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Media Release

For Immediate Release | September 4, 2018

The Origins of Japanese Science Fiction

A talk by Dr Michal Daliot-Bul (University of Haifa, Israel)

The Japan Foundation, Sydney, in cooperation with UNSW Sydney, presents a talk titled “The Origins of Japanese Science Fiction: Vigilantes, Pirates, Lost Worlds and Turn-of-the-Century Imperialism” by prominent Japan scholar Dr Michal Daliot-Bul at The Japan Foundation, Sydney on September 13 at 6:30pm.

Japan is known for its iconic science-fiction narratives, exemplified by classic films such as Godzilla, Akira and Ghost in the Shell among a long list of others. However, even among the most die-hard fans of contemporary Japanese sci-fi, Japan’s earliest works in the genre and the story of how they emerged are little known.

This talk will look at how Japan absorbed the emerging Western genre of science fiction in the late 19th century, giving birth to its own sci-fi tradition as a vehicle for commentary on the society and politics of the time. Flicking back through uber-vintage woodblock-printed texts, Daliot-Bul will lead a grand tour which takes in old-school vigilantes, pirates, imperialists and “savages”, reviving perspectives from a bygone era. The talk will provide insight into the trajectory of Japanese science fiction since its inception, and the inherently political nature of the genre that makes it ever-relevant today.

The Bigger Picture: 150 years since Meiji

The influence of early Western science fiction on Japan and Japan’s rapid adoption of the genre is just one example of the sweeping changes embraced by the nation around that time. The years between 1868 and 1912, known as the Meiji period, saw the nation abandon a centuries-long isolationist policy and open its borders to international influence, particularly from the West. The Meiji period marked a major turning point in Japanese history and ushered in a rapid era of modernisation which put Japan on the road to becoming the third-largest economy in the world today.

This year, Japan commemorates 150 years since the inception of the Meiji period, a fact which makes this talk incredibly timely. While Daliot-Bul will focus on the early days of Japanese science fiction, fans of the genre may sense that its story can be viewed as a metaphor of sorts for the broader history of Japan itself over this time.

Says Daliot-Bul, “History books can teach us about political trends, distress vis-à-vis Western imperialism and other social realities of late 19th-century Japan. But these early science fiction stories give us an unmediated and dramatic account of how people experienced their times. As Japan commemorates 150 years since the Meiji period began, these novels act like missives from that time–they can teach us about the complexities of history and historical telling, and provide contemporary readers with many catalysts for self-reflection.”

About the talk


Dr. Michal (Miki) Daliot-Bul is a cultural researcher focusing on modern Japan. She is an associate professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Haifa, which she headed between 2014 and 2017. Dr Daliot-Bul’s research interests include the cultural structuring and meanings of play, gamification and late modernity; the planning and formation of identities within late consumer culture and rapid globalization; youth popular cultures and countercultures; approaches to the analysis of visual and literary texts; and translation in theory and in practice. Her current research project focuses on the origins of Japanese science fiction from local and global perspectives.

Notable publications include The Anime Boom in the US: Lessons for Global Creative Industries (2017; co-authored with Prof. Nissim Otmazgin); License to Play: The Ludic in Japanese Culture (2014); “What Will You Do If The Wind Rises?: Dialectical Cinema by Miyazaki Hayao” (Asian Studies Review, 2017); “Japan Brand Strategy: The Taming of ‘Cool Japan’ and the Challenges of Cultural Planning in a Postmodern Age” (Social Science Japan Journal, 2009); and “Japan’s Mobile Technoculture: The Production of a Cellular Playscape and Its Cultural Implications” (Media, Culture & Society, 2007).



The Meiji period, also known as the Meiji era, began in 1868 with what is known as the Meiji Restoration, which saw imperial rule restored in Japan following centuries of military rule. The Meiji period is named after the Emperor who ruled during that time. Prior to the Meiji Restoration, Japan had been bound for 250 years by a closed country policy, which had been instituted by the previous military government due to security concerns and greatly limited contact between Japan and the outside world. Following the Meiji Restoration, the closed country policy was overturned. Japan opened itself up to overseas trade, began participating in World Expositions and proactively sought to learn from the industrialist nations of the West, ushering in a period of rapid and intense modernisation steeped in Western influence.

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Event Details

September 13, 2018
6:30pm – 7:30pm (doors open 6pm)


The Japan Foundation, Sydney
Level 4 (via lifts), Central Park
28 Broadway
Chippendale NSW 2008


Free admission
Limited capacity; bookings recommended

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