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Tokugawa Japan as "Nation"

 
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lordameth
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2011 9:02 pm    Post subject: Tokugawa Japan as "Nation" Reply with quote
The question of to what extent there was a conception of "Japan" or "national identity" in the Edo period is a complicated one; similarly, to what extent can we speak of Tokugawa Japan as a "state".

I apologize if there is already a thread out there that might be a good place for this, but I just wanted to share that I'm reading a chapter right now from Mary Beth Berry's book "Japan in Print" which is actually quite excellent at summarizing, and arguing for, one view on the matter. Even if you're not so interested in printing and publishing, if you have the chance to get this book from the library or something, I'd definitely recommend Chapter 7, "Nation." (And I'm sure aspects/elements of the rest of the book are excellent too; I just haven't gotten around to reading them yet.)

I can't really summarize it myself here and give it the proper degree of subtlety or nuance... She's not arguing that early modern Japan was a "state" fully and wholly, nor that "national identity" was fully and concretely in place. But neither is she arguing that these things were absent. Essentially, she's arguing that there are various types of pre-modern states, and that we have to understand early modern Japan in that context. That there absolutely was a conception of "Nihon" (us) versus "non-Nihon" (them), and a conception that, for all of the cultural/regional diversity within the islands, all of it was still within "Nihon."

In terms of political designations, she defends her use of the term "state" by arguing that even though the shogunate did not exercise absolute authority (especially when it came to 'internal' affairs within the daimyo domains), it did, in theory at least, to one extent or another, claim authority over the entire archipelago - the shogunate controlled Kyoto and imposed restrictions on Imperial and courtier activity; it controlled foreign relations and foreign trade; it exercised control over the daimyo if not on the regional/local level, still in terms of demanding alternate attendance, taxes, and service/loyalty in other respects. The shogunate commanded a nation-wide standardized civil calendar, system of currency (even if it was a bit messier than a truly fully controlled system might have been), sumptuary and censorship laws (even if not strictly enforced), etc.

...

Anyway, if you're interested in sorting out the conceptual bits in your mind of the extent to which there was a conception of "Japanese identity" or "national identity," and the extent to which we can consider Japan at this time a centralized and unified state, I'd strongly recommend this book, Mary Elizabeth Berry's "Japan in Print."

Another excellent essay on the subject is:
*Ronald Toby. "Rescuing the Nation from History: The State of the State in Early Modern Japan." Monumenta Nipponica 56 (2001).
*Also, I'd recommend other things by Ronald Toby, Mark Ravina, Luke Roberts, and Mary Beth Berry.

I'm really not so good with the conceptual stuff, so I'm making my way through a lot of this (again), and trying to wrap my mind around it well enough that it comes through in my thesis that I have a good grasp of what position I'm taking on the matter... If anyone else has recommendations, or thoughts on the subject, it could be great to see this thread develop... Cheers.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
There's no national identity in Edo period.
People belonged to Han, Han was their identity.
People in Tenryo belonged to Shogun.
Shogun was a leader of Daimyo, not a King.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I see we're off to a good start. This is precisely why I say it's complicated, and that it's interesting and important to read these kinds of materials.

If there was no conception of "nation" at all, then how could there be so many books and prints with Nihon in the title?

Yes, you're absolutely right that people had a stronger association at that time with their village, or their district, their province, or their han. But that doesn't mean that they didn't have a conception of "us" (Japan) versus "them" (not Japan, e.g. China, Ryukyu, Ainu), a conception of inside and outside.

The shogun's laws extended across the entire archipelago - they might not have been effected particularly strongly within the domains, but when it came to international relations, inter-domain travel and commerce, and a myriad of other aspects, there absolutely was an area of territory - the Japanese archipelago - which shared in having the same shogunate, the same set of laws in that respect.

And it goes further. People all across the archipelago shared in so many things, economically, culturally... I apologize, but it's absurd to say there was flat out no national consciousness.

How do you explain the multitude of writings that use terms like 日本、我が国、本朝、天下、vs 異国、蝦、夷、南蛮、唐、if there was no national identity?
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Incidentally, this chapter from Berry's "Japan in Print" also contains a pretty nice description of the way samurai genealogies (and other genealogies) were constructed and deployed, and their discursive impacts. Very useful and interesting stuff if you're interested in the way the Tokugawa (in particular) engineered their lineage and the role such lineages played in asserting primacy and legitimacy.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 9:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
How do you explain the multitude of writings that use terms like 日本、我が国、本朝、天下、vs 異国、蝦、夷、南蛮、唐、if there was no national identity?


Yeah that's difficult to explain.
Do you include Bakumatsu?
Like the blackship, when people feel threat by other countries, they would raise national identity.
Or people who was dealing with foreign countries like traders had national identity.
It depended on the persons's position or occupation, and social situation.
People recognized difference of countries, difference of ethnisities.
But they didn't think they belonged to Japan.
They(mainly I refer lower than farmers) had ethnic identity or Han identity, regional identity, village identity but not national identity.
For example, this is from Shiba Ryotaro's Sakanouenokumo editorial,
ヨーロッパ的な意味における「国家」が明治維新で誕生した。
日本史上、大化の改新という官制上の強力な中央集権国家が成立した一時期はあったが、その後すぐ日本的自然形体に戻った。日本的自然形体とは大小無数の地方政権の寄り合いというかたちである。
封建とか、地方分権主義とか呼んでもいい。
あの維新前における最強の政権であった徳川政権ですら、徳川将軍家は、実質的には諸侯のなかでの最大の諸侯というだけにすぎず、その諸侯たちの盟主というにすぎなかった。
元禄期の赤穂浪士には浅野候への忠義はあっても、国家意識などはなかったのである。
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Informal translation of above:

"Nation" in a European sense was born in Japan at the time of the Meiji restoration. In Japan's history, a nation with the centralized authority of a strong bureaucracy was created temporarily at the time of the Taika Reform of 645, but after that it returned to Japan's natural form, a collection of innumerable regional governments of various sizes.
"feudal" means the principle of regionalism.
Even in the Tokugawa government, the strongest authority before the Restoration, the shogunal house was nothing more that the greatest among the ruling families [= "first among equals" --B], the head of an alliance. The Ako Ronin during the Genroku had loyalty towards Lord Asano, but no national consciousness.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2011 11:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I would not think there was no national consciousness or national identity. For example, I saw a wooden plaque recording a 1537 repair to a local shrine. It gave the location as "The country of Great Japan, Musashi Province…" 大日本国武州
Also, when Francis Xavier came to Japan in 1549, he landed in Kagoshima, perhaps the most stable governmental entity in Japan. But when he tried to find the king of Japan, he was directed to Kyoto. The missionaries, many of whom were decades in Japan, talk so much about "Japan" and "the Japanese do..." (see They came to Japan) that it is hard to think they were imposing an artificial unity on it.
Of course, what do we mean by "nation" when we say something like the Ako rojin had no sense of national consciousness? The highest object of our secular loyalty?

We had some discussion before also at:

http://forums.samurai-archives.com/viewtopic.php?t=3841
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I'd think that for the bottom level peasants, in a time when travel and communication was sparse and difficult, their local identity would be far stronger than a national one. But even with that in mind, I'd find it hard to believe that, for example, someone from Nagasaki would consider someone from Kyoto an "foreigner" in the "from another nation" sense of the term. They share a common language, common heritage, common lands, and to a limited extent, common government. But also like Shikisoku implied - without something to illustrate the "sameness" - i.e. actual foreigners from another nation knocking at your door - maybe they focused on the differences.

And, is the conversation about how individuals felt about people from other han/provinces? Or is it a political one where we decide if the government was sufficiently "nationalized"?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
And, is the conversation about how individuals felt about people from other han/provinces? Or is it a political one where we decide if the government was sufficiently "nationalized"?


I figure it goes both ways. Whichever aspect you want to address. When it comes to the political aspect of it, considering whether it was a truly unified, centralized state, the extent of the shogunate's reach, I'm certainly on the side of thinking of it more as a federation. The han had considerable independence in their internal affairs, and the shogunate's authority simply wasn't that strongly exercised in the provinces (at times, in some respects, certain laws weren't even all that strongly enforced in Edo).

But, when we consider the views or attitudes of how people felt about people from other provinces, I think that we absolutely cannot deny the presence of a concept of "Japan". It's seen in the titles and inside text of countless books, the titles of numerous prints... Whether it's 我が国、本朝、日本、or by other names, there is a definite awareness of the range of things *within Japan*, and just enough books/prints/other sources relating to foreign culture for people to have a conception of an Other against which to conceive of the Self (i.e. Japan).

Yes, it's easy to argue that rural peasants in the most remote parts of the country might have had a far stronger conception of belonging to a village or a valley or a district 郡, but for people in the cities, even the provincial cities, even smaller provincial towns, I believe that books & other media, regional goods from around the country, foreign goods recognized as being in a different category from regional "Japanese" goods, were prevalent enough that in addition to a strong association with han or province or city, there was also an appreciation of "Japan" and "not Japan."
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Let's check those texts that contain 我が国、本朝、日本、before Bakumatsu.
We may be able to find some commons.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2012 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I just came across a nice example. It's only one source, maybe not indicative of every book from the period, but, in Hiraga Gennai's Fûryû Shidôken den, the main character travels to many foreign places, including Holland, China, and the Land of Giants... and everywhere he goes, he introduces himself with 「我は日本の者なり。」 (Ware ha Nihon no mono nari; "I am a person of Japan."). He does not say "I am a person from the capital," or "I am a person from such-and-such province." He identifies himself explicitly as "Nihon no mono."

Nihon can also be seen very clearly labeled as "Nihon" and colored all in one color in, for example, Hayashi Shihei's maps in Sangoku tsûran zusetsu. Nihon, from Kagoshima and the Amami Islands, up through part of Ezo, is colored yellow, with very little detail given to drawing borders or boundaries for provinces or domains (han); Ryukyu, Taiwan, Korea, China, and Ainu lands are each colored in a different color, differentiating them from Nihon.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
That's Bakumatsu and Hiraga Gennai was not a typical Edo man. He was one of the most westernized Japanese at the time.
Let's find journals or letters written by average people.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
It's not Bakumatsu - Gennai's book was published in 1763. And it was a popular publication, read by exactly the kind of "average people" you refer to.

Hayashi Shihei's map is also not Bakumatsu. Sangoku tsûran zusetsu was published in 1785.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2012 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Sorry I thought it was 1863.
But Hiraga was far from average people, he was Rangaku scholar which meant he was studying about Europe.

What is your term of national identity anyway?
Being able to distinguishing Japan and other countries?
Or the Japanese people in those days called themselves Nihonjin?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I think what we're looking for here is the date when anyone first started saying, "We Japanese . . . " Wink

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2012 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
This is from Shiba's "The state of Meiji" that I'm currently reading.
Quote:
カッテンディーケがそういう町人と話してびっくりしたことがあります。
それより前、かれは長崎の無防備ぶりにおどろいていました。
かれは「もし艦長が一名の士官と45人の陸戦隊を率いて上陸すれば、おそらく簡単に占領できるだろう」と思っていましたから、長崎の商人に
「そういう場合、町の防衛ができますか」と問いますと、その商人は
「それは幕府のなさること、我々の知った事ではない。」と答えたというのです。

A Dutch Navy officer Kattendyke talked to a merchant in Nagasaki.
"Is Nagasaki prepared for defending from foreign invaders?"
The merchant said
"That's job for Bakufu, not my business."
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wow, great thread. Keep it alive!

I definitely agree with what lordameth said above:

lordameth wrote:

Yes, it's easy to argue that rural peasants in the most remote parts of the country might have had a far stronger conception of belonging to a village or a valley or a district 郡, but for people in the cities, even the provincial cities, even smaller provincial towns, I believe that books & other media, regional goods from around the country, foreign goods recognized as being in a different category from regional "Japanese" goods, were prevalent enough that in addition to a strong association with han or province or city, there was also an appreciation of "Japan" and "not Japan."


Lordameth, I would recommend having a look at Benedict Anderson's Imagined communities for some theoretical framework for your thesis. (if you haven't already) I remember a quote from the book that goes something like "In order to become a nation, one must first be able to think the nation." I believe that many of the changes that occurred in the Edo period, like the popularization of books and travel gave the people of Japan the opportunity to start thinking about the nation. So whether or not a fully fledged "national identity" was in place in the Edo period, there are definitely some interesting processes going on that are closely interlinked with national identity.

In the Eitai Setsuyo Mujinzo, which I wrote about in my master thesis, most of the information is parsed within the category of "Japan", either 我が国、日本、大日本、本朝 or some other name. There are also many parts of the book that show the reverence for the Emperor as the sacred collecting symbol of Japan. Considering the popularity of the book, it is hard to believe that such use of symbols did not have an impact on the population. Maybe not the lowliest of farmers, but definitely a big part of the population.

Lordameth, I wrote a bit about these matters in my thesis. If you want to have a look at it and steal some sources, pm me and I will send you a link.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 8:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I've considered reading Benedict Anderson in the past, but, theory is just not really my cup of tea. ... One of these days, though, I really should take a look at it, maybe find some select passages.

Still, I get a sense of Anderson's arguments based on others' quotes from him, and their responses to him.

Ronald Toby at one point wrote that, Anderson essentially "articulat[es] a notion of the nation as a community imagined [exclusively, or primarily,] from within. … At the extreme,” he writes, “one might read Anderson as positing the nation from within as a self without others." This is not the case for early modern Japan, Toby argues, as it was not solely or exclusively the recognition of similarities with other Japanese that allowed the formation of "Japanese identity", but also the rejection of the Other. Japaneseness defined by understanding certain other peoples, other cultures as "not Japanese."

Anyway, I could go on about this, but I'm just going to start quoting or paraphrasing from my yet-unsubmitted thesis, and it's probably better not to have too much of that online at this stage. Still, I'm hoping that what little I've gathered about Anderson from Toby is enough to basically understand what Anderson is all about.

One of these days I'll go look into it in more detail. Thanks for the suggestion!
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