新书 | War and Trade in Maritime East Asia

Title: War and Trade in Maritime East Asia
Author: Mihoko Oka (ed.)
Size 282 pages
Language: English
Released April 07, 2022
ISBN: 978-981-16-7368-9
Published by Palgrave Macmillan Singapore
Book Info: Visit Publisher’s Website

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Meaning of the East Asian Maritime History—From a Japanese Perspective
Mihoko Oka
The Study of Maritime Asian History in Japanese Schools
Momoki ShiroPicturing Actors on the Sea

Japanese Daimyōs as Sea Lords in the 15th and 16th Centuries: Their Involvement in the Japan–Ming Trade
Toshio Kage

The Origin of the Namban Trade: The Sea of Private Traders
Mihoko Oka

The Viceroy and the Portuguese: The Establishment of Ming Policy Toward Macao
James Fujitani

Edo Period Maps of the Old World: An Analysis on Their Textual Information of Ports and Trade
Akiyoshi Fujita

The Japanese Invasion of Korea

Another Altan Khan in Maritime Asia?: Controversies on the Revival of Sino–Japanese Tributary Trade During the Japanese Invasion of Korea
Gakusho Nakajima

Bloody Headcount: A Dispute Over Reward and the Mutiny of the Ming Southern Soldiers in the First Stage of the Korea War (1592–1595)
Wing Kin Puk

The Diffusion of Japanese Firearms in the Ming Dynasty at the End of the Sixteenth Century: From the Japanese Invasion of Korea to Yang Yinglong’s Revolt in Bozhou
Takashi Kuba

Repatriation of Korean Captives from Japan After Toyotomi’s Invasion
Hitoshi Yonetani


Since Japan is an island country, connections with foreign countries have been formed through the sea. Therefore, cultural contact with foreign countries, as well as diplomacy, trade, etc., are maritime history. However, orthodox Japanese history researchers, who study Japan from the inside, are sticking to the history of relations with other countries as seen “from Japan.” There is no perspective regarding cross-cultural exchange, rather it tends to be entirely focused on the debate about “how foreign cultures were introduced into Japan and became part of the Japanese culture,” called “Japanese history of foreign relations” in Japan.

The popularity of global history is a trend in the world of historical science. That said, the power of national history is not much influenced by the popularity of global history. At least in Japan, national history is alive, and perhaps 90% of history students (Japanese, Oriental, and Western history) are not interested in countries or regions other than their subject of specialization.

Studying global history in Japan leads to the risk of breaking the so-called standard. Zomia research is grabbing attention in global history research, but researchers who are attracted to this trend may also be Zomian people belonging to minorities themselves. They tend to move out of the framework, because they feel cramped in the framework of national history or that there is no place for them. The “global” world provides them with a place to be.

Regarding East Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries, the contributors in the present book share a problem awareness in terms of using trade and war as subjects to clarify multi-ethnic, borderless, and multi-layered situations. Although many chapters are related to Japan, we try to grasp the interaction between Japan as a region of East Asia and neighboring countries from a global perspective, and not the “History of Japan.” Here, we depict that the entry of Europe (especially the Portuguese), which is a characteristic of this era, brought about certain changes, and also the end of the tributary system to the Ming Dynasty. Further, the political changes in neighboring countries disrupted the relatively peaceful state of the East Asian sea area, as maintained during the 15th century.

This book is divided into two parts. First, the state of trade in East Asia before and after the collapse of the tributary system to the Ming Dynasty. Second, the war of aggression wherein Toyotomi Hideyoshi of Japan sent a large number of troops to the Korean Peninsula aiming to conquering China at the end of the 16th century. In recent years, the theory that the invasion of Korea by Hideyoshi was carried out to counter the European expansion has been gaining prominence in Japan (Hirakawa 2018). In that sense, the war of aggression can also be seen as part of Japan’s response in the global arena. Research on the invasion of Korea from this perspective will likely become active in the future, including the verification of the validity of this theory.

The paper of Kage in Part I clarifies the conditions of the tributary trade to the Ming Dynasty by the Daimyōs (feudal lords) of western Japan, especially Kyushu, from the latter half of the 15th century to the 16th century. Another paper by Kage has clarified the changes in political and economic trends of Kyushu regarding trade, such as the fact that the Otomo clan, a Warring States Period Daimyō of Kyushu, engaged in diplomacy and commerce both with the Ming Dynasty and the kingships of Southeast Asia, such as Cambodia. In this book’s chapters, we clarify the role of the Otomo clan, the trade forms and shipping activity of other Daimyōs, and the details of the Ming Trade of the Otomo clan. Since the research conducted by Kage is highly evaluated in Japan but has rarely been introduced to an overseas audience, his contribution here is very meaningful.

Oka analyzes the entry of the Portuguese into the East China Sea trade of the Wokou (Japanese pirates) around 1550, mainly from historical material of the Jesuits and the descriptions in Peregrinação by Fernão Mendes Pinto, which is a famous Portuguese literature.

The paper by Fujitani has continuity with the events described by Oka. The Portuguese, who were allowed to settle in Macau in 1557, cooperated with the Ming army in repelling pirates along the Chinese coast, which were still out of control. In this context, there are few studies on the relationship between the Portuguese and the Ming Dynasty. This is due to the lack of historical material in Portuguese and of the Jesuits during this period. Fujitani carefully analyzed Chinese literature, centered on Ming shi, and succeeded in describing details that Western scholars in the same field could not clarify.

Fujita’s paper is a comprehensive study of the world map that details the areas where Japanese Shuinsen (trading ships licensed by the Tokugawa shogunate) sailed in the 17th century. Notably, the research on world maps was thriving before World War II, but many maps were scattered and lost after the war. Fujita confirmed the location of each of these maps as far as possible and reorganized them by type. These maps are accompanied by detailed lists of products and areas where Japanese ships sailed, and they provide valuable information on intra-Asian trade in the early 17th century.

The second part of the book, the Japanese invasion of Korea, begins with a paper by Nakajima that analyzes the details of political movements regarding the Ming-Japan trade in the Ming court before and after the first invasion. The military actions of Hideyoshi invading Korea, a dependent country of Ming, were an insult to the Ming Court, however, some court bureaucrats wanted to revive the Ming-Japan tributary trade. Hideyoshi also wanted this, and the movement of Hideyoshi’s important vassals that were trying to achieve the revival of the Ming-Japan trade is also clarified here.

Puk examined the details of how internal conflicts arose within the Ming army over military exploits and rewards during the war of aggression, thereby leading to a large-scale rebellion. This chapter clearly depicts the Ming army destroying the Japanese army. Simultaneously, it depicts a fierce battle between the Southern soldiers and the Northern soldiers of Ming over the heads of enemy soldiers, which was the basis of the rewards system, and it is possible to see a part of the war that is not necessarily nation against nation.

Kuba clarified that Ming military commanders used Japanese arquebusiers and captives acquired during this war of aggression to repress the Yang Yinglong’s Revolt (1594-1600) that occurred in Bozhou, Sichuan. This example concretely reveals the universal and strange fact that war plays the role of a kind of civilizational exchange, as well as its tragic reality.

Finally, the paper by Yonetani concerns the repatriation of Korean captives who were arrested and taken to Japan during the Japanese military activities. This paper has already been published in Japanese and is internationally recognized as an excellent paper, but this time it is published in English, which is significant as more readers can read it now. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the ruler of Japan after the death of Hideyoshi and the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), tried to make peace with Ming and Joseon. The research of Yonetani shows that the Sō clan of Tsushima was crucial in the repatriation of captives. It also details the individual names and circumstances of Korean captives that were in Japan at the beginning of the Edo period. In recent years, it was revealed that these Korean captives were taken across the world, and this provides very valuable information for learning about the continuous global phenomenon caused by the war that Hideyoshi waged.

In the introduction of this book, apart from this preliminary remark, we added a paper by Shiro Momoki that focuses on the role that maritime history could play in history education at Japanese schools. As mentioned earlier, Momoki is a leading researcher in Japanese maritime history. When I was a graduate student, I was part of a study group in Osaka that was supervised by Momoki, and I learned the importance of having a historical view of Japan from the outside. Thereafter, fortunately, I was hired by the “temple of Japanese History” in Tokyo. While establishing my identity as a researcher, I could avoid being buried in national history, thanks to my close look at the rebellious spirit of Momoki. Momoki left the research of maritime Asian history with the publication of Introduction to the Maritime Asian History. He, then, took on the role of inviting young researchers to the field of global history and rushed into a reform movement of denouncing “tube-like” historical research. It is largely due to Momoki’s efforts that research on maritime Asian history has established itself as a research field and method in Japan. However, it seems that his unwillingness to settle in a safe place led him to steeper mountains and stormier seas. In other words, the task of bridging the gap between history research at universities and the content of history taught in general, as well as in junior high schools and high schools. Many maritime history researchers take pride in not using “tube-like” research methods in Japanese history. However, even so, these researchers have not been able to abandon their obsession with interesting aspects of small events that can be understood only amongst themselves. Any research in the field humanities should not just be a reinterpretation and adoration of the “classics.” Without awareness about contributing to a better present and future of human society, there is no academic value. I believe that the history of exchanges that people have been able to carry out continuously across the sea will now serve as the key to renewing our understanding of the formation of the modern international community.

(Written by OKA Mihoko, Professor, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies / 2022)



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