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Seismic Japan Cover

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Seismic Japan

The Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake

Gregory Smits

What are we to make of contemporary newspapers in Japan speculating about the possible connection between aquatic creatures and earthquakes? Of a city council deciding to issue evacuation advice based on observed animal behavior? Why, between 1977 and 1993, did Japan’s government spend taxpayer money to observe catfish in aquariums as part of its mandate to fund earthquake prediction research? All of these actions are direct legacies of the 1855 Ansei Edo earthquake, one of the major natural disasters of the period. In his investigation of the science, politics, and lore of seismic events in Japan, Gregory Smits examines this earthquake in a broad historical context.

The Ansei Edo earthquake shook the shogun’s capital during a year of special religious significance and at a time of particularly vigorous seismic activity. It was also a turning point because, according to the prevailing understanding of earthquakes at the time, it should never have happened. Many Japanese, therefore, became receptive to new ideas about the causes of earthquakes as well as to the notion that by observing some phenomena—for example, the behavior of catfish—one might determine when an earthquake would strike. All subsequent major earthquakes in Japan resulted in claims, always made after the fact, that certain phenomena had been signs of the impending catastrophe. Indeed, earthquake prediction in Japan from 1855 to the present has largely consisted of amassing collections of alleged or possible precursor phenomena. In addition, the Ansei Edo earthquake served as a catalyst accelerating socio-political trends already underway. It revealed bakufu military weaknesses and enhanced the prestige of the imperial deity Amaterasu at the expense of the bakufu deity Kashima.

Anyone interested in Japan, earthquakes, and natural disasters will benefit from Seismic Japan. The work also serves as essential background for understanding the peculiar history of earthquake prediction in modern and contemporary Japan.

Gregory Smits is associate professor of history and Asian studies at Pennsylvania State University.

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The Structure of Detachment

The Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Shuzo

Hiroshi Nara

Published in 1930, when Japan was struggling to define and assert its national and cultural identity, The Structure of Iki (Iki no kôzô) re-introduced the Japanese to a sophisticated tradition of urbane and spirited stylishness (iki) that was forged in the Edo period. Upon his return from Europe, Kuki Shûzô (1888–1941) made use of the new theoretical frameworks based on Western Continental methodology to redefine the significance of iki in Japanese society and culture. By applying Heidegger’s hermeneutics to this cultural phenomenon, he attempted to recast traditional understanding in the context of Western aesthetic theory and reestablish the centrality of a purely Japanese sense of "taste." The three critical essays that accompany this new translation of The Structure of Iki look at various aspects of Kuki, his work, and the historical context that influenced his thinking. Hiroshi Nara first traces Kuki’s interest in a philosophy of life through his exposure to Husserl, Heidegger, and Bergson. In the second essay, J. Thomas Rimer compels readers to reexamine The Structure of Iki as a work in the celebrated tradition of zuihitsu (stream-of-consciousness writings) and takes into account French literary influences on Kuki. The philosopher’s controversial link with Heidegger is explored by Jon Mark Mikkelsen in the final essay.

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Sword of Zen

Master Takuan and His Writings on Immovable Wisdom and the Sword Tale

Peter Haskel

Takuan Sōho’s (1573–1645) two works on Zen and swordsmanship are among the most straightforward and lively presentations of Zen ever written and have enjoyed great popularity in both premodern and modern Japan. Although dealing ostensibly with the art of the sword, Record of Immovable Wisdom and On the Sword Taie are basic guides to Zen—“user’s manuals” for Zen mind that show one how to manifest it not only in sword play but from moment to moment in everyday life.

Along with translations of Record of Immovable Wisdom and On the Sword Taie (the former, composed in all likelihood for the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu and his fencing master, Yagyū Munenori), this book includes an introduction to Takuan’s distinctive approach to Zen, drawing on excerpts from the master’s other writings. It also offers an accessible overview of the actual role of the sword in Takuan’s day, a period that witnessed both a bloody age of civil warfare and Japan’s final unification under the Tokugawa shoguns. Takuan was arguably the most famous Zen priest of his time, and as a pivotal figure, bridging the Zen of the late medieval and early modern periods, his story (presented in the book’s biographical section) offers a rare picture of Japanese Zen in transition.

For modern readers, whether practitioners of Zen or the martial arts, Takuan’s emphasis on freedom of mind as the crux of his teaching resonates as powerfully as it did with the samurai and swordsmen of Tokugawa Japan. Scholars will welcome this new, annotated translation of Takuan’s sword-related works as well as the host of detail it provides, illuminating an obscure period in Zen’s history in Japan.

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Swords, Oaths, and Prophetic Visions

Authoring Warrior Rule in Medieval Japan

Elizabeth Oyler

Swords, Oaths, and Prophetic Visions investigates some of the most historically important political and social issues raised by the Genpei War (1180-1185). This epic civil conflict, which ushered in Japan’s age of the warriors, is most famously articulated in the monumental narrative Heike monogatari (The Tale of the Heike). Elizabeth Oyler’s ambitious work lays out the complex interconnections between the numerous variant texts of the Heike and the historical events they describe. But Oyler’s innovative methodology also brings other texts and genres—the Gikeiki, the Soga monogatari, the Azuma kagami, and pieces from the kōwakamai (ballad-dramas) repertoire—into her analysis. Rather than concentrating on individual texts, Oyler focuses on the inter-textual relationships within this larger body of narrative and drama and the collective role of these works in creating and disseminating stories about some of the Genpei War’s most contentious events. In so doing, she works toward a new understanding of the underlying cultural problems of which these tales are symptomatic and which they attempt to address.

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A Tale of False Fortunes

Enchi Fumiko

A Tale of False Fortunes is a masterful translation of Enchi Fumiko's (1905-1986) modern classic, Namamiko monogatari. Written in 1965, this prize-winning work of historical fiction presents an alternative account of an imperial love affair narrated in the eleventh-century romance A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (Eiga monogatari). Both stories are set in the Heian court of the emperor Ichijo (980-1011) and tell of the ill-fated love between the emperor and his first consort, Teishi, and of the political rivalries that threaten to divide them. While the earlier work can be viewed largely as a panegyric to the all-powerful regent Fujiwara no Michinaga, Enchi's account emphasizes Teishi's nobility and devotion to the emperor and celebrates her "moral victory" over the regent, who conspired to divert the emperor's attentions toward his own daughter, Shoshi. The narrative of A Tale of False Fortunes is built around a fictitious historical document, which is so well crafted that it was at first believed to be an actual document of the Heian period. Throughout Enchi's innovation and skill are evident as she alternates between modern and classical Japanese, interjecting her own commentary and extracts from A Tale of Flowering Fortunes, to impress upon the reader the authenticity of the tale presented within the novel.

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The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha

Mikael Adolphson

Japan’s monastic warriors have fared poorly in comparison to the samurai, both in terms of historical reputation and representations in popular culture. Often maligned and criticized for their involvement in politics and other secular matters, they have been seen as figures separate from the larger military class. However, as Mikael Adolphson reveals in his comprehensive and authoritative examination of the social origins of the monastic forces, political conditions, and warfare practices of the Heian (794–1185) and Kamakura (1185–1333) eras, these "monk-warriors"(sôhei) were in reality inseparable from the warrior class. Their negative image, Adolphson argues, is a construct that grew out of artistic sources critical of the established temples from the fourteenth century on. In deconstructing the sôhei image and looking for clues as to the characteristics, role, and meaning of the monastic forces, The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha highlights the importance of historical circumstances; it also points to the fallacies of allowing later, especially modern, notions of religion to exert undue influence on interpretations of the past. It further suggests that, rather than constituting a separate category of violence, religious violence needs to be understood in its political, social, military, and ideological contexts.

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To the Ends of Japan

Premodern Frontiers, Boundaries, and Interactions

Bruce L. Batten

What is Japan? Who are its people? These questions are among those addressed in Bruce Batten's ambitious study of Japan's historical development through the nineteenth century. Traditionally, Japan has been portrayed as a homogenous society formed over millennia in virtual isolation. Social historians and others have begun to question this view, emphasizing diversity and interaction, both within the Japanese archipelago and between Japan and other parts of Eurasia. Until now, however, no book has attempted to resolve these conflicting views in a comprehensive, systematic way.

To the Ends of Japan tackles the "big questions" on Japan by focusing on its borders, broadly defined to include historical frontiers and boundaries within the islands themselves as well as the obvious coastlines and oceans. Batten provides compelling arguments for viewing borders not as geographic "givens," but as social constructs whose location and significance can, and do, change over time. By giving separate treatment to the historical development of political, cultural, and ethnic borders in the archipelago, he highlights the complex, multifaceted nature of Japanese society, without losing sight of the more fundamental differences that have separated Japan from its nearest neighbors in the archipelago and on the Eurasian continent.

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Tour of Duty

Samurai, Military Service in Edo, and the Culture of Early Modern Japan

Constantine Nomikos Vaporis

This is a study of the internal dynamics of the Indonesian Army in the decade and a half leading up to the fall of Soeharto. While the empirical analysis is limited to the Army, the findings have implications for the military as a whole. Throughout the work, we use the word Army when referring to the single service branch, and the terms "ABRI," "Armed Forces," and "military" interchangeably to refer to the four service branches together. Chapter one examines change in the Army officer corps during the 1980s and 1990s. In contrast to the existing literature, it argues that the increasing frequency of large scale reshuffles of military personnel was primarily neither a response to particular political developments nor the uh_product of individual personalities and cliques. We argue instead that this was a reflection of changes in the size of the officer corps. Tracing these changes to the National Military Academy in Magelang, Central Java, we demonstrate that many of the current changes taking place in the Army are a result of internal structural features of the Army. Chapter two explores the career patterns of Army officers during the 1990s. Through a detailed analysis of succession patterns and the examination of class cohorts from the National Military Academy, this chapter further refines the basic model presented in chapter one. This analysis highlights several forms of institutional rationalization within the Army during the late Soeharto era. Drawing on the macro-level analysis of the Army officer corps in the preceding chapters, chapter three discusses the political implications of these structural changes for military rule in Indonesia. While the changing size of the officer corps has presented the Army with certain new opportunities, it has also raised new conflicts and tensions. Primary among these are questions of changing career prospects, alterations in the nature of the military and its ability to continue its direct role in socio-political affairs, and emerging divisions between active and retired officers.

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Toxic archipelago

a history of industrial disease in Japan

By Brett Walker; Foreword by William Cronon

This fascinating environmental history of Japan examines how traditions and practices in several industries -- from raising silkworms to mining lead and coal to refining petroleum -- have affected the health of workers and those who have lived in these toxic landscapes.

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Transforming Japan

How Feminism and Diversity are Making a Difference

Edited by Kumiko Fujimura-Fanselow

Gender roles are changing dramatically in modern Japan. LGBT people are coming out of the closet; single mothers are an expanding population; ethnic minorities are mobilizing for change; women are becoming political leaders and even professional wrestlers. And some Japanese men are taking on the role of househusband. This is a comprehensive collection of essays from Japanese scholars and activists exploring gender, sexuality, race, discrimination, power, and human rights.

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