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The first three centuries of the Heian period (794–1086) saw some of its most fertile innovations and epochal achievements in Japanese literature and the arts. It was also a time of important transitions in the spheres of religion and politics, as aristocratic authority was consolidated in Kyoto, powerful court factions and religious institutions emerged, and adjustments were made in the Chinese-style system of ruler-ship. At the same time, the era’s leaders faced serious challenges from the provinces that called into question the primacy and efficiency of the governmental system and tested the social/cultural status quo. Heian Japan, Centers and Peripheries, the first book of its kind to examine the early Heian from a wide variety of multidisciplinary perspectives, offers a fresh look at these seemingly contradictory trends. Essays by fourteen leading American, European, and Japanese scholars of art history, history, literature, and religions take up core texts and iconic images, cultural achievements and social crises, and the ever-fascinating patterns and puzzles of the time. The authors tackle some of Heian Japan’s most enduring paradigms as well as hitherto unexplored problems in search of new ways of understanding the currents of change as well as the processes of institutionalization that shaped the Heian scene, defined the contours of its legacies, and make it one of the most intensely studied periods of the Japanese past.
Adolescence without End
This is the first English translation of a controversial Japanese best seller that made the public aware of the social problem of hikikomori, or “withdrawal”—a phenomenon estimated by the author to involve as many as one million Japanese adolescents and young adults who have withdrawn from society, retreating to their rooms for months or years and severing almost all ties to the outside world. Saitō Tamaki’s work of popular psychology provoked a national debate about the causes and extent of the condition.
Since Hikikomori was published in Japan in 1998, the problem of social withdrawal has increasingly been recognized as an international one, and this translation promises to bring much-needed attention to the issue in the English-speaking world. According to the New York Times, “As a hikikomori ages, the odds that he’ll re-enter the world decline. Indeed, some experts predict that most hikikomori who are withdrawn for a year or more may never fully recover. That means that even if they emerge from their rooms, they either won’t get a full-time job or won’t be involved in a long-term relationship. And some will never leave home. In many cases, their parents are now approaching retirement, and once they die, the fate of the shut-ins—whose social and work skills, if they ever existed, will have atrophied—is an open question.”
Drawing on his own clinical experience with hikikomori patients, Saitō creates a working definition of social withdrawal and explains its development. He argues that hikikomori sufferers manifest a specific, interconnected series of symptoms that do not fit neatly with any single, easily identifiable mental condition, such as depression.
Rejecting the tendency to moralize or pathologize, Saitō sensitively describes how families and caregivers can support individuals in withdrawal and help them take steps toward recovery. At the same time, his perspective sparked contention over the contributions of cultural characteristics—including family structure, the education system, and gender relations—to the problem of social withdrawal in Japan and abroad.
The third-century Chinese chronicle Wei zhi (Record of Wei) is responsible for Japan’s most enduring ancient mystery. This early history tells of a group of islands off the China coast that were dominated by a female shaman named Himiko. Himiko ruled for more than half a century as head of the largest chiefdom, traditionally known as Yamatai, until her death in 248. Yet no such person appears in the old Japanese literature. Who was Himiko and where was the Yamatai she governed? In this, the most comprehensive treatment in English to date, a senior scholar of early Japan turns to three sources—historical, archaeological, and mythological—to provide a multifaceted study of Himiko and ancient Japanese society.
Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in Prewar Japan
"[Wetzler] concludes that Hirohito participated fully in the decision-making processes that led to key events, from the Manchurian Incident, through the attack on Pearl Harbor, to the decision to surrender. He argues that like members of other decision-making bodies, Hirohito was able to prevail on some occasions but not on others, and that he shares responsibility for the decisions and should not be singled out for blame. The book's greatest virtue is its balanced approach to a topic that has been and will continue to be hotly debated." --Choice "An important addition to studies dealing with Hirohito and Japanese political history of the Showa era." --American Historical Review
In June 2001 Rahna Reiko Rizzuto travels to Hiroshima to research and interview survivors of the atomic bomb, leaving her husband and two young sons in New York. Her work does not go well until September 11, when the survivors finally open up as they share Americans’ fears and relive their own trauma. But Rizzuto’s marriage is crumbling. On her own in Japan, she questions her role as a mother and wife and ultimately makes the painful decision to get a divorce and have the children live with her ex-husband.
The Tenmu Dynasty, 650–800
Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan is an ambitious and ground-breaking study that offers a new understanding of a formative stage in the development of the Japanese state. The late seventh and eighth centuries were a time of momentous change in Japan, much of it brought about by the short-lived Tenmu dynasty. Two new capital cities, a bureaucratic state led by an imperial ruler, and Chinese-style law codes were just a few of the innovations instituted by the new regime. Herman Ooms presents both a wide-ranging and fine-grained examination of the power struggles, symbolic manipulations, new mythological constructs, and historical revisions that both defined and propelled these changes. In addition to a vast amount of research in Japanese sources, the author draws on a wealth of sinological scholarship in English, German, and French to illuminate the politics and symbolics of the time. An important feature of the book is the way it opens up early Japanese history to considerations of continental influences. Rulers and ritual specialists drew on several religious and ritual idioms, including Daoism, Buddhism, yin-yang hermeneutics, and kami worship, to articulate and justify their innovations. In looking at the religious symbols that were deployed in support of the state, Ooms gives special attention to the Daoist dimensions of the new political symbolics as well as to the crucial contributions made by successive generations of "immigrants" from the Korean peninsula. From the beginning, a "liturgical state" sought to co-opt factions and clans (uji) as participants in the new polity with the emperor acting as both a symbolic mediator and a silent partner. In contrast to the traditional interpretation of the Kojiki mythology as providing a vertical legitimation of a Sun lineage of rulers, an argument is presented for the importance of a lateral dimension of interdependency as a key structural element in the mythological narrative. An enlightening line of interpretation woven into the author’s analysis centers on purity. This eminently politico-ritual value central to Chinese Daoism and Buddhism was used by Tenmu as the emblematic expression of his regime and new political power. The concept of purity was most fully realized in the world of the Saiô princess in Ise and was later used by Ise ritualists to defend themselves against Buddhist rivals. At the end of the Tenmu dynasty, it was widely believed that avenging spirits were the principal source of danger and pollution, notions understood here as statements about the bloody political battles that were waged in Tenmu court circles. The Tenmu dynasty began and ended in bloodshed and was marked throughout by instability and upheaval. Constant succession struggles between two branches of the royal line and a few outside lineages generated a host of plots, uprisings, murders, and accusations of black magic. This aspect of the period gets full treatment in fascinatingly detailed narratives, which the author skillfully alternates with his trademark structural analysis. Imperial Politics and Symbolics in Ancient Japan is a boldly imaginative, carefully and extensively researched, and richly textured history that will reward reading by Japan specialists and students in several disciplines as well as by scholars with an interest in the role of religious symbolism in state formation.
A Sociopolitical Analysis
In order to ensure its absolute authority, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal (1946–1948), the Japanese counterpart of the Nuremberg Trial, adopted a three-tier structure for its interpreting: Japanese nationals interpreted the proceedings, second-generation Japanese-Americans monitored the interpreting, and Caucasian U.S. military officers arbitrated the disputes. The first extensive study on the subject in English, this book explores the historical and political contexts of the trial as well as the social and cultural backgrounds of the linguists through trial transcripts in English and Japanese, archival documents and recordings, and interviews with those who were involved in the interpreting. In addition to a detailed account of the interpreting, the book examines the reasons for the three-tier system, how the interpreting procedures were established over the course of the trial, and the unique difficulties faced by the Japanese-American monitors. This original case study of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal illuminates how complex issues such as trust, power, control and race affect interpreting at international tribunals in times of conflict.
Soft Power in Regional Diplomacy
In international relations today, influence is as essential as military and economic might. Consequently, leaders promote favorable images of the state in order to attract allies and win support for their policies. Jing Sun, an expert on international relations and a former journalist, refers to such soft power campaigns as "charm offensives." Sun focuses on the competition between China and Japan for the allegiance of South Korea, Taiwan, and other states in the region. He finds that, instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, the Chinese and the Japanese deploy customized charm campaigns for each target state, taking into consideration the target's culture, international position, and political values. He then evaluates the effectiveness of individual campaigns from the perspective of the target state, on the basis of public opinion polls, media coverage, and the response from state leaders. A deep, comparative study, Japan and China as Charm Rivals enriches our understanding of soft power by revealing deliberate image campaign efforts and offering a method for assessing the effectiveness of such charm offensives.
The Environmental Context of a Global Power
Japan at Nature’s Edge is a timely collection of essays that explores the relationship between Japan’s history, culture, and physical environment. It greatly expands the focus of previous work on Japanese modernization by examining Japan’s role in global environmental transformation and how Japanese ideas have shaped bodies and landscapes over the centuries. Given the global and immediate nature of Earth’s environmental crisis, a predicament highlighted by Japan’s March 2011 disaster, it brings a sense of urgency to the study of Japan and its global connections.
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.