- A Companion to Japanese History
William M. Tsutsui introduces A Companion to Japanese History as an amibtious snapshot of Japan studies since the breakdown of the authority of modernization theory in the last half of the twentieth century. Though partially revived to consider empire's "benefits," especially since the Vietnam War, modernization theory has largely disappeared as the paradigm by which we approach not only Japan, but all non-Western nations. Nevertheless, as Tsutsui explains, with a few exceptions, there is no reference work that captures the expansive set of interests and methodologies since modernization theory's collapse. The Companion, then, places itself against the six volumes of The Cambridge History of Japan (Cambridge University Press, 1988–1999), the latter's modernization theory bias, Tsutsui claims, rendered them "anachronisms from the moment they appeared." The Companion's thirty essays form five sections. The first four are largely chronological. A fifth section of eleven essays is titled "Themes in Japanese History."
This chronological and thematic division puts tremendous pressure on the authors of the chronological pieces to summarize their fields while also providing the necessary narrative and background of the periods. Each has adopted different ways to address this tension. Mark J. Hudson's essay on archaeology, "Japanese Beginnings," places Japan's population, land mass, ecology, and technology into global periods and geographies without slighting the politics of the competing archaeologies of commoner and imperial life. As throughout the Companion, a lack of maps makes this essay harder to read and potentially less useful than it might have been. G. Cameron Hurst III's essay on the Heian period not only points out the difficulties of the period (a mere 1,250 diplomatics for the first three hundred years! [p. 31]), but, like the other essays in this and other sections, it subtly discusses the problems of periodizing the Heian era as function of historiographical debates on the organization of power—insei (Royal Court State), kenmon seika (joint rule)—it also displays the theoretical richness of this understudied (in [End Page 313] English) period. Andrew Edmund Goble subverts the rise of the modern state view with regional concerns in the Kamakura bakufu.
Given that the Tokugawa period was often the site of the confrontation between modernization theory and the new theoretical and critical histories, the essays in part 2, "Early Modern Japan," by Philip C. Brown, Edward E. Pratt, Peter Nosco, and Lawrence E. Marceau, confront extra ideological obstacles, which they do well. Brown explores the complicated, even contradictory, nature of Tokugawa authority. It lacked an integrated central bureaucracy, but nonetheless the "authority of the shogun had very real political and administrative consequences" and could maintain and even increase its monopoly on the use of force. Perhaps because of this complex authority numerous studies highlight other centrifugal and centripetal trends, especially the simultaneous strength of regional identities within a growing sense of domestic connections and national consciousness. Pratt's essay bounces the older tradition of T. C. Smith off the later "protoindustrialization rubric" of later scholarship to better integrate the connections of political and economic thinking to the social and economic changes of the period. This approach is especially fruitful when both Marceau and Pratt relate commercial culture and popular literature. Nosco's look at intellectual trends follows examination of Ogyu Sorai, Motoori Norinaga, popular neo-Confucianism, and other schools of thought with a succinct discussion of their use by Maruyama Masao and others to prove or disprove the incipient Japanese modernity. In all, part 2 impressively highlights the creativity of recent work. Dozens of dissertations remain in these sources.
If part 2 ostensibly laid modernization theory to rest, part 3 shows that, in discussions of Japan as a modern state, the old debates still pack some punch. James L. Huffman's extensive essay on the shift in Meiji studies from a "traditional account" (p. 140) to questions of "power" and Stephen S. Large's contribution on Japanese authoritarianism take some issue with recent trends. Huffman welcomes the turn to "every-dayness," but he prefers Susan Hanley's...