Digital Japanese History

絵本水や空、耳鳥斎 画、3冊 (合1冊) ; 23cm、平安、八文字屋八左衛門、安永9 [1780]、、出典:国立国会図書館「NDLイメージバンク」 (

Similarly to last year, this Graduate course was conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online format of essay projects by Daniela Baeumler.

Essay Projects

Ritual and social functions of Gokokuji in the early Edo period by Dong Jiacheng

Abstract: This paper is going to study Gokokuji Temple’s ritual and social functions in the early Edo period (1603‒868). First, I am going to discuss the foundation and rapid rise of Gokokuji in late seventeenth century due to generous subsidization by Keishō-in (1627‒1705), an eminent Tokugawa woman in the Ōoku, as well as her son Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (1646‒1709), the fifth shogun. Then I am going to focus on the transition of Gokokuji’s function and its relationship with the Tokugawa family in early eighteenth century, following the death of Keishō-in and Tsunayoshi. Based on the historical facts, I am going to argue that the transition of Gokokuji’s function was part of the result of the shogunate’s reform, which was carried out swiftly after Tsunayoshi’s death, in order to bring itself out of administrative inefficiency and financial crisis.

Keywords: Edo, Buddhist Temple, Tokugawa Shogunate, Genroku Period


The Competition for Bukan: The Rivalry between Suwaraya and Izumoji by Han Qiaoyu

Abstract: Suwaraya Mohē 須原屋茂兵衛 was one of the leading publishers in Edo in late eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries. Its founding could be traced by to the Manji era (1658–1661) when the founder Kitabatake Sōgen 北畠宗元 (n.d.) established Suwaraya Mohē as a bookshop in Tōri-itchōme通一丁目in Nihonbashi 日本橋, Edo. In 1817, twelve publishers of the sixty-three members of the Edo bookshop association (Edo shomotsuya nakama 江戸書物屋仲間) bore the Suwaraya name and these firms were associated with one third of all the books published or distributed in Edo. Suwaraya Mohē was well-known for its publishing of Guide to Military Houses (bukan 武鑑). This essay looks into the rivalry between Suwaraya Mohē and the publisher Izumoji Izumi 出雲寺和泉 on the various matters concerning the publication of bukan in the Tokugawa period. It argues the struggle between Suwaraya Mohē and Izumoji Izumi reflected the struggle between Edo publishers and Kyoto/Osaka publishers’ branch shops in Edo, while the final monopoly of bukan publication by Suwaraya Mohē is a result of their business strategy of accumulating publishing capital on bukan.

Keywords: Edo, publisher, Suwaraya Mohee, Izumoji Izumi, bukan


Female Readership in Edo by Daniela Baeumler

Abstract: During the Tokugawa period (1603–1867), the range of literacy grew among Japan’s population. Not only the country’s elite but also wealthier townspeople’s children were sent to schools. The wider range of literacy led to a boom in the publishing industry. As one of the subcategories of gesaku (“playful writings”), kusazōshi featured illustrations and text of popular stories and were especially popular among women and children. These short publications of merely ten pages, mainly written in hiragana to reach a wide and possibly semi-literate audience. In this context, this paper aims to explore the question what role do tales (of popular fiction) play in the lives of women and girls in Edo?

Keywords: gesaku, Edo literature, publishing, popular fiction, illustrated books, entertainment, women literature


Last Line of Defense: The Shinagawa Batteries as a Paradigm Shift in Edo Bay Maritime Defense by Theodor Baltus Steiner

Abstract: Prior to the arrival of Commodore Perry and his fleet of four steam-powered gunboats to Edo Bay, maritime defenses of the de facto capital of Japan consisted exclusively of fortifications constructed along the coastline enclosing the bay. The uninvited guests and their announcement to come back in a year’s time with more warships to negotiate the opening of Japanese ports to American ships put the shogunate under immense pressure to deal with this existential threat. The response decided on called for an overhaul of the bay’s maritime defenses, centered around the construction of eleven artificial islands off the Shinagawa coast. This project, enormous in scale, not only goes to show the importance placed on the maritime defenses of Edo after the intruding of foreign gun boats into the bay, but also embodies a fundamental shift in the strategy employed by the bakufu, for how to handle naval threats.

Keywords: Odaiba, Edo, Maritime Defense, Perry, Black Ships, bakufu