It is difficult to pass the Chinese New Year without celebrating it in Seoul — or in Taiwan or China, I presume, which makes me realize that Japan had gone a little too far abandoning this custom in the Meiji era.
Thinking about what I have gone through over the past year, I am very happy. Twelve months ago, I was still in Tokyo, being unsure of whether I would be able to find anything in each place. I moved to Okinawa in February, which was lucky for me in retrospect in that I avoided a series of decisions I would have had to make if I had stayed in Tokyo when the earthquake hit Tohoku. In terms of my research, Okinawa from Meiji to WWII keeps blowing my mind, and even though the information I collected is scattered, I got enough to write a chapter during my short stay.
Once I moved to Taiwan, I had a panicky moment because I could not find local material in any archive. I panicked for one week, but the destitute pushed me to call people, which quickly gave me a breakthrough. I would never do that if I did not have to, but the reward was so big that I became immune to the awkward phone conversations in Chinese or Korean afterwards. My affiliation with the Center for Chinese Studies forced me to sit down and write up a chapter on Taiwan before I left. That was the best thing I did during my research.
Thanks to my experience in Taiwan, I did not panic in Korea. Surely I got frustrated when my first attempt to find interviewees who fit my case studies in Cholla Namdo did not go well, but I knew it would not be that easy in Korea. I eventually found an interesting and perfect figure in Ch’ungch’ong Namdo. It is still not like the amazing luck I had in Taiwan, but I really appreciate my encounter with the informants here.
Now because I met the protagonists of my dissertation in Taiwan and Korea, I need to go back to Okinawa and Miyagi to find the Japanese counterparts. I am visiting Okinawa briefly to meet elderly villagers in Kijoka, Okinawa in two days — keep the fingers crossed.
The challenge of the coming year is that I will be writing while doing something else the first half of the year. I have a couple of deadlines (which I love to have), for which I will be writing about Miyagi and Taiwan while I am still in Korea, and I will be writing about Japan and Korea while re-collecting sources in Tokyo. I am also finally, finally, finally wrapping up my field research, which involves many short stays in many places. My goal is to review my sources on Taiwan and Okinawa and draft up chapters on them BEFORE going back to campus in the fall. (I said it! I said it!)