Microhistorical Approaches to Understanding Japanese Modernity

Organizer: Atsuko Aoki, Brown University/Rikkyo University

Chair: Atsuko Aoki, Brown University/Rikkyo University

  1. Alexandre Mangin, Rikkyo University/Universite Lyon 3

Miyamoto Tsuneichi: A Renewed Method for Human Sciences in Japan

  1. Atsuko Aoki, Brown University/Rikkyo University

Jōkō Yonetarō and The Politics of “Modern” Education in Colonial Korea

  1. Lionel Babicz, The University of Sydney

11 February 1889: the Birth of Modern Japan

Microhistorical Approaches to Understanding Japanese Modernity

Organizer: Atsuko Aoki, Brown University/Rikkyo University

Chair: Atsuko Aoki, Brown University/Rikkyo University

This panel intends to introduce the use of microhistorical methods in understanding modern Japanese history. Alexandre Mangin examines the works of Japanese ethnographer Miyamoto Tsuneichi, whose achievements have not been introduced and recognized sufficiently enough in the field of English-language Japanese Studies. By introducing and exploring Miyamoto’s research method and the depths and denseness of his narratives, Mangin’s paper attempts to show how Miyamoto was engaged in reclaiming the voices and lifestyles of traditional but marginalized rural people in rapidly modernizing Japan. Atsuko Aoki turns to Japan’s colony, Korea, and delves into the life of Jōkō Yonetarō, a Japanese teacher in colonial Korea who was imprisoned for his anti-imperialistic views. As a source, Aoki uses his diary, which illustrates the author’s inner conflict concerning the meaning of “colonial modernity,” which can be exemplified by his very workplace – modern public schools in Korea established by Japan. On the other hand, Lionel Babicz focuses on one day, instead of a particular person, – February 11, 1889, still at the dawn of Japanese modern history. Babicz’s paper introduces three events (promulgation of the Meiji Constitution, the assassination of Mori Arinori, and the launching of the Nihon – a major influential newspaper) that took place on the day, and considers what ensued – how and to what extent these events determined the course of Japanese modernization and modernity.

  1. Alexandre Mangin, Rikkyo University/Universite Lyon 3

Miyamoto Tsuneichi: A Renewed Method for Human Sciences in Japan

Miyamoto Tsuneichi (1970-1981) is known in Japan as one of the most important minzoku-gakusha (ethnographer of the countryside). He was engaged in extensive field work that covered all of Japan, dealing with popular arts and other forms of cultural traditions. During his study of Japan, he focused on particular social groups, whom hitherto had been rather marginalized as a legitimate academic subject, and accumulated an encyclopedic amount of data – unsurpassed in terms of quantity and of the depth of understanding of “forgotten” people. Miyamoto’s study covers every domain of non-urban life: economy, topography, arts and customs, religious belief, architecture, techniques and tools of the traditional professions, especially agriculture. As a disciple of Yanagita Kunio (founder of Japanese folklore ethnology) and Shibusawa Keizō (pioneer in mingu-gaku), Miyamoto’s observations and historical researches problematized the Japanese being or the Being-in-Japan in its diversity and wealth of its culture. This presentation intends to introduce and explore Miyamoto’s research method (especially, the use of maps, photographs and the importance of his research style – walking), so as to show how deeply he renewed the discipline and inscribed it in what we call today “modernity,” even if he is the heir of a tradition as well, travelling with such authors as Furukawa Koshokōken and Noda Senkōin. And lastly, this paper will touch on Miyamoto’s posterity among young ethnographers/researchers today.

  1. Atsuko Aoki, Brown University/Rikkyo University

Jōkō Yonetarō and The Politics of “Modern” Education in Colonial Korea

This paper is a bibliographical essay on the Jōkō Yonetarō, using his diary as the primary source written during his stay in colonial Korea in the 1920s. This paper first discusses the significance of this diary as a historical artifact of the Japanese colonialism and its bibliographic implications to scholarship. It then examines the author’s perception of “modernity” in colonized Korea as it appears in the text. Jōkō Yonetarō migrated from Japan in 1918 at the age of 16 to Korea. He became an elementary school teacher in 1922 and taught and served as principal at public schools in. In 1930 he was arrested and indicted on charges of instigating his colleagues and students to commit labor union activities, and was purged from the teaching profession for good. The diary, consisting of 32 notebooks and the court record of his interrogations, spans these eight years of his teaching career. The bibliographic and empirical contribution of this diary is that it offers minute details on various aspects of everyday Japanese colonialism, which previously available historical materials such as magazines, newspapers, official documents, and memoirs, have failed to show us in depths. The diary is rich in narratives about teacher-student relationships in colonial Korean schools, the Japanese teacher community and networks, daily interaction between Japanese and Koreans in rural areas, and interethnic romance, all of which provide new and additional evidence to scholarship on the social history of Japanese settlers, as well as on the history of Japan’s colonial education.

  1. Lionel Babicz, The University of Sydney

11 February 1889: the Birth of Modern Japan

Modern Japan was officially born on 11 February 1889 with the promulgation of the Meiji constitution. Nevertheless, the dramatic events of the day and its signification have never been the object of a detailed study. By choosing Kigensetsu – the day commemorating the ascension to the throne of the first emperor, Jimmu – to promulgate the first modern constitution, Meiji leaders opted to link the mythical origins of the imperial dynasty to Japanese modernity. In addition to the Meiji constitution, other events would also make this day a defining moment in Japanese modern history. Mori Arinori, the iconoclastic Minister of Education, was stabbed in his home while getting ready to go out to the Imperial Palace for the promulgation ceremony, and would die the following day. Mori was one of the most extreme proponents of Westernization, and of a nationalist education. His death would symbolize the end of the enlightened form of nationalism which dominated since the Restoration, and open the way to the return of Confucianist values in education and to the promulgation of the Imperial Rescript on Education. A third event of significance saw a young journalist named Kuga Katsunan launching a newspaper, Nihon, which would become one of the major cultural voices of Meiji Japan. Kuga and Nihon attempted to answer a question which tormented a whole generation of young people: is it possible to be both Japanese and modern? By reconstructing this dramatic course of events, the paper will attempt to define the significance of 11 February 1889 in modern Japanese history.

Discussant: Mark E. Caprio, Rikkyo University