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Escape from Impasse

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PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 1:58 pm    Post subject: Escape from Impasse Reply with quote
One of two books* I checked out from the local Japan Foundation library this time around, Escape from Impasse: The Decision to Open Japan is a translation by David Noble of a work, Perii Raiko, by Hiroshi Mitani.

As the names suggest, the book look into the build-up, duration and immediate aftermath of Commodore Perry's missions to Japan; both in terms of how the shogunate sought to deal with these events in particular (to include the concurrent missions by the Russians, British and French in both Japan and Ryukyu) but also how they grappled with the questions of how to deal with the increasing presence of Western ships (and envoys) in the region during the course of the early-to-mid-nineteenth century.

For my part, I find it to be pretty interesting. One aspect which jumped out to me in partucular is the degree of involvement in, and information from, Ezo in the wake of the shogunate's efforts to establish direct control at the tail end of the eighteenth century. Something which, as it happens, leads on from the details covered in another work I've loaned out recently; while that book mainly deals with Ezo when the Wajinchi was still primarily under Matsumae influence, this one shows how things changed on the ground both on "Ezo proper" (Hokkaido) and in "Northern Ezo" (Sakhalin and the Kurils).

Indeed, it wasn't just the local Ainu who the Tokugawa found thesmelves dealing with; each shipwrecked Western ship found along Ezo's shores was turned into a source of whatever information the shogunal officials could wring out of the surviving castaways. (Interestingly enough, at the time the Dutch officials in Dejima were trying to cover up the French and British occupations of Batavia, modern-day Jakarta, the shogunate had already learned of the events from castaway testimonies; but chose not to reveal this knowledge, leaving the Dutch to assume their efforts were not in vain.)

The issue of Ryukyu is pretty noteworthy, too; while the Shimazu and Tokugawa sought to maintain the fiction that they had no offocial presence at Shuri Castle (something which had not fooled Perry; in fact, he openly stated that the Ryukyuans would be far better of were he to "protect these miserable people against the oppressions of their tyrannical rulers".)

Given the kind of diplomatic to-ing and fro-ing over the Ryukyus in the last couple of centuries, however, one wonders how genuine, or commonly-shared, such a sentiment might have been...

Has anyone else here had a look at this work; and if so, what are your thoughts about it?

*In case you're wondering, the second book is Turnbull's look at the Shimazu assault on Ryukyu in 1609.
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Obenjo Kusanosuke
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PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 3:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Escape from Impasse is a good account of the political decision making from the Japanese side in regards to how to deal with the issue of opening up Japan. I did not read it cover to cover. Just dug out whatever I was specifically looking for in it.

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PostPosted: Sun May 06, 2012 8:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I hadn't heard of this book before. Thanks for letting us know about it.
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