井の中の蛙

2/27/2005

Strange name on a map

Filed under: — Thomas Ekholm @ 10:20 am

This question is not related to Japanese history directly, rather it was when looking at old maps of Japan that I found this strange name.
The maps I have looked at is found here.

In some of the maps an area to the south is marked and with simple geographic thinking, it should represent the north of Australia. For hundreds of years the belief in a southeren continent, Australis, existed. On a map of 1575 it is named:
BEACH, pars
contentis Australis

On a map from 1595
BEACH
provincia Aurifera (latin for goldbearing province (or similar)

(As Abel Tasman was there in early 1640s, further maps name it Nova Hollandia.)

I checked the 1595′s creator a little closer and he was a dutch jesuit. All texts on the map are written in dutch or latin. But where does the name “Beach” fit in? I have looked in Dutch, Latin, Portuguese and Spanish dictionaries without any luck. I dont think they used the english words because of all the nice beach parties they had there.

Does anyone have a clue or can pass it on to someone who knows?

Introduction: Dennis Frost

Filed under: — Dennis @ 2:37 am

Hello from Tokyo!

I have been meaning to post an introduction for sometime and have been following several of the messages with interest.

I am currently a fifth-year PhD candidate in modern Japanese history conducting my research in Tokyo. In its broadest sense, my project is on the history of sports in Japan from Meiji up through the late 20th century. More specifically, I am studying the emergence and evolution of sports stars in Japan and analyzing how both state and non-state constituencies presented sports stars to the public. Some of the issues my work touches on include the ways in which representations of sports stars mediated Japan’s emergence into the putatively universal realm of sports, unsettled orthodox notions of gender, facilitated the wartime mobilization of physically fit men and women, and later masked lingering inequalities in postwar Japanese society. I am also particularly interested in the social construction and impact of celebrity, and its effect on bodily discourses and practices in modern Japan. That said, I have pretty wide-ranging interests in Japanese history, society, politics, etc., so I may post on a number of issues aside from things related directly to my topic. Glad to finally officially sign on!

Dennis

PS

There was an earlier message about the use of ” dou” and various martial arts, and I can’t resist sharing that sumo, which was mentioned, was in fact associated with something known as “sumodou” from at least Meiji on and became particularly so in wartime periods. Lots of references in Meiji newspapers and later in a range of sports journals as well.

2/26/2005

H-Japan: Some Recent Postings

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 7:09 pm

Just passing on some links from the H-Japan discussion list. Yone Sugita has reviewed Tensions of Empire: Japan and Southeast Asia in the Colonial and Postcolonial World. There is an announcement about the fantastic Expanding East Asian Studies website with syllabi and teaching materials for the undergraduate level. This has solid multi-year funding behind it and I heard a lot of buzz about it while I was at Columbia. Finally, there are some exciting new Japanese diplomatic materials that have just been released (See the MOFA sites here and here).

History Mini-Sites

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 6:55 am

I’m sure I’m not the only one who, as I read some interesting history in one of those paper-inscribed book-things, wonder if information about the history in question is available online. Perhaps there is nothing but a badly written article, a 1911 encyclopedia entry, or a visually painful homepage with flashing graphics? Sometimes we only find a stub on Wikipedia or Everything2.

Other times, those of us fortunate enough to be associated with large universities have access to all sorts of powerful databases in which we can find lengthy articles on a topic but only as long as we stay within our ivory towers (or at a large library). I remember only too well how it feels to be rejected access to them when I was between schools.

When I find nothing satisfying online and in the open, one response I have to this discovery of a “hole in the internet” is to add something to wikipedia (for all its flaws), or write a blog entry about it. Other times, though, I’m motivated enough to want to create something more. I have been playing with the idea of creating “history mini-sites” which give a compact presentation of a particular idea, event or person. It would not be much different, admittedly, from a wikipedia article, but it would go one step further and contribute a bit, even a little bit, of primary material (with an expired copyright or within the limits of fair use) that I might have access to at the time.

I spent an hour or two today playing with a simple template (the technical design for which was taken from the public domain web designs of Mr. Ruthsarian) for this kind of mini-site. While the content is not as expansive as the kinds of sites I have in mind, you can get the idea of what this kind of “mini-site” would look like here in this example I slapped together while taking notes on Michael Auslin’s new book Negotiating with Imperialism:

The Takeuchi Embassy

The idea would be to have an introductory summary about the theme to start with. Then along, say the left side, would be links to short explanatory or interpretive articles on various people, events, and ideas connected to the central theme. Finally, there would be a list of sources which deal with the theme. On the opposite side would be some links to the primary materials that have been scanned, typed, or OCR’ed for the purpose. This way, the viewer would get both the short summary, “peripheral” articles which feed one’s curiosity, and then some primary material of some sort or other which serves two purposes: 1) give the reader a feeling of authenticity and historical distance 2) to get some of this kind of material online for reference purposes.

Now here is the problem: If this material is often made up of summaries of published work or quotes frequently from various sources, as well as occasionally containing public domain (which can’t thus be licensed in any way, even into GNU or Creative Common licenses) raw historical materials, can it be released under a Creative Commons license? The advantages would obviously be that others can then come and use the materials to contribute to sites like wikipedia, or in their own more thorough online history sites. While I may be creating problems where there are in fact none, I suspect that the quote and cite academic world and the creative energies behind the open access and creative commons movements are perhaps going to collide at some point…

More On Event Names

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 6:18 am

Nick’s posting about Japanese and English names for historical events prompted and interesting exchange in the comments. Thomas Ekholm noted that in Kenneth G. Henshalls “A history of Japan” the “Shimabara Rebellion” is referred to as the “Shimabara Massacre” Up until that point we were discussing how the names differ in English and Japanese and why such disagreements arise. In the most recent comment, Abigail Schweber reminded us about the important interpretive dimension of naming historical events that sometimes gets forgotten, especially for older events:

To address the question of what it should be called, we first need to consider what it is that makes this one so special. The number of participants? the number killed? the connection to Christianity? the gathering in and defense of the fortress (distinctly un-peasantish behaviour, that!)? Referring to it as a ‘massacre’ places the focus on the unleashing of government fury during the final few days, diminishing the acts of the peasant participants. ‘Rebellion,’ on the other hand, focusses on their defiance. ‘Protest’ would locate it within the narrative of ikki. It seems to me that any of these could be appropriate, depending on the writer/speaker’s focus.

We are much more used to thinking about these issues for more contemporary events. The most famous examples being events like the “Nanjing Massacre” vs. the “Nanjing Incident” (this goes well beyond measuring the slaughter, as one non-revisionist scholar points out, there is also the problem of it centering everything on the city proper, rather than the surrounding areas that should be included in our narration). The other big one that comes to mind is “World War II” vs. “Pacific War” vs. “Asia-Pacific War” vs. “The Fifteen Year War” vs. “The Greater East Asian War.”

2/21/2005

New Kamikaze Play

Filed under: — Nick Kapur @ 9:28 pm

This month a play about kamikaze pilots has been running at the El Portal Forum Theatre in Los Angeles, and has received outstanding reviews. Titled “Ten Thousand Years,” (presumably after 万歳), the play is by veteran Hollywood screenwriter John Ridley and looks at the everyday lives of members of the “Thunder Gods” squadron of ohka flying bomb pilots. They play’s objective is to portray the pilots as human beings with fears and doubts about their impending mission, rather than the stoic, brainwashed automatons so often found in Hollywood depictions.

Although I haven’t seen the play myself, my family watched it today, and they loved it. From what they say, it seems to be fairly historically accurate (at least in their judgment). LA Times Reviewer David Nichols also gave a rave review, declaring, “‘Ten Thousand Years’ could make a remarkable film someday, once its pertinent appeal has flown across the theatrical stratosphere.” (LAT, 2/11/05).

Hopefully this intriguing play will make its way to other parts of the country soon!

The play’s LA-area website is currently at www.10k.theatremania.com.

Restoration or Renovation?

Filed under: — Nick Kapur @ 12:17 am

I’ve always found it interesting how certain events in Japanese history have become indelibly associated with a canonical English translation that often has little to do with the actual Japanese name. 島原の乱, for example, is almost always translated as “Shimabara Rebellion,” even though “乱” is translated in other contexts into all sorts of other words, including “war,” “chaos,” “uprising,” “revolt,” “riot,” and “disorder.” A more glaring example is 西南戦争, which is always translated as “Satsuma Rebellion” instead of something more literal, such as “War of the Southwest.”

Another curious term is the “restoration” in “Meiji Restoration” and “Kenmu Restoration.” I was surprised to find out recently that these two events, strongly linked in English historiography by the use of the same English word to describe them, are labeled in Japanese with two different terms, neither of which means “restoration.” In the case of the Meiji event, the term is of course, 明治維新 (Meiji Ishin), while Go-Daigo’s coup is usually known as 建武新政 (Kenmu Shinsei). What is so odd about calling these events “restorations” is that they both make use of the character 新, which implies something entirely new, rather than a “restoring” of something old from the past. Thus, not only does the term “restoration” in English historiography imply a link between these two events that may not be so clear to the Japanese, but it also is simply not a very accurate translation of the Japanese terms in question. Perhaps a new English word should be chosen, such as “renovation” or “renewal” or somesuch.

2/20/2005

Women During the Meiji Restoration

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 6:22 am

Someone might have made the astute observation that most of my entries are about works which one might read for orals preparation. That is because, I am reading a lot for my orals preparation. As such, many of the classic works on modern Japanese history will make an appearance in my postings as I post some random thoughts on them. I finished reading Marius Jansen’s Sakamoto Ryôma and the Meiji Restoration today and it was an interesting contrast to Anne Walthall’s The Weak Body of a Useless Woman: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration which I mentioned in a recent posting here. Walthall says explicitly in her introduction that her book title was a direct reference to Jansen’s work and written as a challenge to the “male-centered genre of history writing.” (3)

I kept this in mind as I read Jansen’s book, which is indeed full of men strutting the political stage. It even includes juicy page-long excerpts from some of the violent skirmishes that Ryôma and others got involved in that would be fit for a Shiba Ryôtarô novel or Japanese TV drama. There are however, some rare but interesting, if not occasionally odd references to women in Jansen’s book.

The most agency we seem to get from women in Jansen’s book is to be found in two similar passages:

There are several instances in the fragmentary diary of Nakaoka Shintarô in which he prepared himself for danger by a last visit to the brothel, only to meet the rest of the group there, with the result that the evening was made up in equal parts of self-indulgence and political discussion. Thanks to this the Restoration received its quota of female heroes, for the entertainers and hotel maids frequently saved the lives of their carefree customers. (98, italics mine)

The inns and pleasure haunts also provided their share of women whose participation in the activities of the decade made them fitting subjects for later chroniclers of screen and fiction. Many a shishi owed his life to a timely warning brought by a geisha or maid. Kido Kôin, who was sheltered by his favorite geisha after the disastrous Chôshû battle in Kyoto in 1864, later made her his wife. In 1866 the Fushimi inn maid who saved the day for Sakamoto not long after became his wife [Oryô]. (224)

This is followed by a page about Oryô, including an anecdote, taken from one of Ryôma’s letters, about an encounter between Oryô, armed with a dagger, and some villains in a brothel. She successfully saves a young girl from slavery at the brothel despite the threat of violence against her. He also mentions her courage one more time in reference to the Fushimi attack on his life. (228)

These are the only places I found where Jansen is really trying. I think he must be indicating that the women who have been remembered in Japan are largely the maids and geisha who saved the Restoration heroes in the night, which isn’t really problematic in any way. There are however, a few interesting hints of lost opportunity in his work, where some interesting questions could have been asked about the education and political consciousness of women might have been taken into account…
(more…)

自己紹介: Nick Kapur

Filed under: — Nick Kapur @ 12:46 am

I’m doctoral student at Harvard University in International History, with a focus on US-Japan relations. At least for now that is, as Konrad is doing his best to drag me all the way into Japanese history. I am especially interested in Japanese military culture, postwar US-Japan economic ties, Japanese environmental policy, and the evolution of the Japanese education system, but I’m pretty much interested in everything else too, so don’t be surprised to see me post on Japanese baseball or Kusunoki Masashige or something.

I spent last year in Japan, where I lived in Takarazuka (yes, that Takarazuka), taught English, and spent most of my free time visiting 古墳 and 古戦場.

2/12/2005

Resource: Kamikaze Images

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:21 pm

Wesleyan’s William Johnston forwarded this to H-Japan: a web archive of Kamikaze images. It looks like a very rich, and responsibly constructed, collection by Bill Gordon (also of Wesleyan), whose other main project is US-Japan Friendship Dolls.

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