Bamboo v. Lonesome

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:25 pm

Japan Focus has a “three-fer” this week on the Korean-Japanese dispute over a rock. Well, technically “islets” but it’s just rocks about big enough for a large playground: What the Koreans call Tokdo (Lonesome Island) and the Japanese, less literally, call Takeshima (Bamboo Island) , has been a matter of territorial dispute for years, mostly because of the attendant fishing rights that come with the extension of territory. There’s a nice short introduction with maps and two articles from the Japanese press. Both countries have issued competing commemorative stamps (both of which sold out in record time), activists in both countries are calling for boycotts, and diplomatic relations are at a recent low, even as the countries are moving towards NAFTA-style integration.

As Takahashi reports, Japan claimed the islands in 1905, around the time that it forced Korea to become a Japanese protectorate (annexation would come in 1910), and though Korea proclaimed the islands reclaimed after liberation in WWII, the specifics of control of the islands have been left unresolved by mutual agreement in every agreement signed between the two countries since; a temporary agreement in 1999 for joint control remains technically in force. The matter has been heating up since the early 1980s, with South Korea taking the strongest practical steps (declaring the islands a national park, for example) but rogue Japanese elements actually trying to occupy the rocks have kept the matter actively disputed.

Tokyo U Emeritus Historian WADA Haruki has been actively working for closer relations, including normalization of relations with North Korea, in East Asia for years, and points out that it is difficult to imagine this region stabilizing without settling the three major territorial disputes Japan is involved in. Takeshima/Tokdo, Daiyou/Senkaku (Japan v. China, Vietnam, Australia, Taiwan, etc) and Kurile/Sakhalin dispute with Russia. The first two have economic consequences: fertile fishing ground in the first case, and potentially valuable natural gas reserves in the second; the third one is more about honor and diplomatic technicalities than anything else.

Non Sequitur: According to a recent poll

…a generational divide emerges when Americans are asked whether they approve of the United States’ decision to drop atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. Six in 10 Americans 65 and older approve of the use of the atomic bomb at the end of World War II, while six in 10 from 18 to 29 disapprove. Albert Kauzmann, a 57-year-old resident of Norcross, Ga., said using the bomb in 1945 “was the best way they had of ending” World War II. Overall, 47 percent of those surveyed approved of dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki while 46 percent disapproved, according to the poll of 1,000 conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs from March 21-23 with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

I want to note that, if my math is correct, the 29-65 year olds were dead even on the question, and given the margin of error reported even the generational divide itself could be less than reported. No word on whether this represents a change from the past, whether people change their minds about these things as they grow older, or what we should do about it. The rest of the poll is about contemporary nuclear weapons issues, and is quite interesting for the disconnect between policy and popular preference….

[crossposted at Cliopatria]


Stealing 9.99 ryō

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 3:23 am

In his new book on Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, Daniel Botsman mentions that it became customary in the Edo period to report the theft of goods or money which exceeded 10 ryō in value as being worth nine ryō two bun and three shu. Apparently, this grew out of a growing public realization that the One Hundred Articles, a set of unpublished legal guidelines for punishment compiled under the direction of the eighth shogun, Yoshimune (1684-1751), recommended a death penalty for theft of amounts greater than 10 ryō while lesser amounts were punished with a combination of flogging and tatooing. “This practice could not have continued without the acknowledgment and support of Bakufu officials, who routinely recorded this obviously fictional figure in their official reports.” (46, he cites Hiramatsu Yoshirō’s Edo no tsumi to batsu 86-7 for this)

The legal articles themselves are supposed to be “secret” and official copies only available to higher Bakufu officials, but it looks as though unofficial copies were circulated widely among bureaucrats and Botsman cites one study by a Takahashi Satoshi in which a wealthy peasant named Gin’emon was able to secure a private copy of the laws at a “legal inn” (kuji yado) in Edo where he was staying to represent his village in a murder case. (34)

Together, these snippets are interesting for two reasons. On the one hand it loosens up a bit our perception of a completely mysterious legal regime administering the lives of people who had to depend on the grotesque examples of previously punished criminals described on signposts for their legal knowledge. Secondly, not only do we see examples of serious information leakage, but a fascinating example of how reports of crime were tailored precisely to limit punishments.


Renaissance Japan

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:33 am

Epochal analogies are some of the trickiest traps in our historical discourse. Whether it’s the Medieval v. Feudal snake pit or the quicksand of finely grained modernities, generalizing historical processes from one society to another is one of the most common, and most often failed, attempts to systematize that qualitative epistemology we call history. But we don’t give up: first because we need a shorthand to talk about processes, and the analogies, however flawed at deep definitional levels, give us a foundation to communicate with each other; second, because in our heart of hearts we historians believe that there must be rhyme and reason to the course of humanity, and only by the insistent dialectic of thesis and data will we reveal those rhythms and patterns. All of which is just my way of saying that I’d like to pass on a historical analogy from my teaching and I don’t want anyone taking it too seriously, but I don’t want it dismissed out of hand, either.



National Diet Library Web site

Filed under: — kuniko @ 4:55 pm

The National Diet Library (NDL) site 国立国会図書館 offers essential resources for research on Japan including the NDL-OPAC (National bibliography) and Journal index 雑誌記事索引 (1949-present) as well as Lending/copying services for both institutions and individuals. (Now they even allow credit cards for payment!) Since some of you may not be familiar with it, so let me take this opportunity to share a little more about this amazing resource.

The NDL’s Electronic Library Collection 近代デジタルライブラリー has continued to grow. It now has some 55,000 volumes of monographs published in Meiji period. Although the Yenching library has the complete Meiji monograph collection available on microfilm (some 120,000 volumes), increasingly we can skip viewing microfilm thanks to this growing digital collection.

日本の国会・世界の議会 The Diet & Parliament section offer a wealth of Modern political history sources including the 国会会議録 since the first postwar Diet session in 1947, the 日本法令索引 since 1884, 閣議決定等文献リスト及び本文 1927-1963, and my favorite 近現代日本政治関係人物文献目録 with 44,000 references. The NDL’s Parliamentary Documents room 憲政資料室 has in-depth resources on modern Japanese political history, and is making a selection of its contents contents viewable digitally here. The problem with the NDL web site is its organization. Parliamentary documents are kept in the ”Nippon in the World” section which is a part of the “Gallery”. “Nippon in the World” has three sections: Scenic Mementos of Japan, Japan at the Vienna Expo 1873, and Parliamentary Documents. There is no logic in grouping them, but they all offer rich and unique information in image and texts. The NDL site map, which reflects NDL bureaucracy but isn’t a ‘universal’ organization of knowledge that we might be familiar with, does not help much in finding things. Anyway, my point is that NDL’s digital resources on the web are growing and it’s worth exploring from time to time. There are many hidden gems on the NDL web site.

P.S. I created a web resource guide for Japanese studies two years ago and it is accessible at the Yenching library web site. I am planning to update this soon. I would appreciate your comments/suggestions for my next guide.


The Gateless Gate Online

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:04 am

Here is the gateway to The Gateless Gate. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But it’s a real treasure of a document, and a very nicely done site.

Granted, much of what I understand about Zen, insofar as anyone can say with any meaning that they understand Zen, comes from Ioanna Salajan and Paul Reps (There are, I assure you, worse sources….), and I’m more of a Daoist than Zen in basic attitude (I’m a Liberal Jew, which gives you this).

And, oddly enough in the same H-Japan digest, my old friends at the UIowa Center for Asian and Pacific Studies have put the papers for this panel on using digitized sources in research on Asian Buddhism up for public viewing here.


Self-Intro: Kuniko Yamada McVey

Filed under: — kuniko @ 12:22 pm


Hello, Japan scholars. I have been a librarian for the Japanese Collection at the Harvard-Yenching Library for five and a half years. I was a librarian at the Documantation Center on Contemporary Japan (DCJ) at Harvard for ten years before coming to Yenching. Before working at the DCJ and before a short interval of two years as a bookbinding student in Boston, I worked at the Museum of Modern Japanese Literature 日本近代文学館 in Tokyo for seven years. I guess some of you guys were born at a time when I was putting up literay exhibitions in Japan.

I encountered following phrase “Shall I at least set my land in order?” by T.S. Eliot while writing my senior thesis at ICU. I liked it and adapted as my motto. In the following year I entered the world of libraries and have resided there for most of the time since. Now I feel we librarians can no longer stay in this orderly world and need to explore this rich and chaotic information universe both physical and virtual. Being one of the “Librarians without borders” is my goal now. I hope I can learn a lot from you at the same time I offer something useful to you for your research.

FYI: I recently discovered the “Kanban jissoku Nihon chizu” (官板実測日本地図) printed in the Bakumatsu period, based on Ino-zu, in our library’s basement. Although our copy is missing one (Ezo) of four sheets that cover all Japan, including Ryukyu and Karahuto,
they are beautiful. If you are interested in taking a look, let me know. They are not cataloged in the collection.


The Frog in a Well – Japan Librarian

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:36 pm

I have an exciting piece of news to share. I am pleased to announce that we have a new and distinguished addition to our list of authors at Frog in a Well – Japan. Kuniko Yamada McVey, the librarian for the Japanese collection at the Harvard-Yenching library has agreed to join us on here as our resident librarian! Let us all make her feel welcome!


Introduction: Craig Colbeck

Filed under: — craig @ 2:16 am

Greetings. I am the last third of Harvard’s current first-year cohort, which gives me the distinct pleasure of calling Nick and Konrad my close friends. All of my interests are currently in flux, making a coherent self-introduction difficult.
Incoherency, on the other hand, has virtues.
I study twentieth-century Japan and Korea. My undergraduate work described the modernization and Japanization of karate—a thoroughly enjoyable project to which I will someday return. Not doubt my work will be indebted to Dennis when I do. Korea is new to me; I only started studying its history and language in this academic year, meaning that all is still struggle. As of yesterday, I have a new research topic: toilets. I have yet to decide which aspect interests me most: the environmental impacts of modern sewage systems; washiki toire as an invented tradition; bodies, genders, and disciplines (in the space where Panopticism and its cloistered twin meet); sanitation and hygiene; consumerism and technology. No doubt these will be blended in a short time. Who knows where this conduit will lead? There is nothing to do but dive in.

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