Japan: tradition and transformation

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Spring 2010
Historical Studies A-14


Paper Guidelines and Suggested Topics

You are required to write two papers of 5-8 pages for this course. The first paper, due by 4 p.m. on Friday, March 26th, should focus on the Pre-modern Period (Section I). The second paper, due by 4 p.m. on Friday, April 23th, should cover the Modern Period (Section II).  For each written assignment, you have a choice between writing a “document-based” paper or a “historiography” paper.  Both papers cannot be from the same period or category.  For example, should you choose to write a “document-based” paper for the pre-modern period assignment, then you must submit a “historiography” paper for the modern period assignment. 

The pages that follow provide a number of sample topic prompts to help give you ideas for your papers. The specific questions suggested in these prompts are meant to help you start thinking about and defining a topic and approach.  You should not treat them like an exam question, where you are expected to precisely answer all components.  Instead use the questions as points of departure, and frame your own approach to the issues.

Once you’ve settled upon your topic, make the paper your own by defining the terms and issues of your analysis at the outset, and following through to make a particular argument or interpretation. Strong papers will analyze evidence in the supporting paragraphs to help prove an argumentative position or thesis that is made clear in the introduction. Papers need to have a sharp focus, but do not need to be comprehensive – in other words, you do not need to include extra information about your topic if it doesn’t help support your argument.  

In addition, give great attention to the art of writing. Your paper needs to convince the reader that your argument is valid, and a poorly written paper cannot persuade anyone. Present your argument with clarity, vigor, economy and style.  Of course, be sure to include proper citation (e.g. footnotes) when necessary.

What follows are a limited sampling of potential topics. Hundreds of other topics may be put together based on other readings, or on different approaches to those noted here.  Feel free to consult the instructors and section leaders should you wish to pursue another topic. 

NOTE:  The various libraries of the Harvard library system contain multiple copies of most of the required readings for the topics below. You are encouraged to search for these and other materials on HOLLIS.  It is likely that most of the titles will be available in the university’s East Asian library, known as the Harvard-Yenching Library, located at 2 Divinity Avenue.  Please check the library’s hours on its website.
I.  PRE-MODERN PERIOD  (paper due at 4 p.m. on Friday, March 26)
Early History: Document-based Topics
1.  Read Aston’s translation of Nihongi, particularly the part discussing Japan’s direct control over Mimana, and analyze the text. What was the historical context in which the text was produced? How did Japanese historians appropriate this ancient text in the 1920s? You can refer to Okazaki Takashi’s “Japan and the Continent” in the Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. 1; “Ancient Japan’s Korean Connection” in William Wayne Ferris’s Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures; and Walter Edwards’s “Event and Process in the Founding of Japan” in the Journal of Japanese Studies.  

2. Analyze the fudôki in Michiko Aoki’s translation Records of Wind and Earth. What can they reveal about conditions in the provinces of eighth-century Japan? What are their limitations as sources? How does the picture they convey resemble or differ from that found in the ritsuryô legal codes issued by the imperial court? Do they suggest anything about the Nara period that differs from standard secondary accounts of the period that tend to focus on the center rather than the provinces?

3.  Read Kyoko Motokochi Nakamura’s Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition: The Nihon Ryôiki of the Monk Kyôkai. Can we learn something about a society by studying the things that its people considered miraculous? What does this collection tell you about Nara and early Heian Buddhism? How does your reading of the stories compare with LaFleur’s use of them in The Karma of Words?

4. Murasaki Shikibu lived during the years in which Fujiwara no Michinaga dominated the court. How does her depiction of Heian court life in The Tale of Genji (Chapters 1-8) compare with that of the historical chronicle Okagami: The Great Mirror, Fujiwara Michinaga and his Times?  How can we account for these differences?  If Murasaki’s fictionalized account differs from historical or non-fiction accounts, can we dismiss those differences as distortions?  Can we use a work of fiction to study history?

5. What does the account of Taira no Masakado’s rebellion (Shômonki, translated by Judith Rabinovitch) reveal about the condition of warriors in the Heian period? As depicted in the tale, what are Masakado’s motivations, and why does he at first succeed and later fail? How does your reading differ from the account in George Sansom’s A History of Japan to 1334? What of Karl Friday’s The First Samurai?

6. Read Rosette Willig’s translation of Torikaebaya (The Changelings). What does this story suggest about Heian period notions of gender? Does this story help prove the claim of Judith Butler and other feminists scholars that gender and biological sex are distinct? Are any of the characters homosexual? Can the categories “heretosexual” and “homosexual” be applied to Heian society?

Early History: Historiography Topics
1.  Weigh in on the debate over the location of Yamatai through a careful reading of John Young’s The Location of Yamatai, the appropriate chapter of William Wayne Farris’ Sacred Texts and Buried Treasures, and/or Edward Kidder’s Himiko and Japan's Elusive Chiefdom of Yamatai. Is there reason to favor one location or another? Why do people care so much? What does this particular problem reveal about the ways history and archaeology can inform each other?

2. The emergence of the imperial family as rulers of Yamato is a topic not only of great historical but also emotional relevance to many Japanese.  In this context, Egami Namio’s famous “horse rider thesis” provided a new and somewhat heretical view of the early Japanese state. Discuss and evaluate Egami’s theory and its present status among Western scholars. His writings are available as “The Formation of the People and the Origin of the State in Japan,” in Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko 23 (1964). Other sources include Gary Ledyard, “Galloping Along with the Horseriders,” and Walter Edwards, “Event and Process in the Formation of Japan,” both in the Journal of Japanese Studies.

3. Read one of the following chapters from Inventing the Classics: Modernity, National Identity, and Japanese Literature: “Constructing Imperial Mythology: Kojiki and Nihon Shoki,” “Gender and Genre: Modern Literary Histories and Women’s Diary Literature,” or “Nation and Epic: The Tale of Heike as a Modern Classic.” Using one of the original sources (in translation) examined in the chosen chapter, analyze the historical circumstances that have influenced the readings of the sources. How and when are these sources manipulated, what are the competing desires arguing for a particular interpretation, and what do these desires signify?
Medieval History: Document-based Topics
1. The Tale of the Heike describes the Genpei War and events that were instrumental in warriors’ rise to power. What does it tell us about twelfth-century war and warriors? What kind of a source is it? What leads you to that conclusion? What kinds of reliable information can it convey to historians? [Alternative topic: explore some of the same questions for the Taiheiki, a fourteenth-century war tale.]

2. Compare and contrast William McCullough’s Shōkyûki: An Account of the Shōkyû War of 1221 and The Azuma Kagami Account of the Shōkyû War. How are the two accounts different, and what might account for those differences? For more on the war (more commonly known today as the Jôkyû Insurrection), see also Jeffrey P. Mass, The Development of Kamakura Rule.

3. Read Marian Ury’s translation of Tales of Times Now Past.  What message(s) do these tales convey about women and men?  After finishing Ury’s book and noting your initial thoughts, look at Hitomi Tonomura’s article, “Black Hair and Red Trousers: Gendering the Flesh in Medieval Japan,” American Historical Review (Feb. 1994).  Did Tonomura’s analysis change your reading of the tales?  Does her analysis fit those tales that she did not discuss specifically?

4. Lady Nijô provides a lively, personal, and engaging account of life in late thirteenth-century Japan in Towazugatari (translated by Karen Brazell as The Confessions of Lady Nijô). What were her motivations in writing this memoir? What does it reveal about the influence of Buddhism on the court? What of the influence of The Tale of Genji? How reliable should we deem this text? Can we use it to understand women’s agency – either at court or in the provinces – in early medieval Japan?

5. What would life have been like for a peasant in Warring States period Japan? Consider the legal code issued by the daimyo Chōsokabe Motochika, available in translation by Marius Jansen in Studies in the Institutional History of Early Modern Japan. What does the legal code suggest about society in Tosa at that time? For more on sengoku house laws, see also the chapter by Katsumata Shizuo and Martin Collcutt in the edited volume Japan before Tokugawa.

6.  Read the documents pertaining to the so-called “unifiers” Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi in Theodore de Bary, Sources of Japanese Tradition, vol. 1 (Columbia, 2001, pp. 441-472) and David Lu, Sources of Japanese History, vol. 1 (McGraw Hill, 1974, pp. 182-192).  You may also want to take a look at Mary Berry’s Hideyoshi, Neil McMullin’s Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth-Century Japan, and George Elison’s Warlords, Artists and Commoners for further details on the careers of these warriors.  What similarities and differences do you observe in their approaches?  What concerns appear to have motivated each in his drive to expand territorial control? 

Medieval History:  Historiography Topics
1. Scholars have invoked feudalism as a useful way to describe and understand Japan not only in the distant past but also in more recent eras. Why is it that Japan more than any other culture outside of Western Europe has been labeled feudal? Do you agree that it is helpful, if so why? If not, what are the dangers in applying it? Take a stance in the ongoing debate! Suggested readings (consult at least 3):
Joseph Strayer, “The Tokugawa Period and Japanese Feudalism.” In Hall and Jansen, eds., Studies in the Institutional History of Early Modern Japan, 3-14.

John W. Hall, “Feudalism in Japan – A Reassessment.” In Hall and Jansen, eds., Studies in the Institutional History of Early Modern Japan, 15-51.

Marc Bloch, “Feudalism as a Type of Society.” In Bloch’s Feudal Society, 441-447.

Jeffrey P. Mass, “Yoritomo and Feudalism.” In Antiquity and Anachronism in Japanese History, 70-90.

Peter Duus. Feudalism in Japan.

Susan Reynolds, “The Problem of Feudalism.” In Reynold’s Fiefs and Vassals: The Medieval Evidence Reconsidered, 1-16.

Elizabeth Brown, “The Tyranny of a Construct: Feudalism and Historians of medieval Europe.” In American Historical Review, v. 79, 3-4, 1063-1088.

Thomas Keirstead, “Inventing Medieval Japan: The History and Politics of National Identity.” In The Medieval History Journal, 1:1 (1998), 47-72.

Edwin O. Reischauer, “Japanese Feudalism.” In Rushton Coulborn, ed., Feudalism in History, 26-48.

2.  Compare Tom Keirstead’s treatment of the estate system (shôen) in The Geography of Power in Medieval Japan with that of John Hall in his Government and Local Power in Japan or that of Betsy Sato and Cornelius Kiley in the edited volume, Medieval Japan: Essays in Institutional History.  What, in your view, are the pros and cons of these very different approaches to historical analysis?

3.  Compare Hitomi Tonomura’s analysis of medieval villages in Community and Commerce in Late Medieval Japan with the essays in Part III and IV of an earlier book, edited by John Hall and Takeshi Toyoda, Japan in the Muromachi Age.  Does Tonomura change the picture presented in the earlier work? Or does she extend and elaborate on it?

4. Prepare a review of William Wayne Farris’ book Japan’s Medieval Population. What are the challenges of studying medieval population, and how does Farris address them? What conclusions does he reach, and why are they important for understanding the medieval period and beyond? What kinds of evidence is he able to muster, and is the evidence used fairly?

5.  Compare the accounts of Emperor Go-Daigo and the Kemmu Restoration as given in Paul Varley, Imperial Restoration in Medieval Japan (Columbia University Press, 1971) and Andrew Goble, Kemmu: Go-Daigo’s Revolution (Harvard University Press, 1996). Assess their approaches, arguments and conclusions, and offer your opinion of the nature of the Kemmu Restoration.

6. Jeffrey Mass and other scholars advocated that Japan’s medieval period actually began in the fourteenth century rather than the twelfth. Read the essays in The Origins of Japan’s Medieval World and evaluate their persuasiveness in making the case for medieval Japan beginning in the fourteenth century. Why did earlier scholars tend to see the late twelfth century as marking the start of Japan’s medieval age? What evidence leads Mass and others to reach such a different conclusion? Do all of the contributors to the volume agree? What is the significance of labeling those centuries “medieval”?

7. Compare and contrast the view of the fourteenth century in Suzanne Gay’s article “Muromachi Rule in Kyoto: Administration and Judicial Aspects” (in Jeffrey Mass and William B. Hauser (eds.) The Bakufu in Japanese History) and Thomas Conlan’s State of War: The Violent Order of Fourteenth-Century Japan. What kind of sources do the authors consult, and how do they arrive at their conclusions?

8. Read the articles on peasant history by Nagahara Keiji in Kozo Yamamura, ed., Cambridge History of Japan Volume 3, and one or two articles by Thomas Keirstead (“Fragmented Estates,” in Monumenta Nipponica 40 [1985], pp. 21-39; and “Theatre of Protest,” in Journal of Japanese Studies Volume 16 no. 2 [1990]).  Do the two historians emphasize the same historical trajectories and “epochal moments” for their histories of the medieval Japanese peasant?  Documents from David Lu’s Sources of Japanese History Volume 1 (Second edition) will prove helpful for deepening your understanding of the developments discussed by these historians.

9. Read Neil McMullin’s Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth-Century Japan (Princeton University Press, 1984).  What does it tell you about the nature of two of the following: Pure Land Buddhism, state power in the late Warring States era, the relationship between land and power during the sixteenth century?  What questions does his analysis raise for you?

10.  Compare the personality, thought or tactics of Mary Berry’s Hideyoshi (Harvard University Press, 1989) and Conrad Totman’s Tokugawa Ieyasu (Heian, 1983). What characteristics does Berry attribute to Hideyoshi, and Totman to Ieyasu?  Does Totman, focusing on Ieyasu, have a view of Hideyoshi that differs from Berry’s?  Or does Berry’s study of Hideyoshi color her view of Ieyasu?  What documents and evidence do these scholars use to support their arguments?

Tokugawa Japan: Document-based Topics
1.  What do the Four Major Plays of Chikamatsu translated by Donald Keene (Columbia University Press, 1991) tell you about urban social history in Japan?  Pick one or two aspects and write a focused paper.

2.  What does Tokugawa literature tell you of the view(s) of sexuality of that time?  Read Ihara Saikaku’s The Life of an Amorous Man (Tuttle, 1964) and The Life of an Amorous Woman or, Five Women Who Loved Love (New Directions, 1963).  Look through Tales of Moonlight and Rain translated by Leon Zolbrod (University of British Columbia, 1974), a collection of Tokugawa tales, and note another portrayal of sexuality.  How do you explain the differences? What composite picture does your reading create?

3. Read the novel Shank’s Mare (or Hizakurige) by Ikku Jippensha translated by Thomas Satchell (Tuttle, 1960) and compare it to excerpts of Ukiyoburo or “Bathhouse of the Floating World” by Shikitei Sanba in Shikitei Sanba and the Comic Tradition in Edo Fiction by Robert Leutner (Harvard University Press, 1995).  What do these two works tell us about urban life and Tokugawa society in general?

4.  Read Yamamoto’s Hagakure: the Book of the Samurai (Kodansha, 1979).  What kind of work was Yamamoto trying to write?  Who was his audience?  When was he writing, and how does that affect the work? 

5.  Read Christal Whelan’s The Beginnings of Heaven and Earth (University of Hawaii Press, 1996).  How did pre-modern Japanese make sense of Christian teachings?  How did they adapt it to existing Shinto and/or Buddhist beliefs?  How did they make Christian teachings more familiar to their own culture?

6.  Read the translated eye witness accounts and contemporary commentaries on the forty-seven samurai incident in the sourcebook, in Hiroaki Sato’s Legends of the Samurai (Overlook: 1995), pp. 304-38, and the play Chushingura translated by Donald Keene (Columbia University Press, 1971).  What are the central moral or political dilemmas at stake in this incident?  How does the theatrical treatment of the event reveal the interpretation or opinions of Chushingura's authors?

7.  Read Torao Haraguchi, et. al., trans., The Status System and Social Organization of Satsuma (University Press of Hawaii, 1975).  This is a collection of regulations from 1852, which governed the system of identification tags required for those who lived in Satsuma domain.  What do these regulations tell us about status and society in this important domain?  The introduction to the book, by Robert Sakai, is useful as a point of departure, but try to push your analysis beyond the points he makes.

8. Read Aizawa Seishisai’s Shinron (New Theses) in Bob Wakabayashi’s Anti-Foreignism and Western Learning in Early-Modern Japan: New Theses of 1825 (Harvard University Press, 1986).  How does Aizawa view the encroachment of the West?  What kind of threat did the West pose to Japan?  What methods does he propose to deal with the Western threat?  What influenced Aizawa when he was writing Shinron? Compare his views on Western encroachment with those of other Tokugawa thinkers, such as Sakuma Shozan and/or Yoshida Shoin—writing selections from these two thinkers can be found in Sources of Japanese Tradition (Columbia University Press, 1958) pp. 591-622.

9. Read Masao Miyoshi’s As We Saw Them, which introduces and analyzes the mutual perceptions of Japanese and Americans in the early 1860s. Then read the relevant portions of one of the following first person accounts, the first by a native American who went to Japan in the 1840s, the second by a Japanese who made the reverse sojourn: Ranald Macdonald, Ranald MacDonald: the narrative of his early life on the Columbia under the Hudson’s Bay Company’s regime, of his experiences in the Pacific whale fishery, and of his great adventure to Japan, or Nakahama Manjiro (translated by Junya Nagakuni and Junji Kitadai), Drifting toward the Southeast: The Story of Five Japanese Castaways. Does the account you read confirm Miyoshi’s analysis of the way Americans and Japanese understood each other, or suggest a different reading?

Tokugawa Japan: Historiography Topics

1.  Read and critique the book Tokugawa Ideology (University of Michigan, 1998) by Herman Ooms. How does his account of the political thought of the period compare to that found in chapter 9 of Conrad Totman’s book, Early Modern Japan (University of California, 1993)?

2.  Read chapter IV (Kirishitan, Neo-Confucianism and the Shogunate) of Joseph Kitagawa's Religion in Japanese History (Columbia University Press, 1966).   How do Kitagawa's interpretations compare with those of Nam-Lin Hur in Prayer and Play in Tokugawa Japan: Asakusa Sensōji and Edo Society (Harvard University Asia Center, 2000)?  What do their methodological differences reveal about how they interpret religion on popular or political levels?

3.  Contrast the analyses of the ruling councils of the Tokugawa bakufu in Conrad Totman’s Politics in the Tokugawa Bakufu, 1600-1843 (Harvard University Press, 1967) and Harold Bolitho’s Treasures Among Men (Yale University Press, 1974).  What points do they emphasize?  Where do they diverge?  Why?  Do you find one more convincing than the other?

4.  Do Ronald Dore’s Education in Tokugawa Japan (University of California Press, 1965) and Richard Rubinger’s Private Academies of Tokugawa Japan (Princeton University Press, 1982) fit together to make a composite picture, and if so, what was it?  Or do they disagree, and if so, over what?

5.  Read “Ōkura Nagatsune and the Technologists” in Thomas Smith's Native Sources of Japanese Tradition (University of California Press, 1988), pp. 173-198, and Richard Rubinger's Private Academies of Tokugawa Japan (Princeton University Press, 1982). How do they interpret the ideal of education as a tool of social mobility during the Tokugawa Period?

6.  Compare and contrast two of the following: Marius Jansen, Sakamoto Ryōma and the Meiji Restoration (Princeton University Press, 1961); Conrad Totman, The Collapse of the Tokugawa Bakufu (University of Hawaii Press, 1980); Albert Craig, Chōshū in the Meiji Restoration (Harvard University Press, 1961); Thomas Huber, The Revolutionary Origins of Modern Japan (Stanford University Press, 1981); and Anne Walthall, The Weak Body of a Useless Women: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration (University of Chicago Press, 1998).  What factors do the authors see as pivotal in bringing about the Meiji Restoration?  If they give priority to different factors, whose arguments seem more convincing?

7.  Compare and contrast two of the following: Herbert Bix’s Peasant Protest in Japan, 1590—1884 (Yale University Press, 1986); Stephen Vlastos’s Peasant Protests and Uprisings in Tokugawa Japan (University of California, 1986); and James White’s Ikki: Social Conflict and Political Protest in Early Modern Japan (Cornell University Press, 1995).  You may want to consider how the authors define/demarcate their topic, what evidence they use, and how they interpret their evidence.

8.  Read Part One, “Mountains of Resentment” (pp. 11-70) in Tokugawa Village Practice by Herman Ooms (University of California Press, 1996) and “The Life Cycle of a Farm Women in Tokugawa Japan” by Anne Walthall in Recreating Japanese Women, 1600-1945 (University of California Press, 1991).  What do these readings tell you about the experiences of women in Tokugawa Japan?  To what extent did class and status affect a woman’s life and life experiences?

9.  Read Luke Roberts’ Mercantilism in a Japanese Domain (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and compare it to Satoru Nakamura’s “The Development of Rural Industry” in Nakane and Oishi (eds.), Tokugawa Japan (University of Tokyo Press, 1990).  How does Roberts’ book differ from Nakamura's essay? On which actors do both authors focus?  What implications do their views have for our understanding of the bakuhan system?


10.  Read Thomas C. Smith's Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization, 1750-1920 (University of California Press, 1988) (Introduction and Chapters 1-4) and Susan Hanley's Everyday Things in Premodern Japan: The Hidden Legacy of Material Culture (University of California Press, 1997).  Was the Tokugawa economy growing? How do they measure it? What do these authors see as distinctively Japanese about the Tokugawa development and what in their views was the contribution of Tokugawa Japan to modern Japan?

11.  Examine the nature of the Japanese “state” in the Tokugawa era by comparing Ronald Toby’s State and Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan with either Mark Ravina’s Land and Lordship in Early Modern Japan or Luke Roberts’ Mercantilism in a Japanese Domain: The Merchant Origins of Economic Nationalism in 18th Century Japan (Cambridge, 1999).  Compare Toby’s view of Bakufu power with that of Ravina or Roberts.  Contrast each author’s standpoint on the eighteenth-century Japanese polity. 

12. Compare and contrast Gary Leupp’s Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan with Gregory Pflugfelder’s Cartographies of Desire: Male-Male Sexuality in Japanese Discourse, 1600-1950 in regard to the subject of Tokugawa homosexuality. How differently do they define and approach the subject? Which study do you find more convincing or useful, and why?

13. Compare and contrast Harold Fuess’ Divorce in Japan: family, gender, and the state, 1600-2000 with “Temple divorce in Tokugawa Japan: a survey of documentation on Tokeiji and Mantokuji (Anne Dutton)” and “Mantokuji: more than a ‘divorce temple’ (Diane E. Wright)” in Barbara Ruch ed., Engendering faith: women and Buddhism in premodern Japan. What are the differing interpretations on divorce in the Tokugawa period, and what kinds of evidence are used to support them? What do these interpretations reveal about preoccupations or concepts of divorce in modern society?
14. Was Tokugawa Japan secluded from the rest of the world? Diplomatically, economically, intellectually? Read at least two of the following to answer this question:

Keene, Donald. The Japanese Discovery of Europe: Honda Toshiaki and Other Discoverers, 1720-1798 (London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1952).

Ronald P. Toby. State and Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan: Asia in the Development of the Tokugawa Bakufu (Princeton UP, 1984).

Marius B. Jansen. China in the Tokugawa World (Harvard University Press, 1995).

relevant sections in L. M. Cullen’s survey history, A History of Japan, 1582-1941: Internal and External Worlds (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

15. How did government policies affect economic development and ecological stability in the Tokugawa period, and how did policy makers conceptualize these issues? Base your answer on two of the following:

Totman, Conrad D. The Green Archipelago: Forestry in Preindustrial Japan. Berkeley, 1989.

Walker, Brett. The Conquest of Ainu Lands: Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion, 1590-1800. Berkeley, 2001.

Roberts, Luke Shepherd. Mercantilism in a Japanese Domain: The Merchant Origins of Economic Nationalism in 18th-Century Tosa. Cambridge UP, 1998.

Howell, David L. “Hard Times in the Kanto: Economic Change and Village Life in Late Tokugawa Japan.” Modern Asian Studies 23:2 (1989).

II.  MODERN PERIOD (due by 4 p.m. on Friday, April 23)
Document-based Topics:
1. Mutsu Munemitsu’s Kenkenroku (University of Tokyo, 1982) and Miyazaki Toten’s My Thirty-Three Years’ Dream (Princeton University Press, 1982) are primary sources.  Do they square (pick one) with W.G. Beasley’s Japanese Imperialism 1894-1945?  Imperialism is, of course, a charged subject.  How and why do the perspectives of these several authors vary?

2. Compare and contrast The Autobiography of Fukuzawa Yukichi (Madison Book, 1992) and The Autobiography of Shibusawa Eiichi: From Peasant to Entrepreneur (University of Tokyo, 1994).  What did their author’s have in common in personality and experience, and how did their visions of a modern Japan differ? What issues of interpretation that need to be kept in mind in using an autobiography as a historical source?

3. Compare and contrast Nakae Chomin’s Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government (Weatherhill, 1984) to some of the essays on similar topics in the William Braisted’s translation of Meiroku Zasshi: Journal of the Japanese Enlightenment (Harvard University Press, 1976). What do the various authors see as the major problems facing Meiji Japan.  What sorts of solutions do they propose?

4. Compare and contrast Fukuzawa Yukichi's idea of "datsu-A" in "Datsu-A ron [On De-Asianizaition]" (1885) (reproduced in Center for East Asian Cultural Studies ed., The Meiji Japan through Contemporary Sources III. Tokyo, 1973) and Okakura Kakuzō's idea of "soku-A" [identification with Asia] in The Ideals of the East (J. Murray, 1903) (unread chapters of the book) and The Awakening of Japan (Century co., 1904).   What do they tell you about the Japanese intellectual attitudes toward Asia and Japan's place in the world in the Meiji period?  For examining Fukuzawa's idea of "datsu-A," which is a culmination of his earlier beliefs, also read Fukuzawa Yukichi, An Encouragement of Learning (translated by David A. Dilworth and Umeyo Hirano. Sophia University Press, 1969) and Carmen Blacker, The Japanese Enlightenment: A Study of the Writings of Fukuzawa Yukichi (Cambridge University Press, 1964).

5. Contrast the depiction of rural women found in relevant chapters of Mikiso Hane’s Peasants, Rebels and Outcastes (Pantheon, 1982) to that presented by Robert Smith in his article “Japanese Village Women,” in Journal of Japanese Studies (Vol. 7, No. 2).  What might account for their very different portrayals?

6. Compare Nagatsuka Takashi’s account of village life in The Soil: A Portrait of Rural Life in Meiji Japan (Routledge, 1989) with John Embree’s Suye Mura (University of Chicago, 1939) or Ronald Dore’s Shinohata (Allen Lane, 1978).  What does Nagatsuka’s novel tell us about peasants and farming that we cannot learn from accounts written by social scientists?

7. Makiko’s Diary: A Merchant Wife in 1910 Kyoto (Stanford University Press, 1995) by Nakano Makiko is a housewife’s account of the daily activities of a merchant household. Compare Makiko’s family life with that of Shibue Io in Woman in the crested kimono: The Life of Shibue Io and her Family by Edwin McClellan (Yale University Press, 1985). How does domestic life appear to have changed during the Meiji period? What are strengths and weaknesses of a diary as a source of historical evidence?

8. Japan Through American Eyes: The Journal of Francis Hall, Kanagawa and Yokohama: 1859—1866 (Princeton University Press, 1992) is an American businessman’s perspective on treaty port life. From your reading this journal, what impressions do you form of the foreigners who lived in Japan in the Bakumatsu period?  Describe the relations between the Japanese and the foreigners who inhabited the treaty ports.  Did their daily interactions have political implications?

9. Compare the impressions of Westerners in Japan (Isabella Bird’s Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (Tuttle, 1973 reprint), Edward Morse's Japan Day by Day (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1917), Percival Lowell's The Soul of the Far East (Macmillan, 1920), etc.) with those of Japanese who traveled to the West (Masao Miyoshi’s As We Saw Them: The First Japanese Embassy to the United States (1860) (University of California, 1979)).  Do the accounts of Westerners share perspective, motive or impressions with those of the Japanese?

10. Read A Diary of Darkness: The Wartime Diary of Kiyosawa Kiyoshi (Princeton University Press, 1999).  What do the entries in this diary tell us about the relationship between the individual and state in wartime Japan?  How typical were Kiyosawa’s experiences and observations? To what might one attribute his anti-authoritarian views?

11. Alienation has been a major theme in modern literature in both Japan and the West.  Read Abe Kobo’s brilliant and fascinating novel The Woman in the Dunes (Berkeley, 1964) and contrast the treatment of existential themes in this novel and in Kokoro with Camus’ The Stranger and/or Sartre’s Nausea. To what extent can the contrasts be attributed to cultural differences?

12. The River Ki (Harper and Row, 1980) by Ariyoshi Sawako is a powerful novel depicting the societal and cultural challenges faced by three generations of Japanese women.  Compare and contrast Ariyoshi’s account of the changing role of women in modern Japan to that of the women portrayed in This Kind of Woman: Ten Stories by Japanese Women Writers, 1960-76 (Stanford University Press, 1982) edited by Tanaka Yukiko and Elizabeth Swanson, or those described by Sumiko Iwao in The Japanese Woman: Traditional Image and Changing Reality (Free Press, 1983).

13. “Meiji ideology” has been among the most controversial topics in the historiography of modern Japan. Compare its treatment in Basil Hall Chamberlain’s The Invention of a New Religion (Pan Pacific, 1933 reprint) with Carol Gluck’s "Japan's Modern Myths: Ideology in the late Meiji Period (Princeton University Press, 1985).  How do their interpretations differ?  On what kinds of sources are their arguments based?  How does historical proximity vs. distance condition the approaches of each author?  [NOTE:  This topic can be considered either a “document-based” or a “historiography” paper]

14. Read Beate Sirota Gordon’s memoirs The Only Women in the Room (Kodansha, 1997) in conjunction with the chapters 12 and 13 of John Dower’s Embracing Defeat (Free Press, 1999) and Susan Pharr’s article “The Politics of Women’s Rights” in Robert E. Ward, ed. Democratizing Japan: The Allied Occupation, (University of Hawaii Press, 1987) along with the 1947 Constitution included in the documents folder of the course website.  Consider what Sirota Gordon’s account tells you about the motivations that guided the American drafters of Japan’s postwar constitution.  How would you assess the role of Sirota Gordon?  Focus your discussion on the constitutional guarantee of civil and/or human rights, and women’s rights in particular.

15.  Life along the South Manchurian Railway: The Memoirs of Ito Takeo, translated by Joshua Fogel (M.E. Sharpe, 1988) is a valuable English-language account of Japan’s colonial project in Manchuria (Northeast China).  What is the relationship between Japanese intellectuals and Japan’s modern empire?  How did Japan’s quest for an empire in Asia shaped the actions and lives of Japanese intellectuals?  You may choose to examine this source along with Louise Young’s Japan’s Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism (University of California Press, 1998) and James Crowley, “Intellectuals as Visionaries of the New Asian Order,” in James Morley ed., Dilemmas of Growth in Prewar Japan (Princeton University Press, 1971).

16. View three propaganda films from World War II: “Chocolate and Soldiers” (Japan); “Triumph of the Will” (Germany); and “Battle of China--Why We Fight” (U.S.).”  Consider the similarities and differences among these three films, and assess their effectiveness as galvanizing popular support for wartime policies of the state.  [Note:  The propaganda films from Germany and the U.S. are on reserve at Lamont library.] In addition, read John Dower’s “Japanese Cinema Goes to War” in Japan in War and Peace: Selected Essays (W.W. Norton, 1993). Engage his analysis of wartime cinema using your own findings.

17.  Read Joseph Grew’s Ten Years in Japan or, better yet, examine Grew’s diary in Houghton Library (call # MS Am 1687-1687.9).  What can we learn about U.S.-Japan relations prior to Pearl Harbor from Grew’s diary?  What was Grew’s role in the events preceding the outbreak of war?  Did he accurately read Japanese intentions? Or, was he misled by his own biases and/or assumptions?  

18.  Read and evaluate the Autobiography of Ozaki Yukio (Princeton University Press, 2001) as a lens through which to examine the political culture of Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa Japan. When, how, and why did Japanese parliamentarism emerge and gain influence?  What does the account tell us about the nature of Japanese “democracy” in prewar Japan?

19.  Read the introduction and Part One (“The Scope of Orientalism”) of Edward Said, Orientalism, and Richard Minear's article “Orientalism and the Study of Japan” (Journal of Asian Studies vol. 39 no. 3, May 1980, pp. 507-524), and examine the influence of ‘Orientalist’ thought on any ONE of the following studies of Japan: Griffis, The Mikado's Empire; Montgomery, The Empire of the East; Hearn, Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation; Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword; Chamberlain, Things Japanese.

20. Read Eiichi Kiyooka ed., Fukuzawa Yukichi on Japanese women: selected works. What does this book tell you about the state of women as seen by a Japanese male intellectual of the early Meiji period? In Fukuzawa's views, what are the social structures and ideas that restrict women's positions in society, and what are his proposed solutions? What biases influence Fukuzawa's perspectives and proposals? 

21. Travelogues are fascinating to read, and those written by contemporary Japanese and Western observers of Japan’s colonial project provide valuable insight into the realities of empire on the ground. Read two of the following: Natsume Sōseki’s Travels in Manchuria and Korea (1909 / Global Oriental, 2000), Beatrice and Sidney Webb’s The Webbs in Asia: The 1911-12 Travel Diary (ed. George Feaver, 1992), Yosano Akiko’s Travels in Mongolia and Manchuria [Manmō Yuki]: A Feminist Poet from Japan Encounters Prewar China (1928 / trans. Joshua Fogel, 2001). Comment upon what similarities you find among the three travelogues. What might account for these similarities? In what ways might the very genre of travelogues during this period and in this place (Japan’s colonial possessions as a whole) be considered political, and do you find it convincing to analyze them as political statements?

Historiography Topics:
1.  Compare and contrast Patricia Tsurumi's Japanese Colonial Education in Taiwan, 1895-1945 (Harvard University Press, 1977) with one of the following more recent works: Leo Ching's Becoming Japanese: Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation (University of California Press, 2001) OR Faye Yuan Kleeman's chapters on Taiwanese and Korean writers in Under An Imperial Sun: Japanese Colonial Literature of Taiwan and the South (University of Hawaii Press, 2003). Do the authors have the same view of how education under Japanese colonial rule is organized, and how the educational system shapes colonial subjects?  How do they treat the tensions inherent within Japanese 'assimilation' policy?

2.  Compare and contrast their treatment of Japanese militarism in two of the following: Ben Shillony, Revolt in Japan (Princeton University Press, 1972); James Crowley, Japan’s Quest for Autonomy (Princeton University Press,1966); and Gordon Berger, Parties out of Power in Japan, 1931—1941 (Princeton University Press, 1977).

3.  Compare and critique the analyses of Japan’s foreign policy in the 1920s-1930s found in Japan Erupts (Princeton University,1984) edited by James Morley and Sadako Ogata’s Defiance in Manchuria (University of California, 1964).

4.  The Richard Sorge Spy Incident is one of the more dramatic episodes of political intrigue in modern Japanese history.  Compare the following two accounts: F.W. Deakin and G.R. Storry’s The Case of Richard Sorge (Chatto and Windus, 1966) and Chalmers Johnson’s An Instance of Treason (Stanford University Press, 1964).  For background on the police system, consult any of the several books on the topic by Richard Mitchell.

5.  Read Gershenkron’s “Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective” in The Progress of Underdeveloped Areas (University of Chicago Press, 1952) edited by Berthold Hoselitz and Henry Rosovsky’s Capital Formation in Japan: 1868-1940 (Free Press, 1961). How does the latter modify the former?
6.  Examine the various views of the People’s Rights movement espoused by two of the following works:  Irokawa Daikichi, The Culture of the Meiji Period (Princeton University Press, 1985); George Akita Foundations of Constitutional Government in Modern Japan, 1868—1900 , (Harvard University Press, 1967); Nobutaka Ike, The Beginnings of Political Democracy in Japan (Johns Hopkins, 1950); and Stephen Vlastos “Opposition Movements in Early Meiji, 1868-1885” in The Cambridge History of Japan, Volume 5.  Kyu Hyun Kim, Age of Visions and Arguments: Parliamentarianism and the Public Sphere in Early Meiji Japan (Harvard Asia Center, 2007). Discuss how the writers differ in their interpretations and perspectives, and consider who seems more persuasive.

7.  Read Frances Moulder, Japan, China and the Modern World Economy (Cambridge University Press, 1977) and compare her interpretation of Japan’s “successful” economic course in the 19th century to that found in Rosovsky, noted above, or in William Lockwood, The Economic Development of Japan (Princeton University Press, 1954).  Whose account do you find more convincing?

8.  What are the main contentions of Karen Wigen’s The Making of a Japanese Periphery, 1750—1920 (University of California Press, 1994) and David Howell’s Capitalism from Within: Economy, Society, and the State in a Japanese Fishery (University of California Press, 1995). Do they have similar views on the development of Japanese capitalism?

9.  What was political significance of the labor movement in modern Japanese history, and how did the state impact the history of the labor movement? See Andrew Gordon, Labor and Imperial Democracy in Prewar Japan (University of California Press, 1991) and Sheldon Garon, The State and Labor in Modern Japan (University of California Press, 1987).

10.  Consider the grand interpretative schema in the following two works: Ruth Benedict Chrysanthemum and Sword (Houghton Mifflin, 1946) and Chie Nakane, Japanese Society (University of California Press, 1970).  Which do you find persuasive, and why?  What are their shortcomings from the point of view of history?  Chrysanthemum and Sword was written during World War II, Japanese Society in 1970.  In what way do their interpretations of Japanese society reflect the eras in which they were written? What factors that have arisen in the 20 years since the publication of Japanese Society might require new interpretations?

11.  Compare Mary Brinton’s Women and the Economic Miracle: Gender and Work in Postwar Japan (University of California Press, 1993) to Sumiko Iwao’s The Japanese Woman: Traditional Image and Changing Reality (Free Press, 1983). The latter ranges far more broadly, so you should limit yourself to the areas of overlap in their treatment.  How do their interpretations differ?  Whose work is more convincing to you?

12.  Contrast the government role in the development of the NYK Lines in William Wray’s  Mitsubishi and the NYK, 1870-1914: Business Strategy in the Japanese Shipping Industry (Harvard University Press, 1984) and the later development of an automobile industry in Michael Cusumano’s The Japanese Automobile Industry: Technology Management at Toyota and Nissan (Harvard University Press, 1985).  How and why did the government role change? In what ways did it remain the same? How comparable are the two cases?

13.  Compare the personalities of the “liberal” Yoshida Shigeru in John Dower’s Empire and Aftermath (Harvard University Press, 1979) and the “conservative” Konoe Fumimaro in Oka Yoshitake’s Konoe Fumimaro: A Political Biography (University of Tokyo, 1983).  Are they both products of the same social and historical setting?


14.  Compare Herbert Bix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan (Harper Collins, 2000) and Steven Large, Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan: A Political Biography (Routledge, 1992).  Why was Emperor Hirohito such a controversial historical subject?  What are the main differences between the perspectives presented by Bix and Large, and how would you account for them?  Other than providing some insight into Hirohito himself, do these biographies reveal anything significant about modern Japan? 

15.  Read John Dower’s War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (Pantheon, 1986) and Theodore and Haruko Cook’s Japan at War: An Oral History (Norton, 1993).  How do the two accounts inform our understanding of Japan’s wartime leadership and popular acquiescence?

16.  Examine at least two accounts (by different authors) of the Allied Occupation of Japan. Possibilities include John Dower’s recently published book, Embracing Defeat (Free Press, 1999) or earlier work, Empire and Aftermath (chapters 8-9), as well as Robert Ward and Yoshikazu Sakamoto’s Democratizing Japan: The Allied Occupation (University of Hawaii Press, 1987) and Kazuo Kawai’s Japan’s American Interlude. (University of Chicago Press, 1964). How do the works differ and what are their respective strengths and weaknesses?

17.  Compare Helen Hardacre’s approach to the issue of religion, gender and ritual in Marketing the Menacing Fetus in Japan (University of California Press, 1997) to an earlier work by William LaFleur, Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan (Princeton University Press, 1992).  Does Hardacre challenge the views presented by LaFleur?  What do these works tell us about the role of religion in contemporary Japanese society?

18.  Consider William Tsutsui’s perspective on the quality control movement in Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in twentieth century Japan (Princeton University Press, 1998) with those presented by Ishikawa’s What is Total Quality Control? (Prentice Hall, 1985).  How does their views on the quality control movement—its origins, progress, achievements, etc.—differ?  How do they converge?

19.  Examine the views offered on the Japanese electronics—namely television—industry by Simon Partner in Assembled in Japan (University of California Press, 1999) and from the biography of Morita Akio, the founder of Sony, in John Nathan’s Sony: The Private Life (Houghton Mifflin, 1999).  What do these two works tell you about the history of the electronics industry in Japan?  Consider the experiences of Morita as presented by John Nathan with the broad overview offered by Simon Partner.

20.  Compare Hilary Conroy’s The Japanese Seizure of Korea: 1868-1910 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1960) to Peter Duus’ The Abacus and the Sword: The Japanese Penetration of Korea, 1895-1910 (University of California Press, 1995).  How does each analyze the historical process of Japan’s colonization of Korea?  What theories or frameworks do they employ in their analysis?  Where do the two accounts agree? Where do they differ?  Which seems more persuasive?


21. Read “The Meiji State's Policy Toward Women, 1890-1910” by Sharon Nolte and Sally Ann Hastings in Recreating Japanese Women, 1600-1945 (University of California Press, 1991) and Patricia E. Tsurumi’s Factory girls: Women in the thread mills of Meiji Japan (Princeton University Press, 1990).  How might you account for the differences in these two portrayals of women in the Meiji period?  How does Tsurumi’s treatment of female labor alter the picture that Nolte and Hastings offer? 


22.  Compare and contrast the act of “historicizing” an “event” by examining Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (Basic Books, 1997) and The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography (University of California Press, 2000) edited by Joshua Fogel.

23. Compare and contrast Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (Basic Books, 1997) and Masahiro Yamamoto's Nanking: Anatomy of an Atrocity (Praeger, 2000). How do the two works approach the Nanking Incident?  What are strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches?

24.  Compare the subject of Japanese colonial modernization and assimilation policy of the 1930s in Susan Townsend’s Yanaihara Tadao and Japanese Colonial Policy: Redeeming Empire (Curzon, 2000), Gi-wook Shin and Michael Robinson’s Colonial Modernity in Korea (Harvard University Pres, 1999), and The Japanese Wartime Empire, 1931-1945 (Princeton University Press, 1996).  What were the intentions behind the colonial social policies of the 1930s?  In what ways were they a continuation of or departure from the policies of the 1910s or 1920s?  Explore some of the contractions in these policies and how colonial assimilation policy influenced “Japanese” identity.

25.  Read Louis Young's Japan's Total Empire (University of California Press, 1998) and Mark Peattie's The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895-1945 (Princeton University Press, 1984), Introduction (pp. 3-52), and compare their respective views on the colonialism of Japan. Then, read Andre Schmid's "Colonialism and the Korea Problem in the Historiography of Modern Japan: A Review Article" (Journal of Asian Studies vol. 59 no. 4, November 2000, pp. 951-976).  Is Andre Schmid's criticism of Peattie's book persuasive?

26. Compare and contrast Women and the labor market in Japan’s industrializing economy: the textile industry before the Pacific War by Janet Hunter and Factory girls: women in the thread mills of Meiji Japan by E. Patricia Tsurumi. What are the different approaches taken in the two books? Why are women in the textile industry scrutinized in these books, and how are women of this time period represented?

27. Read Ueno Chizuko’s Nationalism and Gender (especially part II), Yoshimi Yoshiaki’s Comfort women: sexual slavery in the Japanese military, and Yuki Tanaka’s Japan’s comfort women: sexual slavery and prostitution during World War II and the US occupation. What are the politics of historicizing the (euphemistically named) “comfort women” issue, and what are the differing approaches to understanding military sexual slavery? What are the debates, and what issues do they raise for contemporary Japan?

28. Compare and contrast any two of the following: Kato Shidzue: A Japanese Feminist by Helen M. Hopper, Hiratsuka Raicho and Early Japanese Feminism by Hiroko Tomida, The Story of Yamada Waka: from prostitute to feminist pioneer by Tomoko Yamazaki, or One woman who dared: Ichikawa Fusae and the Japanese women’s suffrage movement by Kathleen S. Molony. Address some of the following questions: What types of “feminisms” are depicted in these works, and what tensions emerged from conflicting “feminist” interests? What are some of the similarities and differences between “feminist” agendas of the individuals examined in the books above, and the authors’ own approaches to feminism?

29. How do the following historians account for the distinctive organization of labor at large Japanese companies in the postwar period? Read and discuss any two of these works:

Dore, Ronald P. British Factory – Japanese Factory: The Origins of National Diversity in Industrial Relations. London: Allen & Unwin, 1973.

Smith, Thomas C. “The Right to Benevolence: Dignity and Japanese Workers 1890-1920. Comparative Studies in Society and History 26:4 (1984).

Gordon, Andrew. The Evolution of Labor Relations in Japan: Heavy Industry, 1853-1955. Harvard UP, 1985.

30. Read Daniel Botsman’s Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan and Susan Burns’ "Contemplating Places: The Hospital as Modern Experience in Meiji Japan" (in Helen Hardacre and Adam Kern (eds.), New Directions in the Study of Meiji Japan). How do these authors attempt to explain Japan’s modernity? In what sense might their approach be a departure from more “traditional” understandings of the rise of modern Japan?

HA-14 Paper Topics – Page of

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