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For the life of me I can't remember who said it.
Topic Started: Jan 30 2018, 11:42 AM (228 Views)
JoshHistoryland
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Peasant
Somewhere I've lost the note I made. I know someone said that in Japan during this period when someone referred to their country they actually meant the domain in which they lived, but at the moment I've forgotten what the note would be filed under and indeed the source. I'm going to keep looking around for it but if anyone can help me cut the corner, I'll be very grateful.

Josh.
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kitsuno
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The Shogun

The provinces were referred to as "kuni" 国 and "kuni" normally means "country" nowadays. Is that what you're referring to?
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JoshHistoryland
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Peasant
That is the substance of it yes. But I had read a direct quote illustrating the point and I can't remember where.
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ltdomer98
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Daijo Daijin

Paging Toranosuke, Toranosuke to the white courtesy phone please...

Check Luke Roberts' Performing the Great Peace for a discussion of domain-bakufu dynamics and discussion of what people in that time thought of as the political entity to which they belonged. I think it can be taken way too far--yes, for the most part,

Quote:
 
"in Japan during this period when someone referred to their country they actually meant the domain in which they lived"


as Kitsuno said "kuni" 国 as a word now, in modern Japanese, means "country." It also means "state" in the general sense of a geographically defined political entity--much the same way I can talk about the "State of Florida" as a component of a nation-state, but also "the Dutch State" would be the Dutch national government. There are a lot of scholars who want to argue about whether or not the Tokugawa ruled over a coherent "nation-state" in the modern sense of the term, many who say no, many who say yes. The answer, as usual, is somewhere in between, probably. But those who say "Japan" wasn't a coherent state will point to the fact that "in Japan during this period when someone referred to their country they actually meant the domain in which they lived" and use that as evidence. Personally, I think that's a stretch. When I speak to another American, I don't say I'm from America. I say I'm from....well....I don't really know where I say I'm from anymore. But you get the point. If I were speaking to a Brazilian, I'm not going to say I'm a Floridian (where I grew up) or a New Jerseyian (where I live now).

So rather than draw conclusions simply from someone identifying themselves as "from Tosa" and saying "SEE!! THEY DIDN'T EVEN CONCEIVE OF JAPAN AS THEIR COUNTRY, THEIR COUNTRIES WERE THE DOMAINS" I think it's important to take a step back and recognize the context. For someone from Tosa speaking to someone from Chikuzen, they're clearly from Tosa. Someone from Tosa, however, isn't going to think of a Chikuzen-ite as a "foreigner" in the same way they think of a Chinese, Korean, Englishman, etc. as a "foreigner." Sure, in an age where many people didn't travel much further than the next village over, anyone unfamiliar is a "foreigner" but I think it's dangerous to attach too much to that word. It's more an "outsider"--you're not one of us, you're different. That doesn't mean that some villager is thinking a Korean and a Japanese from another province were equally "foreign."

I think that holds true for much of Japanese history (probably back to at least Nara, when the last waves of Paekche refugees were coming in and setting up shop). But the Edo Period is an interesting mix--you've got "nation"wide travel for the first time in large numbers, with even commoners taking pilgrimages (ie, sightseeing trips) across Japan. Domestic trade networks connect all of "Japan" in one economic ecosystem for the first time. The Bakufu had strict control of domains, such that they could dispossess or seize domains from daimyo. There was a unitary foreign policy exercised by the Bakufu. These are all markers of a singular "nation." On the flip side, the Bakufu had very little say in domainal affairs, and adopted a laissez-faire attitude, as long as daimyo didn't disrupt the greater harmony. So there are arguments for both "Japan was a federation of little countries" and "Japan was one country." I see it as kind of pointless to get wrapped around the axle about it--it as both.

TL;DR: Yes, "in Japan during this period when someone referred to their country they actually meant the domain in which they lived" but don't read too much into that.
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退職させていただきます。
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Bethetsu
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Tsushima no kami
The record of a construction 棟札 in a shrine in western Tokyo in 1536, a very confused period in the Kanto, gives the location as Dai Nihon Koku, Bushû (ie Musashi)...大日本國武州.... So there was definitely the concept of "Japan."
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Toranosuke
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Tosa no kami
Quote:
 
The record of a construction 棟札 in a shrine in western Tokyo in 1536, a very confused period in the Kanto, gives the location as Dai Nihon Koku, Bushû (ie Musashi)...大日本國武州.... So there was definitely the concept of "Japan."


There was, but there was simultaneously a concept of the domain or province as the "kuni" one lived in or belonged to. As Roberts explains, these sorts of things could exist on multiple levels at once - the notion of "country" or "state" wasn't as strict, or as exclusive, as it is today.

As for the original question, in addition to Performing the Great Peace, the main works in English that pioneered the idea of the "kuni" as kind of sort of a more autonomous entity than previously thought would be Luke Roberts' Mercantilism in a Japanese Domain and Mark Ravina's Land and Lordship.
上り口説 Nubui Kuduchi – Musings on the arts of Japan and beyond
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JoshHistoryland
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Peasant
Wise words from all of you. I take especially to heart stepping back and considering the matter, instead of reacting as I did and worrying that I'd missed something. For myself it is indeed true, aboard I'm British, at home I am from ABC in XYZ. The concept of localism and nationalism can indeed coexist.

It's especially so if we look at feudal societies. Of course the lower rungs of the ladder will identify themselves as being the vassals of the Lord of so and so, from whom they draw their existence. Whereas closer to the top, the lords etc who owe their position to a higher power will tell a foreigner 'I serve the so and so of [insert country here].
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kitsuno
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The Shogun

Toranosuke
Jan 30 2018, 10:31 PM
Luke Roberts' Mercantilism in a Japanese Domain.


The most interesting book on such a potentially dull topic I've read.

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JoshHistoryland
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Peasant
It's the title that sells it.
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