- Capital and Countryside in Japan, 300-1180: Japanese Historians Interpreted in English
Capital and Countryside in Japan, 300-1180 is a collection of fourteen essays published by Japanese scholars over the postwar period, from 1946 to 1996. They have been translated and interpreted by eight American and European archaeologists and historians intimately familiar with both the Japanese authors and their work. Particularly for those interested in the complex and often inaccessible world of Japanese historiography for what the translators label "the classical age," this volume will prove a handy guide.
The editor, Joan R. Piggott, provides a brief but illuminating introduction, describing [End Page 409] the theme of the collection as the "relationships that linked capital and countryside from approximately 300 to 1180" (p. 1). She pays homage to John W. Hall's classic Government and Local Power in Japan, 500 to 1700, which addressed this theme in detail, portraying not only larger trends in Japanese institutional history, but also how they played out in the small, western Honshu province of Bizen. The chapters in this volume, the editor then indicates, should be considered an expansion of Hall's seminal research for the classical age, where English-language publication has been so rare. The introduction also defines terms such as kodai ("classical") and characterizes the studies of six Anglophone scholars "who have laid the groundwork to which these essays contribute" (p. 3): Gina Barnes, Bruce Batten, Cornelius Kiley, Thomas Keir-stead, Mikael Adolphson, and Piggott herself.
Walter Edwards does a splendid job introducing the first two chapters, "Early State Formation in Japan," by Tsude Hiroshi, and Kobayashi Yukio's "Treatise on Duplicate Mirrors." Tsude is one of the leading archaeologists dealing with Japan's Tomb Age (250-600 CE), and his contribution highlights his argument "that the cultural achievements of the eighth-century Nara period were built on an economic base established over the preceding millennium" (p. 13). While Tsude's ideas have appeared elsewhere in English, this article provides a useful summation of his beliefs in the existence of a political status hierarchy manifested in the size and shape of tombs and his emphasis on access to iron and salt as crucial to state formation. Edwards's introduction and interpretation of Kobayashi's treatise on the distribution of the famous triangular-rimmed deity-and-beast mirrors-a critical point in the debate over the location of Yamatai-is nothing less than brilliant. For various reasons, Kobayashi's prose is often difficult to interpret, but Edwards manages superbly. His explanations of Kobayashi's writing are so illuminating that I kept wishing for more.
Joan Piggott then introduces and translates "Suruga and Tōtōmi in the Kofun Age," by Hara Hidesaburō, an historian of the era from 400 to 900. Using what Piggott rightly calls a "collage of evidence" (p. 77), Hara traces the slow integration of these two provinces along the Tōkaidō into the Yamato polity, especially through conquest. Lest readers think that the translators have selected only those viewpoints that fit their own, Piggott explicitly notes her disagreement with Hara about the importance of warfare in state formation in Japan.
In the fourth chapter, Michiko Aoki interprets "The Hitachi fudoki and the Fujiwara," by Inoue Tatsuo, who describes Yamato penetration into the Kantō in the mid-fifth century. Inoue argues that the Nakatomi, later to be renamed the Fujiwara, had vested interests in the Tone river valley in Hitachi from early on. Besides asserting that the Nakatomi may have been of peninsular ancestry, Inoue shows how "The Records of Wind and Earth" (fudoki) may well have been a project developed by the Fujiwara to enhance their political power at court.
Karl Friday translates and introduces a true monument among studies of the Nara and early Heian periods, "The Classical Polity and its Frontier," by Takahashi Tomio. Written in 1962, this essay has formed the foundation for all subsequent research into the Nara and early Heian states' relations with the peoples in southern...