The Samurai and Realms of Memory

Constantine Vaporis (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
Anne Walthall (University of California, Irvine)
Bloco 1, Piso 0, Sala 0.05
Start time:
31 August, 2017 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel examines the modern uses of Edo-period samurai in order to understand issues relating to historical reception, memory landscapes, as well as collective and cultural memory. This is done through the study of historical texts, castle sites, and memory landscapes.

Long abstract:

For more than a decade, there has been considerable interest in the field of Japanese studies in the subject of "memory"— some have even referred to it as a "memory boom." The papers in this panel seek to engage in this discourse through the subject of the Edo-period samurai. Taniguchi Shinko's paper (The Historical Reception of Hagakure—Honor, Loyalty, and Patriotism) examines the historical treatment of Hagakure, an early eighteenth-century work that later became a seminal text in bushido ideology, in the context of Meiji and Showa-era nationalism and patriotism. With Oleg Benesch's paper (Japan's Modern Castles between Nostalgia and Neglect), the focus switches from a textual realm of memory to a collection of historical sites: castles. The paper examines the transformation that took place in the transition from the Edo to Meiji periods in popular perceptions of castles, from symbols of a discredited past to positive symbols with close associations with the military and imperial house. This transformation was necessary before the "memory activists"—civil society groups, government officials, and the military—could later take action to reconstruct castles that had been destroyed, sold off, or just neglected. Finally, Constantine Vaporis' paper (Reconsidering Yoshida Shôin through his Memory Landscape) again shifts the focus from one type of object, castles, to a number of different sites of memory (monuments, graves, statues, shrines, and other historical sites)—a memory landscape—associated with a single historical personage, Yoshida Shôin (1830-59), one of the most controversial samurai and imperial loyalists of the late Edo period. In sum, the three papers will examine various realms of memory concerning the samurai over the broad expanse of Japanese history, from the late nineteenth century until today. The papers will reveal substantive issues related to the Edo-period subjects at hand: a text (Hagakure), castles, and the life of an individual samurai (Yoshida Shôin). At the same time, we explore broader themes such as historical reception, memory landscapes, as well as collective and cultural memory.