Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Performing the Great Peace

Performing the Great Peace: Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan

Copyright Date: 2012
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Performing the Great Peace
    Book Description:

    Performing the Great Peaceoffers a cultural approach to understanding the politics of the Tokugawa period, at the same time deconstructing some of the assumptions of modern national historiographies. Deploying the political termsuchi(inside),omote(ritual interface), andnaisho(informal negotiation)-all commonly used in the Tokugawa period-Luke Roberts explores how daimyo and the Tokugawa government understood political relations and managed politics in terms of spatial autonomy, ritual submission, and informal negotiation.

    Roberts suggests as well that a layered hierarchy ofomoteanduchirelations strongly influenced politics down to the village and household level, a method that clarifies many seeming anomalies in the Tokugawa order. He analyzes in one chapter how the identities of daimyo and domains differed according to whether they were facing the Tokugawa or speaking to members of the domain and daimyo household: For example, a large domain might be identified as a"country" by insiders and as a "private territory" in external discourse. In another chapter he investigates the common occurrence of daimyo who remained formally alive to the government months or even years after they had died in order that inheritance issues could be managed peacefully within their households. The operation of the court system in boundary disputes is analyzed as are the "illegal" enshrinements of daimyo inside domains that were sometimes used to construct forms of domain-state Shinto.

    Performing the Great Peace's convincing analyses and insightful conceptual framework will benefit historians of not only the Tokugawa and Meiji periods, but Japan in general and others seeking innovative approaches to premodern history.

    3 illus., 2 maps

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6115-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. [Maps]
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Names, Dates, and Units Used in the Text
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    I found information on the following incident of the Tokugawa period (1600–1868) in the castle diary of Tahara domain, which was ruled by daimyo lords of the Miyake clan: In the autumn of 1792, the Grand Inspector of the Tokugawa government entered the Edo residence of the childless daimyo Miyake Yasukuni on a mission to certify that although Yasukuni was ill, he was of sound mind when he personally chose whom he would adopt to assume his position and inherit the domain. The Grand Inspector brought government physicians to evaluate the state of Yasukuni’s health and mental fitness. A...

  7. 1 The Geography of Politics
    (pp. 19-52)

    The above quotation comes from a book written by the Dutchman J.F. van Overmeer Fisscher in 1833, a clerk who had lived in Nagasaki for about nine years in the 1820s. Here he describes the operation of the legal system of the Tokugawa period and reveals that the rulers themselves considered their laws too severe to regularly implement, but rather than changing the laws, they instead manipulated the metaphors of “inside” and “outside” in a way to keep the peace and prevent incidents in the realm. Secrecy and knowledge were formal in character and were tied to an anxious management...

  8. 2 Performing the Tokugawa Right to Know
    (pp. 53-73)

    The Tokugawa government collected much information about the conditions and management of daimyo domains. It used such data in the formation of government policy, as the basis of extraction of services and resources from daimyo, and, on occasion, to intervene in the daimyos’ control of their domains. For their part, daimyo likewise collected much information from villages and towns of their own domains. This regime of information collection was more thorough in its pretensions than anything in Japan up to that time, and it bequeathed numerous documents that allow modern historians opportunities for statistical and analytical study. This information had...

  9. 3 Politics of the Living Dead
    (pp. 74-104)

    On the eleventh day of the third month of 1823 the daimyo Miyake Yasukazu of Tahara domain donated some gold to the memorial services of his greatgreat-great-grandfather.² Taking care of memorial services for ancestors was a routine responsibility of a daimyo. The only oddity about the event was that Yasukazu himself had died more than a month earlier. His death had been kept fromomoteformal notice, and in the eyes of the Tokugawa government Yasukazu died on the sixteenth day of the fifth month, nearly a hundred days after his actual death. The reason for this long delay was...

  10. 4 Territorial Border Disputes
    (pp. 105-135)

    Land was second only to inheritance politics in its ability to excite passions and inspire violence in Tokugawa Japan, and a chief task of the Tokugawa government was to mediate struggles over territorial control. Formally, the Tokugawa had land struggles adjudicated in accordance with the feudal disbursement of judicial authority. Their general goal was to contain disturbance in the smallest possible spaces. Daimyo judged disputes within their realms, and the Tokugawa judged in their own demesne. When territory conflicts occurred inside a single realm, and when commoners were in conflict with their own daimyo, there was, with few exceptions, no...

  11. 5 Daimyo Gods
    (pp. 136-166)

    The Yamauchi clan of Tosa domain inaugurated three new deities in 1807, placing them in a new shrine in the castle and creating a major new festival for their realm. At the time, the Tokugawa government had laws prohibiting the creation of new deities, new shrines, and new festivals, but the Yamauchi wanted to develop a more populist form of religiosity to strengthen the position of their government in Tosa’s changing society and economy. Domain officials learned in their preliminary research that many daimyo had done similar things before them, and they learned how to create illegal shrines and festivals...

  12. 6 Histories
    (pp. 167-190)

    A school of historiography called Mitogaku flourished in the castle town of Mito, the heart of a daimyo realm ruled by one of the three main collateral houses of the Tokugawa clan. Mitogaku is best known for crafting a history of Japan, theDai Nihon shi.Modeled on Chinese imperial dynastic histories, theDai Nihon shi’s narrative centered on the Japanese imperial line. Its vision of the place of the emperor and the warrior governments of Japan was not created with any revolutionary intent, but because it made the imperial line the organizing principle of the history, it became highly...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 191-198)

    The Tokugawakubōsuffered a great loss of face with Commodore Perry’s arrival and the subsequent interactions with Western powers. The “august glory” of the Tokugawa clan and their Great Peace crumbled midcentury when their inability to persuade foreigners to play prescribed roles became publicly evident.¹ The old regime soon collapsed, but it initially broke apart along feudal lines of power. All the daimyo, who for centuries had performed rites of obedience to the Tokugawa inomoteinteraction, proved in the event to make their own choice as to whether to be an ally or an enemy of the Tokugawa....

  14. Notes
    (pp. 199-228)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 229-236)
  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 237-252)
  17. Index
    (pp. 253-264)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 265-267)