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Performing the Great Peace

Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan

Luke S. Roberts

Publication Year: 2012

Performing the Great Peace offers a cultural approach to understanding the politics of the Tokugawa period, at the same time deconstructing some of the assumptions of modern national historiographies. Deploying the political terms uchi (inside), omote (ritual interface), and naisho (informal negotiation)—all commonly used in the Tokugawa period—Luke Roberts explores how daimyo and the Tokugawa government understood political relations and managed politics in terms of spatial autonomy, ritual submission, and informal negotiation. Roberts suggests as well that a layered hierarchy of omote and uchi relations strongly influenced politics down to the village and household level, a method that clarifies many seeming anomalies in the Tokugawa order. He analyzes in one chapter how the identities of daimyo and domains differed according to whether they were facing the Tokugawa or speaking to members of the domain and daimyo household: For example, a large domain might be identified as a“country” by insiders and as a “private territory” in external discourse. In another chapter he investigates the common occurrence of daimyo who remained formally alive to the government months or even years after they had died in order that inheritance issues could be managed peacefully within their households. The operation of the court system in boundary disputes is analyzed as are the “illegal” enshrinements of daimyo inside domains that were sometimes used to construct forms of domain-state Shinto. Performing the Great Peace’s convincing analyses and insightful conceptual framework will benefit historians of not only the Tokugawa and Meiji periods, but Japan in general and others seeking innovative approaches to premodern history.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. xi-xii

This book began as an attempt to resolve some problems posed by my first book. Three scholars provided me with key departure points: While I was doing an article on the abolition of Tosa domain at the time of the Meiji Restoration, Professor Mitani Hiroshi provided a thoughtful critique and advice concerning differences between the Tokugawa period and the Meiji period. Professor Watanabe Hiroshi’s research on Tokugawa...

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Names, Dates, and Units Used in the Text

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pp. xiii-xiv

Names are written in the Japanese fashion, with family names first and personal names second. Following conventions of Japanese history writing, when one name is used, it is usually the personal name rather than the family name, so the daimyo Yamauchi Tadayoshi is referred to as Tadayoshi rather than Yamauchi.I refer to a daimyo household as a clan or house, and to the territory...

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pp. 1-18

I found information on the following incident of the Tokugawa period (1600– 1868) in the castle diary of Tahara domain, which was ruled by daimyo lords of the Miyake clan: In the autumn of 1792, the Grand Inspector of the Tokugawa government entered the Edo residence of the childless daimyo Miyake Yasukuni on a mission to certify that although Yasukuni was ill, he was of sound mind when he personally chose whom he would adopt to assume his position...

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Chapter 1 The Geography of Politics

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pp. 19-52

The above quotation comes from a book written by the Dutchman J. F. van Overmeer Fisscher in 1833, a clerk who had lived in Nagasaki for about nine years in the 1820s. Here he describes the operation of the legal system of the Tokugawa period and reveals that the rulers themselves considered their laws too severe to regularly implement, but rather than changing...

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Chapter 2 Performing the Tokugawa Right to Know

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pp. 53-73

The Tokugawa government collected much information about the conditions and management of daimyo domains. It used such data in the formation of government policy, as the basis of extraction of services and resources from daimyo, and, on occasion, to intervene in the daimyos’ control of their domains. For their part, daimyo likewise collected much information from...

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Chapter 3 Politics of the Living Dead

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pp. 74-104

On the eleventh day of the third month of 1823 the daimyo Miyake Yasukazu of Tahara domain donated some gold to the memorial services of his greatgreat- great-grandfather.2 Taking care of memorial services for ancestors was a routine responsibility of a daimyo. The only oddity about the event was that Yasukazu himself had died more than a month earlier. His death had...

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Chapter 4 Territorial Border Disputes

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pp. 105-135

Land was second only to inheritance politics in its ability to excite passions and inspire violence in Tokugawa Japan, and a chief task of the Tokugawa government was to mediate struggles over territorial control. Formally, the Tokugawa had land struggles adjudicated in accordance with the feudal disbursement of judicial authority. Their general goal was to contain disturbance...

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Chapter 5 Daimyo Gods

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pp. 136-166

The Yamauchi clan of Tosa domain inaugurated three new deities in 1807, placing them in a new shrine in the castle and creating a major new festival for their realm. At the time, the Tokugawa government had laws prohibiting the creation of new deities, new shrines, and new festivals, but the Yamauchi wanted to develop a more populist form of religiosity to strengthen the position...

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Chapter 6 Histories

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pp. 167-189

A school of historiography called Mitogaku flourished in the castle town of Mito, the heart of a daimyo realm ruled by one of the three main collateral houses of the Tokugawa clan. Mitogaku is best known for crafting a history of Japan, the Dai Nihon shi. Modeled on Chinese imperial dynastic histories, the Dai Nihon shi’s narrative centered on the Japanese imperial line. Its vision of...

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pp. 191-198

The Tokugawa kubō suffered a great loss of face with Commodore Perry’s arrival and the subsequent interactions with Western powers. The “august glory” of the Tokugawa clan and their Great Peace crumbled midcentury when their inability to persuade foreigners to play prescribed roles became publicly evident.1 The old regime soon collapsed, but it initially broke apart along feudal lines of power. All the daimyo, who...


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pp. 199-227


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pp. 229-235

Works Cited

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pp. 237-252


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pp. 253-263

About the Author, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780824861155
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824835132

Publication Year: 2012