The 19th GJS SeminarAn Investigation of the Edo-Meiji Transition through the lens of the Ryukyuan Embassies to Japan

Date and time: April 21, 2016 (Thur.), 5:00-6:00PM
Venue: 1st Meeting Room (3F), Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo
Speaker: Tinello Marco (JSPS Post-doctoral Fellow, Hosei University Institute for Okinawa Studies)
Language: English

Abstract: My research is centered on the political relations between Japan (the bakufu), the Satsuma domain, and Ryukyu during the final period of Tokugawa rule. Most of the scholars are inclined to explore the process through which Japan annexed Ryukyu, in Japanese Ryūkyū shobun, with the events occurred in 1872 as its starting point, too hastily discounting what happened before. In this presentation, I will argue that the Ryukyu kingdom played a significant and hitherto unacknowledged role in Japanese politics during the bakumatsu period and I will use the embassies from Ryukyu to Edo as a lens through which to understand this role.
  To the shogunate, Ryukyu was certainly subordinate to both China and Japan and here I intend to demonstrate that after the arrival of Western powers in Japan, the shogunate considered the Ryukyuan missions to Edo not only a means of increasing the shogun’s pretige, but also a practice through which it could demonstrate that Ryukyu was also subordinate to Japan. In this way, this study improves understanding of the changing nature of Japanese diplomacy and helps us to read the incorporation of Ryukyu into the Japanese realm by the Meiji government as the epilogue of a process which had begun several years before, namely at the beginning of the 1840s when Western ships identified the small kingdom as a base from which to attempt to open Japan’s closed doors.

Organizer: The Global Japan Studies Network (GJS)
Co-organizer: Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo
Contact: gjs[at]