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Session 155: Drifters in the Pacific: The Figure of the Early Modern East Asian Castaway
Organizer: Michael Wood, University of Oregon
Chair: Ronald Toby, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Discussants: Ronald Toby, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Neil Whitehead, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Keywords: castaways, East Asia, maritime history, Japan, Ryűkyű.
As both a historical and literary subject, the castaway emerges as a significant character in the transformation of various "borders" in the early modern Pacific. Castaway narratives and the development of protocol dealing with these figures comes to be formalized throughout the Pacific Rim beginning in the late 16th century and continues to proliferate through the 19th century. The documents relating the experiences of these sailors and fisherman stand as early examples of transoceanic cultural encounters and a transnational literary form that projects new ways of seeing the ever shifting relations between self and other and the manner in which space comes to be conceived of in terms of geography, ethnography, and national consciousness. The castaway narrative may therefore be considered in terms of new maritime technologies that allow for circumnavigation and globalized colonization. However the figure of the castaway is not simply an effect of Western imperial expansion, but also a dynamic element in the negotiation of more regional East-Asian diplomatic and ideological relations, often serving as a means to determine, maintain, and transform not only physical geographic boundaries, but also social and cultural ones. Incidents of drift in East Asia often highlight the complex tensions among global, national, and region-based methodologies. This panel brings together scholars from the fields of history, literature, and anthropology, who have been working on castaways in the Pacific and beyond and are part of an emerging interdisciplinary field of castaway studies that traverses various traditional disciplines.
A Japanese or a Ryukyuan? The Misjudgments of Castaways in Ming China from the End of the 16th Century to the Beginning of the 17th Century
Miki Watanabe, Tokyo University
From the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century, there were recurring cases in which Ryukyuans—primarily castaways drifting to China—were mistaken by Chinese officials to be Japanese. From interrogation records, we can see that strangers came from the frontier area between Ryukyu and Japan and they had double identities, not only as Ryukyuan but also as Japanese. Furthermore, we may determine that, at the time, the image of Japanese people among Chinese officials was not so good, due to Japan’s invasions of Korea in 1592 and 1596, and lingering memories of earlier Japanese pirates in China. On the other hand, the image of Ryukyuans was good because of their long tributary history. Thus it became an extremely sensitive, if not unavoidable matter, for the Chinese officials who had to judge whether the castaways were either Japanese or Ryukyuan. In this paper I will focus on their misjudgments, discuss some aspects of the identification and repatriation process, and how their ambiguous identities were rendered through interrogations on the Chinese seacoast.
Laying Claim for the Nation: Uninhabited Isles and the Castaway in Early Modern Japan
Michael Wood, University of Oregon
Among the hundreds of Edo period castaway accounts (hy˘ryűki) that remain today, there is a curious subcategory of documents referred to as mujint˘ hy˘ryűki or "castaway accounts to uninhabited islands." The vast majority of these accounts deal with fishermen and sailors who drifted to either islands in what is now known as the Ogasawara (Bonin) archipelago or Torishima (Markus Island) more that 700 miles southeast of Edo. While these remote islands today are considered the easternmost lands claimed by Japan, during the Edo period their status was much more ambiguous. England and America claimed possession of this land in 1824 and 1853 respectively. By 1830, with permission from Richard Charlton, the British Consul in Honolulu, Matteo Mazarro set out with about 30 settlers of European and Polynesian descent to start a colony on the islands. In 1861 Iemochi sent a bakufu mission to Ogasawara and began to populate the islands with subjects from Hachij˘jima. By 1876, all residents (including those originally coming from Hawai’i) were made subjects of Japan. While cases of Japanese drifting to these islands appear to have taken place as early as the late 16th century, it was not until the early 19th century that these accounts were proliferated, categorized, and anthologized. This presentation will consider how the formation of mujint˘ hy˘ryűki played a significant role in laying claim to a contested Pacific frontier by "inhabiting" otherwise "uninhabited" space.
Testing The Limits of Sakoku Policy
Stephen W. Kohl, University of Oregon
The Kaikinrei forbidding foreign travel by Japanese citizens imposed by the Tokugawa bakufu are quite specific in stating that the death penalty awaited anyone who left the country and tried to return. Japanese castaway experiences reveal that this law was rarely enforced. Over the course of the Tokugawa period, hundreds, even thousands, of Japanese left the country and returned. Further, it is often held that those who did return were imprisoned or stifled in their attempts to tell their stories. The fact remains that many eloquent hy˘ryűki accounts were told.
This paper looks at several castaway episodes, that described in Dattan Hy˘ryűki, and the experiences of Daikokuya Kodaiyu, Jukichi of the Tokujomaru, and Nakahama Manjiro. Set against these will be two cases where returned castaways were executed. By examining these episodes from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, I will clarify the variety and extent of the limitations placed on the activities of returned castaways. This, in turn, will reflect the willingness of the bakufu to engage these men as sources of information rather than to condemn them as criminals.