[ AAS Book Prizes Main Page ]
In Painting of the Realm: The Kano House of Painters in 17th-Century Japan, Yukio Lippit beautifully succeeds at describing the ascendancy of the Kano house, the most orthodox and institutionally powerful painting lineage in early modern Japan, to a school that trained thousands of painters and came to found and define art history. Driven by lineal anxiety, the Kano house's rise was pursued through a variety of social practices whose trajectory Lippit describes in this truly magisterial work, including collecting, authenticating, canonizing and history making.
In graceful style, Lippit's gaze reaches far beyond the history of the house to the emergence of the painter as an agent of cultural heritage. Only in the mid-eighteenth century did individualist painters depart from Kano norms. Among other developments, this development was partly due to the dissemination of Kano techniques, the influx of literati painting from China, and negative critique of the Kano from a number of quarters within Japan.
Lavishly illustrated, the book is a model of the pairing of sharp analysis with the aesthetical appeal that befits its subject.
Selection Committee: Sabine Fruhstucke, Chair (UC-Santa Barbara); Alexis Dudden (University of Connecticut); Thomas LaMarre (McGill U.); Jonathan Reynolds (Barnard C.)
The early 21st century sees increasing
uncertainty in post- industrial societies as youth try to find their ways in challenging economic times. Lost in Transition, by sociologist Mary C. Brinton delivers on what its subtitle promises, explaining to us the connections between young non-elite men, work, and instability in Japan. The context is the recessionary years since 1991—internationally known as Japan's "Lost Decade"—and the toll the economy has exacted on the once much-vaunted educational and employment system that seamlessly funneled young high school male graduates into firms that gave them a good chance at a position in the middle-class.
Adeptly using both qualitative and quantitative data, Brinton explains how linked social institutions that formerly operated in sync have fallen apart, leaving high school graduates to fend for themselves in finding employment. She finds that the former societal emphasis on high trust among members of the same social location is giving way to a pattern where attachment to and reliance on social locations are increasingly tenuous. The result is often that youth end up in low-paying, unstable jobs, unless they have wider social networks they can leverage.
Brinton, with her long-term perspective and gripping case studies, explains vividly what has gone amiss. This highly accessible book, in squarely placing Japan in a global world where youth everywhere struggle to find a place, will have an audience that reaches far beyond Japanese Studies.
Selection Committee: Helen Hardacre (Chair), Alexis Dudden, Glenda Roberts, Haruo Shirane.
Medievalist Lori Meeks illumines unsuspected corners of Hokkeji, an imperial convent founded in the eighth century by decree of Queen-Consort and Empress Kōmyō, in this marvelous book. Skillfully steering between earlier scholarship's starkly dichotomous interpretations of Hokkeji's leadership as either pawns in the hands of monks or undaunted resistors to Buddhist androcentrism, Meeks tells a more nuanced story of how the nuns of Hokkeji revived their temple. They held fast to Buddhist universalism that sees no obstacle in the female body, based on the unassailable position that all sentient beings share the Buddha-nature. Meeks connects their stance to the court and to medieval literature, detailing contemporary styles of reading Buddhist texts within the court that simply took no interest in notions of women's sinfulness or impurity.
Through this carefully researched study of Hokkeji's ritual life, Meeks shows that being a woman was no barrier to assuming the role of a priest and performing rites for patrons. Eloquently presenting a complex argument on the basis of a deep knowledge of medieval Japanese religious life, she establishes a new watermark for her field. This fine work will be widely appreciated, not only by Buddhologists and historians of religions, but also by scholars of women's history and medievalists everywhere.
Selection Committee: Ethan Segal (Chair), Helen Hardacre, Sharalyn Orbaugh, Christine Yano.
Empire of Texts in Motion is an ambitious and wide-ranging book, exploring the literary relationships amongst Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan during the twentieth-century Japanese empire. It explores the fluid exchange of literary ideas, and the impact of Japanese literature on the other countries' writings, and it does so with enormous attention to an amazingly large sample of texts. It is original in its examination of the interlinks among these nations (the glue being Japan), and downplays the more common perception of the impact of Western literature.
The inherent breadth of the subject—analyzing writing across East Asia—is impressive, the research monumental; the author searched and read across borders to a degree rarely encountered. In its embrace of so many geographic and linguistic areas, and in such depth and detail, it establishes a model for future research on East Asia, and very likely beyond, since the kinds of transcultural issues it explores are not limited to East Asia.
Selection Committee: Sonia Ryang (Chair), Ethan Segal, Andrew Watsky, Christine Yano.
An Age of Melodrama is a sophisticated and exciting work of scholarship. Elegantly written, thoroughly researched, and theoretically informed, it takes up the immensely popular domestic fictions written by Ozaki Kôyô, Tokutomi Roka, Kikuchi Yûhô, and Natsume Soseki. While these novels have been dismissed as mere “potboilers,” Ken Ito compels us to view them in a new way, as an important cultural site in which the anxieties and tensions of the late Meiji era were explored. Though a series of careful and sympathetic readings, Ito demonstrates that the complex narratives of the novels, which center on problems of the family, romantic love, and sexuality, reveal the ideological contradictions that resulted from capitalism, the new civil code, and other aspect of the nation-building project.
The members of the Hall Prize Committee were unanimous in regarding An Age of Melodrama as an exemplary work of scholarship and a groundbreaking work within its discipline and the field of Japanese Studies. In the words of one of our members, “this is the work of a mature scholar, pulling together a lifetime of thought and insight.”
Selection Committee: Susan Burns (Chair); Suzanne Gay; Sonia Ryang; Paul Schalow.
In this meticulously researched study, Ann Jannetta documents Japan’s encounter with the smallpox vaccine. Smallpox was a universal scourge at the time, killing millions and wiping out entire generations. Japan was no exception to the disease. Before the mid-nineteenth century, twenty percent of all children succumbed to the infection, most before the age of five. All this ended when a group of concerned physicians banded together with their European counterparts to effect a cure. Accessing Dutch, Japanese, Russian, and English sources, Jannetta traces the transmission of the Jennerian vaccine from rural England to a host of foreign sites and eventually Japan. Here Jannetta focuses on a select group of remarkable individuals, none of whom are the usual political heroes or culprits of the age.
But Jannetta’s story is much more than an account of the discovery and transfer of the vaccine. She offers a pre-gunboat case of “opening” Japan, from the inside and for humanitarian purposes. This book illustrates a now widely-accepted periodization in which the entire nineteenth century, rather than just a narrow period within it, is characterized as the pivot between pre-modern and modern. Additionally, her narrative brings an interesting twist to the usual “center vs. periphery” dichotomy, with the periphery in this case bringing “progress”—not only the eradication of smallpox but the formation of public health policy—to the center. Finally, this exemplary study steps beyond geographical borders and offers an exceptionally lucid narrative that provides new insights on the implications of global knowledge networks.
Selection Committee: Rebecca Copeland (Chair); E. Taylor Atkins; Hyaeweol Choi; Suzanne Gay.
Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity by Karen Nakamura introduces readers to the largely unknown world of the marginalized minority of the hearing impaired in Japan. Offering a succinct historical overview and an exploration of the internal friction among the deaf and the inner workings of disability activism, Deaf in Japan draws attention to the great socio-historical changes that have taken place in this area in Japan since the early twentieth century.
Of vital importance as a substantial contribution to the neglected field of disability studies and to the study of social movements in Japan, it is a work of undisputable originality, distinguished by the application of a successful fieldwork method and highly readable, accessible writing. Competent in both JSL (Japanese sign language) and ASL (American sign language), Nakamura embeds actual life stories within her study and in this way succeeds very well in conveying the realities of deaf identity in Japan beyond ideological theorizing.
Relatively concise as it is, this thoughtful study also stimulates a greater awareness of issues of identity formation, ethnicity, and culture in general, and of the intercultural dynamics of discourses that go beyond national borders in the process of globalization. For this reason, Deaf in Japan is equally relevant to an understanding of the problematics of disability elsewhere, thus contributing to the integration of Asian Studies in general academic discourse.
Selection Committee: Boudewijn Walraven, Chair; Rebecca Copeland; Sonia Ryang; Robert Uriu.
Eiko Ikegami’s Bonds of Civility: Aesthetic Networks and the Political Origins of Japanese Culture stood out from the many fine books on Japan and Korea published in 2005 because of the author’s innovative use of data drawn from cultural history to shed light on Japan’s distinctive path to political modernity. She argues that during the Tokugawa period Japan developed “modernity before modernization” through a network revolution that generated a culture of civility. Such a culture, though not the same as civil society as defined in the West, produced a cultural grammar of sociability, which supported the emergence of the voluntary social organizations so essential to a modern democratic political culture.
The committee was impressed with Ikegami’s application of a sociological approach to the study of “aesthetic publics,” groups formed for collaborative artistic endeavors such as writing poetry, performing a tea ceremony, or singing songs from puppet plays. She connects the aesthetic and political realms in a way that challenges both our notions of social space in pre-modern Japan and the separations between scholarly disciplines today. In doing so, she draws our attention to the interplay of horizontal alliances versus vertical status hierarchies, public duties versus private pleasures, and political segmentation versus cultural boundary crossing.
This is the most important book on Japan to have appeared in recent years, not just this year, and it will be important for years to come; it is already having an impact on the fields of religious studies, literature, art history, and history.
Selection Committee: Donald Baker, Chair; Robin LeBlanc; Anne Walthall; Boudewijn Walraven.
Andrew M. Watsky’s eloquently-written study of the island shrine of Chikubushima in Lake Biwa opens a new window on the history and culture of pre-modern Japan. What appears at first glance to be a detective story uncovering how the main hall of that shrine came to take the unusual shape it assumed early in the 17th century turns out on closer scrutiny to be an examination of the intricate relationship linking art, religion, and politics in Momoyama Japan.
His lavishly-illustrated argument showing how that main hall was assembled by combining an earlier temple on that island with a building that had been moved from Kyoto leads to a broader consideration of why that building was constructed in that way. His answer moves beyond the realm of art history into religious and political history. Watsky teases from the architectural and artistic record evidence that there was a wide-spread belief in Momoyama Japan that exceptional architectural and decorative beauty signifies the presence and power of the sacred. That belief co-existed with the assumption that one way to gain leverage in political struggles was to cultivate relationships with powerful supernatural forces, and one way to do that was to build homes for them. According to Watsky, the result was the beauty we see in the sacred arts in Momoyama Japan, beauty that had not only aesthetic but also religious and political value.
This is a book art historians, political historians, and scholars of religion will all learn from.
Selection Committee: Donald Baker, Chair; Susan Napier; Anne Walthall; Boudewijn Walraven.
House and Home in Modern Japan is an extraordinarily ambitious work that speaks to its readers on multiple levels. The book’s focus is the architecture and objects of everyday domestic life as they took shape and changed between 1880 and 1930, but in examining these subjects, Sand illuminates the history of the creation of a self-consciously modern, predominantly middle-class, society and culture in Japan. The book is remarkable, at times astonishing, in its deft and elegant interweaving of the material realities of house and home with a diverse range of bourgeois sensibilities, politics, consumption, and anxieties. Here Sand draws on a wide variety of sources, both primary and secondary, including contemporary architectural plans, textbooks, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, photographs, maps, posters, real estate pamphlets, carpenters’ pattern books, and postcards, many of which are graphically reproduced in the text.
At every point, moreover, Sand links his discussion of architecture and attitudes to a wider, ever changing, context of historical events and circumstances as he moves through the Meiji, Taisho, and early Showa periods. Thus in one chapter, for example, do we move effortlessly from the mass market to ideas of cosmopolitanism and psychological distress, touching along the way on reform and reconstruction after World War I, the Kanto earthquake, Hollywood films, the Takarazuka Girls’ Opera, empire and colonialism, and the uncertainties of class position. This splendid work offers not only a new window but, indeed an entire house, room by room, all richly furnished, through which we can view the fascinating modern transformation of Japanese life.
Selection Committee: Carter Eckert, Chair; Paul Anderer; Thomas Keirstead; Joan Piggott.
In an important study of Korea that captures its transition from Chinese to Japanese hegemony around the turn-of-the-century, Andre Schmid’s Korea Between Empires, 1895–1919 displays the virtues of meticulous scholarship informed by the analytical acumen of a scholar who is already in full command of his subject. Without eschewing the framework of colonial and postcolonial approaches that tend to address overt conflict and power relations, this study explores the competing, overlapping, and disparate thoughts and practices that together constitute modern nationhood—something that is realizeable only in the form of imagined community.
The vexing relationship between the modern nation state and society provides the analytical center of a study of Korean nationalism, but just as much the book is about the formation of "subjectivity" as it negotiates the geopolitical forces of capital, military conquest, and cultural imperialism. Every bit as impressive as Schmid’s prose is the book’s conceptual eloquence, seen for example in its pointed adherence to the all too often neglected Nietzschean dictum that the study of history is always about the present.
Atkins combines discography, popular periodicals, newspapers, interviews, interdisciplinary sources, and comparative material spanning the 20th century in crafting a cultural history of jazz in Japan. In addition to musing thoughtfully about the meaning of "authenticity" with respect to jazz, Atkins devotes equal attention to the circumstances and practice of jazz at various historical junctures: Taisho "democracy," wartime, Occupation, postwar, and the contemporary scene. Moreover, more than just a history of jazz in Japan, Blue Nippon is a study of Japan’s interaction with the West over the last century. Atkins examines Japan’s balancing act as it oscillated between attempts to join the elite club of modern nations and efforts to maintain a distinctive cultural identity despite the homogenizing force of modernization. He argues that Jazz became one arena for struggle over how Japan could be simultaneously both Japanese and modern. Blue Nippon is a well-rounded account of the musical and cultural history of jazz in Japan, one of the many international "homes" of that protean musical phenomenon. The book is characterized by the pursuit of intellectual threads that themselves occasionally seem improv-isational in their originality; discordant accounts and subtle insights are used in a brilliant interplay as many themes are brought together into this intelligent work of persuasive advocacy. Powerfully, this is a work about the "politics of culture," and Atkins has the elegant sense not to use those terms.
Thomas LaMarre makes a major contribution to our understanding of how national communities are formed by providing an explanation of how a "Japanese" community was crafted. LaMarre’s work presents a deep reading of complex Heian texts which brilliantly explodes the myth of nationalism that has been projected back onto the classic period by more recent claims of the ethnic singularity of the Japanese people. His penetrating analysis provides yet another reminder that efforts to render the past in reductive metaphors for nationalist consumption remain, at best, contested efforts to rewrite the past and are never able to fully overcome the complex materiality of the texts they employ.
Displaying the dynamic differences between writing and speech and arguing for the multiple powers of the former he is not only able to offer a persuasive interpretation of Heian society as a community of the elite which did not embrace the masses, and therefore was not a true "national" community, but his emphasis on writing also allows him to place this Heian community within the larger East Asian cultural community which shared a writing system, an appreciation for the same type of poetry and calligraphy, and even the same cosmology.
LaMarre’s study of community formation in Heian Japan therefore, has implications far beyond medieval Japanese history. Using the new approach LaMarre has adopted, scholars will be stimulated to reexamine the formation of "national" communities in China, Korea, and Vietnam as well. This work is a model of literary historical study.
Ruins of Identity addresses an important and contentious issue in the field of Japanese people. It examines the formation of ethnic groups in the Japanese islands from the early Yayoi period to the beginning of the Middle Ages. Hudson begins by citing his archeological and linguistic argument in the context of the historical development of nationalistic views of Japanese ethnogenesis. He employs the standard model—that the ancestors of the Jomon people arrived in the Japanese islands in the Pleistocene period; in the Yayoi period there was an influx of Northeast Asian groups who spread rapidly through the islands. But he uses the example of the Ainu to argue that ethnic identity is not a fixed concept but a fluid one, forged from uneven relationships between core and periphery.
Ruins of Identity is a significant book which covers an impressive array of research in both Japanese and English. It is richly documented and theoretically informed. The committee was especially impressed by Hudson’s creative use of theory from other fields. As such, this book provides for scholars of other areas a carefully grounded and reasoned study on Japan on which they can draw in their writing and teaching. Its potentially broad application is enhanced by its fluid style of writing which will make it accessible to both a scholarly and popular audience. The committee commends the author for a very well researched book on an important topic which should be widely influential.
The John Whitney Hall Prize is awarded annually by the Northeast Asia Council for the best work of scholarship on Japan or Korea. This year the Hall Prize Committee, consisting of Professors Theodore Bestor, Carter Eckert, Margaret Childs, and Eleanor Westney, reviewed books published in 1998, and have agreed that the outstanding scholarly work is William M. Tsutsui’s Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan, published by Princeton University Press.
In this history of the practice and ideology of production management in Japan, William Tsutsui deftly analyzes how western ideas were imported, digested, revised, and denied. He has given us a book so rich in its collection and presentation of empirical data, so precise in its conclusions, and so eloquently written that it is bound to become a classic study, a model for other scholars. It will be of interest not only to anyone in the field of Japanese studies, but also to business historians and social scientists outside the Japan field.
The John Whitney Hall Prize is awarded annually by the Northeast Asia Council for the best work of scholarship on Japan or Korea. This year the Hall Prize Committee, consisting of Professors Margaret Childs, Margaret McKean, Michael Robinson, and Theodore Bestor, reviewed books published in 1997, and have agreed that the outstanding scholarly work is Susan B. Hanley’s Everyday Things in Premodern Japan: The Hidden Legacy of Material Culture, published by the University of California Press.
Susan Hanley in Everyday Things in Premodern Japan has moved debates in Tokugawa economic history beyond questions about the foundations of industrialization, and in doing so has opened up new perspectives on the quality of daily life in pre-industrial Japan. Hanley employs innovative methods and data on Tokugawa housing, furnishings, nutrition, clothing, public sanitation, and personal hygiene to argue that the physical well-being of Tokugawa Japanese—elite and commoners, in cities and in the countryside—improved greatly throughout the period. Hanley demonstrates how, in comparison to Europe and America, Japanese people orchestrated environmentally sustainable development that achieved protoindustrialization as well as sanitary, healthful, and long lives, without egregious consumption of material resources. Thanks to her clear arguments, telling data, and comparative perspectives, Hanley’s clearly written book is as accessible to Europeanists as to Japan specialists, and will open vast new areas of Japanese history to both.
The John Whitney Hall Book Prize has been awarded annually since 1994 to an outstanding book on Japan or Korea on any topic in the humanities or social sciences. Books considered for this year’s prize were limited to those published in 1996.
Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions is a work of sweeping ambition and erudite scholarship. James Palais offers an exhaustive analysis of the pivotal treatise on statecraft by the seventeenth-century recluse scholar, Yu Hyongwon, who remonstrated against contemporary crises of dynastic rule. In tracing the textual inspirations for Yu’s penetrating critique and call to action, in situating this in a comprehensive account of five centuries of Choson Dynasty institutional developments, and in assessing the influence of Yu’s proposals in the later debates for state reform, Palais advances a compelling re-interpretation of Korean history and of the nature of East Asian Confucian statecraft in action.
The John Whitney Hall Book Prize has been awarded annually since 1994 to an outstanding book on Japan or Korea on any topic in the humanities or social sciences. Books considered for this year’s prize were limited to those published in 1995.
Offering close readings of the works of numerous authors, Writing Ground Zero will have lasting importance as a comprehensive survey of Japanese atomic bomb literature. Moreover, it offers a dense and nuanced analysis of a topic that is profoundly revealing for Japanese literature, though, and politics. In this study of Japanese writing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we confront not only the human struggle to engage and make sense of the incomprehensibly destructive event of the bomb; we hear voices that have been silenced both by Japanese culture and the world outside. John Whittier Treat studies the process of that silencing, and his study leads the reader to fundamental questions concerning culture, literary culture, as well as the culture of the academy and its reticence on the subject. With a critical approach that seems destined to engender ongoing, serious debate, this is a work of profoundly moral scholarship.
Selection Committee: David R. McCann (Chair); William W. Kelly, Susan Matisoff, Henry D. Smith II.
The John Whitney Hall Book Prize has been awarded annually since 1994 to an outstanding book on Japan or Korea on any topic in the humanities or social sciences. Books considered for this year’s prize were limited to those published in 1994.
Taking as its title the famous slogan of the Meiji state, "Rich Nation, Strong Army," this pathbreaking study argues that Japan’s modern rise to superpower status is the result of "technonationalism," a consistent set of beliefs and practices emphasizing autonomy and the diffusion and nurturance of technology in the interests of national security and welfare. Countering conventional ideas of a special Japanese talent for cooperation, Samuels demonstrates that the politics of industrial development have been fraught with contention and competition, but always within the clear limits of the consensus of technonationalism. Well researched, persuasively presented, and impressive in its interdisciplinary and comparative reach, this is a book with many lessons, not just for academics and Japan specialists, but for all thinking citizens of America and of the world today.
Selection Committee: Henry D. Smith III (Chair), Susan B. Hanley, David R. McCann, Chalmers Johnson.
This is the second year of the Northeast Asia Council’s annual $1,000 book prize, named to honor the distinguished historian John Whitney Hall. The prize recognizes an outstanding book on Japan or Korea treating any subject matter in the humanities or social sciences in any historical period. This year’s nominations were limited to copyright dates of 1992 and 1993.
Committee members are pleased to announce that the winner is Melinda Takeuchi’s book Taiga’s True Views: The Language of Landscape Painting in Eighteenth-Century Japan, published by the Stanford University Press. Taiga’s True Views is not only art history at its best, but a major contribution to the social and intellectual history of Japan as well. In this gracefully written, lavishly illustrated, and beautifully produced book, Takeuchi’s synthesizes the multiple stylistic and intellectual influences on a painter whose life and work exemplified the bunjin ideal. She shows the Han-T’ang concept that the literatus revealed his moral character through the composition of poetry remained powerful in eighteenth-century Japan. Takeuchi transcends the technical requirements of a demanding discipline by shedding light on important cultural, institutional, and historical connections between China, Korea, and Japan. The book deserves to be read by anyone interested in those larger questions.
This year marks the inauguration of the Northeast Asia Council’s annual $1,000 book prize, named to honor the distinguished historian John Whitney Hall. The prize recognizes an outstanding book on Japan or Korea treating an subject matter in the humanities or social sciences in any historical period. This year’s nominations were limited to copyright dates of 1991.
Committee members are pleased to announce that the winner of the first John Whitney Hall prize is Carter J. Eckert’s book, Offspring of Empire, the Koch’ang and Kims and the Colonial Origins of Korean Capitalism, 1876–1945, published by the University of Washington Press.
Offspring of Empire deserves to be read by everyone concerned to understand the relationship between colonialism and capitalism. Challenging conventional interpretations, Carter Eckert argues that the Japanese colonial administration of Korea, while politically oppressive, nurtured modern Korean industrial development. Fairminded and evenhanded, the author deals firmly but sensitively with his complex and controversial subject. This lucid study, based on the judicious treatment of Japanese and Korean archival materials, raises important empirical as well as interpretive questions for historians of both modern Korea and Japan.