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ltdomer98
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Session 72: Monks of the Five Mountains and Shogunal Patronage of Zen in the Making of Muromachi Culture
The Muromachi Shoguns and the Zen: Masatoshi Harada, Kansai University
The Eight Recitations of the Lotus Sutra during the Muromachi Period: Satoshi Sonehara, Tohoku University
The Muromachi Shoguns’ Use of Zen Monks for Diplomacy: Koji Ito, Yamaguchi Prefectural University
Zen Monk Painters and the Muromachi Shoguns: Tsunenori Fukushima, Hanazono University
Discussant: Tomoko Kitagawa, Harvard University


This is the only panel I went to that was only in Japanese. Each of the presenters was Japanese, and all of the audience was Japanese or spoke Japanese well enough to understand. Unfortunately I walked in a bit late, as the talk I originally intended to go to was canceled at the last minute. Prof. Harada from Kansai University was discussing the patronage of different Zen temples and priests by the Muromachi Bakufu. I did not get very much out of it due to walking in late. Second was Prof. Sonehara, who addressed the transition from the Hokke Hakko, which were 3-4 day recitations of the Lotus Sutra by monks, put on by noble patrons in the Heian & Kamakura periods, to the Bukke Hakko, which was the same thing except put on by warrior houses such as the Muromachi Shogunate and their major retainers. The warriors co-opted this as a display of sophistication and power, taking patronage of the different schools of Buddhism from the nobility. The recitations differed in that different schools were pitted against each other, with a priest from one school as the one reciting, and one from a different school as a respondent. The schools would alternate, so it would run A x B, B x C, C x A, etc. It was very informative. Next was what I thought was the most interesting presentation, Prof. Ito’s discussion of the Muromachi use of Zen Monks for diplomacy, particularly with Ming China. Prof. Ito outlined the political situation and cultural reasons why Zen monks became the preferred envoys: Zen came to Japan through China, and many Zen monks went to China to study or studied Chinese, making them already familiar with the language and culture; the Ming kept tight control on who was allowed access, and monks had the credibility as learned, cultured individuals to be allowed to deal with the Court, etc. Prof. Ito also discussed the importance of Hakata as an entry point and clearing house of trade and Chinese learning. This was amusing as he was very clear about his being a Hakata native. The last participant was Prof. Fukushima, who discussed Zen Monk painters and their patronage by the Muromachi Shoguns. Honestly, I was a bit lost, as I know very little about the art history. He discussed Sesshu and Mogi (?), two painters, as examples. It was interesting, but outside my field of study, so I wasn’t able to follow it well. Finally, Prof. Kitagawa from Harvard followed up with some comments (in English) about their research. Question and answer was in Japanese as well.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Session 157: Digital Archives and the Study of Japanese Foreign Relations
An Analysis of the Japanese Army Sent to Taiwan in 1874: Robert Eskildsen, Obirin University
The US-Japanese Negotiations in 1941 and Signals Intelligence: Ken Kotani, National Institute for Defense Studies
Japan’s War Aims during the Pacific War: Kanji Akagi, Keio University
Connecting Histories in Cross-Pacific Regions 1850-1880: Archival Historiography on the US-East Asia Relations from Ryukyu (Okinawa) Perspectives: Takeshi Hamashita, Ryukoku University


This panel was sponsored by the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR) of the Japan National Archives (http://www.jacar.go.jp/english/index.html). The purpose was to highlight use of this resource in different projects. Each of the presenters used documents from this database as primary resources in their work. Prof. Eskildsen’s presentation centered on the composition of a Japanese Army force sent to Taiwan, with special attention to social class makeup and location recruited, and which units/groups had casualties from what. The overall conclusion was that the “samurai volunteers” assigned to the army were considered the least reliable and most problematic, compared to normal conscripts, because of their stubborn and independent nature. Prof. Kotani’s work centered on the different intercepted diplomatic messages by both the Japanese and US during the negotiations just before Pearl Harbor. He showed how mistranslation and misinterpretation of these messages by both sides exacerbated the situation and pushed them further and further from a peaceful settlement. This was particularly interesting to me. Prof. Hamashita spoke next about the Ryukyu kingdom and different relations they had during the period noted. He used copies of Ryukyuan documents, including treaties signed with the US (separate from Japan), to show how they negotiated their place between different Asian and International powers. This was news to me, because I had always heard that Okinawa had been absorbed into the Satsuma domain of Kyushu in the 1600’s. Lastly, Prof. Akagi talked about Japan’s goals in entering WWII, and used many internal documents to create his argument. He was a bit hard to follow. The point of the panel was to highlight the primary texts available through the JACAR link, however, and I think it did this extremely well. Part of the issue with following certain presenters was that packets of information, including pamphlets about the website and all kinds of promotional goodies, were handed out. Audience members (me) were reading these as much as following the presentations.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Session 192: Negotiating One’s Place in Japan’s Long Sixteenth Century
So Many Choices (And So Few Options) for Local Warriors: David Spafford, University of Washington
An Individual Paradigm for Merchant Success at the Close of the Long Sixteenth Century:
Suzanne Gay, Oberlin College
This Land Is My Land: Masuda Motonaga and the Politics of Territorial Redistribution in Choshu Domain: David A. Eason, State University of New York, Albany
Warrior Conflicts with Their Daimyo in Early Seventeenth-Century Japan: Luke S. Roberts, University of California, Santa Barbara
Discussant: Katsumi Fukaya, Waseda University


This panel was the most interesting to me, because of the direct relationship to my own research. Each of the presenters discussed issues of relationship and place within 16th century Japan for their respective subject. Prof. Spafford focused on the families of the Kanto plain who eventually fell under control of the Hojo clan, but in a less cut and dried manner than previously had been assumed. Prof. Gay discussed merchants in Kyoto and Yamazaki, and how they place in both a physical location sense and in within society was vital to being successful as much as entrepreneurial acumen. Prof. Eason showed how a Mori clan retainer, Masuda Motonaga, used his knowledge of rules of land apportionment and retainer/lord obligations to increase his land holdings at the expense of his daimyo overlord, somewhat sneakily subversively. Finally, Prof. Roberts discussed a similar case to those that Profs. Spafford and Eason had, this time in Tosa Province. A retainer of the Yamauchi managed to resist his lord’s efforts to subsume his family completely through a program of respectful, within the rules disobedience. I could go on for pages about the details, but the important threads throughout each were the following points. 1. The winners write the official histories, and they cannot be believed because as a winner, they have an obligation to write the history in a way that presents the best picture of them. More accurate information can be gleaned from piecing together the correspondence and documents (orders, proclamations, requests, etc.) written during the time of conflict, not the histories after. 2. Following the previous point, the subjugation and absorption of local samurai families by regional/national hegemons was rarely as smooth or as one-sided as depicted in the histories written by said hegemon. Researchers must be careful not to fall into the trap of assuming obedience/fealty was automatic or even continuous. Even long-time retainers had disagreements with their lords, passively and actively resisted orders given to them, etc. 3. It’s imperative to view history not from the perspective of the now, or even the perspective of the “winners”, but of the people of the time, at the time you are studying them. We know that Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu “won”, but to someone of, say, 1568, not only was this not likely, but it was a remote reality. This is all very important to my work as I try to sift through the maze that is the Shinchoki, Shinchokoki, Mikawa Go Fudoki, etc., all of which are primary sources written by/for the winning, overlord types. Unfortunately, to really get to the real story of Nagashino, it’s apparent from the discussion that I need to get my hands on mid-level retainers documents to get the real story. I loved this discussion (from Prof. Roberts) about omote (official) vs. naisho (unofficial) agreements. Omote was the form of things, ie. The official reasons given for things that made the history books, whereas the naisho was the real behind the scenes discussion. The example he gave that best illustrated this was a retainer who resigned in protest at a lord’s action towards him and went to live in another place; the omote reason was that the retainer was “ill”. This allowed everyone to pretend it wasn’t because of the naisho reason, that he was incensed at the negative treatment by his lord. Once it was settled between them, it also allowed for an omote reason for him to come back—his “health” had improved. To get the real story, all of the panelists agreed, one must get to the naisho documents. The overlords had every reason in the world to publish omote reasons for everything, but the underlings had no reason to do so, as they had no “official” story they had to protect.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Session 235: U.S.-Japanese Relations and Post-war Security in North East Asia
Tomoki Kuniyoshi, Waseda University: Britain and Japan’s Exclusion from SEATO
Successful Crisis Management? U.S.-Japanese Alliance Diplomacy and U.S. Nuclear Submarines, 1964-65: Fintan Hoey, University College Dublin
Strategy and Emotion: The Two Faces of the Yoshida School, 1952-1976: Taka Daitoku, Northwestern University
Beyond Bilateralism and Multilateralism toward Regional Governance: Japan’s Foreign Policy and Post-Cold War Regional Security Institutions in Northeast Asia: Takeshi Sato, University of Shimane


This was the first panel of Friday morning. It was very interesting to me, as a participant in US-Japan military relations today, to get some sense of history. Prof. Kuniyoshi spoke first about how the British overruled US efforts to get Japan included in an international treaty organization, the South East Asian Treaty Organization. I asked Prof. Kuniyoshi during the Q&A for his comments on how different the current security situation would be had Japan been involved in SEATO, given that they would have to have been committed to defending other nations, sending troops, etc., but he pointed out that Japan didn’t want at this time to be in SEATO, and likely couldn’t have joined due to inability to meet obligations, no matter what the US wanted them to do. Very interesting stuff. Mr. Hoey (PhD Candidate) then presented about the agreements and interpretations of agreements between the US and Japan involving the stationing/visits by nuclear powered (and nuclear armed) warships, primarily submarines. Mr. Daitoku (PhD candidate) then discussed the Yoshida school of Japanese politics and its transformation over time and leadership. Finally, Prof. Sato brought things into the current era with discussion of post-Cold War security policy, and Japan’s shifts away from US only focus to distancing themselves and operating more independently in order to deepen relations with her Asian neighbors. Overall very interesting set of presentations.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
SESSION 322: Japanese Chick Lit: Women Writers of the Baby Boomer Generation
Portraits of Modern Japanese Working Women: The Literature of Hayashi Mariko: Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase, Vassar College
Who is Aiko? The Absent “Father” in Natsuo Kirino’s I’m Sorry, Mama: Kayo Takeuchi, Ochanomizu University
To Be Beautiful, or Not to Be Beautiful, That Is the Question: Himeno Kaoruko’s Seikei Bijo: Satoko Kan, Ochanomizu University
Celebrations of the Heart: Romantic Lit by Yuikawa Kei: Eileen Mikals-Adachi, Eckerd College


This session was well outside the realm of normal for me, but I attended because Prof. Mikals-Adachi was one of my undergraduate professors. As it turned out, I felt I got a lot out of it, and will probably use some of the information as departure points in a research paper for my Japanese Pop Culture class. Prof. Takeuchi was not present, and Prof. Mikals-Adachi read her paper with some minor commentary. The discussion mainly focused on “what is Japanese Chick Lit?” and even the title of the panel elicited some consternation from some members in the audience who interpreted it as pejorative. Prof. Mikals-Adachi, the moderator, explained that the intent was to determine if even such a thing existed in Japan, and if so, how did it differ from the genre identified with Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada in the US. The panel’s viewpoint was that Japanese “chick lit” was much darker and full of themes of anxiety, anger, and rejection of women’s roles in modern Japan. This speaks to Japanese women who may be fed up with domestic life and use this as a window of a different world. Seikei Bijo, discussed by Prof. Kan, for example, examines anxieties and issues with beauty through two protagonists who undergo contrasting plastic surgeries. Prof. Mikals-Adachi traced the prolific career (still ongoing) of Yuikawa Kei, and how she has adapted and evolved as she and her readers have aged, to maintain a loyal following.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
SESSION 253: “The Continuation of War by Other Means”: Escaping and Embracing War in East Asia
Escaping the Stress of Combat: Sake, Beer, and Whisky in the Pacific War: Katarzyna Cwiertka, Leiden University
On Playing War: Sabine Fruhstuck, University of California, Santa Barbara
The Return of the Little Red Soldier: Childhood, War, and the Military in China’s Contemporary Popular Culture: Orna Naftali, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Posthuman Warfare in Japan: Weaponizing Robots: Jennifer Robertson, University of Michigan
Discussant: Sheldon M. Garon, Princeton University


Like many of the other sessions, two of the presenters here were not able to attend. Robertson was skipped, and Fruhstruck’s paper was read by Garon as her slides were shown. However, this was a very interesting panel, more so than I thought it would be. I attended because in my Japanese Pop Culture class we are reading a book by Fruhstruck, and when I heard she wasn’t here I thought about leaving, but I’m glad I stayed. Cwiertka’s paper on alcohol consumption by both Japanese and US forces in the Pacific war, and post-war, was enlightening, especially as a military service member who has been deployed to combat operations. Almost no regulations were emplaced, and when emplaced, were not enforced, regarding alcohol consumption during combat operations. This is quite a contrast to today, where American servicemen aren’t allowed any whatsoever, officially for fear of upsetting our Muslim hosts. Nevermind the fact that every other NATO nation in Afghanistan allows their soldiers to drink, but that’s besides the point. I was really interested in her discussion of soldier issues post-war, and also how alcohol was a contributing factor in many atrocities and crimes during (Japanese acts in China, for instance) and after (US soldiers raping Japanese women in Occupied Japan) the war. Fruhstruck’s paper centered on the use of war as an educational tool and the role it plays in desensitizing children and adults in Japan prior to WWII, and contrasting the “play as preparation for combat” then to the “play as escapism” in modern war-themed videogames, etc. Naftali’s discussion was about how the PLA (Chinese Army) is updating its image with toys in the style of GI Joe and animated remakes of Chinese military movies, in an effort to both soften its image and gain popularity with younger, more sophisticated consumers in urban China.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thank you so much for the synopsis. The 16th century papers sound very informative and interesting. John
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Domer, you are right about getting your hands of documents related to mid-level retainers. As for Neilson's thesis goes right into the heart of it and it was so refreshing to see other people's stories being told regarding to Okehazama and Sunomata.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The examples Roberts gave referred more to the day-to-day administrative bureaucracy in regards to clan affairs than to historical events. For example reasons given for official censure vs. what really happened, which would be found by looking at documents not written by the bureaucrats on top who had to preserve decorum. I don't remember him referring to events happening outside of the day to day bureaucracy, but I also haven't relistened to the lecture, and of course it just makes good sense that the retainer clans would be more "honest" than the official documents in any event.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
This was news to me, because I had always heard that Okinawa had been absorbed into the Satsuma domain of Kyushu in the 1600’s.


I don't recall if Hamashita-sensei explained this much in his talk, or if anyone else elaborated upon it, but, essentially, the Ryukyu Kingdom was never fully absorbed into Satsuma han. Some islands were (mainly the Amami Islands), and these remain part of Kagoshima prefecture today. And Satsuma was permitted to add a measure of Ryukyu's production or value to its own kokudaka.

But, for a variety of economic and political reasons, it was more advantageous for Satsuma to allow Ryukyu to remain nominally independent. And so, the king remained on the throne, domestic affairs in Ryukyu were left largely untouched, and Japanese travel to Ryukyu was severely limited (i.e. limited only to a very few Satsuma officials there on specific official business). Ryukyu continued to be considered ikoku (異国, a foreign country), as Korea and Holland were, and not takoku (他国, another province), as Tosa and Satsuma and Yonezawa would have seen one another.

It was only in the 1870s that the kingdom was fully overthrown and absorbed into Japanese territory. In 1872, the "Ryukyu Kingdom" was renamed "Ryukyu han" by order of the Meiji government, and King Sho Tai was made a daimyo (藩主), no longer "king". In 1879, Ryukyu han was abolished and Okinawa prefecture established; the old Ryukyuan royal bureaucracy was dismantled entirely and replaced by a Japanese prefectural government largely run by people from Kagoshima-ken. Sho Tai was named a Marquis, and forced to move to Tokyo, and members of the Okinawan aristocracy became mere commoners.

I apologize that I still have yet to post anything much about the panels I went to, but I hope to do that soon. Thank you so much for all of your summaries; sounds like there was a lot of really good material that I missed.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Session 97: Shifting the Balance of Power: Maritime East Asia in the 17th Century

Shaping Japanese Foreign Policy: Tokugawa Ieyasu's Idea of the Manila-Uraga-Acapulco Triangle - Ubaldo Iaccarino, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

The Tonkin-Nagasaki Silk Trade during the Seventeenth Century - Naoko Iioka, U of Tokyo


This was one of the time slots in which I hopped between different panels, so I've only listed the talks I heard. After doing my previous MA thesis on Japanese trade & relations with SE Asia in the 16th to 17th centuries, this topic has remained of great interest to me.

Having avoided colonial powers (e.g. the Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch) in my own paper, to focus on relations & trade with independent SE Asian polities such as those in Viet Nam, I knew very little about trade & relations with the Philippines.

Dr. Iaccarino started off by talking about the active trade between Japan and Manila in the 1570s-80s, in goods such as silks, saltpeter, iron, copper, firearms, and Spanish silver, which was called "Luzon tsubo" by the Japanese.

Though we most often talk of Hideyoshi's plans for China, in 1592, he wrote to Manila as well, demanding they recognize his authority, or else be invaded and conquered. This, along with the San Felipe Incident four years later, and the crucifixion of 26 Christians the following year, did much to damage relations.

And so it was that Ieyasu had to work hard to restore friendly relations with Manila (as with Korea and several other polities). What I think was most interesting and useful to me about this talk was the emphasis on the point that the Kyushu daimyo benefited greatly from trade with the Spanish (and others). I have always had a vague idea, of course, that they were benefiting from trade, and represented a threat therefore to the economic power of the shogunate, but even as Dr Iaccarino didn't really provide much deeper information on this point, his talk really sort of solidified for me the idea that this was definitely going on.

In 1602-06, Spanish ships traveled to Kyushu for, I suppose, the first time. Previously, most trade had been done by Manila-based Japanese ships. This development led to the decline of the Nihonmachi (i.e. Japanese merchant communities) in the Philippines, and to uprisings among the members of those communities. The Bakufu made its first formal agreements with the Spanish Crown in 1609.

The Shuinsen, or Red Seal Ships, system established under Ieyasu was aimed at reducing piracy and smuggling, and also served to reduce the profits of the Kyushu daimyo, since all officially licensed trade now had to pass through a more limited set of ports, and was conducted by a much more limited set of merchants. Ieyasu sought to further control and benefit from the Manila Galleons trade (and pull that trade away from Kyushu) by offering the Spanish a commercial base at Uraga, where they would enjoy extraterritoriality and freedom to proselytize within a certain zone. This would, in theory, be beneficial to the Spanish as a stopping off point, re-supplying point, etc, for the galleons on their way across the Pacific, and would also help provide a safer route.

Dr Iaccarino argues, however, that in fact there was little or nothing that Japan needed or should have wanted from New Spain (i.e. Mexico). Yes, the Spanish were exporting silver from the New World, but the goods especially desired by the shogunate were mainly those from the Asian continent, including silks and spices. Basically, Ieyasu sought to redirect the Spanish supply of silks and spices from the Asian mainland to be sold in Uraga, and not in Acapulco.

For various reasons which Dr Iaccarino did not really go into detail about, none of this came to pass. The Spanish base at Uraga never came to fruition, and Uraga never became a major point in a Manila-Acapulco-Uraga trade triangle. We can see from the diary of British factor Richard Cox that Mexican silk (I guess they were producing silk in Mexico?) never made its way to Japan; if it had, Iaccarino argues, this could have been very beneficial for New Spain, though not as much for Japan...

Two Spanish-style ships were built in Japan - the San Buena Ventura in 1609 under the supervision of William Adams (actually an English style ship given to the Spanish and renamed), and the San Juan Bautista in 1613 which the following year carried Hasekura Tsunenaga and his entourage across the Pacific to New Spain.

Yet, as we know, trade and relations between Japan and Spain in the 17th century were doomed. The bakufu issued its first Anti-Christian Edict in 1612, expelled the Spaniards from Japan in 1624, and installed the Maritime Restrictions (海禁, kaikin, a term I much prefer over sakoku) in the 1630s.

------

Naoko Iioko from Tôdai spoke about the Tonkin-Nagasaki trade. For much of the 16th-17th centuries, Viet Nam was divided into two polities - the Trinh Lords controlled the northern polity, generally referred to as Tonkin, while the Nguyen Lords controlled the south, known variously as Cochinchina, Quang Nam, or Quinam. My own research focused on the southern polity, and I came across various references stating that Japanese trade with the northern polity was quite limited, partially due to advice or requests from the Nguyen against trading with Tonkin, and also partially due to Tonkin's strict treatment of Japanese living there. So, I was surprised to hear that there was going to be a talk focusing on this trade with the northern polity of Tonkin, with which I had believed there was little if any trade at all.

I was even more surprised when Iioko-sensei began describing this Japan-Tonkin trade as if it were burgeoning and flourishing for any amount of time at all. All in all, she didn't provide too much new information for me, stating things that apply just as much to Quang Nam in the south. Though for much of the 16th century, most of Japan's supply of silk came from China, after the Ming court officially cut off trade with Japan, the supply of raw silk started to come from other sources, including a significant portion (apparently) from Tonkin.

She reminded us that even though Japanese merchants were no longer plying the seas after the 1630s, Chinese ships trading at Nagasaki (against official Ming policy) often brought goods from Tonkin and elsewhere. She didn't directly address the question of whether Vietnamese ships (which would have just been grouped in as 唐船 "Chinese ships" in the Nagasaki records) traded at Nagasaki - I know that some very limited number of Thai ships did, and so I wonder (though the Thai ships, built by the Europeans, were classified by the Nagasaki bugyo as Dutch, not as Chinese).

Anyway, after the Maritime Restrictions (kaikin) were put into place in the 1630s, the shogunate made explicit efforts to ensure that this would not damage the silk supply, and encouraged Chinese and Dutch traders to step up the amount of silk they brought in, to make up for the loss of English, Portuguese, and Spanish supplies (as well as supplies from Japanese merchants).

A VOC (Dutch East India Company) Factory opened at Tonkin in 1638, and for a few years in the early 1640s, the Dutch were the only foreigners buying raw silk at the Tonkin markets. By 1646, however, the Chinese residents of Japan had made arrangements to organize the import of Tonkin silk into Japan via Chinese merchants, and since the Chinese were willing to pay much more for the goods, the Dutch got shut out of the markets.

In the 1650s, war broke out between the Trinh and the Nguyen. The supply of silk was reduced, prices rose, and many merchants shifted their activities to Bengal.

The Ming dynasty fell in 1644, and Ming loyalists, incl. the famous Coxinga, continued to make pirate-like raids on the Chinese coast until the 1680s, from their bases on Taiwan and elsewhere. The Qing Court ordered the coasts evacuated in 1661 to protect them from coastal raids, and so Chinese trade between Tonkin and Japan was hindered even further, as the VOC picked up the slack and seized the opportunity to re-expand its involvement in the trade.

... And that's about it for that panel. Maybe later today if I find the time I'll post about other panels I went to. Cheers.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I guess it's about damn time I post about one of the other panels I went to. I think this is more or less the only one left that I haven't mentioned either on the forum or the podcast and which I feel worth mentioning. So, here it is. Hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Session 368: Women in Transit: Gender and Mobility in Early Modern Japan

Gregory Smits - "The Seventeenth-Century Transformation of Female Officials in the Ryukyu Kingdom"


I sat through and enjoyed this whole panel, but I was really just there for Dr. Smits, who is easily the most prominent Ryukyuan history scholar in the US right now. A lot of his published work centers on Confucianism and intellectual history, but thankfully he does also do a lot of really good work on political/economic/cultural history as well.

So, yeah, I was there for Smits. But, beyond that, the idea of female officials is certainly an interesting one, is it not? After all, they didn't really have female officials in pre-modern / early modern Japan at all, right?

Smits explained that King Shô Shin (r. 1477-1526) established a hierarchy of female bureaucrats parallel to the male one. He actually took the throne as the result of a succession dispute which was ultimately won for him by the machinations of his mother and sister.

As I try to relate this narrative, I realize I need to explain a little who certain figures are. First, there is Shô En, father to Shô Shin. Shô En is succeeded by his brother Shô Sen'i, who is in turn succeeded by Shô Shin. Yosoidon is the queen of Shô En, sister-in-law to Shô Sen'i, and mother to Shô Shin. So, of course she would want to see her son on the throne rather than her brother-in-law, who could potentially have a son of his own, thus creating a new line of succession and denying her son the throne. Follow?

One more important figure here is Shô Shin's sister, whose name I don't know, but who served as the head priestess, or noro, as the king's sister traditionally did. According to traditional Ryukyuan beliefs, women had much stronger connections to - and defenses against - the spirit world than men, and thus kings needed their female relatives (most often a sister, but sometimes a mother or niece), along with other women (other priestesses) to defend him spiritually.

Returning to the narrative, we can of course assume that there was much more to this coup, in terms of real political maneuverings behind the scenes, but ultimately, during the coronation ceremony for Shô Sen'i, Yosoidon and her daughter (the head priestess) arranged that all the priestesses involved in the ritual turned at a key moment not towards the east, but towards the west, symbolizing the end, and not the beginning (the rise), of Shô Sen'i's reign. Roughly six months later, the head priestess claimed to have had a vision, and that according to this vision, Shô Sen'i had to abdicate the throne in favor of his nephew, Shô Shin. One would assume he did not do so easily or immediately, but, still, he did.

So, Shô Shin, whose reign is celebrated today as the Golden Age of Ryukyu, gained the throne through the efforts of his mother and sister. He needed to repay them, but also to regulate and control female power so that they could not then turn on him and do the same to him, forcing a coup or otherwise manipulating him politically. Thus, this system of female officials was born.

He named his sister kikoe-ôgimi, or 'head priestess,' a new position he created, formalizing the role of the head priestess and of all the priestesses (noro) below her, and in doing so, enhancing their prestige, but limiting their power. A new myth system of royal legitimation was established, in which the king gained his power (and right to rule) from the sun (tiida or teeda in Okinawan), not directly, but through the kikoe-ôgimi who, as a woman, was more capable of mediating such spiritual power.

Prof. Smits did not go into great detail as to exactly what powers or responsibilities women in this new hierarchy had, where they fit in with the male bureaucracy & governmental administration, or just how it was that this system limited their power rather than expanding it. A major gap in my understanding of his lecture, it would seem. But, he did say that these women enjoyed court ranks and such equivalent to the male officials; much like the Twelve Cap and Rank System of the Heian Court, male scholar-bureaucrats in Ryukyu had a whole series of levels of court ranks, and wore different colored turbans representing their rank. Female officials, apparently, now enjoyed a similar status, likely displayed chiefly by what their hairpins were made of (gold, silver, turtleshell, copper, wood).

It would seem that essentially for the most part men dealt with secular matters, and women with spiritual matters. And there certainly were a great many royal rituals and ceremonies to be performed, and great importance was placed on them, so this was hardly a lesser role as compared to the male officials' involvement in economics and governance. One role these female officials did serve was as herald and messenger, carrying messages between departments within the government, as well as delivering government messages to individuals, such as when someone was selected for a government post. Surely there were women who did more than just serve as messenger, but even this alone is something markedly, intriguingly, different, no?

Though I may have missed the details of just how this system worked, even just the idea that there were "female officials" is really something, I think.

Smits then went on to explain how, after roughly 200 years of this system being in place, it was taken apart by Shô Shôken, royal regent or sessei. Though not a king, Shô Shôken is easily among the most prominent and celebrated figures in the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and regarded as one of the most influential. He implemented a great many reforms during his brief period of service as regent (1666-1675), and the king basically just red stamped things and let Shôken do his thing.

Smits argued that with the increased Confucian influence upon the kingdom which accompanied closer ties to China following the Satsuma samurai invasion of 1609, there was an increased belief that adherence to traditional Ryukyuan ritual, and to systems in which women wielded power, looked backwards and uncivilized to Chinese eyes.

Increased ties to China? Really? I asked Dr. Smits in the Q&A section afterwards what changed after 1609 - after all, Ryukyuan students had been studying in Beijing, two at a time, since roughly 100 years prior, if not earlier than that. He answered that after 1609, the central royal government at Shuri, now feeling much more vulnerable under Satsuma's thumb, took the whole thing much more seriously, and impressed upon the study abroad students that they needed to take their studies in China more seriously as well, and to more seriously implement what they learned (Confucian classics, geomancy, astronomy) back home in Ryukyu.

Shô Shôken, a Confucian scholar himself, reduces the king's direct involvement in major rituals, citing among other concerns the physical danger inherent in traveling overseas (to neighboring islands such as Izena or Kumejima) for these rituals, but it is believed that the real impetus for this was a concern that such extensive involvement in traditional animistic rituals, especially involving female shamans, was backwards, uncivilized, and un-Confucian. Shô Shôken reorganized the system of priestesses, eliminating their equivalent status to the men, lowering the prestige of the royal priestesses (noro), and banning the lower ranks of local shamanesses and seers, known as yuta. He also stripped the king's sister of her position as high priestess, granting that honor to the Queen, believing I suppose that the Queen would be more likely to remain true to the King's politics and desires.

After this, women still played a role in government, but it was largely for show, and restricted even moreso solely to performing rituals, which the increasingly Confucian administration placed less belief or faith in.

Smits concluded with a bit of visual analysis, hammering home his argument about the increasing Confucian nature of the government by comparing royal portraits. While Shô Nei (r. 1587-1620) has the sun and moon above his head in his royal portrait, indicating the importance of the native, traditional Ryukyuan religion, later kings such as Shô Tei (c. 1645-1709) and Shô Iku (r. 1829-1847) are dressed in much more elaborate and more Confucian-looking robes, their portraits displaying Chinese Confucian symbols of kingly authority and legitimacy, such as a bronze ding vessel.

I am not sure how much might be out there on the internal workings of the shogunate or the Japanese Imperial Court, but even despite the fact that I do have a book on my shelf explicitly titled "The Government of the Kingdom of Ryukyu," I imagine that there is really very little scholarship out there in English on these kinds of details - that is, details about how the bureaucracy was structured, how the female bureaucracy functioned, etc. (Not to mention colorful anecdotes such as the one of Shô Sen'i's coronation ceremony.) So the talk was definitely interesting and valuable on that point.

And that's about it, I believe, for the conference, for me.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 2:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thank you, John
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