The Uses and Meanings of the Japanese Word Ekkyō in the Age of the Anthropocene

Mr Alexander Ginnan1

1Tottori University, Tottori City, Japan

In an age characterized by a global excess of information and communication, it has become common knowledge that every language includes vocabulary which is not easily translatable. This paper focuses on the Japanese word ekkyō (越境), which is comprised of the ideogram for “cross” or “traverse” (越) and “border” or “boundary” (境). Despite being a keyword in Japanese language discussions of globalization, transnationalism, diaspora, migration and other internationally relevant subject matter, ekkyō is a term that does not have a succinct English equivalent. While Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary (2003) defines ekkyō as “crossing [infiltration of, violation of] a border”, this does not reflect its current wide-ranging applications in Japanese. In this presentation I will trace the evolution of the uses and meanings of ekkyō throughout the twentieth century, as well as its rapid proliferation in the present, to posit some ideas about what this word might come to denote in the near future, and what that can tell us about life in the age of the Anthropocene.


Alexander Ginnan is a research associate at Tottori University’s Faculty of Regional Sciences in Japan. His current areas of interest include visual representation and cultural interaction in non-urban environments.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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