Tuesday 27 February 2018
6:00pm – 7:00pm

Hands of Goze: the Tactile Culture of Visually Impaired People in Modern Japan

Drinks reception from 7:00pm

13/14 Cornwall Terrace, Outer Circle (entrance facing Regent's Park), London NW1 4QP

Organised by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation

Goze is a term referring to visually-impaired female musicians who travelled Japan playing shamisen. After World War II, with the expansion of the welfare service for disabled people and the enhancement of education for visually impaired people, Goze came to be recognised as relics of the pre-modern times. With the passing of Haru Kobayashi (1900-2005), who was known as the “last Goze”, the culture of Goze, once maintained by visually-impaired people, disappeared from Japanese society in the 21st century. Is it right for Goze culture to be forgotten completely?

In this talk, Professor Kojiro Hirose discussed “the hands of Goze” and approach the relevance and the possibility of Goze culture from three different angles: “touching the sound”, “touching the colour”, and “touching the heart”. Referencing Goze folk songs, which Goze created and spread as their own oral traditions, Professor Hirose clarified the role that tactile culture of visually impaired people should play in today’s society.

A video of the talk can be found here:

About the contributors

Kojiro Hirose

Kojiro Hirose is an associate professor at the School of Cultural and Social Studies at the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, having received a Ph.D in Japanese Religious History from Kyoto University in 2000. He was also appointed associate professor at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan. Since then he has worked on practical study and the prevalence of “tactile exhibits”, aiming at not only a barrier-free museum for disabled people, but a “universal museum,” which everyone can enjoy. Hirose has attracted international attention through advocating for barrier-free museums, and has been invited to give lectures around the world, part of which have been published in the East Asian Library Journal in an essay titled “The Richness of Touch: The Paradoxical Meanings of Disability in Japanese Culture”. Expanding on two thematic exhibitions exploring tactile museums and the universe of Braille organised by Hirose, a new exhibit space, “Touch the World: Widen your Perspectives” was set up in the information zone of National Museum of Ethnology in 2012, the planning of which Hirose played the central role.

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