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Elena Follador

Elena Follador

PhD Student in Japanese Studies


I first came to Japanese culture almost by accident while at Ca’ Foscari University (Venice), but I continued studying it out of passion. While still learning the rudiments of contemporary Japanese grammar, I attended a seminar on how to read its premodern calligraphy, namely kuzushiji and hentaigana, which triggered my interest in palaeography. I spent my last term as an undergraduate at the University of the Sacred Heart (Tokyo), where I attended a semester-long Language Program and learned how to play the koto and the shamisen.

I continued specialising in both contemporary and classical Japanese at the same Italian university and in 2014 I obtained my MA in Languages and Cultures of Eastern Asia, with a dissertation on Edo period rewritings of the folktale Saru kani kassen (‘The Battle Between the Monkey and the Crab’). Meanwhile, I was awarded a Monbushō scholarship that allowed me to spend two years (2012-2014) as a researcher at Keiō University, where I attended several courses on both Japanese language and literature. During this period, I also regularly attended and delivered presentations at Gakushūin University and at the monthly Kinsei Bungaku Kenkyūkai (Musashi University).

In the past two years, I was awarded scholarships from Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Japan Foundation, and the Aoi Global Research Award.


Subject groups/Research projects

Japanese Studies:

Research Interests

Current Research

For my doctoral dissertation, I am analysing a corpus of prose works often referred to as irui-gassen mono 異類合戦物 (‘tales of battles between non-human beings’), in which anthropomorphic characters  fight against each other. More specifically, I am focusing on tales in which the protagonists are edible things (foods, teas, and alcohol) dating from the mid-Muromachi to the end of the Edo period.

Through the close reading of these texts I will try to clarify what is the relationship that they established with other contemporaneous genres, such as gunkimono (war epic tales), ōraimono (educational copybooks), ryōri-bon (culinary books). I will also investigate the relationship established by the Japanese with the food they consumed in the premodern period.


Japanese medieval and early modern literature – parody and intertextuality – palaeography – food and drink culture – popular culture – anthropomorphism


Other Professional Activities

Between 2011 and 2012 I collaborated with Ritsumeikan University on the project of digitalisation of ancient Japanese texts belonging to the Marega Collection (Salesian Pontifical University, Rome).

During my first year of PhD I have worked as a research assistant for the project “The ephemeral in print: the world of Shioya Kihei’s single-sheet prints” (PI: Dr Laura Moretti) funded by the British Academy/Leuverhulme Grant, producing a large number of transcriptions of late Edo period texts.


Conference and seminar presentations

Presentation at Kinsei Bungaku Kenkyūkai, Musashi University, Tokyo: 市場通称の黄表紙『蟹牛房挟多』の翻刻と注釈 ‘Transcription and commentary of Ichiba Tsūshō’s kibyōshi “The Crab Nipped a Burdock”’ (20 October 2012)

Presentation at DEAS Postgraduate Research Seminar, University of Cambridge: ‘A Parody of Heike monogatari? Re-contextualising Shōjin gyorui monogatari’ (7 June 2016)

Presentation at Irui no Kai 異類の会, Kokugakuin University, Tokyo: 江戸時代における猿蟹合戦の書き直しと焼き直し ‘Rewritings and adaptations of Saru kani kassen in the Edo period’ (10 December 2016)

Presentation at NEAAS Conference, Boston College, Boston: ‘Getting Physical: What Went Wrong in the Debate Between Saké and Tea in the Japanese Early Modern Text Shucharon’ (29 January 2017)

Panel organisation and presentation at AAS Annual Conference, Toronto: ‘Food Fights in Medieval Japan, or When the Fish Declared War to the Vegetables’ (18 March 2017)

Presentation of PhD project at the 13th EAJS Workshop for PhD Students, Setúbal, Convento da Arràbida: ‘Good to Eat, Good to Fight, Good to Think: A literary and cultural history of food fights in medieval and early modern Japanese texts’ (28 August 2017)