Japan at Nature's Edge
The Environmental Context of a Global Power
Publication Year: 2013
The work is an environmental history in the broadest sense of the term because it contains writing by environmental anthropologists, a legendary Japanese economist, and scholars of Japanese literature and culture. The editors have brought together an unparalleled assemblage of some of the finest scholars in the field who, rather than treat Japan in isolation or as a unique cultural community, seek to connect Japan to global environmental currents such as whaling, world fisheries, mountaineering and science, mining and industrial pollution, and relations with nonhuman animals.
The contributors assert the importance of the environment in understanding Japan’s history and propose a new balance between nature and culture, one weighted much more heavily on the side of natural legacies. Ideas and culture do shape the natural world, because it, like the poetry of Heian aristocrats, has become a relic of history. This approach does not discount culture. Instead, it suggests that the Japanese experience of nature, like that of all human beings, is a complex and intimate negotiation between the physical and cultural worlds.
Contributors: Daniel P. Aldrich, Jakobina Arch, Andrew Bernstein, Philip C. Brown, Timothy S. George, Jeffrey E. Hanes, David L. Howell, Federico Marcon, Christine L. Marran, Ian Jared Miller, Micah Muscolino, Ken’ichi Miyamoto, Sara B. Pritchard, Julia Adeney Thomas, Karen Thornber, William M. Tsutsui, Brett L. Walker, Takehiro Watanabe.
Ian Jared Miller teaches modern Japanese history at Harvard University. Julia Adeney Thomas is associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame. Brett L. Walker is Regents Professor at Montana State University, Bozeman.
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Preface Brett L. Walker
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At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake devastated northeastern Japan and caused earth’s most threatening nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. The quake was 9.0 on the Richter scale, the most powerful to ever strike the often-hit country, and it unleashed a tsunami that swept away entire communities. As of July 2011, the death toll and missing had exceeded twenty-four thousand, ...
Writing Japan at Nature’s Edge: The Promises and Perils of Environmental History Ian Jared Miller
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If that double-bolted land, Japan, is ever to become hospitable, it is the whale-ship to whom the credit will be due; for already she is on the threshold.Two episodes come to mind whenever I think about Japan at Nature’s Edge—the promises and perils of a book about Japan’s environmental history. Given the association between the Japanese and whaling in the international environmental ...
Part I: Oceans and Empires
Chapter 1 The Pelagic Empire: Reconsidering Japanese Expansion William M. Tsutsui
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This essay is based on the modest proposition that understanding imperialism requires us to consider oceans as well as land masses. Given the ongoing and global “fad in oceanic studies,” encompassing historians, literary scholars, and social scientists, such a contention is hardly revolutionary.1 Nevertheless, as W. Jeffrey Bolster has noted, environmental historians have long shared a com-...
Chapter 2 From Meat to Machine Oil: The Nineteenth-Century Development of Whaling in Wakayama Jakobina Arch
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On December 24, 1878, a massive right whale (Eubalaena japonica) swam with her calf toward the kumano coast of Wakayama Prefecture (fig. 2.1). The weather that afternoon was cold and rainy, with a northeasterly wind kicking up a dan-gerous chop on the water. Despite the bad weather, lookouts were stationed on a mountain near Taiji Harbor, peering through the rain for any sign of whales. At ...
Chapter 3 Fisheries Build Up the Nation: Maritime Environmental Encounters between Japan and China Micah Muscolino
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Between 1898 and 1906, China’s political elites and thousands of Chinese students who spent time studying abroad enthusiastically appropriated intellectual cur-rents originating from Japan. This chapter focuses on a lesser-known aspect of these international currents: the environmental dimensions of Japan’s role in the formation of Chinese modernity. The influence of modern Japanese conceptions ...
Part II: Changing Landscapes
Chapter 4 Talking Sulfur Dioxide: Air Pollution and the Politics of Science in Late Meiji Japan Takehiro Watanabe
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...“Is it not the case, gentlemen, that the copper poisoning crisis . . . was caused by scientific progress deviating from the principles of civilization?” alleged parlia-mentarian Mutō kinkichi during a 1909 Diet session on an air pollution case in eastern ehime Prefecture, on the Japanese island of Shikoku.1 The legislator had just returned from a tour of the agricultural area devastated by sulfur dioxide ...
Chapter 5 Constructing Nature Philip C. Brown
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The history of the echigo Plain encapsulates the particularly intense dialog between Japanese society and natural erosional processes, a negotiation that con-tinues today. Its story reminds us that natural processes radically transformed Japan’s geography even during historical times. The forces underlying these changes continue to challenge human efforts to live off the land despite improve-...
Chapter 6 Toroku: Mountain Dreams, Chemical Nightmares Timothy S. George
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When Americans imagine harm caused by environmental pollution, they may think of spotted owls or melting glaciers. The images that come to mind for Japa-nese are likely to be the ravaged bodies of human beings, particularly the victims of congenital mercury poisoning in Minamata.1 Poisons human beings release into the environment have also returned to destroy human bodies in many other ...
Part III: Between Bodies
Chapter 7 Fecal Matters: Prolegomenon to a History of Shit in Japan David L. Howell
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Poop is yucky. As a rule, yuckiness is socially constructed, but poop is different. Our dislike of the stuff is hardwired into us. Neuroscientists confirmed this in an experiment designed to locate regions of the brain involved in “the response to disgusting stimuli presented in the olfactory modality.”1 Poop’s yuckiness is an insistent plea for us to stay away; it protects us from the critters that live in it ...
Chapter 8 Weathering Fuji: Marriage, Meteorology, and the Meiji Bodyscape Andrew Bernstein
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On the first of October in the twenty-eighth year of the Meiji emperor’s reign (1895), Nonaka Itaru began recording meteorological phenomena on Mount Fuji’s summit with the ambitious goal of taking measurements every two hours, day and night, for an entire year. In an age when the Japanese press eagerly celebrated tales of scientific discovery in dangerous, exotic places,3 Itaru’s project offered some-...
Chapter 9 Animal Histories: Stranger in a Tokyo Canal Christine L. Marran
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On August 7, 2002, a bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus/Agohige azarashi) was spotted in the Tama River, far beyond its usual Arctic Ocean habitat. Over the course of a few days, onlookers grew into the hundreds. Newspaper reporters and television crews flooded the area to document not just the seal but the astound-ing human interest in the slippery stranger. One television crewmember com-...
Part IV: Vistas and Vantage Points
Chapter 10 Inventorying Nature: Tokugawa Yoshimune and the Sponsorship of Honzōgaku in Eighteenth-Century Japan Federico Marcon
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Our friend Robinson Crusoe learns this by experience, and having saved a watch, a ledger, ink and pen from the shipwreck, he soon begins, like a good Englishman, to keep a set of books. His stock-book contains a catalogue of the useful objects he possesses, of the various operations necessary for their production, and finally of the labour-time that specific quantities of these ...
Chapter 11 Japanese Literature and Environmental Crises Karen Thornber
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...ecosystems are always in motion. Some of their changes result directly from human actions and some occur independent of people, while the majority result from a more nebulous combination of human behaviors and nonhuman dynam-ics. For many millennia, anthropogenic transformations of environments were relatively separate local phenomena, but in the last several centuries these changes ...
Chapter 12 Japanese Environmental Policy: Lessons from Experience and Remaining Problems Ken’ichi Miyamoto
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Following the Pacific War, Japan experienced Minamata disease and other terrible effects of pollution. Since the late 1960s, due largely to public criticism of pollu-tion and the rise of an antipollution citizens’ movement, Japan has addressed the problems of air pollution (sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide) and water and soil pollution (mercury and cadmium). This positive result has impelled numerous ...
Part V: The Triple Disaster of 3/11
Chapter 13 An Envirotechnical Disaster: Negotiating Nature, Technology, and Politics at Fukushima Sara B. Pritchard
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The Tōhoku earthquake, now called the “Great east Japan earthquake,” began rat-tling the island nation at 2:46 in the afternoon (JST) on that fateful spring day. The enormous magnitude 9.0 earthquake—the largest ever known to have hit Japan and also one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the entire world since modern record keeping began in the early twentieth century—shook buildings, ...
Chapter 14 Postcrisis Japanese Nuclear Policy: From Top-down Directives to Bottom-up Activism Daniel P. Aldrich
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The earthquake, tsunami, and resulting nuclear power plant meltdown beginning on March 11, 2011, not only destroyed Fukushima’s coastline and more than twenty thousand human lives, it altered the course of Japan’s energy policy. Throughout the postwar period, there has been a complex interplay between two camps over atomic energy. On one side the Japanese central government, local officials, and ...
Chapter 15 Using Japan to Think Globally: The Natural Subject of History and Its Hopes Julia Adeney Thomas
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Today “the global” in its many manifestations is shouldering aside local and national histories, dismissing them as inadequate to understanding our planetary context. Nowhere is the necessity of a global grasp more keenly felt than in envi-ronmental history where scholarship on the earth as a whole abounds. Climate change affects different parts of the earth differently but disregards national bor-...
List of Contributors
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Publication Year: 2013