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Since the film Shall We Dansu? (1996) and many TV shows, social dance has become known to a wider audience in Japan. Nevertheless, prejudices such as „That doesn‟t suit the Japanese‟ continue to exist, because the intimate body contact in ballroom dancing is hard to accept in a culture where „skinship‟ (body contact) is only important during childhood. For this reason, dance schools were under the law controlling Japanese entertainment and the sex industry until 1998. This article deals with the historical situation and cultural issues of social dance in Japan.


The tanuki, largely misjudged in the Western world as a badger, is in fact a wild dog native to East Asia. Especially in Japan, this animal not only is represented in the local fauna but furthermore stars in the traditional lore as a kind of fabulous creature. Endued, according to popular beliefs, with magical powers, the artful shape-shifter willingly scares men to entertain himself. Folk tales too identify him as a rapscallion or a tease, but then out of gratitude he may act like a benefactor as well. This ambivalence in the figure of the tanuki, which ranges over the spectrum from a terrifying beast through a sottish fraud to a loyal friend, seems to have made him a popular subject for Japanese writers up to the present day. The way in which the rich heritage from folklore has eventually found expression in modern literature is the central issue of the present paper.


With the Great Council of State‟s 16th decree, the Meiji administration introduced the neologism kōen, „public park‟, to the Japanese language and the administrative system. One of the re-named parks was today‟s Ueno Kōen, which during the Meiji period changed with regards to character and appearance. It came to house the first modern museums, the first modern zoo, and the first public library. Industrial fairs were to be held in Ueno Kōen and a train station was built, connecting the rural north with Japan‟s capital. Meiji politicians re-designed the park grounds, in which today not only institutions of education, industry and modernity are located, but the highest number of homeless people in any one place in Tōkyō is to be found.

The research question, „What kind of space was constituted in the place Ueno Kōen during Meiji time?‟ is to be answered with the discourse theory of the German sociologist Reiner Keller and the theory on the social construction of space offered by the German sociologist Martina Löw. The article will show that Ueno Park was to become a spatial representation of Japan‟s modernisation process and of the policies of „enlightenment‟ and „rich country, strong army‟, bunmei kaika and fukoku kyōhei.