Nissan Seminar: Book Talk—Imaginative Mapping: Landscape and Japanese Identity in the Tokugawa and Meiji Eras

Convener(s): Professor Sho Konishi and Dr Mateja Kovacic

Speaker(s): Dr Nobuko Toyosawa, Research Fellow, Department of East Asia, Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences

Talk abstract:

Landscape has always played a vital role in shaping Japan’s cultural identity. Imaginative Mapping analyzes how intellectuals of the Tokugawa and Meiji eras used specific features and aspects of the landscape to represent their idea of Japan and produce a narrative of Japan as a cultural community. These scholars saw landscapes as repositories of local history and identity, stressing Japan’s differences from the models of China and the West.

By detailing the continuities and ruptures between a sense of shared cultural community that emerged in the seventeenth century and the modern nation state of the late nineteenth century, this study sheds new light on the significance of early modernity, one defined not by temporal order but rather by spatial diffusion of the concept of Japan. More precisely, Nobuko Toyosawa argues that the circulation of guidebooks and other spatial narratives not only promoted further movement but also contributed to the formation of subjectivity by allowing readers to imagine the broader conceptual space of Japan. The recurring claims to the landscape are evidence that it was the medium for the construction of Japan as a unified cultural body.

Speaker's bio:

Dr Nobuko Toyosawa is a Research Fellow in the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences. From 2013 to 2016, she held a position of Postdoctoral Fellow in Early Modern Japanese Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, The University of Chicago. Previously, she has been based at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Newcastle University, UK and the History Department at the University of Southern California.

Dr Toyosawa  is interested in exploring processes, structures, and systems that enable production of knowledge and interpretation of culture to understand the ways our reality is produced.  Her research seeks to identify the past in the present and the implications of such discoveries as a means for political and social critique.