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To the Ends of Japan

To the Ends of Japan: Premodern Frontiers, Boundaries, and Interactions

Bruce L. Batten
Copyright Date: 2003
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  • Book Info
    To the Ends of Japan
    Book Description:

    What is Japan? Who are its people? These questions are among those addressed in Bruce Batten's ambitious study of Japan's historical development through the nineteenth century. Traditionally, Japan has been portrayed as a homogenous society formed over millennia in virtual isolation. Social historians and others have begun to question this view, emphasizing diversity and interaction, both within the Japanese archipelago and between Japan and other parts of Eurasia. Until now, however, no book has attempted to resolve these conflicting views in a comprehensive, systematic way.

    To the Ends of Japantackles the "big questions" on Japan by focusing on its borders, broadly defined to include historical frontiers and boundaries within the islands themselves as well as the obvious coastlines and oceans. Batten provides compelling arguments for viewing borders not as geographic "givens," but as social constructs whose location and significance can, and do, change over time. By giving separate treatment to the historical development of political, cultural, and ethnic borders in the archipelago, he highlights the complex, multifaceted nature of Japanese society, without losing sight of the more fundamental differences that have separated Japan from its nearest neighbors in the archipelago and on the Eurasian continent.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6520-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    My first exposure to Japanese history came during the late 1970s, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Oregon. At that time, Japanese manufactured products were beginning to make rapid inroads into American markets, and the country’s economic importance was widely acknowledged both by opinion leaders and by members of the general public. And yet few people, in America at least, had a good understanding of contemporary Japanese society, far less of Japanese history¹ (with the possible exception of the events immediately surrounding World War II, which remained fresh in the minds of some Americans).

    This state of...

  6. PART ONE Borders

    • 1 State
      (pp. 19-51)

      I live today, and have lived for some years, in a suburb of Tokyo. This makes me one of some 1.7 million foreign residents of Japan, a country whose total population is about 127 million.¹ Foreign residents are not eligible to vote in national, or most local, elections, but other than that we have most of the same rights and obligations as Japanese citizens. I pay Japanese taxes on my income as a professor, I pay property taxes on my house, and I observe Japanese laws. I and my family are eligible for Japanese health insurance, and I expect to...

    • 2 “Race” and Culture
      (pp. 52-86)

      Political boundaries are important, but they are only one way of dividing up the world. People today are separated not only by circumstances of birth or citizenship but also by differences in culture, language, race, and ethnicity, to name but a few common categories. What relationship, if any, exists between political units and these other social categories? The answer is that although the territories claimed by states sometimes conform to the distribution of other social traits, the fit is rarely, if ever, perfect.

      Take, for example, the “nation-state,” said to be the fundamental unit in today’s world. The nation-state represents...

    • 3 Ethnicity
      (pp. 87-122)

      The relationship between political and cultural boundaries may seem complicated enough, but it is necessary to take our analysis one step further: no study of boundaries would be complete without a consideration of ethnicity. What does it mean to refer to a Japanese “ethnic group” or “ethnic community”? Like other Western concepts such as race and culture, the idea of the ethnic group, or Volk, was imported into Japan in the Meiji period. During the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the idea of a Japanese ethnic group, orminzoku, came to play a large role in official, scholarly, and popular...

  7. PART TWO Interactions

    • 4 Premodern Japan in World-Systems Theory
      (pp. 125-142)

      In Chapter 3 we looked at several different ways of defining premodern “Japan,” each of which results in a slightly different set of boundaries or frontiers. Japan may be thought of as a political entity, that is, as a state. If so, its borders represent the limits of territorial sovereignty, the lines or zones that separated areas under Japanese control from those ruled by neighboring states, chiefdoms, or tribes. “Japan” can also be considered a cultural entity, one whose borders are defined by the areal distribution of an identifiable way of life, forms of social organization, or linguistic characteristics. Alternatively,...

    • 5 Political and Military Interactions
      (pp. 143-161)

      The idea of a “political/military network” is in fact not original with Chase-Dunn and Hall but goes back to earlier work by David Wilkinson.¹ Wilkinson is a student of comparative civilizations, but unlike most of his colleagues, who define “civilization” in terms of cultural homogeneities, he identifies them with political/military networks—that is, areas that maintain regular, systemic relations of these kinds. For this reason, Wilkinson’s roster of “civilizations” (to the extent he correctly identifies them) may be considered equivalent to the political/military aspect of “world-systems” as defined by Chase-Dunn and Hall.

      According to Wilkinson, it is possible to identity...

    • 6 Bulk Goods
      (pp. 162-180)

      What are “bulk goods”? How do they differ from the “prestige goods,” which also figure in Chase-Dunn and Hall’s classification of world-systems? The first point to make is that these are not objective, precisely defined categories. Rather, they are rough-and-ready labels for two partly overlapping categories of goods. In this study I will use the term “bulk goods” to refer to utilitarian items used in quantity—for example, daily necessities such as food and clothing, and the like. “Prestige goods,” by contrast, refers to high-value, non-utilitarian items, that is, luxuries.

      Obviously, there is no sharp dividing line between bulk goods...

    • 7 Prestige Goods
      (pp. 181-205)

      As noted at the beginning of Chapter 6, “prestige goods” in this study refers to high-value luxury items, as opposed to bulk items of daily consumption. Individuals may desire prestige goods, but they do not need them to survive. However, access to prestige goods may well be necessary to for an individual to achieve or maintain a particular rank or position in society. In hierarchical societies (which means almostallsocieties since the invention of agriculture), luxuries serve as vehicles for the accumulation of wealth and, even more importantly, as symbols of power or authority. As such they play an...

    • 8 Information
      (pp. 206-224)

      What types of information were available in premodern Japan about the outside world, and vice versa? What was the quantity of information, and what was the quality? How was information transmitted, and what factors (geographic, technological, or social) determined access or lack thereof? How did these variables change over time?

      These are not easy questions to answer, in part because the topic is so broad. The word “information” itself simply means “knowledge communicated or received,”¹ but this would seem to include virtually everything that goes on inside the human brain—or, more accurately, that can be conveyed from one brain...

    • 9 Japan, East Asia, and the World
      (pp. 225-232)

      After the extended discussion in preceding chapters, it is time to return to our original question: Did premodern Japan (or, more broadly, the Japanese archipelago) constitute a “world-system” in its own right? Or is Japan more properly considered part of a larger, China-centered “East Asian world-system”? Let us review the evidence and attempt to draw a conclusion.

      Take a look at Figure 10, which summarizes the information presented in previous chapters about Japan’s connections with other parts of East Asia. (More distant regions are omitted for the sake of simplicity.) The figure shows the extent of the four networks of...

  8. PART THREE Dynamics

    • 10 Social Power: Causes and Consequences
      (pp. 235-262)

      To recapitulate, premodern “Japan” and its borders can be defined in any of a number of ways. A political emphasis reveals the outlines, fuzzy but nonetheless recognizable, of a state distinct from less organized tribes and chiefdoms to the north and south and from other states on the Asian mainland. “Racial,” cultural, and ethnic definitions produce related, but not identical, configurations. Viewed in this way, “Japan” emerges as a composite of superimposed entities, each with its own ill-defined border.

      These borders, by definition, represent the geographic limits of certain social characteristics or forms of organization. But as we have seen,...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 263-294)
  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 295-326)
  11. Index
    (pp. 327-337)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 338-338)