issue 1, pp. 11-30.

69 Melvin Richter, Conceptual History, Translation, and Intercultural Conceptual Transfers, in: Gaenyeomgwa sotong [Concepts and Communications] 3 (2009), pp. 165-205, here p. 167.

70 See Ariel Heryanto, Can There Be Southeast Asians in Southeast Asian Studies?, in: Laurie J. Sears (ed.), Knowing Southeast Asian Subjects, Singapore 2007, pp. 75-108, here p. 89.

71 Masato Nagamine, Nihon ni okeru nosutarujia no teigi ni kansuru ichi kentō: anbibarentona kanjō ni chakumoku shite [A Study on the Definition of Nostalgia in Japan: Focusing on an Ambivalent Emotion], in: Kanjō shinri-gaku kenkyū [Japanese Journal of Research on the Emotions] 24 (2016).

72 Peter N. Stearns, Shame, and a Challenge for Emotions History, in: Emotion Review 8 (2016), pp. 197-206, here p. 205.

73 M. William Steele (ed.), Kindai to nosutarujia, in: Kikan nihon shisōshi 77 (2010), pp. 3-165.

74 Bruce A. Coats, Chikanobu. Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints, Leiden 2006; Kendall H. Brown/Sharon A. Minichiello, Taisho Chic. Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia, and Deco, Honolulu 2002.

75 Wierzbicka, Imprisoned in English (fn 8), p. 61. Emphasis added.

76 On the interplay of music, sound, and nostalgia in My Neighbor Totoro, see Kunio Hara, Joe Hisaishi’s Soundtrack for My Neighbor Totoro, New York 2020.

77 Shiro Yoshioka, ›Tonari no totoro‹ ni mieru ›natsukashisa‹ to ›nosutarujia‹ [Nostalgia and natsukashisa in My Neighbor Totoro], in: Kikan Nihon shisōshi 77 (2010), pp. 146-165, here p. 147.

78 ›Retro‹ is used here in reference to such phenomena as shōwa nosutarujia, ›nostalgia‹ for the Shōwa era (1926–1989).

79 Yoshioka, ›Tonari no totoro‹ (fn 77), p. 148.

80 Eisuke Tsugami, Natsukashisa to nostalgia: hikaku bigaku kara kanseishi e [Natsukashisa and Nostalgia: From Comparative Aesthetics to Aisthetic History], in: Bigaku bijutsushi ronshū [Journal of Aesthetics and Art History] 18 (2010), pp. 71-95.

81 For a brief summary of this history, see Kayo Miura, Kansei as Mental Activity: Perception with Impression, Intuitive Judgment and the Basis of Creativity, in: Japanese Psychological Research 53 (2011), pp. 341-348.

82 See, for instance, Naoya Ogawa (trans.), Hon’yaku Aran Koruban-cho ›kairaku no chōwa‹ yori (1) [Translation from Alain Corbin’s L’harmonie des plaisirs (1)], in: Ryūtsū keizai daigaku ronshū [The Journal of Ryutsu Keizai University] 45 (2017), pp. 1-23.

83 Yoshiteru Asō, Kinsei Nihon tetsugakushi [The History of Modern Japanese Philosophy], Tokyo 1942, pp. 310-312.

84 Wakao Fujioka, Sayonara taishū. Kansei-jidai wo dou yomuka?, Kyoto 1984.

85 Miura, Kansei as Mental Activity (fn 81), p. 343.

86 Eisuke Tsugami, Ajiwai no kōzō. Kanseika jidai no gigaku [The Structure of Taste. Aesthetics in the Age of Aistheticization], Tokyo 2010.

87 Tomoe Nakamura, The Scope of Aisthetics for Comparative Aesthetics: An Examination of Kanseigaku in Japan, in: Aesthetics 23 (2013) issue 1, pp. 135-154, here p. 147.

88 See Margrit Pernau/Imke Rajamani, Emotional Translations: Conceptual History Beyond Language, in: History and Theory 55 (2016), pp. 46-65.

89 This expression is often translated as ›I miss those days‹, ›those were the days‹, ›I feel nostalgic for those times‹, etc., though the first-person subject is only implied.

90 Tsugami, Natsukashisa to nostalgia (fn 80), pp. 71-72.

91 See, for instance, Eisuke Tsugami, Kako no genzen: kanseiteki hanchu to shite no nostalgia [In the Presence of the Past: Nostalgia as an Aisthetic Category], in: Bigaku [Aesthetics] 56 (2005), pp. 1-13; Kanseiteki shitsu no seisei kozo, matawa kanseishi no kokoromi [The Formation of Aisthetic Qualities: Towards a History of Aisthetics], in: Bigaku [Aesthetics] 61 (2010), pp. 1-12.

92 Hosokawa, Tōki ni arite tsukuru mono (fn 20), pp. 6-9.

93 Tsugami, Natsukashisa to nostalgia (fn 80), p. 77.

94 Linguistically, this refers to Japanese being a zero pronominal language in which internal states of human actors (known as ›internal state predicates‹) exhibit the ›person restriction‹ – that is, in the functional absence of pronouns in the Japanese language, the zero form of all subjects is implied as being in the first person. See Satoshi Uehara/Kingkarn Thepkanjana, The So-Called Person Restriction of Internal State Predicates in Japanese in Contrast with Thai, in: Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation 28 (2014), pp. 120-128.

95 Tsugami, Natsukashisa to nostalgia (fn 80), p. 86.

96 Ibid.

97 Ibid., p. 90.

98 Ibid., p. 85.

99 See Chen Fangze, Portuguese Missionaries’ Contribution to Japanese Linguistics, in: Revista de Cultura 39 (2011), pp. 121-132.

100 Vocabulario da lingoa de Iapam, Nagasaki 1603, p. 178v.

101 Ibid. I am grateful to Marco Fonseca for our conversations about these definitions.

102 J.C. Hepburn, A Japanese and English Dictionary, London 1867, p. 308.

103 On the comparative study of saudade, Czech lítost and Turkish hüzün as untranslatable ›nostalgic‹ concepts, see Kyra Giorgi, Emotions, Language and Identity on the Margins of Europe, New York 2014.

104 Tsugami, Natsukashisa to nostalgia (fn 80), p. 84.

105 Shūzō Kuki, ›Iki‹ no kōzō hoka 2-hen [The Structure of Detachment (iki)], Tokyo 1979 [1938], p. 151.

106 Tsugami, Natsukashisa to nostalgia (fn 80), p. 91.

107 Ibid., p. 91-92. Emphasis added.

108 Ibid., p. 92.

109 Masato Nagamine/Miki Toyama, Nihonjin wa nosutarujia o keiken shi uru ka? Nosutarujia no bittersweet-na sokumen ni chakumoku shite [Do Japanese People Experience Nostalgia? Focusing on the ›Bitter Sweetness‹ of Nostalgia], in: Kanjō shinri-gaku kenkyū [Japanese Journal of Research on the Emotions] 24 (2016), pp. 22-32.

110 Ibid., p. 23; Erica G. Hepper et al., Pancultural Nostalgia: Prototypical Conceptions Across Cultures, in: Emotion 14 (2014), pp. 733-747.

111 Nagamine, Nihon ni okeru nosutarujia (fn 71).

112 Takashi Kusumi (ed.), Natsukashisa no shinrigaku. omoide to kanjō [The Psychology of Natsukashisa. Memories and Emotions], Tokyo 2014.

113 Nagamine, Nihon ni okeru nosutarujia (fn 71).

114 Ibid.

115 Maria Gendron et al., Emotion Words Shape Emotion Percepts, in: Emotion 12 (2012), pp. 314-325, here p. 321.

116 Wierzbicka, Imprisoned in English (fn 8), p. 64.

117 Kuan-Hsing Chen, Asia as Method. Toward Deimperialization, Durham 2010, p. 223.

118 Lynn Hunt, Writing History in the Global Era, New York 2014, p. 151. Emphasis added.

119 Pernau/Jordheim, Introduction (fn 49), p. 3.

120 Ibid.

121 These guiding questions are informed by Hagen Schulz-Forberg’s approach to global conceptual history. See Schulz-Forberg, Global Conceptual History (fn 52), p. 8. See also Carol Gluck/Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (eds), Words in Motion. Toward a Global Lexicon, Durham 2009. On historical approaches to cultural transfer and translation, see Simone Lässig, Übersetzungen in der Geschichte – Geschichte als Übersetzung? Überlegungen zu einem analytischen Konzept und Forschungsgegenstand für die Geschichtswissenschaft [Translations in History – History as Translation? Reflections on an Analytical Concept and a Research Topic for Historians], in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft [History and Society] 38 (2012), pp. 189-216.


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