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Japan in Print

Japan in Print: Information and Nation in the Early Modern Period

Mary Elizabeth Berry
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 342
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  • Book Info
    Japan in Print
    Book Description:

    A quiet revolution in knowledge separated the early modern period in Japan from all previous time. After 1600, self-appointed investigators used the model of the land and cartographic surveys of the newly unified state to observe and order subjects such as agronomy, medicine, gastronomy, commerce, travel, and entertainment. They subsequently circulated their findings through a variety of commercially printed texts: maps, gazetteers, family encyclopedias, urban directories, travel guides, official personnel rosters, and instruction manuals for everything from farming to lovemaking. In this original and gracefully written book, Mary Elizabeth Berry considers the social processes that drove the information explosion of the 1600s. Inviting readers to examine the contours and meanings of this transformation, Berry provides a fascinating account of the conversion of the public from an object of state surveillance into a subject of self-knowledge.Japan in Printshows how, as investigators collected and disseminated richly diverse data, they came to presume in their audience a standard of cultural literacy that changed anonymous consumers into an "us" bound by common frames of reference. This shared space of knowledge made society visible to itself and in the process subverted notions of status hierarchy. Berry demonstrates that the new public texts projected a national collectivity characterized by universal access to markets, mobility, sociability, and self-fashioning.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94146-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. ONE A Traveling Clerk Goes to the Bookstores
    (pp. 1-12)

    Suppose you lived in Kyoto about three hundred years ago and were facing your first trip to Edo, the Tokugawa shogun’s capital, some five hundred kilometers away. To flesh out this fantasy, let’s make you a senior clerk in a firm that retails silk cloth. You are being sent on a temporary assignment from the main shop in Kyoto to a branch in Edo.

    You might prepare for your journey, as novices have always prepared in the past, by canvassing seasoned travelers and then trusting to advice along the way. If fortunate and well connected, you might also scan travel...

  6. TWO The Library of Public Information
    (pp. 13-53)

    Saikaku’s tour of the storehouses is a flaming piece of parody. Loaded with lists and totals and taxonomic tricks, it takes immediate aim at the bookkeeping culture of the tradespeople who made up the prime audience for contemporary fiction. More broadly, the tour mimics a contemporary style of knowledge that dominated the sort of texts I assigned my hypothetical clerk. As gazetteers and the like inventoried local crops and manufactures, or Buddhist icons and celebrity graves, so Saikaku inventories the heaps of his merchant’s stuff. Then he transposes inventory into hilarity by bumping up numbers (383 keys, 130,000 large gold...

  7. THREE Maps Are Strange
    (pp. 54-103)

    A colleague called me one day to ask where he could find a medieval map of Kyoto—or, really, a good reproduction of any original drafted between, say, the twelfth and sixteenth centuries. He needed it fast. So one quick reference would do until he could examine the full record later.

    Well, the record is blank. There are no surviving maps of Kyoto made in the medieval period (and no later reproductions either, only artful imaginings). Indeed, I don’t think maps of Kyoto were made at all in the medieval period.

    My colleague’s certainty that I could direct him to...

  8. FOUR Blood Right and Merit
    (pp. 104-138)

    We keep in the locked and climate-controlled treasure room of Berkeley’s East Asian Library a body of texts that don’t really belong there. These are personnel rosters of the Tokugawa administration— texts printed so prolifically in the early modern period (in tens of thousands of copies annually) that surviving examples still flood used bookshops in Japan. The pleasure in handling the texts is the pleasure of leafing through commonplace material. Beaten up, dog-eared, dirty, and covered with marginalia, these books—known generically as “Mirrors of the Military [Houses]”—saw heavy use and plenty of travel time in the sleeves and...

  9. FIVE The Freedom of the City
    (pp. 139-184)

    The Japan of early modern maps is a place not of hills and farms but cities. As political geography replaces most physical features, and agrarian production figures swallow the village landscape, the country seems a mass of urban points—the castle towns of daimyo, the ports and post stations that connect the polity, and the famous sites that intimate a common culture. Very quickly, these cities became the consuming subject of commercial cartography. The urban world dominates the work of early modern Japanese mapmakers, something that would have been unimaginable for their medieval predecessors.

    The generic and categorical vision of...

  10. SIX Cultural Custody, Cultural Literacy
    (pp. 185-208)

    Several summers ago I traveled around Kyoto following a tour guide written in 1706 by the Confucian polymath Kaibara Ekiken. I brought with me a late seventeenth-century map of the capital region and, to help with reference questions, an all-purpose family encyclopedia published in 1692. Unlike the material I have surveyed thus far, the guide was compelling as a short work (two spare fascicles) that takes readers by the hand to achieve a single, clear goal. No sprawling directory or roster or atlas, it focuses with pedagogical intensity on getting the consumer through a job. It suggests, then, how a...

  11. SEVEN Nation
    (pp. 209-252)

    I began this book by staking out a temporal boundary. The “library of public information” that took shape after 1600 signifies, for me, a quiet revolution in knowledge—one separating the early modern period from all previous time. In empirically grounded accounts of contemporary, often mundane experience, investigators created from fissured parts an integrally conceived “Japan.” Commercial publishers also circulated those accounts to open audiences of consumers, who were implicitly entitled to information, familiar with its frames of reference, and invested in self-discovery. Profound changes in the mode and volume of investigation thus entailed no less profound changes in communication....

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 253-290)
    (pp. 291-308)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 309-325)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 326-328)