Knock, knock! Holmes, are you home? by Mimi Okabe

Visiting the Sherlock Holmes museum in London, England is probably every Sherlock Holmes fan’s dream. Even if you’re not a die-hard fan, you should find it amusing!

For starters, if you’re in London, take the metro to Baker Street Station where you’ll find the iconic silhouette of Holmes smoking his pipe along the walls of the station. Then, head down to 221b Baker St, Marylebone.

There used to be an online system where you could purchase tickets in advance but for whatever reason that service has been discontinued. To get tickets, you’ll have to walk into the gift store, which is right next to the museum. The tickets cost £15 each (around $26.00 CAD) for adults. Once you’ve obtained your “golden key,” line up in front of the door to 221b, which is guarded by men from the Scotland Yard, but have no fear because they aren’t real police. In fact, they’re super friendly and funny. Don’t forget to snap a few photos with them too! For details about the museum click here.

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I visited the museum on a weekday sometime during the first week of September in the late afternoon, and the cue wasn’t very long. The museum allows a large group of people (I think 10-15) to enter at once, so even if there’s a long cue, you won’t wait that long. The tour begins in the famous study, and if you haven’t read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, it might seem underwhelming since many of the small details in that room—the violin, chemistry set, the wall covered in bullet holes—speak to Holmes’s hobbies and habits that any aficionado would pick up on. Luckily, there’s a guide who’ll explain the significance of each room, and because we’re all squeezed in a small space, there’s no way you’ll miss anything s/he says.

For me, the study represents an iconic space. It’s the place where Sherlock Holmes met many of his clients and where many of his adventures with Watson began. Unfortunately, when I went, there was rope barricading me from sitting on the chairs so I couldn’t role play as Holmes or Watson and snap a few pics (as I have heard others have done), but the museum showcases other really interesting artifacts. What stood out for me was a bound collection of fan made works and letters sent to the museum from China, and a framed, leaflet-like-poster titled “Holmes’s supporting cast” featured in both Japanese and English. This speaks to the sustained influence and popularity of Sherlock Holmes in Asia (and on a global scale) as Doyle’s work have been adapted across linguistic borders and cultures.

I’ve also been to the Sherlock Holmes exhibit in Kobe, Japan, which I visited in 2011, where the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was also highly anticipated (as you can see in the photo below). The study was set up in a slightly different way than at the location in London, but I love how the wax doll of Sherlock Holmes was placed in the study at the Kobe location. Is Holmes peering out the window because he spotted something suspicious? Is he waiting for his next client?

Upstairs in the London location, you’ll find a wax exhibit. I was most intrigued by the wax dolls of Holmes and Watson standing in the graveyard because it reminded me of a scene in a video game called Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2: Naruhodou Ryuunosuke no Kakugo (Great Turnabout Trial 2: The Resolve of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō), which adapts Doyle’s famous detective. It’s possible that the creators of the game had visited this museum (as well as Madame Tussauds), or it’s also possible that they utilized images of the museum(s) through online sources. Either way, it was cool to see how elements from the Sherlock Holmes Museum were integrated into a Japanese video game that not so many people know about (but now you do!). I presented a paper on this game at the British Association for Japanese Studies, which you can read about here.

Of course, all great tours end with a visit to the souvenir store (the so-called tourist trap), which I usually bypass at other museums, zoos and aquariums. Not this time. Like any fan girl, I felt like being in a candy store and at the end of the day, I paid for a watch, a book, a postcard and a pin as tokens to remind myself of my little adventure in Holmes’s abode.

BUT WAIT! Your adventure shouldn’t end here! Don’t forget to check out the bronze statue of Holmes and if you have time, go on a Sherlock Holmes tour, which you can find more information about here. There are many more attractions that you can indulge in, so here’s to many more fun adventures as you explore the world of Sherlock Holmes in London!

The game (is always) afoot!


To Sheffield and Beyond! by Mimi Okabe

One week ago, I flew out to Sheffield, England to attend a conference organized by the British Association for Japanese Studies. It can sometimes feel intimidating to attend a conference where you don’t know anyone, but I met many friendly people and made some great connections. What’s more, I was part of an amazing panel organized by Dr. Rachael Hutchinson and presented alongside Dr. James Newman and Frank Mondelli. In the spirit of Replaying Japan, our panel explored the conference’s theme (Crisis? What Crisis? Continuity, and Change in Japan) through various critical interpretations of Japanese video games. Scroll down to see what our panel was about!

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Aside from our panel, what I particularly liked about the conference were the keynote presentations by Dr. Gennifer Weisenfeld and Dr. Yoshitaka Mori who delivered very different, but informative discussions about how crisis is represented in Japanese visual culture and media, and its relationship to wider national/political discourses. I learned how “disasters are opportunities for radical change and profit” and that “crisis produces new markets using fear as a mobilizing force” as explored in Dr. Weisenfeld’s talk on boukuu domesticity. According to Dr. Yoshitaka, one site of crisis in Japan today is democracy, as he explained how it is associated with leftism and radicalism, which I find quite alarming. The Q & A session facilitated by Dr. Christopher Harding added critical depth and insight to the discussions as well.

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In addition to the keynote speakers, I was impressed by the sheer diversity of panels that explored crisis in Japan in so many different ways. Panels that caught my eyes ranged in topics from “Portrayals of Queerness in Popular Culture and the Potential Dangers of New Queer;” to “Generative Fictions: Representations of Pregnancy in Modern Japanese Literature and Manga;” to “The Kimono and its Industry in 21st century Japan--Tales of Crisis Change and Subcultural Appropriation;” to “Major Effects of Minor Changes: The Decision-Making Process under the Second Abe Administration.” I also appreciated the poster sessions that displayed the work of grad students in a really fun and interactive way.

Overall, my first BAJS conference experience was really great and I look forward to the next one.

For more information about the British Association for Japanese Studies, see here.

Thanks to the BAJS Council for the travel bursary.

Stay tuned for my next blog about my encounter with Sherlock Holmes…

In case you missed it here’s our panel abstract:


“This panel examines the Japanese video game industry from the perspective of cultural content and game design, showing how creativity in characterization, world-building and level of difficulty can lead to social critique and industry innovation. Mimi Okabe first analyzes popular titles from the Phoenix Wright (Gyakuten Saiban) series, demonstrating Japan’s ongoing crisis of identity from Meiji to the present, situating Japan on the axis of Orient-Occident and problematizing the imperial past of both England and Japan. Frank Mondelli examines ideology and social critique in Persona 5, set in a politically corrupt contemporary Tokyo in which the player-character must act as an ethical individual to progress. Rachael Hutchinson shifts the discussion to matters of genre, asking which video game genres are more conducive to social or political critique. Racing and fighting games are set against roleplaying, tactical and strategy games, all of which deliver nationalistic or counter-discursive ideology in different ways. Finally, James Newman considers Nintendo’s response to fan creativity in the production of Kaizō game levels in Super Mario Maker – impossibly difficult hacks which could have caused a crisis for Nintendo’s friendly image. Newman demonstrates that Nintendo, far from being a slow monolith incapable of change, seized the opportunity to counter the crisis with corporate flexibility, ultimately reinforcing its own design principles. Together, the papers in this panel aim to show the Japanese game industry as a creative force for social critique and fan engagement, a dynamic site for exploring and problematizing crisis in contemporary Japan” (British Association for Japanese Studies Conference 2018, p. 45).


What are Some of your Best Memories of Food?! by Mimi Okabe

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This is for all you foodies, and people who just love food!

I am so honored to be the guest-editor for the 4th issue of The Polyglot to celebrate Canada's multiculturalism through food!! As a foodie, this issue is like a dream come true! Consider submitting a poem, recipe and an image that captures your best, favorite, most memorable experiences with food! See the full Call on The Polyglot website!

This is a general Call, meaning you don't have to be an academic or food expert to submit something! We are looking for fun and creative submissions! We also accept and encourage submissions in ANY language! Everyone is welcome to submit! (pointing my fingers at fellow foodies!)

The Day I Met an Astrophysicist by Mimi Okabe

“As a specialist in literature, what does the black hole represent to you?”

This was one of the questions that Dr. Sharon Morsink asked me when I met her for the first time on a not-so-chilly afternoon in December of 2017. We sat in SUB, talking about black holes, or at least, what I knew of them (which is to say, other than common knowledge of the subject, not very much). She told me about an exciting online introductory course that she and her team were developing at the time called ASTRO 101: Black Holes. The online course was launched recently, and anyone can register for it here for free! Having taught a course on sci-fi, I was invited to participate in an interview to discuss the representation of black holes in science fiction and popular culture--I was thrilled! The topic of black holes was something new and exciting for me that I ended up reading and watching quite a bit. Considering that black holes are a common trope in sci-fi stories, films, anime and even video games, I was surprised that little critical attention has been paid to this topic. If I had the time and funds to do another PhD, this is an area that I would love to further explore! In the videos featured here, I give my two cents on fictional depictions of black holes and why I think it matters. Hope you find them interesting! (〃ω〃)

DID YOU KNOW...

the U of A has its own observatory?! Public viewing are currently scheduled on Thursday from 12 to 1:00 pm. The day and time change with the seasons, so don’t forget to stay updated! I love viewing the moon in the fall/winter semesters!

Click here to connect to the Department of Physics Astronomical Observatory homepage. Learn more about the online course, ASTRO 101 here. See what other experts have to say about black holes here.  Videos by https://onlea.org/

 

“Avengers Prime, Assemble!” The Dream Team Panel at CSSC! by Mimi Okabe

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The 5th Canadian Society for the Study of Comics conference was held this year from May 10th-11th at the Bloor Yorkville Marriott and the Toronto Reference Library! Thank you to the conference organizers for another great conference. For the past five years, the CSSC has been held in collaboration with the Toronto Comic Art Festival (TCAF) and it’s an exciting time for academics, creators, and fans to meet and share their work.

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One of the things that I really like about this conference is the people. It’s my third time presenting at this conference and it was nice to meet new and familiar faces. It’s definitely a place where I feel safe and encouraged to test my ideas, which I use to develop into an article for publication, or incorporate as part of my thesis. This year was particularly meaningful as I got to present on a panel that I organized, but it couldn’t have happened without the contribution of Dr. Ben Whaley and PhD Candidate, Jonathan Chau.

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I’ve always wanted to propose a panel on manga since while there are many fascinating discussions on Canadian and American comics (mostly in the Anglophone tradition), there are fewer presentations that address manga seriously. As a result, and by no means is this anyone’s fault, but presentations on manga tend to be grouped in the miscellaneous panel by default. Finding the right team took some time, but with the support of my allies we proposed a panel titled “Breaking the Mold: Manga & the Politics of Identity” which was accepted! For a full read of our abstracts click here.

In a nutshell, our panel examined manga (and its cultural variations) as a powerful and creative force for social and political critique. Ben began the show with Tezuka Osamu’s Gringo, exploring how the manga grapples with questions of Japanese-ness and identity. I followed with a critical discussion on the impact of the economic crisis on the formation of middle-class youth identities in Japan as a means to explore the formation of the boy criminal/detective in Ohba Tsugumi’s Death Note. Jonathan Chau shifted  the discussion to matters of genre politics, investigating Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’s Red: A Haida Manga, which fuses narrative traditions and forms in developing a culturally relevant and distinct product, or as Jonathan might say, the meaning is “all in the gutter.”

What was really great about this panel presentation was the discussion that followed in the Q & A session and this can be credited to us "Avengers Prime" (I call dibs on Thor) for having interesting and strong papers! But all jokes aside, I’m grateful for my colleagues. 

I look forward to the next conference, whether it continues to be held in collaboration with TCAF, or with Congress.

Stay tuned for our next CSSC conference by clicking here

If you’d like to be a member of CCSC see here

 

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2018 Graduate Teaching Awards Celebration! by Mimi Okabe

“Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last."

Bonus points to those who know where this quote comes from!

 Thank you to my research supervisor,  Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell  for his guidance and support in all aspects of my professional and teaching career. 

Thank you to my research supervisor, Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell for his guidance and support in all aspects of my professional and teaching career. 

Yesterday, the 3rd annual Graduate Student Teaching Award event was held in the Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering (and what a view of the city you get from up there!). I was really honored to have been one of the recipients of this year’s award, and I couldn’t have achieved it without the support of my students and my teaching mentors. First and foremost, to the students who nominated me, my heartfelt thanks. Thank you for motivating me and teaching me how to be a better instructor. To my mentors who have provided me with an incredible support network, your openness has had an invaluable impact on my own teaching philosophy, and I hope that I can continue to emulate your level of success. For the list of 2018 award recipients see here.

 

How can you be nominated for this award?

Each department has its own process, I believe, so I can only speak from my own experience as a student in Modern Languages & Cultural Studies. Also, check out the outlines & procedures posted on the FGSR website.

  1. Usually, in the fall semester, there is a call for nominations. The MLCS awards committee will send you a link for you to share with students. At this stage, all you can do is to request students, whom you have taught, to consider nominating you. The more students you can reach out to, the better. They are asked to fill out a short survey (which you don’t have access to, obviously) and then you play the waiting game.

  2. About a month or so later, you will receive an email from the MLCS awards committee. If you were successfully nominated, then, you will be asked to submit a teaching dossier as part of your application. For tips on how to put together a dossier, see these links (scroll to the bottom of the page). After all this, sip on a glass of wine and start working on your other projects because you won’t find out the results until the end of February of the following year.

Some tips:

It’s never too late to get started! In other words, at whatever stage you are at in your graduate program, start thinking about how you can put together a teaching dossier and how you can develop a strong CV.  

  1. The FGSR offers workshops as well as the Graduate Teaching & Learning Program, which are designed to provide you with practical tools and knowledge about teaching.

  2. A dossier takes time to put together, so start early. Work on it bit by bit. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues, professors and/or mentors  to help you. Seek their professional advice in order to build a stronger dossier (some of them are tenured for a reason…). Luckily, I belong to a department that is supportive of their grad students, so I had no problem asking for help.

  3. At the end of the day,  be your own advocate!! Get as many teaching opportunities as you can. If you can’t get teaching gigs, do a series of guest lectures and always ask for students’ feedback (either online or in hard copy) and include them in your dossier. Join teaching circles at your university. If your institution doesn’t have one, then create one. Take initiative to demonstrate that you geniunely care about & are critically thinking about teaching.

  4. Find a teaching mentor and meet with her/him once a month or so to discuss your progress, challenges and etc. Having a teaching mentor is important because they not only provide you with words of wisdom, but can support your role as an instructor in so many different ways.

I hope some of these tips will set you up for greater success! 

The Launch of Subjective Fashion! by Mimi Okabe

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This afternoon I attended the launch of SUBJECTIVE FASHION,  the second issue of Polyglot Magazine held in the IRS Studio at the  University of Alberta!

What is subjective fashion?

I think fashion has always been a powerful tool in defining our individual style and our Self, but also our collective identity. In this issue of Polyglot, I tackle this question by exploring the feminist implications of the way I dress in free verse (I don’t dress “cute” for no reason, you know). But all jokes aside, this issue celebrates the intersection of fashion, community & culture as evidenced by the multilingual and multicultural contributions. Click here to  purchase a copy of this magazine and show your love and support! See page 2 for my contribution! 

Happy (belated) Birthday Sherlock Holmes! by Mimi Okabe

What better way to ring in the New Year than by celebrating Sherlock's birthday with the Wisteria Lodgers! We all got together for a wonderful dinner at Barb & John’s home where we indulged in roast beef au jus, mushy peas, roasted potatoes, and tomato cucumber salad. As the evening progressed, we sipped on wine, sangria and sparkling apple juice over a very heated discussion about “The Final Solution” **ahem** I mean, “The Final Problem.”

One of the fascinating things about this story for me is that we see Sherlock Holmes at his most vulnerable (and perhaps for good reason). He basically sees a spitting image of himself--well that is, without the domed forehead and the deeply sunken in set of eyes--but one who uses his genius to run an organized crime network. The cat-and-mouse game between Holmes and Moriarty, which takes them across Europe is perhaps another highlight of the story that adds to its suspense, though,some of us interpreted it as a sign that Doyle was planning his vacation (and, perhaps, rightly so since this WAS supposed to be the last Sherlock Holmes story). The night ended with a series of toasts. I wrote one for the Woman, which went a little something like this:

To the Woman who was always two steps ahead,

That it scared Watson, and he wrote her off as dead.

But in the popular imagination she continues to live,

As an equal to the Great detective.

She’s an American!

She’s an Adventuress!

She’s an Adversary!

Some will say…

She’s a AAA threat disguised as a gentle lady.

So let us raise our glass to Ms. Irene Adler,

The woman of the past, present and generations hereafter!