Gimme shelter: enka, self and society in contemporary Japan.




Aalgaard, Scott Wade

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This study examines a genre of Japanese popular music known as enka, and the manner in which devotees of the genre and other stakeholders approach and negotiate with it. Previous academic examinations of enka have tended to locate it as a static musical embodiment of nostalgic ‘Japaneseness’. Relying upon field observations and discussions with enka devotees carried out in Tokyo and Fukushima, I argue that enka are in fact intensely ambiguous, and that the genre ultimately serves as a shelter for historically-specific listeners, one that is deeply implicated in the production of subjectivity and the social. Depending upon the manner in which they intertwine with other ‘texts’ in the listener’s life, enka can act as a homogenizing agent, or as a conduit for heterogeneity and movement – or both. This research will contribute to the advancement of our understanding both contemporary Japanese society and the role of popular music within it.



Popular music, enka, karaoke, society, Japan, Fukushima