井の中の蛙

9/17/2005

Who’s On Top?

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:44 am

This came across the H-Japan wires, and I was intrigued by both the project itself and the immense time-wasting potential of listmaking, so I wrote to Ms. Kim and got some clarifications, and now I’m ready to putter furiously….

From: “Linda J. Kim” [l_jkim at yahoo dot com]
Dear Japanese History Professors,

As some of you may know, I am a graduate student researching Japanese elites during the 19th century (and eventually the 20th century). I am requesting nominations of who you think belong in this top ten list of influential political leaders [from her e-mail: "We are using C. Wright Mill's concept of the power elite, which comprises corporate, miitary, and political leaders"; I may go ahead and throw in a cultural figure or two, if they had substantial influence] during the periods of:

  • 1840-1860
  • 1860-1880
  • 1880-1900
  • 1900-1920

I recognize these are crude time periods and some of you may be experts in Tokugawa versus Meiji Japan, or there may be overlapping leaders across time periods. That’s okay. I would be grateful if you can fill in any of the periods that you are familiar with. Of course, I’d be happy to share the results with all interested parties.

Sincerely,

Linda Kim
University of California, Riverside
Department of Sociology
Institute for Research on World-Systems

Here’s my nominations, mostly off the top of my head. If I was a really good blogger, I’d include links with all these names to something like their wikipedia entries, but I’ve blown enough of a Friday on this already, and none of these folks is obscure.

  • 1840-1860: Well, part of the problem in this era is the lack of coherent leadership. There’s the short-lived Shogunal leadership (Ii Naosuke, Abe Masahiro), and the rising mid-level elites (Okubo, Saigo). Aside from that, I’m not sure who I’d really pick as outstanding. Yoshida Shoin?
  • 1860-1880: Although this violates the normal 1868 boundary, the rising stars of the Bakumatsu cover this ground pretty well. Okubo Toshimichi, Saigo Takamori and Kido Takayoshi, of course are all leading figures and all die just before the end of this period. I’d probably include Fukuzawa Yukichi due to the influence of his writing and cultural leadership. A conventional list would probably include Shibusawa Eiichi as an economic leader, too, though perhaps his heyday is later? Iwakura Tomomi. Other names would come from the second-tier Bakumatsu/Meiji leadership: Okuma Shigenobu, Ito Hirobumi, Itagaki Taisuke, Mutsu Munemitsu. The eternal debate: to include the Emperor or not?
  • 1880-1900: This is, perhaps, the most stable of these eras, even though it crosses the Constitutional divide. Ito Hirobumi, Yamagata Aritomo and the Meiji Emperor have to top the list. Okuma Shigenobu gets high marks as an opposition rabble-rouser. Mori Arinori, Matsukata Masayoshi, Inoue Kaoru, Saigo Tsugumichi. There ought to be a business leader or two in here, but those names never stuck with me very well.
  • 1900-1920: Yamagata Aritomo and Matsukata Masayoshi; Saionji Kinmochi, Hara Takashi and Katsura Taro. I think Ito Hirobumi should make the top ten, even though he dies half-way through, but it depends on who else is near the top. Culturally speaking, Natsume Soseki. Nogi Maresuke is popular and makes an impact when he dies, but is he a top-ten leader? What am I missing here?

Obviously, the floor is open for discussion. (and later I will allow myself the luxury of looking at a textbook to see what I missed) This is part of a World History project including “US, Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and China” so almost everyone gets to play!

4/21/2005

Fukuzawa on Education; Mongol Scrolls

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:24 am

Reading over Fukuzawa’s Autobiography for class, I ran across a nice passage:

However much we studied, our work and knowldge had practically no connection with the actual means of gaining a livelihood or making a name for ourselves. Not only that, but the students of Dutch were looke upon with contempt by most men. Then why did we work so hard to learn Dutch?… we students were conscious of the fact that we were the sole possessors of the key to knowledge of the great European civilization. However much we suffered from poverty, whatever poor clothes we wore, the extent of our knowledge and the resources of our minds were beyond the reach of any prince or nobleman of the whole nation. …most of us were then actually putting all our energy into our studies without any definite assurance of the future. Yet this lack of future hope was indeed fortunate for us, for it made us [in Osaka] better students than those in Yedo. From this fact I am convinced that the students of the present day, too, do not get the best results from their education if they are to much concerned about their future. Of course, it is not very commendable to attent school without any serious purpose. But, as I say, if a student regulates his work too much with the idea of future usefulness, or of making money, then he will miss what should be the most valuable part of his education. During one’s school life, one should make the school work his chief concern.

Actually, reading it over, it strikes me as somewhat self-contradictory: he acknowledges that in Yedo such knowledge was very valuable, and that entree into European studies was a great benefit for the present and future. Oh, well.

Well, as consolation, another beautiful web resource, from Tom Conlan: The 13th century Scrolls of the Mongol Invasions of Japan, in several different recreated incarnations, with a fantastic viewing interface. The site claims that it needs a “high bandwith connection” but I’m viewing it over my home modem and having a blast. If you’ve got a high-speed classroom connection, though, your Mongol Invasion lecture just got that much prettier.

2/21/2005

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.

12/2/2004

Sondheim’s Perry?

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 10:21 pm

I had no idea: Stephen Sondheim (yes, I’m one of his many fans) wrote a musical about the arrival of Commodore Perry called Pacific Overtures. There’s a new version of it being staged in New York: anyone know if there’s a soundtrack, or video version of it (current or former versions) available?

I’m almost afraid to find out, really, what he did with it: there’s so much bad historical fiction and drama out there….

« Previous Page

Powered by WordPress