Syllabus blogging HIST 437 Modern Japan and the Taisho project

So, a bit late,but some syllabus blogging for Fall. At present this is supposed to be an in-person class. This class starts in 1850 (Tokugawa has its own class) ,but the main thing I was hoping to get some advice on is

The Taisho Project

In the past I have usually tried to have them read and write about some articles/book chapters they choose themselves from the ones I have selected for them. Ideally they would each pick the things that interest them most, and each segment of the class would be enlivened by having a few students who have dug a bit deeper into the topic. It sort of works, but runs into all the problems you would expect. So instead we are going to do a thing were they all read articles/chapters on aspects of interwar Japan, present on them, and then write something based on what they have learned from each other.

Taisho project (description for students)

The purpose of this project is for us to read some things (academic articles and book chapters) that will help us to understand the Taisho period. Technically the Taisho emperor ruled from 1912 to 1925, but we will be looking at the Taisho period broadly, reaching from the end of the Meiji project (1905?) to the triumph of militarism in Showa (1937?). Each of you will read one article or book chapter, and write a summary of it for your group. Then you and your group will, collectively, write a brief summary of what we can get from these three readings and present on it to the class. You will then each write a brief essay (basically your mid-term) answering this question.

“McClain claims (pg. 317) that during Taisho ‘many Japanese felt they were living in qualitatively new times and awoke to the possibility of crafting fresh political and social conventions that built upon the Pride of Meiji’” What do you make of this? To what extent do you think Japanese people were “crafting fresh political and social conventions” to what extent were they building on the “Pride of Meiji”? (I will probably need a lot more written instructions and possibly a full class period to discuss how to do this.)

The purpose of this is for us, collectively, to think about what was going on in Taisho. A big part of what you will draw on for the project paper (which is basically your mid-term) will be based on what your fellow students have written and presented, and they in turn will be drawing on what you have done. You will be doing four assignments as part of this project.

 -A summary of your article/chapter for your group. This should be a page or two long and summarize what you think the main points of the article are. What can we get out of this? How does this fit into the period, and what should people in the class know about this?

                        This is worth 50 quiz points

Your group’s oral presentation of your topic This should be under 5 minutes and give a clear explanation of your topic to your fellow students. Don’t just read your written paper, and do be prepared to answer questions.

                        This is worth 50 quiz points

-Your group’s explanation of your topic This should be 2-3+ pages, and aimed at your fellow students. What should they know about this topic in order to write their essays?

This is worth 100 quiz points

-Your paper This will be a short (5-7+ page) essay that answers our question. You can draw on any and all of the readings you did and that others presented. There are lots of different ways to answer this question, so you will have to think about your essay, what thesis it is proving and how it is using evidence in an organized fashion to prove it.

                        This is worth 15% of your final grade


     Here are the topics I came up with. If anyone has suggestions for other topics or for readings let me know.


Big Picture –These are three fairly broad articles that look at the big picture of Japan in this era. (might do this as a group thing were we all read one of these)


*Dickinson, Frederick R. “Toward a Global Perspective of the Great War: Japan and the Foundations of a Twentieth-Century World.” The American Historical Review 119, no. 4 (2014): 1154–83.

*Hoston, Germaine A. “The State, Modernity, and the Fate of Liberalism in Prewar Japan.” The Journal of Asian Studies 51, no. 2 (1992): 287–316.

*Wilson, Sandra. “Enthroning Hirohito: Culture and Nation in 1920s Japan.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 37, no. 2 (2011): 289–323.


The State –This was in some respects the first time Japan had a modern bureaucracy that was trying to manage the process of social change.

*Brown, Roger H. “(The Other) Yoshida Shigeru and the Expansion of Bureaucratic Power in Prewar Japan.” Monumenta Nipponica 67, no. 2 (2012): 283–327.

Revelant, Andrea. “Tax Reform as Social Policy: Adjusting to Change in Interwar Japan.” Modern Asian Studies 47, no. 3 (2013): 851–94.

“Taisho¯ Period Urbanisation and the Development of the 1919 Planning System.” from Sorensen, André. The Making of Urban Japan: Cities and Planning from Edo to the Twenty First Century.. London: Routledge, 2002.


**Barbara Sato “Commodifying and Engendering Morality: Self-Cultivation and the Construction of the “Ideal Woman” in 1920’s Mass Women’s Magazines” from Barbara Molony and Kathleen Uno, eds. Gendering Modern Japanese History Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

**Kathleen Uno “Womanhood, War, and Empire: Transmutations of ‘Good Wife, Wise Mother’ before 1931”  from Barbara Molony and Kathleen Uno, eds. Gendering Modern Japanese History Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

*“Between Revolution and Reaction: The Japanese Women’s Movement in the Taisho Era.” from Neary, Ian. War, Revolution and Japan. London: Routledge, 1995.

Great Depression

**Smith, Kerry Douglas. A Time of Crisis: Japan, the Great Depression, and Rural Revitalization.. Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 2001.In library-two chapters

*Mark Metzler. “Woman’s Place in Japan’s Great Depression: Reflections on the Moral Economy of Deflation.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 30, no. 2 (2004): 315–52.

Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 probably the biggest single event of the period, and one that cause Japanese people to think a lot about what type of Japan they wanted to re-build.

*Borland, Janet. “Capitalising on Catastrophe: Reinvigorating the Japanese State with Moral Values through Education Following the 1923 Great Kantô Earthquake.” Modern Asian Studies 40, no. 4 (2006): 875–907.

*Hunter, Janet. “‘Extreme Confusion and Disorder’? The Japanese Economy in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923.” The Journal of Asian Studies 73, no. 3 (2014): 753–73.

*Schencking, J. Charles. “Catastrophe, Opportunism, Contestation: The Fractured Politics of Reconstructing Tokyo Following the Great Kantô Earthquake of 1923.” Modern Asian Studies 40, no. 4 (2006): 833–73.

Diplomatic history All of our readings on diplomacy have to do with Manchuria (China’s Northeast), which was one of the most important issues in Japan’s relations with the outside world


**Matsusaka, Yoshihisa Tak. The Making of Japanese Manchuria, 1904-1932. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2001. Chapters 4,5,and 7

Pan-Asianism Although Pan-Asianism became a fairly thin cover for Japanese imperialism later on, in Taisho it sometimes meant quite different things.


*Gates, Rustin B. “Pan-Asianism in Prewar Japanese Foreign Affairs: The Curious Case of Uchida Yasuya.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 37, no. 1 (2011): 1–27.

*Han, Jung-Sun N. “Envisioning a Liberal Empire in East Asia: Yoshino Sakuzō in Taisho Japan.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 33, no. 2 (2007): 357–82.

*Saaler, Sven. “The Construction of Regionalism in Modern Japan: Kodera Kenkichi and His ‘Treatise on Greater Asianism’ (1916).” Modern Asian Studies 41, no. 6 (2007): 1261–94.

Regional history? In Taisho “modernity” spread beyond Tokyo and Osaka, but not always in the same ways


Lewis, Michael. Becoming Apart: National Power and Local Politics in Toyama, 1868-1945. Harvard East Asian Monographs 192. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2000. In Library Could do the one protest chapter, but what would be the other things for this section?

Phillipps, Jeremy D. “Creating Modern Cityscapes and Modern Civilians: The Urban Planning Law and the 1927 Hikoso Fire Reconstruction in Kanazawa.” Japan Review, no. 20 (2008): 157–88.

Public History like all modern societies, the Japanese built museums and tried to decide how to create a past worth preserving.

*Aso, Noriko. Public Properties : Museums in Imperial Japan. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. The chapters on “Imperial Properties” “Colonial Properties” or “The Private Publics of Ohara, Shibusawa, and Yanagi” would work

*”Defining Cultural Heritage: The Mingei Movement and Okinawa” from Loo, Tze May. Heritage Politics: Shuri Castle and Okinawa’s Incorporation into Modern Japan, 1879–2000. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014.


Technology for the people Being modern means buying stuff!

*Yasar, Kerim. Electrified Voices: How the Telephone, Phonograph and Radio Shaped Modern Japan, 1868-1945. Columbia University. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018. The chapters “Imagining the Wireless Community: The Arrival of Radio” or  “Ghostlier Demarcations, Keener Sounds: Early Japanese Radio Drama ” should work


*Ross, Kerry,  Photography for Everyone: The Cultural Lives of Cameras and Consumers in Early Twentieth Century Japan. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2015. Pretty much any of the chapters in this would work but “Retail Revolution: Male Shoppers and the Creation of the Modern Shop” “Photography for Everyone: Women, Hobbyists and Marketing Photography” or “Democratizing Leisure” Camera Clubs and the Popularization of Photography” would seem to be good choices.

(note that there are more than three possible chapters here, so you will have to pick the ones you want. )

Technology for the Nation As in Meiji, a lot of people were obsessed with harnessing technology for the good of the nation.

**”The Imperial Japanese Aircraft Industry” from Samuels, Richard J. “Rich Nation, Strong Army”: National Security and the Technological Transformation of Japan. Cornell University Press, 1996.

**”On the way to independent aircraft design” from Melzer, Jürgen P. Wings for the Rising Sun: A Transnational History of Japanese Aviation. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Asia Center, 2020.

*“Towards Technocracy” from Mizuno, Hiromi. Science for the Empire Scientific Nationalism in Modern Japan. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2009.


Labor and Work Japan was an industrial society by Taisho, with all the fun of modern working conditions.

*”Sex, Strikes, and Solidarity: Toyo Muslin and the Labor Unrest of 1930”from Faison, Elyssa. Managing Women: Disciplining Labor in Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

*”Preaching the Taylorite Gospel — Implementing Scientific Management in Taishō Japan”from Tsutsui, William M. Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan. Princeton: University Press, 1998.

**”Workers” from Mackie, Vera. Creating Socialist Women in Japan: Gender, Labour and Activism, 1900–1937. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.


Labor and unions While Japan did not have a particularly powerful labor movement, labor was a key political issue.

**“The Enterprise Community: Companies, Unions, and the Working Class” from Gordon, Andrew. The Evolution of Labor Relations in Japan: Heavy Industry, 1853–1955. 2nd Printing edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 1988.

*”A Crisis in Relations between Labor and Capital, 1918-22” from Sheldon M Garon The State and Labor in Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

**“The obscene, violent supplement of state power : Korean welfare and class warfare in interwar Japan” Kawashima, Ken C. The Proletarian Gamble: Korean Workers in Interwar Japan. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009


Radicals -left

    Hoston, Germaine A. “Marxism and National Socialism in Taishō Japan: The Thought of Takabatake Motoyuki.” The Journal of Asian Studies 44, no. 1 (1984): 43–64.

“Academic Marxist” from Gail Lee Bernstein Japanese Marxist: A Portrait of Kawakami Hajime 1870-1946 Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976

”Hoston, Germaine A. “Tenkō: Marxism & the National Question in Prewar Japan.” Polity 16, no. 1 (1983): 96–118.

Peasants Smethurst

Hoston, Germaine A. Marxism and the Crisis of Development in Prewar Japan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Radical right

*“The Young Officers Movement” from Shillony, Ben-Ami. Revolt in Japan : The Young Officers and the February 26, 1936 Incident. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.

*Saaler, Sven. “The Kokuryūkai (Black Dragon Society) and the Rise of Nationalism, Pan-Asianism, and Militarism in Japan, 1901–1925.” International Journal of Asian Studies 11, no. 2 (2014): 125–60.

Sections from from Skya, Walter. Japan’s Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shintō Ultranationalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.


 *“From Wet Diplomacy to Scorched Earth: The Taiwan Expedition, the Guardline, and the Wushe Rebellion”   from Paul D Barclay Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border,” 1874-1945.. Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2018.

*”National Physicians” From Lo, Ming-cheng. Doctors Within Borders: Profession, Ethnicity, and Modernity in Colonial Taiwan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.



Ishikawa, Tadashi. “Human Trafficking and Intra-Imperial Knowledge: Adopted Daughters, Households, and Law in Imperial Japan and Colonial Taiwan, 1919–1935.” Journal of Women’s History 29, no. 3 (2017): 37–60.


*Matsuda, Hiroko. “Becoming Japanese in the Colony: Okinawan Migrants in Colonial Taiwan.” Cultural Studies 26, no. 5 (2012): 688–709.

Colonial Korea

Kim, Hwansoo Ilmee. “Who Gets to Represent Korean Buddhism? The Contest to Control Buddhism in Colonial Korea, 1920–1945.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 45, no. 2 (2019): 339–68.

Lim, Sungyun. “Affection and Assimilation: Concubinage and the Ideal of Conjugal Love in Colonial Korea, 1922-38.” Gender & History 28, no. 2 (2016): 461–79.

Lee, Jung. “Invention without Science: ‘Korean Edisons’ and the Changing Understanding of Technology in Colonial Korea.” Technology and Culture 54, no. 4 (2013): 782–814.


**  “Policing Resistance to the Imperial State” Esselstrom, Erik. Crossing Empire’s Edge : Foreign Ministry Police and Japanese Expansionism in Northeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009.

*Person, John D. “Between Patriotism and Terrorism: The Policing of Nationalist Movements in 1930s Japan.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 43, no. 2 (2017): 289–318.

**”The emperor’s police ideology” from Tipton, Elise K. The Japanese Police State: Tokko in Interwar Japan. Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.

Taisho Democracy

*Dunscomb, Paul E. “‘A Great Disobedience against the People’: Popular Press Criticism of Japan’s Siberian Intervention, 1918-22.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 32, no. 1 (2006): 53–81.

*Dwyer, Emer O. “Mantetsu Democracy.” Modern Asian Studies 47, no. 6 (2013): 1812–44.

*“The Semi-Democratic Regime, 1918 – 1926 Containment of the Military” from Takenaka, Harukata. Failed Democratization in Prewar Japan : Breakdown of a Hybrid Regime. Stanford University Press, 2014.

Urban Culture

*“Modernity and the Passion Factory” from Merry White Coffee Life in Japan. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012.

*Steele, M. William. “The Speedy Feet of the Nation: Bicycles and Everyday Mobility in Modern Japan.” Journal of Transport History 31, no. 2 (2010): 182–209.

“The Café Waitress Sang the Blues” from Silverberg, Miriam. Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2009.


*Charles Exley. “Popular Musical Star Tokuko Takagi and Vaudeville Modernism in the Taishõ Asakusa Opera.” Japanese Language and Literature 51, no. 1 (2017): 63–90.


Literary trends

*Angles, Jeffrey. “Seeking the Strange: ‘Ryōki’ and the Navigation of Normality in Interwar Japan.” Monumenta Nipponica 63, no. 1 (2008): 101–41.

*Jones, Mark. “An Outbreak of Emotion: Romantic Love and Middle-Class Identity in 1921 Japan.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 45, no. 2 (2019): 305–38.





if you are interested, the  books for the class are

McClain, James L. Japan: A Modern History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002.

Yes, using a textbook this time.

Ravina, Mark. To Stand with the Nations of the World: Japan’s Meiji Restoration in World History. Oxford University Press, 2017.

The monograph. They will all write a standard book review of this, in part because it is a good book on Meiji, and it will work well for our history majors in part because it has a lot of international context that should help them. Also, I need a monograph, since many of them had Historical Methods with Dr. Baumler, who taught them that doing history is all about reading monographs, so we need at least one

Yamashita, Samuel Hideo. Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005.

The primary sources book!

There will be a research paper option for those silly enough to take it

1 Comment

  1. Ambitious, should be fairly engaging.
    The only topic I’d consider suggesting, which complicates things somewhat in interesting ways, would migration, especially relations with emigrant diaspora communities. There’s a couple of chapters in The Decade of the Great War: Japan and the Wider World in The 1910s by by Tosh Minohara, Tze-ki Hon, and Evan Dawley: Minohara on immigration and diplomacy, Dusinberre on emigration-heavy village culture. (There’s a few more chapters that might add to your bibliography, too, and Dusinberre has a couple more articles on that era elsewhere)

    The Ravina just came out in paperback, and I’m going to be reviewing it this summer.

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