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Old January 28th, 2016, 05:21 PM   #1

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Tokugawa Japan


Lately, I've found myself getting more and more interested in Tokugawa Japan. This was once a "black hole" in my personal knowledge of Japan. I always thought the era seemed a bit stale and boring.I'm finding the more and more I read on the period, the more I realized my initial feelings so many years ago were wrong.

The Tokugawa, or Edo, period is most commonly considered to have begun with the Tokugawa victory at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and to have ended with the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Some scholars do differ in their opinion of both starting and ending dates.

I thought we could start a discussion on the period. What interests you about Tokugawa Japan? What questions have always nagged you about this Era? What do you consider to be some of the bigger events? Important people? Political movements? etc. etc.
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Old January 28th, 2016, 05:39 PM   #2

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When I first got into history I mostly read all the great man theory and military stuff, leaving gaps in my knowledge for a bit more peaceful eras like this. I'm definitely interested in this part of Japan though. I assume you've read some informative texts on the subject?
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Old January 28th, 2016, 05:49 PM   #3

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I've read a few decent books that deal with Tokugawa Japan. To name a few:

Harold Bolitho - Treasures Among Men: The Fudai Daimyo in Tokugawa Japan (Currently reading)

Eiko Ikegami - The Taming of The Samurai: Honorific Individualism and the Making of Modern Japan

Conrad Totman - Early Modern Japan

George Sansom - A History of Japan, 1615-1867

Constantine Vaporis - Tour of Duty: Samurai, Military Service in Edo, and the Culture of Early Modern Japan

Ronald Toby - State and Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan: Asia in the Development of the Tokugawa Bakufu

Conrad Totman - Tokugawa Ieyasu: Shogun

Stephen Vlastos - Peasant Protests and Uprisings in Tokugawa Japan

Mikiso Hane - Peasants, Rebels and Outcastes: The Underside of Modern Japan

Brett Walker- The Conquest of Ainu Lands: Ecology and Culture in Japanese Expansion, 1590-1800

Charles Dunn - Everyday Life in Traditional Japan
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Old January 28th, 2016, 06:07 PM   #4

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Thanks! I'll definitely looking into at least one or two of those. Probably either the second or last books in your post.
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Old January 28th, 2016, 06:11 PM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Warehouse View Post
Thanks! I'll definitely looking into at least one or two of those. Probably either the second or last books in your post.
Charles Dunn's work is a good book to start with. It was my first on the subject.

That being said, Taming of the Samurai is one of my favorite books on any period of Japanese history. I HIGHLY Recommend it.
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Old February 3rd, 2016, 12:26 AM   #6

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When did the Tokugawa begin to decline and what precipitated their fall? Was it solely Perry and the opening up of Japan or were the wheels already in motion? Did it follow the pattern of previous shogunates (if there was one) or was it unique in any way? Also, do you know anything about Tokugawa literature?

Aside from some Meiji fiction and literary theory, I've not touched a book on Japan in years and I've forgotten a lot of my general knowledge on this period.
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Old February 3rd, 2016, 02:08 AM   #7

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For me, the Tokugawa society, both samurai and commoner, is the most interesting aspect. One of the most fascinating things about wandering around Tokyo is learning about local history and how the area was during the Tokugawa period.

The rules and regulations that applied to "ukiyo" (the floating world, a term for urban life in Edo) are really quite interesting.

I climbed a hill that used to be the location of a viewing platform depicted in one of (I think) Hokisai's woodblock prints, that overlooked Edo bay. Due to land reclamation, the water's edge is now two kilometres away from that location, and it's just concrete buildings that you can see from there now.

I must get hold of Dunn's book.
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Old February 3rd, 2016, 03:53 AM   #8

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I was actually there the other week. Didn't see much history wise in Tokyo itself, but saw Sumpu Castle and Yoshinobu's old house in Shizuoka, which was neat.
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Old February 3rd, 2016, 01:26 PM   #9

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Quote:
Originally Posted by f0ma View Post
When did the Tokugawa begin to decline and what precipitated their fall? Was it solely Perry and the opening up of Japan or were the wheels already in motion? Did it follow the pattern of previous shogunates (if there was one) or was it unique in any way? Also, do you know anything about Tokugawa literature?
I think the bakufu was already in a decline long before the arrival of Perry. Throughout the Tokugawa Shogunate, there was a virtual roller coaster ride of good/not so good shogunal leaders. Tokugawa Japan had a similar political history to early America.

I know that sounds weird, but what I mean is there was a strong federal vs. States argument thanks to the bakuhan system. Some shogun gave more power to the individual daimyo, while some took it away.

I think the bakufu position was severely weakened under Ietsuna. A lot of Bakufu policies were laxed during his reign. Some were restored by his successor Tsunayoshi, but the damage had already been done.

10 years prior to Perry's arrival, the agechi-rei was issued by the bakufu. This order basically confiscated daimyo lands located around Edo and Osaka for the bakufu. Around the same time, the bakufu also outlawed domainal monopolies on certain products. These 2 orders were the driving catalyst to the open conflict between the bakufu and the han.
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Old February 3rd, 2016, 11:00 PM   #10
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I find the Edo period interesting because it is one of economic progress in many ways. In stark contrast to the popular narrative of sakoku, Japan's inter-Asian trade seems to have grown, not declined for at least the first century after the closure for the country. There was import substitution, proto-capitalist trade and production organisation, financial markets and the beginnings of manufacturing industry. The Japanese also developed some advanced technologies, such as wood preservation technology that allowed them to solve bottle neck problems the British, on the other hand, solved by the inventions of coal using machinery and expansion into wood rich colonies. As such, the Japanese way simply presents an effective development alternative.
I'm, also highly interested in the bakumatsu period since it seems to me that the opening up of Japan was the first major diplomatic feat the Japanese accomplished.
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